Tag Archives: drama

Summer in Genoa

My wife says to me, “I record everything with Colin Firth in it.” That’s cool, I guess. She’s in charge of the DVR, what could I do?

There are two striking moments early in this movie. One is in the opening scene, which struck me as one of the most horrifying and gut-wrenching death scenes I have ever seen. The second is a few scenes in, which struck me as wrong, as a father and his two daughters finish up the school year and leave Chicago for a year-long trip to Genoa, Italy. That’s not right. Who would do that just at the start of a Chicago summer? Um, nobody.

Shortly after these two scenes, at about 20 minutes, Gail and I debated turning it off. We stuck with it though.

It’s an artsy flick about this guy who takes his two daughters to Genoa as therapy for the death of his wife/their mother. In general, it was a little too artsy for me; no clear plot, ending not really an ending, shaky camera. It kind of lost me at times, but I have no regrets.

Conviction

Rarely do I go into a movie with zero knowledge. I went into this one with an uncharacteristically low amount of information. Here’s what I knew: Hillary Swank learns law to get her brother out of jail. Oh yeah, and Gail said she heard it was good. That second part, about Gail saying it was good, was one of the primary reasons for seeing it.

So this woman, who didn’t graduate from high school, spends 16 years of her life getting her law degree so she can exonerate her brother, who’s serving life in prison for murder. She gets help from famous lawyer Barry Scheck, who runs this thing called The Innocence Project and they successfully prove the innocence of her brother Kenny Waters.

Hillary Swank turns in an inspired effort. I think I’ve only seen her in Million Dollar Baby, which rocked. I’m looking down through her filmography and I don’t see that many movies that I think I’d like, despite her popularity and consistent critical acclaim. What gives with that? Do people have favorite actors any more? You know, the actors for which every movie is a must-see. I guess I’ve seen a ton of Clint Eastwood movies and the majority of John Wayne movies, but I don’t really have any must-see actors anymore.

I watched this movie with my laptop open because I was half working, so I had The Innocence Project website up (plot killer). It got me into a little trouble because I broke the news to Gail that Kenny Waters died six months after getting out of prison, so the ending wasn’t as happy as it appeared. They did add a note that Betty Anne Waters won a settlement from the corrupt police department and continues to work on The Innocence Project, but neither of us noticed anything about the sad news of Kenny Waters’ death and inability of him to enjoy much of his late life freedom.

The King’s Speech

This was a great movie about King George VI of the United Kingdom. It portrays a snippet of his life from about 1925 to 1940 and focuses on his close relationship to a speech therapist named Lionel Logue.

The speech that the title takes it’s name from is a radio address that King George gave shortly after the declaration of war on Germany. It appears to have been a breakthrough performance for the king, who was a lifelong stammerer (a term they used in the movie). He delivered it with only few hitches under the close tutelage of Logue. Not only did Logue continue to work with the King after this, but he ended up being a lifelong friend of the King.

I left the Rose Bowl (Wisconsin vs TCU) at halftime to see this movie and I have no regrets. I figured heck, the Big 10 had already lost four games, so what were the chances of Wisconsin saving the day? Turns out, pretty good. It ended up being a great game, but this movie rocked. So I’m fine with the way things worked out.

History played an important part in this movie. It was a tumultuous time for the UK. Hitler was amassing military strength, Stalin was asserting his power, and the US was in the Great Depression. To exacerbate things, the rightful heir to the throne, King George’s brother Edward, wanted to marry a twice-divorced American (basically illegal). It was imperative for royalty to display political and idealogical leadership to the country during this time. In the end, Edward had to abdicate the throne to marry his love, so for the first time a King succeeded someone that wasn’t dead or near-dead. Which ended being especially stressful for a King lacking in self-confidence. But King George VI had a strong will.

Enter Logue, who was first contacted by the King’s wife (then the Duchess of York) in a last ditch effort to find a decent speech therapist after he botched the address at the British Empire Exhibition in 1925. Logue was portrayed as highly confident and unconventional. He treated the King as an equal and refused, at first, to call him your highness. Instead, he used the King’s nickname Bertie, which was unheard of. Logue’s confidence was grounded in his successful work with previous patients despite not having a doctoral degree. He seemed like an interesting guy.

This movie is an inspiring piece of history (or historical fiction, you never know how much these things are dramatized unless you’re a historian or an insider). It shows how the human mind can crack in professional situations under stress and insecurity, then emerge victorious. Let me put it this way – think of the toughest job, project, or client you’ve ever had. Then heap on the fact that you can’t quit, despite being in a little over your head – you are shackled to the job. Then throw in a boss, coworkers and family who constantly belittle you.

Do you crack under the pressure? Or do you persevere with a strong will while relying on friends and family to help you through it? Great story and awesome performances all the way around.

Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Guy Pearse. Directed by Tom Hooper.