While news services around the world reported that a "Facebook and Twitter revolution" was poised to topple governments throughout the Middle East, Hollywood award-givers slighted "The Social Network," David Fincher's bold, ultra-contemporary movie about ... Facebook. Instead they celebrated "The King's Speech," a period piece that salutes a strong, principled monarch.
"The King's Speech" must be considered the Oscar front-runner, now that Tom Hooper won best director from the Directors Guild of America, and Colin Firth best actor -- and Firth and the rest of the cast, best ensemble -- from the Screen Actors Guild.
I love both movies.
Still, "The Social Network" is the greater and more vivid and arresting accomplishment. It's the rare film that explores a seismic shift in human behavior while it's still going on, without scanting the wit, suspense, narrative drive and dramatic feeling of an honest-to-God movie.
"The King's Speech" is beautifully made and movingly felt out. "The Social Network" is, too, but it's also challenging and original. It dares to be equal parts "Citizen Kane" and "Rashomon" while tracking entrepreneurial creativity with a zest that makes most other "business films" seem bland and poky.
Here's hoping the rivalry between these films musters more business for each -- but that "Social Network" pulls ahead at the Oscars' finish line.
At least Firth and his fellow "King's Speech" performers deserved their SAG awards. I've long admired Melissa Leo and Christian Bale as character actors. Why are they winning prizes now for showy yet monotonous parts in the often strident "The Fighter?" (Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg do the subtlest, strongest acting in that movie.)
I was shocked that Bale beat Geoffrey Rush of "The King's Speech" for best supporting actor. Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit" deserved to dominate the best supporting actress roster. Unfortunately, the SAG voters ignored the girl and gave the category to Leo, who, after all, really has paid her dues.
I would have preferred any of the other best actress nominees to Natalie Portman, who won for her whiny ballerina. That inexplicable black-swan magic had SAG voters in its spell. Earth to Academy: before it's too late, snap out of it!
Photo by Lucy Nicholson of Colin Firth holding his two SAG awards