Until recent weeks, David Fincher's The Social Network won pretty much every major award of the season. It was named best picture by the National Board of Review, the Critics Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, and pretty much every major film critics circle. Then, all of a sudden, The King's Speech came on strong at the guild awards, winning top honors at the Producer's Guild, Director's Guild, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The momentum shifted, and now Tom Hooper's royal costume drama seems poised for a rout of The Social Network at the Oscars.
Which is really unfortunate.
Don't get me wrong... I absolutely loved The King's Speech. I saw it three times in December, and put it #3 on my "best of 2010" list. It's an elegant, near-perfect crowd-pleaser with exquisite dialogue, immaculate production value and stellar performances across the board. It's hard to find anything wrong with The King's Speech, but I'll still be upset if it beats The Social Network for best picture.
Why? Because The Social Network is the more significant film. Objectively. Fincher's film is more daring, more interesting, more unexpected and more important that The King's Speech. It turned the rise of Facebook into a Shakespearian tragedy, a Citizen Kane for Millenials. It captured the zeitgeist and used dialogue to create visceral action the likes of which Michael Bay CGI could only dream of. It was a film not just about Facebook, but about the changing nature of communication in a digital age. It's an epic, modern, ambitious film that blazes with intelligent energy and an unsettling ambiguity.
In the indieWIRE Critic's Poll, which polls top critics and bloggers from around the country on the best movies of the year, The Social Network landed at #1 as the unanimous pick for the best film of the year. The King's Speech was way down the list at #28. Is the Academy really that out of touch with the critical mass, that it would award the Best Picture Oscar to a film that landed on only 10 out of 120 of the nation's leading critics' lists?
It's easy to see why The King's Speech will win the Oscar. It embodies everything Oscar loves: kingly performances, period costumes, accessible artsiness, dynamo performances, laughs, tears, white knuckle tension. It was made to win awards, and was released (in December) with that objective clearly in mind. The Social Network was released in October and is the "old hat" award-winner by now. Many people are just now seeing The King's Speech, and the bias of the "I just saw the most amazing film!" buzz of newness is working entirely in its favor. The incredible film we just saw almost always trumps the incredible film we saw 3 months ago.
Then there is the "age divide," which pits the older Academy voters (fans of The King's Speech) against the younger ones, who appreciate The Social Network more because they resonate with its story and its style.
Whatever the reason, The King's Speech is now in the driver's seat for the best picture Oscar, much to the chagrin of the nation's critics, me included.