According to the two front-runners for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, The King’s Speech and The Social Network, communication is not half the battle: it’s the entire war. These two very different seeming movies actually speak mounds about our fear to speak.
The Social Network is the more obvious with this, taking a dark, rapid-fire look into how one outcast started an online empire simply because he couldn’t fit into the real world. Mark Zuckerberg, as many may have noticed on his recent Saturday Night Live appearance, has trouble in real life. The way Jesse Eisenberg portrays him, his brain seems backed up because he can’t talk fast enough, emitting sentences in short, machine gun-like bursts.
At least Zuckerberg can talk, though. King George VI, as played by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, is another monarch atop a throne he can’t seem to quite get a grip on. His debilitating speech empediment has haunted him his entire life. Though this film seems engineered solely to win Oscars, it says a lot that a man who can’t communicate his many ideals and passions to the world was the one that the film makers went with.
Despite their connectedness with hindered communication, these two movies have quite a lot of talking. What better way to show how we can’t talk to each other than showing people doing it badly? James Franco didn’t tell anyone where he was going in 127 Hours, and Julianne Moore seemed to have a pretty rough time getting her discontent through to Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right. Perhaps if someone had paused to ask Natalie Portman how she was while she was going crazy in Black Swan, she wouldn’t have had such a rough time. Sure, the two front-runners put that theme front-and-center, but it seems to run like a vein of thematic life through most of the Best Picture nominees this year.
Struggling to find connections between the years’ nominated films is something a lot of journalists and writers do. It’s often a stretch (Avatar and The Hurt Locker because the directors were once engaged…), but with a lot of the nominees, The King’s Speech and The Social Network especially, the Academy may have tapped into something that is actually alive and well in American culture. In the age where movies need to have something happening every second for Generation Facebook to keep their eyes on the screen, the movie about the popular social networking site takes a step back and really digs into the ways in which humans are changed by a simple idea or a quick fix. Examining how that idea emerged from a cesspool of rejection and a need to be the elite digs even deeper into this country, and the dark tone of David Fincher’s film alone could show just what he and Aaron Sorkin are after in regards to the American Dream.
So, which of the two talkers will take home the prize come Oscar night? The Academy has a history of happy endings, and if that’s the case you might as well write down The King’s Speech right now. It makes no secret of its feel-good notions, saying that maybe in spite of our inability to talk to each other, we may just come out on top. The King of England giving American movie-goers their Dream back? Something just doesn’t compute.