Firth expected to reign at Baftas

The final preparations for the Baftas are under way with more than 1,000 canapes being prepared, 540 magnums of champagne being put on ice and some of the biggest names in showbusiness getting ready to walk the red carpet.

The final preparations for the Baftas are under way with more than 1,000 canapes being prepared, 540 magnums of champagne being put on ice and some of the biggest names in showbusiness getting ready to walk the red carpet.

All eyes will be on Colin Firth with 'The King’s Speech' expected to reign supreme after topping the nominations list for the film awards.

The story of King George VI’s attempt to overcome his stutter is in the running for the most coveted prizes, including best film and director as well as actor for Firth.

His co-stars, Geoffrey Rush, who plays the monarch’s speech therapist, and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, are nominated in the supporting actor and actress categories.

The film’s 14 nominations follow disappointment at the Golden Globes, where the royal drama, directed by Briton Tom Hooper, took only one – Firth won best actor - of the seven awards it was contending for.

But none of the Bafta nominees go away empty-handed. They all get a gift bag stuffed full of top-of-the-range goodies including a limited edition Anya Hindmarch bag, a designer scarf, champagne truffles and beauty products.

They also get bottle of vodka and champagne to toast their success – or drown their sorrows as appropriate.

'Black Swan', a psychological thriller set in the world of ballet, is just behind 'The King’s Speech' with 12 nominations, including best film, best director for Darren Aronofsky and best actress for Natalie Portman.

One of Portman’s rivals is 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld – the US teenager who won a key part in the Coen brothers western 'True Grit' after an open casting call.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore ('The Kids Are All Right'), and Swedish actress Noomi Rapace ('The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo') are also up for best actress.

In the best director category, 'Black Swan' and 'The King’s Speech' are up against 'Slumdog Millionaire' film-maker Danny Boyle for rock-climbing drama '127 Hours', Christopher Nolan for his thriller 'Inception', and David Fincher for 'The Social Network', about the founding of Facebook.

'Inception', starring Leonardo DiCaprio, has nine nominations, '127 Hours' and 'True Grit' are in eight categories, and 'The Social Network', which dominated the Golden Globes, is up for six gongs.

'The King’s Speech' and 'Black Swan' are up against 'Inception', 'The Social Network' and 'True Grit' for best film.

Firth’s rivals in the best actor category are US star Jesse Eisenberg ('The Social Network'), Jeff Bridges ('True Grit'), Javier Bardem ('Biutiful') and James Franco ('127 Hours').

Last year, the best director and film Baftas went to Kathryn Bigelow and her movie 'The Hurt Locker'.

They took the same titles at the Oscars, suggesting the Baftas may now provide a better pointer than the Golden Globes to Oscar success.

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