The European Film Awards and the British Independent Film Awards were held this past weekend while the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) announced their nominees and picks for the best films of the year on December 5.
The Artist and Melancholia continue to be named the best films of the year as well as winning ample technical awards. (Sorry Hugo. Though Martin Scorsese did pick up his second best director award from WAFCA and he’ll probably get a few more.)
George Clooney (The Descendants) is still the frontrunner in the lead actor category and Albert Brooks picked up his second award for his supporting turn in Drive. Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin) could face some competition for best actress after WAFCA awarded Michelle Williams best actress for My Week in Marilyn. (These critics really do love movies about movies, don’t they?)
Based on the few critics groups that have announced their winners so far, some other trends are emerging. The ensembles for The Help and Bridesmaids as well as Will Reiser’s screenplay for 50/50 are all inching their ways towards an Oscar nod. Or at the very least, a Golden Globes nomination. (That’s not saying a lot because if Bridesmaids doesn’t receive a Globes nod, there is no hope for society.)
There were some surprises at the British Independent Film Awards. Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur received three awards at the BIFAs: best picture, best first-time director and best actress (Olivia Colman, edging out Swinton). Michael Fassbender was named best actor for Shame.
Awards season can seem very American-centric at first, especially once all the critics groups start announcing their winners. (Think about last year when The Social Network was the early critical darling.) While this American-centrism is felt less this year because The Artist and Melancholia are two mostly European productions, the BIFAs are a refreshing change of pace from what trends we have seen so far and the trends that will emerge. It’s also worth noting that last year The King’s Speech received five awards at the British Independent Film Awards and it was the first major award the film received.
The round up of this week’s award shows and critics awards winners is below. Share any of your thoughts on the awards season so far in the comments.
The 83 Annual Academy Awards are tonight. In less than three hours to be exact.
I could dedicate this space to share with you my predictions, who I hope will and won’t win. I could analyze how there should only be five best picture nominees, how Michelle Williams should win best actress over Natalie Portman, or how we should expect that Hailee Steinfeld will pull an upset in the best supporting actress category. (Sorry, Melissa Leo.) But I don’t feel like doing that. By now any Oscars predictions, something I have been so focused on since November, have gotten old. I just want the ceremony to happen and be done with.
What I do want to discuss however is the one topic that has been broken down so many times: The Social Network versus The King’s Speech. One received all the critics prizes and is said to define a generation. The other won the guilds prizes and is a rousing audience favorite. As we approach tonight’s awards ceremony it is The King’s Speech that is expected to win best picture.
Since seeing The King’s Speech, I have been thinking about the very essence of what this movie is about: communication. In so many ways, The Social Network is about the same exact thing.
The King’s Speech is set during a time when a leader could not stutter. Radio broadcasting provided the voice for the modern monarchy, making the king’s voice all the more important and powerful. King George VI (Colin Firth) and his unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) work to overcome his crushing speech impediment throughout the film. The film’s cinematography works to show you how trapped King George is by his disability. (Think about how scenes rarely leaves the confines of indoor settings.) He isn’t really free, or the king of England for that matter, until that last radio address is complete.
And it is such a dreadfully boring movie. (Yes, I just went there.)
The direction and the cinematography have all been done before. What carries The King’s Speech is the story (someone rising from adversity is always a crowd pleaser) and the performances of Firth, Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. The scenes between Firth and Rush are among the finest acting duets between two performers this year. Firth will rightfully win the best actor statuette tonight.
Then there is The Social Network.
The Social Network.
The Social Network.
It was only when I compared The King’s Speech to The Social Network that I really began to see the merit of the British historical drama. Where The King’s Speech fails to excite or offer any potential intellectual engagement, The Social Network more than makes up for. The pairing of director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is something only the cinematic gods could conceive. Fincher does something incredible in The Social Network; he de-Sorkin’s Aaron Sorkin. The writer’s work is unmatched but his common character archetypes (neurotic white people!) and style (lots of walking and talking!) can deter audiences. But Fincher’s brilliant direction matches Sorkin’s dialogue to create the year’s sharpest film.
But Mark Zuckerberg is no King George. He’s a pretentious, neurotic, know-it-all jerk. When your main character’s flaw is his personality and not something beyond his control, he is less than redeeming and likable. This is why audience’s favor The King’s Speech; it is more universally appealing. I can easily look past the tremendously annoying Mark Zuckerberg because of my own interests in what The Social Network is about beyond this character.
Like The King’s Speech, The Social Network is about the importance and value of communication. Both films show how commication is constantly changing to reflect society’s needs. Unlike The King’s Speech, that is The Social Network‘s greatest flaw. The Social Network is all about the cultural impact that social media has had on our society. It is said that this movie defines a generation and it does. The impact of Facebook and social media is something I think people who are not constantly “wired in” don’t really like to think about. It is the unspoken quandary of social media; for every person who recognizes the value of it, there are countless people who don’t and who want our culture to remain the same.
In the history of communications, The King’s Speech represents a more idyllic time that we can probably never go back to. The King’s Speech presents two men who didn’t need a Facebook connection to validate their friendship. The beauty of The Social Network is that it knows its cultural place, shows it, and doesn’t makes excuses for it. In the final scene of the movie all of the cultural implications of Facebook come to fruition. Mark Zuckerberg sits in front of his computer deciding whether or not to friend Erica Albright, Rooney Mara’s character whose searing words cut him down earlier in the film. Logically, he shouldn’t want to be Facebook friends with her but Facebook has changed how we view friendship. When Zuckerbeg loses the one real friend he has (Eduardo Saverin), he latches on to this intangible virtual connection.
But we never see Erica accept his friend request. Why? Because what The Social Network ‘s filmmakers want you to question is the validity of the intangible relationships we can create now. And at the end of the day, do you really think about everything your Facebook page says about you? If you did, you would go crazy and not use social media. The King’s Speech, meanwhile, boldly lets you think about nothing. There is nothing on that screen for you to question about your own existence. It tells you how the story ends and that everyone involved lived happily ever after. So, naturally, why would you want to complicate your own existence and choose The Social Network as the best picture of 2010?
No matter what happens tonight, the best picture race is the most culturally significant since 2005 when Crash upset Brokeback Mountain. But it is culturally significant in a more subtle way because of what people don’t want to acknowledge about themselves.
King George VI was not supposed to become the king of England. The second son of King George V endured ill health as a child and a stammer caused him to live in the shadow of his older brother Edward. But with the Second World War looming in 1936, King Edward announced his intention to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. After less than a year as the ruling monarch, Edward abdicated the throne to his younger brother. At a time when nations did not need weak leaders, King George, stammer and all, was expected to lead the United Kingdom through war time.
Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech is this story of how a man born into certain expectations rose above his apparent limitations (that st-st-stammer) to become the voice of his people.
Colin Firth portrays King George VI; Helena Bonham Carter is his wife, Queen Elizabeth. After a public speaking disaster at the Empire Exhibition in 1925, where the film begins, the then Duke and Duchess of York seek the help of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).
At first the men clash. Duke Albert is ashamed of his stammer. Even as an adult, when Edward (Guy Pearce) calls him “B-B-Bertie,” Albert recoils. And Logue is a stubborn instructor, insisting that if his methods will work then he will be called “Lionel” and the Duke will be called “Bertie”. With the coronation looming, they work out their differences, with Logue getting at the root of Albert’s stammer and they move towards perfecting the king’s speech. The scenes between Firth and Rush are a fine acting duet; they carry the film.
The King’s Speech is in many ways about the circumstances that conflict leaders and how they handle what is expected of them. In 1936, King George had no choice but to conquer his stammer because it was his duty to the nation. Yet The King’s Speech is not a historical film that questions the role of the royal family, even when Albert shares his poor little rich boy tale. And his brother who is supposed to be a villain of sorts – well, you wind up not minding him. (When you read up on Edward’s post-abdication whereabouts, you might think otherwise.)
But what works best about The King’s Speech is that it does not preach about the historical moment it visualizes. Instead it depends on the strengths of its performers – Firth and Rush especially – to tell an exceptionally entertaining story.
Another day, more nominations and awards announcements. The New York Film Critics Circle is currently voting. Will they pick The Social Network like every other critics group?
Black Swan, meanwhile, received a record 12 nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. True Grit and The King’s Speech received 11 nominations each, Inception received 10 and The Social Network received nine.
What is worth mentioning here is that The Kids Are All Right was nominated in four categories (Actress, Actor, Ensemble, and Original Screenplay) but not for Best Picture. Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) and Tilda Swinton (I Am Love) are also noticeably absent from the nominations. And despite its two lead actors being nominated, Blue Valentine did not receive a Best Picture nomination.
Like practically every other critics group, the BFCA is a decent predictor of the Academy Awards. The complete list of nominations is available here. The Critics Choice Awards are January 14 on VH1.
BEST PICTURE 127 Hours Black Swan The Fighter Inception The King’s Speech The Social Network The Town Toy Story 3 True Grit Winter’s Bone
Jeff Bridges — True Grit
Robert Duvall — Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg — The Social Network
Colin Firth — The King’s Speech
James Franco — 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling — Blue Valentine
Annette Bening — The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman — Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence — Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman — Black Swan
Noomi Rapace — The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Michelle Williams — Blue Valentine
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale — The Fighter
Andrew Garfield — The Social Network
Jeremy Renner — The Town
Sam Rockwell — Conviction
Mark Ruffalo — The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush — The King’s Speech
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams — The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter — The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis — Black Swan
Melissa Leo — The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld — True Grit
Jacki Weaver — Animal Kingdom
BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Elle Fanning — Somewhere
Jennifer Lawrence — Winter’s Bone
Chloe Grace Moretz — Let Me In
Chloe Grace Moretz — Kick-Ass
Kodi Smit-McPhee — Let Me In
Hailee Steinfeld — True Grit
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE The Fighter The Kids Are All Right The King’s Speech The Social Network The Town
Darren Aronofsky — Black Swan
Danny Boyle — 127 Hours
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen — True Grit
David Fincher — The Social Network
Tom Hooper — The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan — Inception
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Another Year — Mike Leigh Black Swan — Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin The Fighter — Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson) Inception — Christopher Nolan The Kids Are All Right — Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg The King’s Speech — David Seidler
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 127 Hours — Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle The Social Network — Aaron Sorkin The Town — Ben Affleck, Peter Craig and Sheldon Turner Toy Story 3 — Michael Arndt (Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich) True Grit — Joel Coen & Ethan Coen Winter’s Bone — Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE Despicable Me How to Train Your Dragon The Illusionist Tangled Toy Story 3
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM Biutiful I Am Love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Exit Through the Gift Shop Inside Job Restrepo Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work The Tillman Story Waiting for Superman