27 January, 2011

The REAL King's Speech

I just had to share... how fab is this? I love comparing the original to the copy; it's a real-life adaptation. I think Colin Firth's stammer was quite a bit more prominent than this, but you can still see the difficulty in getting the words out, and the mannerisms to get through the speech (the rolling on the feet, pausing etc.).  It's also interesting to see the faces of the audience. Certainly not inspired... patient perhaps? I also wonder if it is edited; it jumps quite a bit, and that could be down to rudimentary filming techniques, or from editing to minimize the pauses?

The first two minutes are pretty painless (unlike the film where the stammer starts right off the bat). But after the two minute mark, you start to see the difficulty in getting through the speech.

And the trailer below has some of this speech in it.

25 January, 2011

A Week with Film Agency for Wales

So I'm in Cardiff this week, where I haven't been for about nine years, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it! The Film Agency for Wales was kind enough to have me 'round for a week of script development experience. Thus far it's been bloody brilliant! I can't talk about specific scripts, but it's been rockin' to see how things come together, how stories get funded, and how many people are involved in the daily process and creation of a film.

Yesterday I met Tracy Spottiswoode and Adam Partridge, and they investigated my purpose for the week, and what I hoped to get out of it. Honestly, I was just looking for some experience and exposure.  Whilst doing a PhD involving film practice, it's hard sometimes to put what you're doing into context. It's very easy to get stuck in the theory and discussion, and forget how it actually happens, so I was super grateful just to sit quietly at a desk and see how the office functions. 

But I'm getting a heck of a lot more than that.

On just the first day I went along with Tracy and Adam to meet with a writer that they are interested in supporting. The agency supports Welsh talent or projects, basically, but it is quite competitive and thus far I've been most impressed that what they focus on is the STORY. Not the product tie-ins, not the marketing,  not the money-making pitch, it's about the story; the characters, the voice... it's refreshing to hear so much care and interest about the projects! The writer just spoke for about 30 or 40 minutes about three ideas she had mulling around in her head, and after each one, we would list pros and cons, references to things that might help her develop the ideas into a tight, cohesive script. The whole meeting was just a focused, organized brainstorming session about how to make neat ideas better. Fab.

Today was all in the office, more 'mundane' work but I still found it infinitely interesting as I could see what projects are on their slate, what the range of topics they focus on (everything from comedy to musicals, documentaries and fiction), and the range of funds required for involvement as well as full, detailed budgets and how funds are dispersed once a film starts making money (assuming it makes money!). 

So I've read six scripts thus far, I've three more to read tonight, and the next three days are filled with development meetings. I'm wicked grateful for the opportunity, and I hope they don't mind me being around! Plus they're so stinkin' nice! Yay UK Film culture. They're wicked supportive and friendly thus far... I'm gonna stick with the conviction that they're all nice and supportive.  I'm loving sitting in on these meetings and being encouraged to share my thoughts as well, thus making me contemplate some more work in script development after the PhD is done. We shall see...

Added bonus? It's like two blocks from Torchwood's base :)

More at the end of week, most likely!

21 January, 2011

The King's Speech

Oh The King's Speech. It was beautiful. I love historical dramas. Full stop. I love them. When you take a historic moment in time with which we are all familiar, like the start of WW2 (no, I wasn't alive then, but we all know the basics), and give me a personal story of trials and triumph, Colin Firth is involved, and then you throw in Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and the monarchy? I'm donefor. I'm in. Take me away I need to see it. And oh boy did The King's Speech deliver. You really don't need to me say that, you've seen the nominations and reviews, but there were a few cinematic moments and story telling scenes I wanted to point out.

I loved the 'in this space we are equals' sentiment.  If the King of England (or soon to be) wanted anything accomplished, he had to be on the same level as the common man. He had to do silly things like roll around on the floor and scream out of the window; it made the monarch human. As a side note, I really wish it was socially acceptable to have curse words coming out of your phone, because if it were, I would have Colin Firth screaming obscenities as my text alert tone. Brilliant.  

The conversation shots in Lionel's office between Firth and Rush were also beautiful. It's a medium-wide shot with the subject off center, and a sparse and deteriorating background (the paint is peeling off in layers). This shows the subject, but shows it as slightly off; something is wrong (speech impediment? Fear? Lying about qualifications? Distant? Unsharing? Guarded?). The cut-away quick editing effect also illustrated that nothing was seamless. Everything took effort, as did every word that left Bertie's lips. 

The score was GORGEOUS. Well done Alexandre Desplat. You are quickly growing in my list of genius composers (Twilight fans, he did New Moon and Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows, 1 & 2). I can't stop listening to 'The King's Speech' (name of the track) and Beethoven's Symphony no. 7, 'Speaking Unto Nations'- yes, this is Beethoven, not Desplat, but it's still gorgeous, and tells a story in this score. Simple progression that is thematic enough to remain consistent and familiar to the listener, but unique enough to allow the listener to identify which emotion and story element that music accompanied. Lovely!

Some of the imagery of tiny elements was also great.  The size of the microphones he had to deal with; they were imposing, dominating most of the frame, and intimidating. They honestly looked like a threat, and the settings where they were located, were open (the cavernous room where his father gave the Christmas address), or full of expectant listeners (the stadium). This made him more vulnerable, under scrutiny, and the awkward pauses oh so much more awkward.  Thus I loved the room that Lionel had created for the King's speech at the end. He made it feel 'cozy' and therefore slightly less frustrating. The king found his voice, Lionel found a job, a Queen helped her King rise to his position, and a nation found a monarch of which it could be proud. Rockin'. Well done.

I think I need to re-watch Firth's Golden Globe acceptance speech now. I love the "surprisingly robust triangle of manlove." Lordy... lovely.

So yes, I LOVED the King's Speech, and want more. ASAP. I think I may have to see it again this weekend... lush.

01 January, 2011

Black Swan... no one warned me that it was a horror film!

Just a quickie, because I needed to hash out some thoughts...

Black Swan.

Beautiful film.

Bad movie.

I make the distinction that a movie is something that you'd want to have your girlfriends around for; dudes on a sofa with a beer, or a moment of escapism, adventure, entertainment and thrills that you want to relive and explore. It might make you think, laugh, or cry, but it's story and entertainment at its core (for me... this is not a Webster definition).

A film, however, is a piece of art. Every moment is thought of at length, details are never accidental, and camera angles mean something. A film can be a movie, and a movie can be a film, but some are just movies (Center Stage, Speed Racer, Sixteen Candles), and some are just films (Talk to Her, A Clockwork Orange). Black Swan is a brilliant film. Not such a good movie.

I do not want to relive this film. I found my stomach in knots for the full two hours.  I was looking inward at my own demons, breathing with her, moving with her, on the verge of some tragic or wonderful emotion throughout the whole thing... all things that signify a great film.  I do love it when I need a moment to collect myself during the credits before leaving. At this point, it's hard for me to not overanalyse a film and lose myself in a story, so when something does affect me like that, I like it. It means it has done something to allow me to transcend the audience member role that I am filling, and instead, forces me to exist in that film in some capacity.  That's a great film.

Great moments:
The pervasiveness of the Swan imagery and sounds was incredible. The tune on her music box, the tone on her cell phone, the original score took multiple themes from Tchaikovsky's score and reinterpreted it; manipulated and contorted it so it was throughout the entire film, and the repetitiveness of it started to add to the maniacal basketcase-ness of it as well. It was all you heard, it was in your head, driving, pounding, and wearing you down. Image-wise, it was the stuffed toys in her perpetual-child bedroom, the tile behind her head in the bath tub, the gooseflesh (swan flesh) that rippled over her body, and the feathers and costumes-- feathers on her scarf, the white swan dress at the gala, and Lily's black dress there as well contrasting her; also the black top from Lily that she put on when they went out for drinks and psychedelic encounters. It was the black on the white, infiltrating her psyche and therefore her performance.

Plus the camera work. It was often very close-up, and almost always moving. That gives the feeling of being unsettled, and not sure of what's going on, because we can only see what is really close. It was invading my personal space. I kept wanting to take a step backwards to view the scene, but I couldn't which forced me into a bit of the maniacal headspace that Portman occupied. It also kept moving (a hand-held camera) thus making it unstable, dizzying and confusing at times.

And of course the special effects. Lily morphing into Nina and vice versa, which always makes you as a viewer question what is real and what is not. The painting shifted, the shadows moved, and the reflections in the mirrors did not match the human figure in front of them (this has always scared me... I shall avoid mirrors for a week or so).

And her eye makeup. I want to do that eye makeup. At least once in my life.

All in all I enjoyed the final experience because it moved me as good art should. Good cinema, theater, or music is often akin to a religious experience to me; I experience something outside of myself that makes me look inward. This, although it made me think of unsettling and disturbing elements of human nature, it still evoked that reaction from me, which I find impressive in a work of film.

I definitely recommend seeing it, but not if you have any history of mental health issues.  The gorgeous dancing is not enough to overshadow the dark exploration into Nina's psyche!