The King’s Speech is definitely King of the Oscars

The King’s Speech has managed to bag itself 4 Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, including Best Picture.

Colin Firth picked up the much-desired Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of stuttering British King, George VI, after Natalie Portman received the Best Actress award for her role as a psychotic ballet dancer in Black Swan.

Firth stepped onto the stage with the nervous air of a schoolmaster who must address an assembly to break some rather embarrassing news. He delivers a witty speech, thanking director Tom Hooper and David Seidler and Harvey Weinstein, who spotted him when he was “just a young sensation”. At the end he says he is going to retire backstage and surrender to some powerful “impulses”.

I has been a long journey for Firth, who, many claim, should have been crowned Best Actor for A Single Man. But at last, his time has come.

Earlier in the evening, Tom Hooper triumphed over close contender Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) in the Best Directing category and the film also won as Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

When The King’s Speech was awarded Best Picture, cast and crew assembled on-stage to offer a final shout out.  Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hooper and Colin Firth, as well as the producers – Gareth Unwin, Emile Sherman and Iain Canning – all paid thanks to those involved and especially to the UK Film Council, which seeded the project with an initial $1m investment.

The movie, a portrayal of the life of George VI and his relationship with his speech therapist, has also been lauded for putting an often misunderstood speech disorder in the limelight.

According to the National Stuttering Association, stuttering afflicts about 3 million people in the United States and 65 million worldwide. It is a speech defect, for which the cause is still not known, in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or last longer than normal. These problems cause a break in the flow of speech and if stuttering becomes worse, words and phrases are repeated.

Many are hopeful that the film will help to bring the speech defect out of the shadows and change some of the perceptions about stuttering. In fact, the film seems likely to do for stuttering what Rain Man did for autism and As Good As It Gets did for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Norbert Lieckfeldt, CEO of the British Stammering Association (BSA), speaking about the misconceptions of the disorder, said: “The obvious one is ‘if only you’d take a deep breath and think about what you want to say, it’ll come out. ‘People who stammer know exactly what they want to say. It’s just that their body at that point will not allow them to produce the right sounds in the right order.”

“There is a misconception that people who stammer are stammering because they are nervous, or more shy, or more intelligent or forced to be right-handed when they are left-handed: all urban myths.”

Lieckfeldt offers the following tips for anyone meeting someone who stammers for the first time:

  • Always listen to what is being said, not how it is being said.
  • Keep eye contact, don’t look away. That would indicate to the person with the stutter that you are feeling embarrassed.
  • Try not to finish their sentence for them, even if you think you know what they want to say. If you get it wrong, the person with the stutter has to start all over again which is exhausting.
  • Try to slow down your own rate of speech. If you talk very fast without pauses, that speeds up the general level of conversation.

[adsense]The King’s Speech has been praised by stutterers and medical professionals alike for its raw and honest portrayal of the speech defect.

In an interview with CNN, Dr. Gerald A. Maguire , who underwent  speech therapy and mediation treatment as a child, said: “It really captured well that anticipatory anxiety, the fear around the speech, the frustration that people who stutter have even today in seeking help and seeking relief of their symptoms.”

“The movie gave an accurate portrayal of the stuttering problem, and especially captured the frustration stutterers have in public speaking situations and the great lengths they will go to alleviate the problem.”

Other Oscar winners included the film “Inception”, which also picked up 4 Oscars, including Best Sound Editing and Mixing, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. The Social Network also fared well, winning 3 awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Original Score.

Click here to see the full 2011 Oscar winners list and read bout Natalie Portman’s Best Actress win for her role in psycho-thriller Black Swan.

Also, read about the late comedian Charlie Callas, who often played off physical tics such as stuttering, speech problems and shaking.

Images: PR Photos and Wikipedia

Luke Matheny's God of Love wins Best Live Action Short Film

Luke Matheny’s short film, God of Love, has picked up the Best live action Short Film Oscar at the 2011 Academy Awards ceremony.

The movie, which Matheny wrote, directed and starred in, is about a man, who gets his hands on some love-inducing darts. The film buff is perfectly cast as his own crooning, dart-throwing lead in this comic questioning of whether even the gods can force love to happen, the LA Times reports. “The entire cast’s sharp timing and the filmmaker’s taste in pop-jazz standards make the black-and-white film play like a Woody Allen absurd short story,” according to the critic.

God of Love was up against The Confession, which documents snowballing guilt over 26 minutes, The Crush, telling the tale of a schoolboy’s obsession with a treacher, Na Wewe, about the interrogation of a busload of passengers in Burundi during the ethnic cleansing horror and Wish 143, following a dying 15-year-old’s quest to lose his virginity.

The 18-minute short was made by Matheny, who is new on the glamorous Academy Awards scene. A graduate from New York University’s film program, the youngster did not look like he was in his comfort zone.

“I was standing behind Robert Downey Jr, trying to get on TV,” he joked.

Matheny was equally star-struck at the nominee luncheon earlier this month, the LA Times reports.

“When you’re in a room and there’s one famous person, it’s very distracting,” he said backstage. “But the nominees luncheon was wall-to-wall, and I kind of clicked into this other level of reality.”

[adsense]The major win has still to sink in: “I’m still processing it here. I have 73 unread text messages and 50 unread e-mails,” he laughed.

Last night on his Facebook page, Matheny said he’d sent out a message of gratitude to his NYU buddies.

“I sent out a link that said, ‘This is how I feel,’ and it was a clip from the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ So that summed up what this experience has been like.”

Click here to read about the 2011 Oscar winners, Nathalie Portman’s Best Actress win for Black Swan and The King’s Speech’s Oscar triumph.

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Natalie Portman wins Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan

After much anticipation, the results are finally in, and the prize for this year’s Best Actress went to Natalie Portman, for her portrayal of a psychotic ballerina in the film Black Swan.

The heavily pregnant star fought back the tears as she collected her Academy Award and said: “I truly wish that the prize tonight was to get to work with my fellow nominees, I’m so in awe of you.” She then proceeded to thank her parents, Luc Besson, who provided her with her first job in Leon, her agents and Black Swan director Darren Aronofosky, who lost the Best Directing Oscar to Tom Hooper of The King’s Speech, which also won Best Picture and while its leading man Colin Firth picked up the Oscar for Best Actor.

Aronofsky’s unnerving psychological thriller depicts the harrowing descent of innocent and fragile ballet dancer Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, into a state of psychosis in her desperate quest to embody the seductive and destructive Black Swan perfectly.

“The only way to be perfect,” Arronofsky says in an article about Natalie Portman in the January edition of Vogue, “ is to allow chaos and madness to enter your life.” And ultimately, Portman’s character does achieve elusive perfection, but not without paying a heavy price.

Under great psychological pressure from herself, her controlling mother and her ballet director, and determined to the point of obsession to show that she has what it takes to play the sweet and beautiful White Swan’s evil twin in Tchaikowsky’s Swan Lake, Nina starts to unravel at the seams, her life and mind spinning dizzyingly out of control as she begins to penetrate the darker side of her personality.

Enter psychosis…

A person who is suffering from an episode of psychosis experiences a loss of contact with reality that usually includes false beliefs about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations). A psychotic event can be triggered by a number of factors including medical illnesses, sleep deprivation, severe stress or trauma, drug reactions and genetic predisposition.

“Natalie Portman’s character was involved in a highly stressful competition, she had conflicted relationships with her mother and her understudy, and she was the object of sexual advances by her director,” said Dr. Steve Lamberti, professor of psychiatry at University of Rochester Medical Center. “Any one of these issues alone would be stressful, but experiencing them all at once could be emotionally devastating, particularly for a young woman who is somewhat naive and sheltered.”

[adsense]As Nina spirals into a state of deepened anxiety, she increasingly loses touch with reality. For instance, she develops a rash, and picking at the wound reveals several black swan feathers embedded in her skin, toys in her bedroom and her mother’s painting seem her come alive and mock her, and she conjures up fantasies and delusions, including a lesbian sex scene with her understudy.

“It was intense and disturbing and fascinating and mysterious,” Nadine Kaslow, vice-chair of the department of psychiatry of Emory University and psychologist to the Atlanta Ballet, said about Black Swan. “What was a hallucintion and what was real? When people are psychotic, it’s difficult, even as a therapist, to know what’s real and what’s not.”

These are some of the questions the viewer is left with at the end of the  cinema experience. Is the understudy Lily, played by Mila Kunis, a projection of Nina’s shadow — her unconscious, repressed self — or does she truly exist? Or is she perhaps a a combination of the real and the imagined?

Click here to see the full list of 2011 Oscar winners and read about bulimia and anorexia, which are extremely common in the competitive world of ballet.

Read here about actress Thandie Newton, who developed bulimia when she was 14 and training to be a ballerina.

Images: PR Photos

Oscars 2011: and the winners are

The king of all awards was this year presented by Steven Spielberg and went to The King’s Speech. After much hype and anticipation, The King’s Speech has been crowned the 2011’s Best Picture.

As expected, Natalie Portman bagged the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the ambitious and psychotic ballerina in Black Swan. She triumphed over Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right and Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.

The Best Actress award was followed by Best Actor, presented by Sandra Bullock, who pulled Colin Firth’s name out of the envelope. The King’s Speech triumphs again.

The King’s Speech also picked up its second Oscar of the night earlier by winning in the category for Best Directing. The result has come as somewhat of a surprise. Director Tom Hooper picked up the Directors’ Guild Award last month but failed at his home awards, the Baftas. According to insiders, the award was expected to go to David Fincher of The Social Network.

Helena Bonham Carter missed out on a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the King’s Speech, as did 14-year-old True Grit star Hailee Steinfeld, instead giving way to Melissa Leo, who starred in the Fighter.

Christian Bale scooped his award as Supporting Actor for The Fighter –  a film which seems to be doing rather well tonight – ahead of Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech and Jeremy Renner in The Town.

Charles Ferguson’s film on the recent world financial crisis, Inside Job, rightly won the award for Best Documentary.

The much-hyped up Mexican feature “Biutiful” starring Javier Bardem gave way to Denmark’s “In a Better World” in the Best Foreign Film category.

Anne Hathaway and James Franco are receiving mixed reviews as presenters of the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony. But generally the institution’s decision to go with bog-standard Hollywood eye-candy is proving pretty unpopular. The pair are playing it safe on stage and providing next to no actual entertainment or comic relief.

“Where’s Steve Martin? Jon Stewart? Ricky Gervais? Hathaway and Franco just seem a shade underpowered. They are idling at half-speed, scared of giving offence,” the writer of the Guardian live blog reckons.

Anne Hathaway’s “lampshade” dress has also been at the center of debate on Twitter and other social networking sites. Some viewers are impressed, others have branded it “hideous”. She is currently on her sixth outfit of the evening.

The full list of winners:

Best Actor in leading role
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Best Actress in leading role
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”

Best Directing
“The King’s Speech”

Best Film Editing
“The Social Network”

Best Picture
“The King’s Speech”

Best Original Song
Toy Story 3 – “We Belong Together”

Best Visual Effects

Best Documentary
“Inside Job”

Best Short Documentary
“Strangers No More”

Best Makeup
“The Wolfman”

Best Costume
“Alice in Wonderland”

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

Best Soundtrack
“The Social Network”

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale -“The Fighter”

Best Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”

Best Foreign Film
“In a Better World”

Best Original Screenplay
“The King’s Speech”

Best Foreign Language Screenplay
“In a Better World”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Social Network” – Aaron Sorkin

Best Animated Feature
“Toy Story 3”

Best Cinematography

Best Art Direction
“Alice in Wonderland”

Click here to read about Nathalie Portman’s Best Actress win for Black Swan and The King’s Speech’s Oscar triumph.