Just a couple of weeks ago, I was saying that the Oscar race had been pretty much wrapped up. Based on the nearly unanimous critics’ awards and Top 10 lists, as well as the about-to-be-revealed Academy Award nominations, I thought that the contest was almost undoubtedly over. Despite the way that the press had been framing the awards as a kind of ‘King’s Speech’ vs. ‘Social Network’ bloodbath, ‘The Social Network’ would surely sweep the Oscars. And then, over the weekend, something happened.
That “something” was the Directors Guild of America giving its top award to Tom Hooper for ‘The King’s Speech’. Rarely, if ever, does a filmmaker win the DGA prize without his movie later winning the Best Picture Oscar. What the DGA win does, effectively, is cut the race short. ‘The King’s Speech’ will win Best Picture. I’ve consigned myself to being disappointed. The vital, alive, totally-2010 film with cutting edge technology and a story that everyone can sink their teeth into (a tale of loyalty, friendship, betrayal and love) will be overlooked in favor of a stuffy period piece about a monarch who has a speech impediment.
Back to the matter at hand – the DGA gave the prize to Tom Hooper. It was said that Kathryn Bigelow supposedly looked surprised by the name she was forced to read, and one of the other nominees (my guess is David O. Russell) let out an audible laugh. When you look at the other nominees, it’s hard not to laugh. Besides Hooper and Russell, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky were all up for the honor.
It’s like that ‘Sesame Street’ bit: One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong.
‘The King’s Speech’, for all its virtues (and, truthfully, I’m having trouble placing those at the moment), isn’t a very well directed movie. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s poorly directed. Unlike ‘Black Swan’, which puts you in a very specific emotional and psychological place, everything about ‘King’s Speech’ is coming from the outside. The camera swoops down and gets into Colin Firth’s face at an extreme close-up angle that borders on fish-eye. In other scenes, the actors seem to be placed like dolls against an extreme tableau (mostly within Geoffrey Rush’s study). It feels like director Hooper is overcompensating for his limited theatrical experience and his fear that the screenplay is too “small” for the big screen.
I’m sure that Tom Hooper is a lovely man. People seem to enjoy him, and he got some fine performances out of the actors. But really? He won over the electric work that all of the other directors gave us? Is there even a memorable shot that someone can pull out of ‘The King’s Speech’?
All of the other nominated filmmakers took us to places extreme and challenging. Tom Hooper made a cute movie that our parents would enjoy.
I know that they say “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” but this feels very, very over. If ‘King’s Speech’ does win the Oscar, it will be like ‘Crash’ beating ‘Munich’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’ – met with a collective “Huh?”
(The SAG Awards also happened over the weekend. I’ll have a post about that tomorrow.)