If I didn’t get my fill of movies-in-the-theater during the holidays, I came pretty close. For all my posturing as a cineaste, the plain fact is most of my viewing is via DVD, so much so that I’ve started noticing how much I’m coming to resemble Kate at her first in-theater movie (“Elmo in Grouchland,” in the year Three): Sitting on Alan’s lap, happily scarfing popcorn, the movie started and she froze. Her hand didn’t move from the popcorn bag, and neither did she, for many long moments. That wide screen was pretty overwhelming.
Nowadays, when I see a movie in a real theater, I need to ask myself, “Was the cinematography in ‘True Grit’ that good, or did it just look good to someone who’s seen the last two Coen brothers’ movies on a not-even-16:9-TV?” Answer: Yes. It’s that good. And after “The King’s Speech,” I had to marvel at Colin Firth, who played two-thirds of his performance with the camera about three inches from his nose. Or maybe they set it back a few feet and used a long lens, but he still filled the screen. And when you fill the screen, you better know what every muscle in your face is doing, and to the extent he seemed to have control over all of them, well, it’s Oscar-nomination time for Colin.
The last of the three was “The Fighter,” and I think I enjoyed that one best of all, and I’m not sure why, although let’s check off its pleasures: The fabulous Melissa Leo, Christian Bale playing a crackhead dancing right up to the edge of chewed scenery but not stepping over, the fabulous Amy Adams, a perfectly fine Mark Wahlberg, and boxing. I’ve come to appreciate boxing late in life; too many Saturday nights spent on the couch watching HBO bouts has finally paid off, and I can see the sport of it now. It’s not just two guys pounding each other, it’s scoring and strategy and plans of attack. The film is based on a true story, and I was glad not to be a lifelong fight fan, because I didn’t want to know the ending. Alan said afterward he could see it coming like a punch in slo-mo, but not me.
But it raised the question about things like that. I don’t think I’m being spoiler-y here about “The King’s Speech” when I tell you the story — about how King George VI learned to master his lifelong stammer — all leads to a climactic address before the entire British Empire, via radio, and that he manages to pull it off. There wouldn’t be much of a movie if he had stood in front of the microphone and gaped like a landed fish, after all. And yet, you watch it unfold with your heart in your throat. The director, Tom Hooper, keeps the suspense high by showing Britons gathered around radios around the world, all gnawing their fingernails to the quick, waiting for their king to buh-buh-blow it. You empathize, the great miracle of storytelling.
The other wonderful thing about “The Fighter” was its several scenes of lively arguments between large groups of people, everyone talking at once, that reminded me how hard it is to capture these things. I guess it’s a credit to the director. When you watch your share of amateur-made short films, that’s the first thing you notice. One person talks. Then another person talks. Then the first person replies. And so on. It’s just not the way life unspools, especially when you’re arguing. I’d love to watch David O. Russell at work. He directed my all-time favorite rom-com, “Flirting With Disaster,” which contains a dinner-party scene just like that — audio chaos, everyone yap-yap-yapping over everyone else. Just sublime.
Anyway, I recommend all three. “The King’s Speech” isn’t a big vitamin sandwich on whole-wheat bread, either. It features Eve Best as Wallis Simpson — how wonderful is that?
Pretty wonderful. As is our first bit of bloggage today, from our own Coozledad. He always wanted to live with a sexual athlete. But he might have arranged the furniture more wisely.
Last night was a slow news night. Some people were late for church, and it made the main page of the New York Times.
Do not take health-care advice from celebrities. A new year’s resolution that’s easy to keep.
Finally, a sad story from a former Freep reporter: Farewell, Detroit. It broke his heart.
As for me, I’m just freezing. The long dark slog toward the light begins with the disassembly of the holiday displays. And it’s Monday. Urg.