Let us not waste time by going over all ten nominees for Best Picture. In all seriousness, not each film has an equal chance of winning this coveted Oscar. In any given year one can usually narrow the competition down to about three, and the fact that the Academy has expanded the number of nominees to ten has not changed this. This year we have narrowed the number of truly possible winners down to two. Both are equally likely to win for reasons you can read below. Because of this adequation we refrained from picking a likely winner, but regardless of our indecision whichever film does win will most surely deserve to.
The Social Network
Directed by David Fincher
When the film was released in October it earned a lot of buzz for being the “frontrunner to win Best Picture.” That its director, leading actor, writer, cinematographer, and sound editors have been nominated for Academy Awards for their respective categories we can see there is palpable substantiation for such hype. Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, the film boldly places a critical gaze upon what I shall reluctantly call the Facebook generation. The character of Mark Zuckerberg appears to create Facebook as an effort to produce cyber relationships and validate them by equating them with interpersonal ones, and in the process he destroys what real interpersonal relationships he has. In the end, Zuckerberg has all the power and influence he could want except for the kind that would allow him to rebuild meaningful relationships with the people who grew to hate him, who are the same people he most wishes to be close to. Such a story could potentially be successfully told in a variety of ways, but David Fincher’s patient and astute direction, the exceptional acting, and Jeff Cronenweth’s effectual cinematography, which often oscillates between delusive warmth and numb, cold sterility, make The Social Network a film that will be studied for years and watched for generations. It is not a film that will be swiftly forgotten.
The King’s Speech
Directed by Tom Hooper
The King’s Speech is the critical darling of the year. Released only two months ago on Christmas Eve its Oscar buzz didn’t have much time to gain momentum, however nearly every critic worth listening to has had it in his or her top five list of best films of the year. Its reputation soared quickly and has been able to stay high thanks in no small part to enthusiastic acclaim from audiences. Director Tom Hooper’s visual style for the film is admittedly not very impressive – that is, in comparison to the other nominees – but his management of the film’s performances by its actors, which include Oscar nominees Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, certainly is. Hooper’s command of detail and judgment of timing is impeccable in areas outside of the actors’ performances, but such mastery obviously translates to that arena as well. Unlike The Social Network, this film is unquestionably more uplifting. Both are based on true stories, but while the former is about a young man falling victim to his own flaws the other is about a man overcoming them. Critics are sometimes called ineffectual, but just over the past several years we can see that the Academy voters’ consensus is usually in alignment with theirs. Best Picture winners Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurt Locker can all justifiably be labeled the “critical darlings” of their years, which should strongly encourage those pulling for The King’s Speech.