At the weekend’s guild prizes, the only surprise was surprise’s absence. Those who hoped for a pitched Oscar battle surely groaned when The King’s Speech won the Directors Guild of America prize for its director, Tom Hooper (the prize is perhaps the most effective predictor of Oscar’s Best Picture category). And the Screen Actors Guild Awards last night went to Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, and Melissa Leo – four for four with the Golden Globes, and with everyone’s predictions. (Happily, there was room for surprise in the ceremony itself, as Dicky Ward, whom Bale portrayed in The Fighter, stormed the stage during Bale’s speech.)
By the end of the night Sunday, when The King’s Speech claimed Best Ensemble (represented only by its three leads, while The Fighter crew brought most of Melissa Leo’s crazy daughters), viewers could be forgiven for wanting to tune out until next year’s Oscar season. The narrative has become one of redemption – not for England’s king but for Harvey Weinstein, The King’s Speech producer who was dominant at the Oscars through the 1990s. He just dropped $14 million at Sundance, as David Carr points out in an article on the producer’s resurgence — he’s found his voice! — in this morning’s New York Times.
When Harvey was last a player, Oscar ceremonies were full of surprises — Juliette Binoche, Shakespeare in Love — often thanks to Weinstein’s zealous campaigning for projects that appealed to a certain middlebrow, Eurocentric sensibility. By now, the Weinstein strategy is no longer exciting – it merely makes us eager for next November or so, when, for a few months, at least, the Oscars will actually seem like a contest.
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