Oscar Eye: Does The King's Speech Really Have The Race Locked Up?

By Katey Rich 2011-02-03 07:43:07discussion comments
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Oscar Eye: Does The King's Speech Really Have The Race Locked Up? image
Hey, anything happen after I wrote last week's Oscar Eye on the morning of the nominations, speculating that The King's Speech's twelve nominations over The Social Network's eight "could indicate that The King's Speech's traditional Oscar-friendliness really does give it an edge over critical darling The Social Network." No totemic shifts in the race since then? No? OK, good, I'll get back to wrapping up my Sundance coverage then.

Oh wait… you mean the ensuing SAG and DGA Awards caused nearly every Oscar pundit to set their hair on fire last weekend, while I was still trying to figure out how to get my snow boots back in my suitcase? Christ, OK. Then here we go.

If you don't pay regular attention to the Oscar pundits who write about this stuff far better and more constantly than I, you may not have noticed that last weekend was something of a cataclysm. As Stu Van Airsdale hilariously put it in his Movieline Oscar column today, "Everybody chill the f*ck out about The King’s Speech, already. Sheesh." It started last Tuesday, with King's Speech's aforementioned stack of 12 Oscar nominations, then rolled right into Saturday night, when Tom Hooper shocked nearly everyone by taking home the Director's Guild prize, an award David Fincher had probably already meticulously art directed in his own home. Sunday night was when the towers really started crumbling-- The King's Speech also took home the Best Ensemble prize at the SAG Awards, meaning it had swept its way through the Producers, Directors and Screen Actors guilds as efficiently and brusquely as the Queen Mum on her way to tea.

The confusion and shock among "Oscarologists" or "Oscar pundits" or whatever you want to call them-- I consider myself a fringe member of the club at best, admitting I know nothing and only write about this stuff a few months a year-- was instant. Probably the most upset was Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, a fervent Social Network supporter who had said that if Hooper won the DGA prize, she would quit the Oscar predicting business-- "because it would show that I learned absolutely nothing in the eleven years I’ve been doing this website. And that is absolutely true: I know nothing." For my part, I made a $10 bet at Sundance that The Social Network would still beat The King's Speech, though this was before the DGA and SAG Awards were handed out-- I'm still hoping to get my money back, but perfectly willing to acknowledge the writing on the wall.

But is that writing there? As, again, the wonderful van Airsdale pointed out, Oscar voters still have nearly three weeks left to turn in their ballots, to ignore the hoopla and the freaked-out Oscar bloggers (provided they pay any attention to us at all) and decide what they actually think the year's best movie is. They may well think it's the King's Speech-- no matter how fervent Fincher fans may try to paint it, it really is more than your average fancy period drama-- or they may stick with the zeitgeist and the film nobody has stopped talking about for the past four months. At this point I'm tempted to throw up my hands and say "just wait for the ceremony, you impatient assholes," but I know that's not what I'm here for. So now, to round up all the craziness that's happened in the last week and to send us into this pre-Oscar, oddly quiet period, here's a rundown of the films that could win Best Picture, in order of likelihood, and why. I'm focusing on the positive now, because jeez have conversations been grim lately, and there's no reason not to at least try and believe 127 Hours could come from behind and win it all. And remember: nobody, especially me, knows anything right now.

Next week we'll talk about… well, something. But be warned: this whole King's Speech vs. Social Network narrative isn't going anywhere, so it's going to be dominating the conversation for the next few weeks.


The Social Network will win Best Picture because… It is a hit movie ($213 million worldwide) that most people love, and many critics think is the best movie of the year. It has (probably) guaranteed Best Director work from David Fincher, an artist working consistently in Hollywood and nominated two years ago. It has won more critics prizes than you can possibly count, plus an armful of Golden Globes and the National Board of Review prize (for whatever that's worth). It has engendered more passionate discussion than any other film in the top ten, and strikes more firmly in the zeitgeist. It has been the frontrunner in the race up until a week ago, and that kind of lead doesn't just vanish overnight. The Academy has been awarding Best Picture to more artistically daring and strange films in recent years, meaning The Social Network may be more of their kind of movie these days than The King's Speech after all.


The King's Speech will win Best Picture because… It is a hit movie ($141 million worldwide) that everybody loves. It has a guaranteed Best Actor winning performance with Colin Firth, a well-loved actor nominated just last year. It has won the DGA, PGA and SAG prizes, and the members of those guilds are the people who vote for Oscars, not critics. It is backed by the Weinstein Company, who are the reigning masters of Oscar campaigns. It's a period story about royalty, fitting better into the "classical" Oscar mold than any other contender.


True Grit will win Best Picture because… It is a hit movie ($151 million worldwide) that a surprising amount of people really love. It has two Oscar-nominated performances, including one from last year's Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges. The Coen Brothers were surprisingly nominated for Best Director, an indicator of strong support (they did not get a DGA nomination). It is a Western, a traditional Hollywood genre that older members of the Academy may respond to. It is, in its own weird Coen Brothers way, heartwarming. It's entirely possible for The King's Speech and The Social Network camps to kill each other on the battlefield, leaving a third contender like True Grit to stride through.


The Fighter will win Best Picture because… It is a modest hit movie ($84 million worldwide) that people really, really love. It has a guaranteed Best Supporting Actor winning performance with Christian Bale, who has never even been nominated before and is friggin' Batman. It has a (maybe) guaranteed Best Supporting Actress winning performance with Melissa Leo, who is a previous nominee and is pretty great. It's a feel-good boxing movie, and who doesn't like those? It's another legitimate contender to take advantage when the top two knock each other out and leave room for a surprise.


Black Swan will win Best Picture because… It is a incredibly surprising hit movie ($122 million worldwide for a ballet horror film) that has many passionate supporters. It has a guaranteed Best Actress winning performance in Natalie Portman, who has been working since she was an adolescent and surely knows everyone in the Academy by now. It features a lesbian sex scene, and you can't go wrong with that. The Academy, as mentioned, has gone for darker and edgier movies lately, and if they want to prove just how young and hip they are, they can't do much better than with this. (Note: this does not seem very likely at all, but it's totally possible!)


Toy Story 3 will win Best Picture because… It is a monster hit movie (over $1 billion worldwide) that everybody loves, or at least everybody is afraid to admit they don't love at risk of seeming cold and heartless. It is made by Pixar, the only studio on the planet that everybody loves and trusts. It is, many will argue, the best film of the last year. The Academy will get over its anti-animation bias one of these days, so why not this year?


The Kids Are All Right will win Best Picture because… It is a hit movie by indie standards ($29 million worldwide) that pretty much everybody loves. It has two Oscar-nominated performances, including one from legitimate Best Actress threat contender Annette Bening. It's a feel-good movie about modern families that could strike the fancy of the more liberal wing of the Academy. It's not totally impossible for a comedy to win these days…. right?


Inception will win Best Picture because… It is a monster hit movie ($823 million worldwide) that most people love, or at least most people can't stop talking about. It got eight nominations, which is significant!


127 Hours will win Best Picture because… It's not exactly a flop ($25 million worldwide) despite what you might have heard. James Franco is both a Best Actor nominee and a host, which means people care about him and his movie. Danny Boyle won this prize two years ago, and clearly still has a lot of love in the industry.


Winter's Bone will win Best Picture because… It received four nominations, indicating stronger support than we might have suspected. Um, crazier things have happened, so why couldn't this be possible?
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