Is 'The King's Speech' a lock to win Best Picture?

After the calculatedly heartwarming biopic swept the top awards from Hollywood's three major guilds, some say the Oscar race is as good as over. Others beg to differ

"The King's Speech" is raking in the pre-Oscar awards, with honors including Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the SAG Awards on Saturday.
(Image credit: Getty)

On Sunday, The King's Speech took home the top honors at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards. The win followed recent "upset" victories over its main Oscar rival, The Social Network, at the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and Directors Guild of America (DGA) awards and further fueled its Oscar momentum — leading many to speculate that a King's Speech Best Picture victory is a (yawn) foregone conclusion. Fortunately for odds-makers, not everyone agrees:

It's a done deal: "The Oscar race is over," says Richard Corliss in Time. The weepy King's Speech meets nearly every Best Picture criterion: "It's a biopic of a real person; it is set on or near World War II, with Hitler's shadow looming; it dramatizes a man's heroic struggle over some physical or psychological infirmity; and it's got oodles of those classy British actors." The Social Network may be a better-crafted film with a "way higher IQ," but Oscar voters always go for the film that makes them feel over the film they respect.

"The SAG Signal: Why the Oscar race is already over"

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There's a pattern here: It's worth noting that "virtually" all of the big awards for The Social Network came from critics, while The King's Speech has received top accolades from those who actually make the movies (and vote on the Oscars), says Tom O'Neil in the Los Angeles Times. "Journalists tend to be more gritty, less sentimental," and so prone to favor a more modern, cynical film like The Social Network. This non-race offers the "most dramatic lesson ever in the sharp difference between the mind-sets of journalists and Hollywood industry insiders."

"What's behind the sudden Oscar ascendancy of The King's Speech?"

It's not over yet: While the Academy loves "life-affirming films" like The King's Speech — and Social Network director David Fincher hasn't done much Oscar campaigning, "what with shooting the near-guaranteed blockbuster The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Sweden" — an upset is still possible, says John Lopen in Vanity Fair. With its digital themes, The Social Network could get a wave of "tech support" from Academy members who specialize in technical effects. And the Academy's complicated "preferential voting system," which has voters numerically rank their votes, can favor the film that's the most popular second choice over a movie that gets the most "No. 1 votes." The Social Network may turn out to be that "compromise candidate."

"SAG and D.G.A. winners: Are the Oscars already over?"

It will be a battle to the end: "An Oscar race doesn’t end until the final ballot is submitted," says Dave Karger in Entertainment Weekly. That's worth noting in this race, as it's a war between "the two most savvy and larger-than-life Oscar campaigners": studio boss Harvey Weinstein (The King's Speech) and producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network). And while King's swept all the major guild awards (a reliable predictor of a Best Picture win), Apollo 13 did the same in 1996, and it lost to Braveheart at the Oscars.

The King's Speech vs. The Social Network: Is the Oscar race over?

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