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The grand old Duke of York
His stammer was the worst,
But Dr. Logue, that charming rogue
Taught him to scream and curse!
Since its release, the buzz surrounding The Social Network seemed as ubiquitous as its namesake. But on Tuesday Jan. 25 the Academy announced its Oscar nominations, and suddenly all focus shifted to a little-seen British piece called The King's Speech. I thought, Finally! Another plodding episode of those wacky royals to hijack awards night! Speech nabbed 12 noms, a king's ransom that left TSN's 8 noms in its wake.
So why the change overnight? Maybe in hindsight, piling accolades onto a Facebook flick would look silly to our descendants, us going ladygaga for a fab web fad. Instead, bet on a safe prestige picture with the solemn years of history on its side. Yet despite their differences, both films have at their core a running theme: people lost and grappling with the onrush of global communications.
Is Speech worth all the talk? This weekend I managed to squeeze into a virtually sold-out show at The Grand Cinema. I won't rate the film against every category it received a nomination, but just a few of the biggies:
The Academy recognized Alexandre Desplat for his score, which honestly I can't even recall after just hearing it. The composers behind Inception and TSN deserve it more.
Awards for Art Direction usually end up with Brit flicks anyway. Speech designed several lovely sets, particularly in the office and home of Logue (Geoffrey Rush), the "doctor" who treats the stammering Duke.
The camera at times seemed more interested in the wall patterns than the characters, which brings me to the next category, Cinematography. Danny Cohen heightens much of the standard underdog plot with extreme angles, unconventional compositions and, for the ladies, plenty of Colin Firth mouth shots.
As far as Best Screenplay, I'll simply say this: Nothing in 2010 came anywhere near Inception. But Speech scribe David Seidler evokes both humor and pathos deftly.
The film's three leads each received noms. Helena Bonham Carter does serviceable, though hardly Oscar-worthy, work filling in the typical behind-every-great-man role of supportive wife. Rush, in contrast, has a good shot as the fun-to-watch sassy mentor. Same with Firth; somehow his incessant jaw clucking warmed my gut. And bonus points for triumphing over a universal terror: public speaking.
With many things going for it, does The King's Speech warrant a Best Picture win? Maybe more than anything it comes down to one's mood. Social Network remains my 2010 fave, but it oozes cynicism. Need some of that old-school movie charm? Speech left me feeling downright regal.