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STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Each year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California. The awards are called Oscars. They are the American film industry’s top honors. This year’s awards ceremony will be held next Sunday.
Today we tell about the movies nominated for best picture. We also hear what some local moviegoers have to say about them.
STEVE EMBER: This year marks the eighty-third Academy Awards. Nominees and other members of the film industry will gather for the awards ceremony at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on February twenty-seventh. About six thousand members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences vote for the winners by secret ballots. Oscars are given in twenty-five categories. They include best actors, directors, writers and producers among others.
BARBARA KLEIN: But the top award, best picture, is announced last. Last year the academy increased the number of best picture nominees from five to ten. The change was an attempt to increase interest and gain more television viewers for the Academy Awards show. It seems to have worked. Nearly forty-two million people watched last year’s television broadcast of the awards show. That was an increase of five million viewers from the year before.
This year Academy Awards producers are targeting younger audiences. Actress Anne Hathaway and actor James Franco will host the awards show. A new marketing campaign will include behind-the-scenes live streaming at Oscar.com before the show.
Viewers will see video from about thirty cameras capturing movie stars entering the theater on the famous red carpet as well as the control room and press room.
STEVE EMBER: This year’s best picture nominees include several films based on true stories about a king, a boxer, a website creator and a rock climber. There is also a psychological thriller about ballet and an animated children’s movie. The stars of most of these movies are also nominated for acting awards.
One of the most highly praised films of the year is “The King’s Speech.” This historical film tells the story of how Britain’s King George the Sixth overcame a speech problem in order to speak to his country during World War Two. It deals with friendship and the universal problems of loneliness and communication. The drama has earned twelve nominations, the most of any film this year.
BARBARA KLEIN: Another film based on a true story is “127 Hours.” The film documents the near-death experience of rock climber Aron Ralston. In two thousand three, the twenty-six-year-old became trapped in a canyon in Utah.
The climber, played by James Franco, spends one hundred twenty-seven hours trapped alone with little chance of survival. In order to break free, he cuts off his arm and escapes.
STEVE EMBER: “True Grit” is a movie based on the novel by Charles Portis. It was written and directed by Oscar-winning brothers Ethan and Joel Coen. It tells the story of a young girl trying to bring her father’s killer to justice. It is a remake of a nineteen sixty-nine western movie starring John Wayne. “True Grit” is nominated in ten categories.
(SOUND: "True Grit")
STEVE EMBER: The movie stars Jeff Bridges as the United States Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. Newcomer actress Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross. She hires Cogburn to help her find the killer, Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin.
BARBARA KLEIN: The thriller “Black Swan” is another best picture nominee. It stars Natalie Portman who trained intensely to play the part of Nina Sayers, a ballerina with a New York ballet company. Nina struggles to perform the leading role in “Swan Lake” while dealing with a controlling mother, played by Barbara Hershey.
The film explores the competitive world of ballet that Nina lives in and that threatens to destroy her.
STEVE EMBER: Another best picture nominee is “The Social Network.” It received eight Academy Award nominations. This film is based on the story of the creation of the extremely popular Internet website Facebook.
Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In two thousand three, Zuckerberg and his friends invented the website while students at Harvard University. The success of Facebook made him the youngest billionaire in history. However, some of his friends brought lawsuits in disputes over rights and ownership to the website.
(SOUND: "The Social Network")
BARBARA KLEIN: The best picture nominees includes one animated film, Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.” The children’s movie continues the story told in two earlier versions. A boy named Andy’s beloved toys are accidentally given to a daycare center when Andy goes off to college. At first, the toys enjoy the new attention from children. But they soon realize they are imprisoned by an evil teddy bear. They must work together to plan an escape.
STEVE EMBER: Also up for best picture is “Winter’s Bone.” This film was made on a very small budget. The main character, Ree Dolley, is a seventeen-year-old living in a poor rural area in southern Missouri.
She cares for her mentally ill mother and her younger brother and sister. Her father is a local drug dealer who has disappeared. Her family risks losing their home if her father does not show up for court. Ree sets out to find her father and discovers secrets about him. Ree is played by newcomer actress Jennifer Lawrence.
BARBARA KLEIN: “Inception” is a movie about dreams. It received eight nominations. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb who steals valuable information from people’s minds while they dream. His rare skill makes him a valuable corporate spy.
He has sacrificed everything for his work. Now he is being given a chance to get his life back if can complete one last job. This time, however, instead of stealing information, he must plant information in the mind of one man. He comes up with a plan for the inception using a series of dreams within dreams.
BARBARA KLEIN: Cobb must now face the question of what is reality and what is only a dream.
STEVE EMBER: Another best picture nominee is “The Fighter.” The story takes places in the nineteen eighties in Lowell, Massachusetts. It is based on the true story of boxer Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, and his rise to become a junior welterweight champion.
Christian Bale plays Dickie Ecklund, Micky’s half-brother. Dickie’s boxing career was cut short by his addiction to drugs. So he spends his time training Micky with their mother Alice as manager. But Micky cannot win a fight. He decides to stand up to his family and quit boxing.
(SOUND: "The Fighter")
STEVE EMBER: But then Micky gets one more chance in the ring, under one condition: his family has to stay out of his career. The movie is a story of family struggles and relationships between brothers as well as boxing.
BARBARA KLEIN: “The Kids Are All Right” is another movie about a family. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a same sex couple with two teenage children. Their children decide to find their biological father. But the mothers worry that Paul is not a good influence for their children. Paul begins spending more and more time with the family and everyone’s lives are affected.
STEVE EMBER: We talked to movie goers recently at a theater near Washington to hear about their favorite movies of last year.
ERNA ATKINS: "I did see ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Social Network.’ I think ‘Social Network’ could win, the writing was amazing.”
STEVE EMBER: That was Erna Atkins, from Alexandria, Virginia. She said she liked the movies for different reasons.
ERNA ATKINS: “The wit of ‘The Social Network,’ and the bond of brotherhood in ‘The Fighter.’”
STEVE EMBER: We spoke with Barbara, from northern Virginia, who was leaving the theater after seeing “True Grit.”
BABARA KLEIN: "That was very good. We were just saying the young girl who starred should've had top billing. She was fabulous.”
STEVE EMBER: Michael Claros-Saenz is a member of the United States military stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He took his two younger brothers to the movies while visiting family in Virginia. Michael said he thinks ‘Toy Story 3’ could win best picture.
MICHAEL CLAROS-SAENZ: "It was a great way to end it. It made me really sad, because I was growing up with ‘Toy Story’ my whole life so just to see them being passed on was very touching."
BARBARA KLEIN: Our program was written and produced by Brianna Blake. I’m Barbara Klein.
STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Tell us about your favorite movie of last year. You can comment at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.