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What's behind the sudden Oscar ascendancy of 'The King's Speech'?

January 30, 2011 | 11:27 am

Just eight days ago, "The Social Network" looked destined to nab the Oscar for best picture. It had won the top prize from almost every major award show -– all of the film critics' groups plus the Golden Globes. Now it looks like it can't possibly beat "The King's Speech" for the Oscar.

What's going on?

Kings speech social network 2 We have just received the most dramatic lesson ever in the sharp difference between the mind-sets of journalists and Hollywood industry insiders.

Virtually all of the best picture awards claimed by "The Social Network" were bestowed by journalists. All of the awards love bestowed upon "The King's Speech" in recent days –- best picture awards from the Producers Guild and a best director win from the Directors Guild and the most Oscar nominations from the motion picture academy –- comes from people who make movies, not criticize them for a living.

Journalists tend to be more gritty, less sentimental by nature. Often they have an obvious agenda -- like to prove how cool and smart they are by choosing best pictures such as "Mulholland Drive" even though its director, David Lynch, admitted publicly that he has no idea what his movie was about. "Mulholland Drive" wasn't nominated for best picture at the Oscars in 2001 when Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind" won. [For the record: An earlier version of this post called the "Mulholland Drive" director David Finch.]

 

Until a few years ago, we often saw a disconnect between the type of movie that would sweep the critics' prizes and then lose at the Oscars -– such as "L.A. Confidential" versus "Titanic" in 1997. But things seemed to change radically in recent years when "No Country for Old Men," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Hurt Locker" swept nearly everything. None of these was typical Oscar-friendly fare. "No Country" was essentially a slasher flick. "Slumdog" and "Hurt Locker" featured no A-list stars and, worse, "Hurt Locker" had been a financial flop at movie theaters.

The sudden change in Oscar taste was blamed on the Internet and e-mail. Rumor had it that the old guys within the academy were finally hooked up to the outside world and were being influenced by what happened there. But if that's what really occurred over the last three years, it's clearly not what is going on now. Industry voters don't seem to care at all about the early derby romp by "The Social Network."

Attention all Oscarologists: Time to go back to your laboratories and concoct some new theories. Just when you thought you'd finally figured out those crazy Oscar voters, they fooled you again.

-- Tom O'Neil

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

 

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