DID YOU READ

“The King’s Speech,” Reviewed

“The King’s Speech,” Reviewed (photo)

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“The King’s Speech” looks like your mom’s favorite movie of the year, doesn’t it? A heartwarming, inspirational story, handsome period production design, a cutesy and weirdly photoshopped poster, not to mention a starring role for DILF supreme Colin Firth. Despite its mom movie credentials, this film somehow rises above its station to become more than just another in a long line of bland prestige pictures about royalty. With impeccable craft, a smart script, and two actors working at the top of their game, it’s the rare crowd-pleaser whose pleasures are more than base appeals to sentimentality. It’s hard to imagine a much better film being made from this material.

That material is the story of Albert, the Duke of York (Firth) — Bertie to his friends — and his struggle to overcome a lifelong speech impediment. As second in line to the throne Bertie really only has one responsibility, but it’s the worst responsibility imaginable for a stutterer: talking in public. An endless parade of doctors and failed cures eventually lead Bertie and his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) to the doorstep of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush). Logue’s techniques are unorthodox and controversial, two words, Bertie notes, that aren’t exactly popular amongst the British royal family. Not surprisingly, the pair hit it off like oil and napalm, as Logue sifts through the Duke’s ample emotional baggage searching for the root of his problem and Bertie resists his nosy speech therapist’s attempts to act like his psychotherapist.

Firth and Rush are brilliant together. Neither has an easy role. Firth has to make us sympathize with a guy who is rich, powerful, and never had to work a day in his life. The “heavy is the head that wears the crown” routine is an old one, but something about Firth’s performance feels fresh: his Bertie is far more human than his collection of sad royal stereotypes would imply. Firth’s incredibly convincing with the stuttering, too. Even when Bertie does improve, we still see Firth struggling against himself every step of the way. When he’s not stuttering, even his face is glacially calm, Firth manages to suggest the torrent of stammering waiting to erupt at any moment. As the straight man and second fiddle, Rush spends most of his time in reaction shots, but he moves emotional mountains with gestures and subtle twitches of that face which is blessedly free of Botoxian meddling.

As part of our podcast this week I watched a lot of movies about royalty, many of them showcases for great actors like “The King’s Speech.” Too many of these kinds of movies are as restrained visually as their subjects are emotionally, made by directors content to coast along on good performances and source material. Thankfully director Tom Hooper is much more willing to experiment. Where most royalty movies are stiff, “The King’s Speech” is nimble. The camera is always leading or following Firth through the hallways of power in a manner (and to an effect) that recalls Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.” Rather than dramatizing the enormity of the conflict with high angles and wide-shots, Hooper keeps the camera pinned to Firth, emphasizing the flawed, nervous person in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. Hooper also uses a subtle fish eye lens in some crowd scenes, which cleverly enhances the intimidating nature of Bertie’s surroundings by exaggerating their monstrous size. In the therapy sessions, he films Firth and Rush at rigid, perpendicular angles (to reinforce the tension between these men who are often at loggerheads) and often pushes them to the sides of the frame (to suggest Bertie feels disconnected from the world around him).

Screenwriter David Seidler makes a mistake with a needless and cheap third act twist designed to inject some false jeopardy into Bertie and Logue’s relationship. But the rest of his screenplay is filled with tart, tangy dialogue and an empathetic ear for character, and grows both leads into men we truly care for. Even the schmaltzy finale, in which one of the characters receives a veritable curtain call from an entire nation, strikes the right note between restraint and sentimentality. “The King’s Speech” probably will be your mom’s favorite movie of the year. But it’s so damn well-made it could make your top ten list too.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.