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Oscar 2010: The Final Lap

With just two award shows left before the big O, has The Social Network thrown in the towel, or is it too soon to the crown The King's Speech victorious?


Oscar Statuettes

 

Though BAFTA and the Spirit Awards are still to come, the Screen Actors Guild is the last true "precursor" to Oscar in the traditional sense. It’s the last industry awards event that reacts to the same pool of films (BAFTA and the Spirits have different eligibility requirements). If you view the Oscars as the be-all-and-end-all of movie awards (and most people do), that makes the Screen Actors Guild the dress rehearsal. The Big Show is about to open. And by ‘about to’ we mean month’s end.  

 

anne+hathaway+and+james+franco

 

The Read Through

 

Barring a huge upset on Oscar night, we saw all the future acting Oscars winners take the stage on Sunday night… again.

 

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

 

christian bale the fighter

 

All four thespians won at the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes before taking "The Actor." The Oscar will be their fourth televised win. If any of them feign shock on Oscar night, feel free to throw popcorn at the screen and mock them from your couch. If they actually can convince you that they’re shocked, they deserve those Oscars for their mad acting skills.

 

Precursor season is like a crystal ball placed in a hall of mirrors. It shows us what’s coming, and then we just keep seeing it reflected back at us. The crowded lengthy pre-season has been a perpetual thorn in the Academy's side. By the time Oscar arrives, the ‘who will win’ drama has usually been reduced to one or two categories. This could be one of the myriad reasons people focus on the dresses so intently: a best actress winner will sometimes repeat a speech, but she wouldn't be caught dead in the same dress.

sally+fields

So, where's the drama?

 

Though people often presume that SAG's Ensemble award equals Best Picture, it's not strictly equivalent. Hypothetically speaking, had 127 Hours—that man against nature drama—been the Best Picture frontrunner, it's not like it would have won Ensemble. ("That rock acts beautifully opposite James Franco. It's got such obstinate screen presence!") Still, it’s “close” to a Best Picture prize. The King's Speech won the Screen Actors Guild, to thunderous applause.

 

The reaction to its chief competitor, the long presumed Oscar frontrunner The Social Network, was unmistakably different. When the four young stars of the Facebook drama came out to introduce their Ensemble clip, there was a curious quiet in the room, a sudden chill. Andrew Garfield even shrugged his shoulders in what looked like defeat. "You can applaud if you want."

 

 

For those who have been rooting for The Social Network, the Oscar drama is no longer a drama at all, but a tragicomedy. It’s tragic because Network is a new instant classic, and a comedy if you find its competitor grossly underqualified for the "Best" title in the history books. Alas, one must never forget the WWII Oscar advantage: The King’s Speech is the only Best Picture nominee where Nazis figure in.

 

For those without a passionate rooting interest, the Oscar drama is no longer a drama at all, but a mystery. What was it that turned Hollywood against The Social Network? Theories abound—from the youth of the cast to the median age of Oscar voters (many of them assumed to be too old to be hip to "the Facebook") to the ubiquity of the real Mark Zuckerberg, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, adding to the tiresome oversaturation. Perhaps David Fincher just didn’t work the campaign right, unable to muster the traditional "It’s the best thing I’ve ever done" stance that awards fortune often expects of its recipients. Fincher even downplayed the movie in a recent interview with W magazine, implying that he thinks his earlier picture Zodiac, which Oscar ignored, is a more important film.

 

david fincher
Though The Social Network won virtually all the Best Picture prizes a film could win from December to mid-January, when the tide turned it turned sharply and, I think, irrevocably. In quick succession, the "underdog" The King's Speech took the PGA, DGA, and SAG wins. Once you’ve got the Producers, Directors, and Actors, you’ve got the Academy.

 

Canny Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein likes to paint Speech as a tiny underdog, saying things like "How can we compete against movies that cost three times what we spent?" but that’s misleading. The King’s Speech's recent string of wins is no case of David slaying Golitah. This is Goliath stripping off his David disguise; he’s been the giant all along.

 

harvey+weinstein

 

How tall is the giant?

 

So there’s precious little drama in the final lap. We’ve jogged past "Can The King's Speech win Best Picture?" speculation and are now racing towards "How many Oscars will The King's Speech win?" We know it won't make a clean sweep (The Fighter actors won't lose), but it's in for a major haul. Five statues seem like easy gets with this much support: Picture, Actor, Screenplay, Art Direction, and Costumes. But can it win more? Will the inspirational drama also sail to victories in Best Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and (gulp)… Best Director, leaving overdue auteur David Fincher empty-handed?

 

the king's speech

 

Will the Academy spread the wealth or will they spend Oscar night reassuring stammering King “Bertie” that he can make it through several speeches… all in one night?

 



Nathaniel Rogers blogs on The Film Experience. He is also a bit of an Oscar savant.

 

More in Tribeca's 2011 Oscar watch:
Oscar Talking Points
The Winner's Speech
Wizards of Oscars
Ballots Are Out and the Heat Is On
Is Oscar Age-ist Re: Best Actress
12 Hungry Films; Only Room for 10
The Spirits vs. The Oscars
Too Many Screeners, Not Enough Turkey
Awards Season Begins

2010 Oscar Doc Shortlist: 15 Films

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