Monday, February 28, 2011

At least it wasn't Crash.

I would say something here about how The King's Speech didn't deserve to win Best Picture, except that anyone who had read about The King's Speech before would know exactly what I was going to say, in much the same way that anyone who had ever seen a self-important historical drama knew exactly what The King's Speech was going to play out.

I am now calling for a moratorium on movies wherein an unexpected figure (e.g.; underdog boxer James Braddock, the King) inspires a nation in the time of crisis (always, always the Depression and World War II). For one thing, they encourage the insidious tendency to substitute faded wood paneling for actual plot, a trend that I resent all the more because I'm a sucker who can't look at old decaying room without being immediately overcome with gravitas. For another, why do these things always get nominated for an Oscar? They all literally have the exact same emotional arc as Angels in the Outfield: problem, unlikely success, montage, problem reemerges, VICTORY! and then a sudden cut to black before the harsh realities of aging or still not having a real dad or the outbreak of global war can sink in. Maybe some carefully-worded titlecards let us know that everything worked out okay, really. I know it's popular because it works, but can we at least recognize that a formula doesn't stop being a formula because you plugged quasi-fictionalized versions of real events into it?

And besides that, how many inspirations does one nation need? If Seabiscuit gave my great-grandmother the courage to soldier on every day, why hadn't I ever heard of him before?

That's the thing about Incredible True Stories That Inspired A Nation. It's sort of obviously, implicitly true that the nation in question has heard the story.

Anyway, have you ever wondered what the King's Speech of 2070 will be? The Miracle on the Hudson? The Chilean Miners?

On the other hand, it's probably impossible to revisit these things. Today, our esteemed News Media recognizes ITSTIAN long before they ripen into sepia-toned dramas with surprising warmth and humor. They're plucked out of the ground in their infancy and dissected under the microscope of twenty-four hour news coverage, the leftover bits and pieces spread thinly over weeks of newspapers and Breaking News Alerts, every drop of their tear-jerking inspirational power put to its maximally efficient use. No anecdote goes unwasted. The only way to make a movie out of these events is to go postmodern with it. You gotta cover the coverage. Really, though, it's for the best -- if Weighty Historical Drama is a non-renewable resource, maybe by 2070 we'll have exhausted our reserves and a smart, well-written movie about boring old things like greed and betrayal can actually win a friggin' Oscar. Or Inception. I would have also been fine if Inception had won.

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