Friday, February 4, 2011

Why The King's Speech Winning Best Picture Does Not Matter

Now that I've voiced exactly why a Best Picture win for The King's Speech is kind of a bonkers idea, I'm going to explain exactly why that event wouldn't really affect anything.

"But Kevin," you ask, "why doesn't it matter? Didn't you just say Speech shouldn't win Best Picture?" Well, yes, I did say that. And I certainly haven't recanted my position on that matter. If it wins on the 27th of this month, I will be annoyed, probably even angry, with the idea that the Academy has failed once again to recognize the best film made this year.

And it is that statement that makes me realize exactly why a win for The King's Speech doesn't matter. Because depending on your school of criticism, the "Best" could be completely different. Because as much as we pretend "Best" is objective, it is, at least partially, subjective. And there are so many great things about Speech that it is an acceptable Best Picture winner, if not a great one.

But Speech is hardly a grand disaster the likes of which we will look back on with shame. Honestly, it's a fine Best Picture winner. What makes me nervous, and what seems to make everyone else nervous, is the idea that Tom Hooper is probably going to win Best Director. That is the decision we will look back on with embarrassment and irritation that the Academy did not choose to award a more deserving director.

I've seen Tom Hooper speak at a screening of The King's Speech. He is an obviously intelligent, eloquent man who is doing fabulous things with his career, and none of what I'm about to say is meant to take any of that away from him. That being said, he was not the best director of any film this year. In fact, I can think of many finer directors this year: David Fincher (The Social Network), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Christopher Nolan (Inception), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), Debra Granik (Winter's Bone), Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole) Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) and Nicole Holofcener (Please Give), among others. While Best Picture is at least somewhat subjective, Best Director really can't be debated: Hooper doesn't deserve that award.

But I digress. This piece is about why it doesn't matter that The King's Speech will be crowned Best Picture on February 27th. And that's because the film is so good. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush own the movie with the second-most powerful duet this year (after Valentine's Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams). Helena Bonham Carter underplays her supporting role with such a quiet beauty. The script, written by the brilliant David Seidler, sings with such a wit and harmony that it cannot be denied. Hooper's direction is adequate--not quite enough, but the movie has a lovely feel to it.

In fact, if readers of the blog remember, I gave my award for Best Picture last year to An Education. Light British fare is certainly a favorite genre of mine so often. The only real problems I have with this unexpected strength from The King's Speech are that the film feels very manipulative, designed to be a "feel-good" film that would convince audiences it was good simply because it moved them, plus the idea that Hooper will beat out at least a dozen more deserving directors.

I stand by my assertion that The King's Speech is not the rightful winner of Best Picture. I still think there are at least seven films that deserve that title more, starting with Black Swan and all the way down to Easy A. But this is not Brokeback Mountain versus Crash. This is not Shakespeare in Love versus Saving Private Ryan. It's more like Rocky versus Network: we'll probably look back and regret it, but no one can deny that Rocky, and now Speech, is a great movie and a fine Best Picture.


joe burns said...

I agree, though I think it should win. I'm rooting for D.A all the way for Best Director, but I know he can't win. My favorite film of the year was Rabbit Hole, though I still have a few more to see.

Robert said...

What a great post. With all the hate against King's Speech right now, it's nice to read a post like this and remember that I actually did really like this film and that it is actually a really lovely piece of cinema. Of course, Hooper should NOT win best Director, but like you said, this isn't the worst possible outcome.

And plus, hasn't The King's Speech been the frontrunner ever since it was announced? I've kind of come to terms with it once I realized how it was inevitable from the beginning and "The Social Network" has been the underdog the entire time.

And of course, "Black Swan" is brilliant though it's so lucky to have made it even this far...a year ago, who would have thought a movie about psycho ballerinas with a lesbian sex scene would have been nominated for Best Picture?

Anyway I digress. Great post! :P