Saturday, 22 January 2011

'The Social Network' vs. 'The King’s Speech': Which will find favour with the Academy?

FRENEMIES: Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg play Facebook cofounders in The Social Network.

With nominations for the 2011 Academy Awards (the Oscars) due on the morning of Tuesday, Jan 25, the debate intensifies about which of the season’s juggernauts – The Social Network or The King’s Speech – will take home the highly coveted Best Picture prize when winners are announced Sunday, Feb 27 inside Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre. Having carefully observed how these presitigious awards are decided each year, the answer for me is quite simple. The Social Network will triumph (and very likely also snag trophies for director David Fincher, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and score composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).

I’ve watched The Social Network about five times since its release, and though it benefits from brilliantly scripted dialogue, a memorable score and connects admirably with its time (Facebook has eaten the world), it is not an emotionally stirring film driven by knockout performances. Still, it stands to win the Best Picture Oscar over the regal The King’s Speech (a British period piece centred on the struggles of the speech-impaired King George VI) due to its immediate relevance to the age in which we live, following in the tradition of last year’s The Hurt Locker and past winners like Slumdog Millionaire and Titanic.

No doubt The King’s Speech is superbly wrought, terrifically acted (the triumvirate of Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter is impeccable) and finely directed by Tom Hooper. However, it is terribly difficult to see the Academy rewarding it with the Oscar over The Social Network, which (even though I’m admittedly not one of its cheerleaders) is frankly a more important and impactful film. Also helping its case: the overwhelmingly wide praise from hugely influential critics, box office muscle and the phenomenal awards season run it has enjoyed, sweeping the critics’ circuit and copping the recent Golden Globe for Best Picture (Drama). So, The Social Network may not be the ‘best’ picture of 2010 (True Grit and Black Swan loyalists, stand up!) but it certainly possesses the attributes Academy voters are keen on.

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