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  1. "Kings and Queens of England & Britain" by Ben Johnson on historic-uk.com The above is a useful historic guideline for the film, especially the part at the end dealing with the House of Windsor, which was formed in 1917. In fact, you can look forward to 100th-anniversary events being publicized for this coming July 17th. Before I get to the spoilers, let me say that I found the first 15 minutes of this film intensely boring; now, 30 minutes in, it seems to have blossomed, and has become very enjoyable to watch. If you find it tedious in the beginning, push through, and I suspect you'll be rewarded (again, I'm only 30 minutes into the movie as I type this, so I can't be sure, but it did win an Academy Award for Best Picture, which is worth something). *** SPOILER ALERT *** (Do not read if you're going to see the film) Near the beginning of "The King's Speech," speech therapist (and amateur actor) Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is auditioning for Shakespeare's Richard III by reading the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech, those lines followed by, "made glorious summer by this sun of York ...." To me, this is an obvious quibble on "son of York," as the future King George VI (Colin Firth)- his soon-to-be patient with the stuttering problem - currently holds the title Duke of York (which is given to the second-born son of the current King). The closeness of "sun of York" and "son (or Duke) of York" is too much for simple coincidence - this was a clever piece of dialogue that probably went mostly unnoticed. Needless to say, there's also an obvious parallel between the kyphosis of Richard III and the stuttering of the Duke of York. About 40 minutes in, it's clear George V (Michel Gambon) is near death, and he "signs his duties" away for others to execute. A couple interesting facts about the death of George V: 1) In 1986 (fifty years after the death), his physician's private diary was unsealed, and it turns out George V was euthanized with lethal doses of morphine and cocaine - this was known to absolutely nobody for fifty years, and 2) the morning after George V's death, the great German composer Paul Hindemith (a name very well-known in classical music circles) composed Trauermusik ("Mourning Music") in just six hours, and the piece was played on the BBC radio network that same evening. Wow, when you first see Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) at the party, it seems *just* like Winston Churchill - until he turns around and you see his face. You won't recognize this, but Spall played Beadle Bamford in the film of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." This film makes a wonderful history lesson regarding the 20th-century English monarchy. However, it is painted accurately only in broad brush strokes. For example, in real life (not in the film), Churchill was a staunch supporter of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), and urged him not to abdicate the throne. A memorable quote, made during a conversation between King George V's sons, shortly after his death, and the ascension of David as King Edward VIII: Duke of York: "David, I've been trying to see you." King Edward VIII: "I've been terribly busy." Duke of York: "Doing what?" King Edward VIII: "Kinging." *Damn* Derek Jacobi is a good actor. Oh my goodness, the King is about to give his war speech, and they've chosen to play the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony as background music. I'm not going to denigrate this work by telling you what other movie it was played in, but I will say that this is one of the greatest movements ever written in the history of classical-romantic music, and very fitting for such a grave occasion. What's interesting is that they played the opening chord twice (when it's only supposed to be played once), imitating a stutter. Also, how ironic is it that Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany? And for the duration of the speech, Lionel Logue was quite literally conducting King George VI - that was not coincidence. And how wonderful that the closing music is the most famous piece for clarinet ever written, the Mozart Concerto.
  2. Towards the beginning of "Argo," they showed some American churches, businesses, etc. with "Free the Hostages" signs - despite the Iranian embassy being stormed in 1979, one of the buildings depicted is still open - it's right across Chain Bridge Road from what is now Santini's (formerly Boston Market). The first picture is from the film; the second picture is from Google Maps. It's also amazing (and not coincidental) that when Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) first enters the CIA Headquarters in Langley, he's actually entering the CIA Headquarters in Langley (just a couple miles from McLean Cleaners) - this is the first time I've ever seen any pictures of the Headquarters (which is way back from the street), and apparently, special access was granted entirely due to honoring Tony Mendez (you should read about him on Wikipedia). *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** I had never heard of the Canadian Caper before reading about Mendez on Wikipedia, which is pretty pathetic, because 1979 is the year I graduated from high school - I guess I was more worried about college life, and the Iranian hostage crisis was only on my mind as much as the television allowed it to be. From my viewpoint, 38 years later? This was an act of war on the part of the Iranian people, period - embassies are designated as foreign countries, and the safe harbor which comes from being within those countries' borders - these Iranians invaded the United States the moment they broke into the embassy - tell me where I'm wrong, please. In the distant future, Rodney King will be remembered as a hero, for his words, "Can we all get along?" They mean more than any crime he ever committed, and he will be regarded as a role model. Within five seconds of first seeing John Chambers (John Goodman), an homage is made to "The Blues Brothers." And it's very, very funny that the name of the movie ("Argo") comes from a crude knock-knock joke. This, for an Oscar-caliber film: 'Knock-knock.' "Who's there?" "Argo." "Argo who?" "Ar Go fuck yourself." What I can't understand is why, when Mendez first meets the six hostages at the Canadian Embassy, he would assume the room *isn't* bugged. I mean, come on ...
  3. I saw a lot of films in 2014, including all of the movies nominated for Best Picture, with the exception of "The Imitation Game." I am not sure why I didn't go see this movie in the theater. A recent conversation with a friend about the Enigma Machine led us to this interesting video, which, in turn, brought us to "The Imitation Game." This film made an excellent companion piece to "Das Boot," a German movie about at World War II submarine crew that I loved and had just watched days earlier. "The Imitation Game" tells the story of Alan Turing, a real-life British cryptographer who decrypted German intelligence codes for the British government during World War II. The screenplay, written by Graham Moore and loosely based on the biography "Alan Turing: the Enigma," by Andrew Hodges, won the Oscar that year for Best Adapted Screenplay. I enjoyed this film. Benedict Cumberbatch (who was nominated for Best Actor for this role) gives an outstanding performance as Turing. There are two intertwined stories: a thriller about a secret group trying to break German code in order to save lives, and Turing's secret life as a homosexual. Both tales are engaging and well told. If you are thinking about watching this film, take a moment beforehand to view the video about the Enigma Machine (above). To appeal to the masses, the movie offers a Hollywood explanation of how the machine works. Watching the video first to gain a better understanding of The Enigma Machine enhanced my enjoyment of this fine film.
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