We had a really, really long meeting, from 9:30am until 2pm. Blech. I had to be there but wasn't much a part of the whole thing, so I drew pictures. I'm on a major Byzantine kick right now, which led me to do some sketches of Justinian, upon completion of the Hagia Sophia, declaring in awe: "Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών!" ("Solomon, I have outdone thee!")
Mar 21, 2011
So, yeah, when it comes to movies, I am routinely months (if not years) behind the curve. That means that me having seen The King's Speech on Friday is nothing short of a miracle. It only won the Oscar for Best Picture like three weeks ago. That said, even though it's showing in about three theaters in the United States by this point, you should go see it.
It always surprises me that there are so many interesting histories that haven't been told in movie or made-for-TV-movie or miniseries or TV format. I mean, I guess fourish thousand years leaves lots of epic things to tell.
The King's Speech is the story of Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V (who ruled the UK during World War I) and younger brother of King Edward VIII. He, unbeknownst to me, suffered from a stutter throughout his life, almost debilitatingly so until the mid-1920's, when he began taking elocution lessons from an Australian therapist named Lionel Logue. When his brother abdicated the throne in order to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson in 1936, Albert became the reluctant King George VI (father of today's Queen Elizabeth II) who led his nation through the second war with Germany in a generation.
I won't ruin the movie's story or go too deeply into it, but instead will discuss both its historicity and the acting.
First, to get an idea, here's a real video of George VI speaking in public. His stammer is noticeable, though not terribly pronounced:
The movie does a pretty good job in being historically accurate, and the changes were appropriately done for dramatic effect. I detail the biggest ones here:
1. Prince Albert actually began taking elocution lessons from Lionel Logue much earlier than the movie portrays. The film is correct in opening on Albert's speech at the closing of the British Empire Exposition in 1925. The book The Queen Mother and Her Century by Arthur Bousfield describes it thusly:
April 1925 was a particularly bad experience for the Duke as he had become President of the Empire Exhibition and was required to make a speech which would be broadcast on radio and be made in front of his awe-inspiring father, the King. The King recorded that "Bertie got through his speech all right" but others noted that there were embarrassingly long pauses in it.
After that, he determined that he had to solve his problem. Lionel Logue was the tenth he tried. Turns out that the tenth try is the charm.
2. The movie is incorrect in portraying Albert's first major public speech as his Declaration of War speech in September 1939. It was actually a speech in 1927 opening the Australian Parliament. However, for drama the film made the training with Logue and the pinnacle speech out to be later.
3. Churchill. Winston Churchill made a few appearances in the movie because people today are so familiar with him. However, as Christopher Hitchens details in his review, Churchill was actually a big supporter of Edward VIII. When the abdication was imminent, Churchill was so enamored by the young King that he almost lost his own support in the Party by advocating for his battle with the Church of England over the divorce issue.
4. On a smaller note, at the end of the film, Churchill is included with the group of senior ministers listening to the King's broadcast. This is wrong on two counts. First, there wouldn't have been a large group of people listening to the speech in Buckingham Palace. It would've simply been the King, his family, and the radio people. Second, even if the event did happen that way, Churchill as Lord of the Admiralty would not have been distinguished enough to be present. George VI only warmed up to Churchill later in the war, having been cool to him because of his support for Edward.
5. The Munich Agreement. Probably the biggest thing left out of the movie is also probably George VI's biggest monarchical blunder. When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned in September 1938 declaring "Peace for our time," having just joined France in betraying Czechoslovakia to Hitler, the King invited him to the balcony of Buckingham Palace, an honor usually reserved for the Royal Family. His support for appeasement (though common among the Britons of the day) was misplaced, and the event stands as an embarrassment on the highest order.
I don't know what to say, beyond that Colin Firth and Helen Bonham-Carter were both incredible in their roles. I always thought that HBC was pegged as a crazy woman, on the order of Bellatrix LeStrange in the Harry Potter franchise and her character in Sweeney Todd. However, she took on the role of George VI's wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon ("the Queen Mother") with grace and charm. The support and care she shows for George is lovely and believable.
Firth, for his part, did (what it seemed, and what's been confirmed by experts on the subject) an incredible stuttering performance. For what is already such a difficult condition to live with, Firth showed how devastating it can be for one who must constantly speak in public. George's fear of speaking was palpable through Firth, and you loved his character for how held up under the situation: never wanting to be king, but accepting his duty with great resolve. In fact, he received what could be the highest honor for the film, and I don't mean his Oscar for Best Actor. I mean the statement from Queen Elizabeth (who was a little girl at the time of the events portrayed), saying that she was "touched by a moving portrayal of her father."
For comparison, below are the real "King's Speech" from September 3, 1939 and the one from the movie (spoiler!):
So, yeah, I can't gush about the movie enough. It was great. Well worth $10 and two hours of my life.
Mar 18, 2011
Mar 14, 2011
I drawed this today. It's actually a figure/light study for the cover of a Bible study that my aunt is putting together. It in no way reflects me at the moment (that is, I'm rather happy right now, unlike the dude in the sketch).
Mar 9, 2011
Wow. I just returned from an unexpectedly long trip to New England for work. It was crazy. I'm not usually one to use a blog like a diary, but I feel warranted this time around.
I was supposed to fly to Burlington, Vermont via LaGuardia Airport in New York City. This much was clear. If all had gone according to plan, I would've been to Burlington in the early evening, just in time to make it to the local Sheraton Inn.
All did not go according to plan.
Remember Snowpocalypse that hit Chicago about a month ago? Well, Snowpocalypse's little brother, Snowmaggedon decided to hit New England on Sunday-Monday.
I arrived at LaGuardia about an hour later than planned due to a delay in Chicago, blissfully unaware of what awaited me. It was raining in New York, sure, but how bad could that be?
Apparently, bad enough (it was spitting, not even really raining yet) for them to take my gate-checked carry-on and send it to the baggage claim, because that's United's policy for bad weather. That's right, even though I had a plane leaving in less than an hour on a different airline (United/US Airways have some sort of agreement, so I was going between the two), they sent my CARRY-ON to the baggage claim. The United lady at the gate, copping the typical New York City "I don't give a s***" attitude, studied her hot pink nails and told me that there was nothing I could do; I better just run fast.
So I ran fast.
I then had to catch a tram to get to a different terminal (because Lord knows, when you have scheduled connections, they can't be close). I got through security and to the gate about twenty minutes before the flight was scheduled to take off, had it not been delayed by another hour. That was fine, until a few minutes later, it was canceled due to snow. Uh-oh.
I called the attorney I was supposed to meet (whose Burlington flight had also been canceled, though he was connecting through Washington, DC), and we both determined that we'd meet in Manchester, NH and drive to Burlington on Monday morning. I managed to get myself on a Machester flight that was going to leave at 3:00pm. At this point, it was around noon.
Finally, the Manchester flight arrived. It didn't board until after 5:00pm. Fine. I get on, the doors are closed, and we are told that we are overweight. Three people need to get off the plane. I figured that I had nowhere to be until around 2:00pm the next day, so I could take a later flight (scheduled for 8:00pm). I took a $250 voucher for US Airways and stepped off the plane.
Now, understand that by this point, the storm that was walloping Vermont with snow had made it to New York, except it was in the form of blinding sheets of rain. That Manchester flight took off, somehow, and presumably made it, since I didn't hear anything about everyone dying (and I saw the pilots and flight attendant at Manchester the next day).
I went to the bar, had a Guinness, drew some pictures, and read my book. Then, at 8:00pm, my flight got pushed to 9:00pm. Then to 10:00pm. Then to 11:00pm. Finally, it got pushed to 12:50am for a departure. I was convinced it was going to be canceled, but I couldn't give up now.
Sure enough, right after midnight, it was canceled. I put in a frantic call to our travel people, and a lady managed to get me a bed in a Holiday Inn about two miles from LaGuardia. The airline put me on an 8:00am flight to Manchester for the next morning.
I waited 45 minutes for the Holiday Inn shuttle to arrive (when it did, it was loaded with ladies from Dallas complaining about how difficult their days had been...they had no idea), got to my room around 1:30am, discovered that the phone didn't work, so set the room alarm for 6:00am. Why didn't I use my phone? Well, I had forgotten my charger (oops) so needed to keep the battery for meeting the attorney in Manchester.
I woke up at 8:15am the next morning, the alarm never having gone off. I still don't know how that happened.
Frantically, I called the travel people who got me set up on an 11:25am flight to Manchester, which I thankfully made. Let me tell you, after about 15 total hours in the US Airways terminal at LaGuardia (gates 1-10), I am an expert on the place. I never want to see it again in my life.
Got to Manchester two hours late (flight was delayed in LaGuardia by two hours. I don't think they have the ability to send a flight out on time) and met the attorney there. The last time I had been to that airport was when I was a senior in high school and had visited family and schools in New England. My mom's cousin is a teacher outside of Manchester, and I was hoping to meet up with her, but due to my delays and her having just returned from Belize that day, we weren't able to work it out.
Our rental car had a Rhode Island plate (which is sad, because I've never been to Rhode Island and really want to, just to say that I did). We headed out to Burlington, having been told by New Hampshirefolk that the snow was still insane up there. Great.
At a rest stop, we discovered that New Hampshire has state-owned liquor stores. I have stored this information away in my mind, as it may be important to my future dealings with New England.
Then we got lost somehow, and a friendly lady and a guy with a really thick New England accent told us how to get where we wanted to go. The directions were appropriately confusing and seemingly complicated, but--lo and behold--dropped us exactly where we wanted to be. We made it to Burlington without any real problems (snow had died down), noting that people from Vermont like to drive really, really slowly, even when the roads are clear and that plows in Vermont really, really like to plow the shoulders of the interstates, even when the lanes aren't clear.
The Rest of the Trip
I made it to within viewing distance of the Canadian border. There's a fence. I thought about jumping it since I forgot my passport, but decided that might be more trouble than it's worth. We went to a pizza joint in the middle of nowhere New York (actually, Champlain, New York, a cute little town) where a friendly waitress took care of us. There was a cat at the window who she said just kind of hung around. If we could catch it (something no one had been able to do in the past), we could have it.
Turned out, the cat wasn't so hard to catch. It walked right up to us and let me pick it up and pet it. Had I really wanted to be the new owner of a load, fluffy black kitty, I could've been. But we left him where he was and smoked some cigars, since we had nothing better to do.
Then today, we hung out in adorable little Burlington. It's a cute town, which reminded me of Asheville, North Carolina, because it was filled with artsy, uber-liberal, outdoorsy people (apparently called Granolas). I bought a shirt that simply says 'Vermont' (because when am I ever again going to have that opportunity?), and we ate real Vermont maple syrup, drank real Vermont apple cider, and spoke to Vermonters with real French accents.
Oh, and by the way, did you know that "Vermont" is trademarked? My shirt has a little 'TM' after 'Vermont', so it must be true.
Well, that's about it for my crazy last few days. I saw real ice fisherman, too. Did I mention that? No moose, though. Only signs for the following crossings: slow children, bear, deer, horse, cow, moose, children, pedestrians, rock. Actually, it was for rocks falling, not crossing.
I'm not going to work tomorrow, because I lost Sunday. So, as my roommate just pointed out, I'm taking back Sunday.
Over and out.