Handicapping the Oscars: The Head Vs. The Heart
It may come down to the cerebral Social Network and Inception against the rousing King's Speech and True Grit.
If nothing else, this year’s Oscar race provided a choice between the head and the heart in a showdown that pitted intellectualism against emotional content.
As the movie year wound down to a close, the early favorites included Christopher Nolan’s brainy Inception (a Jungian enigma, wrapped in an action film, inside a riddle) and David Fincher’s The Social Network (the trendy, zeitgeist-infused take on the creation of Facebook), both of which carried an air of aloof, scholarly importance within their entertainment exterior.
However, an end-of-the-year assault of the heart arrived with the release of the veddy British drama, The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper, about King George VI and his effort to overcome a stuttering speech impediment.
The Christmas release of the Coen Brothers’ crowd-pleasing Western True Grit (their biggest hit), confirmed that emotions were as big a draw as intellectual posturing; perhaps more so.
The anti-intellectual backlash began in earnest as The King’s Speech made all the top ten lists (and deservedly so, I might add) and Colin Firth was being called an Oscar shoe-in for his performance of the stammering British monarch. (Play some with a disability, win an Oscar. It’s the law!).
On top of that, the exclusion of Christopher Nolan from the directing nominations, spelled the end of any serious chance for Inception, which also had the stigma of sci-fi to contend with.
Having ten best picture slots, but only five for director, means that the five without a director nod will automatically be consigned to second tier status. That now meant The Social Network and The King’s Speech were the front runners for best picture. A showdown between the head and the heart was at hand.
The question then became would an old-style, handsomely photographed, stirring drama beat out the flashy, edgy, upstart Facebook flick. If ever there was a year when the schism between old and new, traditional and innovative applied, it would be this year.
There have been a number of occasions when the best picture/best director awards were split between two films (Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan being a recent example).
So, the thinking goes that perhaps this year the more emotionally engaging The King’s Speech will win for best picture and veteran director David Fincher (who has the edgier film) will beat out relative newcomer Tom Hooper (better known up until now for his HBO miniseries, John Adams).
Whichever way it goes (and serious upsets and surprises at the Oscars are nothing new), there’s nothing like a good horserace to enliven the 4-hour marathon of an Oscar telecast. Tune in and find out.
Joe Frinzi is an Easton-based writer and film buff. He is the longtime movie critic for the Easton Irregular newspaper.