I found it interesting over the weekend (and if you’re keyed into the ads on the site here and elsewhere, you noticed, too) that “The King’s Speech” finally decided to tap into the narrative that will serve it best in this year’s awards season.
The “Find Your Voice” campaign notes, “Some movies you see. Others you feel.” The “head vs. heart” debate has been going on all season, dismissed largely by advocates up in arms at anyone having the gall to bet on a film other than “The Social Network” for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. Yet there are, by my count, 44 days left before final ballots are due to the Academy (because let’s face it, most of us are already living in phase two of this season).
But I wrote that column last week. Rather than re-state my position over and over again, I’ll just offer up the mantra: It’s a process.
Fincher’s film took down the National Society of Film Critics award Saturday (which is really, for the most part, just a replay of the NYFCC and LAFCA awards, given the overlap in membership). It just about ran the critics’ board. A few Best Picture bones were thrown to “The King’s Speech,” “Black Swan” and “Inception” throughout the circuit, but that’s about it. Bravo indeed.
The “True Grit” camp has an amazing box office run to help it out. It’s creeping into incredibly competitive territory. But the film will be better positioned to gobble up nominations that threaten “The Social Network” more than anything else. No surprise who’s at the top on both films.
“The Fighter” tugs the heart a bit, and has some heavy-hitting champions. “Toy Story 3″ also has the heart going for it, but the bias against the form is unmistakable. And “Black Swan” also has great box office, and the indie cred, to add to the cauldron and turn up some strong campaign soup. But one film is at the forefront of the conversation, no doubt about it.
The possibility of a backlash? It’s there, I think. I know a great many are revisiting Fincher’s film, wondering what the heck set the critics off. But it’s smart of The Weinstein Company to begin switching gears now, and I imagine if any of the above campaigns think they have a shot at the gold, now is the time for them to find a phase two rhythm, too.
More likely, I think, is the idea that people will feel like they missed the boat if they vote for anything else. It’s strong and significant to have the critics line up behind a contender like that. And intimidating. Take umbrage with Saturday’s “sheep” jab all you want, but a smart campaign is about being the Pied Piper. And the higher-ups on this one have walked that path marvelously before, from “Crash” to “No Country for Old Men” to “The Hurt Locker.”
That’s before we even get to the issue of money. When you have it to throw around, the sky is the limit.
The inevitability of “Best Picture winner ‘The Social Network’” is solidifying. And it’s not the critics that did it. It’s the campaign, the consistent timing and, to say the least, the environment created around this film, this season. Believe it or not, it’s anything but the movie — one of the year’s best. It’s the game.
The Oscar season has kind of become kind of like the difference between watching a pro football game and a college football game. It’s a well-oiled machine with a few heavy-hitters who know how to Belichik it all the way to the Lombardi Troph-, er, Oscar. And God bless ‘em for being so good at their jobs. I mean that.
Short column this week as I don’t have much else to offer. With six of 10 industry guilds/societies having spoken up with their thoughts on the year’s best, I have updated the Contenders section to reveal, for the most part, those much more indicative choices. The sidebar predictions reflect those changes as well.
Stay tuned today as the DGA will eventually join the party.
[Photos: The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures]