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  Film Reviews: Pick An Accent And Stick With It: K-19 (The Widowmaker)  

Monday, July 22
Pick An Accent And Stick With It: K-19 (The Widowmaker)
First, my apologies to everyone that's heard me do the lame wrestling-esque, "I've just seen K-19, THE WIDOWMAKER" voice - at least on the "widowmaker" part - but I haven't been able to resist. This is yet another film brought to us courtesy of the office hook-up (love those free movie passes!). K-19 recreates the true story of the maiden voyage of Russia's first nuclear ballistic submarine. It is 1961, the height of the Cold War and the crew is expected to prove Russia's superiority in the arms race against the Americans.

I've read that the budget for this film was 80 million dollars. This includes Harrison Ford's 25 million dollar salary (think he and Liam were buddies after this little fact came out?). I bring up this fact because there were times where I felt that my childhood Captain Crunch Baking Soda-Powered Bathtub Sub looked more realistic than supposed shots of K-19 traveling through the icy Atlantic. Did I mention that Harrison is also receiving a piece of the box office? There must come a time where filmmakers need to say that an actor salary should not account for over 30% of the overall budget - especially when it is an ensemble piece that will require many special effects.

While the film trailer promises an engrossing action film, what we really get is a small glimpse at what the Cold War was really about before it became a bemusing anecdote about "Duck and Cover" films. This is a test of management styles, the desire for individualism in a society that rewards the group and a demonstration of how close and separate Russia and the United States could be on any given day. On the day that K-19 was launched, the US had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world ten times over - Russia had only enough to destroy the world two times over. To make up for this deficiency, K-19 was built with substandard materials and parts, it was finished against an impossible schedule and launched against the better judgment of everyone but "The Party." This was all done to show that Russia could be a player in the Nuclear Submarine world. In the middle of the ocean, the nuclear reactor on board springs a leak, giving the inexperienced crew little time to avert total nuclear meltdown and the accidental launching of warheads against the United States.

I must spend some time on the accent issue. None of the actors should have done anything except a blase Midwsetern Accent - there was enough stuff on the submarine to remind us that this was Russian. For as long as I can remember, actors seem to feel accents are key to proving the true nature of a roll. In my opinion, there are few cases where it is important to have authentic accents. In most cases, people are willing to believe that everyone is, say, French where everyone has an American accent - a few outdoor cafes, constant chain smoking and the Eiffel Tower in the background are all that audiences need to understand "this movie is really about French people." In my mind, K-19 cast members were simply asked if they could do Russian accents - everyone immediately said "yes," figuring that they might be able to pick up a few tips from the multitude of other actors that would really know how to do the accent once they were on set. In reality, I think one guy on the set once knew a person that was half-Russian. To demonstrate how the movie sounded half the time, let me present you "Yellow Submarine" in what I lovingly refer to as "K-19 Dialect:"

 ìàëåíüêîì ãîðîäå ãäå ÿ ðîäèëñÿ Æèâåòñÿ ÷åëîâåê, êòî ïðèïëûë ê ìîðþ È îí ñêàçàë íàì åãî æèçíè Íà çåìëå ñóáìàðèí

Òàê ÷òî ìû ïðèïëûëè äî ñîëíöà, ïîêà ìû íå íàøëè ìîðå çåëåíûõ, è ìû æèëè íèæå âîëí Â íàøåé æåëòîé ñóáìàðèíå

We all live in our yellow submarine,Yellow submarine, yellow submarine, We all live in our yellow submarine,Yellow submarine, yellow submarine


Und unsere Freunde sind ganz an Bord Noch viel mehr von ihnen leben nebenan, und das Band beginnt zu spielen

Nous vivons tous dans notre sous-marin sous-marin, jaune sous-marin, Jaune jaune Nous vivons tous dans notre sous-marin sous-marin, jaune sous-marin, Jaune jaune

As we live a life of ease, Everyone of us has all we need, Sky of blue and sea of green
In our yellow submarine.

Top O' the morning to ya!

Âñå ìû æèâåì â íàøåé æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, Æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, æåëòîé ñóáìàðèíå, âñå ìû æèâåì â íàøåé æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, Æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, æåëòîé ñóáìàðèíå

Âñå ìû æèâåì â íàøåé æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, Æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, æåëòîé ñóáìàðèíå, âñå ìû æèâåì â íàøåé æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, Æåëòîé ïîäâîäíîé, æåëòîé ñóáìàðèíå


Painful? You bet. But maybe 50K less from Harrison's salary could have afforded one or two dialect coaches. Still, I must say that despite all of this, K-19 proves to tell the story of the little interpersonal conflicts that eventually lead to global conflict.

The Usual:

Recommendation: See this when you're in the mood for a Saturday Matinee - but hurry, as much of the SBS is yet to come and will surely push this film out of the first-run theaters.

Annoying Theater Goer: The two guys next to us that thought they were the funniest thing ever! I must point out that making fun of individuals from foreign countries that you work with is not humor - it is ignorance. I'm not sure why, but our neighbor was recounting a story where he'd made fun of a Russian co-worker that had not heard of Cleveland. I must report that I resisted all urges to punch my neighbor and/or give him a pop-geography quiz on the major cities of Georgia (yeah, THAT Georgia).

Main Reason To See This Film: Get past the bad accents and you'll see a story about two men that approach the same goal from very different directions.

Main Reason Not To See This Film: The "He Must Die Because We Know Too Much About Him Syndrome." Film directors and script writers that do large ensemble pieces need to learn a simple rule: if one of the lesser characters shows the audience something personal or lets us know about his future goals and dreams we immediately know he will die. I think writers are convinced we'll feel more for the character that dies if we know more about them, but most audience members immediately write off the plucky new guy that shows off the picture of his pretty fiancee and feel nothing.

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Nudity: Yes, but it is all male.

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