This week, the Academy unveiled the ten movies vying for the Best Picture award, leading to increased speculation that this is a two-film race between front runners The Social Network and The King's Speech. But those movies, the media has reported, are "dogged by questions of veracity." King's Speech in particular has been the subject of much debate over the truth of the story. Should filmmakers take some historic liberties in their narratives, and, if they do, should the Academy care when giving out its honors?
Keep it real: "The King's Speech is a fine film, a compelling human drama that is also historically important," says a Guardian editorial. The filmmakers decided the story "needed sexing up." While some of the changes make sense, others don't hold up. "Being light-fingered with the past is not always unforgivable, and sometimes it's necessary." This story could have stood for itself. "Film-makers owe it to their audience to be careful with the past."
We're inconsistent about it: "I haven't met anyone who didn't like The Social Network because it was untruthful. For whatever reason, it's just not a big deal to most viewers," says Matt Singer at IFC.com. With the controversy over the veracity of King's Speech, "you can't have it both ways. If Sorkin can shape the truth as he sees fit to tell a story, then so can Seidler. You can't pick and choose which one is an outrage based on whether or not you liked the movie." The reality is that we're not "naive as viewers as to believe that what we see in a docudrama is the entire truth. We expect some things to be "sacrificed for the broad needs of drama."
Complete stories work better: "The Social Network needs to be a 'true story' to have relevance, but the truth didn't always dovetail with the entertainment goals of the film," says Laremy Legel at Film.com. "The Academy loves true stories, but they lean toward long-settled history." Mark Zuckerberg's "path is still being written," and the movie "only encapsulates a few years in a young man's life." When dealing with real people, it's "better to reward long-dead icons or dabble in the less volatile 'drama' field."
This piece has been updated.
Follow Danny Groner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DannyGroner