"The King's Speech" entered the biggest night in Hollywood as the clear front-runner to win top honors and did not stumble at the 83rd Academy Awards, nabbing four wins out of 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Director for Tom Hooper.

"Inception" ended up roping in four wins as well, one better than "The Social Network," which lost out in all the major categories after beginning awards season as a potential dominant Oscar presence yet losing momentum over the past month. The evening, in fact, unfolded without a single upset in the major categories, from Melissa Leo's ("The Fighter") early Supporting Actress win to the Best Picture triumph for "King's Speech."

Firth could have begun penning his Best Actor acceptance speech months ago. When he finally got the chance late in the night, he began, "I have a feeling my career has just peaked" and ended, again self-deprecatingly, "And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some impulses I have to attend to backstage."

Check out backstage photos of the big Oscar winners.

A very pregnant Natalie Portman ("Black Swan") swept aside six-time nominee Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right") for Best Actress. Entirely more serious than she was at the Golden Globes, when she laughed about getting to sleep with baby-daddy Benjamin Millepied, Portman instead ran through a dizzying list of thank-yous, acknowledging everyone from her parents to her publicists to director Darren Aronofsky, to whom she said, "You are fearless and a visionary."

Up until the minute the directing award was handed out, no one could decide if Hooper or David Fincher ("The Social Network") would end up the champ. In the end, Hooper soared on the strength of what he dubbed the "triangle of man love," whose points apparently include Firth, Geoffrey Rush and the director himself.

The show kicked off with a high-concept, "Inception"-inspired cold open as hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway entered into the worlds of the Best Picture nominees and some beloved past films — from the boxing ring of "The Fighter" to the rehearsal studio of "Black Swan" to the time-traveling DeLorean from "Back to the Future." The duo then sauntered out onto the stage at the Kodak Theatre and segued into a short, shared monologue in which Hathaway congratulated Franco on his Best Actor nomination and lamented that she wasn't honored for her work in "Love & Other Drugs." "It used to be, you get naked, you get nominated," she joked. "Not anymore!"

Wearing a tuxedo and high heels, Hathaway popped up later for a musical number, riffing on "On My Own" from "Les Misérables" and accusing Hugh Jackman of bailing on a planned duet (following their song-and-dance number from the 2009 Oscars). Franco then joined her, in a blond wig and hot-pink ball gown, because, well, does Franco really need an excuse to be weird?

The first major award of the night went to Leo, who bested some stiff competition for Best Supporting Actress but might have been upstaged by the presenter bestowing her award. The 94-year-old Kirk Douglas commandeered the stage, haltingly telling jokes and clearly enjoying his moment in the spotlight, before announcing the winner. When she finally accepted the award, Leo struggled to keep her composure, unleashed a naughty word that the censors bleeped and profusely thanked the Academy for respecting her work.

Long the heavy favorite for Best Supporting Actor, Christian Bale surprised no one when he collected a win for "The Fighter." More surprising, however, was how the often-reserved star fought off tears as he thanked his wife and daughter. Bale also shouted out the film's cast and crew, saying of Leo, "Melissa, I'm not going to drop the F-bomb like she did. I've done that enough already!"

The writing awards went to two first-time nominees, with Aaron Sorkin nabbing Adapted Screenplay for "The Social Network" and David Seidler taking home Original Screenplay for "The King's Speech." Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross nabbed Original Score for "The Social Network," and Original Song went to 20-time nominee Randy Newman for "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," which also won Animated Feature Film. Honorary Oscars went to Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola, Kevin Brownlow and Jean-Luc Godard, who did not attend the ceremony.

In the evening's funniest moment, Hathaway and Franco presented a series of faux-music numbers courtesy of the magic of Auto-Tune. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson unwittingly found themselves taking part in a song called "Tiny Ball of Light," culled from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" footage, and "Eclipse" star Robert Pattinson ended up crooning a little ditty alongside Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner titled "He Doesn't Own a Shirt."

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