Monday, February 28, 2011

At Least the Academy Gets This One Right!

I'm writing in regard to 'The King's Speech' having won Best Picture last night at the Oscars. And this is irrelevant to the fact that my now deceased father-in-law attended the Coronation of King George VI, as part of a Commonwealth Regiment-Contingent from the British West Indies. This is in contrast to last year when the Academy blew it big time, awarding 'Hurt Locker' the 'Best Picture' when it was nowhere near the neighborhood.

Readers may recall that in my New Year's predictions, I initially forecast 'Inception' to win, but please note that was rendered weeks before The King's Speech began apperearing in theaters. Two weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to see it and were very impressed, agreeing that without a doubt it would win. Indeed, the film had all the key markers and elements the Academy usually looks for.

The main competition, pushed by many in the American media circles (including TIME, and many newspapers, such as The Denver Post) was 'The Social Network'. This is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg got 'Facebook' off the ground to become perhaps the biggest time wasting, brain-enervating interface-tech network in the history of the human race. See also my earlier blog on this:

In that entry, I referenced Mark Bauerlein's book, The Dumbest Generation, which depressingly documents how the under-30 crowd are foregoing knowledge-based maturity to wallow in a self-confected, solipsistic, social mirror world of their own egos and selves. The fallout includes their not even meeting basic standards of knowledge for employment, far less earning a degree that actually means anything.

According to one polling of University of Illinois-Chicago students for time allocation, by Northwestern University communications professor Esther Hargatti (op. cit., p. 135), the students’ choices were all too predictable. As Bauerlein puts it:“At number one stood Facebook (78.1%) followed by MySpace (50.7%). Only 5% checked a blog or forum on politics, economics, law or policy”As he adds, the “acclaimed empowerment” of the Web has gone entirely to “social stuff”.

Now, I have nothing against "social stuff", but let's get real here: the "friending" dynamic of Facebook means an endless succession of virtual "friends" can be created to suck up all of one's waking hours, especially when any significant number of these people wish to sustain contact. No wonder then that millions have since opted out, and they aren't all old fogies. The proportion of Americans on Facebook now, according to a recent poll, stands at 52% compared to 48% who aren't.

By contrast, The King's Speech showed how a stuttering Royal was thrust into the role of King (George VI) during one of the most epic periods of human history- World War II. His speech itself was so stirring, delivered nearly perfectly (after months of training from his speech therapist, Loge) that it had most of the audience in tears. We also already knew what he would face, with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, and their horrific Blitz bombing of England, especially London. (Less well known by most Americans is that the British were at war with Nazi Germany for over two years before the Americans joined the fray, after Pearl Harbor.)

In other words, the historic backdrop was there, never mind the film had no sex, no action to speak of, no violence, and only a brief segment when "Bertie" (the would-be King) let fly a slew of f-bombs as he practiced ironing out the stutters.

For me, having encountered Queen Elizabeth II up close (from 10' away) during one occasion when she stopped in Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown, Barbados (while I was en route to Broad Street there) in the 70s, it put the history in perspective. Prior to seeing the film I hadn't been sure of the relationship of Elizabeth and Margaret (who later became Princess Margaret and also visited Barbados several times) to the then King, or the previous king (Edward VIII) who abdicated (because of his marriage to divorced American Wallace Simpson).

The movie made it clear that "Bertie" assumed the throne after brother (Edward) abdicated and both Margaret and Elizabeth were his daughters. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter's character was the "Queen Mother" as she's known in England.

Now, given a choice between a flick about a bunch of Harvard nerds that design and start a vacuous, time-wasting social network, and a film redolent with historical overtones (and we know how awful most Americans are at their own history, far less world history) I'm glad that the Academy chose the latter. The spotlight on the problem of stuttering and how one person overcame it enough to function also added heft and a human dimension.

One last thing: I emphatically disagree with The LA Times take that the award was some "testament to conservative values". No, it was not, it was a testament to HUMAN values! Bertie was not "Old School" because he assumed the regal mantle. There was NO other choice to be made, given how his brother had compromised the monarchy with Wallace Simpson. Those values he demonstrated transcend simple liberal or conservative labels, which alas, this country's media are in too much of a hurry to confer because of their corporate 'crossfire syndrome' myopia. I heartily recommend any readers who haven't yet seen this terrific film, get out soon to take it in, and soak in the history and human angles!

No comments: