Let another Best Picture reign, please ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Let another Best Picture reign, please

The King's Speech
My rating:

So it's Academy Awards season again, and I am no more interested in them than I was last year. But apparently this is also the time of the year when our cinema distributors bring in the major Oscar-nominated movies, which they also did last year. So kudos to them; lord knows I've been hard enough on them before. Anyway, The King's Speech is being touted as the front-runner to win Best Picture, ahead of other nominees such as Inception, The Social Network and True Grit.

It is undoubtedly a very good movie. But if it wins, it'll prove for the umpteenth time that the Oscars are just bloody irrelevant.

It is the 1930s, and Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is the Duke of York, second in line to the throne of England after his brother Edward (Guy Pearce). He also has a terrible, debilitating stammer. After many unsuccessful attempts at treatment, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) arranges for him to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist and some-time (and not very successful) actor. Logue's unconventional methods and insistence on calling him "Bertie" rubs Albert the wrong way, but in time they become friends and Albert's speech improves. However, circumstances conspire to throw Albert into the limelight he fears: his father George V (Michael Gambon) dies and Edward becomes king, but the scandal regarding his mistress Wallis Simpson (Eve Best) leads to his abdication. Albert ascends to the throne as King George VI, and must immediately unite his people against the specter of oncoming war with Nazi Germany.

Ah, the British. There's a certain type of film they make extremely well, and this is exactly one of them. The recreation of the period is impeccable. The acting is flawless. David Seidler's screenplay - inspired by his own experiences in overcoming his stammering - is loads of fun, full of terrifically witty dialogue. It takes a formulaic inspiring story and makes it seem fresh by investing it with a wealth of detail unique to its period and its milieu. It is quality cinema all the way, and never less than utterly compelling.

But it is still a formulaic story. You got your sympathetic protagonist overcoming adversity, you got your eccentric mentor with whom initial dislike turns into friendship. There's a scene in which the tables between the two are momentarily turned, in which Albert helps Logue overcome a debilitating fear of his own. And there's a somewhat facile bit in which shouting four simple words represents a major breakthrough for Albert. None of this is necessarily bad, y'see - it's just expected. Even if this is the first time a movie's been made about King George VI's stammer before, this is a story that has been told many, many times before.

If there's any Oscar it deserves to win, it should be in the acting categories. Colin Firth is as good as you've heard; there's a world of pain and wounded pride in every tortured expression. Firth's performance is yet another example of how to freshen a seen-it-all-before story with sheer skill and craft. Geoffrey Rush is good, though I don't know why everyone's throwing awards at him; I thought Helena Bonham Carter gave the much better supporting performance, playing a whip-smart yet immensely warm and loving woman that Albert was incredibly lucky to have married. Guy Pearce was also great; Edward VIII's abdication was once seen as a grand love story, but this movie - perhaps rightly - portrays him as a foolish and selfish asshole. Oh, and I feel guilty about the fact that every time I saw Timothy Spall playing Winston Churchill, all I could see was Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew.

Those Oscars, man. I'm gonna digress a bit from the movie and repeat what I said before, which is that the Academy Awards have lost all credibility. Any awards show is only worth the quality of its judging, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has proven time and again that it has certain irrevocable biases that it can never get past. The King's Speech is a period drama, it's about a man overcoming his physical disability, and it's oh so veddy British; it's exactly the kind of movie they cream themselves over, never mind that there were smarter, more innovative, and more staggeringly ambitious films released this year.

Now, they haven't given 'em out yet, so maybe they'll end up giving Best Picture to something more worthy. And really, none of this should take away from the merits of the film itself. It's still very good; go watch it, if only to cleanse your palate of the usual dumb action-movie blockbuster-wannabees that usually fill up our cineplex screens. (Oh, in case you were wondering, it is completely uncensored, including the scene that earned it an R-rating in the States.) And by all means, watch it to let our cinema distributors know there's actually a market for quality films here in Malaysia. But come on - best movie of the year? Nuh-uh.

Expectations: it was either this, The Mechanic or Sanctum


ManVSMovie said...

This movie is getting a lot of attention, I am definitely going to have to check it out.


Amr masoud said...

oh.. what a good movie ... i wish that movie to get Oscar .. but agreeing with your opinion
the oscars seems to be bloody... so we or the experts in oscar awards confess bloody movies are the best of the best .. don`t you think so ?


McGarmott said...

Wait wait wait ... why don't you go catch Black Swan? I'm looking to send a mindfuck victim there, if only to find out whether the film was censored or not.

TMBF said...

@McGarmott: Oh, I'm definitely catching it, although I might go for True Grit first (both are opening this Thursday). I'm also waiting to hear if it's censored, and if it is I might forego it and just watch it on DVD.

k0k s3n w4i said...


Yes, I saw Black Swan illegally - but I'm planning to see it in the cinema too. It's just isn't the same seeing it on a rinky-dinky computer screen. And I certainly don't think Toy Story 3 deserve to win over Black Swan.

I'm really going be pissed if The King's Speech bag Best Pic, but all things considered, it's probably going to.

True Grit isn't opening in Melaka :(

k0k s3n w4i said...

i take that you have not seen black swan yet - legit or pirated - so i'll be careful with spoilers.

it IS censored, but the censorship decisions were bizarre. expletives were all kept. what i consider to be the most sexual scene was kept intact. two other rather innocuous sexual scenes were worked on with a pair of scissors - spoiling the pacing of those scenes (which were quite important in context). and a jump scare was cut outright, one which i thought was one of the most uncomfortable and unsettling scenes in the whole film. i suggest that you see it on a pirated copy before rewatching it in the cinema, so as to preserve those scenes in your head.