The King's Speech Has a Royally Good Night at the BAFTAs

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Luke Macgregor / Reuters

Colin Firth holds the award for best actor at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London, February 13, 2011

If ever there was a year for the BAFTAs — the annual film awards that the British Academy of Film and Television Arts hands out — to feel fully justified about moving up in the calendar to come before the Oscars, it was this year. For if the standout movie of 2010 was The King's Speech, as proven by the way it leads the Oscar nominations with 12 nods, it went two better in the eyes of BAFTA, which gave it 14 nominations. And by winning seven BAFTAs — including the double whammy of Best Film and Outstanding British Film — on Sunday night, British director Tom Hooper's movie about King George VI's journey in overcoming his stammer to provide a source of strength to the British in the build up to World War II indeed wears BAFTA's crown.

It's been exactly 10 years since the BAFTAs were brought forward to avoid being overshadowed by Hollywood's big night out, transforming it from an after-thought to an influencer of Oscar pools. And by Hooper's movie, starring Colin Firth as the verbally victorious monarch, dominating the annual British bash — and it should do the same on Oscars night — the powers that be at BAFTA will surely be pleased that they gave out their gongs first. Walking the red carpet on Sunday, everyone involved with the movie certainly said all the right things in paying due respect to Britain's night in the spotlight (and in the rain). "I think it's the one-two punch with Oscar," said The King's Speech's writer David Seidler, who later that night would win for Best Original Screenplay. "They're the left jab and the right hook, they go together, they're very important." When asked by TIME about the Queen supposedly finding the film "moving," Seidler said, "I wrote this script with a lot of love for her father and that she hasn't sent me to the Tower [of London] is very gratifying."

Love was clearly all around. Host Jonathan Ross, famous for his cheeky TV talk show, quickly put the room at ease when he announced in his opening monologue: "Ricky Gervais cannot get into the building!" — a jab at Gervais' severe roasting of various Hollywood figures at last month's Golden Globes. After that, the evening's was mainly all about The King's Speech. On the acting side, it took the prize for every category in which it was nominated. Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter won the Supporting Actor and Actress awards — "I seem to be playing queens with ever-decreasing head sizes," said Bonham Carter, who also played the Red Queen in her partner Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. And Firth's almost inevitable win for Best Actor ("I like coming here") following his victory last year for A Single Man marked the first time someone has claimed back-to-back Best Actor BAFTAs since the late Rod Steiger took the prize in 1967 for The Pawnbroker and then the next year for In the Heat of the Night. But in a surprise twist, Hooper did not win for Best Director, losing out to The Social Network's David Fincher (it seems even Fincher didn't think he would win — he was a no-show).

Away from the monarchy and Best Actress stuck to the predicted script, with Natalie Portman claiming it for her performance as Nina Sayers, the ballet dancer seemingly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in Black Swan. (Like Rush, Portman wasn't in attendance but stayed in New York — one is on stage, the other pregnant, we'll let you guess which is which.) And another favorite, Toy Story 3, took Best Animation. Best foreign film went to the original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — perhaps Fincher's Hollywood remake will succeed at next year's BAFTAs. And though Fincher's current movie didn't do as well as its main rival, it rightly won Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin's masterful script. "My father wouldn't consider me a real writer until I won a BAFTA," Sorkin told TIME before the show, "so I'm grateful to the British Academy for the nomination." He can expect to double up at the Oscars — the category isn't being referred to as "Sorkin and the four other guys" for nothing — but, when asked about his buildup to the Academy Awards, said, "I don't think there's a way you can really prepare. I think I'll have my tuxedo dry-cleaned." As for The Social Network's star, Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Facebook's main man Mark Zuckerberg, he told TIME that the Oscars are, "probably the BAFTAs, but with American accents."

BAFTA being BAFTA, the Academy found a way to celebrate Harry Potter, by awarding it rather grandiose recognition for its Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema (aka Thanks for Making Us So Much Money). "It's very strange to look back and remember how wary I was of letting anyone put Harry on screen," recalled author JK Rowling. "But being involved with these films has been one of the best experiences of my life."

But no amount of magic can disguise the fact that this year's awards will be forever associated with The King's Speech. Its seven BAFTA's can be added to the mantelpiece (which will surely need an extension before the month's out) with the gongs already collected at the Producers Guild of America, the Directors Guild, and the Screen Actors Guild. Only the little gold men remain, and if you're impressed with The King's Speech receiving 14 BAFTA nominations, a look back in history may well point to future Oscar success. The film that holds the record for the most ever BAFTA nods is Gandhi, which was shortlisted for 16 and won five in 1983. But it went on to win eight Oscars, including those for Best Film and Actor. It would be folly to not think that The King's Speech will similarly reign supreme.