In the end, The King's Speech just had more friends.
The proper drama about Britain's King George VI working to overcome a debilitating stammer with the help of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist was named Best Motion Picture at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.
The King's Speech, while seemingly pieced together with the help of An Idiot's Guide to WInning an Oscar, like George VI had to wait for a late-season changing of the guard in order to assume the throne, leaving The Social Network with only three wins to the King's mighty four.
As for the other major upsets...
Yeah, there just weren't any at all.
Natalie Portman capped off her awards season with both a truly great gown (finally) and the Best Actress Oscar for playing a tortured ballerina in Black Swan.
"This is insane and I truly, sincerely wish that the prize tonight was to get to work with my fellow nominees. I'm so in awe of you," the never-ugly duckling who became a beautiful swan nonetheless said in thanks. And boy did Portman thank everyone, from her cast and crew, to the choreographers, to her hair and makeup team, to The Professional director Luc Besson, "who gave me my first job when I was 11 years old."
Best Actor shoo-in Colin Firth gave a similar tribute to producer Harvey Weinstein, "who first took me on 20 years ago when I was a mere child sensation."
The Brit was his usual show-stealing self, a comfort we've grown to look forward to all season.
"I'm afraid I have to warn you," he began, "that I'm experiencing stirrings in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves. Joyous as they may be for me, it would be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get offstage."
The King's Speech led the field with 12 nominations and tied the technically savvy Inception with four Academy Awards, including Best Director for first-time nominee Tom Hooper and Best Original Screenplay for his fellow Oscar virgin David Seidler.
Alas, Firth couldn't be the voice of a nation tonight.
Despite a smidge of controversy over her self-produced "For Your Consideration" ads, Melissa Leo stayed the course and won Best Supporting Actress for playing a struggling boxer's fiercely protective and hairsprayed mom in The Fighter, meaning no gritty coup this year for Hailee Steinfeld.
"Oh my God! Oh wow! Really, really really, truly wow," rambled the F-bomb-dropping Leo, who though she won every major and less-major award leading up to the Oscars decided to pretend as if she'd just fallen off the acting truck.
"I am kind of speechless. Golly, there's people up there too," she added, peering upward toward the balcony.
This went on for awhile, possibly triggering a time crunch that resulted in Aaron Sorkin hearing "that music" midway through his acceptance for Best Adapted Screenplay and David Seidler having to cut things short just when it felt like the night was finally going to start being charming.
"My father always said to me, I would be a later bloomer," the 73-year-old penner of The King's Speech said of his first Oscar win (which came with his first-ever nomination). "I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award. I hope that record is broken quickly and often."
Christian Bale continued his Goodwill 2011 tour as he accepted the Best Supporting Actor prize for his grueling role in The Fighter, profusely thanking his fellow cast, crew and family and even throwing in a plug for the real-life Dicky Eklund's website.
"I'm not going to drop the F-bomb like [Melissa Leo] did, I've done it plenty before," he said, wink-wink.
Inception collected a quartet of Oscars, for achievements in cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing and visual effects. The Social Network was next with three: Sorkin's writing trophy, Best Editing (for making typing strangely thrilling) and for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' Best Original Score.
Alice in Wonderland, a winner for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood designed Helena Bonham Carter's Oscar dress, too, and it showed), tied The Fighter and Toy Story 3 with two.
The Disney-Pixar fave, also a nominee for Best Motion Picture, was named Best Animated Feature as expected and "We Belong Together" composer Randy Newman won his second Oscar (in 20 tries) for Best Original Song.
Inside Job was named Best Documentary, the 2008 financial meltdown ultimately proving more compelling than the heart-gripping Afghan war tale told in Restrepo or the questionably serious art-biz critique Exit Through the Gift Shop.
The frontrunning Danish drama In a Better World improved on its Golden Globe victory to be named Best Foreign Language Film, meaning no shiny gold men tonight for Javier Bardem's dying-of-cancer-and-talking-to-the-dead tearjerker Biutiful.
The belly laughs were, sadly, few and far between this year (meanwhile, we're still treasuring Steve Martin's "There's that damn Helen Mirren" crack from 2010), but that made it easier to compile the best jokes right here:
- "Who were those people?" Alec Baldwin asked Morgan Freeman in the opening pretaped sketch after they offered hosting advice to Hathaway and Franco. "You know, I have no idea," Freeman replied.
- "Stand up straight. Mr. Spielberg is here," Hathaway's mom reminded the cohost when she pointed her mom out in the crowd.
- "Hugh Jackman is laughing. I don't know why everyone in Australia thinks I'm funny. Colin Firth isn't laughing. He's British," Kirk Douglas said in prolonging the agony for the Best Supporting Actress nominees.
- "[Long pause] I am Banksy," Justin Timberlake revealed, referring to the elusive art prankster behind the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Of course, that joke had to be ruined too, by Mila Kunis informing him, "No you're not, Justin." Just let him be Banksy!
- "That's gross," Cate Blanchett responded to clips of The Wolfman that played before she handed out the Best Achievement in Makeup Oscar to the artists who thanklessly transformed Benicio Del Toro into a wolf for a critically panned film.
- "Good evening, I am George Clooney," Kevin Spacey greeted the audience.
- "You managed to scare an entire nation--with a haircut," Sandra Bullock said in addressing Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem, a previous supporting-actor winner for No Country for Old Men.
At least none of the winners this year will ever be overshadowed in the history books by the production. We can't be sure, but when Billy Crystal came out to present, we thought we heard a few audience members yelling "Save us!"