The King's Speech

Here’s your first choice for a great Holiday (Oscar Nominations under the tree) film. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are sure Oscar nominees for Best and Supporting Actor respectively, and the film will get a Best Picture nod as well. It’s the story of George VI, known too his family as “Bertie” (Firth), a stammerer lost in the shadow of his older brother Edward the VIII ( Guy Pearce), a monarch who abdicated the throne to be with the woman he loves, divorcee Wallace Simpson (Eve Best). How will Bertie the new monarch inspire his subjects on the eve of World War II with his debilitating speech problem? Commoner Aussie Lionel Logue, a speech therapist with practical theories zeroes in on the underlying causes of Bertie’s issues and becomes a true friend, overcoming the obvious class distinctions, though not without a few bumps in the road. Helena Bonham Carter shines as the future Queen Mother, but the chemistry between Firth and Rush and the skill with which director Tom Hooper and writer David Seidler deliver the story, makes this the top Holiday choice this year. Rated R for some “Anglo-Saxonisms”.

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The Coen Brothers, the pride of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, have done it again, turning a fine piece of literature into an excellent film (see “No Country for Old Men”), and once again they deserve a Best Picture Oscar nomination for their effort (hey, Golden Globes, “The Tourist”, seriously?). Jeff Bridges out-bads Bad Blake (Crazy Heart) as the gritty Marshall Rooster Cogburn, and should pick up another Best Actor Nomination, but the performance of the film belongs to 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld. She delivers the formal language of the novel’s author, Charles Portis, with skill way beyond her years as the prim yet feisty Mattie Ross. I just saw the John Wayne version of “True Grit” the other night on TCM and was surprised at how close to the story and script it is to this newer version. The big difference is the Coen Brothers have taken the Hokey Hollywood style, National Park landscapes, Glen Campbell’s helmet hairdo, and oppressive musical score, and replaced it with a planet more in tune with the grittier West as it must have been, thanks to long time collaborators like cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the scoring of Carter Burwell. Matt Damon takes on the role of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf with his usual flair, and Josh Brolin is fine as the dim-witted Tom Chaney, the man who killed Mattie’s father and sets off her laser focused search for Old Testament revenge. An almost unrecognizable Barry Pepper plays “Lucky” Ned Pepper, Chaney’s gang leader ( played by Robert Duval in the first film) in a memorable turn. “The Coen Bothers bookend the main story line with the comments of Mattie as an adult woman (Elizabeth Marvel), a nice device and improvement over the 1969 film. Rated PG13 for intense violence and disturbing images.

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PS. I eagerly await the Coen Brothers entry into the Procedural Crime Solving genre with “Detective #1”, the story of an underpaid and under-appreciated gumshoe, a balding, dour veteran of the police force, the kind of role done with such great skill by, let’s see, Richard Jenkins?, no…ME! (see “A Serious Man”, and don’t blink).

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