Thursday, February 24, 2011

*The King's Speech, The Tourist and Somewhere (Spoilers)

The King's Speech

Haven't had time to post my reaction to The King's Speech, but needless to say I loved the movie.   There is something about historically based period dramas that always leave me with a satisfied feeling and this movie was no exception.  I've been a Colin Firth fan for some time and loved a Single Man, but Mr. Firth outdid himself in this role and it's time he get some recognition.

He had a tough going though to keep up with his co-stars, who were equally good, especially the brilliant performance by Geoffrey Rush as the King's speech therapist.   The quirky Helena Bonham Carter's performances never disappoint and this movie was no exception.  It was a gem of a movie and come Oscar time I would not like to be in the shoes of the voters having to choose between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush for best supporting actor.   Mr. Rush has been recognized before for his talent, but that is no excuse not to award him again for this fine performance.

Having said that,  I was so glad to see Bale win the Golden Globe.   He has had so many fine performances and it is time to recognize his work.   Although the King's Speech made me feel good and appealed to my esthetic sense, The Fighter made me uncomfortable and angry and then I was cheering like an idiot in the fight scene at the it really engaged me, physically as well as emotionally.  It  will be interesting to see what others thought as well.

The Tourist

After Ricky Gervais and the Golden Globes, I decided to see the movie no one else saw just because I wanted to see something that was not necessarily Oscar worthy but perhaps entertaining.  I also went for the triple visual treat of Venice, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie (and the fashions she wore).   No matter what you think of any of the three, you have to admit they are all quite pleasant, if not a downright lovely trio to look at.  Besides the fact that it was playing at the right time (10:35 p.m. and I'd just dropped D to visit with one of her friends after an early dinner), and having consumed a couple of glasses of wine, it was nice not to have to think too hard and just sit back and enjoy the scenery and some equally lovely and familiar faces that had small parts in The Tourist (Timothy Dalton, Raul Bova) and in a larger part, the talented Steven Berkoff.  The story was not new and I guessed right away that Depp was the mysterious fellow everyone sought.  

For visual (first time I noticed Johnny Depp has a nice nose), Venice and lightness, as I told the other couple that was in the theater when I first arrived, "I was curious to see the movie that "no one saw."   The theater did fill up after that, so perhaps Ricky Gervais actually gave it a plug with his notice.   


I was intrigued to see Somewhere because it was a Sofia Coppola film and I knew something about the origins of the story,  but I found myself getting a little impatient at the opening of the scene with the protagonist doing lap after lap after lap after lap his car somewhere in the So. California desert.  That "one too many" laps became a little bit of an analogy for the whole film.  Perhaps it was meant to?

As usual for her movies, it was beautifully filmed and the story very relevant, as I recognized quite a few people it could fit.  But something essential was missing...  Of course it is the kind of movie Sofia Coppola does, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

One of the best things about her first effort,  Lost In Translation,  was her choice of  Bill Murray in the role of the central character, who basically ad libbed his way to giving the movie a heart.   Not having that central, moving force in this movie, it became a sweet, but somewhat boring story of another Hollywood star  going through the motions of a life, a little lost and, with the exception of his daughter, without much meaning.  Although Stephen Dorff gave it his all,  he lacked  the charisma to make you care about the central character's plight and though he was a polite fellow to mostly everyone he met, he couldn't make me care much about Johnny.

A great tour through the historically and accurately portrayed Chateau Marmont and a nice performance by his young co-star, Elle Fanning,  couldn't save the movie from the too slow pacing.  Perhaps a little more dialogue might have helped, but it is not Coppola's style.  She takes her own good time telling her story and don't you dare get bored!  It's not her fault if you can't pick out the subtleties and secrets of what she is laying before you.

Though critically received by some, I'm afraid too much of the audience that went to see this movie came out what's new?   We know these characters exist.  We see them every day.  We know some of them have vapid lives, too much money and too much free time.  We also know that the false adulation of the pubic and the hanger on's that ride a celeb's coattails because it becomes their own claim to fame,  give people like Johnny a false sense of importance....too many girls, too much sex, too many parties...until nothing means anything.  Too much of a good thing simply becomes "not enough" of a "real" thing.  Becoming "jaded"  is a hazard of the business.

I felt I was watching a lovingly filmed, but "by the numbers" documentary on the hazards of fame.  It was nicely done, but didn't show me anything I didn't already know and the "one too many" laps in the beginning became a little bit of the drumbeat of the movie.   You don't have to beat the audience  over the head to set the mood or prepare the message your are going to eventually show them.  Yes, life can be boring and meaningless....but we do have  choices....and perhaps that's what the central character made at the end.  We just didn't have much of a clue what his time with his daughter had taught him or what he had decided to do..... unless you did....and didn't care one way or the other anyway.

Coppola has talent and I'm sure Somewhere will go down as an insider treatise on fame, but entertainment for the masses it's not.  Perhaps that's not a bad thing.

Songs out of tune, the words always a little wrong...Canzoni Stonate

*Though I'd posted this already.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Congratulations to Egypt

My congratulations to the people and especially the youth of Egypt,  for their courage and perseverance in the fight to gain the freedom and the rights that all of us,  as human beings,  deserve.  My admiration goes out to them for doing it in a peaceful manner, which should serve as an example for oppressed peoples .... that change can be brought about by peaceful means when the desire is great and the available technology is used.

Kudos to social media and the Anderson Coopers of the world,  the former, who give a people a way to organize and stay aware of what is going on in their own country and the rest of the world despite repressive measures to silence  them...and the latter, who observe, recognize and help translate the passion being witnessed first hand to others.

Also congratulations to the educated young people of Egypt and around the world who are tired of old men disposing of them so carelessly while they sit back in their clubs and palaces and try to maintain their power on the bent backs of their people, all the while stuffing their pockets with ill gotten gains.

My only hope is that the unity we have witnessed between the religions and the differing groups of people involved in this revolution will continue and that the road that Egypt still has to travel to real freedom in democracy will be steered by these same  educated and visionary voices that will not settle trading one master for another,  in the forms of a theocracy that will impose stringent religious standards on her people, or a military regime that will be no better than what they had before.

The Egyptians deserve to chose their own destiny as a free people and join the other free nations of the world in enjoying the fruits of their own personal labors and self determination in their every day lives.

I also hope this is the beginning of understanding in my own country that we can't keep making deals with dictators who oppress their people just because they are the ones protecting American interests.  This way of doing business has only spawned leftist leaders or religious zealots where perhaps some evenhandedness might have encouraged moderates of all types to follow a more free and open society for their peoples.

As we saw from the fall of the the Berlin wall and the old Soviet order,  the desire for a better life and to be able to partake in the rewards a free and modern culture can offer a society in the form of freedom of expression in the arts and sciences,  as an adjutant to the economic well being of the individual to the best of his ability, cannot be suppressed for long with the proliferation of communications across the open borders of the electronic revolution.

Education is the enemy of those who would rule by force.   It is the thing that will bring down the autocrats of the world, whether they come in the guise of political or religious saviors,  and it is the thing that we must encourage in our own people as well as all the peoples around the globe.

There will be lots of work ahead for the Egyptians to be able to realize their thirst for a more democratic Egypt.  The idealistic young people need to keep up the pressure and not let the old prejudices of their elders or the narrowness of religious leaders try to dictate or impose their "we know best" attitudes.  They need to demand their place at the table of any future for Egypt...young men AND women alike, and that is the one thing that our own Government should push to insure....that those who started this historic moment get a say in the future of their country.

In my view, the more free and economically viable societies are the ones who will lead to eventual peace in the Middle East and,  if not love for some of their neighbors, at least respect for each others rights to share the land, so that the old wars and prejudices can be put aside and understanding, tolerance, economic advancement,  human rights, peace and freedom,  not war and the propaganda, will be the drumbeat that we hear crossing the borders of these ancient and proud civilizations.

It is a grand day for Egyptians and I only hope  that their victory today leads to a brighter tomorrow for Egypt, the Middle East and,  by extension, the United States and the rest of the free world.

It will be a big job, requiring a lot of soul searching and thoughtful self examination,  for all parties to come together for the betterment of her people,  but the human spirit and the desire for freedom have shown us that perhaps the Egyptians are up to the task.

Good luck and good wishes from our country to yours!

Zoni with a Z