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How did 'The King's Speech' suddenly become heir to the Oscar throne?

February 1, 2011 |  8:30 am

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Only two weeks ago it looked like "The King's Speech" had no hope of reigning at the Oscars. It hadn't won a single major award for best picture, and "The Social Network" hadn't lost one.

Now virtually all Oscarologists believe "The King's Speech" can't lose the Oscar crown. The reason: We've seen hints of what actual academy voters think.

"The King's Speech's" recent romp through the guild awards is extremely revealing. Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences also belong to the producers', directors' and actors' guilds, where the film just won the top awards. There are only 1,200 actors in the academy compared to 120,000 who belong to the Screen Actors Guild, but that's a fairly large representational sample, statistically speaking. It's fair to say that SAG results reflect what the academy's actors think. Same can be said about parallels between the producers' and directors' guilds and those branches within the academy. Since all of them are embracing "The King's Speech" enthusiastically, it's logical to believe that other branches will probably agree.

After all, they're all film industry insiders, who are — we are learning now — very different in character makeup than film journalists.

Nearly all of the awards won by "The Social Network" this season were bestowed by journalists. Most were film critics; others were members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (Golden Globes).  That they all without exception picked the same film is probably because it looks like a superb journalistic snapshot of our time and place in history.

That's not the highest priority of film industry insiders, who are keenly interested in telling a character-driven story in the most dramatic terms. That's what great movies do, and that's why they love "The King's Speech." Its protagonist, George VI, may appear all powerful as Britain's monarch, but in actuality he can't master something his millions of subjects can do easily. It probably reflects quite profoundly what the lords of the film industry feel themselves in their glamorous jobs: like hollow kings of Hollywood.

In actuality, "The Social Network" really does a better job reflecting what Hollywood is all about every day — media moguls swindling one another — but that perhaps hits too close to home.

— Tom O'Neil

Photo: Colin Firth in "The King's Speech." Credit: Weinstein Co.