Michael Sheen as other real people

Michael Sheen is my current favorite actor- I think he’s brilliant. I’m a ridiculous penny pincher so, I’ve been waiting in library queue since DECEMBER for The Special Relationship– yes, I should just pay a couple bucks to rent it… Anyway, Dean and I have been watching these fab flicks while we wait for it to come in:

The Damned United
as Brian Clough, a celebrated English Football manager. The film is adapted from David Peace’s novel of the same name in which Clough manages Leeds United for 44 days. As a viewer with very little affinity to Football or Football culture, I liked this a lot. Sheen’s Clough is incredibly charismatic and his obsessive nature is fascinating. He’s met with a lot of bullshit resistance at Leeds and the disappointment he encounters there is palpable. I’m glad there was a happy ending for him afterwards. The supporting cast (Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney) is outstanding.

as Kenneth Williams, an English comedian from the Carry On films. In his private life, Williams, is despairingly lonely. His family relationships are kinda bizarre, his romantic episodes are awkward and incomplete. I think you’re supposed to laugh at his quirks as an entertainer but I pitied him too much. It was heartbreaking to watch his failed attempts at intimacy. Sex shame or OCD or whatever his hang-ups were, I’m sorry Kenneth Williams never knew the advice of Dan Savage… Also, I’d never heard of Joe Orton or his death before. Crimes of passion chill me to the bone.

as David Frost, journalist and media personality. This is a smart, well-paced script and I’m surprised Ron Howard did such a good job adapting it into a movie (I always underestimate him). It’s interesting to see Nixon as more than just a parody. Frank Langella’s portrayal achieves a weird level of dignity through an unexpected balance of ugliness and warmth. In the end though, it’s most pleasing to see David Frost come out triumphant in the interview. I saw a performance of Frost/Nixon at the Paramount a couple years ago when I was an usher. I remember thinking at the time that David Frost was too hammy, but now I think that’s just the right way to play him- bold and suave.

The Deal and The Queen
as Tony Blair, former Prime Minister. The Deal is about the the events leading up to the 1994 Labour leader election. Young(er) Gordon Brown and Tony Blair share an office and see each other rise within the party. It looks like Gordon Brown is slated to lead Labour one day, something he has made clear to Blair, but this all goes to hell after John Smith’s heart attack. Tony Blair is an opportunistic prick in this movie… and yet, I still found him kinda likable. You can tell both actors took great care in recreating the speech and mannerisms of real-life Brown and Blair, they’re excellent.
I’m not sure you could call it a sequel but The Queen takes place in 1997 when Tony Blair is elected as Prime Minister. Shortly after, the Queen struggles with press for Princess Diana’s death. Her ratings plummet until she follows the advice of Blair, and speaks publicly about Diana’s life and legacy. There’s a lot of commentary here on the royal family and its problem modernizing (this is clearly mentioned at the end) but I’m more interested in stories and characters- this movie has provided both quite richly. Helen Mirren is such an impressive actress, somehow conveying the anxieties of her character with the most subtle array of emotion.

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