On Trial [The King’s Speech] vs [The Social Network] (Best Picture)

One of the best conversations in film is debating ‘who should have won.’ In these posts we going revisit the great award debates, and decide, in hindsight, who should’ve won.

One of my favorite years for Best Picture nominees was 2011. I wouldn’t argue it had the best movies out of any year, but they had the most that I had seen and enjoyed at the point of the Academy Awards, so I was most invested in this year’s winner.

The nominees I loved, and still love, include Inception, Toy Story 3, The Fighter, True Grit, The Social Network, and the ultimate winner, The King’s Speech. That’s stacked.

I don’t think all of them had a chance at winning, and now that time has gone on, the debate mainly rages around whether The Social Network should have won rather than The King’s Speech.

So let’s put them on trial and see who should have won the 2011 Best Picture award.

And remember, never convince yourself a movie is bad as you defend why you like another better.

The Case for The Social Network

Fincher and Sorkin team up for a biographical drama that chronicles the inception of one of the most influential and notorious companies on planet earth… Facebook. And time has been kind to this story. If in 2011 this seemed like a relevant and controversial explanation about how the website that has changed all our lives was created, that has only become truer in 2020, as Russian interference, fake news, and discordant political and moral arguments abound on the social network. Watching a movie that documents the origin, which is also mired in interference and discord, of that network provides added weight to an already fantastic film.

Sorkin’s dialogue works best with jargon that needs to be fired off at a rapid clip, so writing lines for the intelligent and aloof Zuckerberg who will say whatever he wants, audience be damned and you better hope you can keep up, seemed like an alley-oop into a top tier film. Couple him with Fincher’s ability to portray the deviant side of man, and we have an interesting and oblique look into this story with dialogue that buzzes us through and around the characters. The feel and visual is a small step removed from one of Fincher’s serial killer films, which works all too well, making bright blue backgrounds, Harvard campuses, and modern business offices seem sinister and beyond the pale.

All of this coalesces into a relevant and haunting look into an important element of our lives. Taking on the telling of Facebook’s story is a daunting task, but the movie was insightful, meaningful, and entertaining, and more than did it justice.

The Case for The King’s Speech

The comparison for the 2011 Best Picture Award is an interesting one. Both based on true stories, both focusing on one man trying to create a legacy. One is a modern tale, and one is now a part of history. The Social Network was a story familiar to us all, and The King’s Speech  had gone largely untold.

As exciting as it was to get a narrative peek behind the curtain at the Oz who directs our virtual lives, it was equally as tantalizing to discover a story, amidst a well-documented time period, that was unfamiliar. The King’s Speech feels like an intimate portrayal of a friend you never knew you had, bringing us a look into King George VI’s unexpected and unwanted rise to power, a striking contrast to the greed and ruthless power-grab of Zuckerberg.

King George’s stutter, the lynchpin of The King’s Speech’s narrative, contrasts with the fast-paced jargon of The Social Network, and Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George and his love for family and desire to remain behind the scenes is the antithesis of Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg.

These differences lend to different strengths. Years fly by in a rabid back and forth between modern legal drama and the inception of Facebook in The Social Network. Every moment feels significant in its action and delivery and yet no part feels greater than the whole.

Conversely, The King’s Speech makes the intimate moment’s between people, who are trying to understand their changing relationships to each other and their changing world, feel bigger than the narrative itself. When I think of The Social Network I think of the story, when I think of The King’s Speech, I think of moments when Logue calls the king ‘Bertie,’ when they bounce up and down together in his classroom, when George hears himself speak without a stutter for the first time, when George breaks down in front of his wife for fear of becoming king, and ultimately, that speech of such great tension and even greater triumph, a simple act that provides so much hope. 

Therein lies the difference between the films. The King’s Speech is about the simple choices we make, a divorce, a speech and the phenomenal ripple effect they can have over time. And The Social Network is about the monumental decision of one man who knew he was changing the world, and the impact that is yet to be seen.

The Rebuttal for The Social Netowrk

The Social Network is an attempt to add significance to our moment in time. Facebook is our watershed moment to go along with the invention of the iPhone, the cumulative moment of our technology era. So when we watch the film we want it to be significant and prescient, we want it to mean something as the years go by. And maybe it will, but that desire can feel self-serving.

As far as composition, that famous Sorking dialogue is not for everyone. It’s like a dessert, it’s good, but not everyone would choose to have more dessert than dinner. And at times The Social Network feels like it thinks its smarter than it is. Too many lines cry for attention like a 2008 teenage girl status update. To be fair, The Social Network may need that dialogue, it works, and its why the movie is good, but it does lack for subtlety. 

The Rebuttal for The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech is made for Award’s shows. It’s about WWII, it takes its time, makes room for actors to have career defining performances, but it’s all a bit slow and pondersome. We live in an era of efficiency. Trim the fat and give us the essentials. So the biggest blow against The King’s Speech is that in its effort to be great, it may leave out room to entertain.

Verdict

Time is a friend for The Social Network. And as time has gone by, the sinister undertones of the film have only become more prescient. Add that to the entertainment value in a film that provides a peak into a significant part of our lives, and it seems like The Social Network has become the popular pick to have won this category.

I would like to add, however, that The King’s Speech was not a bad selection. I have heard this choice portrayed as akin to Shakespeare In Love and that, my friends, is absurd.

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On Trial [Parasite] vs [1917] (Best Picture)
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3 thoughts on “On Trial [The King’s Speech] vs [The Social Network] (Best Picture)

  1. That is a good awards line up, isn’t it? I’ve seen all but one and while I wasn’t sure about 127 Hours, the others are all good.

    Maybe this one all comes down to personal preference, and for a lot of people The Social Network is definitely going to seem the more relevant. To me it doesn’t, because Facebook isn’t something I would personally use or even understand the appeal of, but I know that makes me in a weird minority in the western world. There’s also the fact that the film is essentially about a bunch of jerks and dorks screwing each other over, so it’s not necessarily easy to love.

    The King’s Speech is not really ground-breaking in any way, but it’s an example of a particular type of film done really well. Yes, it can seem like the type of “made for awards” film (and it’s no surprise it was picked up by the Weinsteins, because that’s their speciality), but it’s elevated by the two stars who are both really good. Plus Colin Firth is one of those people who’s been around for ages and is in so many things you almost forget how ubiquitous he is, so it’s nice for him to get some recognition when he’s good.

    Because the film focuses on the two main characters it doesn’t fall into fetishizing the period trappings, country houses, etc that some others of this type do. Plus this kind of thing can easily go wrong. Hyde Park on Hudson covers some similar ground, while Darkest Hour is another of this British period movie in the “early days of WWII” niche, and that wangled a BP nom, despite not being very good.

    Incidentally, I think Shakespeare in Love is underrated now. Saving Private Ryan is more innovative, but I’m not sure it should necessarily have won BP. It’s brilliantly directed, photographed and edited, but the script is very weak and the film does have its issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Terrific thoughts. Really sharp points. Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges lay down one of my favorite Best actor competitions this year too. I really liked this year of films.

      I like movies where the characters are complex to the point of unlovable. In this case I think Fincher directing a film on Zuckerberg is fascinating considering his penchant for serial killers. Something about Zuckerberg fits along side them all in a not obvious way.

      Like

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