'King's Speech' Is an Obama Allegory, So 'Social Network' Will Win
Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman offers the most original argument yet for why The Social Network will take best picture by best capturing the portrait of our time.
The EW critic argues that the "zeitgeist factor" will cause The King's Speech to lose the Oscar. "The movie that ends up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture often taps into and gives voice to something that’s happening in the culture at large," he explains. The Hurt Locker was painfully Iraq-topical; "Titanic summed up a lot of very grand feelings about the technological promises and nightmares of the past 100 years [and] bid goodbye to the 20th century [and] the spirit of misty-eyed innocent romance that had guided moviegoers."
The zeitgeist movie of our moment: Social Network, "the first Hollywood movie to really capture the metaphysical spirit of the digital age — not just because it’s about the obviously timely and rather epic subject of how Facebook was created, but because of the way the film uses the personality of Mark Zuckerberg (or, at least, the movie’s Mark Zuckerberg, with his hooded wit, caustic brilliance, and tantalizingly elusive inner life) to mark an essential shift in how we communicate."
A common argument uncommonly phrased. But most anti-King pundits call it irrelevant. Not Gleiberman. "The King’s Speech is a movie that very much tries to speak to our time. And the reason that almost no one notices that about it is that the film’s timing is something of a just-miss; it’s resonant, yet crucially off."
Why? Because it's "an allegory for the age of Barack Obama," says Gleiberman, "another leader who has been celebrated, venerated, lionized for his ability, in challenging times, to move people with his words." But Obama's wave has crashed. "It’s a movie that seems to have been timed for how a lot of people felt about Obama during the days when he was running for president. As he proved in his speech in Tuscon, Obama’s words can still move and unite us. But the romance of Obama the orator — and of words themselves as the political balm for what ails us — may be a story in America that no longer links up to where a great many people stand (even those of us who still support Obama avidly)."
Therefore, few zeitgeist-guided, probably Obama-embittered liberal Oscar voters will fall for some fairy tale about "a king who moves a nation with the kind of pretty words that few today can pretend will solve a nation’s problems. And that, I believe, takes a bit of the bloom off this Oscar rose."
So: America's screwed. Obama's screwed. The King's Speech is screwed.
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Scott, whose THR coverage appears both in print and online, is one of the film industry's most experienced and trusted awards analysts, and possesses one of the strongest track records at forecasting the Oscars. His best showings came in 2006 (when he called 21 of 24 winners) and 2004 (when he called 20 of 24 winners); he was also the only pundit to project long-shot best picture nominations for The Reader (2008), The Blind Side (2009) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011). An alumnus of Brandeis University, he previously ran "The Feinberg Files" blog for the Los Angeles Times. He is now a voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, and is writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 350 high-profile Hollywood figures.
Gregg contributes awards news, features online, and "The Race" column in print.
Tim contributes awards news and features, both in print and online.