Ballet becomes blood sport
Natalie Portman gives a bravura performance as a ballerina obsessed with perfection in "Black Swan."
Director Darren Aronofsky's fevered, gothic drama turns ballet into a blood sport. Instead of dainty tutus, we see bloody feet in toe shoes that hammer the stage like nails in a coffin.
Portman is Nina, a fragile, repressed beauty for whom the phrase "performance anxiety" was created. She gets that from her mother (Barbara Hershey), the creepiest mom this side of "Carrie."
Nina is obsessed with sexy new dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), and sees her as a rival for the personal and professional attentions of artistic director Thomas (a feral Vincent Cassel).
Like poor Nina's grip on reality, "Black Swan" becomes more and more hysterical, absurd, shocking, and tragic — and ever so watchable.
Old-fashioned tale earns applause at end
Colin Firth deserves an Oscar for his vulnerable yet steely portrayal of King George VI in "The King's Speech."
"Bertie," as he is known privately, endures years of private and public humiliations because of a serious stutter. Thanks to his wife Elizabeth (the formidable Helena Bonham Carter), he meets unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and is soon shown that a "cure" is possible.
Firth and Rush make a rousing odd couple calculated to make us laugh and touch our hearts. But this is also a true story of a country in serious flux, thanks to the abdication of King Edward VIII (fabulous Guy Pearce), which thrusts a reluctant Bertie upon the British throne on the eve of World War II.
Firth has always been an actor of nuance, charm and strength. In his opening and closing radio broadcasts to the nation, these qualities are admirably, painfully showcased.
"The King's Speech" is an old-fashioned tale done with intelligence and compassion; a rare movie where the audience applauds at the end.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.