Here at Zembla, we get around. As Tupac might say, the Oscar Rodeo don't stop for hos. Well, except for one ho in particular: Dame Helen Mirren and her tower of power performance in Stephen Frears's The Queen. Some people might call it a tour de force, but after seeing this film, I have to much respect for the English, and English, to use a French phrase to describe her effort.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Score, Original Screenplay, Costume Design, and Best Actress (Mirren).
Plot Summary: Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister in the same week that Diana, Princess of Wales dies in a car accident in France. The royal family remains on vacation while Tony Blair tries to keep the public from hating them. Princes Philip and Charles go deerstalking and act like asses, Blair's assistant reads news headlines in a sarcastic voice, and Queen Elizabeth intimidates everyone she encounters, except for her omnipresent fleet of dogs. Eventually, the royals return to London, they fly the Union Jack at half mast above Buckingham Palace, and Queen Elizabeth gets flowers from a little girl.
Title of the porn version: The Queef
Strengths: Helen Mirren. She becomes Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II completely, or perhaps Mirren herself simply displays her existing royal bearing in the service of the film. I like to think that Mirren's daily life is like what happens in the movie; walking everywhere surrounded by a swarm of dogs, reducing men to nervous stammering in her presence, sure in her belief that God put her where she is.
The Queen tells a compact story, rare among this year's Best Picture nominees. It's funny as well as moving. Fake Tony Blair is excellent, James Cromwell is appropriately obnoxious, and the use of news footage works well. The whole thing is quite realistic.
Weaknesses: There's not a lot of action. If you despise the monarchy, this film could feel inconsequential.
Drug use: None.
Physical or mental impairments: Prince Philip, to a degree.
Portrayals of real people: All of the principal characters are fictionalized versions of real people, including Tony Blair's aides.
Cute children: Prince William, hubba hubba.
Physical transformations: Mirren dials down her usual gorgeousness very slightly for this role, though thankfully not at awards shows.
Does a man cry?: None of the principal characters do, but there are weeping men in the news footage.
Box office: $49 million, plus £6,822,830 and 900,000 Euros.
Running time: 97 minutes.
Feels like: 97 minutes.
Favorite character: Tony Blair's aide, Alastair Campbell. In real life, Campbell has made headlines for his foul language and his role in the "sexing up" of WMD information. In the movie, Campbell writes notes on a tiny piece of paper, reads newspaper headlines out loud, and says everything in a sarcastic voice. In other words, Campbell acts a lot like me. I've also been accused of "sexing up" information to try and drum up support for an invasion of sorts, but I'd rather not get into it on a family blog.
Favorite scene: When the queen goes on television to address the people of England.
Least-favorite scene: Sometimes the Princess Di clips seemed to go on too long. Though I understood its dramatic necessity, it was still sad for me when Blair reprimanded Campbell for his dissing of the queen.
Most novel HMQEII personality quirk: Her WW2-era thriftiness.
England's 9/11: The news footgae shows the British people with a fanatical response to Di's passing, possibly provoked further by the royals' poor response to the tragedy. In America, the insanity seemed to manifest itself in purchases of commemorative Beanie Babies and Elton John maxi-singles. Until I saw the film I was unaware that there was controversy in the royal family's reaction to the death, as in America, the brunt of the criticism went toward the paparazzi. England's reaction was still insane.
Overall theme: Queens are people, too. Better people than you, to be sure, but still people.
Prediction: Helen Mirren for Best Actress is one of the biggest locks in Oscar history. I think it might also win Best Score, for a total of two.
Deserves: Those same two, plus I'd pick director Stephen Frears.