How did ‘The King’s Speech’ pull off that DGA shocker?

Most Oscar pundits have been foolishly under-estimating “The King’s Speech” all derby season. Last night when its helmer Tom Hooper won the DGA, jaws dropped across Hollywood. Including mine.

Regardless of what else happened this awards season, that trophy seemed destined to go to David Fincher for directing “The Social Network.” Sure, the Oscars for picture and director usually match up, but this year was supposed to be one of those when it might not because we thought it was Fincher’s year at both the DGA and the Academy Awards. What happened?

Award watchers made some faulty assumptions when “The Social Network” started sweeping the early awards. We believed this year would be a lot like the recent past when industry voters (members of guilds and the motion-picture academy) rubber-stamped whatever sailed through the film critics’ awards. “The Social Network” not only followed the patterns of “The Hurt Locker” and “No Country for Old Men,” which won most of the top critics’ trophies, it won ALL of the biggies, plus it nabbed the Golden Globe – for Best Picture AND Director. The only other film that pulled off such a romp was “Schindler’s List,” which trotted through the Oscars too.

However, there were other times when a movie swept the film critics’ awards, then crashed at the Oscars, giving us lessons to heed today. “L.A. Confidential,” for example, got sunk by “Titantic” at the Oscars. “Titanic” also won at the Golden Globes, though, so we saw that coming. Maybe “Brokeback Mountain” is a better example. It swept the film critics’ awards and Golden Globes and then lost the Oscar to “Crash.”

Bottom line: Film critics’ awards and the Golden Globes are bestowed by journalists, who sometimes have a different sensibility than industry folks. They’re rascals who like to embrace movies that are cool, gritty, cynical and definitely not sentimental.

It may come as a shock, but Hollywood industry insiders — believe it or not — have a heart. They love sentimental fare, which is why they chose “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan,” which had conquered the film critics’ kudos and Golden Globe.

As great, brilliant and daring as “The Social Network” is – and it is all of those things – it has no heart. Essentially, it’s a movie about young weasels screwing each other as they blunder through launching a media revolution.

“The King’s Speech” is all heart. Viewers are inevitably swept up in its tear-jerker story of a reluctant king, who is not equal to his crown. He can’t even utter a simple sentence without stammering. How can he possibly address his subjects and rally them to fight the Nazis?

So far all three top industry awards have gone for “The King’s Speech” – it won Best Picture at the producers and directors’ guilds and it led with the most Oscar nominations. Can it pull off an upset at SAG next and win Best Ensemble?

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