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Firth Fever

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Mark Kermode | 11:17 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Who would have thought playing an old King with a stutter would do so much for a chap's career? But while he may be the imperial flavour of the month, as far as I'm concerned Colin Firth has always been a class act.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I agree about Trauma - a hugely underrated film. You may be interested to know that although Colin Firth didn't win a BAFTA for it, the film's website did win the best Film website BAFTA (such a thing did exist though doesn't anymore) in 2005... it's still online

  • Comment number 2.

    Dr K.

    Totally agree with you on the awards front. However when you said at the end of your blog "if I had it my way he would've won for Trauma". Well, you do have it your way don't you? with The Kermode Awards. I remember you stated in a blog a few weeks back that all the films and performances that you generally liked this year were going to be nominated in the regular awards season leaving you strapped for the Kermode Awards.

    Well how about this. Why not give a special Kermode Award, albeit a slightly delayed one, to Colin Firth for his performance in Trauma. As you said in this blog "if I had it my way". Seeing as you said that you were worried about the Kermodes this year, why not give a deserved special achievement award for most underrated performance by an actor from the last ten years or something like that.

    Think about it

  • Comment number 3.

    He seems to play the same 'repressed Englishman' character in everything I've seen him in - although he does do it very well. Haven't seen Trauma though so will check it out, he doesn't play a repressed Englishman in that too does he?

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Mark,

    My first post, think you have some great insights, best film blog on the net but in what way was Tony Blair an ordinary person - Fettes College, followed by Oxford, followed by MP and then leader of the 'New Labour' movement and then Prime Minister! Are we all ordinary if not a royal?!

    All best.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rich Indeed: I remember Firth being pretty un-repressed in The Advocate (The Hour of the Pig in the US) as a medieval layer tasked defending an animal against charges of witchcraft (uncovering corruption and murder in high places in the process). Also notable for Ian Holm as a randy cleric and Firth going full frontal. Quite a fun movie; Chris lee’s in it too.

    Are we all ordinary if not a royal?! EdRigg. Yes, ‘fraid so.
    The fuss over the marriages to Diana, & now Kate M, is that they’re considered commoners by the Royals; Kate’s considered ‘only’ middle class. (Diana was considered upper middle class.)

    King’s Speech is perfect awards bait, especially in the US.
    English period drama, about English royalty and has a central character overcoming a disability (more Oscar bait cf ‘don’t go full retard’ ~ Tropic Thunder.) plus Mark’s point about a royal having to form an unlikely alliance with a mere commoner in order to flourish.

    Put Firth, Mirren and Dench together into a period movie about English Royalty and the Yanks would create wholly new awards just for them; the Pavlov dog reaction is so strong.

  • Comment number 6.

    Jayfurneaux: what a brilliant plot summary - that's the Advocate added to my list of Firth films to watch (and I'm sure my wife'll appreciate the Firth full frontal)

  • Comment number 7.

    I thought Geoffrey Rush was better than Colin Firth but that may be because he had the better lines. Unlike Firth he didn't have to pretend there was a foreign object up his backside which I found off-putting and, in a way, over the top.

    Firth will win the BAFTA because.... he's British. I am not sure he will win the Oscar and I don't think the film will pick up many Academy Awards because unlike "The Queen" the film will not resonate with the American public so much. The life and death of Diana is something that we can all relate to, because we were there. The story of somebody preparing to give a radio address and then frankly, not doing it all that well, I think is unlikely to garner all that much interest outside of the UK. It is a story that is interesting and well told but most of us were not there and so do not see this as such an important event because we have never heard about it before. We've all heard the speeches of Churchill which were much more influential because that is the way history was written and probably is the way it was. Incidentally, the idea that Michael Gambon as George the Fifth would have been so prescient about Hitler and his intentions in the early thirties did not seem at all credible.

    The story that would really get American bums on seats and win Oscars galore would be the story of Wallis and Edward. I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

  • Comment number 8.

    @Antimode re 7:

    The story that would really get American bums on seats and win Oscars galore would be the story of Wallis and Edward. I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

    I wonder if one of the stumbling blocks for this might be having to hand-wave their notably overt nazi sympathies.

  • Comment number 9.

    Well you could do it warts and all or end it with abdication

    Or you could do what they did in La Vie en Rose and ignore the World War 2 entirely ;-)

    I think they did that in LVeR because they didn't want to have to address the sympathizer allegations although there is evidence that Piaf was anti nazi too.

  • Comment number 10.

    re: 8

    And didn't Fatherland get made into a movie which highlights JFK's father's nazi sympathies. I'm sure we can all take it from this distance.

  • Comment number 11.

    Was it me or was Richard Bacon giving Mark a real hard time on this week's review?

  • Comment number 12.


    Ahh. "Full frontal".
    Now *there's* a phrase we don't hear often these days.
    Takes me back to many a "Play For Today" in the 70's.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree that he is a class act. But I still maintain that A Single Man was dull and pretentious.

  • Comment number 14.

    10: I think the whole subject deserves a re-evaluation. Regrettably, there were many voices in the UK and the US who were either tolerant or verging on support for the fascists (I'm thinking of the likes of Lindbergh and Lord Rothermere) but this seems to have been written out of popular history.

  • Comment number 15.

    jayfurneaux - sadly, "full frontal" is not quite the same thing as "naked", and while Colin was rather wonderfully naked in "The Hour of the Pig" if Rich Indeed's wife wants the full-frontal experience, she'll have to rent a different movie.

  • Comment number 16.

    This is completely off-topic, but it seems like the best place for me to air my grievance and for you to hear it. I apologise in advance for the caps, but I feel it is necessary. So, let me begin:


    Using "genuinely" before describing something as funny or heartbreaking communicates nothing of extra substance or worth. It means NOTHING. At worst, it is a lame attempt to lend your points authority without having to put any substance behind them.

    I know you are better than this. Please stop it now. Thank you.

  • Comment number 17.

    Firth should have won best actor last year. Instead they gave it to Jeff Bridges out of sympathy. Crazy Heart is pretty much a clone of Tender Mercies.

  • Comment number 18.

    Yes Firth will get the BAFTA and the Oscar, the King's Speech will rightly sweep the BAFTAs and leave The Social Network to clean up in the major categories at the Oscars. With Inception and Black Swan sweeping the technicals.

  • Comment number 19.

    Imagine what "The Double Deckers" would have been like if it had starred Colin Firth, instead of Peter Firth...

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm glad you like "Trauma", it is a very underrated film and i'm a big fan of Marc Evans. "Snow Cake" is my all time favourite film, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman are perfect in it, and "House of American" and "My Little Eye" are great films too. I'm really looking forward to his new film "Patagonia". :)

    I think i'll rewatch "Trauma" tomorrow, and if you haven't seen it, get onto ... 11p!! bargain!

  • Comment number 21.

    @Suart Yates re:11
    "Was it me or was Richard Bacon giving Mark a real hard time on this week's review?"

    Bacon seems to like to take on Kermode as if he is goading him. I think Bacon was on a losing wicket with his pro-3D stance in a previous encounter and was determined to score a few retaliatory points here with his "do we really need the BRITISH BAFTAs?" argument.

    I am glad somebody is trying to take Kermode to task, at last. I feel we could do more here ;-)

    By the way, what the hell is going on here?

  • Comment number 22.

    I would've given MY 2004 award to Hiroyuki Sanada in The Twilight Samurai, Mark. Technically it's a 2002 film, but it didn't play here in America until 2004. It never got enough attention in my eyes... Wait. BAFTAs... What?

    But I'll watch Trauma if I can get my hands on it. I just hope it's better than the Dario Argento version.... What?

  • Comment number 23.

    I love hearing Dr K talk about Trauma, it was written by our screenwriting tutor, Richard Smith. This makes me feel great getting feedback from someone whose script met Dr K's approval.

  • Comment number 24.

    How can he not get an Oscar? It's a film about royality featuring a non-disabled actor playing a disabled person. A bit of triumph over tragedy to add to the heady mix of commoners basking in royal graditude.

    Interesting to note that even the highest-status individuals are not immune from the stigma of disability. And fantastic news for people with speech impediments that all they need to do is swear a lot - as indeed I suspect many of them were as they left the cinema. I wonder if they were subsequently 'cured'.

    Colin Firth is a fine actor and I would not want to diminish his achievements. However, I have a dream that one day there will be a serious oscar contender - a brilliant actor who is a disabled person playing a disabled person in a film which removes rather than reinforces the notion that 'cure' is the route to acceptance.

  • Comment number 25.

    "You see the thing is, in America, they just love that scenario"

    Thanks for pointing this out Mark, it's not like the films you mentioned received awards anywhere else... Oh wait, just checked the BAFTA nominations.

    "You see the thing is, in Britain, they just love their own films"

  • Comment number 26.

    The Kings Speech is a good film. It is not, however, a great one. Pacing issues aside, the denouement has next to no impact - it's a damp squib that fizzles rather than pops. With that said, all performances are good, but this BAFTA / Oscar will be as Training Day's was to Denzel Washington - a token of "you missed out earlier".

    Also - Black Swan for technical awards - really? that movie, while amazing, showcased one thing technically - how the REDcams don't function well in low light.

  • Comment number 27.

    '"full frontal" is not quite the same thing as "naked".' TimWarp #15

    Interesting point. The Advocate does have fairly high raunch content, from memory we get to see Firth's willy in a bed scene. Whether that counts as 'full frontal' or just as 'naked' or 'nude' is something I've not really thought deeply about before. How would you define the difference?

    As a point of interest, European (and British) films, particuarly of the 60's and 70's, were a lot braver in showing nudity (e.g.many Ken Russell movies) than today's cinema. Referring back to Mark's previous (Blue Valentine) post, censorship barriers are supposed to have been pushed back much further in the past few decades (at least as far as violence is concerned), yet film makers exercise self-censorship as far as nudity and sex is concerned.

    'Ahh. "Full frontal". Now *there's* a phrase we don't hear often these days.
    Takes me back to many a "Play For Today" in the 70's.' Trevor. #12

    *Sigh* Sorry, my formative years were the 70's & 80's.

  • Comment number 28.

    I concur with the good Dr K about Colin Firth winning the best actor awards at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars this year.

    As a lead performance by a British actor in a British film, it is a given for the BAFTA gong as IMHO, nobody comes close to Firth's performance.

    However, for the Oscar, I truly believe it will be a combination for not only The King's Speech but also a nod for missing out to Jeff Bridges last year.

    Thanks for the heads up for Trauma and The Advocate. Now those two movies, and quite a few more of Firth's are on my wishlist at Amazon UK. What a pity I couldn't include them in the large order I placed on Friday. But even more reason to put another order in soon, so I am able to view these movies.

    @Kellywatchthestars No. 20, Snowcake with Akan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver is also a favourite film of mine. Very under-rated.

  • Comment number 29.

    Colin Firth is indeed a brilliant actor and deserves the plaudits he is receiving but I do think Geoffrey Rush should get recognition as well. He was superb and deserves awards as well.

  • Comment number 30.

    Last year Colin Firth showed me the great power of acting by conveying immense emotion and feeling with the minimalist amount of expression in A Single Man. I thouroughly enjoyed that movie and will be going to see The Kings Speech this week. I most track down Trauma as well. I would love to see him get the Oscar. Anyone who can put in performances like the ones mentioned and prance around in Mamma Mia as well is a true talent who doesn't mind being silly and sees the industry and its baloney for all it is. Hats off to you Mr Firth.

  • Comment number 31.

    Colin Firth's stuttering performance will land him a deserved oscar

  • Comment number 32.

    "full frontal" is not quite the same thing as "naked".' TimWarp #15

    Interesting point. The Advocate does have fairly high raunch content, from memory we get to see Firth's willy in a bed scene. Whether that counts as 'full frontal' or just as 'naked' or 'nude' is something I've not really thought deeply about before. How would you define the difference?

    I suppose one difference between "full-frontal" and "naked" would be that the former precludes the possible use of a willy double or a stunt willy.

  • Comment number 33.

    We Americans have a particular interest in movies that depict royalty getting involved with commoners? We do? Really? Never heard that before. Given that "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" grossed more stateside than all the films you mentioned combined, I'd say we have more of an interest in watching Asian people fly around on wires. Except that we don't have a particular interest in that either.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just a point on 'The Hour of the Pig'. Cracking film with a great cast, not just Firth but Ian Holm, Nicol Williamson, Donald Pleasance, Jim Carter and many more. Bawdy, strange and very funny, but also gives a great and accurate view of Medieval life. Sadly the US version was heavily cut by about 10mins (and retitled as 'the Advocate', available on Region 1). The UK version is 'Hour of the Pig' and, whilst released on VHS, this full version is not available on DVD. If Firth wins the Oscar hopefully it might nudge someone to get round to it...

  • Comment number 35.

    He is a class act. One word: Tumbledown.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm from the USA, and I love Mark Kermode and his work. On Colin Firth, I've always been impressed with him since an early odd thriller called "Apartment Zero." I highly recommend it if it's available over there.

  • Comment number 37.

    Anniefan mentioned "Apartment Zero." I saw this movie when it came out in the late 80's and I've never forgotten it. I'm always rather amazed that it was Colin Firth in such an unusual (and bloody) movie. It is definitely worth seeking out.

    Firth was great--but I never forgot he was an actor playing the King, while I thought Rush really was Lionel Logue. I hope he wins Best Supporting Actor--he was wonderful, and made the relationship between the two men believable.

  • Comment number 38.

    With reference to your certification issue with Made in Dagenham, this article is taken from the website Melon Farmers.

    "The LA Times is reporting that the film distributor Weinstein is contemplating editing The King's Speech in order to get its R-rating reduced to PG-13 and so increase the market able to see it.

    The reason that the film was given the restricted label in the first place is because of MPAA inflexibility over a scene in which King George VI spurts out numerous curse words in order to help him get over his stutter.

    The film was originally rated 15 in the UK, but the BBFC were asked to think again, and the film now has a 12 rating allowing it to be seen by a family audience. And successful it has been too."

  • Comment number 39.

    Have just watched Trauma. It's a terribly confused film.

  • Comment number 40.

    I trust and hope Colin Firth will get the big one at the Oscars for The King's Speech. Even if he was better in Trauma (haven't seen it but will find it) and usually plays awkward/shy characters, the depth he brought to this was phenomenal and the sheer physicality of the stammering and accuracy of that was simply breathtaking and by far the most physical performance i've seen in eons.

    Comments have been made that Geoffrey Rush was brilliant playing Lionel Logue or wasn't brilliant playing Lionel Logue as all he was doing was being an Australian older man and there wasn't much acting involved in doing that. Huh???

    Does that mean every time an Englishman plays an Englishman there is not much acting involved? Or perhaps this is all the more argument to say how convincing Rush indeed was. Personally I hope he gets the support Oscar.

    Inception was an amazing film and I salute it for being the most innovative and mind bending film of the year (you're right about the lack of BD nomination...) but my FAVOURITE film of the year is still the King's Speech as it ticked all the boxes. I feel a bit bad about that but will live with it...

    And what's that rubbish about people saying it was just a Telly-movie? TKS captured the scope of the racetrack and the crowd and the tiny suffocation of the lift and did spatial gymnastics that could not have been re-produced on the small screen whatsoever.

    Getting back in my box now.


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