It was a historic night for British film on Sunday. One of the biggest Bafta winners in history, The King’s Speech took home almost every major award it was eligible for, as well as some it wasn’t. And what a wonderful achievement, especially for such a quintessentially British film. A British writer, a British Director, a British (or at least colonial) cast with a British crew and about the most British subject one could imagine. And let’s not forget the protagonist; the former King is the great Grandfather of our future King, but who currently has to settle for the title of President of The British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Ah. Perhaps this flood of praise and applause is as genuine as the Gold the statuettes are made out of. There does seem to be this air of patriotism hanging around the film that seems to colour the plaudits. The flagwaving is clear for anyone to see: The monarch struggling against the tides of fascism and oppression to deliver a speech that will lead us into war against a terrible foe. It’s such a safe choice it seems as conservative as Bertie’s upbringing. After a while of watching the broadcast you start to think that the voters are voting for The King’s Speech just to vote for The King’s Speech. It’s almost as if it would be treasonous to suggest another film more worthy of the prize.
“What? You don’t like The King’s Speech? Are you German? My grandfather fought in a war you know! If it were up to you we would have pulled our trousers down, bent over the table and cried like a girl while the Gerry’s gave us a bloody hard spanking!”
If this is the case then it cheapens the whole ceremony and devalues what Bafta stands for. It’s sinks to the level of a peoples choice award show where the public vote for the nominees who they like the best, regardless of the quality of their work. I’m sure the connections the films crew have to the Academy wouldn’t have hurt it’s chances in some categories either. A film with royal approval is a very powerful marketing tool indeed.
And it isn’t just the sycophancy the film has for where it came from. It’s the sycophancy it has for where it is leading us: Oscar glory. After the two failed attempts with Atonement and The Queen, us Brits finally struck it lucky with Slumdog Millionaire. Such a surprise was the success of the low budget Brit/Bollywood hybrid that we didn’t even have a serious contender for next year, An Education only getting a token mention once the film count in Best picture rose from five to ten.
But this time British film bosses could smell blood. So they mustered up the biggest, juiciest bait they could imagine: A world war two era story that combines overcoming adversity with a Royalty level class struggle. How could they possibly resist that? Especially seeing as how their main contenders are a film about the creation of a website most Academy voters don’t understand, a film where the climax involves Saw style self mutilation, a film with lots of bangs and explosions where paris gets turned on it’s head, a CGI kids flick and not just a Ballet film, but a horror Ballet film. None of which ever win. Ever. In fact they should just be thankful they got nominated at all.
So, you see, to back another film is to sabotage our chances at an Oscar triumph. To be the treacherous Benedict Arnold in our own bid for independence against the gluttonous Hollywood Empire. We don’t even have to share it with India this time, because this one is properly British. Who cares if it’s formulaic and predictably conventional? Who cares if it’s got one eye on an Oscar like Andy Grey has one eye on the young female interns? It’s British, it has a chance and you can still be hung for treason.