The Oscar buzz surrounding Natalie Portman and Colin Firth has intensified with news that the pair will be awarded the top prizes at the upcoming Palm Springs International Film Festival. The actors have  received rave reviews for their latest movie offerings, with Portman taking on the role of a ballet dancer in dark drama, Black Swan, while Firth portrays British monarch King George VI in The King’s Speech. They have both been tipped to take honours at the upcoming 2011 Academy Awards, and they have started their awards season run with wins at California’s Palm Springs International Film Festival. Portman and Firth will both receive Desert Palm Achievement Awards when the movie event kicks off in January, joining previously announced honorees including Carey Mulligan, who will pick up the Breakthrough Star prize. The festival will begin on January 8.

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Hollywood: The Oscar Favourites This Year

Despicable Me, Megamind, Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon are among the 15 animation movies shortlisted for the Oscars. Pet sagas Alpha And Omega, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore, acclaimed new French film The Illusionist and Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga’hoole are also among the hopefuls for a place at the 83rd Academy Awards. Three films will be nominated for the Animated Feature Film category, which will be announced on January 25.

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