Hooray for Harvey.
The Weinstein Company honcho is back on top after The King’s Speech cleaned up at the 83rd Academy Awards. The Guardian is calling him the “Oscars’ comeback kid,” saying he’s made a return to glory after suffering a few not-so-good years.
You see, Harvey Weinstein is a genius marketer, and he’s especially adept at campaigning for Oscar gold. Lest we forget, he’s the man who shepherded 1998’s Shakespeare in Love to Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. (It should be said that I’ve always preferred Shakespeare to Ryan, but no one, even me, really believed it had a chance.)
That earlier contest should have served as foreshadowing for last night’s miscarriage of voting. You see, The King’s Speech did not win because it was truly the year’s best picture. It won because Weinstein campaigned mightily and successfully for its win.
Don’t get me wrong. I saw The King’s Speech and I liked it a great deal. I thought the acting was superb across the board; had Geoffrey Rush or Helena Bonham Carter taken the Oscar in the categories for which they’d been nominated, I wouldn’t have been upset.
Amazing acting aside, however, The King’s Speech is not the type of film that truly shows the magic of the cinema. It’s not a visual marvel by any means. Its feel-good story is a by-the-numbers affair; if you’ve seen one underdog story, you’ve seen them all. Simply put, it brings nothing new to the table.
The Social Network, on the other hand, is a truly groundbreaking film. Imagine a Greek tragedy wrapped in the swath of contemporary sensibilities, populated with characters that are shaping and defining the current cultural (and digital) zeitgeist. In this way it’s similar to 1976’s Network, a brilliant film that at the time appeared to be over-the-top in its sensationalistic approach but is now recognized for its uncanny prescience. Network also lost the Best Picture race, and it lost to another well-loved underdog story, Rocky.
To be fair, however, the 35-year old Rocky is a cultural touchstone. It’s a movie that is still watched, discussed, and revered today. Will the same be said of The King’s Speech in 35 years? In five? I doubt it.
The Academy has fucked up before. At one time they thought Ordinary People was a better film than Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Another time, it was Crash triumphing over Brokeback Mountain. And though YMMV with this one, the Academy chose Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas.
Do I think The Social Network was robbed? Hell yes. It was the best film of 2010. Director David Fincher tempered his usual visual razzle-dazzle but still crafted a visually captivating movie about the creation of a website. (The kinesthetic regatta scene is, to quote Al Green, simply beautiful.) The (non-nominated) visual effects that brought the Winklevii to life were nothing short of amazing. Reznor & Ross’ score? Fucking magnificent. And because Aaron Sorkin did win the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, I can’t complain. But I ask you, have you any idea how incredible his screenplay is?
To wrap this up, B, I’m going to revisit an earlier point. Films that win the Academy Award for Best Picture should have some resonance. They shouldn’t be the TV costume drama du jour that suddenly became popular because of some overwrought studio campaigning and behind-the-scenes executive machinations. Good film that it is, The King’s Speech will not be remembered five years from now.
But hey, its producers have statuettes and The Weinstein Company is seemingly back on top.
Hooray for Harvey.