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ehle64
Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:34 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A


BIO:
Quote:
Stephen Frears (1941-) b. Leicester, England.
British director who, after being near the forefront of several 'new waves' in British cinema, has unexpectedly carved himself an international career in the past several years. Although his output has been uneven, it has also proved extraordinarily wide-ranging while rarely failing to highlight his ability to obtain crowd-pleasing performances from his principal players.

Educated at Gresham's School, Norfolk, from 1954 to 1959, he went on to study law at Trinity College, Cambridge, between 1960 and 1963.

He had begun his film career as an assistant to such seminal figures of Britain's neo-realist movement of the 1960s as Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson but, after extensive experience directing popular regional TV series, had an immediate cinema hit of his own with Gumshoe (1971), featuring Albert Finney, whose assistant director he had been on Charlie Bubbles (1967). A spoof of forties' detective thrillers, it catches a winning mood and holds it. The film seemed to herald the arrival of a major new director on the British scene, but in practice Frears returned to television for more than a decade.

Projects for Channel 4 and the BBC that were shown in cinemas outside Britain edged him back towards the movie scene. But his first film specifically for the cinema in 13 years, The Hit (1984), belied its title and it took Channel 4 to come to the rescue with My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), which combined Frears' traits of grittiness and scabrous humour in its treatment of a script that is funny, sexy, violent and perceptive by turns with in its observation of the central gay love story. Intended for TV, this instead proved a big success in cinemas, encouraging Frears to try his hand at bigger screen stuff, notably Prick Up Your Ears (1987), a biopic of the gay and self-destructive playwright Joe Orton.

The award winning Dangerous Liaisons (1988) set Frears up for the international career that had long interested him, although his work within that framework has been rather more variable, from the underrated The Grifters (1990) and one of Frears' best mainstream films, Hero (1992). He took a couple of years to recover from the disappointing Mary Reilly (1996). There were two Irish black comedy-dramas based on stories by Roddy Doyle, the excellent The Snapper (1993) and the rather less successful The Van (1996). A worthy career, if not quite yet an auteur's one. After a Hollywood hit with High Fidelity (2000), Frears returned to the gritty realism of his indie past with the urban thriller Dirty Pretty Things (2002).

In recent years he has also occasionally returned to directing for television, perhaps most notably helming The Deal, a dramatised account of the alleged deal between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to decide which of them should become leader of the Labour Party in 1994, for Channel 4 in 2003. His latest film The Queen was also made for television but has been given a cinema release.

Stephen Frears currently holds the "David Lean Chair in Fiction Direction" from the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, England where he teaches frequently.

He lives in London with his wife, the painter Anne Rothenstein, and his two younger children Frankie and Lola. He also has two children from his previous marriage to Mary-Kay Wilmers.

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ehle64
Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:44 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A
The Queen reviews:

According to my search results, the discussion of The Queen started with this little blurb from bets back on page 1252 of Current Film:


Befade wrote:
The Queen..........Helen Mirren WAS Queen Elizabeth..........not a very likeable character.....but the British politics were interesting.


With a follow-up:

Befade wrote:
The Queen could be compared with Marie Antoinette in that both royal women were completely out of touch with the people who were their subjects. There were a few things that MA didn't deal with.........as far as making the film psychologically believable. SPOILER.........Wasn't MA just a tad bit angry that her husband hadn't made love with her for (what?) 4 years....

Queen Elizabeth seemed to have viewed Diana as a trouble maker with no royal dignity.........and good riddance to her. She was totally baffled by the outpouring of grief. And while watching, I kept thinking of mob adoration as actually kind of a scary thing.


The first full-fledged Third Eye review came from Lorne all the way back to page 1258 of Current Film:

lshap wrote:
The Queen

Here's the background: Britain. One thousand years of an unbroken royal bloodline, a magnificent, ancient estate where hounds chase elk through sprawling forests and across endless mountain ranges, unimaginable riches measured in sterling and jewels, and the planet's most famous family dynasty. And placed front and center of that entire majestic kit-and-kaboodle is one tight-lipped, dignified, little grey-haired lady. There is really only one 'Queen', and Helen Mirren becomes both the person and the legacy.

It's 1997, and a young Tony Blair has just been elected Prime Minister. But before he can get on with his promise of modernizing the country he has to step back a few centuries and bend political knee to the reigning Monarch, waiting for her royal assent to form the government. Its old verses new, a young Labour party dancing with an ancient Monarchy. We meet Blair (Michael Sheen) as he's prepping for his first meeting with Her Majesty. For him it's a heart pumping waltz of formal bobs and kissed hands. For the Queen, this is her tenth Prime Minister, the first being Winston Churchill who, by the way, Mr. Blair, sat in the very chair in which you're seated. Gulp.

All goes swimmingly, until three months later when Princess Diana is killed. Then the white gloves come off and it becomes a very British, very dignified, battle of wills between the Queen's stoic traditionalism and Tony's generation of tabloid hysteria. According to Her Majesty, Diana is a commoner, an ex-princess, who should be accorded no royal treatment whatsoever. But Blair senses the populist wave engulfing the country, transforming Diana, in death, into "The People's Princess". The rest of the film is about the backroom spin-doctoring during that difficult week of mourning, as government and monarchy struggle with public perception, and each other. In the end, it all trickles back up to the Queen for the final word, where it's made quite clear that if the royal dynasty is to be dragged into the 20th century it will be with reverential awe, thank you very much.

Casting and acting are the keys to bringing these well-known living figures to the screen, and the film clicks on both counts. Everyone's talking Oscar for Mirren, which is understandable, although as good as she is I wouldn't call it a performance for the ages. More like a performance of a character for the ages. Michael Sheen's Tony Blair was every bit as impressive, I thought, but what makes Mirren's performance appear bigger is the sweeping shadow Queen Elizabeth casts over everything around her. She doesn't actually do more, it just looks that way. After all, when everyone else is bowing it does leave you as the largest presence in the room. Even in conflict she remains seamlessly imperious. We watch her puttering around the castle, walking her dogs, driving her old 4x4 jeep, scolding her son the Prince, dressing down a Prime Minister and squabbling with Mum, but even in all her haughty frumpiness she is ever the Queen. This descendant of royal lineage, this reigning Monarch, this living postage stamp, this 'heads' side of many a coin, knows her place, and expects others to know their's. The Queen, in other words, has little to prove. Mirren gets that. If voters subscribe to the "Less is More" approach she'll also get an award or two.

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ehle64
Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:46 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A
Some words from Danielle followed:

lady wakasa wrote:
I missed the last 10 minutes of The Queen in order to get uptown to see The Host (and that was the only chance I was going to get for that), so I may have missed a couple of minor things. But I thought it was really, really well done. Helen Mirren's performance as the queen reminded me of Denzel Washington as Malcolm X, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Capote,... I think you get the idea. She's always good, and it may well not be her best performance, but for a couple of hours she became QE II (and not the boat!). Much more than the other actors became their characters.


Then on November 4th, Gary added his review:

marantzo (the moderator) wrote:
I just got back from seeing The Queen. What a stunningly good movie it is!!!! It is flawless. From the moment it started, I was enthralled. It's dramatic, it's humourous, it's heartfelt, and itís magnificent.

The cast is wonderful to a man/woman but Helen Mirren is transcendent. She is Elizabeth II. I can't wait for her to be made a Dame. The Queen knighting her will be a sight to see. As I've said on here, I have the greatest respect for QE II and this movie has even made my respect deeper.

If you know very little about the British royalty and its customs or if you are some sort of Anglophile, this movie is required viewing. If you are a history buff, required. If you are a lover of movies, required. If you have some sort of left wing hatred for any kind of royalty, just skip it. You'll hate the pro-British royalty things. And there are negative things that are in the film, but the overall view is that it is a worthy institution and from my perspective of the movie, it makes Elizabeth look like a wonderful and real person. She is regal while being refreshingly down to earth.

The script, the soundtrack, the visuals, the pacing, the emotional heft are masterful. Frears has made a classic. This is a movie for the ages.

The story is a simple one. If you read a synopsis of the plot, you would think, "This has got to be a pretty dry experience." That's the greatness of this film, it's riveting. The royal household is so convincing that you can't help but think that you are eavesdropping on the real thing. I'm convinced that it is entirely authentic. If not, I don't want to hear it.

There is a scene where the Queen is stranded when her jeep like vehicle breaks down in a stream in the hills of Scotland (on there Balmoral Estate, I believe) that I will never forget. It is somehow a portrait of her life. What she has, and what she has had to do without. Her inner emotions surface for the only time and it is done to perfection and with total respect for the audience. Frears never says to the audience. "See? Get the message?"

I loved this movie. Could you have guessed?

P.S. I've been in love with Helen Mirren ever since seeing her for the first time in that British series where she played a police inspector. If only she were available and had a weakness for Canadian no-accounts, maybe I'd have a chance. Then maybe every once in a while she could make herself up like Queen Elizabeth II, what a double header.

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ehle64
Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:48 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A
Later that same night, Joe Vitus chimed in with his review:

Joe Vitus wrote:
I just got back from The Queen, which I liked a lot less than other people here. I'm going to give it another chance in a day or two. The screening was awful. The sound jacked up too loud, the theater too small, and I sat between to pairs of women who would not shut up throughout the entire movie.

I thought it was okay, but I didn't quite connect with it. In the first place, I remember a British gossip columnist who used to be assigned to Buckingham Palace in earlier days (the 80's, I think), and I remember him saying what a scathing sense of humor the Queen has, and I believe he even said that she could even do imitations of famous people. There is little of that in Helen Mirren's dowdy royal, even if she does play her imperiousness for all it's worth. And the makeup is bad. In photos, she looks like Elizabeth II, but in the movie itself the heavy white facial powder and stiff hairdo make her look like George Washington.

Most of the actors are playing caricatures, not characters (Alex Jennings as Prince Charles is particularly hard to take). Not necessarily a bad choice in and of itself, but the movie wavers in tone between social comedy and historical drama, so about half the time the performance style seems out of place. And it's particularly undermined because Diana isn't presented similarly. Real clips are used, and they jar with the stagier performances. Since we know she's real and they aren't, the rest of the cast comes off worse for it.

There are elements I liked. I was never a Diana fan, so I'm happy for the movie's more balanced (which isn't the same as apologetic) view. And the conception of the Queen Mother is particularly interesting. Of the old guard, she's probably the one most loved by the general public, but the portrayal here is scathing. I was intrigued by Tony Blair's capitulation to the Queen, but I wish the movie could have hinted at the flaws of Blair himself, as it's so willing to put those of the royal family under the microscope.

Actually, there was a lot I liked. I laughed a lot. I think it's a good movie, but I don't think it's a great one. As I said, I plan to revisit it under better circumstances. Maybe I wasn't in a position to enjoy it as well as I could.


The next day, Earl shared his thoughts:

Earl wrote:
Joe Vitus wrote:
Earl,

When do we get your take on The Queen?


Funny you should ask. I caught the matinee this afternoon.

I think it's a wonderful movie and I bought Mirren as the title character from the first shot. There wasn't that momentary period of adjustment I often have in some movies where a famous actor plays another well-known person.

Indeed, that first shot of Elizabeth sitting for an official portrait painting both set the plot in motion and helped to solidify its structure, in a way. Painting is an Old World way of capturing an image. Since the story is essentially about Elizabeth reluctantly being pulled into the Modern Age, it's fitting that one of the last scenes is of Elizabeth appearing on television, the New World medium of capturing an image. It was smart of Frears and his screenwriter to build their story so that it is about getting Elizabeth from that first shot to the one near the end.

Another thing I enjoyed was how the two most important characters, Elizabeth and Blair, started the story at polar opposite ends of the debate on the role of the Monarchy in modern British life. Then, as the movie went on, those two gradually moved toward each other until they met in the center. Their respective spouses, on the other hand, never budged.

For me, Elizabeth's journey toward that middle ground hinged on the scene when her land rover breaks down and she is alone for a while in the vast wilderness of the Balmoral estate while she waits for some staff to come get her. A stag wanders near her and she is at once taken by its majesty. "Oh, you beauty!" she exclaims just before she hears the distant gunshots of those who would gleefully shoot the noble creature. "Shoo! Shoo!" she warns him and he runs away. I believe in that moment she considered for the first time that Diana was, like that stag, a beautiful, hunted creature who was ever on the run from those who wanted to "shoot" her.

Like you, Joe, I wish the movie had followed Blair around a little more. But then the title might have to be changed. That's a minor quibble for me, though. Overall, I loved it.

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ehle64
Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 2:54 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 7149 Location: NYC; US&A
Trish wrote a follow up to Garyís review:

Trish wrote:
I saw it too this weekend and I agree itís wonderful. I was so shocked by my reaction too to the Diana coverage that so surprisingly brought me to tears - i never cry at films and I wasn't a rabid fan of hers reading all the tabloids, etc - chosen shots of those days just touched me I was so embarrassed. But back to the film and the acting - Mirren was brilliant, so far my pick for best actress, she actually made me cry at one point (when she looks at the stag and has a sort of revelation). Michael Sheen was also great as a young Tony Blair - I had remembered him from a British film Dirty Filthy Love - where he played this guy struggling with Tourette's Syndrome among other things. With any justice he'll be getting a lot more roles due to this film's success.


Ghulam adds:

Ghulam wrote:
I too liked The Queen a lot. The dramatization of that critical week in the monarchy had to be made, and no one could have done it better than Frears and Morgan. It is very well written. (spoiler) It seemed at first to be unsympathetic to the queen, but it nicely balances out, and ends up creating greater understanding of her position. In my opinion Mirren, Frears and Morgan all deserve Oscars.


Immediately followed by this from Jeremy:

jeremy wrote:
A director is probably never in total control of his project. The script will obviously be the key element in determining the tenor of a piece, but also the actors and the relative strengths of their portrayals will have an influence on how a character or film is perceived. An actor of the quality of Helen Mirren cannot help but find depths and nuances and thereby humanise there subject. Give her enough screen time and we canít help but empathise.

Frears is no royalist. However, whatever his politics or original intent, it may have been difficult for him to do anything else than create a sympathetic portrayal of the Queen. Besides, maybe he was happy to let his grudging respect for the woman, as opposed to the institution, win through.


When mo_flixx got around to seeing it, she had this to say:

mo_flixx wrote:
THE QUEEN should be a lock on Oscar for Mirren. I predict nominations for Frears and the script also. The Tony and Cherie Blair actors seemed dead-on to me. I had the most trouble with the Charles character because I don't think any of us can possibly know what was really going on in his mind. He seems perhaps overly sympathetic and slightly contrived - but this is a minor criticism.

The moment with the stag was transcendent - so symbolic and a turning pt. in the film.

Mirren did a perfect job of conveying an extremely complex historical figure.


yambuís blurb came about a week later:

yambu wrote:
Helen Mirren is perfect as Queen Liz. But in the end, it's a not very interesting character, dealing with a not very interesting problem.



A lot of discussion was caused by that wacky Kazakhstani, Borat for several more pages and I had to stop my search. If anyone else had a review of The Queen after Current Film's page 1283, please feel free to copy and re-post in here.

And now weíll turn this forum over to The Master of Moderation for this installment in our Special Directorís Forum, Gary Marantz.

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marantzo
Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:16 pm Reply with quote
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Hi kiddies. I expect you all to behave And no passing notes.

My first awareness of Stephen Frears was after seeing The Grifters. I hadn't seen anything by him up until then. I loved The Grifters

Here is my little introduction for Stephen Frears, which to me says a lot about him:

When I was in the video store and my wife and I were living with my mother, I used to always pick up a movie or two for her to watch. I decided that instead of trying to guess what she'd like, I'd just pick up the movies that I thought were good. One time I strayed from this habit was when I picked up Shindler's List, which I hadn't seen but was pretty sure she's like. When I asked her how she liked it, she said, "So,so."
One time I took home L.A. Confidential and she turned it off very near the beginning because she didn't like all the violence.

Strolling in the aisles of the video store one day I saw The Grifters and because I had such a high regard for the film, I picked it up for my mother. What the hell, it is a mother/son movie. I was very unsure how she'd react to the movie and thought there was a good chance that she'd turn it off. My mother would have been about 90 at the time. One night she said there was nothing good on and would I put in the movie for her, so I did. My mother was a nught owl and I was asleep before I even knew if she watched the whole movie or not. The next day I asked her what she thought of the movie. She answered emphatically, "It was good!"

A Big Thumbs Up for Stephen Frears....Sophie Marantz

We are going to start with The Queen. All comments are welcome. I'll delete the ones I don't agree with.
Syd
Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:21 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12536 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Here are my comments from the "Current Films" forum. They didn't make it in with the other comments.

Syd wrote:
The Queen: I loved this movie, with Helen Mirren giving the performance of her life as Queen Elizabeth II, and an able supporting, especially Michael Sheen as Tony Blair and Alex Jennings as Prince Charles, with Sylvia Syms playing the Queen Mum. (I was startled at one point to hear Helen Mirren saying she was going to see "Queen Elizabeth" until I remembered her mother was also named Elizabeth.) The movie takes us from the Queen's first meeting with Tony Blair, which is immediately followed by the death of Princess Diana, and follows the life of the Queen and her gradual realization, with Mr. Blair's help, of the different role expected of monarchy in the wake of Diana's death. Following protocol will not do, and the royal family, as symbols of the country, must acknowledge the public Diana despite their estrangement from the private Diana.

Actually the royal family, except for Prince Philip, come across pretty well in the movie, as does Tony Blair. It brought back the days from before the Iraq War, when Blair was the perfect person to be Prime Minister during a difficult week.

I certainly can understand why the Royal Family love to stay in the Scottish Highlands. The scenery here is breathtaking.

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marantzo
Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 5:16 pm Reply with quote
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Yes the scenery was striking. It made me re-think my aversion to Scotland, which is based on the dreary weather they have. The movie made it look mighty good, dreary weather and all.

Something I found so endearing and rather comical in the movie was the royal family sitting around in that unassuming room, in whatever castle it was, watching TV like some middle class family in Hertfortshire or Long Island.
Ghulam
Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:48 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 4724 Location: Upstate NY
I consider My Beautiful Laundrette and The Queen to be his best.

We use the word TELEPLAY a lot, so why not CINEPLAY? I like to call The Queen a cineplay, but I do not exactly know why.
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marantzo
Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:55 pm Reply with quote
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Someone actually posted. Yah! One thing that bothered me a little in the movie was that the actor who played Charles didn't really look like him at all, but did get his mannerisms and walk down well. Prince Philip didn't look like Prince Philip either but he did a good job of projecting his personality. I thought the movie's Prince Charles' personality was a little too soft, and lacked the assurance that Charles seems to have.
Ghulam
Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 5:09 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 20 May 2004 Posts: 4724 Location: Upstate NY
The actor who played Charles would be perfect as Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, who gave up his throne to marry Mrs Wallace Simpson.
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Syd
Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 5:10 pm Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 12536 Location: Norman, Oklahoma
The actor who plays Tony Blair is going to play him for a third time next year, all of them for Frears.

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marantzo
Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 6:19 pm Reply with quote
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I saw him playing Nero on a series about the Roman Empire. He was very good in that also. Nero was completely insane in case you didn't know.
marantzo
Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 6:21 pm Reply with quote
Guest
I say we discuss The Queen for a week and then start another one on Monday. How about My Beautiful Laundrette?
Trish
Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 9:26 am Reply with quote
Joined: 21 May 2004 Posts: 2438 Location: Massachusetts
Ghulam wrote:
I consider My Beautiful Laundrette and The Queen to be his best.

We use the word TELEPLAY a lot, so why not CINEPLAY? I like to call The Queen a cineplay, but I do not exactly know why.



Both worthy - but The Grifters was a masterpiece (IMHO)
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