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Can 'The King's Speech' stage a royal Oscar coup?

January 24, 2011 | 12:24 pm


Just when most Oscarologists believed the race for best picture was over, "The King's Speech" pulled off a shockeroo at the Producers Guild of America Awards on Saturday night, tripped up "The Social Network" and threw the whole derby into a royal tizzy.

Over the last 20 years, the Producers Guild of America has correctly forecast the Oscar champ 13 times. Now we must wonder: Can "The King's Speech" reign over the Academy Awards by seizing the best picture crown?

Answer: Yes. But we won't get more hints that such a coup is in the works until Oscar nominations come out on Tuesday morning and winners of the Screen Actors Guild Awards are unveiled on Sunday night.

There's a good chance that "The King's Speech" will score the most Oscar bids. That's key considering that the best picture winner usually reaps the most nominations 75% of the time. I think it will garner as many as 11 considering British period dramas usually pop up in those multitudinous crafts categories such as best costumes, art direction, etc.

If "The King's Speech" rules over rivals on Tuesday, it must do so again on Sunday when the SAG Award is bestowed for best ensemble. That prize can sometimes foretell an upset to come at the Oscars. While that guild award has matched the Academy Award for best picture only seven times in 15 years, it predicted the two most recent upsets: "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) and "Crash" (2005).

Most pundits predict "The Fighter" will win SAG's ensemble award, but, personally, I believe it will go to "The King's Speech," which was only one of two films that sent DVD screeners to the full guild membership. The other was "The Social Network," which doesn't have such actorly pretensions. Granted, "The Fighter," "Black Swan" and other rivals were made available to guild members via download at iTunes, but I don't think legions of them chose to view a prestige awards contender on their laptops.

So, if true, and "The King's Speech" pulls off both achievements -– reaping the most Oscar noms and winning the SAG prize -– is it a shoo-in to prevail on Feb. 27?

No. There's an excellent chance that it will not win one guild award that's usually the best Oscar prophet of all: the Directors Guild of America prize. David Fincher ("The Social Network") is considered a cinch to win this Saturday. Most pundits say Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") doesn't have a prayer.

All pundits are absolutely positive that "The King's Speech" will not win another guild laurel that's usually key to Oscar victory too -– the Writers Guild of America award, which will be bestowed on Feb. 5. The film wasn't eligible to be nominated because it's not a guild signatory.

-- Tom O'Neil

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