The first wave of guilds—directors, producers, and actors—all supplicated down on their knees for The King’s Speech, all in near-simultaneity with the announcement of the film’s dozen Oscar nominations. If the impact of that sea change has had some Oscar bloggers stepping off of observation decks and into the paths of oncoming trains, a few of the more insular guilds have started to show signs that they’re not interested in laying down for another Weinstein sweep, and have taken the competition into their own hands—quite literally.
The Art Directors’ Guild couldn’t quite manage to sidestep The King’s Speech’s gimme in the category for best “period film” (presumably referring to a big blot of discharge Carrie White’s mother warned her about), but at the same time gave Inception a rather unexpected leg up. Now, the American Society of Cinematographers have continued momentum for poor little non-nominated Christopher Nolan’s epic and its chances in the tech categories by handing Inception the ASC award. Their slate of nominees aligned five-for-five with Oscar’s, so this marks one of the most high profile guild snubs for The King’s Speech to date.
On the one hand, this could be the ASC’s way of crying “Uncle” over what is now Wally Pfister’s seemingly lifelong commitment to putting Nolan’s murky, monochromatic visions up there on the screen. On the other, even the BAFTAs, which collectively bore The King’s Speech’s children over the weekend, passed on giving it a lensing award, so maybe fans of its utilitarian, only occasionally off-kilter compositions are truly few. Ask some of those aforementioned bloggers what they think, and they’ll tell you quite a few Oscar voters can be expected to put a check mark next to The King’s Speech here even if Danny Cohen’s name was Danny Trejo, and they may be right, but we’re going to side with the guilds and suggest this one is actually The King’s Speech’s to earn, so to speak, not to lose. But against what?
Inception maybe, but Pfister’s more evocative work on Nolan’s The Prestige couldn’t break through even when there were no Best Picture behemoths among its competition, as opposed to this slate’s straight ticket. Fans of Fight Club and Requiem for a Dream can sleep easier now that Jeff Cronenweth and Matthew Libatique have, finally, broke through in a notoriously cliquey branch, earning plaudits for returning to work with David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky. But both The Social Network and Black Swan practically flaunt new-school credentials (the latter shot its subway scenes using a D-SLR, for Christ’s sake) in a category that, Anthony Dod Mantle aside, typically favors salt-of-the-earth artisan efforts. Which makes the long-unrewarded Roger Deakins a perfect fit. Now on his ninth nomination without a win, his bid for True Grit represents his fifth for working with Joel and Ethan Coen, and seems a stylistic synthesis of the best elements of his two unsuccessful nominations from 2007.
Will Win: True Grit
Could Win: The King’s Speech
Should Win: Black Swan