Sunday, November 28, 2010

the king's speech

Born in Britain and raised in Long Island, 73-year old David Seidler claims his stuttering began around his third birthday. His parents told him about King George VI, whom, according to them, seemed to have overcome his impediment by delivering stirring radio speeches in the midst of war. The King's Speech is a film of many strengths and the personal nature of Seidler's script only adds to its richness.

It follows the little known story of Prince Albert (the future King George VI) who went to Austrailian-born speech therapist Lionel Logue for help after a disastrous appearance at the 1925 closing of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The movie builds artfully and powerfully from their first meeting to the King's rousing 1939 broadcast from Buckingham Palace.

The dance that emerges out of the performances of Colin Firth (as George VI) and Geoffrey Rush (as Logue) is just plain astonishing (and fun) to watch. Rush, who is usually Shakespearean-showy, is remarkable--tender and authentic. The film closes with his gaze, and in a way, the story, and the audience's sympathies, belong to him. It's one of the finest supporting performances I can think of in recent memory. Firth, always such a serious and brooding presence, gives his best performance (and only a year after his stunning work in the stark A Single Man). Once again he infuses his aloofness with tremendous warmth. His frustration and quiet agonies are made palpable by his physicality, rhythms of speech and those large dark eyes. Unlike many British pics of this type, it isn't stuffy or witty screwball (Seidler's script is never too sparkly)--it has both an Ivory/Merchant polished sheen (love it or hate it--I went ahead and embraced it fully and felt rewarded in the end) and a deeply emotional context. Netty Chapman's art direction and Eve Stewart's production design are impeccable and fascinating to behold; the muddled colors in the peeled wallpaper on the walls of Logue's humble office looks like a painting. The movie is enhanced by the talented Alexandre Desplat's score. Some of Danny Cohen's shots which illuminate in gorgeous widescreen both the opulent visuals and Albert's isolation are almost as good as those found in Kubrick films like Barry Lyndon. And Tom Hooper's handsome direction is often impressive. Not only does he do strong work with his actors (even Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter in small, but important supporting roles have moments to shine) but the Capra-esque old Hollywood influence he wears on his sleeve is well-suited for this affair. He just creates an environment where a story gets told well. Usually a fan of darker, more realistic films, I still found Hooper's film refreshing and apt rather than cloying. The use of Beethoven's "7th Symphony" may be a bit much for some but it's really quite a beautiful moment: the melody of the music itself--halting, passionate, building slowly--is elegantly timed with Firth's delivery. ****

-Jeffery Berg

Please listen to the great interview with screenwriter David Seidler on

Interview with Geoffrey Rush on Movieline.

Monday, November 22, 2010

twin shadow

Frontier Psychiatrist, an awesome new music site everyone should add to their reading list, just posted my review of one of my favorite albums of the year, Twin Shadow's Forget.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The exquisite trailer for Somewhere has revived my interest in the film. Sofia Coppola won top honors at the Venice Film Festival this year. It looks quite moving. I love the Phoenix track too!

William Johnson, the editor of Mary, has a great interview on Eat On This. And he shouts me out!

Terrance Hayes is such an exciting choice for this year's National Book Award for poetry. His book Lighthead is stunning.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Julian Schnabel's films sometimes have the effect of entering the claustrophobic experience of a character. His best works, Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, immediately plunge the viewer into harrowing dilemmas. Schnabel chose his latest film, Miral, after reading Ruth Jebreal's semi-autobiographical novel about her experiences growing up in Palestine. The film opens with the character of Hind (Hiam Abbass, the Palestinian actress who was memorable in The Visitor) who generously sets up a school for refugee children. Her story crosses with Nadia (Yasmine Al Massri), who escapes her abusive father, becomes an alcoholic, is imprisoned and eventually marries Jamal (Alexander Siddig). Nadia bears a child, Miral (the gorgeous Freida Pinto). After Nadia commits suicide, Jamal takes Miral to Hind's school. The latter conflicts of the film arise as Miral is soon torn between the activism of her peers, including her boyfriend Hani (Omar Metwally), and her education and guidance under Hind.

Schnabel says that "Miral is a single young girl among millions, but she is also the inheritor of all the pressures, anxieties and hopes that the Palestinian people have accumulated over four decades. Her story is not about the details of historical events, but what is felt within the body and heart." Schnabel's choices in making Miral a broken, very interior experience (shaky cam abounds; I preferred Eric Gautier's impeccable recent work on Wild Grass and Summer Hours) may frustrate the viewer. It's perhaps trite to compare a piece of art to a cultural situation, but the film does feel as if it is attempting to mimic discord and displacement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This makes Miral a flawed, but fascinating work. In the midst of this disjointed narrative, the actors do their best to keep things whole. Hiram Abbass is burdened by portraying an elderly woman for much of the film. Pinto (showing more depth than she was able to portray in Slumdog Millionaire) has to endure some brutal scenes. Schnabel's choice of layering three narratives in the first half, and focusing in on Miral's character in the final, is definitely tricky. It isn't pulled off as gracefully as it could have been (the plot points often feel scattered; characters come and go, especially ones played by distractingly big stars like Willem Dafoe). The film is sometimes moving and may ignite some interesting commentary, especially since Palestinian life is seldom portrayed. ***

-Jeffery Berg

Thursday, November 11, 2010

turning back time

Vanity Fair's great piece on Cher made me want to revisit some of her vintage looks. Be sure to check out Cher Style.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

double takes

My friend Katie Parry went to a wedding this weekend. She shared a pic of her awesome bun which immediately reminded me of Tippi Hedren's twist in The Birds (they are even wearing the same color!). Even the barn is similar!

Melanie (Tippi Hedren) in Mitch's kitchen in Bodega Bay:

The barn!

The lovely Ms. Parry at the wedding in a very cool black dress (vintage!) and her dapper friend Will.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I have to say, if I were to choose between Blake or Leighton, I'm definitely team Leighton. I like how she takes a lot of risks and pulls them off. I am loving this look and this Marc Jacobs gown! At premiere of Country Strong.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010


Check out Teo Blake's new album Death to Sambo. Really good tracks! A little post about it on Le Chic Batik. Available on iTunes here.

After Tuesday's depressing (though I prepared for the very worst) election results, I found Curtis Sittenfield's (author of the amazing novel Prep) Slate essay on Barack Obama warm and refreshing.

Ricky Martin's memoir reviewed by Gawker.

Frank Bidart was a special guest at last night's Wilde Boys salon. An amazing writer. Read his work here.

Carey Mulligan at the BAFTA's. Love it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Four poems of mine have been published by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Editor Poetry editor Helen Losse does a great job of compiling work by southern writers. I'm honored to be on board with them. Check out my work here.