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Oscar tossup for best picture: 'Social Network' vs. 'King's Speech'

According to the latest predictions of Oscar experts at The Envelope's Buzzmeter and Gold Derby, "The King's Speech" is the favorite to win best picture and "The Social Network" is close behind. Let's add up the pluses and minuses of each contender.

Oscars best picture the kings speech news

"The King's Speech" has the strongest rooting factor. It generates the most warm love among viewers and that often matters most as the victory by "Slumdog Millionaire" proved two years ago. Thanks to those craft categories like best art direction and costumes, it will probably lead with the most nominations too, and that's crucial: Three-quarters of best-pic champs over the past 20 years had the most bids. Furthermore, it's a stylish historical drama like past victors "Shakespeare in Love" (1998), "Titanic" (1997) and "The English Patient" (1996).

But here's the rub: Academy members haven't picked stylish historical dramas recently. They opted for gritty fare that's not traditionally Oscar-friendly like "The Hurt Locker" (2009) and "No Country for Old Men" (2007).

"The King's Speech" has another problem. It doesn't have a name director. Its helmer, Tom Hooper, comes from the TV realm and he doesn't do a flashy job lensing "King's Speech." Can he win the Directors Guild of America award? Probably not. That's more likely to go to David Fincher ("The Social Network") or Christopher Nolan ("Inception"). The DGA award is the best Oscar indicator on the planet. The film that claims that guild trophy almost always nabs the top Oscar.

"The Social Network" is also much more likely than "The King's Speech" to win the film critics' kudos, which will be bestowed Sunday  (Los Angeles) and  Monday (New York). The critics' awards like more edgy, contemporary films and  now have more influence on the Oscars than ever before. They propelled the recent Oscar victories of "No Country for Old Men" and "The Hurt Locker."

But "The Social Network" has a huge Oscar problem: no rooting factor. Its characters are cads and weasels who betray and swindle each other while launching the modern revolution in social media. The movie just doesn't generate warm fuzzies in viewers and that may doom it at the Oscars.

-- Tom O'Neil

Photos: "The King's Speech" (Weinstein Co.), "The Social Network" (Columbia)

 

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