‘Speech’ ready for Oscars

Some people fear public speaking worse than death. Addressing a packed classroom of peers under fluorescent lights is daunting enough; I can’t imagine speaking to an entire nation (or, say, the entire world at the brink of war, during the advent of the communication revolution) with a speech impediment. This is the task before the Duke of York, “Bertie,” played by Colin Firth in the “The King’s Speech,” giving this larger-than-life persona the depth of a relatable, painful human struggle.

The film may seem simple or orthodox, and many reviews are quick to note that it fits snugly with more conventional masterpieces. In actuality, it’s no more classical than, say, “The Social Network.” Both have themes that have stood the test of time, mainly those of power and friendship. Ironically, my last review paired “Buried” and “127 Hours,” two films whose charismatic and capable male leads dealt with their respective isolation. Here, on the other end of the spectrum, lie both “Speech” and “Network,” which deal with socially-stilted leads thrust into positions of power where they become the voice or the face (I mean both quite literally) of millions.

Even more intriguingly, these two films are set at the dawn of a new communication technology that would redefine the world.

Of the four films mentioned, three have Best Actor Nominations (Ryan Reynolds of “Buried” is rightfully absent from this list), but only one will have the honor of taking home the most coveted of industry awards.

The best actor will be, without a doubt, Colin Firth.

Who knew anyone could perform a stammer so gracefully?

We watch his character struggle through a royal ascension, family troubles and the questionable teaching styles of his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush.

At times, the movie plays like an action or superhero flick, with fight scenes and montages replaced by acting exercises and vocal warm-ups.

It sounds boring. It is not.

In the final act, when Firth steps up to the mic with his best mate right beside him, you really are at the edge of your seat.

It’s a special time of year for those of us that love those broad-shouldered gilded men. Even sweeter, once Sunday’s Oscar evening winds down and all the A-listers go over to Charlie Sheen’s house for the after-party, this year’s award season will come to an end.

I can’t say why, but I found this year’s cycle of ceremonies rather taxing and rarely interesting. The highlight was Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, a performance I’d like to see Oscar host duo James Franco and Anne Hathaway outdo. Franco is the first in Oscar history to simultaneously be nominated for Best Actor and host the event. It will be exciting to see how he will handle losing the nomination to Mr. Firth, and stay composed onstage afterwards. My only wish is that when Mr. Firth delivers his acceptance speech, Lionel Logue is right there behind him.