Posts Tagged ‘oscars’

The King’s Speech unexpectedly interrupted

March 1, 2011

LONDON (Sept. 17, 1939) — King George VI used a radio broadcast last night to rally the British Empire in its looming battle with Nazi Germany. Miraculously gone was the monarch’s notorious stammer as he spoke clearly and strongly about the coming struggle. In its place, however, were repeated musical interruptions that seemed designed to urge the king to wrap it up.

With Britain’s declaration of war earlier this month following the German invasion of Poland, the nation looked to its sovereign for words that would inspire them in the struggle ahead. Many, however, feared a repeat of the disastrous 1925 performance at the British Empire Exhibition, in which then-Prince Albert blathered incoherently as he attempted to overcome his speech impediment.

“Let the power of this empire — uh, uh — let the power of this empire never fa-, fa-, fa-, fade,” Albert told that crowd of thousands. “We will continue, uh, continue to rule the world. Here’s something, here’s something … you’re never going to forget — Ba-ba-ba-baby, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

“Uh–, uh–, um, uh,” he continued. “I, uh, I, uh, I need to step away and use the throne — ha, ha.”

Ever since the king’s older brother abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, there have been reservations about George VI’s ability to step into the royal shoes. His quiet demeanor and unease in the public eye have not exactly inspired confidence in a nation about to enter an epic battle. Many, in fact, doubted the new king could lead Britannia out of a paper sack.

But his address yesterday had all the hallmarks of a confident leader ready to take the reins and lead his nation to victory in the impending world war. Or, at least, to remain sequestered in an undisclosed palace in the countryside while Winston Churchill does all the heavy lifting of defending This Blessed Plot, This Realm, This England.

The King’s speech began slowly, deliberately.

“In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas this message spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself,” the ruler began.

He stood stiffly before the microphone in the broadcast room of Buckingham Palace. No audience of film stars dressed in their elegant suits and gowns sat before him. No worldwide audience of over 1 billion people watched his every move. No Anne Hathaway mugged for the camera next to him, wearing a Givenchy creation some described as looking like upholstery.

“For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war,” the king continued. “Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it has been in vain.”

The monarch looked up briefly from his prepared notes to see a large clock counting down the seconds until his allotted time was complete. Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve …

“We have been forced into a conflict,” he said. “For we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.”

The clock continued its inexorable progression toward zero. Three, two, one …

“Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right,” said the king. As the clock finished its countdown, the royal orchestra, gathered in an adjacent room, began playing a low-volume rendition of incidental music, featuring primarily the string section.

The king appeared startled at first, but the music was so soothing and subtle, and his message so critical to the survival of Western Civilization, that he continued his speech.

“For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, and of the world’s order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.”

Now, the orchestra’s woodwinds section joined with the strings, ramping up both the volume and the pace of the unexpected accompaniment.

“It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my peoples across the seas, who will make our cause their own,” the monarch read.

Now the brass section joined in, and the king had to raise his voice and speak more rapidly to head off the point at which he couldn’t be heard above the symphony.

“I ask them to stand calm and firm, and united in this time of trial,” he said, his earlier measured tone now raised to what was nearly a shout. “The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield.”

By the time the percussion unit boomed into the composition, the king had gotten the message loud and clear. His time — and possibly the time of British global hegemony that stretched back to the 17th century — was up.

“But we can only do the right as we see the right and reverently commit our cause to God,” the king said in almost inaudible tones as he was now drowned out by the rising music.

His speech coach, proud of his student’s composure, led the king away from the microphone. Outside the palace, crowds that had gathered to hear the address broadcast over loud speakers cheered their approval. Everyone who heard the speech now had renewed confidence that their nation could withstand the onslaught of the German war machine and ultimately prevail.

Unaware that his task had been completed successfully, the king continued just out of range of the microphone:

“I’d like to thank my manager, I’d like to thank my agent, and I just want to say that Cameron Diaz and Mark Ruffalo were an absolute pleasure to work with,” he said. “And most of all, I want to thank God. Oh, and also our producer, Harold Everson, who had the faith in me that we could make this production a successful one.”

Revisited: At the Movies (In the Breakroom)

February 27, 2011

February is not the best of times in the world of cinema. The winter crap, er, crop of movies are generally artistic cast-offs designed not to distract voters considering Oscar nominations. Instead, we’re given fluff, misguided children’s fare and some guy named “Duane Johnson” who I swear looks exactly like The Rock.

With so few films of merit currently on the market, it only makes sense that you don’t need a New York Times egghead to help suggest what might be the best choice this weekend at the local cineplex. Your expectations are already pretty low. About all you need for guidance is the good word of a friend who liked that one scene where the guy and the girl sort of kissed but not quite, and in the background was that song — you know, that “la-la-la” song from the seventies — played on a harp.

So let’s turn to the voice of the commoners for some recommendations about the hits and the misses currently in first run. Overheard in an office breakroom that could be your own, let’s meet our critics. Rachel is also known as “Old Rachel” to distinguish her from the attractive young intern Rachel. Old Rachel has two preteen children who help define her worldview of Hollywood. We’ll also hear from The Lady From Accounting, a late-middle-aged divorcee who has the nerve to go to movies to be entertained, not challenged. There’s not a romantic comedy she’s viewed that she didn’t “jess loooovvvve.”

So what do you nice ladies suggest?

OR: I don’t like that “Shutter Island” movie. It looks too dark. It’s depressing. Leonardo DiCaprio was good in “Titanic,” and he was a cute kid on that TV show when he was young, but I don’t like him lately.

TLFA: I saw that preview too. No thanks.

OR: You know what I did like, though? I liked “The Squeakqual”. It was actually better than the original, and those Chipettes were just darling, I don’t care what Alvin says.

TLFA: Everybody says they don’t like Chipmunk movies, but everybody goes to see them anyway. Speaking of squeaky, I kind of liked that Sandra Bullock movie, you know, the one about the football player she adopts and he wins the World Series. They say she might win a Grammy for that.

OR: Right, right … I think it was called “All About Steve,” and she’s been kidnapped by a hijacker on a bus, then she wins the Miss Firecracker beauty contest. She’s so cute.

TLFA: You know what else was good? “Invictus.” I didn’t think I’d like it, what with all the soccer and Nelson Mandingo and Ben Affleck (or was it Matt Damon)? Anyhoo, I meant to see “The Wolfman” but I had looked at my ticket stub upside down, and I thought theater 7 was theater 1, and I didn’t even realize it was the wrong movie until about 45 minutes in. But “Invictus” was actually okay, at least for a movie without any werewolves in it.

OR: I was gonna see “Valentine’s Day” on Valentine’s Day — wouldn’t that be wild? But my car got all tore up and I couldn’t make it.

TLFA: Oh, I want to see that one. It’s got so many stars! And I just love romance movies. I heard it’s just great. It’s kind of like that old TV show — you remember “Love American Style”? [singing] “Truer than the red, white and blue, ew, ew, ew, ew …”

OR: Honey, that was before my time. But if you want to see a good, funny movie, go see that “Dear John”. These two kids fall in love and then 9/11 happens and he has to leave and she’s like all boo-hoo. It’s funny, but it’ll make you sad too. That’s what makes a good movie, if you ask me.

TLFA: Talk about sad, my friend was telling me how she cried the whole last half of “Tooth Fairy.” You’d think it was going to be funny, because it has The Rock dressed up in a tu-tu, but he learns some valuable lessons about helping poor kids whose teeth are falling out. It even has a message, if you like that sort of thing: Always brush after every meal.

OR: I love The Rock. I’d even see him in some Shakespeare movie, if he took off his shirt.

TLFA: You got that right!

OR: I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to, and that’s “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s got Johnny Depp in it, and I think that singer April Lavigne is the one who says “off with her head.”

TLFA: You know, that Alice, she was on drugs.

OR: Well, she fell down a hole!

TLFA: That’s true. Anyway, I just loved Johnny Depp in that “Chocolate Factory”. That’s what he looks like in this movie, except I don’t think it has as much chocolate.

OR: Well, if you only see one movie this year, you gotta see “Michael Jackson, the Olympics and the Lightning Thief.”

TLFA: Wasn’t that his concert film? The one he was practicing for when he died?

OR: No, wait, not Michael, some other Jackson.

TLFA: Janet? I always thought she’d make a good actress, how much she looks like Michael and all.

OR: No, this one is about a teenage boy whose dad is God. Well, not the God, but a Greek god. And he’s flinging lightning bolts all over the place and it’s kinda like “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings,” one of those kind of movies. The boy is real cute, too. My girls are crazy about him.

TLFA: And it has Olympics in it too? Is there ice dancing? Did you see where that guy riding the luge got killed? That was so sad.

OR: No, it really didn’t have that much Olympics in it. I was surprised. What’s been your pick for the best movie of the year so far?

TLFA: I really liked “Lonely Bones”. Where that girl gets murdered and tells her story from up in Heaven.

OR: Percy Jackson goes to Heaven too. Wouldn’t it be cool if those two met? Now that would be a great movie.

TLFA: That would be awesome.

OR: Well, I’d better get back to my desk. My spreadsheet just crashed and I’m about to throw some lightning bolts myself!

TLFA: Ha, ha. Okay, then. Maybe I’ll see you At the Movies.