Thursday, February 24, 2011

Movies don't need correct accents to be good

This post is two years too late, I know, but bear with me. Yes, movies need to have some sort of artistic integrity in order to be taken seriously. However, there is one aspect of the film that people harp too much on. It has to do with the accents. The most recent occurrence of this I can think of is back in 2008 when Valkyrie came out. In theory it should have been an awesome movie. You had Bryan Singer, a very capable director, an interesting concept and a talented cast (that includes Tom Cruise). People just wouldn't shut the hell up about the damn accents though.

The poster was pretty badass too.

While the film wasn't as good as I hoped, it was still solid. If I had to make a shortlist of mistakes accents would not be one of them. Yet all the reviewers at the time consistently made the point to mention the fact that nobody had a German accent. Really, the gripe that everyone doesn't sound German is absurd. Having Cruise and Eddie Izzard attempt to sound like Col. Klink would just be outrageous and difficult to take seriously.

"I know nothing!"

And the thing of it is, the movie actually recognizes the fact that the characters should be speaking German within the first five minutes. It starts with Cruise writing a journal in German and then, using the magic that only cinema can, it becomes English. This is a perfectly acceptable cinematic device. It doesn't cheat the viewer so why all the hullabaloo? (hullabaloo is in spell check by the way) Writing in the movie is still in German, they just allow the actors to speak their native accents to make it easier for the actors and the audience. It all follows its own internal logic. Detractors might as well argue about Cruise not really losing his hand in the movie. People just want a reason to bitch about him in a film.

He did make for an easy target.

The film that really made me want to write this is Amadeus. Flipping through channels yesterday I came across Amadeus on Turner Classic Movies (love that channel). I've been so busy I forgot about TCM's 31 Days of Oscars, which is the time they play their best movies during award season. Seeing Tom Hulce and his Mozart laugh immediately made me quit my channel surfing. To be honest, I forgot how good a film Amadeus is.

Thank you TCM for reminding me, I love you.

Historical accuracy be damned, sometimes the truth just gets in the way of a good story. An epic parable about jealousy, deceit, revenge and genius; Amadeus tells the story of composer Antonio Salieri's rivalry with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Anybody who tells you that Amadeus isn't a masterfully crafted film doesn't know anything about movies. The story is rich, the filming is crisp and the acting is top-notch. But for being a movie about 18th century Europeans, everyone's accents are very American. Not just English mind you, like many historical films try and do but American. Hulce himself, who plays Mozart, was born in Detroit. The only other movie of note he's been in is Animal House. How does one go from being a National Lampoon pledge to the title character of a film that won eight Oscars? Who knows. I doubt Hulce himself knows.

His character was the one that had sex with a 13-year-old.

Amadeus won eight Oscars and is still considered a "banging ass film" according to this reviewer (this reviewer would be me). The fact that they didn't even try to attempt and recreate accents means nothing to me or the viewers of the film. The fact that Amadeus was far superior in quality than Valkyrie may have something to do with that. The point remains though that accents count for nothing. Only pretentious people or fools complain about that stuff. They should just learn to enjoy the movie.

Just look at Brad Pitt in Troy. Pitt, who can be a very good actor (12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) decided to use a weird accent that made no sense. It was really an accent for accent's sake. Maybe he thought a movie of that magnitude deserved a different voice but really all it did was detract from his role. Eric Bana sure as hell didn't need a weird accent and he turned out to be the best thing in Troy.

Who didn't fall in love with Bana watching this movie?

The reason why there shouldn't be accents is the same reason why the majority of planets in Star Wars speak English. It's just easier. A little suspension of disbelief is necessary so the audience can have an easier movie to watch. In a perfect world, movies like this would be international affairs like Third Man (my favorite film), No Man's Land (2001 Bosnian film) or Inglorious Basterds (another Pitt film). Now, I hate Quentin Tarantino but I will forgive him for anything he has done simply for creating the character of Hans Landa. There isn't a more intimidating or fun character than Christoph Waltz's "Jew Hunter." You want to hate him but he is just so awesome that you can't.

Bad. Ass.

While Valkyrie tried to be historically accurate and ended up losing cultural accuracy, Inglorious Basterds took the opposite route. While intentionally and wildly inaccurate, it is a fun film and a commendable one. Tarantino tricked people into watching a foreign film by sticking Pitt on the front of the poster. In a perfect world all movies like this would be international affairs, but audiences can't handle this normally and studies probably won't pay for it. Until then we'll have to settle for gimmicks that make up for it being in English. But you know what? Those gimmicks work good enough. So even though Tom Cruise speaks in his normal voice, he can still play Col. Von Stauffenberg. So I hope you, dear reader, never whines about that sort of thing again.

p.s. Rock Me Amadeus

No comments:

Post a Comment