I can’t help it. I’m a shameless fan of the Oscars. I loook forward to it every year and have no problem sitting on the couch for the entire show – from red carpet to the final award for Best Picture. I love seeing the outfits, listening to the inside jokes, soaking up the star power, and reliving the pleasure I had from all the nominated movies. My family and I place small wagers on the outcome, jeer the hosts, laugh at the outrageous behavior, pick our favorite dresses, and provide running commentary on the winners’ speeches.
And this year, there are some interesting links between the 83rd annual event and technology. No, really. Let me explain. First, and most obviously, there’s the best-picture nominated film, The Social Network. Great story, well told, and some definite lessons to be learned from Mark Zuckerberg’s tale. Just came across this blog post from Jay Bakshi on his technology lessons learned from the movie. Some good stuff there.
But the one I keep thinking about is the King’s Speech. That best-picture nominee has haunted me since I saw it over a month ago. You all know the plot – based on the true story of King George VI who inherited the crown from his brother, Edward VIII, who abdicated in order to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson. King George, played by the amazing Colin Firth, suffers from a debilitating stammer. The movie tells a fictionalized version of the story, how he rose to power and was helped by a speech therapist, Lionael Logue. And here’s the technology connection for me: this poor man was caught in an inescapable technology window. Prior to his reign, Kings and Queens only had to look regal. They made the occassional public appearance, rarely spoke, and were never recorded. King George VI rose to the royal postion in the early days of radio, at the beginning of WWII. He was expected to speak to his people over the radio, to calm and reassure them in this difficult time. After his reign, there would be all sorts of technological options to skirt this unfortunate impediment – pre-recordings, editing, dubbing. His misfortune was to be King during an indelible time where the technological breakthroughs and limitations lined up in just the right way to render his handicap not only evident, but devastating. We tend to think in terms of new technologies carrying us forward – but it’s important to remember that there are moments in history when the technology isn’t quite fully birthed, and it might hamper us more than help us.
There’s also some really rich Oscar material on the web this year – backstage access (with 360 degree cameras that you control), videos of the dress designers’ who will be “worn” tomorrow night, an inside look on the preparations, a good list of the nominees, and some great background on the show’s co-hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Start your research with the main Oscar site. You can register your Oscar votes here or with the NYTimes poll here. Find out who the members of the Academy are here. Get the inside story on the voting and balloting process here. You can listen to Oscar-nominated musical scores of the past, courtesy of NPR. Print out your own ballot for use at home, during the action. If you’re lucky enough to own an iPad, you can go backstage with the new Oscar App. You can follow Oscar on Twitter, with the Twitter ID @TheAcademy. And something that always comes up with my family – Oscar history. Who won what when.
Hope you’ll be watching!