If The King's Speech Gets Re-Edited To A PG-13, It Doesn't Deserve The Oscar
The King's Speech is riding high on guild love after its surprise win for Best Picture at the PGA Awards and Best Director for Tom Hooper at the DGA Awards; it may yet complete the trifecta tonight at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. At this point, it has to be considered the new odds-on favorite for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. But if Harvey Weinstein follows through on his plan to re-cut the film for a more profitable rating, then, frankly, it doesn't deserve a damned thing.
As you might already know, Nanny to America, the MPAA slapped The King's Speech with an R rating for a single scene of blistering language -- to help Colin Firth's King George VI's stutter, Geoffrey Rush's speech therapist has him unleash a torrent of swears. Fuck, shit, balls, bollocks and all of their off-color friends come streaming out. One scene and it's got the same rating as Saw 3D.
In the United Kingdom, where more sensible people decide such things, it's been okayed for anyone 12 and over, and has made it to the top of the charts. Weinstein, realizing he's got a potential cross-over hit on his hands, now wants to "trim" the profanity so he can re-release it in a more family friendly PG-13 package, claiming he'll do it in such a matter so as to preserve Hooper's "vision of the movie."
Let me give you some kingly language, Harvey and Tom Hooper: horseshit. When the MPAA gave a similarly undeserved NC-17 to Blue Valentine, Weinstein rallied against any potential cuts to the film, intent on preserving the artistic vision of the writer, director and actors. But when there's slightly more money to be made, he's morphed into the politburo, heavy fingers ready on the scissors. And his justifications are laughably transparent, saying a lower rating " lets families see the movie together." Hey, Harv, you know when families can see it together? On DVD. In its entirety, as it was written, acted and shot. The ratings system here are screwed up beyond belief, but that doesn't justify Weinstein coming in and squeezing out a bastardized version of a film just to pocket some extra cash.
And if Tom Hooper goes along with this desecration, he's no longer a director, he's just an accomplice. The director is supposed to serve as the guardian of the film, protecting and maintaining its integrity from any outside interlopers. The cursing scene is an important and cathartic scene in Bertie's road to recovery as well as a necessary and funny tension breaker. To cut it out or to paste in funny noises to cover the swearing, like a cheap Austin Powers-level gag is unconscionable. Were he to do it, I can't imagine a single actor or writer would ever again feel safe with Hooper directing, knowing that he's shown his proclivity for tossing his movie to the lions at the behest of the moneymen.
A lot of jokes are made about the uselessness of awards, and how they are essentially just a group exercise in self congratulation. But I'd like to think, at their core, Academy voters would really do believe they are shining a light on some of the very best work produced in their field. There may be disagreements as to what is considered the best, but by and large, the Oscars really are meant to showcase excellence in filmmaking.
But what kind of excellence is exemplified by a producer and a director who so blithely cut away at their own film? And who do it so blatantly for higher box office? If the Academy wants to morph into a slightly grander Golden Globes by rewarding such mercenary behavior, so be it. But I'd like to think that Academy voters take their work seriously enough to recognize when a piece of filmmaking is sliced and diced not for any artistic purpose, but for sheer, piggy-eyed avarice.
Don't reward bad behavior, Academy voters. Don't laud films that are thrown in the wood chipper for an extra nickel or two. If Weinstein and Hooper re-cut their film for a "better" rating, they and it simply aren't worthy of an Academy Award.