The King’s Speech regained waning attention on Tuesday, January 25th when it was announced that the film was nominated for a staggering 12 Academy Awards, followed closely behind by True Grit, which received 10 nominations. The film has since picked up unprecedented momentum, looking to be the front-runner in a Best Picture race that many thought The Social Network had in the bag.

The King’s Speech is one of only a handful of films that have been nominated for over eleven Academy Awards, which include Gladiator (12), Fellowship of the Ring (13), Shakespeare in Love (13), Chicago (13), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (13). Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love, and Chicago won Best Picture. Fellowship of the Ring lost to A Beautiful Mind, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was swept away by Slumdog Millionaire. In what has been a confusing and a bit unpredictable of a race, it might be worth analyzing how The King’s Speech fits into the legacy of such heavily nominated films.

It is important to note that two of these double-digit nominees, Chicago and Shakespeare in Love, were fairly light-hearted movies in a competition that is so often ruled by epics and dramas. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was defeated by such an optimistic and romantic film, which, although could hardly be called a comedy, ended on a happy and joyful note. The Academy has shown in recent years a bit of a pattern. After a few years of favoring heavy movies, they tend to award something that has a bit more of a comedic tone, or at least isn’t so darn depressing. Shakespeare in Love won after two tear-jerkers, The English Patient and Titanic, and Chicago’s win followed the dark Russell Crowe films, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. Following such a dark and troubling film as The Hurt Locker, the Academy might feel ready to award a comedic, feel-good movie such as The King’s Speech.

The Academy might also be ready to award a period film after the onslaught of films dealing with “contemporary” issues that have gorged the market. As proven with the movies previously listed, the Academy has had a long love affair with period dramas, of which all the previously mentioned films are, with the exception of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was set in present-day during Hurricane Katrina. Although this trend has diminished significantly in the later-half of the 2000s (as seen in Slumdog, The Departed, Crash, as well as last year’s The Hurt Locker), the Academy, as well as the American public, may be tiring of the current trend of movies that remind viewers of the issues of their society. Of the ten films nominated, only The Social Network acts as a true mirror to contemporary American society. Both Shakespeare in Love and Chicago won their awards during times of social upheaval or paranoia (Shakespeare in Love won shortly after the Iraq disarmament crisis in 1999, Chicago won six months after the September 11 attacks). As seen in the complete sweep of the Guild awards (Producer, Director, and Screen Actor’s), it seems as if The King’s Speech is the sort of fun, escapist movie that the Academy, and the American public, has been waiting for after dark movies in the theater and dark times in the country.

By Anneta Konstantinides