The Real Story: The 2011 Awards Race is a Unanimous Bore

One day after the Golden Globes all anyone is talking about is Ricky Gervais. “Sheer Brilliance, Or Career Suicide?” Mark Joyella at Mediaite asks.

Speculation as to the hour Gervais went missing from the telecast had people wondering if he’d been fired mid-show. Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk even told The Hollywood Reporter, “He definitely crossed the line, and some of the things were totally unacceptable. But that’s Ricky.”

Gervais explained today, “I did every single introduction I was meant to. There just happened to be a long gap. This is because I was allowed to choose who I would introduce in advance. I obviously chose presenters who I had the best jokes for. (And who I knew had a good sense of humor).” He continued, “Everyone took it well and the atmosphere backstage and at the after show was great.”

This is all fine and dandy, but why is no one talking about the real story here and how boring this year’s awards race has been? If subsequent years follow a similar path awards shows had better hire Ricky Gervais for every single one of them because they’re going to need something if they want people to watch, pay attention or even have a reason to care.

If you bounce on over to my “Oscar Overture” section you’ll see a certain film has been sweeping every critical list to this point. Along with critical groups such as the National Board of Review, Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Critics, Southeastern Film Critics, San Francisco and Chicago Critics, The Social Network was also deemed the best film of the year by the International Press Academy, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and last night by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Look, it’s unanimous. This must be one of the greatest films of all-time considering the unprecedented love it has received.

Sasha Stone addressed this very thing today pointing out how The Social Network is the only film to have been named Best Picture by all of these groups. Looking at her chart, not even recent Oscar winners The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire or No Country for Old Men even come close.

My question is, at what point does this become a matter of group think rather than actual opinion? Are people being true to their opinions or are we coming dangerously close to a point where people are simply scared to say what they think as if there actually are right and wrong opinions?

Some are pointing to The Social Network as the film that “defines a generation“. As Peter Travers writes, the film shows “how technology is winning the battle against actual human contact, creating a nation of narcissists shaping their own reality like a Facebook page.” I disagree the film defines this generation or any generation as much as it simply defines the swath of people that label themselves by Travers’s description. However, I am willing to admit Travers has touched upon what it means to become a true Oscar player in this day and age.

There’s an immediacy to our society now and, when news hits, opinions are formed and lines are drawn. “I agree” and “I disagree” are a thing of the past. It has become a situation of you’re either on my side or you’re wrong and I’m going to tell you so until you finally agree with me. Movie discussions have followed suit as people cheer for their film and people then cheer against the same film. Hyperbole beckons and runs rampant to the point people forget what they were even arguing about in an attempt to win an argument more than participate in a discussion.

Movie and award dedicated websites then begin putting their own spin on the awards race; pointing at how a win for The Social Network would be a sign the Academy is keeping up with the times rather than falling back to the days where Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan, or when Crash upset Brokeback Mountain out of nowhere. Who wants to be labeled as irrelevant? The Academy faces such criticism should a film such as The King’s Speech win.

And that criticism could come like a lightning bolt. Twitter and Facebook have made it so, and you better believe anyone covering the awards race and those that are paying attention will be keeping tabs.

Laremy Legel, RopeofSilicon’s Box-Office Oracle and Senior Producer at, and I started discussing this last night as we watched the Golden Globes. I asked him about the effect of social media on the awards race and he said, “It’s the astonishing speed at which decisions like this are considered de facto. Those who ask, ‘How is The Social Network the frontrunner?’ risk looking out of touch and out of the ‘cool’ crowd. Twitter has made living in an echo chamber a reality. You can chat (or watch) your 20 favorite Oscar bloggers call Social Network as a winner in October, putting you ahead of the curve for your water cooler wagers.” He continued, adding, “Then perception becomes reality because it is all the voters hear about.”

If we wanted to boil it down to a race between Social Network and The King’s Speech, looking at each on Metacritic and RottenTomatoes they both enjoy high scores. The Social Network has a 97% RottenTomatoes score and a 95 score on Metacritic. By comparison The King’s Speech has a 95% score on RottenTomatoes and an 88 on Metacritic. However, the user scores differ with The King’s Speech scoring higher ratings from users than The Social Network on both sites. Even on IMDb at this moment The King’s Speech has an 8.5 rating from readers while The Social Network has an 8.2.

Of course, looking at IMDb, Inception, Toy Story 3 and Black Swan all rank higher than both The Social Network and The King’s Speech with The Fighter, 127 Hours and True Grit throwing their hats into the ring.

My point here isn’t that The Social Network is a bad film (it’s quite good in fact), my point here is the awards race has come to a point where it appears to be more of a group think atmosphere rather than an open forum. With so many films out there I find it impossible for one film to be considered the very best of any given year by every single group out there.

Just look at the compilation of critical top tens put together over at Movie City News. On the first page there are three critics that didn’t even name The Social Network in their top ten and only three out of ten named it number one. The argument, obviously, is that it’s all about averages and The Social Network is simply named higher on more top ten lists, not necessarily number one on all of them. I understand this, and it is more than just a story of Social Network‘s dominance. It’s also a matter of asking why The King’s Speech has long been deemed the only runner-up aside from a few fleeting “what ifs”?

Looking at the scoreboard at Movie City News why isn’t anyone asking why we aren’t hearing more about Winter’s Bone, Inception, Black Swan and Toy Story 3 for Best Picture?

On September 6, The King’s Speech screened at the Telluride Film Festival and was instantly deemed an Oscar contender. The Social Network screened shortly thereafter, prior to its Sept. 24 debut at the New York Film Festival and received even louder acclaim. The race was sealed. Now, True Grit and Black Swan are enjoying gangbusters box-office and The Fighter is scooping up acting awards left and right with a likely Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble award on the horizon while Disney mounts an aggressive Best Picture campaign for Toy Story 3. But the talk remains on The Social Network and it’s runner-up The King’s Speech.

Is this what we have to look forward to in the future? If so, I hope Ricky Gervais hosts every awards show or perhaps bring on Patton Oswalt because we’re going to need something to entertain us. As Ricky says in the unaired Golden Globe promo below, “Because without that it would be f***ing insufferable.”

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