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Live at the Oscars: Best Picture Goes to Period Drama The King’s Speech, with Four Wins

Live at the Oscars: Best Picture Goes to Period Drama The King's Speech, with Four Wins

Thompson on Hollywood

The best picture Oscar, inevitably, goes to The King’s Speech, which earlier in the Oscar show looked like it wasn’t winning anything, but eventually won the night with four Oscars: best original screenplay, director (Hooper talks win), lead actor and best picture. A bevy of producers surged onto the stage, revealing the difficult task of getting the film made.

Harvey Weinstein chased it down, as did Momentum UK, leading many in England to wonder why they passed on the film. Why did they? Because the period drama was in decline at the time, and studio specialty departments were not taking risks on sober period pieces. I hope to God that everyone wakes up and smells the coffee, and looks at the list of lower-budget passion projects that fought their way into audience’s hearts by virtue of spending more than one boffo opening weekend in a theater. All the top ten Oscar nominees, even the big-budget original Inception, which also took years to get made, built audiences the good old-fashioned way, via word-of-mouth.

While Inception nabbed four nominations, they weren’t in the top categories; Alice in Wonderland won two technicals as well. The Social Network won three, and Toy Story 3 won two. True Grit was shut out, after ten nominations.

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When I look at films I’ve been happy to see win in recent years (The Departed, No Country for Old Men) they share sensational elements that the Academy responds to: violence, nutso performances (in a good way). The Social Network–for all its comparisons to TV movies and court room procedurals–is a great film, in my opinion. It had a sharp script, excellent performances and a real ambivalence to its characters’ morality–the third element being what killed it. Even a talking head film like Ordinary People has discussions of death and people crying. The Social Network needed something like that to win. These old sacks who vote for the Academy Awards want to know how they’re supposed to feel–that was the whole campaign for The King’s Speech (“Some films you see, others you feel.”)

It’s one thing to argue that a film’s job is to entertain–few films this year entertained me as The Social Network did. What disappoints is that when a film requires us to think (but not even–just leaving open the possibility of Thought), it is derided as a film for critics and not audiences. I hope in the future, something can win Best Picture not for encouraging sympathy or sensationalizing anything from violence to speech therapy, but for evoking moviegoers and inspiring not emotion, but discourse about our society. A movie like that doesn’t have to win every year–I love a good crowd-pleaser as much as the next movier-goer–but once would be nice.


Anne, I don’t think those were all producers on the stage at the end of the show for the Best Picture award. There were three producers and the rest were related to the production but not producers–cast members, etc.


Anne, you list nominations. I presume you mean wins. A couple of quick points.

In your interview with Wally Pfister, you told him he was due. Interesting that he won afterwards.

The second thing. Tom O’Neil was talking to Dave Karger at Gold Derby, and Dave said he did waver at points, but like you stuck to “King’s Speech.” He said that although conversations with voters influenced him, his hunch was the emotional pull of the film (I found it clinical and don’t get all of this emotional resonance talk). Did you have any kind of hunch, beyond your conversations with voters?


Ryan, I don’t know what Oscar telecast you’ve been watching lately but No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker have won Oscars for best picture lately and they are not typical feel-good films. I am really tired of Social Network fans bashing The King’s Speech which is a very good film and deserved to win last night just as much as The Social Network. Obviously the Academy didn’t love The King’s Speech whole heartedly because it would have won more awards. But in the end, a majority thought it deserved the big prize over the other films nominated. Its winning best director was revealing.

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