Saturday, May 10, 2014

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 2010

Being well spoken denotes power.

During an election if a candidate stood tall and handsome with a luxurious head of hair behind a podium at a televised debate, no doubt he or she would get a lot of attention. 

If that same person opened their mouth and only passively muttered responses or said "um" repeatedly, it's sad to admit, but in the eyes of many they would have lost all their credibility. In this circumstance, that person may not even be given a chance to run for a seat of office.

Even for the smartest of folks, inability to express their grand ideas boldly will give an audience the impression that they are not commanding enough to lead.

If you have a hard time with public speaking, there are good odds that you can avoid it, but not all of us are lucky. Some, including one king who particularly struggled, are born into a life where this is required.

Cue the Best Picture Winner of 2010 - a true accomplishment of a movie that will make that scary high school presentation seem not so bad.

Some flick all about a speech you say? Not just a single speech, since the film follows the emotional stress in a range of situations that people with a stutter encounter - from simple conversations in everyday life to the larger dilemma of an upcoming speech, the Super Bowl of speeches, if you will.

Europe was on the brink of WWII and the royal family was wrapped up in a scandal, so to find the newly crowned King George VI of England with a stammer only raised the stakes. The British people wanted to know they had a forceful voice who would guide them. During such a terrifying time we would all want to know that someone was looking out for the well being of the country. That was done through a voice - You can't just smile and wave over the radio.

Broadcasting an address to an entire country sounds like a horrifying task to anyone, but to someone who struggled to get words out even when trying to defend himself against a pushy older brother, this was unimaginable.

Colin Firth, who stars as the king, truly captures all the emotions - fear, pain, embarrassment, anguish - of someone fighting to express themselves. It is through him that we can connect to the struggle. The stutter at times even renders him speechless, causing him to appear to be painfully drowning, gulping on words that are trying to escape. Every moment watching him all I could think is how frustrating to not be able to say what you want, when you want!

We all lived for the leather pants in What A Girl Wants and the spandex wearing, singing and dancing Colin in Mamma Mia, but isn't it better to see him excelling at all the intense Oscar dramatics? First for Firth was A Single Man (a gorgeous movie still to be reckoned with) and then came this regal performance, honoring him with his first Academy Award.

Adoring Mr. Firth is a no brainer, but when it comes to every other detail of this movie I can't find anything to complain about. Sorry, that's boring, but between the stylistic use of playing up foggy London streets, including a gorgeously staged walk in a park, the chic 1940's decor, and all those damn Corgi's running about, what is there to hate?

The casting is also perfection. Not in any way a knock on Tim Burton (because that is a love that will never die), but isn't it refreshing to see Helena Bonham Carter out of the gothic hair? She is always enjoyable to watch and here she still gets to play around in gorgeous costumes, without getting lost behind a bunch of heavy make-up.

Most unstoppable of all though is the pairing of the king with the man who helped him confidently tackle his stutter.

Watching Geoffrey Rush and Firth performing this witty script all while doing elaborate loosening up vocal exercises, including a hysterical bit with extensive cursing, is the most interesting fly on the wall moment in a "therapy" type session ever recorded on film.

It's really the posh version of Rocky's training montage - fixating on the mind and vocal chords instead of brute strength. Both characters - a king and a boxer - are just as determined to show up all those people who thought they couldn't succeed.

When we finally get to the big moment, all the King's hard work really does pay off. The whole scene is such an impressive culmination of everything that makes this film Best Picture worthy.

Director Tom Hooper's choice of close-up shots puts the audience right into the scene and really shows off the struggle in Firth's face. Having Beethoven's Symphony No.7 playing in the background is tremendous and adds even more intensity to the already heavy moment. We all get goosebumps because of the music and are terrified for the king, holding our breath, hoping he performs wonderfully.

It may be just a speech, but it certainly was one hell of a speech. That is certainly also true for the movie that told this tale to the modern world.

Truly a film to put your next presentation at school or work in perspective. Ask yourself, do I have to overcome anything that inhibits the projection of my voice? If no, you'll do just fine.

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