I saw “The Social Network” under the most modern of circumstances: quite literally under threat of Oscar’s legal wrath should the Motion Picture Academy DVD I was loaned fall into the wrong hands. Several run-throughs assured me that the film was as good as I thought it was on first viewing. So very “now”! Such a testament to these early 21st Century times, and on so many levels. I loved it.
Then last night, I saw “The King’s Speech” in equally special circumstances: as the guest of my friend Ed Voralik who works at the theater where we watched the movie together. Another excellent film. In every way as representative of its time as “Social Network” is about the here and now. Both address the challenges of a new technology: radio in the 1920s, and the Internet today.
More broadly, these films also deal with social mores; and most interesting to me, the language of very different times. In “Social Network”, it was the style of language that so nailed its present-day timeliness; no less so than the “king’s English” grounded “The King’s Speech” in its era. From the value placed—-the savoring!-—of elegant phrasing, to the colorless mumbles and tweets of today....what opposing bookends to illuminate the arc of social style spanning our parent’s generation to the present one.
It wasn’t until I lived in London in the mid-1970s—and especially working at that most British of institutions, Harrods (said with rolled Rs!) for over two years—that I began to value the English language as a means of beautiful expression, more than the very American functionality of simply getting from A to B. I discovered that language could be about the journey, not just the destination.
If movies are meant to be entertainment, allow me the analogy of snack food. “The Social Network” is pizza & beer---delivered. “The King’s Speech” is rich chocolate purchased at a century-old English sweet shop. Both can save the day, for sure; but they reference more than just taste. The difference also highlights a fast-disappearing grace and style, which I vote to remember by honoring “The King’s Speech” with the Oscar…..I’m just saying.