The list of likely contenders for February's Academy Awards is a mostly unusual mix, between the fever-pitched "Black Swan," the rural, indie "Winter's Bone" and the talky wizardry of "The Social Network."

The list of likely contenders for February's Academy Awards is a mostly unusual mix, between the fever-pitched "Black Swan," the rural, indie "Winter's Bone" and the talky wizardry of "The Social Network."

On the other hand, from beginning to end, "The King's Speech" is classic Oscar bait.

A British period piece set in the 1930s, starring three actors with five Oscar nods and one win between them, the film tells the true story of Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth), and his speech impediment. The condition turns his required public appearances and radio broadcasts as the second son of King George V into personal forms of torture.

After years of unsuccessful treatment, the duke is prompted by his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) to try Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unorthodox speech therapist who digs at the emotional root of his patient's stammer.

As written by David Seidler and directed by Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech" is consistently interesting, but it isn't altogether extraordinary. The film's mark of distinction is its performances.

Firth delivers a virtuoso turn, evoking maximum empathy, while Rush opts for a perfectly light, playful tone. Together, they're one of the most enjoyable movie couples of the year. Expect Oscar to notice.