It was the beginning of September when I first heard of “The King’s Speech.” I was in a chocolate shop in Telluride, Colo., looking at truffles, when a man struck up a conversation with my parents and me. He was in town for the annual film festival.
“So what’s the best film you’ve seen?” we asked him.
“The King’s Speech,” he said without hesitation. He was moved by it, and of all the films at the festival, he put his confidence in the success of the Colin Firth/Geoffrey Rush/Helena Bonham Carter-driven British import. I needed to see it.
Four months later it hit the big screen in my area. I paid $4 to see an early show at a theater where the rooms have ceiling fans, the sixth row back feels like the first and the film pops from continuous play. A few other ladies had decided “The King’s Speech” was worth a viewing. I was the youngest person in the audience.
I left the theater with blurry eyes. I cried for the last 10 minutes where King George VI - played by Firth in a now Oscar-winning role – gives a radio broadcasted speech at the start of WWII. Like the man in the Colorado chocolate store, I was moved by the inspirational story of conquering a very personal issue (the king stammers) in a very public role (he is the King of the United Kingdom, after all).
At Sunday’s ultimate celebration of 2010′s greatest cinematic achievements, hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, “The King’s Speech” reigned victorious. With big wins for leading actor, directing, original screenplay and best picture, September and the first mention of this film seem a long time ago.
While the ripples from the earthquake near Conway minutes after the show’s end was likely the most shocking event of the evening, Tom Hooper did manage an upset in the directing category for “The King’s Speech.” David Fincher was expected to take home the statue for his work on “The Social Network.” Then again most of us were also calling “Network” the best movie of the year until ”Speech” swept the top prizes at the guild awards.
The most entertaining award presentation of the night, and perhaps the most awkward, was that for supporting actress. Kirk Douglas brought the wholesome comedic relief a show like the Oscars needs.
A 94-year-old man calling Hathaway gorgeous and telling category winner Melissa Leo, “You’re much more beautiful than you were in ‘The Fighter,’” is both sweet and strange. And dragging out the announcement of the golden statue recipient was a genius move in the night’s most anticipated and hard-to-call category. It’s too bad it came so early in the evening.
Leo had been the front-runner until she distributed what many thought to be tasteless ads asking the Academy to consider her for the award. That’s when the adorable Hailee Steinfeld gained momentum. And while the 14-year-old’s first feature film performance in “True Grit” was excellent, I’m glad the voters looked at Leo’s more polished work and not her misstep with the media.
Hosts Franco and Hathaway took a hit from the media following their so-so turn as Oscar emcees. Both of them have twice hosted “Saturday Night Live.” They were enjoyable, funny episodes. But there’s a difference between a 90-minute sketch show where the host plays an array of characters and a 3-hour awards presentation where the host plays his or herself.
It would be terrifying to be in front of your most accomplished peers and the ever-critical world, hoping to entertain and gain acceptance by all. Franco and Hathaway have yet to hit the level of respect the acting and viewing community has for entertainers and past hosts like Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg, just to name a few.
In a year where the Academy’s producers insisted on tailoring the show to a more youthful audience, it’s ironic to see the younger generation’s “The Social Network” fall to the older audience’s “The King’s Speech.” It just goes to show the Academy’s voters choose the best – not the most popular – candidate, as they should.