The Oscar countdown is down to a week. But most of the only Oscar suspense left is the Best Picture race between The Social Network and The King’s Speech. This didn’t seem likely weeks ago, when The Social Network won every critics prize in sight. The Facebook movie seemed destined to cruise to the end, but The King’s Speech wasn’t the initial favorite for nothing. As such, after its recent string of wins, The King’s Speech has become the favorite again. However, if the Oscar countdown ends with a Social Network defeat, it will be far different from the biggest Oscar upsets.
The most prolific upsets in the last 15 years have involved Shakespeare in Love and Crash. In 2006, the movie world was shocked when Brokeback Mountain was caught at the very end by Crash — just as they were when Shakespeare in Love upset Saving Private Ryan in 1999.
But The King’s Speech is not as lightly regarded in the Oscar derby as Shakespeare in Love and Crash were. Saving Private Ryan and Brokeback Mountain were far more overwhelming favorites, and had steamrolled through awards season. The Social Network did that as well, but it has slipped up in recent weeks, while The King’s Speech has won various guild prizes.
Crash may have provided the biggest Oscar upset of all time since nothing at all suggested it could win big. At the least, Shakespeare in Love had six victories beforehand, led by Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench. The King’s Speech is expected to have a few wins itself before Best Picture is announced, most notably for Colin Firth. But Crash only had an adapted screenplay and editing award, before it stole the grand finale.
If there were indications that Shakespeare in Love and Crash could win, they were not very loud. On the other hand, The King’s Speech has stolen all of the momentum from The Social Network in the last month. As such, it may now be the decided favorite, making a Social Network win more of the upset.
Nevertheless, those pulling for The Social Network may regard a loss as a step back for the Academy. They may equate it with the losses for Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Raging Bull, as they all lost to more traditional Oscar-bait. But those films are regarded as the true classics now, while Dances With Wolves, Forrest Gump and Ordinary People have been more derided over the years. In those cases, winning Best Picture was the worst thing for these movies’ reputations.
If The King’s Speech finishes off its comeback, time will tell if it suffers in the long run for beating The Social Network. But unlike the biggest upsets in Oscar history, no one can say that they didn’t see a Social Network loss coming. They might not have been able to see it a month ago, but they certainly can now.
For more Oscars buzz, go to Oscars.yahoo.com
Chicago Sun-Times- “Speech all the talk for Oscar”
New York Magazine- “Would a Best Picture Win for The King’s Speech Be a Blight on Oscar History?”