It’s that time of year when the Academy Awards are given out. This year had great movies. Of the nominees in the Best Picture category, here are my Top 5.
1. The King’s Speech
Everyone once in a while, I’ll ask someone ‘what is bravery?’ I’ll usually get synonyms, such as courage and heroism. Not once have I heard the Greatest Generation. My favorite answer was ‘that movie with Mel Gibson in blue face paint.’
True be told, bravery can take many meanings. Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech gives bravery a new voice; one that I think few people have previously imagined, but judging by the film’s popularity, one that seems to resonate deeply for moviegoers.
The King’s Speech takes place in Britain, in the years leading up to World War II. Colin Firth plays then-Duke of York (Bertie to his family), and who might just have the most well known stammer. Helena Carter plays his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. To most people who stammer, I imagine they shied away from any occupation that dealt with interacting with people.
The Duke of York couldn’t, as life in the monarchy puts public service to the forefront. As a last ditch effort unbeknownst to her husband, Carter seeks out Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), known for techniques that are unorthodox and controversial. Seemingly proud of those two descriptive words, Rush declares, “I can cure your husband,” which sets motion Lionel’s difficult task of fixing the mechanical difficulties with Bertie’s speech.
The film then flows between sequences of George’s speech exercises, George’s hard-to-watch speeches, his brother’s abdication of the throne and George’s coronation, all with the ominous threat of Nazi Germany and the fear of another world war. All of these scenes work well in painting a portrait of a man who performs his duties admirably while struggling with the anxiety that his speech impairment harms his ability to lead his people.
I pose the question, ‘why is King George VI brave?’ To be king requires a specific level of commitment and statesmanship, however, this role is often predetermined at birth. Bertie wasn’t next in line to the throne, and it was glaringly apparent he didn’t want the position. But where his brother ran from it, King George VI reluctantly accepted and under enormous personal anxiety united a nation through his wartime speeches as his country prepared for war.
King George and Lionel’s relationship is shown perfectly with the right amount of value and restraint that doesn’t get bogged down in minute detail or become blown up in bromance. It’s enough support to get King George through all of the high expectations and pressures of leading a nation through war.
The King’s Speech should win Best Picture. And Firth should win Best Actor.
2. True Grit
My favorite line of Roger Ebert’s spot-on review of True Grit: “I found myself wondering how young Mattie Ross could endure his body odor.”
Hailee Steinfeld should win Best Supporting Actress.
3. The Social Network
I walked away from this film thinking how much of an asshole Mark Zuckerberg (played well by Jesse Eisenberg) is. Is a billion dollars worth screwing up your friendships? I really don’t think so, and the final scene of The Social Network highlights that point well.
4. Winter’s Bone
5. Toy Story 3
Natalie Portman should win Best Actress. As Ebert best puts it: “Somehow she goes over the top and yet stays in character: Even at the extremes, you don’t catch her acting.”