Friday, February 4, 2011

Nearing the End...

Oscar Darwinism:  Survival to the fittest!
Ballots for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were sent out February 2nd.  They are due to PriceWaterhouse Coopers by February 22nd at 5 PM.  Where does this race stand at this point in time.  It's been eons since The Social Network declares it's mighty premise by capturing nearly all of the critics prizes, and indeed all of the major critics prizes; at last count it lost on 5.5 times-- three times to Inception (all for very small scaled juries), while Austin film critics went gaga for Black Swan, San Diego critics vaulted Winter's Bone, and Utah threw down a tie between The Social Network and 127 Hours.  Now the race has moved onto the realm of the industry, and with PGA, DGA and SAG all screaming The King's Speech, it appears that's the end of the that.  Interestingly The King's Speech only won two top prizes before the guilds weighed in: the not particularly weighted British Independent Film Awards and the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, which in the past has backed such Oscar success as American Beauty and Slumdog Millionaire.  The intoxicating feeling of a traditionalists film taking the top prize, mixed with Harvey Weinstein's unique awards season touch, coupled with a nice movie impeccably acted by a most prestige friendly group of actors. 

There's been a spewing of vitriol in the face of The King's Speech on the online corners of movie mania, and all of that seems not only a tad unfair, but even more it seems like even the less than flattering publicity that surrounds the blogosphere in only helping it's profile.  Claims of the films hero, King George XI having had real life Nazi allegiances is one of the more tacky smear campaigns out there, so tacky, I'll bet Weinstein himself planted the story; that's mere sarcasm, I ensure.  However, there's a point there-- remember in 2002 there were very real claims of the real life hero of the eventual Best Picture champ A Beautiful Mind having anti-Semitic affiliations as well, perhaps to serve a bit to the emotions of a known large Jewish contingent in the Academy.  Of course, none of this should matter; The King's Speech is a personal journey about a man (in this case a man who would become a king) overcoming obstacles and challenges.  Certainly moving and playing up the crowd-pleasing nervous system heart of the Academy.  Claims have also been made that this is simply too much of an old school type of film; that this isn't a 'zeitgeist' movie, a movie of the now that says something about contemporary society.  And that honoring a film like this would possibly feel like a setback to the Academy of new which in the last four years appears to gone outside it's regular wheelhouse-- The Departed (2006), No Country for Old Men (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and The Hurt Locker (2009) were all Best Picture that appear to suggest a slight shift in Academy taste, however that argument can be and will be debated till the end of the time.

Of course the other story is one the other frontrunner-- I find it odd in a field of ten, we've still managed to really only care about one or two movies a year (last year: The Hurt Locker and Avatar, there rest: immediate also-rans) which is The Social Network, and there's a fair of media spewing on that on as well.  It all started when it came out with a bang and was being touted as, "the movie of a generation."  It's hard, and mighty difficult to sustain that sort of initial reaction for the long haul, it was bound to be called overrated eventually, and throughout the critics awards season, one could read the writings on the wall and suggest that once the critics weighed in, The Social Network would have a slightly more chilly reception.  That's what happens when a film with an anti-establishment vibe enters the establishment.  Contention between the claims of the movie, as well as the real-life Facebook peeps have provided juicy back-and-forth controversy for months-- for now it appears the filmmakers and Mr. Zuckerberg (aka Time's Man of the Year) are willing to play nice; witness his cameo on last week's Saturday Night Live with Jesse Eisenberg.

I feel removed enough at this point in time, and to put my predictive cap on for a second I think picture will be The King's Speech, while The Social Network will win direction for David Fincher.  Either way, I'm already kind of over it.  I feel that The King's Speech will remain a favorite for years to come, becoming a second-tier classic of sorts, and a favorite with actors who I can already sense will go to auditions with David Seidler's writing, while The Social Network will likely be studied and provoked by film classes to the end of time.  Either way, that's a pretty good legacy for both, and don't fear that this years result will be quite the scandal of 1941's How Green Was Your Valley and it's insane upset of Citizen Kane.

What I object too is this best picture top ten madness, which will hopefully die this year.  With the weighted ballot, I fear eventual integrity will be lost with the Academy.  The idea now that members could actively vote against something seems counterproductive and gross.  Vote for the best of the year in filmmaking, that should be all, not to slime the competition.

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