After many years of Harvey Weinstein-vs.-the Big Studios races, Weinstein had seemingly perfected a formula for Oscar-bait pictures, to the extent that, in the 2011 race, the studio (in this case, Sony Pictures) was the underdog and Weinstein was the hidebound traditionalist. After all, what could be safer than The King’s Speech, a movie that had so many elements of the Weinstein Oscar-picture formula: period piece, British royalty, British acting royalty (Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter), literary-minded script (by David Seidler), tasteful direction (by Tom Hooper), wartime peril, and a disability for the protagonist?
On the other side was The Social Network (pictured), which seemed thoroughly cutting-edge: up-to-the-minute topic, Internet savvy, time-jumping and point-of-view-shifting narrative, moral ambiguity, electronic musical score, and sleek visuals from a forward-looking auteur (David Fincher). If ever there was a moment for the film industry to congratulate itself for capturing the zeitgeist, that would have been it. But while Aaron Sorkin’s canny script won the writer an adapted screenplay award, the Facebook film seemed to baffle an Academy membership made up largely of people supposedly too old to appreciate the Internet, a membership reassured by the comforting familiarity of The King’s Speech. Besides, Firth had been overlooked for Best Actor the year before (in A Single Man) and everyone thought he was due. So Best Picture, Director , Actor, and Original Screenplay went to the safe choice. Will history judge it a better film than Social Network? Doubtful, but we’d “like” to find out.