What do you know, this is post #201 you’re reading right now. When I shared this to guest blogger Rockerdad, he said to me, “when you started this six or so months ago, I bet you didn’t think about making it to your 200th post.” Right on, dude, I never thought I’d still be blogging to this day actually, so I thank you all for reading and supporting FlixChatter!
Ok, I don’t want to get all mushy on ya… but I do want to ask a favor. Would you kindly help a fellow blogger at screenspeak who’s an aspiring film journalist by completing this short survey? It’ll only take a few minutes and it’d help her finalize her dissertation on women directors and the Oscars.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting a discussion question for you all just to change things up. Stay tuned!
I love British period dramas and adore Emily Blunt, so put the two together and I expect an enjoyable movie experience. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Not only is it a gorgeous movie to look at, but also believably-acted by both Emily in the title role, as well as Rupert Friend as Albert.
A bit of a background on the period where the movie is set: The year is 1837, when 17-year-old Victoria is the object of a royal power struggle. Being the heir to the throne her dying uncle, King William, Victoria is sheltered from the court by two people she despise: her domineering mother The Duchess of Kent, and her appointed regent Conroy (whose task is to administer a country because the monarch is a minor). The one person she relies on is her doting governess Lehzen, who also practically smothers her.
Ever since she was little, Victoria always felt imprisoned in her own palace, and it’s easy to see why. She can’t even come down the stairs without an adult holding her hand. So she lives a lonely life with a huge burden on her shoulder that her time to rule England is soon approaching. Miles away, her cousin Albert, the nephew of Victoria’s uncle King Leopold of Belgium has been constantly coached to win her hand. Given her upbringing, the young queen is naturally reluctant to the idea of marriage, weary of being under someone else’s control again. Albert shares that sentiment, as he too is controlled by those in power around him. Perhaps it’s that understanding that lead to an unlikely friendship between the two, and allows Victoria to be honest to Albert about her feelings and grievances. The scene when the two are playing chess together shows how Albert doesn’t seek to be the husband that ‘play the game for her, but instead to play it with her.’ It could’ve been a sly line Albert’s been versed to say all his life, but it’s delivered in such an earnest way that we the audience, along with Victoria sitting in front of him, take his words to heart. It doesn’t hurt that Friend, with his mild-mannered demeanor and convincing German accent, is so darn appealing in a wholesome kind of way.
When King William finally dies and Victoria is crowned Queen of England (in a breathtaking coronation), Victoria takes no time to banish her mother and Conroy to a remote apartment near Buckingham Palace. But it doesn’t mean she’s ‘free’ now as she immediately cuddles up to the charming but rather self-serving Lord Melbourne, England’s PM and sole advisor. For a time, the people loved their new queen, but not too long later, a conflict with Melbourne’s opponent Robert Peel painted her as being against the public’s will. That’s the time when Victoria realized how much she needed Albert’s support.
Amidst all that volatile political happenings, the heart of the film is the sweeping love story, as the poster tag line says: She was the queen of an empire, but her heart belonged to one man. She’s obviously more lucky in love than her distant cousin Queen Elizabeth I who’s known as the Virgin Queen (more recently played by Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth). The best part is, she need not have to wait for Albert to ask for her hand, as being the ruler of an empire means she gets to do the proposing!
It’s to be expected that any kind of Hollywood biopics usually take liberty with the historical facts, and this one is no different. In fact, this Telegraph UK article reported that the Queen isn’t amused by the inaccuracies depicted in the film, especially regarding the assassination attempt as the newlyweds were riding through the streets in a carriage. I can’t help wonder if the fact that this movie was co-produced by the Duchess of York (a.k.a Fergie) — along with Martin Scorsese — has something to do with the Queen’s feelings towards the movie. In any case, this extra dose of dramatization adds some vigor and suspense to an otherwise plodding pace, but also reminds us that this movie is more of a romantic drama than a historical narrative.
The script by Julian Fellowes (who won Oscar for Gosford Park) is able to make the slow-burn romance and background story quite engaging as I wasn’t bored at all the entire time. When there’s not much action going on, I can feast my eyes in the beautiful cinematography of posh palaces, blinding jewels and sumptuous costumes. But all in all, the movie works largely due to Emily and Rupert’s enchanting performances, as the movie’s pace practically picks up when the two are together on screen. Emily at the age of 26 looks amazingly believable as a teen with her radiant face and flawless skin. She also makes the young queen relatable and someone regular folks can actually empathize with — she’s strong but vulnerable, no doubt a daunting task for any actress. Rupert as Albert shows a nice balance between being agreeable and resolute, as despite his meekness, he reasonably demands to be treated as his wife’s partner and equal.
The largely British cast are also fabulous all around, most notably Jim Broadbent as King William, Miranda Richardson as Victoria’s mother, Paul Bettany as Melbourne and Mark Strong as Conroy. But having seen Strong as the sneeringly evil Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, I feel he’s in danger of being typecast in villainous role (He’s reportedly in talks to play yet another villain in The Green Lantern). It’s too bad if that’s the case, as I quite like his whimsical side in Rocknrolla.
This marks the second movie about Queen Victoria I thoroughly enjoy. The first one is Mrs. Brown, starring Judi Dench and Billy Connolly. That movie takes place after the death of her beloved Albert, causing her to disappear from the public in mourning. That is until her Scottish servant John Brown helped nursed her back to life. Dame Judi Dench delivered a superior performance that no doubt merit her Best Actress Oscar.
Two indie flicks and a giant blockbuster, that’s the three movies I watched this weekend. It may seem absurd to you but I just finally signed up with Netflix again after 2+ yrs of terminating its membership. Vanessa wondered how I filled my time before that, and the answer is, well, the old-fashioned way. I’m probably the only movie blogger in the blogosphere who still go to the local Blockbuster to rent a flick. But now I’m gonna find out what’s the fuss about this ‘watch instantly’ feature Rockerdad kept raving about.
FRIDAY – The Edge of Love The first movie on my Netflix queue is the indie WW II period drama. I thought the movie was okay, its first hour was quite promising but overall it just felt neither cohesive nor memorable. Keira Knightley proves she not only has acting chops to go with her gorgeous face, she’s a pretty good singer, too. She played a torch singer Vera Phillips with uncommonly bright white British teeth, deep red lips and melancholy eyes, shot in almost surreal-like theatrics. Though billed as a movie about poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys), the movie is essentially about the unlikely friendship between the two women who loved him. Vera is his first love who happens to cross-path with him one fateful night, and Caitlin (Sienna Miller) is Thomas’ fiery wife. Knightley and Miller play off each other well and their bond amidst bouts of jealousy and adversity is convincing. The three of them formed a peculiar threesome (not in a sexual way, mind you), but as soon as trigger-happy soldier William Killick (the soulful Cillian Murphy) enters the picture, it’s apparent four is a crowd. The movie seemed to have a lot going for it, but the script (written by Keira’s own mother Sharman Macdonald) simply can’t decide what he wants to focus the story on, so it aimlessly shifts back and forth between the four characters. Not bad I guess for a Friday night, and at the very least least I get to enjoy the Welsh countryside scenery, Keira’s singing and the elegant 1940s costumes … oh, and Cillian’s mesmerizing blue eyes! sdffds….
SATURDAY afternoon – The Young Victoria (read my full review)
I’ve been wanting to see this film for months, so I’m glad my friend Corinne and I finally find the time to catch this one. It’s late January and it’s pouring rain outside, few things on earth is as unpredictable as Minnesota weather. But at least it makes for a good time to go to the movies. For the first time in a long time, I actually see TWO movies at the theater in a single day, The Young Victoria at 2:00 and Avatar at 6:30. Set three centuries apart, the two movies can’t be even more different from each other, but hey, in a way the Na’vi is a monarchy, too. How about that for stretch 🙂 …
SATURDAY evening – Avatar IMAX 3D
I don’t think there is any doubt by now that this movie will shatter James Cameron’s own box office record of Titanic. As of Sunday 1/24, THR reported that in its sixth week, Avatar‘s overseas box office has surpassed the shipwreck epic’s international cume by $46 million. But domestically, it’s got several hundred million to go to beat the Titanic‘s $600.8 million gross, which I don’t think they’ll have a problem with. I guess the Canadian über director has achieved his goal of bringing people back to the cinemas. We almost went to see The Book of Eli on Friday night when it was sold out, and Saturday, we got to the theater half an hour before it started and the place was packed! We had to sit all the way in the back by the handicapped section with the black railing right blocking part of my view! … Thankfully, the movie itself is still impressive the second time around. Blogger Katie said in her Theory of Second Viewing post that she is of the belief that one cannot form a proper opinion about a movie until you’ve seen it twice. Well, I already loved this movie on first viewing but the second time confirmed my feelings about it. I was still in awe of the spectacular world of Pandora, and the plot, however simplistic, was still engaging. And the fact that I’m already familiar with the story kind of helps me pay more attention to things I missed. It’s interesting that I still marveled and laughed at the same scenes as I did before, i.e. when the phosphorous flying jellyfish landed on Jake, and the first time Jake had a wedgie in the Na’vi’s skimpy wardrobe. Sam Worthington’s endearing portrayal of Jake’s child-like naiveté really wins me over this time that I’m willing to overlook his strong Aussie accent. …
I know I sound like a broken record but even if this isn’t your kind of movie (I’m looking at you Prairiegirl 🙂 ), Avatar simply has to be seen on the IMAX 3D theater. Even if you just see if for the special effects alone, it’s still worth your money. Btw, Yahoo! Movies released a 22-minute making-of featurette that shows what the techie mumbo-jumbo like ‘simul-cam’ and ‘motion capture’ really means. It’s cool to see that the actors still have to physically prepare for their role and the length Cameron went to create a ‘real’ environment and something tactile for them to react to. The motion-capture technology doesn’t replace the actor’s work, but I can see that makeup artists might be a bit worried if this becomes a trend in the near future. Anyway, I wish they had shown how they made Jake’s paralyzed leg so realistically skinny though, given that it’s been the subject of people’s curiosity all over the net. ….
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….. So how about you folks? Catch any good movie this past weekend?