Tale of the Tape – The Social Network vs. The King’s Speech

Lately, I’ve read a lot of articles about how The Social Network got robbed in favor of The King’s Speech for best picture in 2010.  This opinion is forming into a consensus, but as I wrote in Great Oscar Re-Do, I do not feel that the consensus is warranted.  To elaborate, here are five categories and how the films stack up to one another:

1. Acting – The King’s Speech’s cast reads like a who’s who of top British screen actors while the Social Network’s cast contains numerous up-and-comers.  Certainly we expect more from familiar names like Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Geoffrey Rush than we do less familiar actors, so an above average performance by a young actor impacts us more than a good performance by an experienced one. While the comparison is a bit unfair, in the end I found myself caring more about the characters in the King’s Speech than in the Social Network.   Advantage – The King’s Speech.

2. Directing – Both films rely on old-school tricks of the trade to tell their stories like montages and musical overtures.  Likewise, both films are well shot and well paced.  I didn’t think either felt disjointed or meandering at any point.  Advantage – Push

3. Writing – I always thought that Sorkin’s writing style is far too Shakespearean (think History-Cycle Shakespeare) to consistently work.  It’s pitch-perfect for the West Wing, where the stakes are high and the characters have big-picture concerns, but falls short in this tale of college social interaction and entrepreneurship.  That’s not to say that the script of the King’s Speech is any better – there really aren’t any particularly memorable lines or speeches in it, in contract to the Social Network, which has a few anyway.  Advantage – The Social Network.

4. Themes – The King’s Speech is about triumph in the face of adversity and personal/spiritual struggle.  The Social Network is about entrepreneurship, loyalty, and human interaction in a digital age.  Both are worth exploring.  Advantage – Push.

5. Cultural/Historical Context – The Social Network is an interesting tale and has themes worth exploring in their current context.  That’s its biggest flaw – it’s worthwhile in the current context.  The King’s Speech has well worn themes, but it’s a story of someone who’s a symbol of his people gaining the ability to inspire them by overcoming a disability.  That can mean something to people at any time, even if it weren’t told against the backdrop of World War II.  Maybe it’s just me, but I care about King George overcoming a speech impediment to inspire his countrymen during their darkest hour.  Compared to that – who give a rat’s behind about Facebook?  Advantage – The King’s Speech

And there you have it – feel free to disagree but that’s why I favor The King’s Speech over The Social Network.

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe