That was a joke.
The King’s Speech will win Best Picture tonight over The Social Network.
That was not a joke.
That is a tragedy.
Having seen both films I can obviously make a judgement really do suck when it comes down to judging cinema. I’ve never been that fond of their credibility and the fact that Christopher Nolan has been snubbed in the place of Speech‘s Tom Hooper has only rubbed it in. Speech does not deserve recognition for its direction because for all the bells and whistles it provided us with, it was still a formulaic albeit very well written feature. It no shine or glamour or anything to really explode in your face, nothing to hang on to. All the hearty stuff about friendship overcoming class and Colin Firth overcoming that stammer, it had no impact to me as there was nothing to rout for. It was the same film I’ve seen before but with a slightly different twist.
Colin Firth deserves that Oscar, he is the great jewel amongst the rubble that is The King’s Speech. It’s a rather lovely one-man show and there really is no denying that he deserves it. On the other hand, I said last week to give Eisenberg the best Actor gong but I don’t want to go all idealist and say that he deserves it now. Kid is young, his performance in The Social Network is one of the strengths of the film and it’s Oscar worthy. Eisenberg, however, is not an Oscar worthy star. He will be, eventually, I’m more than sure of that. Firth will get that gong and he does deserve it.
So lets compare The King’s Speech with The Social Network. A hearty tale of friendship against a heart tale of un-friendship. Bromance against tearing down that bromance. There is a massive parallel I’ve just noticed in that The Social Network is about friends being torn apart over an idea, or namely, the idea’s power. They all scramble for it and they all lose, no-one wins in The Social Network except the giant villain of taxation which gets all that money. Nom nom nom! The King’s Speech is about a guy overcoming something with the help of a mate.
It’s been done before, a bazillion jillion times, yet it’s going to win Best Picture… or Best Director. My bet is on Best Picture but if it doesn’t win that then expect it to win Director, as this is usually what happens when the Academy needs to pull the splits. So, why do the Oscars suck? Because The King’s Speech will win for doing nothing new and for not doing anything with the language of cinema. The potential of doing something interesting with the variety of techniques at hand (framing, special effects, angling, focusing) in order to tell the story differently was completely missed.
I haven’t noticed a single shot in The King’s Speech that makes use of the camera in order to tell a story, it’s all told through that tiresome ‘dialogue’ and ‘actions’. It’s like seeing a video-game told through strictly nothing but quicktime events and cut scenes…. Red Dead Redemption, Black Ops, God of War III etc.
The Social Network however I can point out many examples. Remember the scene where Eduardo writes on the algorithm that they use for Facesmash? How it goes unfocused and almost transparent to see Mark and company looking at it smiling. From that point on, the idea consume them and they become that idea. The algorithm represents a misogynist attitude and insult, we see Zuckerberg carry out that idea with Facesmash and we see the character of Mark lose his power because he absorbed this idea. After coming out of that argument with Erica, he used his power for evil and thus became Facesmash. All of this was done not just through dialogue, but through a simple technique of focusing and unfocusing of the camera lens.
So, The Social Network employs the language of cinema to tell a story whereas The King’s Speech just tells its story using traditional and literary methods. That’s not to actually say that’s a bad thing, but this is coming from someone who criticises video-games for being too cinematic, we have to build our own medium here and cinematic games aren’t helping. Likewise with The King’s Speech you should be employing cinematic methods to exercise the medium your in and intrigue the audience with your delightful tale. Instead, you fall into the traps before yourself and just… tell a story.
It’s not even a very good story. The rise of power and how a simple idea twists and changes everyone (The Social Network) is a much more interesting and thought-provoking idea than overcoming something with the help of a mate. It’s mind versus hearty goodness, emotion versus high-concept thinking… Inception‘s brother-in-law. I’m not saying emotion isn’t bad or unwelcomed in films, it’s what made Toy Story 3 so good, it still shows up in both The Social Network with Ed’s friendship with Mark. It’s even in Inception with Fischer realising his father always loved him. I got tear-eyed on that and people often say Nolan is emotionally cold, he’s not, but he doesn’t use emotion as the centre-piece of the narrative like it’s done in The King’s Speech.
The Oscars suck because they don’t reward great films, they reward stories. In fact, they award the wrong kind of story. The Hurt Locker won last year because of its messages of war and bits, while Inglorious Basterds sat in the corner absolutely filled with Tarantino’s genius direction and uses of the language of cinema. Point is, the Oscars should reward great works of cinema but instead they reward works of stories. Not effective use of storytelling, but perhaps approachability. Caking your film in layers of interacting with the audience beyond dialogue and action is confusing because stupid people exist, it’s why video-games are taking so long to develop.
Don’t get me wrong, I like The King’s Speech. I think for a formulaic film it still shines as a gem of a historical drama. The performances are top-notch and the accuracy of the history is what strikes me most. There’s some liberties taken but this was otherwise a very factual event that was represented in a great way. In some ways, it wasn’t done justice by the film however as it forgot that whole ‘telling a story through cinematic’ means thing. You know, the kinda thing that deserves rewards? I’m not talking about cinematography or direction, I’m talking about everything that goes into the film to make it a film and not just a story presented to a camera.
I love the wavelength on which films interact with the audience, they can be universally appealing as they don’t have to be tailored to different people like a video-game as. It overcomes not just technical hurdles but many narrative hurdles, as a film can reach breadths of people and jump language barriers through the use of a visual medium. Literary works are a textual medium, film is a visual medium and video-games are an interactive medium. That being said, you should not be rewarded for simply reading from a script in front of a camera or removing control from a player in a video-game. They’re not techniques used to intrigue the audience in that medium, just ways of presenting the story in a flimsy way.
The Oscars suck because they’re wrong. Every single year they’re wrong. Tonight, The King’s Speech will win Best Original screenplay when it’s based on the diaries of Lionel Logue. It will win over Inception which wasn’t the best written film of the year, Nolan stutters in this area, but it’s a better written film than Speech anyway. Tonight, Fincher will go away with the Director gong but not the grand prize, as that will go to a film that is boring and stale in is presentation. The only shining bits are the performance of Firth and the historical accuracy, everything else might as well have been amputated.
If on some wild chance The Social Network wins Best Picture, it won’t matter because Hooper will get Best Director when the two pretty much mean the same thing in a split decision. My problem with the Oscars is that they shouldn’t be the Oscars, they should be little gongs to people who don’t know how to make film interesting.
Except if Nolan gets one.
If Inception wins Best Picture tonight then I will pour fucking marmalade down my socks.