Originally, when I began plotting this post last week (yes, there is some forethought associated with my writing, as hard as that may be to fathom), it was to be called “King vs. Dweebs,” about the rivalry between the stately ‘The King’s Speech’ and the more youthful ‘The Social Network’ in the lead-up to the Oscar race. Then, in the week since I began formulating this article, things seem to have fallen away and a clear victor has emerged.
And that winner is: ‘The Social Network‘. The film has swept all the major film critics’ awards and guild nominations. The fact that it was concurrently re-released into theaters as it smashed onto home video (with one of the best Blu-rays of the new year) only heightens its visibility and reminds people just what an amazing piece of work this really is. ‘The King’s Speech’, on the other hand, still hasn’t expanded wide in the way that it needs to. (It’s still in the bottom half of the box office Top 10). While warmly received (especially by older audiences and critics), it isn’t eliciting the kind of responses that other of the awards contenders are. I doubt there will be a ‘King’s Speech’ sketch on ‘Saturday Night Live’, for example.
But anything could happen.
As a critic friend reminded me. ‘Crash‘ went on to win Best Picture, beating ‘Brokeback Mountain‘ and ‘Munich’ without having won a single major critic’s award. (It did pick up the SAG Best Ensemble Award, but… uh, who cares?). It was also almost wholly absent from most critics’ end-of-the-year Top 10 lists. This could have been a reactionary response. Often times, the Academy voters are said to become embittered when they feel like they’re “being told what to vote for.” While this is an interesting theory, I’m not sure that it’s true. I think that when the Academy starts to look at the year as a whole, there won’t be any other film that even remotely resembles the kind of quality craftsmanship and performances that ‘The Social Network’ offers. It’s the only likely nominee that feels vitally “2010.”
The one thing standing in its way is probably the 800-pound-gorilla named Harvey Weinstein. It’s no secret that Weinstein runs his Oscar campaigns like tactical military advancements. While using the might of Miramax, he secured ‘Shakespeare in Love‘ a Best Picture Oscar, wrestling it away from ‘Saving Private Ryan‘. (Steven Spielberg still won Best Director that year.) Even when flying solo, stripped largely of the financial and marketing heft of his former studio, he can still pull a rabbit out of his hat, like Kate Winslet’s win for ‘The Reader‘. Keep in mind that he drove another producer on that film (Scott Rudin) away running with his mercurial personality.
This brings us to the ‘Social Network’-type infighting that most pundits will make central to the Oscar campaign – Scott Rudin (producer of ‘The Social Network’) versus Harvey Weinstein (producer of ‘The King’s Speech’). Both of these guys are geniuses and know how to strategize and schmooze, but only one can come out ahead. I really think that, at this stage of the game, it’s almost a mathematical improbability that ‘The Social Network’ won’t win for Best Picture. However, if there’s one thing Harvey loves above all else, it’s being painted as the underdog so that he can come back to bite somebody in the ass.