‘The King’ will reign at the Oscars

As New Media takes on Old Hollywood at the 83rd Academy Awards, our film critic predicts a notably royal occasion.

Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan' 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan' 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a sense, it’s New Media vs. the older Hollywood paradigm. The Social Network, which everyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the past year knows is the story of the founding of Facebook, took most of the critics’ awards. It was directed by David Fincher, who is a New Hollywood heavyweight because of the dark, violent hit films he’s made, including Fight Club, Zodiac and Se7en (which set a precedent by featuring an ending in which an Alist starlet – Gwyneth Paltrow – is decapitated and her head is sent to her husband). The Social Network was written by Aaron Sorkin, who singlehandedly broke the convention that all network TV series and all political drama had to be dull and heavy handed when he created The West Wing, known for its wit, rapid-fire dialogue and moments of real political debate.
When Fincher and Sorkin zeroed in on the new pastime, Facebook, that has captured the hearts, minds and leisure time of nearly a tenth of the world’s population in just eight years, it was a foregone conclusion that the film would be funny, entertaining and smart – but not necessarily the sort of movie that wins an Oscar. The problem with it is that it doesn’t have a main character who is conventionally likable, and the story of the world’s youngest billionaire lacks the kind of heart (and big, sobbing scenes in which the hero finds redemption) that is de rigueur for an Oscar winner.
To say that The King’s Speech fits the Oscar model to a T is not to denigrate its quality or impact in any way. It tells the story of King George VI of Britain, who conquered his stuttering problem and then led England through World War II. A moving, historical drama, it spotlights a problem that virtually anyone can relate to and shows that even a king can suffer from it.
This film is classic Oscar bait because it 1) is about a real person; 2) is about a real person dealing with a disability; and 3) is about a real person with a disability achieving redemption through showing character and heart.
There are eight other movies nominated, but the real competition is between these two.
In the end, heart and disability beat wit and originality every time at the Oscars, if not always in real life.
That said, here are my predictions for this year’s Oscar winners:
BEST PICTURE: The King’s Speech
BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech In the Best Actor category, it’s the actor playing the King in The King’s Speech who is the one to beat, Colin Firth. He is, by all accounts, an intelligent, hard-working actor who has never won before. Yes, there are four other nominees, but on the Website AwardsDaily.com,which lists the predictions of more than 30 well-known prognosticators, everyone agrees on Firth.
BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman, Black Swan Israel may not have a film nominated this year, but Israel-born Natalie Portman is the front runner in the Best Actress category for her role as a ballerina descending into madness in Black Swan. Her only real competition is Annette Bening for her role as a lesbian mother in The Kids Are All Right. But Portman has the far showier role. Oscar likes nothing better than a pretty young thing going nuts. Besides, Bening is married to Warren Beatty, and in the eyes of many Academy voters, that is enough of a prize.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale In the Best Supporting Actor category, once again there is a standout: Christian Bale for his portrayal of an emaciated, drug-addled former boxer. Geoffrey Rush, who plays the tutor in The King’s Speech is his only competition, but he already has an Oscar win, for Shine. And Rush didn’t lose weight for the role as Bale did.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hailee Steinfeld Best Supporting Actress is the most contentious category this year. Helena Bonham Carter got strong reviews for her role as the queen in The King’s Speech. Jacki Weaver got nominated for a role few saw in The Animal Kingdom. Amy Adams plays a sweet but tough girlfriend in The Fighter, but Melissa Leo, as the title character’s mother in the same film, has the edge over Adams in the Oscar race. I think these two actresses will split the votes of those who liked The Fighter and in the end, the winner will be cute, young Hailee Steinfeld, who really has a leading role, in True Grit.
BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher, The Social Network The Best Director Oscar generally goes to whoever directed the film that ends up winning Best Picture. But once in a while there is a split, and when there is it’s usually the more crowd-pleasing movie that wins the Best Picture Oscar and the director of the edgier film that gets Best Director. That could well happen this year.
The Best Screenplay Awards will be split neatly:

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: In a Better World Best Foreign Language Film is always a tough category to predict, but less emotional this year since Israel is not in the race. The toughest competition this year is between Incendies, a Canadian movie that is actually about the fallout from the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s, and In a Better World, Danish director Susanne Biers’s complicated family drama about two bullied teens.
This is one of a handful of categories where Oscar voters must see all films in order to vote, and I’d give the edge to Biers, since she has worked in Hollywood, and that never hurts. Also, she has cousins in Jerusalem.
The Academy Award ceremony will be broadcast live at 3:30 a.m. Israel time on Monday on YES 1 and HOT Gold.