…”The King’s Speech” hijacked the Best Picture race and went from feel-good also-ran to historic cock-block in the space of about a week.
I don’t know how it happened. It’s just the kind of bizarre turn-around in the awards season that keeps us Oscar watchers perpetually on our toes. “The Social Network” was on a roll to end all rolls, cleaning up every critics’ award and more at an unprecedented pace. It seemed like the Globes would be the last stand of the middle-brow, prestige fare, but no dice; Fincher’s “Citizen Kane” for the networking era seemed destined to take down all comers.
But I made a mistake in my calculations, as did, it seems, pretty much every Oscar prognosticator. We lost sight of the fact that the people who vote for all those critics awards, and the Golden Globes, are not the Academy. And the Academy are a very particular group with very particular tastes. I wish I could tell you what that means, exactly. Sometimes they like “The Hurt Locker;” sometimes they like “Crash.” Sometimes they go for a detached brooder like “No Country for Old Men;” sometimes they go for a sentimental weepie like “Titanic.” There’s little rhyme or reason to it. But this year? It doesn’t matter how much WE like “The Social Network.” It doesn’t matter how much we want THEM to like “The Social Network.” They like “The King’s Speech” more.
How do we know? First, “The King’s Speech” got a surprise win at the PGA, as reported. Then the film’s director, Tom Hooper, stunned a field of overdue veterans to claim the Director’s Guild prize. And, in the coup de grace this past weekend, the Screen Actor’s Guild gave their top prize for Best Ensemble to the Britpic. Game. Set. Match. Those are the three biggest guilds, with the broadest memberships and the most overlap with Oscar voters. Ultimately, it’s about what resonated with these guys, and “The King’s Speech” clearly hit a nerve. It doesn’t matter what the sound editors or production designers think (and that’s probably a moot point this year, since those guys clearly loved “The King’s Speech” too). Hollywood is still an elitist bunch, and the most public figures are still the ones whose voices get heard; which, in a way, could certainly help to explain why they’re identifying more with “The King’s Speech” than the antisocial geniuses of “The Social Network.”
Am I upset by this turn of events? Yes and no. “The King’s Speech” is an excellent film, but ultimately just an actor’s showcase with a nice story. “The Social Network,” I think, has the chance to be something special. But can I get angry at the Academy for thinking that the past four Best Picture winners represented a change in taste, when that particular streak just represented an alignment of my taste with theirs? Not really. As blogger Sasha Stone likes to write this time of year, “the trick is not minding.” As a film critic, I might not be the happiest camper, but as an Oscar prognosticator, it’s all about guessing what’s going to be inside those fancy gold envelopes. And, well, it just got pretty easy to guess what most of our winners will be.
So, come Feb. 27th, I’ll pull for a few below-the-line faves and pray that “The Social Network” manages to clamber out of the Kodak Theater with more than one statuette to its name. C’mon, Trent Reznor!!