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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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