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The Oscars: In 'King's Speech' and 'Social Network,' media are the message

Two Best Picture contenders at the Oscars, 'King's Speech' and 'The Social Network,' revolve around the advent of new forms of communication. Why that theme resounds with audiences.

A general view of an Oscar statuette at the ribbon cutting of the 'Meet The Oscars' event at Grand Central Station in New York on Feb. 23. What do the two Best Picture contenders at the Oscars, 'The King's Speech' and 'The Social Network,' have in common?

Peter Kramer/AP

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What do "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network" – two frontrunners for Best Picture in Sunday's Academy Awards presentation – have in common? Hint: Think communication.

That's right: They are both about the advent of new modes of communication and how that affects individuals and society. “The King’s Speech” paints the portrait of a pre-World War I monarch-to-be confronting the need to address his people via the new medium of radio. “The Social Network” tackles the birth of Facebook – now the most widely used social media tool on the planet, embraced by more than half a billion people.

Together, these movies bracket the mass media era as it arrived and developed over nearly 80 years. Each tells a story about the dreams we invest in these tools, as well as the nightmares they sometimes can be to their users. Much as good science fiction examines the undercurrents of humanity's hopes and fears about rockets and radioisotopes, these two films probe our expectations and anxieties about the delicate art of communication between one human being and another.

IN PICTURES: Oscar nominees 2011


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