Oscar Race: Is The Social Network Vs The King’s Speech a Repeat of Gandhi Vs. E.T. for Best Picture?

In cinema writer Judy Abel’s new Boston Globe article, “The Sweet Sound of Success,” she writes:

In one corner we have a lofty British film about a stammering monarch who struggles to communicate and reluctantly opens himself to friendship and trust. In the other, we have a brassy American movie about a generation that “friends’’ indiscriminately and gives voice to virtually every thought and opinion.

So if, as many are predicting, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has to choose between “The King’s Speech,’’ which opens Friday, and “The Social Network’’ for the best picture award, it just might give the nod to the British film because it will make the voters feel like they’re taking the high road, according to experts.

In researching the story, Abel interviewed UCLA’s Richard Walter:

On the other hand, sometimes a fancy accent goes a long way in wooing Oscar voters, says Richard Walter, chairman of UCLA’s graduate program in screenwriting and author of “Essentials of Screenwriting.’’

“I think there is a sense of the Academy wanting to reward pictures that are viewed as more important,’’ says Walter during a telephone interview. “Unfortunately, a subject might be unfairly rewarded by well-intentioned people, even though the artistry might not be as exceptional. The other thing is, when a lot of people hear a British accent, they think that’s real acting.’’

English films have enjoyed a number of Oscar victories over the years, including the 1981 award for “Chariots of Fire’’ over “On Golden Pond’’ and “Reds,’’ and the 1966 victory for “A Man for All Seasons,’’ which beat out “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’’ And, perhaps most glaring, according to Walter, is when “Gandhi’’ bested Steven Spielberg’s “E.T — The Extra-Terrestrial.’’

Both “Gandhi’’ and “E.T’’ depict small healers. One is prone to fasting and the other prone to eating Reese’s Pieces. But ultimately, Walter says, “E.T.’’ was the more powerful film and was shortchanged simply because nobody wanted to mess with Gandhi.

“I think they’re both great movies, but I think ‘E.T’ is vastly superior,’’ he says. “Perhaps because of [the movie’s] British roots, and perhaps because it treated the subject of Gandhi, which people thought was important, they didn’t choose ‘E.T.’ which I believe is really, truly a timeless and eternal classic. My prediction is that hundreds of years from now people will be looking at both those pictures, but more ‘E.T.’ than ‘Gandhi.’ ’’

Read the full story here.

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