Praising Gritty American Films Over 'King's Speech'

By Robert Marich
   Feb. 19, 2011-Media pundit Joe Queenan questions why The King’s Speech is such a darling in movie awards, and puts forward True Grit and The Fighter as more worthy, in a commentary published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m excerpting and posting a link to this commentary because I share his view.
   “The King's Speech is a heartwarming, Masterpiece Theatre-type affair,” the New York-area commentator writes. “This is a very nice story, and even though the film fudges the facts—Edward VIII and his Nazi-loving wife get off pretty easily—it definitely achieves what it sets out to accomplish.” But it's hard to get too emotionally involved with a pampered king.
   The period British royal drama appeals to Oscar voters and a growing moviegoer segment who have become increasingly “infatuated by those awfully-swell people up at Balmoral who wear kilts and shoot foxes. Americans used to turn up their noses at this sort of stuff.” 
   For Queenan, the movie about a privileged king’s struggles with stuttering does not measure up to life-and-death stories in True Grit and The Fighter that seem more real.
   In True Grit, he writes that the teenage heroine bent on justice has “guts. She’s got spunk. When she hires a coach, she doesn’t expect taxpayers to pick up the tab...She’s an American archetype. She’s the feisty girl who won't take no for an answer. We’d all like to have daughters like that. Some of us do.”
   When the Golden Globe Awards snubbed True Grit, some speculated because the non-American voters of the organization of foreign correspondents in Hollywood didn’t warm to the American values of self-reliance in the Western. The characters in the film were not the type to look to the United Nations to make things right in the world.
   The Fighter is also quintessentially American about “seemingly doomed white-trash half-brothers from a forlorn old mill town... They are prejudiced. They have bad teeth. They easily succumb to temptation. They built every road, bridge and train line you’ve ever been on,” writes Queenan.
   Oscar voters are usually pulled to gritty, very depressing stories, though True Grit and The Fighter are not—in the end—depressing. Voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also tend to get enamored with high-brow British imports, which is perhaps why King’s Speech is on a tear winning awards in the run-up to the Oscars in a week.
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