When looking at past winners for Best Picture, it is winners like On The Waterfront, the first two Godfather films, The Silence Of The Lambs, Schindler’s List, and The Departed that show how AMPAS has the ability to reward films that will have a strong place in film history.
Then there’s winners like The King’s Speech that remind us that… sometimes they don’t.
While The King’s Speech isn’t necessarily a terrible movie, it still sticks out a like a sore thumb among its competition. One reason because it’s a decent film up against greater competition. Also, the films it was up against would’ve been bolder, innovative choices. They had a female-centered horror film (Black Swan), a Kubrickian science fiction film (Inception), an animated film (Toy Story 3), an LGBTQ+ dramedy (The Kids Are All Right), and a timely biopic that gave them the opportunity to be in touch with their young audiences (The Social Network) to choose from.
Amongst that sea of competition, it was critical juggernaut The Social Network that was the biggest challenger to The King’s Speech. The Social Network was on a roll, winning Best Picture at the Critics Choice Award and Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globe Awards. But as it turns out, by the time The Social Network hit the industry, voters preferred to safely vote for a biopic about a king overcoming his stutter while battling Nazis in WWII over a film about college kids backstabbing each other.
In my opinion, it’s an underwhelming win on top of what turned out to be a whimper of an Oscar year with disappointments like the omission of Mila Kunis’ redefining performance from Black Swan, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World getting ignored completely in the tech categories, and also, the big twist that apparently Inception, the most well-crafted genre film of the year, didn’t even have a director.
Also, they nominated two films for Best Picture directed by women: The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone by Lisa Cholodenko and Debra Granik, respectively. But rather than continue the narrative of celebrating women in film after the historical Best Director win of Kathryn Bigelow the year before, the Directors branch snubbed both ladies. Did they feel that because a woman finally won, that…they did it?! I mean, ever since Bigelow won, no woman has been nominated in Best Director since.
It’s no wonder that the Academy has made strides to make their voting bodies more diverse and much younger. Whether films like The King’s Speech would’ve done well with its new members remains to be seen. But the win of The King’s Speech is still an example of voters favoring traditionalism and sentimentality over boldness like with Dances With Wolves winning over Goodfellas and Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction.
As somebody who has been following and watching the Oscars since I was eight years old, I always like to see them go bold and fresh with their Best Picture choices. In a year with contenders that could’ve been game-changing Best Picture winners, it really stung to see them go with the safest, baitiest film of the bunch.