Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting on The King's Speech soapbox

I love The Social Network. It's one of my favorite films of 2010. If it wins the Best Picture Oscar, I will be quite happy.

But I'm not going to slit my wrists if it doesn't. Nor am I going to be futilely shaking my fist in protest. Besides, that's kind of hard if you slit your wrist first.

You see, I loved The King's Speech too. It's fair to say I love The Social Network more, but that's mainly a matter of preference. I'm always going to gravitate more toward daring, auteur-driven movies than I am British period pieces, no matter how well made that period piece is. I'll come right out and say it: I would rather see The Social Network win than The King's Speech. Got that straight?

That said, all this whining over The King's Speech now being the Oscar frontrunner profoundly annoys me. It will hardly be a travesty of justice if Speech wins. Now that momentum is heavily in its favor, certain film commentators (Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere and Sasha Stone of Awards Daily come to mind) seem to be banging their heads against the wall like De Niro in Raging Bull. Some people are grousing about how history will not look on the choice kindly if The King's Speech wins.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But you know what? It doesn't make any difference - not even in the narrow world of Oscar prognosticating. Because, really, this is the same old story with the Academy. There's nothing new here.

And no, it's not so much a matter of "daring new film" vs. "safe traditional film." It comes down to something as simple as this: The Academy votes for what movie it likes the most. And it likes most what touches its heart. The King's Speech is much more likely to do that than The Social Network.

When it comes to the heart-tugger vs. daring cinema, the heart-tugger almost always wins. It's why Ordinary People won instead of Raging Bull. It's why Forrest Gump prevailed over Pulp Fiction. It's why Titanic won over LA Confidential. And this has gone on for DECADES. Heck, when you get right down to it, it's a reasoon why How Green was my Valley won over Citizen Kane.

Is How Green Was My Valley a better film than Citizen Kane? Oh HELL no! But is it a shameful choice for a winner? Oh HELL No!  And The King's Speech won't be either.

Sure, the Academy is conscious of its place in history. That sometimes comes into play when  the ballots are cast. But The King's Speech will win simply because voters love it. I'm one who does.

 I'll cop to something of a bias. The King's Speech is about a man trying to overcome a disability. As a man with cerebral palsy, that's something I try to do every day. The King's Speech speaks to me - and so I'm more than fine with the idea of it winning. It's a damn fine film. Some people call it "stodgy." It's not. It's straightforward. There's a difference. And the film  doesn't deserved to be scorned for not being a game changer or not being directed by David Fincher.

I don't remember people pissing and moaning this much when Gladiator won instead of Traffic - and if you ask me, Gladiator's win is even less deserving than The Blind Side would have been.

If/when The King's Speech wins, nothing is going to change. The critics will like what they like. The Academy will like what they like. David Fincher will keep making movies. So will Tom Hooper. Some of them will be great - and everything will be fine.  I think Inception deserves to win over either The King's Speech or The Social Network.  But I'm not concerned that it won't. In the grand scheme of things, it's a speeding ticket.

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