“The King’s Speech” wins battle for Old Hollywood

By Kelli Weston

This year’s Academy Awards came wrapped in a young, updated package, but the victory of “The King’s Speech” proved the opposite: Old Hollywood continues its reign.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards resembled a tug-of-war between Old and New Hollywood. Old Hollywood is represented by traditional filmmaking and renowned actors, while New Hollywood is represented by up-and-coming actors and an innovative approach to film.

The two most critically acclaimed films of the year embody these groups: “The Social Network” is as New Hollywood as “The King’s Speech” is Old.

 Interestingly enough, “The Social Network” is being compared to Orsen Welles’s “Citizen Kane” (1941).

“The Social Network” tells the story of the youngest billionaire in American history: Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, perhaps the most popular media tool of this generation. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake portray the three main characters: Young, college-age men with reckless ambition.The editing is superb; the film’s  length is never felt, in large part due to meticulously cut scenes. Moreover, Fincher’s witty, fast-moving dialogue is a true novelty.

The film was repeatedly hailed for “defining this generation,” received eight Academy Award nominations, and won three.

“I think it [The Social Network] should have won for Best Director and Best Film,” said Christine Hait, a professor who teaches film studies at Columbia College. “I just don’t think ‘The King’s Speech’ was the best film of the year. I think ‘The Social Network’ was the most important film of the year, very innovative. I think ‘The King’s Speech’ is very traditional.”

As far as traditional stories go, “The King’s Speech,” while admittedly well-made and well-acted, is formulaic.

The film charts the triumph of King George VI, who ascends to the throne after his older brother Edward VIII abdicates in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. “Bertie” (as he is affectionately called)  sums up his problem perfectly in a scene from the film.

“And yet I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.”

“Bertie” starts out as an underdog, painfully stammering his way through the simplest of sentences. However, with the help of an eccentric speech therapist (played by Geoffrey Rush), who soon becomes a close friend, King George VI overcomes and delivers a seamless speech at the film’s conclusion. Similar underdog/mentor victories are mirrored in films such as “Stand and Deliver” (1988), “Akeelah and the Bee” (2006), even fellow nominee “The Fighter.”

The film earned a near perfect 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that averages all critics’ reviews for a film. The film also boasts a stellar, well-respected cast that includes Colin Firth, Rush and Helena Bonham Carter (who plays Queen Elizabeth).

The film was nominated for a staggering 12 Academy Awards, and took home four, including Best Picture.

The anything but traditional “Inception” was another big winner. It took Christopher Nolan 10 years to craft his original story about a group of cons who can not only enter but manipulate dreams. While special effects have been around since George Lucas made “Star Wars,” I don’t think anyone has made a film quite as modern as this. While dealing with an original subject matter, the popularity of the film was due in large part to human themes such as grief and desperation. Moreover, the film spanned quite a few genres. It could be as easily classified as a drama as it could action and science-fiction.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think New Hollywood redefines and reconstructs traditional movie genres,” said Giesela Lubecke, 19, a Columbia College student.

 Along with “Inception” and “The Social Network,” young, new director Luke Mathaney scored points for New Hollywood. Mathaney won Best Short Film (Live Action) for “God of Love.”

In spite of deserved nominations and many deserved wins for these innovative, original works, Old Hollywood triumphed in the end. The historic period piece ultimately won Best Picture, the most coveted award of the night.

I think it’s important to note that one of the main reasons Old Hollywood lingers on is because traditional films have just as much impact today as they did decades ago. “The King’s Speech” earned $338 million worldwide at the box office, which is formidable for a limited release film.

 Still, while awarding the traditional, the Oscars still tried to appear to a younger, perhaps wider, demographic by casting “127 Hours” nominee James Franco and Anne Hathaway, neither of whom have reached 30. Hathaway called this year’s Oscars “young and hip,” according to Canada.com.

However, this year’s Academy Awards proved to be one of the worst entertainment-wise.

“Despite the many worthy nominated films, the Oscarcast was painfully dull, slow, witless,” said Roger Ebert of the Sun Times.

The funniest moment of the night was provided by the legendary, 94-year-old Kirk Douglas. He improvised his entire presentation, delaying his announcement of Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo) by joking with the audience. “[Kirk] swaggered on-stage with the help of a cane and proceeding to hold the spotlight with off-the-cuff jokes and obvious pleasure,” said Bailey Johnson of CBS news.