It was 2010, a year before The Artist would wordlessly take the top honors, that the Academy went with a far less baffling choice, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, which both seemed like the likely stereotypical voter choice, and which was doubtlessly deserving of the nomination. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are sights for intrigued eyes, and Hooper’s energetic direction effortlessly frees up the weight behind what is essentially a prince learning how to get over a speech impediment, and so much more. I argued on our sister site Cinema Blend that The Social Network should have taken the Oscar, but both of those films get picked when you think along the lines of: Well, of course they would pick the — film. And in both of those cases, the “Give it to the biopic” methodology works.
But what about the “Give it to the movie that never stopped doing awesome things” argument? I don’t know that I could seriously try and convince anyone that the story behind Christopher Nolan’s Inception is more important than those that inspired the previously mentioned films, but I know that I would much rather have a conversation about Inception. And not only about the staple conversation topics – the fight scene in a floating building, the unresolved ending, the depression of Ken Watanabe’s eternity — but also on how well-constructed the story was, how troublesome the central drama was, and how excellent Nolan’s direction is when it comes to smart spectacles. Prestige has always had its place, but modern tentpoles are smarter than their predecessors and shouldn’t constantly be felled by films that don’t go beyond stories that history has already given to us, without the subjective fog of adaptation. – Nick