As the red carpets are rolled up, smashed champagne flutes are swept away and the giant cock and balls complete with hairy sack which a dejected Banksy tagged onto the side of the Kodak theatre is covered with something less offensive, it’s time to reflect on the 83rd Academy Awards. And time once again to point out where the voters went wrong.
In this humble writer’s opinion The King’s Speech was an undeserved victor. The film, while joyous and more than an accomplished piece of film-making, did not exemplify the best of what this little blue planet has to offer. It was ‘the film of the moment’ not ‘a film for the ages’. In my mind that honour goes to The Social Network.
So what is meant by ‘a film of the moment’. A late in the year release, a clean campaign (for Mr. Weinstein anyway) bolstered by that Yank baiting trick of ‘pleasant British folk’ and nary of whiff of controversy (save Christopher Hitchens arguing it’s historically inaccurate) all came together to make The King’s Speech the safe choice. Safe, but inaccurate. Like previous undeserved winners Shakespeare in Love, A Beautiful Mind and the execrable Crash, The King’s Speech timed its timid victory to perfection.
The King’s Speech for all its many positives, doesn’t have anything more to offer other than a by-the-numbers ‘triumph over adversity’ flick. The Best Picture (whether or not such a thing can even really exist is open to massive debate) should be a film that stands the test of time. Barely 12 hours after the ceremony it may seem an extraordinary claim to make but, for me, The Social Network has that honour nailed down flat.
When it was first announced that David ‘Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac‘ Fincher was making a movie about Facebook with a role for Justin Timberlake, cineastes checked their calendars to make sure it wasn’t the first of April. A lack of faith that would prove, if not disturbing, at least unnecessary. Just as Fight Club wasn’t a film about people punching each other, The Social Network was never going to be a film about our ability to poke.
Instead it was a film about ambition, about arrogance, about friendship and rivalry. It was about privilege and popularity, elitism and alienation. It threw a mirror onto an entire generation and asked what you thought, offering but not hiding behind it’s own opinion.
There is a theory, created by screenwriter William Goldman, that no actor should ever get an award for playing tricksy, OTT performances. A theory that says playing up is easy, playing down is hard. Let’s call it the ‘No addicts, no disabilities’ club. Of course Oscar would screw up its invite to that get together in a second, and so again we have a Best Actor in Colin Firth playing (albeit very well) a sympathetic role many others could inhabit, leading to the same conclusion: “Good old Bertie, glad he got over that stammer”…
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Alternatively, Jesse Eisenberg gives a complex performance of a complex character that challenges each and every viewer to put up their own interpretation of who he is. That a real Mark Zuckerberg walks the earth with similar qualities to this creation should not lead you to believe for even one moment that Eisenberg is playing a real life person. His Zuckerberg is a ‘role’ written by Aaron Sorkin, made alive by Jesse’s own ability to infuse him with mannerisms and emotions that support the film.
So onto perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night; Best Direction. If the main role of the director is to turn the screenplay you see in your mind’s eye into a fully breathing realised end result then it’s not only a mistake to not honour Fincher but a breach of what the award claims to be.
As meticulous as Fincher is as a director (behind the scenes glimpses of him at work include instructions such as “move the Coke can two inches to the left”), he’s meticulous for a reason. He believes there is a correct shot and won’t stop until he gets it. Frankly Tom Hooper, winner for The King’s Speech seems too damn nice to ask for perfection.
Ultimately Fincher will lose little sleep over this award’s ‘loss’. The world will still turn. A quick glimpse at the Oscar stats of Hitchcock and Kubrick indicate this is not the be all and end all in movie acclaim. Like Scorsese, Fincher’s time will come and he’ll likely be honoured for inferior work. Who knows, a foreign language remake worked for Marty. Fincher’s next: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
The majority of film fans know in their heart of hearts The Oscars is just a bit of fun, a well put together promo campaign to show off what Hollywood can do, like a child jumping into a pool calling to its parents ‘Look at me! Look at me!’. But, as much as we try to claim it isn’t, it is still film history.
Se7en‘s John Doe gave us the perfect summation for the best works. Something that will be “be puzzled over and studied and followed… forever”. The library card-owning, Yoda wannabe had a point. A place in history, where we can reflect upon its greatness is what truly counts. The Social Network will be there, ‘Best Picture’ or not.