Is King's Speech Really Better Than Unforgiven, The Sting, and These Other Best Picture Oscar Winners?
The folks at Rotten Tomatoes have tabulated their annual Best of the Best list, inserting Tom Hooper's 2011 Best Picture winner The King's Speech into the annals of Oscar history. But comparing great films to other great films has always been something of an apples to oranges situation; how can you measure, say, The Godfather Part II against An American in Paris -- two very different films that occupy adjoining slots on the list and have the same Tomatometer ranking (98 percent)? With a carefully calculated algorithm, that's how! Still... why does The King's Speech not quite feel right sitting so high above other bona fide classics?
I'll leave the mystery of The King's Speech's exact ranking for you to click through and discover yourself, but suffice to say it's higher than it feels like it should be when you think of the films that fall below it. Among the classics that kneel before the King:
· The Deer Hunter
· The Last Emperor
· Midnight Cowboy
· My Fair Lady
· The Sound of Music
· The Sting
Chalk it up to two things: The subjectivity of personal taste (Is Rocky actually a better film than The King's Speech -- or The Sound of Music, or Ben-Hur?) and the particulars of the Rotten Tomatoes formula, which assigns each Best Picture winner a weighted ranking -- "Tomatometer science," as they call it. Essentially, it levels the playing field for older films with fewer available reviews (here's the formula laid out for the Mathletes out there who can decipher it). So in theory, the critical mass of past and present are weighing in on films spanning the entire history of the Academy Awards.
But a gut feeling tells those of us who were only mildly impressed by The King's Speech that something feels wrong. That's not to say the multiple Oscar-winning biopic of stuttering King George VI isn't good. It is. But would it feel any more right if it was The Social Network that had won Best Pic and wound up outranking some of the above titles? Maybe, if only because TSN felt more impactful in the overall scheme of things, culturally speaking; the same could be argued of Black Swan, with its stylish bravado and unforgettable central performance.
Then again, digging into the list we're reminded of Oscar's prior history of selecting dubious Best Picture winners; The King's Speech also outranks Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump, Dances with Wolves, and Crash. And that feels just right.
· Best of the Best Pictures [Rotten Tomatoes]