GALA OPENING OF ‘AND THE OSCAR WENT TO’ EXHIBITION OF 100 OSCAR STATUETTES, ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES, LOS ANGELES, AMERICA – 23 JAN 2003

Oscar Gets it Right

I’ve been watching the Oscars my whole life, and I’ve seen plenty of rip-offs that really irked me. One of my favorite examples is the Best Actor given to Roberto Begnini for ‘Life Is Beautiful’, which led to a ridiculous acceptance speech. I truly believe Edward Norton’s performance as a white supremacist in ‘American History X’ was the greatest of his career, and deserved the award. Paul Newman got stiffed at least 5 times, and of course ‘Shakespeare In Love’ over ‘Saving Private Ryan’ for Best Picture is another travesty. I could go on and on, as there are many times Oscars have been handed out on some other basis besides best work. But in my opinion, that did not happen this year.

‘The Kings Speech’ won 4 major Oscars:

Best Picture, Actor, Director and Screenplay. And I believe it deserved each and every one. As much as I loved ‘True Grit’, the films in competition were simply not in the same category, so to speak. I saw ‘The Social Network’, and while I thought it was a good film, it is not great. While it doesn’t always happen, these awards should go to excellence in filmmaking. And make no mistake, ‘The Kings Speech’ was excellent. The film really got to me, both as an audience member and a filmmaker.

I usually don’t see films in the theater unless I feel they are big-screen epics, but I made an exception after reading the great reviews on Yahoo movies and hearing from family and friends who saw it. I had already seen several of the Best Picture nominees, and wanted to see this one before the Oscars. From the first five minutes of the film, I knew I was in for a great ride. All I can say is that the details of film were executed masterfully, from shots to sharp writing to great acting. Telling a story at this level deserves recognition, because everyone involved seemed to be aiming for excellence. The emotional content hits home, without being too sentimental. Comic touches are used to keep it light, but underneath the seriousness drives the story home. This balance is hard to maintain for 2 hours, but the cast and crew succeed in a way that other films do not. And this is the point: from beginning to end, ‘The Kings Speech’ delivers. That is what makes it a worthy Best Picture.

I give credit to ‘The Social Network’ for its overall achievements, and it did win 2 Oscars for categories I thought it excelled in: music and writing. I especially admired the Coen brothers retelling of the familiar tale of ‘True Grit’, making it their own and causing me to completely forget the original. But these films have no shame in losing to ‘The Kings Speech’, a real triumph at a budget of roughly $10 million, a low figure nowadays. The focus was on telling a story, and doing it effectively. Overcoming adversity never gets old in American film, and even though this was an import, it fits right in with past winners. It’s hard to care about the ‘adversity’ of ‘The Social Network’: who gets the millions? The main gripe seems to be that older audiences aren’t in touch with the youthful relevance of the film, but the lesson of an overwhelmed man conquering a personal struggle and rising to the moment is timeless. That will always be relevant.

I encourage filmgoers to see all these fine films, as each one is very different from the other. It would be a lot easier to do if they’d go back to 5 nominees instead of 10. I honestly don’t know if there are 10 films per year that can be considered ‘Best’ anything. But this year, they got it right. Enjoy!