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Walker's Three to See: Oscar Shorts, Somewhere and King's Speech

(Feb 18, 2011) KCUR Arts Reporter Steve Walker offers his top film picks for this week.

Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation and Live Action

Of the 10 films in this package (each one with separate admission), 9 of them make an impact. Among the live-action shorts, "The Confession" is only 26 minutes long but could easily withstand another hour, which would elongate and build-up its creepiness. It's about a Catholic kid in England about to embark on his first priestly confession; though he has nothing at first to confess, a half-hour later he's got 4 deaths on his conscience. All of the animated shorts are good but one is excellent. Bastien Dubois' 11-minute "Madagscar, A Journey Diary" plops the filmmaker down in a foreign land and his take on it is a gorgeous melange of different animation styles, from water-color on notebook paper to stop-motion using little toys. It's a brilliant feast for the eyes. - Walker

Sofia Coppola's lovely new film is, like her "Lost in Translation," set in and around a hotel - here, Los Angeles' notorious Chateau Marmont. Stephen Dorff plays an action movie star who's a lost soul, idling away his free time with drugs, booze, and exotic dancers. His life takes a turn - it has to - when his 11-year-old daughter (the charming Elle Fanning) is left in his care. Coppola has a cinematic sensibility steeped in post-modern European film - for example, the first fifteen minutes have maybe two lines of dialogue. Patience pays off, though, and the movie haunts you. One telling scene has Dorff getting his face covered w/ plaster to craft a special effects mask - and the camera stays still, right in his face, commenting on masks actors wear all the time. His character has to confront the question: How do you know who you are when box office determines what you're worth? And is being a dad enough?

The King's Speech

Playing King George VI, father of the current Queen of England, Colin Firth is the man to beat for this year's Best Actor Oscar. The royal suffered from a debilitating, humiliating stutter which, in turn, ate away at his charm and confidence. With the loving support of his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) and the unorthodox tactics of a speech coach (Geoffrey Rush, who's also wonderful), he is eventually able to fill the shoes he was born to wear. Ably directed by Tom Hooper, the movie is whip smart, engagingly funny, and incredibly moving.

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