Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe So: The King's Speech

I suppose I must pick up my Oscar-pundit speed now. Sorry for the delays...

Let's talk about The King's Speech

As you know this film came roaring out of Toronto as the audience award winner (see previous post) and The Film to Beat at the Oscars... unless you think that's The Social Network but it's since it's only late September fans of either (in reality or in theory) need to calm down. We were always confident that The King's Speech was an Oscar film even before they started filming which is why we've predicted it for several nominations since April. But now that the trailer is here allowing non-festival goers to have a looksee, what do we think?

On the bright side, it looks fun. Or at least it looks fun to anyone who loved watching Eliza Doolittle learn to properly e·nun·ci·ate. It also gives Colin Firth a meaty role that seems like a reward for elevating A Single Man (2009) (but for the fact that he probably signed for this before anyone saw how great he was in last year's nominated turn). I'm also THRILLED -- and yes it needed to be typed in all caps -- to see that Helena Bonham Carter has managed to escape Burton's gothic dungeon for some badly needed air. She's probably heading straight to her second Oscar nomination with relative ease; You know how they love those supportive wives. What's most surprising about the trailer is that the production values look superb and not in some vaguely rote prestige way but with a vividly handsome specificity. I didn't expect great visuals so maybe Tom Hooper's Best Director buzz isn't so far-fetched for a film that on paper seemed like one for the acting and production design branches mostly.

On the other hand, I am completely allergic to Geoffrey Rush in hambone mode. His win for Shine (1996) is one of my least favorite Best Actor prizes in the category's history and they nominated him for the entirely wrong film in 1998 as he was much more restrained and effective in Elizabeth than he was in Shakespeare in Love. He looks to be bringing the kook to scenes that already have inherent kookiness (speech therapy's comedy friendly exercizes) and I may just break out in hives watching him go for a second Oscar. I'm taking epipen into the theater with me... just in case.

Then we come to the Oscar Bait -- as if Royalty Porn weren't enough of it -- which is the World War II 'Nazi's are coming!' time frame. I hope it's less awkwardly handled here than it was in Mrs. Henderson Presents which this film vaguely reminds me of sight unseen. That's not a purposeful mental jump. It's worrisome rather but probably just based on account of early Oscar buzz, prestige actors, and the world war haunting the periphery of a "light" film.

Again, I might need the epipen but the festival buzz is certainly something to think about in an optimistic way. I'm a Yes leaning Maybe So because, again, Geoffrey Rush is a total No for me most of the time ...especially whilst clowning around. Look, we can't help what we're allergic to. Don't give me a hard time about it.

Are you a Yes, No or Maybe So? And do you buy the Oscar frontrunner (or thereabouts) hype?


Anonymous said...

This will be the second time Colin Firth will get nominated for having balls in the his mouth.

Alex said...

I actually really like Rush, and I think he looks better in this than Firth, which means that co-lead Supporting lock could become much more than simply a nomination.

Helena Bonham Carter makes me really happy. Anything she does, really. She needs another Marla Singer or Mrs. Lovett role where she really gets to do what she does best.

Robert said...

I was pretty apathetic towards Firth until last year. Now I'm eager to see anything he does. I very very much smell a make-up award for him this year.

Tom Hooper proved his worth as an actor's director with John Adams. But his directorial style in that film was distracting (more needless dutch angles than Doubt). Here he looks a little more purposeful and I recall hearing someone (either Anne Thompson or the IFC Podcasters, can't remember who) talk about how pleasantly surprised they were that he tore down their expectation of a generically directed period piece.

Anonymous said...

It looks fun. So yes.

cal roth said...

Do you all expect Colin Firth to win his Oscar for ...this? No way, no way, no way, now I am absolutely sure. I think it's easier to see an unexpected young curveball like Franco than this specific role giving an actor an a leading Oscar. (I still think Giamatti is gonna win)

I won't repeat the whole argument we've had last week, but I just can't picture it. Even if he impresses the whole audience with his final speech, he'll still look like the boring weak guy with no charisma for most of the movie.

No matter how good Firth is playing the king (he looks ok, a Darcy with seduction, way more pathetic), these roles never win Best Actor!

Now, in Best Supporting Actress, I think we'll have a Brit line-up, with HBC, Richardson, Scott Thomas and maybe Pike... Or even Manville, if she's placed in supporting. HBC looks very good in the trailer, but I don't see a win coming, do you?

Rush... I LOVE his performance in Quills (you have to be a fearless ham to nail Sade), but I don't get him at all, too.

Anyway, this trailers makes me feel one more time The Social Network is the movie to beat.

adri said...

YES! I was really impressed with "The Damned United" last year which Hooper directed (and I'm not much on sports movies). Both Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall were excellent in that, so another actor/actor duo movie is likely to be just as good.

And more attention might be focused on Helena Bonham Carter than one might think. The king died when Elizabeth II inherited in what, 1953? The speech therapist wasn't famous. But the Queen Mum lived to be 102 and just died several years ago, and was one of the country's most beloved figures. So people will be watching Bonham Carter and her interpretation very closely, comparing it to what they personally think and feel.

And yes, I love Geoffrey Rush. I find his flamboyant comedy screamingly funny, more than most actors who are called comedians. I love to see the whole broad range of actors skills used, like a painter with bright colors and a bold canvas and no fear. Personal taste. I respect yours.

Philip said...

I'm such a yessss.

MikeM said...

I'm an enthusiastic yes! Particularly excited for HBC to have a role worthy of her talents, and the possibility of a long overdue second nomination. I've been predicting Amy Adams to win for The Fighter for a while, but I'd love to be proven wrong.

Firth should have won last year, and he looks to be in sensational form again.

November 26th can't come fast enough.

Lux said...

Off Topic:

Someone I usually trust has seen Love & Other Drugs and here is what that person had to say about Anne being nominated.

"After seeing her [Anne] movie, I certainly hope not. She isn't bad, she's just nothing at all special and neither is the film. I can't say anything else because I did sign something but I am completely baffled by how this movie, or anything about it, has Oscar buzz."

He's just one person, but I am also baffled at how it got Oscar buzz. I guess I few random people ( who may be studio plants) at test screenings can insert an idea into people's heads. I'm not saying she will or won't, because I haven't seen it. But there are no legitimate reviews so where is this buzz coming from?

par3182 said...

"because i have a voice" completely killed my enthusiasm

adam k. said...

I don't buy "frontrunner" but I do easily buy "nominee". It does feel like the type of film that gets shut out of best director despite plentiful nominations, but who knows.

It seems to me that it's the type of fun, charming, prestigious, and generally likeable period piece that will generate "like" from all quarters but precious little palpable LOVE, and that's why I don't think it'll win. It'll just be "that film that everyone knew would get nominated". Then again, it could be another Shakespeare in Love if campaigned right.

HBC does indeed seem to have a nom in the bag. How often do supportive wife, famous real person, royalty, well-loved overdue Brit, and multi-nommed film overlap? Very rarely. Plus, she has momentum from a good performance in the wildly-popular-but-totally-forgettable Alice in Wonderland. I could even see her winning if the film goes over big and no one else gets around to dominating her category... she could ride Colin's coattails onto the podium.

I suppose if this gets wins for, say, costumes, art direction, Colin, and Helena, maybe best pic isn't far behind? Hmmm...

James T said...

Nathaniel? Is Rush really your only issue?? The fact that the trailer SCREAMS Oscar bait with no real depth doesn't annoy you?

For me, it didn't even seem like fun.

I hope the movie is far better but I'm only a "maybe so" to "no".

Troy said...

That was almost a parody of the type of movie a studio would dream up in a desperate attempt to get some oscar buzz-- "heart warming" in the most horridly forced way possible. Are you sure this wasn't on The Simpsons?

gag. it looks truly excremental.

Ryan T. said...

It seems to me that it's the type of fun, charming, prestigious, and generally likeable period piece that will generate "like" from all quarters but precious little palpable LOVE, and that's why I don't think it'll win.

I would've said the same thing before it won the audience award at Toronto, so clearly there's some "palpable love" for the movie. How it'll fare against The Social Network is a whole other question, though.

But for this film, and as someone who has struggled with life-long stuttering, I'm a HUGE YES.

MRRIPLEY said...

it's old skool vs old skool for the oscar i think.

amy adams is winning supp actress,bonham carter has no buzz or wall to wall praise like firth n rush & no momentum.

Alex Constantin said...

His win for Shine (1996) is one of my least favorite Best Actor prizes in the category's history

That is such an overcooked uncomfortable supporting performance. The nomination itself was ridiculous, moreso the win. I know many enjoyed Billy Bob's mentally challenged character, but I would've easily went for Tom Cruise, who probably delivered an all-time best in Jerry Maguire.

what I would say about Rush is that he was perfect, witty and heartbreaking in Quills, delivering one of my all-time favorite performances.

Glenn said...

But James, you need to consider who this movie is being marketed towards. The adults who like to see the Oscar movies will see it because it'll be winning awards and being nominated left, right and centre. A movie like this never needs to be aimed at teenagers, young men, romcom obsessed women and so forth. So who is it marketed towards? The blue rinse set. That market can turn a mild movie into one that runs for months on end.

In that way the trailer works. Something hip and edgy is useless for a film such as this.

Moving on.

I adore Geoffrey Rush. I think there's something so ruthlessly oldschool about his hamminess that I love. Reminds me of old English tv shows and such like that.

pomme said...

YES i saw the lastest movies by Hooper,i like the casting and it looks fun

Dimitra said...

Yes for me. I really liked the trailer, and it's getting all this praise too.

Jack said...

I seem to remember that some point last year certain people were calling "An Education" and Carey Mulligan the ones to beat. That is what "The King's Speech" situation reminds me of, especially now after seeing the trailer.

I just think that once it gets released, the critics are going to give it a bit of a hard time for it being too light and without enough depth. And no matter what people say, the critics still count with Oscar.

IslandLiberal said...

I just think that once it gets released, the critics are going to give it a bit of a hard time for it being too light and without enough depth.

The critics who've seen it at Telluride and Toronto adored it, though.

It's a weak trailer, but the individual scenes look good, and the buzz suggests it's a lot better than the trailer (which does't really have much flow to it). But then, this sort of subject-matter is probably difficult to make a really good trailer about.

Andrew R. said...

I'm a yay. I predict nominations for Picture, Director, Actor, S. Actor (Rush is supposed to be good), and S. Actress.

Oh, and Cinematography.

Tahj said...

I don't know the premise and trailer for this film don't seem very interesting to me. But it could be one of those films that impresses only when you see it altogether. I love Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Could easily see them land nominations. I don't know about the film winning best picture though. Still too soon. Nomination yes though. I'm really curious about the new Mike Leigh film, Another Year. That looks quite good.

Deborah said...

The 'heartwarming true story' trope is where my hives set in, but I'm totally a sucker for the porn they're selling; the prestige actors, the WWII setting, the costumed royalty, the British accents. So I'm a weak yes.

James T said...

Glenn - I hear you. It's just that I only have the trailer to draw any conclusions from. But I still know that the movie has many fans so I haven't given up all hope.

Anonymous said...

I'm a yes because of Tom Hooper. I loved The Damned United, Michael Sheen deserved a nomination from somewhere, the cinematography made the crumbling English infrastructure look like the most colourful place on earth.

I only worry about how the palaces kinda look like dungeons instead of palaces, but then again it's wartime, and Geoffrey Rush does make it...look like the most colourful place on earth.

Also, the critics were behind it but the TIFF People's Choice is a 50/50 thing. Last year's People's Choice was Precious.

I also love how Geoffrey Rush and Justin Timberlake are gonna be nominated for the same thing, and someone will be pissed off of one or the other.

Jack said...

The critics who saw "An Education" at Sundance loved that too, enough to keep it in the race until the very last minute - and enough to make it the front-runner for a brief period at least.

I don't think any critics are going to be fully behind "The King's Speech", it's just not critic material.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Hmm I was a "Maybe So" since the project was announced and I still am, despite some very encouraging reviews (such as Kris Tapley's and Anne Thompson's). Tom Hooper was a very good choice to direct this. "The Damned United" was indeed interesting and appealing to people who don't give a damn about soccer. "John Adams" was successful as well.

Now, like Nathaniel has said, I'm still not sold on the whole "FRONTRUNNER!" status people are eager to label "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" with.

Right now, it seems, we have two very probable nominees...

- The King's Speech
- The Social Network

... two films which may have a good shot at a nomination but it's early to guess the Academy response to them...

- Toy Story 3
- 127 Hours

... five very doubtful choices (be it because of the movie theme, the box office problem, the hard sell...) ...

- Another Year
- Inception
- The Kids Are All Right
- Black Swan
- Somewhere

... and two big question-marks:

- The Fighter
- True Grit

I don't know but I feel we are still in September and a left-field choice can crawl into the race and build momentum (à la Million Dollar Baby). Nevertheless, I don't think "Hereafter", "Secretariat" and "Conviction" will be posing that threat. Or "Made in Dagenham" which seems to be gathering lots of praise. Or "Rabbit Hole" which doesn't look like a serious contender except for Kidman.

Could it be (gasp) "THE TOWN"? Hope not.

cal roth said...

Made in Dagenham looks much more like the Brit inspiring true story y'all see in The King's Speech. Harder the fight, more inspiring is the movie, and gender equality >>>>>>>>>> oratory in terms of hard fight, at least narratively.

Alex said...

Wow, the "Inception vs. The Kids Are All Right" battle for Best Picture really evaporated fast, didn't it?

Jorge Rodrigues said...

"Made in Dagenham" looks interesting but I fear it'll only campaign for a nomination for its two stars, Sally Hawkins and Miranda Richardson.

It looks a bit like "Norma Rae", except that the Academy members "(don't) like, they really (don't) like" this other Sally. That "Happy-Go-Lucky" snub still stings.

Mish714 said...

I saw the film in Toronto, twice, and I can say unequivocally that the trailer does not begin to do it justice. It seems to me the trailer was designed to synopsize the historical story for moviegoers (read: Americans under a certain age) who would have had NO IDEA of the background: the abdication of Edward VIII for "the woman he loved" and the subsequent ascendance to the throne of his unprepared, stuttering brother Bertie (later George VI). With war looming, he had to become prepared (in this case, prepared to speak live on radio) in short order.

But that's not the entire story being told here. It's, to use a ridiculous newly coined word, a "bromance," the friendship/love that springs up between two men whose worlds couldn't be more different. You don't really get that from the trailer - but it's the real theme of the film, fantastically packaged and shot, and it's what the critics and audiences responded to in
Toronto and Telluride.

The film is marvelous. Firth and Rush give bravura performances. But don't take my word for it - go see it, you won't be disappointed.

Caroline said...

Oh...that hurts, Nathaniel. I absolutely loved Rush in everything from Quills to Shakespeare in Love to his totally side-shunted Barbossa (was totally on par with Depp in that one as the central villain) in Pirates. And he's sure to be the perfect foil to Firth in The King's Speech.

On the other hand, I 150% agree about what you think about Helena Bonham-Carter and cannot be less delighted than you. It's nice that Tim Burton inspires such unwavering loyalty from his wife and Depp, but boy is he punishable by offense for what he's forced them to do lately. She's so FREAKING GOOD!

James T said...

@Mish714, your comment was very useful and it raised my hopes.

Mish714 said...

Forgot to mention - the clip of Rush leering through the door was not followed by the response we hear from Firth in the trailer - that was from a totally different scene. Rush was actually doing a bit of Shakespearean clowning around with his sons in that clip (his character, Lionel Logue, was a frustrated actor turned speech therapist). Not uncommonly, the trailer chops up bits and pieces of scenes to give a 2-minute version of the story - hopefully longer trailers are yet to come.

I wrote a long, spoiler-filled review here, if you're interested:


Alex -- well that's why it's silly that people always want to say "lock!" the second anything ever happens. things change and we're still pretty early into the race. I think INCEPTION's big obstacle right now to any wins is THE SOCIAL NETWORK which is going to steal all its "cool movie" points plus the attention of the voters who prefer man's man movies since both are hip testosterone fests.

I feel like The Kids Are All Right is still totally in its own playing field. I never thought it was going to win Best Picture but I still don't think its fans are going to desert it for something else.


Mish -- all of this reminds me that i'm going to hate Rush even more when all this is over because it seems exactly like a two-lead actor/actor film and they'll pretend he's supporting and he's the type of actor that they wouldn't mind giving a second trophy to and he will end up winning over someone more deserving that's acutally a supporting player and i will go ca-ra-zy as I am prone to do.

Mish714 said...

Re Rush being supporting vs. lead - if I had to quantify by percentage of time on screen vs. the lead (Firth), then I'd call it a supporting role. Firth is in just about every scene of the film,while Rush, I would approximate, is in 2/3of the scenes. His role is "supporting" Firth's larger one, but I've no doubt there have been best actor nominations given to actors who spent less time on screen than Rush does.

It's all very subjective, isn't it?

As for The Social Network, which I am greatly anticipating, all this enthusiasm is no doubt coming from a generation (trust me, I have kids in their 20's) that lives a good portion of their lives on/through Facebook. Doesn't mean it's going to be a cinematic master work - but it should definitely be interesting.

This same age group buys a lot of movie tickets, though, and I've no doubt the box office will be impressive. Box office, however, does not always win Oscars.

cal roth said...

One more thing: where does this notion of royalty porn come from?

From 1970, we have only one movie about a royal family nominated for Best Picture per decade: Nicholas and Alexandra, The Last Emperor, Elizabeth and The Queen (maybe Braveheart, but it's about Wallace, as a matter of fact).

If you research, you find a certain enthusiasm in the 60's, with 5 nominees of 50 (Becket, The Lion in the Winter, Anne of a Thousand Days, Cleopatra, A Man For All Seasons), but this is clearly not a genre appreciated by AMPAS since the 70's when it comes to Best Picture. Only three of royal family dramas have ever won Best Picture, actually.

In Best Actor, they like to nominate kings, but only Laughton and Brynner won Oscar for playing them. Count them three if you add prince Hamlet for Olivier. Still, the last king won in 1956!

Gustavo said...

A total Yes.

To each his own, but to me Rush's screen persona is really captivating. And when well-made and well-acted, those "inspirational" sort of films can be moving.


Mish-- except that it's not subjective ...or at least it wasnt' until the era of modern Oscar campaigning distorted everyone's notions of what "support" meant. Oscar campaigns have totally perverted understanding of story structure. There is some times more than one main character in a story :)

Cal -- you left out actress categories where they love royalty. it's not so much that royalty porn automatically wins Osacars as that it's a "prestige genre" and thus is instantly in the race in some way even if its hopelessly mediocre. Trust me NO ONE will remember The Young Victoria in a year or two and yet it kept being there during awards season.

aclp said...


I will remeber the Young Victoria because I fell in love with Rupert Friend in it!!!! ;-)

aclp said...

Nathaniel, the supporting/co-lead fraud happens the other way around as well.

Technically, Reese would be supporting more than lead actress, but not only was she nominated as a lead but she won.

Her role isn't that diferent (in terms of screen time and importance for the main character's plot) than Rachel Weizs' role in The Constant Gardener and she won for supporting in the same year. Go figure...

Dorian said...

Loved the trailer. Big YES from me. Colin Firth looks sensational (get yo' Oscar, Mr. Darcy!), Geoffrey Rush will probably match him toe-for-toe here and look good for a second Oscar win, and Helena Bonham Carter will finally nab her second nod for playing another Elizabeth royal (but I wish her all the best in general, whether she's in Brit high class mode or Tim Burton freakshow mode). Can't wait to see this film!


amanda -- except if you ask me they were both leads. since romantic relationship dramas generally require both parties to be main characters.

Paul Outlaw said...

Easy YES.

And definite Oscar heavyweight in at least six categories (Pic, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design).

Evan said...

Nate, I completely agree with your analysis of Helena Bonham-Carter. It is SO nice to see her in a movie other than those made by Tim Burton (or the Harry Potter films). The woman seriously needs a dramatic role.

Brian said...

The Kings Speech. I just don't get it. I think I'd rather count sand than go see this film. This is pure pretentious BS made specifically to appeal to the old bastard Academy members. The last two years have been brutal. Slumdog Millionaire, then The Hurt Locker, and now this crap.

Slumdog Millionaire, Hurt Locker, The Kings Speech
The Dark Knight, Avatar, True Grit??

Hmmm....I wonder which movies will be watched over and over as time goes by....