Firth expected to reign at BAFTA awards

The final preparations for today's Baftas presentations are under way with more than 1,000 canapes being prepared, 540 magnums of champagne on ice and some of the biggest names in showbusiness getting ready to walk the red carpet.

All eyes will be on Colin Firth with The King's Speech expected to reign supreme after topping the nominations list for the film awards.

The story of King George VI's attempt to overcome his stutter is in the running for the most coveted prizes, including best film and director as well as actor for Firth.

His co-stars, Geoffrey Rush, who plays the monarch's speech therapist, and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, are nominated in the supporting actor and actress categories.

The film's 14 nominations follow disappointment at the Golden Globes, where the royal drama, directed by Briton Tom Hooper, took only one - Firth won best actor - of the seven awards it was contending for.

But none of the Bafta nominees go away empty-handed. They all get a gift bag stuffed full of top of the range goodies including a limited edition Anya Hindmarch bag, a designer scarf, champagne truffles and beauty products.

They also get bottle of vodka and champagne to toast their success - or drown their sorrows as appropriate.

Black Swan, a psychological thriller set in the world of ballet, is just behind The King's Speech with 12 nominations, including best film, best director for Darren Aronofsky and best actress for Natalie Portman.

One of Portman's rivals is 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld - the US teenager who won a key part in the Coen brothers western True Grit after an open casting call.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), and Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) are also up for best actress.

In the best director category, Black Swan and The King's Speech are up against Slumdog Millionaire film-maker Danny Boyle for rock-climbing drama 127 Hours, Christopher Nolan for his thriller Inception, and David Fincher for The Social Network, about the founding of Facebook.

Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, has nine nominations, 127 Hours and True Grit are in eight categories, and The Social Network, which dominated the Golden Globes, is up for six gongs.

The King's Speech and Black Swan are up against Inception, The Social Network and True Grit for best film.

Firth's rivals in the best actor category are US star Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Javier Bardem (Biutiful) and James Franco (127 Hours).

Last year, the best director and film Baftas went to Kathryn Bigelow and her movie The Hurt Locker.

They took the same titles at the Oscars, suggesting the Baftas may now provide a better pointer than the Golden Globes to Oscar success.

Other nominations see Pete Postlethwaite, who died last month at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer, posthumously nominated for supporting actor.

He is nominated for one of his last roles, as an Irish florist in Ben Affleck gangster film The Town.

In other categories, graffiti artist Banksy is up for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer for his faux documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.

Four Lions, a farce about suicide bombers by TV satirist Chris Morris, acclaimed shoestring-budget sci-fi movie Monsters, dark comedy Skeletons and The Arbor, the story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, are also in the running.

The King's Speech is up against 127 Hours, Mike Leigh film Another Year, Four Lions and Made In Dagenham, a dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford factory, in the British film category.

The supporting actress category pits Bonham Carter against Miranda Richardson (Made In Dagenham), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) and Lesley Manville (Another Year).

Deputy Bafta chairman David Parfitt said it had been "a very good year for the Brits".

He added: "British film has always punched above its weight in the film world. British film is always quite well represented in the Oscars as well as the Baftas.

"It's not that we have a particular bias. British film in general plays well around the world because it's very good."

The ceremony, hosted for the fifth year by Jonathan Ross and broadcast on BBC1, is the biggest movie bash in the UK.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling will be there to accept an award on behalf of the films inspired by her books about the teenage wizard.

The success of the movies, which have been a box office phenomenon and made stars of the cast, will be marked by the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.