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Finally got around to The King's Speech

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Tim WilsonFinally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 13, 2011 at 4:25:14 pm

Wow, not only the best of 2010 by a crazy long shot, one of my all-time favorites. In addition to the performances - and I'd have given Geoffrey Rush the nod over the still-wonderful performance by Christian Bale - I was especially struck by the cinematography. I've never seen such a clever set of lens selections, which really played up the comic elements, including the king's discomfort.

I'd still give the nod to Inception for art design, but that was really magnificent too, especially (surprisingly) the walls. There was also a lot of top lighting that I haven't seen before.

The thing about Social Network in this context is that I really hated everybody in it. It's a stunning achievement, with something like 450 "invisible" effects shots (there were no twins - the second face was digitally mapped), and Sorkin deserved the adapted screenplay honor - but I wanted everybody in the movie to actually die. It wasn't enough to ask for them all to lose the lawsuit - I wanted them actually dead. There was no way I was going to get past that. Shallow but true.

I definitely think Inception was robbed in almost every category, but I think that the bottom line for a lot of voters was, "I want my movie to be this beautiful, and to be made with this care," "I want my script to have this mix of comedy and drama, with performances this strong around me," and "Wow, I really like these characters. I want them all to succeed." AND first-class work throughout.

I think it's oversimplifying to blame this on the Academy's conservatism. Most of the new additions the past few years have been my age and younger, and I haven't seen any names on the list that strike me as especially conservative. But I think that the neck-and-neck in the critics awards is because those guys are paid to watch movies, and Academy voters are paid to make them. Especially with a weighted voting system (first places votes are worth more "points" than second place votes, and so on), my guess is that the election for best picture wasn't especially close.

Next date circled on my calendar: Transformers 3, baby!


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Scott RobertsRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 13, 2011 at 4:56:59 pm

Well, I can't help but disagree.

Inception had balls. Social Network had balls. Black Swan had balls. Winter's Bone had balls. OK, now it's starting to sound dirty, sorry. :)

King's Speech... just those metal balls in his mouth in that one scene.

Other than The Kid's Are Alright (which I think most would agree was the worst of the 2010 Best Picture films), the King's Speech was the most standard, conventionally made film of the 10 nominees. Hands down. Not criticizing the story or the acting, which were both great, but as a film itself... completely dismissible. It had the feel of a made-for-TV movie to me. I would hardly call it landmark cinema. I've watched HBO movies with more cinematic flair. It will join Shakespeare in Love soon enough (maybe it already has? plenty of backlash against it winning top prizes already), as one of the most forgettable modern Best Picture winners of all time.

Sorry, I don't hate King's Speech as much as I feel like it was a slap in the face of a handful of more inventive films. Would I prefer more film output like King's Speech over stuff like Maid in Manhattan or Skyline? Yes. Would I prefer King's Speech output over Social Network level of filmmaking? Oh heavens no.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 4:08:55 pm

I just rented The King's Speech last week myself, and my teenaged kids loved it as much as their old fart parents did. It boils down to The Well-Told Tale. A plot and characters that interest you and take you on a beliveable, emotional journey.
I actually liked it better than Inception. For that reason.


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Tim WilsonRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 6:09:14 pm

[Mark Suszko] "The Well-Told Tale"

Not a single false step. The only other movie in the race I'd say that about is Inception, but I agree that the emotional connection was a factor in King's Speech getting the nod. I identified with Leo's obsession and loss, but I was cheering for everyone in this picture, Black Swan was creepy (not in a good way, and too long), and I wanted everyone in Social Network to die a gruesome death.

I also think that the early release date for Inception really did play into it. I would imagine that most Academy voters had seen it long before voting - I'd seen it twice already by then (I really am a fan). So for many, it was a matter of watching Social Network and King's Speech head-to-head, maybe even in the same sitting. I bet that not one of the critics voting on awards did that, but I think that most people who did would choose King's Speech every time. It's the kind of movie they'd want to make, want to be in. That really is my bottom line.

That said, I'll flip it the other way for cinematographers. They saw Inception early, and it blew them away so hard that other films had trouble dislodging that first impression. That was certainly my feeling, although having now seen King's Speech and thinking that THAT's my favorite, the thing it made me want to do was see Inception again. Why? Because Inception made a visual impact that still resonates.

Here's what happened next. Wally Pfister won the ASC and Oscar awards for Inception. Cool. No argument, right? And then the ASC held a back-to-back screening, where the consensus was, wow, True Grit might have been a better choice. It really stood out. Things change when you see them back to back.

My other observation is the one I made earlier about weighted voting: X points for a first place vote, >x for second, etc. Every picture in the race had a mix of rank, and every rank had at least some value in the final tally. More people had to put King's English in first than not (the weighting rightly favored first place votes), but it wasn't binary...but I'm still not sure that Inception or The Fighter didn't wind up with more second place votes than SN or BS.

That said, I'm sticking with the back to back thing as a major factor, along with the idea that "this is the picture I'd like to make/be in," and Mark's observation about emotional connection.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 7:00:06 pm

My wife is a real artist. She and I both remarked multiple times at how every frame of The King's Speech is composed and lit like a classical portrait. Even the tenement hovel that the therapist works in. Most especially there, in fact.

Social Network also had well--composed shots that conveyed the emotions well.

I thought Inception counted too much on the effects shots, and I didn't believe in Leo's character's motivations as I could in the other two.

I've said this before, the Oscars are stupid, in that you can't directly compare and rate one great movie over another, the best you can do is put a group of them together and say that these excel.


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Tim WilsonRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 7:05:41 pm

[Mark Suszko] "every frame of The King's Speech is composed and lit like a classical portrait."

In fact, I like that there's a strong sense of the FRAME. Some folks feel that the "shot" is the fundamental building block of cinematic visuals, but for me it really is the frame, and it's rare that I see it lavished with as much love as in this movie.

Tangentially, The Killing on AMC has its weaknesses, but wow, talk about frames. Its frames hold as long as any I've ever seen, and add a tremendous amount of power to the performances.


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Mike CohenRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 7:35:03 pm

[Tim Wilson] "Tangentially, The Killing on AMC has its weaknesses, but wow, talk about frames. Its frames hold as long as any I've ever seen, and add a tremendous amount of power to the performances."

This week's episode had a shot which sat for about 10 seconds showing the reflection of the wife of a prisoner as the prisoner walked back to his cell. Yes, The Killing certainly has some nice photography and does not feel like a typical American murder mystery.

We thought the King's Speech was excellent. Poignant but with moments of fun. Somewhere on this board I wrote some thoughts about the film.

Mike Cohen


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Scott RobertsRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 7:49:05 pm

I haven't seen King's Speech since its theatrical run, but I don't remember being impressed with the cinematography. I remember some of the stuff in the therapists office was pretty well shot, but then other times the camera was jarring in too obvious of ways. Like when he's uncomfortable walking up the stairs and they use the shaky close up of his face as he's walking to show discomfort. I wasn't impressed by stuff like that, that almost seems too literal. Plus I felt it was out of place in the context of the other shots. Of course, I'm thinking of shots I saw once, maybe 7 months ago? Perhaps a re-watch is in order.

All criticism aside, I thought it was a good movie. Obviously a feel-good piece. It's hard not to like a movie with so much spirit. I'm really only upset at its praise during awards time, as I felt it was rewarded all the grand prizes simply for having a good story and good acting, not being the best overall film. Plus, I'm not fact-checking this, but weren't King's Speech and True Grit the only two Best Picture nominees still in heavy theatrical runs during the actual voting process? I'm sure, as Tim said, timing plays a huge role in these things.

King's Speech: good movie, great story, fantastic acting, sub-par filmmaking, and it feels like they release similar films to it two or three times a year.

A brilliant four year streak of interesting Best Picture winners (Departed, No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, Hurt Locker) ended by an above-average, yet relatively standard period piece with an uplifting story.



Also, only watched the pilot so far, but I have 9 more Killing episodes stockpiled on my DVR... I need to get on that!


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Mike CohenRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 14, 2011 at 8:03:27 pm

Unfortunately, DirecTv feels AMC is not worthy of HD, so we have been watching a pretty soft and blurry version. Same goes for BBC America, but we'll save the rant for another thread!

Mike


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Jeff BreuerRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 15, 2011 at 6:00:03 pm

I certainly agree that The Social Network took a lot more risks. Both in a visual, and certainly audio, form as well as taking risks with story content and structure. Some of the risks were harder to sell though, I know my wife had a difficult time rooting for our anti-hero and the ending is pretty abrupt.

The The Kings Speech is a well made film, you could argue a more solid film. I will say this too, which I'm sure I've said before, what I loved about The Kings Speech winning is that it had some great humor in it. It's still not a comedy, but at least I got to laugh which is something the Academy rarely lets me do when watching their favorite of the year. Will Ferrell said it best -





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Tim WilsonRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 15, 2011 at 7:02:01 pm

[Jeff Breuer] "Some of the risks were harder to sell though, I know my wife had a difficult time rooting for our anti-hero and the ending is pretty abrupt."

That's a good point, and some of where I'm going. To take it a step further, and not that I think Scott in particular is saying anything like that, but I don't think edgy-ness gives a film an edge in my vote. I just didn't enjoy the experience of watching Social Network. It made me feel a little sick to my stomach -- not because it was all that bold, which I actually didn't think it was (nor for that matter King's English of course) but because every lead character is a creep that I wanted to die a humiliating death. Autoerotic asphyxiation seems about right.

I really do think that more than half of the people who make movies, when watching them back to back, would choose King's English, in many cases for exactly the right reasons with regard to its craft as well as its enjoyability.

(Weighted voting notwithstanding, the Best Picture winner has at least 50% of the first place votes. I don't know what would happen if that WASN'T the case, but so far so good. Note that the top votegetter for nominations is around 20%. The big numbers come when the votes are narrowed.)

As far as bold storytelling though, I'm still going to have to go with Inception, which before I saw King's English, was my year's favorite walking away.

What can I say? I dug what might be viewed as the safe choice. It was really well done, and I really enjoyed it. I didn't want anyone in it to die a humiliating death.

[Jeff Breuer] "at least I got to laugh which is something the Academy rarely lets me do when watching their favorite of the year"

That drives me insane! I chuckled a little in the third Lord of the Rings movie, but before that, you have to go back to Driving Miss Daisy in 1990 (meh, it was okay, but I chuckled), Amadeus in 1985, but the last real comedy, Annie Hall in 1978! Seriously?

FWIW: Inglorious Basterds. Non-traditional, edgy, masterful, laughed out loud. A vastly underrated picture that I'da voted for in a heartbeat.


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Scott RobertsRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 15, 2011 at 7:15:14 pm

[Tim Wilson] "That drives me insane! I chuckled a little in the third Lord of the Rings movie, but before that, you have to go back to Driving Miss Daisy in 1990"

Was Chicago funny? I never bothered to see it, but I was under the impression it was a musical/comedy? I honestly have no clue. And have no real desire to watch it myself to find out.

Definitely agree King's Speech is funniest Best Picture winner in a while. If you want comedy and Oscars, usually look to the best original screenplay winner, though definitely not the case every year (Hurt Locker: not that funny).

But even closer than Driving Miss Daisy was Forrest Gump in '94, its got its dramatic sad moments, but overall, I'd call it a comedy.

"It haaaappens..."
"What... s**t...?"
"Sometiiiiiiiimes..."


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Jeff BreuerRe: Finally got around to The King's Speech
by on Jun 16, 2011 at 3:53:54 pm

[Scott Roberts] " If you want comedy and Oscars, usually look to the best original screenplay winner"

Interesting Scott, I looked up the winners and you're right, there is more comedy there "Juno", "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Eternal Sunshine" just in the past ten years.

Tim - I'm sadly happy that someone else emphatically agrees with me on this point of comedy.

For me the funniest movie in recent memory to win was American Beauty, not a comedy but it had a few moments. Although I wish "As Good As It Gets" would have beaten Titanic back in '97. I'm sure that's the hardest I've laughed at a nominated movie in recent memory.


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