How could a remark made in the early 1980’s still be coming back to haunt the British film industry whenever Oscar comes calling?
In 1982, the British actor and screenwriter, Colin Welland, upon accepting the little gold man for Best Original Screenplay for Chariots of Fire (it also won Best Picture), famously yelled the phrase, “The British Are Coming,” which, of course, was originally coined by Paul Revere. And while so many British films have promised to make good on Welland’s promise (A Room With a View, The Crying Game, Howard’s End, The Remains Of The Day, Secrets & Lies, The Full Monty, Trainspotting, Atonement and, just last year, An Education) will The King’s Speech, among other nominees from the class of 2010, finally seal the deal?
Colin Firth looks a lock to take Best Actor for his portrayal of King George VI, the monarch who overcomes his stammer (and how Oscar loves a real-life heroic battle against the odds). What’s more, Firth is up against a beatable field (which doesn’t even have the nostalgia factor of Robert Duvall from Get Low to worry about) and should edge out last year’s winner, Jeff Bridges, who many feel wasn’t as deserving in Crazy Heart as Firth’s turn was in Tom Ford’s A Single Man.
And The King’s Speech could conceivably nab a considerable amount of its 12 nominations (the most by any movie from this year’s batch), including the prestigious categories of Best Picture, Director (Tom Hooper), Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush) and Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter).
But it will require the other British-related movies (and even by writing British-related, we get into that awkward area of what exactly constitutes a British production if the studio and money behind a film is American) to come to the party on February 27 to witness a true shift in power.
And that will mean some notable victories for the likes of Christian Bale as Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter (Bale is likely to win but nobody will claim it’s a victory for the British film industry), Danny Boyle (127 Hours got three nominations, including director and film), Mike Leigh (Best Original Screenplay for Another Year) and London-born director Christopher Nolan, whose Inception was nominated for Best Film and Original Screenplay (among others) but Nolan, who holds dual British-American citizenship, was surprisingly snubbed for Best Director.
One final wildcard: Controversial British artist Banky’s film, Exit Through The Gift Shop, is up for Best Documentary. And while a victory won’t necessarily prove that the British are coming, it will be fascinating to witness whether the notoriously reclusive Banksy (his instant reaction was, “The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house, it was me”) will at least show up to collect his Oscar and carve himself into Academy history just as Welland did nearly 30 years ago.