2010 Oscars Best Picture nominee: The King’s Speech

Whew! I never thought I could do reviews of all ten Best Picture nominees. Belive me that it was not easy. Anyways I will end my reviews of the nominees with the heavy frontrunner of this year’s Oscars: The King’s Speech.

The story of King George VI and his speech to England at the start of World War II is the subject of the movie The King’s Speech. What we see throughout the movie is how George had to overcome his stammering to make this speech to all of England. We also see the making of an unlikely friendship.

We start off in 1925 as Prince Albert is to make a speech in Wembley Stadium at the close of the British Empire Exhibition. The speech is to be broadcast to all the nations of the British Commonwealth. He stammers, much to the displeasure of the crowd.

After having no success with the therapists he had seen, his wife the Duchess recommends an Australian emigre Lionel Logue. Albert is surprised at Lionel putting on acting shows for his children. His therapy methods also appear unorthodox. He requests to Albert that they greet each other by their Christian names, a breach of Royal etiquette, and even calls him ‘Bertie’. Lionel also has him say a Hamlet soliloquy while listening to a Mozart record while Lionel records his voice. Albert believes he stammered throughout and quits in frustration. Lionel gives him the record as a keepsake. Years later, Albert listens to the record and is surprised to hear he never stammered.

Albert returns to Logue and resumes therapy. Part of the therapy also includes Albert explaining his past. We learn of his strict father, discomfort of his left-handedness, a nanny who humiliated him in front of his parents, and the death of his younger brother. We also learn his family encouraged mockery of his impediment. As the lessons continue, Alert and Logue develop a friendship. Then Albert’s father, King George V dies. Albert’s brother is heir to the throne and is crowned Edward VIII but Albert is unhappy he plans to marry an American socialite. Edward accuses Albert of wanting to usurp the throne and uses his speech therapy as grounds for suspicion. During the argument, Albert’s stammer returns, as does Edward’s childhood taunt of “B-B-Bertie.” As Albert returns to Lionel following the incident, Lionel makes a joke only to cause Albert to accuse him of treason and mocks Lionel of his humble origins and failed acting career.

Edward does eventually abdicate the throne and Albert is poised to be crowned King George VI. He visits Lionel and apologizes. At coronation preparation, George insists that Lionel be seated in the King’s box. As the Archbishop of Canterbury questions Logue’s qualifications, this prompts another confrontation between the two as Lionel tells of how he treated traumatized soldiers from World War I. Another time, Lionel sits on the throne promoting another confrontation as George criticizes his alleged disrespect to Royal relics, only to have it be a confidence builder for George. The coronation goes well and Lionel compliments George on his speech.

The pressures of World War II start looming as Britain is to go to war against Germany. George has to give a speech to the whole country and Lionel is summoned again. The two go through Lionel’s unorthodox preparations including singing and swearing before going into the studio. Lionel accompanies George in the studio and tells him to go about as if he was talking just to Lionel. As George delivers his speech, Lionel coaches him through every moment. At the end of the speech, George is congratulated by everyone and enters the public balcony as he appears to a cheering crowd.

The movie is more than about overcoming a speech impediment. It’s about a friendship few knew about, and would only be revealed after the men’s deaths. It also includes some surprise facts as well. Just before George makes his speech to the nation, he walks alongside Winston Churchill who tells him “I had a speech impediment myself.” It’s a surprising fact that the two men that gave Britain its most encouraging speeches during World War II had to overcome speech impediments.

 Another thing this film notes is the monarchy’s strictness on order and values. This played into effect how Edward had to abdicate from the throne for marrying a woman who was twice divorced. This comes into important factor now as there will be a royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton this year. Queen Elizabeth is 84 and still on the throne after almost 60 years. She shows no sign of giving it to Prince Charles. Many believe his divorce from Lady Diana Spencer may have something to do with this.

The acting was top notch. Colin Firth definitely gave one of the best acting performances of the year. Playing George with a speech impediment was a huge challenge and he did an excellent job. Helena Bonham Carter was also top notch as the Duchess Elizabeth. Geoffrey Rush was a good scene stealer as Lionel Logue. Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon had small amounts of screen time with their parts but made the most of it.

Director Tom Hooper definitely has to have made his best feature film ever. This is actually his third feature film and is more experienced at directing television. Seeing The King’s Speech, you wouldn’t notice it. David Seidler also did a good job of writing, coming from decades of research. A stammerer as a child, Seidler was inspired by how George VI overcame stammering. The set design and costuming was done to a tee. The music from Alexander Desplat fit the movie well. This was an excellently packaged and very well-produced film.

The big talk is how it will win the Best Picture Oscar, especially since it’s promoted by The Weinstein Company. It has already won the Producer’s Guild, BAFTA, as well as many major guild awards and its twelve total nominations is already making it a heavy favorite. Also if anyone can remember Harvey Weinstein’s Oscar heydays when he ran Miramax, you’d know he knows how to win Academy votes like no other studio exec. His new film company The Weinstein Company, founded not even six years ago, has already amassed two Best Picture nominees in the past two years with The Reader and Inglourious Basterds. It would not surprise me if The King’s Speech won the Oscar for Best Picture. Personally I feel The King’s Speech is deserving of its nominations including Best Picture, but I feel it does not deserve the Best Picture win.  If I had my own ballot, I would vote for The Social Network as it excellent acting, top directing and was excellently-written. That’s my call. However I’m not a registered member of the Academy so I’ll have to wait until then to have my say.

Even though The King’s Speech is not the best movie of the year, it is one of the best and deserves its Oscar acclaim. Even though I feel The Social Network deserves to win Best Picture, I would not be disappointed if The King’s Speech wins. It is deserving with its own merits.

2010 Oscars Best Picture Nominee: 127 Hours

Imagine you’re stuck in a canyon with your hand crushed by a heavy boulder and holding you stuck inside. Think that couldn’t happen to you? It happened to Aron Ralston in 2003. His story became the subject of the movie 127 Hours. It doesn’t sound like a movie that would catch your eye but it will surprise you.

SPOILER WARNING: This review will have some spoilers of the movie’s plot and even the ending.

The movie starts with Aron Ralston cycling in Utah’s Canyonland National Park. This is a favorite past-time for the avid 27 year-old mountain climber who had learned to love nature ever since he was a boy. He spots some young girls hiking the canyon for the first time and plays a tour guide. He even leads them to a part of the canyon where one can let go of their grip and fall into a canyon lake. Aron videotapes it all. After they leave him and tell of a party later on, he heads into more terrain of the canyon. One cliff has a boulder between the two edges. Aron puts pressure on the boulder while crossing the edges but the boulder comes loose. Aron falls and as he hits the ground, the boulder crushes his right hand and leaves him stuck in a desolate area 15 feet below the cliff. He can’t free himself. He has no cellphone with him. He told no one of his whereabouts. He knows he will die.

During the time down there, he takes out from his backpack whatever vital items he feels necessary, like a sandwich wrap, water bottle, digital watch to clock his time down, the one pocketknife he has, plastic container and a video camera. With the video camera, he videotapes his ordeal often speaking what his thoughts are. He confesses of his carelessness before the trip of not telling anyone where he’d be going. He confesses to his family about not fully appreciating them while alive. He has constant visions and recollections about his past: the good times and the mistakes he made. He even has a premonition of a young boy on a sofa.

During the whole time there, he has to eat and drink enough to keep him alive, such as eating the sandwich wrap, drinking a small amount of water at a time and even drinking his own urine he conserved. It isn’t until five days later he moves his arm out where there’s a free boneless area. He makes a crucial decision to amputate his arm with the dull knife. Finally after braking free, he descends from the canyon wall, drinks a dirty puddle of water and runs eight miles to the nearest help. His ordeal makes national news. At the end of the film, we see the real-life Aron with his wife and holding his son. The premonition of the boy came true.

The movie doesn’t sounds like something that would be entertaining but director Danny Boyle managed to turn it into a watchable entertaining movie. Inclusion of the flashbacks and even other film parts make it entertaining. The amputation scene has to be the hardest to watch. Some viewers who saw it at its debut at the Toronto Film Festival fainted when they saw it. However Danny Boyle insisted that it had to look realistic. Makeup Artist Tony Gardiner worked with medical professionals to make the amputated wound look as medically accurate as possible.

Danny Boyle succeeded again in making an excellent film. James Franco did an excellent job in playing Aron. A.H. Rahman also did an excellent job with the original music. Cinematography of the natural landscape was also excellent.

127 Hours isn’t for everybody and definitely not the faintest of hearts. Despite whatever gruesome details I revealed here, I have to say it was a deep and excellent triumph of the human spirit. It will leave one walking out of the theatre moved.