Category Archives: Movies

The King’s Speech

There are only one or two television shows that we have been watching with any consistency this fall.  That means we have been getting full use of our Netflix account, with DVDs in the mail and Internet streaming.  Last night we watched the biographical, drama The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and directed by Tom Hooper.  The 2010 movie was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won four.  Forty-six other organizations such as the Golden Globes, the British Independent Film Award and the Directors Guild of America, nominated the movie for ninety-six additional awards.  The cast and crew took home awards for sixty-eight of the nominations.

The movie tells the tale of the Duke of York, played by Colin Firth, and his effort to rid himself of chronic stammering he has suffered since the age of five.  The Prince hoped for a life of obscurity as the second in line to be King of England.  He was, however, made King, when his older brother David abdicates the throne in 1936 to marry an American divorcee.  The new King George VI and his speech difficulties are thrust into the limelight by the onset of World War II and a new device called radio.  The King is aided by the unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue, played with style by Rush.

If you have seen the movie you know it is a great story of triumph over adversity.  If you haven’t seen it, it is worth renting.  The movie is 118 minutes long and rated “R” for a couple short scenes with raunchy language used as part of the therapy.

As I watched it the second time, I couldn’t help but notice actors placed in scenes using the compositional “rule of thirds.”  Performers were often “framed” by a room entryway or a hallway.  There was also good use of “lines” to draw the viewer’s eye to the actor delivering dialog, especially in scenes before the coronation in Westminster Abbey.  But what intrigued me the most was the speech therapist’s office wall and the wallpaper in his home.  Many scenes were blocked using the two walls as background and a great example of “patterns.”

In his new book Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography with Available Light, freelance photographer, podcaster and now author; Ibarionex Perello identifies what he calls the Five Visual Draws.  “What people notice in a photograph is largely controlled by five factors.” Perello writes.  “Brightness.  Contrast.  Saturation.  Sharpness.  Pattern.  Each of these qualities influence where a viewer looks.”

“Pattern serves as a strong visual draw, which makes it an important element not only for controlling the viewer experience but also for the subject matter of a photograph.”  Perello goes on to state that a visual rhythm in a photograph is created by repeating lines, shapes, colors and textures.  The rhythm works whether the pattern is the main focus or the secondary element of a photograph.

Since reading Chasing the Light, I have been thinking more about “patterns.”  I try to work “patterns” into the images when I can and look for them around me.  As I watched The King’s Speech for the second time, the background patterns in the movie -that I didn’t see when I watched the movie in a theater- jumped out at me.  Sure, I look for brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness in my photos.  I also search backgrounds for leading lines, ways to use the rule of thirds and wonder if my image would benefit if I framed a shot differently.  But now I have this pattern thing is stuck in my head too.

If I remember what Ibarionex Perello wrote and keep in mind the value of repeating line, shapes, colors and textures as try to pull together a good shot, I think my photography will get better.  And so, I recommend this movie, not only as great film and story, but also as an aid to photographers looking for ways to enhance their visual style.

December 19, 2011


The Tourist

Not long ago my wife, Joanne, and I watched “The Tourist” (2010) on Blu-Ray.  The movie stars Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and the city of Venice, Italy.  This well-paced action/drama was directed by German,  Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

The movie begins with Jolie’s character, Elise, in Paris and under surveillance by Scotland Yard.  Elise is the former paramour of Alexander Pearce, who embezzled 2.3 billion pounds from a British mobster.  Scotland Yard doesn’t care so much about the theft, but does want 774 million pounds that Pearce owes in back taxes.  The embezzler has disappeared and following Elise is the Yard’s only lead.

Early on, Elise receives a letter from Pearce with instructions to take the 8:22 train from Paris to Venice.  On the train Elise, who is sophisticated and savvy, meets soft-spoken math teacher from Wisconsin, Frank Tupelo, (Depp).  Scotland Yard at first thinks Tupelo is Pearce, but soon identifies Tupelo as a tourist.  With the help of an informant in Scotland Yard, the mob boss receives the first report that Tupelo may be Pearce in disguise, but does not get the correction.  And the adventure begins.

There is a chase scene through narrow canals with high-powered boats that will have you looking for a life jacket.  During another scene Depp’s character is chased out of his hotel room window onto a precarious ledge and then runs rooftop to rooftop with Italian mobsters in hot pursuit.  Of course bullets fly, no one get seriously hurt and the action shows off Venice by night and day.

We felt the movie was a throwback to the Hitchcock thrillers of the fifties with a twist of James Bond action and style of the sixties.  Johnny Depp is funny and self-deprecating as the overwhelmed American tourist plucked from one perilous situation after another by the very capable Elise.

During an elegant ballroom scene Jolie’s character takes over the room with her entrance.  I said to Joanne “Do you think they filled the room with plain-looking actresses or is Angelina Jolie really that stunning?”

Then or course, there is Venice.  Australian cinematographer John Seale showcases the canals and ancient buildings of the city and films it all looking at its best.  If you have ever thought of a trip to Venice to photograph the canals, the architecture and the people, this movie shows what you are missing.

The movie is rated PG-13 and runs for 103 minutes.  We thought it was time well spent and fun to watch.  And when the movie ended Joanne agreed with me…  Angelina Jolie really is that stunning.

To see Venice in other movies, take a look at “Summertime” (1955) with Katherine Hepburn as another wide-eyed tourist.  For a brief look at the city with more boat chases watch “The Italian Job” (2003).  You can also catch two very different James Bonds in Venice.  Roger Moore lounges in a gondola in Moonraker (1979) and Daniel Craig survives a building collapse as a much improved Bond in Casino Royale (2006).


November 9, 2011

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