The Best Picture montage that aired on Sunday night's Oscars show before the final award of the night was one of the most striking and dramatic montages on an Oscar show in years, cutting back and forth and drawing connections between striking moments in all 10 nominees.
But it did so against the backdrop of the speech delivered by Colin Firth's King George VI at the climax of "The King's Speech," which made the entire sequence play as an extended homage to the movie that a minute later was named the Best Picture of 2010.
(You can see the montage at Oscar.com.)
Was the Academy showing favoritism, tipping its hand, being unfair to the other nominees?
Not at all, said filmmaker Kyle Cooper, who is best known for creating title sequences for films. Cooper put together both the closing montage and a similar one that opened the show and was set to Trent Reznor's and Atticus Ross' arrangement of "The Hall of the Mountain King" from "The Social Network."
"I really thought that 'Social Network' was going to win, and I was rooting for David Fincher," Cooper told TheWrap on Monday afternoon. "But the idea wasn't to show favoritism for any one movie – I tried to present them all equally, within the framework of the ideas I came up with.
"And I take responsibility for those ideas."
Cooper says he was approached by Oscar show producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer to incorporate the 10 Best Picture nominees in a single montage. After looking at all the movies to find connections, he presented the producers with a variety of ideas.
One was based on the rowing scene in "The Social Network," and was set to Reznor's music. Another, set to the Aerosmith song "Back in the Saddle," used "The Fighter" as a jumping-off point. A third was based around the oration from "The King's Speech" – because, Cooper said, "He's calling on people to rally and rise up and meet the challenge, and the characters in all the films had their challenges that they were trying to overcome."
The producers opted to open the show with the "Social Network"-based montage, and to close it with the "King's Speech" one. The first, Cooper said, made visceral connections between the films; the second, emotional ones.
He and two editors at Prologue Pictures worked for two months on the sequences, beginning in the days when "The Social Network" was the presumed frontrunner because of all its critics awards.
The producers had notes on his work but did not quarrel with the concepts, said Cooper – who added that Steven Spielberg, who presented the Best Picture award, also said he liked the film.
"If you're trying to edit something together based on a concept, rather than something purely about form, invariably somebody is going to have trouble with your concept," Cooper said about the criticism that the final montage favored the Best Picture winner.
"I thought 'The Social Network' was going to win until they opened the envelope," he insisted. "And if 'The Social Network' had won, 'The King's Speech' would have gotten a nice consolation prize by being in the montage, and we wouldn't be having this conversation."