07 March 2011

The King's Speech

A few nights ago, I watched this year's winner for Best Picture, The King's Speech (2010), and I'm here now to let you know what I thought of it. It was good. It wasn't great. But it was good, and it's definitely an "Oscars" kind of film. By that, I mean that it may not really be remembered much in the future for any reason other than winning an Oscar.

For example, you may remember The English Patient (1996), but you're probably more familiar with a film that lost to it: Fargo (1996). Of course, this becomes more pronounced the further back in film history you go. I think we've all heard of Citizen Kane (1941), but did you know it lost the award for Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley (1941), which also beat out the proto-film noir The Maltese Falcon (1941)? I could list numerous other examples, but I don't want to bore you. I think you got the point. You just have to take the Academy Awards with a grain of salt.

Superbly acted
That said, I did enjoy The King's Speech. It was well-done. Not surprising (as actors make up the largest voting percentage), the acting in particular was superb. It's thus not surprising that Colin Firth won Best Actor, as he did very well, especially considering the fact that he also had to create a convincing stutter. The film did exceptionally well at other award ceremonies as well, especially in the area of acting. It also seemed to be quite popular at British award shows, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Afterall, the film is about one of their beloved monarchs, King George VI.

Human beings
However, that may be part of what I personally didn't like as much about this film. I tend to like movies about common, everyday people. Just look at some of my favourite films. Kurosawa's Ikiru (1952) is about a middle-aged bureaucrat who finds out he has stomach cancer. Dagur Kári's Nói Albinói (2003) and Dark Horse (2005, Voksne mennesker) are both about aimless slackers. Bille August's Twist and Shout (1984, Tro, håb og kærlighed) is about regular teenagers learning about love, sex, and friendship in 1960s Denmark. Closely Watched Trains (1966, Ostře sledované vlaky) could be about a great soldier, giving that it's set during the end of WWII in Czechoslovakian and features resistance attempts against the German occupiers, but it largely focuses on a boy who just wants to get laid.

But The King's Speech? It's about a king, obviously. And for whatever reason, that made me not connect with him as much. I will admit that the plot, centering on his struggle with a speech impediment, does serve to humanize him a great deal. Still, it's a different feel. This isn't a movie saying, "Look at this fragile human being. They have a story to tell too," but rather, "Look at this great political figure. They are a human being too." It's still a nice story, but it just doesn't appeal to me as much. And really, at the end, I feel like that was the only real point behind this film: to humanize a king.

Final thoughts
All in all, I think I would've preferred that Black Swan (2010) win. I think it had a more compelling story and message. It challenged people to think about the concept of "perfection" and the lengths that artists will go to attain it. It was uneasy at times for a reason. Not just because of the more grotesque, surreal scenes, but because of what those scenes represented. The King's Speech was always so clean and safe. Even the long burst of swear words in one of the scenes is pretty tame, all things considered.

And, of course, I was secretly hoping for Toy Story 3 (2010) to win. I think it's a film that will stick with people of all ages. And those who are seeing it for the first time will find it continuing to have new things to say as they watch it again and again throughout the years. Plus, after Arcade Fire won Album of the Year, it would be nice to see something else win an award outside of the subcategory it would normally be confined to (Best Alternative Music Album for Arcade Fire, Best Animated Feature for Toy Story 3).

1 comment:

  1. We hope to see the film this weekend at the Bogar. As a pastor and thus somewhat king like myself (ha ha), though I suffer from rambling and not stuttering, I may connect more with it than you common mortals.