9 Songs [2004]

9 Songs [2004]

9 Songs [2004]
Directors: Michael Winterbottom
Genre: Drama/Music/Romance
Language: English
Country: UK

Sex, drugs and rock & roll. Literally.

9 Songs is a British film from director Michael Winterbottom that has received some degree of notoriety due to its excessive and graphic sex scenes. In between the increasingly more hardcore endeavors, the movie shows concert footage from Brixton Academy and other music venues. Basically, the movie is half-concerts and half-porn.

There isn’t much of a story here. A guy (Kieran O’Brien) and a girl (Margo Stilley) meet at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show, hit it off and then embark on a frantic fling that is equal parts sex, drugs and rock & roll. The movie jumps back and forth between random concert footage, sex, and the occasional shots of Antarctica (because the dude is a glaciologist). That’s it. As mentioned earlier, the scenes become more graphic as the movie goes on. Most of these scenes are short in length, and would really only be offensive to prudes. There is a scene of male ejaculation, allegedly the first “mainstream” film to show this, and later on there is actual penetration shown, but there really isn’t anything exciting about all of this. Some consider it “art” and I suppose technically it is, but that doesn’t mean it is good and/or entertaining. Without any real context to piece everything together, I found it difficult to maintain my interest.

To be fair, there were two things I did like about this movie. One, the actors used were not gaudy porn star-types — they were normal looking folk who certainly wouldn’t be out of place at the concerts they frequented. Two, there was a lot of good music from bands like Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream and Super Furry Animals. Unfortunately, the concert sequences were often aborted early, and in general, the pacing used throughout felt rough overall.

I have only seen one of Winterbottom’s other movies – 24 Hour Party People – and I quite enjoyed it. I respect his decision to try this experiment, but it just didn’t work. Even with its short length (69 minutes – how appropriate), I would advise you to ignore your curiosity and either A) watch a concert film, or B) just go all the way with real porn. 9 Songs is an interesting idea in theory, but it just comes across as a half-assed mashup of music and sex.


The King’s Speech [2010]

The King's Speech [2010]

The King’s Speech [2010]
Directors: Tom Hooper
Genre: Drama/History
Language: English
Country: UK/Australia/USA

Going into The King’s Speech, I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it. I figured it would be a good movie since it was backed by a largely positive critical response, but it just didn’t strike me as something I wanted to watch. I knew the general premise going in — King George VI has a speech impediment and struggles valiantly with this problem before finally delivering a successful speech — and it just felt that watching something where I already knew the outcome would be less than enthralling. Well, let’s just say that I am glad that I caved in and finally watched this damn movie. It was refreshing to watch something inspirational for a change — it seems my movie-watching habits as of late have tilted heavily toward the dark side.

The King’s Speech excels for two reasons: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Firth’s performance as King George VI is nothing short of brilliant. Listening to him stammer with his words over and over again is heartbreaking, and it is hard not to empathize with his painful inner-anxiety. Geoffrey Rush’s role as Lionel Logue, the King’s Australian speech therapist, is what really pushes the movie into greatness, however. I was pleasantly surprised with Rush’s demeanor — Logue doesn’t take shit from anyone including the King, even going so far as to regularly call him “Bertie” rather than “Your Highness.” This is a man who plays by his own rules, and although the King’s extreme anger issues cause a number of problems between the two of them, it is clear that a deep mutual level of respect is present, no matter how difficult their relationship gets.

The King’s Speech is very much a two man show, and Firth and Rush both deserved their Oscar nominations. The supporting cast is good, led by Helena Bonham Carter as the King’s wife, and Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII (George’s brother), but they are ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things. This is very much an inspirational story — no unnecessary twists here — and you can’t help but feel satisfied with how things develop. I wouldn’t go so far as to say The King’s Speech is the best movie of 2010 as many are now doing (it is a little slow at times), but it is damn good and is certainly in the top 10.