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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:47 am 
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Question for everyone, if I may: Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family, or does that immediately make said film mediocre, safe, and/or not as good as a film of [theoretically] equal quality that is not about the British royal family?


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 Post subject: Re: Awards Season 2010
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:56 am 

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mfunk9786 wrote:
Question for everyone, if I may: Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family, or does that immediately make said film mediocre, safe, and/or not as good as a film of [theoretically] equal quality that is not about the British royal family?


I kinda liked The Queen, but thought The King's Speech was dumb. I don't usually like using the reductionist "dumb" as a criticism, but there it is.

When I saw it, I didn't really think it was going to be much more than an Oscar-bait film that would just make it into the ten nominees. That's why I never even organized my thoughts in the official thread.


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 Post subject: Re: Awards Season 2010
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:00 am 
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If it's done in an interesting and complex way, sure. There's an extremely weird and complicated film to be made out of the abdication for example. Also while it's not British there's been many great movies made from the French revolution and even other country's monarchs. I wouldn't be surprised if a great movie has been made of the British royalty, this one just isn't it because it is safe and only okay.


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 Post subject: Re: Awards Season 2010
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:52 am 
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mfunk9786 wrote:
Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family?

I firmly believe that every single film ever made has the potential to be a great one, and whether or not it succeeds all comes down to the execution (as Ebert always says, "it's not what a film's about, but how it goes about it"). I personally thought King's Speech was fine, but it seemed to me that the way it "went about it" was "the way most likely to win at the Oscars." So I think it was a pretty safe and typical pick for Best Picture, though at least it's a decent film to boot, which is more than can be said for most of the "safe picks" from the past 30 years.


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 Post subject: Re: Awards Season 2010
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:10 am 
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Finally finished w/work for the evening and have time to re-enter the discussion. I don't have a problem w/O'Hehir's argument (I guess that would be why I posted it!) because I take the main point to be that Cannes has become a venue for more challenging films, while the Oscars represent mainstream fare. A film can only win the Oscar for Best Picture provided it stays within certain (depressingly limited) boundaries of taste.

I don't think an "ideological" film is necessarily a bad thing--ideological films are still either well or poorly made--but the winner is quite often a well enough made film that wins primarily because it confirms the ideological preferences of the Academy rather than, you know, actually being the Best Picture of the Year. I don't think it's going too far out on a limb to say that in terms of Oscar-worthiness, a film's ideological position can often be a stronger determinant than aesthetic qualities that forum members believe (perhaps mistakenly) the Academy ought to privilege. Crash is the most obvious recent example of ideologically safe mediocrity trumping aesthetic brilliance, but it's hardly the only one.

Yes yes, I realize we're debating subjective responses and comparing apples to oranges. And if, hypothetically speaking, you had two films evenly matched in cinematic brilliance and one just happened to be "safer," I'd have no problem with that film winning. And I haven't seen The King's Speech, so I don't know whether or not it's the best film from 2010. But I don't think that invalidates anything I said above.

I like knives' point, and would further add that American moviegoing audiences love their manichean dualities. How many more times do we need obviously evil corporation, Nazis, or better yet, Nazi-controlled corporations as the main villains? Actually, at least Crash minimally complicated its cast of racists by giving them all one redeeming characteristic each. By Academy standards, that's what passes for profundity.


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 Post subject: Re: Awards Season 2010
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:32 am 
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mfunk9786 wrote:
Question for everyone, if I may: Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family, or does that immediately make said film mediocre, safe, and/or not as good as a film of [theoretically] equal quality that is not about the British royal family?

My personal aversion to the Royals in cinema is far more ideological than it is aesthetic. The fact that these affairs do tend to resolve themselves in "Masterpice Theatre" fashion doesn't help however.


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 Post subject: Re: Awards Season 2010
PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:57 am 
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mfunk9786 wrote:
Question for everyone, if I may: Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family, or does that immediately make said film mediocre, safe, and/or not as good as a film of [theoretically] equal quality that is not about the British royal family?

I think this is the wrong question to ask. The question should be, "Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family that portrays the monarchy in a positive light?" Many people, I'm sure, argue that any film that portrays such a prominent institution of hierarchical power in a favorable way is unethical. I think that's a respectable position, and I say that as someone who enjoyed The King's Speech.

If we disregard politics, however, I do agree with your sentiment that the backlash for this is excessive. Is The King's Speech the best movie of 2010? Not at all. Is it highly conventional? Clearly. But it's miles ahead of a dismal, humorless affair like Crash or A Beautiful Mind.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:32 am 
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I enjoyed Henry V and Richard III enormously, both of which were about the British royals. It's hard, though, to imagine being amazed by a movie whose primary thrust seems to be 'the immensely rich and powerful have problems just like you and me, and we can all enjoy them overcoming those problems!'


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:19 pm 
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I've always loved The Madness of King George for Nigel Hawthorne's performance so I'm noy sure if that's aesthetics or if it's ideology.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:09 pm 
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Totally forgot Madness which is definitely the best movie on the Royals. It doesn't hurt that it can be achingly funny at times.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:23 pm 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
I enjoyed Henry V and Richard III enormously, both of which were about the British royals.

Going through that BBC Shakespeare set I particularly liked "The Famous History of Henry the Eight" which treats the monarch as a kind of over emotional hothead whose vicissitudes are there to be harnessed like a natural energy or wild animal which needs to be put to some practical use. He's the figurehead and therefore beyond any reproach yet in some ways that is his tragedy - he's locked solid into his role in history. The play is really all about the machinations of those around him, jockeying for position and rising to preminence but inevitably due to fall from grace again and disappear due to their lack of regal protection, while only the King remains.

That is what gives that particular Shakespeare play its episodic quality as it is kind of broken into the three periods of Cardinal Wolsey, Katharine of Aragon and Thomas Cranmer, who all evoke our sympathy to a greater or lesser extent. I have to admit to being a little saddened at first glance that the play didn't cover all of Henry VIII's wives, but the motivations for that seemed to become clearer as I watched. Wolsey and Aragon meet their ends during the course of the play, and Cranmer almost follows them but gets a last minute intercession from the King during his 'private trial'. The play then ends on an uplifting note with the baptising of Elizabeth and Cranmer's proclamation that she will bring England into a long period of stability.

Yet by ending at this point of uplift the play leaves out all the 'difficult bits' - the execution of Anne Boleyn, the religious upheavals between Protestantism and Catholicism exacerbated by Henry's vacillating between wives of different faiths, Henry's desperation to father a son (in the play he does have a little bit of an "urgh! A girl!" reaction, but is soon placated by Cranmer's prophecies during the baptism), and the period following Henry's death as the nation is ruled by the boy king Edward VI, Cranmer is martyred for backing Lady Jane Grey (chief among many other reasons!) and the bloody reign of Mary as she tried to re-establish Roman Catholicism through Protestant burning, all occurring before we get to the long, stable period of Elizabeth I.

This can be seen as a bit of revisionism as it plays to audiences transitioning from the Elizabethan period into the Stuart period of King James (who would prove to be a little like Henry VIII himself in that he would preside over a period of stability while undermining many of the central tenents of religion and the state before his son Charles I took far too many liberties with the 'Divine Right of Kings' and started believing his own hype, pushing things over the edge into Civil War), and suggests that this was a blessed generation to live under such benevolent, stable rule. Much as say The King's Speech deals with a time almost the same historical distance from a contemporary audience as the setting of Henry VIII was to the time that the play was first performed and which involves the troubles of the father of a future long ruling Queen. It's playing to an audience worried about the future without such a stalwart figurehead, acting both as propaganda and nostalgia.

Yet also it foregrounds the sense that history is a merciless onward flow of events, that unpalatable aspects can be brushed over and that life lived in the merciless gaze of your public is somewhat dehumanising (something which it shares with The King's Speech, and which perhaps The King's Speech shares with The Social Network)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 7:31 pm 
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I think this is a more prickly question for British viewers, particularly ones who resent and despise the monarchy and its continued existence (even if it has been largely ceremonial for much of the last 250 years). Personally, I have big problems with a film such as The King's Speech, which seems to belong to a kind of obnoxious 'heritage industry', with one eye on a reactionary domestic appetite for affectionate portrayals of aristocratic rulers, and the other on the American market for 'quaint' kings-'n'-queens bullshit. It is very difficult to divorce such products from the culture of public events such as the upcoming, and no doubt supremely nauseating, wedding of the horse-faced Prince William.

This is particularly acute for films set in the 20th century, when the gross anachronism of the institution should have been apparent, although pics about Victoria (Mrs Brown, The Young Victoria) are bad enough. I have much less of a problem with films set prior to, say, 1789, when most of Europe was still ruled by monarchies. Such reactions may be difficult to rationalise on a purely intellectual level - they are more visceral.

Apart from anything else, (latter-day) monarchs are such a trite, banal and toothless subject: why can't we have more films about actual politicians, Prime Ministers, trade unions (Bill Douglas's Comrades was exemplary there), organised labour, regional struggles, etc? Not to sound all Loachian (or Nothing-esque).


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 7:35 pm 
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mfunk9786 wrote:
Question for everyone, if I may: Would you ever see potential in a film about a member or members of the British royal family, or does that immediately make said film mediocre, safe, and/or not as good as a film of [theoretically] equal quality that is not about the British royal family?

A side question: Is it possible for someone to make a good movie about Facebook?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:26 am 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
I enjoyed Henry V and Richard III enormously, both of which were about the British royals.

On the other hand, Richard III is one of the most successful pieces of political propaganda ever written, in that there's no hard evidence that he was a hunchback who murdered his nephews, and quite a bit of evidence to suggest otherwise. Shakespeare was essentially peddling the Tudor version of events - entirely understandably, given that Richard's conqueror Henry VII's granddaughter Elizabeth was on the throne when it was premiered.

Gropius wrote:
Personally, I have big problems with a film such as The King's Speech, which seems to belong to a kind of obnoxious 'heritage industry', with one eye on a reactionary domestic appetite for affectionate portrayals of aristocratic rulers, and the other on the American market for 'quaint' kings-'n'-queens bullshit.

Have you actually seen the film?

I thought it worked precisely because it wasn't an especially affectionate portrayal of the royals. George V is depicted as a crassly insensitive bully, and Edward VIII is scarcely more appealing - and its very subject can't help but emphasise the gulf between the stereotypical portrait of what an aristocratic ruler is supposed to be like and the painfully shy, tongue-tied, hugely reluctant reality. And it provides plenty of ammunition for republicans in showing just how rickety the edifice was - the fact that even though the speech therapy sessions were ultimately successful, George VI still needed Lionel Logue to hold his hand on all subsequent public occasions.

It also looks strikingly different from other royal films - and while I'm definitely in the "Fincher wuz robbed" camp when it came to the Best Director Oscar, I can't accuse Tom Hooper of playing it particularly safe.

Quote:
It is very difficult to divorce such products from the culture of public events such as the upcoming, and no doubt supremely nauseating, wedding of the horse-faced Prince William.

I didn't think of Prince William for a single solitary second when watching the film, and find him easy enough to tune out as a general principle.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:42 am 
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MichaelB wrote:
matrixschmatrix wrote:
I enjoyed Henry V and Richard III enormously, both of which were about the British royals.

On the other hand, Richard III is one of the most successful pieces of political propaganda ever written, in that there's no hard evidence that he was a hunchback who murdered his nephews, and quite a bit of evidence to suggest otherwise. Shakespeare was essentially peddling the Tudor version of events - entirely understandably, given that Richard's conqueror Henry VII's granddaughter Elizabeth was on the throne when it was premiered.

Oh, absolutely- and equally so with more or less all his histories, as when legitimizing Bolingbroke's claim to the throne in Richard II and creating an overall narrative that allowed him to praise Henries IV and V while still supporting the overthrow of their line. I think that's part of why it's impossible to object to his use of the royals, though- there's an undeniable political and historical importance to the personal stories of royalty in that era, and discussing the major political events and what they mean more or less inherently requires getting involved with their lives.

I'm not sure that's true for any 20th century royalty.


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