The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

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James Mills
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The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#1 Post by James Mills » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:45 pm

It's hard to decipher whether The King's Speech identifies itself as a Classical Hollywood Realist biopic or as an Art Cinema film, for it exemplifies some of the best and worst traits of both. It has the moralistic resonance and tearjearking causalities of Hollywood while using creative subjectifications and subtle performance direction that I more regularly associate with Art Cinema. The Hollywood style results in endearing character development from the lead at the sacrifice of his one dimensional secondary counterparts, as well as tremendous production and sound design. The Art Cinema qualities present a more dynamically engaging experience that may compromise its transparency, but also the insipidity of the Hollywood formula.

Beyond the dreaded expositional quips and forced humor that hide amidst most of The King's Speech's interactions, the script's pacing also sees some lackluster dialogue throughout the early stages of the second act. Luckily, Hooper's creative direction finds ways to keep the film interesting, most especially when Bertie uncomfortably performs his "roles" of royalty. Firth's consistency as Bertie marks a memorable journey of courage, and while such a theme is common in Hollywood cinema, being able to modestly humanize this growth is not. I'm not sure how or why this film is getting the kind of praise it has thus far (an aggregate critic rating of 8.7 on Rotten Tomatoes is incredibly high), but I do think that The King's Speech is mostly an enjoyable (albeit predictable) contribution to the closing barrage of Oscar aimed movies.

I'm interested in hearing some of your takes on it...

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mfunk9786
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:50 pm

I'm looking forward to seeing this one, I'm a sucker for something a little stuffy and regal. And knowing that James Mills disliked it makes me confident that it'll be very good, at the least.

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swo17
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#3 Post by swo17 » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:59 pm

mfunk, allow me to introduce you to the Foes feature.

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HistoryProf
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#4 Post by HistoryProf » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:03 am

Calling a picture like this "predictable" is ridiculous. of course it's predictable. we know exactly what happens. The key is whether or not it's made, written, and acted well so we enjoy watching it play out, and the King's Speech succeeds at every level. It's a wonderful film - truly old hollywood in feel - and Firth is phenomenally vulnerable without going overboard with the stammering. Rather, you can feel how it is a result of childhood trauma and psychological wounds with every guttural pause. The supporting cast is resoundingly splendid - especially Guy Pearce as King Edward, who was so perfectly royal I had a hard time placing him.

In short, there's not too much to analyze here...it's simply a very good period piece that tells a good story w/ the heavy weight of history hanging over it all. The small moments where Hitler is discussed are not overdone, but perfectly appropriate. I thought the moment seen in the trailer where one of the daughters asks "what's he saying papa" as they watch newsreel footage of Hitler and Firth responds "I don't know, but he says it quite well" was quite powerful - a sobering reminder that Hitler was nothing if not charismatic, something Bertie aspired to.

If you like well-made films w/ a good story, acting, and period details, then go see King's Speech.

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mfunk9786
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#5 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:12 am

A Night To Remember was totes predictable too

Nothing
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#6 Post by Nothing » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:30 am

Was unimpressed by Hooper's rote direction of John Adams, seems like just another journeyman to me, so have no expectation for this. + it's yet another Hollywood film that glorifies British royalty, yes?

edit

As I understand it then, this is in fact a British film that glorifies British royalty? That's perhaps even worse... Although I see that the Weinsteins put some money into it, so there's some Hollywood influence at least.
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HistoryProf
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#7 Post by HistoryProf » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:34 am

Nothing wrote:Was unimpressed by Hooper's rote direction of John Adams, seems like just another journeyman to me, so have no expectation for this. + it's yet another Hollywood film that glorifies British royalty, yes?
no.

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Brian C
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#8 Post by Brian C » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:35 am

I hate being the one to defend James, but a movie can also be "predictable" in the way they approach historical subject matter. I knew that Secretariat would win but I still think Secretariat can fairly be described as "predictable" because they way the filmmakers go about telling the story is so completely routine.

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James Mills
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#9 Post by James Mills » Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:47 am

mfunk9786 wrote: And knowing that James Mills disliked it makes me confident that it'll be very good, at the least.
I didn't dislike it at all.

And when I say that it was predictable, I mean in its plot devices and dialogue, obviously not in its story.

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Jeff
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#10 Post by Jeff » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:02 am

Nothing wrote:it's yet another Hollywood film that glorifies British royalty, yes?
Wrong. It's a British film that glorifies Australian speech pathology.

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knives
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#11 Post by knives » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:12 am

HistoryProf wrote:I thought the moment seen in the trailer where one of the daughters asks "what's he saying papa" as they watch newsreel footage of Hitler and Firth responds "I don't know, but he says it quite well" was quite powerful - a sobering reminder that Hitler was nothing if not charismatic, something Bertie aspired to.
That line makes me laugh a bit since while he was saying those things better than King George could have at the time he still wasn't saying them quite well as Hitler had a slight lisp and noticeable accent.

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#12 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:16 am

Does anyone else have issues with the way that Hooper uses strong close-ups in his films? For me the camera lingers too tightly to the action (and especially actors' faces) that I feel that the movie is being imposed upon me. I only watched the first two episodes of John Adams because of this similar feeling of claustrophobia.

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James Mills
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#13 Post by James Mills » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:40 am

Professor Wagstaff wrote:Does anyone else have issues with the way that Hooper uses strong close-ups in his films? For me the camera lingers too tightly to the action (and especially actors' faces) that I feel that the movie is being imposed upon me. I only watched the first two episodes of John Adams because of this similar feeling of claustrophobia.
They probably seemed awkward to you because Hooper utilizes a technique in The King's Speech that is almost completely non-existent in Hollywood cinema: his close-ups are done from a wide angle rather than a zoom, thus the face is somewhat distorted (similar techniques are more exaggeratively used in The City of Lost Children and Heavenly Creatures off the top of my head). Those shots that you're seeing are done with the camera set for wide and literally right in front of the actors' faces rather than from a far and zoomed in. It is certainly discomforting, as was his intentions to subjectify Bertie's nervousness. I appreciated it, personally, though not everyone I've talked to about the matter feels the same.

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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#14 Post by Grand Illusion » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:27 am

James Mills wrote:They probably seemed awkward to you because Hooper utilizes a technique in The King's Speech that is almost completely non-existent in Hollywood cinema: his close-ups are done from a wide angle rather than a zoom
I love your tone here. You managed to not only presume why the close-ups seemed awkward but also presumed that this awkwardness stems from a person's unfamiliarity with techniques outside of "Hollywood cinema."

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ambrose
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#15 Post by ambrose » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:33 am

Jeff wrote:
Nothing wrote:it's yet another Hollywood film that glorifies British royalty, yes?
Wrong. It's a British film that glorifies Australian speech pathology.
Unless someone was interested in the pioneering speech-therapy techniques introduced by Lionel Logue (which are still used in moderated form today) this film should really be of no interest to anyone not of a royalist vein!

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James Mills
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#16 Post by James Mills » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:37 am

Grand Illusion wrote:I love your tone here. You managed to not only presume why the close-ups seemed awkward but also presumed that this awkwardness stems from a person's unfamiliarity with techniques outside of "Hollywood cinema."
I didn't mean to imply that it was due to any unfamiliarity with foreign cinema, but rather that it is usually more exaggerated in foreign cinema and thus more noticeable. Its subtlety here makes it a lot harder to figure out just what exactly is making the shot feel so uncomfortable.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#17 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:29 pm

The choice of lenses and framing in this film were the only things that irked me. The extreme wide-angle, fisheye lens is an appropriate choice on occasion (such as when it emphasizes Bertie's sense of social anxiety), but it felt like Hooper was just being showy by using it for so many shots (the extreme high angle shot showing the Royal Family leaving their home didn't strike me as justified). Similarly, Hooper's penchant for composing head-and-shoulder shots with the subject pushed to one side of the frame with no "speaking room" was an arty touch that only confused the interaction between Bertie and Logue during their early scenes together. I like the use of wide angle lenses in general and thought they were used to good effect throughout most of the film. At the very least, I was pleased that Hooper avoided using the slightly canted camera angle that seemed to show up during every other shot in the JOHN ADAMS miniseries.

Apart from the cinematography, THE KING'S SPEECH is straight Hollywood formula, but winningly done. Firth and Rush's performances are excellent and they ably make the most out of the audience-pleasing quips and plot twists. As was mentioned previously, Guy Pearce is also superb in the role of Bertie's brother David who is really the most complex character in the story even though he is not given a whole lot of screen-time.

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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#18 Post by THX1378 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:18 pm

I saw Speech two weeks ago, and I still feel that while it's a good movie, it's not a great movie like the critics have made it out to be. It feels to me like Masterpiece Theater for the big screen. And while the acting and the direction are great, it feels like something that I'd catch on PBS. And while were at it, how did everyone feel about Helena Bonham Carter? I thought she did a great job and was nice to see her in something outside of a Tim Burton/Harry Potter film.

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James Mills
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#19 Post by James Mills » Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:39 pm

THX1378 wrote: And while were at it, how did everyone feel about Helena Bonham Carter? I thought she did a great job and was nice to see her in something outside of a Tim Burton/Harry Potter film.
Absolutely, I thought she was fantastic. She has a sincerity to her that really helped accentuate the qualities of Bertie that she admired; her love for him felt real, and his character really benefited from it.

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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#20 Post by talker » Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:13 pm

I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I was hoping for more Art Cinema. Blends of pop-oriented Hollywood flicks and aesthetically driven films usually come off as trying (even if just a bit) too hard, and this was no exception. Because the plot of the film is rather predictable (which in itself is not a valid critique), some of the dramatic scenes felt over-emphasized to the point of melodrama. Carefully orchestrated levity could have alleviated this.
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THX1378
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#21 Post by THX1378 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:00 pm

James Mills wrote:
THX1378 wrote: And while were at it, how did everyone feel about Helena Bonham Carter? I thought she did a great job and was nice to see her in something outside of a Tim Burton/Harry Potter film.
Absolutely, I thought she was fantastic. She has a sincerity to her that really helped accentuate the qualities of Bertie that she admired; her love for him felt real, and his character really benefited from it.
I couldn't agree more. It was nice to see her in a role that I for one wouldn't have thought she could pull off. I've got a good feeling that she is going to be up for an Oscar for the role. But for the life of me, why is it that the critics are saying that it's Speech vs. Social Network for best picture? Is it because Speech feels safe and that has an uplifting ending? The acting is very good, but it felt so been there done that or like I said a very well done Masterpiece Theater film. I think it's a good film, but it's not in the league of Social Network, True Grit, The Fighter, or Inception. I think as the days go by and it makes more money, it's going to become a Social Network vs. True Grit fight for best picture.

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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#22 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:06 pm

It's a crowdpleaser ala Shine, that's why. I don't think anything's standing in the way of The Social Network winning save the unpopularity of its predictability

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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#23 Post by THX1378 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:17 pm

My grandmother saw Social Network and didn't like it because it had no one she could relate to or like. But she saw Speech with me and said it felt to bland for her. While I don't think Speech was bland because I liked everyone in the film, I don't it's on the level of Shine which I felt was amazing film.

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HistoryProf
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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#24 Post by HistoryProf » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:24 pm

THX1378 wrote:And while were at it, how did everyone feel about Helena Bonham Carter? I thought she did a great job and was nice to see her in something outside of a Tim Burton/Harry Potter film.
while my surprise at Guy Pearce's turn as the Abdicating brother was the most pronounced, I was also delighted by Helena Bonham Carter, and would go so far as to say it's the best role of her career. I've never been terribly impressed with her, but there's a genuineness to her in this that feels profoundly loving and real. She has an appropriate air of a woman who wasn't of royalty but married into it - and as she notes in one poignant scene, she did so with considerable reservations - yet loved her husband dearly and felt his pain in those awful public performances. Of any purported candidate for supporting actor/actress i've seen, I would have to say she deserves a nomination at least.

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Re: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010)

#25 Post by Foam » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:14 am

Saw this almost entirely on the basis of the idiosyncratic use of wide angle in the trailer; it's an approach I appreciate when done well (Fallen Angels comes to mind) but don't see used usefully in mainstream cinema nearly as much as I'd like. Here it's good when underlining Bertie's anxieties, great when emphasizing the repulsive physicality of his awkwardness, and damn near fatal to the visual pleasure of the film everywhere else. What possible reason there could be for using this strategy almost completely across the board I cannot imagine and would like to hear a defense for because the best I can come up with is that Hooper was bored with the story and so decided to shoot every scene as if it were Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in order to entertain himself. All too often his approach distracts from the obviously formidable expressiveness of the actors, steamrolling them into functioning like some misguided Dickensian spin on the opacity of the Diane Arbus scarecrow ciphers that populate Harmony Korine films and which--when dissonantly married to this particular acting style, setting, and spirit--I could only invest in to the most limited and unaffecting extent. Other than here the most commentary I could find on this aspect of the film was in Corliss's review for Time, where it looks like he attributes it to the hall:
Richard Corliss wrote:Roy Thomson Hall [...] may be the world's worst place to see movies — the sightlines in this severely curved auditorium make every image look distorted, as if shot with a wide-angle lens

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