Hold onto your seats; it's going to be a bumpy Lancelot Links.
- To start. The Star-Tribune's Colin Covert recently asked me, vis a vis my review of “Vincere,” what responsibility the critic has in parsing fact from fiction in historical dramas. I shrugged, adding, “Historical context should get more play if the filmmakers fudge history in a way that makes the film less interesting.” To wit: “The King's Speech,” which Christopher Hitchens' reminds us, gets its facts wrong in its drive toward the obvious and comfortable conclusion. In reality Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) was a Nazi sympathizer while George VI (Colin Firth), our sympathetic, tongue-tied hero, was an appeaser who wanted to stick with Neville Chamberlain even after Sept. 1, 1939, and whose first choice as successor was another appeaser, Lord Halifax. “And so the film drifts on,” Hitchens writes, “with ever more Vaseline being applied to the lens.”
- Then our old friend Michael Cieply gets into the act. He writes of the attempts by other filmmakers, not to mention Hitchens, to take down frontrunner “The King's Speech.” The Weinsteins, he adds, are ready to fight back:
And it is lost on few here that a primary competitor, “The Social Network,” has also faced questions about the veracity of its portrayal of the Facebook entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, so any showdown between that film and “The King’s Speech” over matters of fact and fiction might end in a draw.“
- To which Richard Brody of The New Yorker parses the difference between the two movies:
“The King’s Speech” is an anesthetic movie, “The Social Network” an invigorating one—and their scripts’ departures from the historical record serve utterly divergent purposes. The tale of royal triumph through a commoner’s efforts expurgates the story in order to render its characters more sympathetic, whereas the depiction of Mark Zuckerberg as a lonely and friendless genius (when, in fact, he has long been in a relationship with one woman) serves the opposite purpose: to render him more ambiguous, to challenge the audience to overcome antipathy for a character twice damned, by reasonable women, as an “asshole.”
- To which Tom Shone, former critic for The London Sunday Times, objects on grounds that indie films like to wallow in misery as much as Hollywood films like to revel in happy, stupid endings:
It is the reigning aesthetic consensus of the day. In Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher we have a pair of twin dark princes for whom life is misery and pain and unpleasantness not just every now and again, but all the time. Black Swan is virtually a primer on developing-your-own-dark-side, in much the same spirit that teenagers take up smoking to annoy their parents, but presented as if this represents the loftiest of artistic aims.
He thinks I’m complaining about pleasantness, and about viewers who enjoy “The King’s Speech”; not at all. ... “The King’s Speech” is pap, but I have no argument with the people who enjoy it. I’m not against the film’s existence or the audience’s pleasure, I’m against giving it awards for any supposed artistic merit. Because, as it turns out, my point of view regarding character in art is one that has some precedent. It is, in fact, the core of what we call Western art: inducing the audience to overcome feelings of repugnance or derision (i.e., prejudices or settled moral values) and enter into sympathy with people who, despite (or even because of) their virtues, make themselves into monsters (in tragedy) or asses (in comedy)
- Updates as they come. In the meantime here's a nice Sundance rundown from MSN's James Rocchi, who chronicles the hits (”Martha Marcy May Marlene“) and misses (”Son of No One“). But it's his list of superlative documentaries that most intrigues me. From Morgan Spurlock on product placement (”The Greatest Story Ever Sold“), to the daily newspaper in the internet age (”Page One: A Year in the Life of the New York Times“), to personal injury lawsuits (”Hot Coffee“) to the man inside a muppet (”Being Elmo“), I kept thinking, ”I'm there, I'm there, I'm there, I'm there.“
- I haven't read Daniel Zalewski's profile of Guillermo del Toro in The New Yorker yet, but his video on del Toro's monsters, particularly the ”pale man“ from ”Pan's Labyrinth,“ is way, way cool.
- Are you reading Alex Pareene over at Salon.com? Here he is on media coverage of events in Egypt: ”It goes against the nature of the medium to suggest that we just watch and analyze the events of a faraway nation and examine America's role only in a historical sense.“
- My friend Jerry Grillo takes a break from Facebook (for non-Tom Shone reasons) and makes a list of what he's missed. Answer: Not much.
- Finally, we have a new Superman: Henry Cavill. Here he is talking about his role on ”The Tudors." Yeah, he's a Brit. Like Batman (Christian Bale), the new Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), the young Beast (Nicholas Hault), and the old and young Professor Xes (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy). But the U.S. still has Ghost Rider! Plus Iron Man, of course (Robert Downey, Jr.). Who also plays Sherlock Holmes. Is that our tit or our tat? Either way, it feels like a trade deficit.
After yonks, Cavill wangles the bleedin' superbloke. Brilliant.
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