Of stuttering kings and black swans | The Latte Guy | Jan. 21
January 20, 2011 · 4:38 PM
As many people know, I am a person of elevated and refined tastes. Recently, for example, I saw not one but two different highbrow and tasteful films, one about ballet “The Black Swan”) and the other about “The King’s Speech.”
Both films are getting a lot of Oscar buzz, which is how those of us of with elevated and refined tastes refer to films expected to receive multiple Academy Award nominations. Oscar Buzz is also the name of a guy I went to high school with, but that’s another story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I didn’t realize “The Black Swan” was a film about ballet when I agreed to go see it with the woman who is my wife.
I was led, or at least allowed, to believe it was a nature documentary. I do not ordinarily seek out films about dancing in general or about ballet in particular.
By the time I realized the movie was about ballet, I was halfway through my bag of popcorn so I stayed for the entire movie and was very glad I did.
Similarly, I saw “The King’s Speech” on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and so I naturally assumed it was going to be a documentary about Martin Luther King Jr. The movie is about a king all right, but one named Bertie rather than Marty.
In case you haven’t seen them, I won’t spoil either film for you by revealing too many of the details. But in a nutshell, “The Black Swan” is about a ballerina who overcomes a stuttering problem by turning into an actual black swan while performing the classic ballet “The Nutcracker Suite.”
Becoming a bird cures the ballerina’s stutter, but it has an adverse impact on her social life, so she goes crazy and stabs herself in the mirror with a shard of glass from a broken bird feeder.
The film features an excellent performance by the young woman who plays the crazy ballerina (Natalie Portman) and also by the woman who plays her almost-as-crazy-as-she-is mother, as well as the young woman who plays her chief dance rival (neither of whom is Natalie Portman).
The plot of “The King’s Speech” is very similar, except there are no swans of any sort in the movie, no dancing to speak of, and no one goes crazy.
Watching sophisticated and highbrow films about kings, swans and ballerinas is not the only way I demonstrated my elevated and refined tastes this past weekend.
Besides seeing two movies, I also read two books. One of them was a sort of murder mystery in which the detective who cracks the case suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome.
The other is based on Shakespeare’s King Lear as told from the point of view of The Fool. As I’m sure we all remember from high school English, King Lear is a tragedy about a king who overcomes a stuttering problem by calling for a horse! a horse! a kingdom for his horse! But instead of a horse, King Lear gets two evil daughters whose teeth are sharper than a serpent’s tongue.
Lear eventually gets so upset about his missing horse and his evil daughters that he goes crazy and stands out in the rain on a heath with The Fool.
The rain cures the king’s stutter, but both he and The Fool are turned into black swans. I’m kidding about that last part, of course. Only Lear turns into a swan; The Fool turns into a ballerina.
To balance out my high-brow and sophisticated activities this past weekend, I also managed to watch about six hours of football and spend an equal amount of time parked at a poker table with my friends, all of whom for some unfathomable reason continue on a regular basis to subject themselves to being impoverished by my superior poker skills.
Perhaps they crave being in the presence of a man of elevated and refined tastes such as myself more than they dread the humiliation of having me repeatedly relieve them of their loose change.
All in all, it was a very culturally uplifting couple of days for me. Next weekend, I plan to listen to some classical music, perhaps visit a museum or two, and maybe take up a new hobby such as fox hunting or ballroom dancing. Bon appétit.
Tom Tyner is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.