THE KING’S SPEECH
2010 has been good year for film, contrary to the views of many critics. This was a year which brought us the enigmatic Inception, twisted Black Swan, endearing Toy Story 3, the biographical prose The Social Network and even the lighter, but still entertaining cyber-punk tones of Tron: Legacy.
It also delivered films which I have yet to see, such as the multi-award winning The King’s Speech, John Wayne(ish) remake True Grit and the British satire, Four Lions.
The Academy Awards have a tendency to honour the high brow, and why not? The Box office fails to, in favour of the low brow blockbuster, but is this a bad thing? In many ways, yes, filling Hollywood’s coffers with the takings of films likes Transformers, whilst others such as the critically acclaimed Winter’s Bone will never hit those marks.
But surly if the blockbuster puts the bums on seats, then that must speak volumes about the quality. Critics panned Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen as playing to lowest common denominator, selling out entirely to impress the popcorn crowd, giving them exactly what they need to draw in the crowd whilst sacrificing the quality of the narrative. But there are many types of film out there, as many as there are tastes.
Titles such as The King’s Speech are the bread and butter to the Blockbusters ham, all have a place, but some are more wholesome are worthwhile than others, with the ham being more enjoyable. My tastes are very varied as I am a fan of film full stop. I don’t like everything I see, and I do like blockbusters; I like Transformers, I like Memento, I like The China Syndrome.
My view of the Best Picture winner at the Oscars, is that it should reflect both the significance of that film in that year and the overall significance on the industry as a whole. The Empire Strike Back set the tone for the darker sequel, a model still in use today; The Matrix introduced us to the 21st century if cinematography and visual effects and now, in 2010, Inception again opened the door to the intelligent, original blockbuster, not dissimilar to Mission: Impossible back in 1996.
But Inception, in-spite of its critical acclaim and stellar box office, never stood a chance of the coveted big win. 1998’s Titanic year, when James Cameron’s epic walked away with 11 Oscars is now looked back upon as blip, a year when that blockbuster stole the show and granted, L.A. Confidential, my number one film, may well have won big that year if Titanic hadn’t done so well, but this was a year that the academy got it right.
A popular film won the greatest accolade, a feet that would not be repeated until 2001 with Gladiator, or 2004 with Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, though be it in honour of the entire franchise. I would personally compare Inception to Gladiator in the sense that both have Oscar sensibilities, both art housey, intelligent, deep yet produced on the grand blockbuster canvass.
What many people forget as they get into film, is that film was originally conceived as special effect. Shadow and light, where time itself is subject to a pair of scissors, and overlaying two strips of film created a dissolve. The earliest films from the late 1800’s where two minutes long and often showed the simplest of day-to-day tasks, whilst as the art form grew, special effects such a man being flattened by a steamroller were being developed.
Narrative cinema grew as did the chase comedy, the origin in fact of the term “Cut to the chase”, referring to films being too slow to hold the audiences interest, and the introduction of some action. Film battled the predominance of theatre and eventually a marriage was born but not after decades of learning and compromise.
But as the decades have rolled on, more chasms have open up within film itself, where the belief that a movie has to be intelligent, deep and thought-provoking above all, whilst the industry is making a bit of everything, and selling seats to boot. Is the audience wrong?
Comedies rarely win Oscars, in fact, I’m sure that the last was Annie Hall over 30 years ago. Mainstream blockbusters? They do okay, but are frowned up on when they do. The snobbery of the awards season is more that hypocriful when you look at the origins of the art form. Comedies, chase movies and epics. Not high brow theatre; that came later.
Congratulations to The King’s Speech, though I haven’t seen it I’m certainly looking forward to. But my film of the year was Inception, a film which has set a president for the industry to craft thought-provoking blockbusters. The King’s Speech by all accounts is the bread and butter, an arty ‘Daily Telegraph’ film which seems to offer nothing longstanding but is a decent film, which added to the whole, will not disappoint and will strengthen the film industry’s legacy.
I was also disappointed that Hans Zimmer was again snubbed, this time for his cracking Inception score, as he is one of the most influential composers working today, and my favourite to boot. But saying that, I did correctly predict the winner, The Social Network, so fair enough.
Natalie Portman was almost a shoe-in for her Oscar and fair play to her, as she really put her heart and soul into her performance, and it is a high-profile award for Black Swan, a film which I believe has been over looked.
Overall, this was another typical year on the red carpet. Lots of gloss, glamour and pomp on the way in, but too much pomposity, snobbery and belief in the industry changing the world and offering itself to it’s intellectual patrons rather than the paying customers inside. If a pat on the back is what they need after the wages are paid then some of them got it, but not necessarily the rights ones. The irony is, the Academy Awards has to be the blockbuster of awards ceremonies… Enough said?