So the big news this week is of course the Oscar nominations, causing people like me to over-analyze everything. Who can blame us? The Academy Awards is our Superbowl. I will be making observations about the Oscar race for the next couple of weeks. Here are a few of my thoughts thus far:
The Town snubbed? Did anyone really think this movie deserved to be nominated for Best Picture? Seriously, it's a well crafted, solidly acted, very entertaining action thriller. But best picture? As solid as it is, it's just too conventional for my taste. It kept reminding me of Heat (1995), Michael Mann's far superior cops and robbers heist saga. It outshines The Town both in scope and ambition. I know there's such a thing as good genre filmmaking and The Town is great genre filmmaking. But in order to be nominated for Best Picture, you have to do more than that. The Town for me didn't stretch the boundaries of the genre and show me anything I hadn't seen before.
Is there really such a thing as being snubbed anymore when there's now 10 nominees for Best Picture? There's no way The Town would have even been in the running if it was released two years ago. Being snubbed when there's five extra chances just means that film is that much worse. If you can't get nominated with 10 nominees, then you don't deserve to be there!
Audiences, critics, and especially Academy members are always so surprised when actors direct movies that turn out to be good. Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson are all actors-turned-directors who have all won Best Director Oscars, a prize that maestros Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Orson Welles have never received.
The Town would not have gotten the reaction it received if it was directed by Michael Mann, or John Frankenheimer, or William Friedkin, because it would have been seen as only a genre picture and those directors would have just been doing what they do best.
But directed by the star of Daredevil and Gigli and all of a sudden the material turns into Shakespeare!
I'm not buying it. The Town was one of the better action films of the year, but it deservedly did not get nominated for Best Picture.
Okay, enough ranting... let's get serious.
The King's Speech has now officially positioned itself as the front-runner for this year's Best Picture. After winning the Producer's Guild Award and becoming the most Oscar-nominated film of the year, this weekend the film's director Tom Hooper beat out favourite David Fincher (The Social Network) for the Director's Guild award.
Oscar momentum ebbs and flows and it looks like a Social Network backlash has begun. What happened? The early favourite made a clean sweep of all the end of year critic awards, then cleaned up at the Golden Globes, but now looks like its heat has peaked and cooled off.
Much has already been said about The Social Network being a youth-oriented film and older Academy members will back The King's Speech, which seems to be the case. It's sad but not surprising as this has been the trend for decades.
I've long debated the difficulty of the thematic expression of a film set in the present versus a film set in the past. I think it is much easier to get the point across if the film was set in the past. We have decades and decades of hindsight that make it easier to see what we have learned from life back then. Setting a movie in the present and telling the world it's got problems take a lot of balls. It's hard for a filmmaker not to look like a prick.
"An artist entertains, only a prick wants to change the world." - UNKNOWN
Maybe that's the problem. Maybe The Social Network looks like a prick. Realistically (or according to the film) Mark Zuckerberg is the prick, not David Fincher. But don't tell that to the Academy because their mind seems to be already made up.
That's too bad, because films aren't just artistic expressions for a populous audience. They are also artefacts of culture. Blueprints for life. Decades from now, one can look to The Social Network to see a snapshot of the early 21st Century. I guess the same could be said for The King's Speech and the early 20th Century.
The point is, artistic achievement is not the same as cultural significance. So even if The King's Speech gets crowned as the Best Picture this year, it is undeniable that culturally, The Social Network will be remembered as a snapshot of who we are today.
Perhaps that's why the pendulum had swung in favour of The King's Speech. Because members of the Academy don't like who we are.