Tariq Khan, a well-known Oscar observer at Fox News, recently sent a surprising prediction to an even better-known Oscar observer, Tom O'Neil at GoldDerby.com.
Khan's vote for best picture: "The King's Speech."
This assertion has been spreading around the InterWebSphere, partly because Khan can be a near-mystical Oscar-guesser -- in 2008 he scored 100% on his picks -- and partly because it so boldly flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which says that "The Social Network" is a lockdown for best picture. Even O'Neil's thinks so.
I, too, have been saying "The King's Speech" will win best picture, though my conviction has been shaken by the recent groundswell of support for "Network." Let's take a look at Khan's argument, point by point:
1. HE WITH THE MOST NOMINATIONS WINS. Khan says the film with the most nominations goes on to win best picture about 75% of the time. He predicts that "The King's Speech" will be the year's nomination hog, with 11 total. He doesn't list them, but here's my guess: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Screenplay, Costume, Art Direction and probably Makeup and Score.
2. ACTORS WILL LIKE IT BETTER. This is a shrewd argument: Actors, says Khan, make up the largest branch of Academy voters. It's true that "Speech" is filled with terrific performances, while "Network" is driven by Aaron Sorkin's script and David Fincher's direction. Khan also predicts that "Speech" will win the Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble, a good omen for the best picture Oscar. We'll find out on Jan. 30, when the SAG awards are handed out.
3. THE PREFERENTIAL BALLOT. Honestly, I don't understand the Academy voting system. Neither do many voters, from what I gather. But Khan explains that the winner isn't the film with the most NUMBER-ONE votes, it's the film with the most HIGH-RANKING votes. So, if I understand Khan's argument correctly, he's saying that while many people love "Network," absolutely everyone loves "Speech."
4. THE UNDERDOG EFFECT. Khan believes Academy voters like to prove that they can think independently and will sometimes boost an underdog film if another one has been dominating the awards circuit. He does not, however, offer any examples.
Here's my opinion:
I buy most of Khan's arguments, except for that last one. In short, I think "The King's Speech" will win mainly because it's a feel-good movie with British accents and period costumes. And while we've all decided that "The Social Network" is culturally "important" in some vague way, it's not a movie that puts a smile on your face. Then again, look at last year's not-so-smiley winner, "The Hurt Locker," which won best picture over my erroneous prediction, "Avatar."
We'll find out when the 83rd annual Academy Awards are broadcast Sunday, Feb. 27 on ABC.