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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.