Monday, November 24, 2014

Attention Cumberbitches!

And everyone else. There’s an awesome new movie coming out.  It's called THE IMITATION GAME and it's the best film I’ve seen so far this year (although in fairness, I’ve yet to see MOM’S NIGHT OUT). It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and open the 28th, hopefully in more than four theaters nationwide.

THE IMITATION GAME tells the true story of a British mathematician (guess who) who broke the code of the Nazi Enigma machine that essentially allowed us to defeat the Germans in World War II. So Cumberbatch is sort of the John Wayne of nerds. Also on hand are Keira Knightley (can I be a Knightleybitch?), and two Sunday night quality TV faves – the guy who plays Finn on THE GOOD WIFE and the guy who plays Tom on DOWNTON ABBEY.
The movie is thoroughly engrossing – the perfect blend of character study and thriller. For my money it’s way better that BEAUTIFUL MIND so I wonder if it will get the Oscar love I think it deserves. It’s also superior to THE KING’S SPEECH if you ask me (and it has a character who stutters).

The Weinstein Company produces it so it has a shot. But believe me, if it were directed by Spielberg there would be handsome glossy programs handed out at all industry screenings and we would be bludgeoned into making this the frontrunner. We would be told in no uncertain terms that it’s “important.” A smart, entertaining movie isn’t enough. And getting director Morten Tyldum to go on Charlie Rose is not a big whoop.

Whether THE IMITATION GAME is sexy enough for an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY exclusive behind-the-scenes on-the-set profile (Cumberbatch’s stock has probably plummeted now that he’s engaged) or an ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT exclusive behind-the-scenes on-the-set featurette remains to be seen. But fortunately, Spielberg isn’t coming out with some three-hour epic starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Winston Churchill so there may be hope.

If you think encrypting a code with 159,000,000,000,000 possibilities is hard, just try making a riveting screenplay out of it. Kudos to Graham Moore. Cumberbatch and Knightley are worth listening to as well as looking at. And director Mortem Tyldum (sure to become a household name) turned what could have been a two-hour eye chart into a cinematic delight.

THE IMITATION GAME – all it needs is a catchy tagline. How about…?




Update:  A reader made an excellent point.  I write a wonderful review about a hero mathematician whose name has been ignored and then I never mentioned his name.  Alan Turing.    My extreme bad.   His name deserves to be over the title.   Alan Turing. 


Hamid said...

I'm so glad you liked this, Ken. I saw it last week and loved it. Cumberbatch's performance is flawless and the whole film is beautifully directed.

I have to correct you on one thing: it wasn't 159,000,000 possibilities but 159,000,000,000,000!

There was something so powerful and emotional about the on-screen text regarding computers (which I won't spoil here) that it brought a tear to my eye. Turing was a true hero and pioneer and this film does justice to his memory.

although in fairness, I’ve yet to see MOM’S NIGHT OUT

LOL! That looks absolutely appalling! And the reviews were universal about it being an unfunny piece of propaganda masquerading as a comedy. Evangelical creationists getting together to make a "comedy" which preaches that moms should shut up about wanting a career or a night off and just stay at home is never going to result in a worthwhile film. But I gather it was very popular in Alabama.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you meant "God is My Cosine." Or was Cumberbatch's character applying for a loan?

If not, better have your son proofread your math references from now on.

-Mathy McMath

MikeK.Pa. said...

With Harvey Weinstein heading the PR effort on The Imitation Game, there will be no shortage of exposure for Benedict et al. Gwyneth Paltrow winning best actress for Shakespeare in Love is proof - egregious as it was - of the gradual erosion the overbearing Weinstein can have on voters. I've read the reviews of The Imitation Game; truly sad how he was treated after the war ended given his contribution to helping win the war. I think Unbroken will give The Imitation Game a good run for its money come nomination time.

Charles H. Bryan said...

"The Weinstein Company produces it so it has a shot."

Bwa ha ha! Ya think? Ordinarily, I love stories of bigger-than-God Hollywood machers, but I'll never forgive him or the Academy for the SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE debacle. I don't mean to say that it was an awful movie, but better than (the also not perfect) SAVING PRIVATE RYAN? No. Nuh uh.

Anonymous said...

I would make an utterly trivial point here with respect to the discussion at hand, "us" did not not win WWII, the Soviets did, with a little help. Don't get me wrong, the invasion of France was a good thing, starting a Western front was a significant distraction for the Axis, but the Soviets had to bear the great majority of the burden of defeating the Third Reich. That doesn't diminish in any way the courage and effort on the part of the Allies.

All that said, I look forward to seeing Mr. Cumberbatch's performance. He's quite spectacular in Sherlock.


Alan Tomlinson

VP81955 said...

OT: Another sitcom alarm piece, this one from The Hollywood Reporter:

McAlvie said...

Thanks, Ken! I will definitely watch for this one. I think too many people today don't grasp the enormity of WWII, the scope to which it affected the world. Well, to be fair, it wasn't until I was an adult that I began to understand it, myself. It should really be an entire required history class in high school. And that's why I cheer every movie made in recent years that throws a spotlight on some of the lesser known facets and people who made victory possible.

estiv said...

Ken, totally off-topic but something I think you'd be interested in. Leafing through the stacks at a local used book store I learned that Ernie Kovacs had written a novel called Zoomar. If I'd ever heard of it I'd forgotten about it (and I'm a big Kovacs fan). You would also probably be interested because the real focus is on the business side of TV comedy, and how that affects the product which eventually appears onscreen. It came out in 1957, and the topical references are a hoot in themselves. Copies are easily found for sale online.

Mike said...

You mean the Soviets that were on the side of the Nazis for half the war?

Jay said...

Hi Ken,
Today's HuffPo front page had these three headlines one after another:
"Miley Cyrus Had A Giant Pizza Cake For Her 22nd Birthday";
"Ariana Grande's Brother Looks Like A Cartoon At The AMAs"; and
"Here's Jaden Smith Dancing To 5 Seconds Of Summer".

Life is good.

Best, J.

Anonymous said...

How do you write even a brief review of The Imitation Game and not mention Alan Turing's name?

By Ken Levine said...

You're right. I'm an idiot. The post has been updated. Thanks.

Brian said...

I have heard of this and look forward to it seeing it. Keep the movie reviews like this coming Ken.

Unknown said...

Speaking of great actors from Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens got himself killed off so he could do other projects. I just saw The Guest that is his first post Abbey effort. Maybe one of the worst movies I have seen in years. Truly abismal in every respect: acting, casting, directing and the script may have been written in a high school film class.
6 Stabbings, 8 sub machine guns, 1 scarey high school halloween maze, 0 breasts,Joe Bob says check it out.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:27 was me. Thanks for adding Turing's name and taking my comment as an attempt to be constructive.

Breadbaker said...

@estiv, thanks for the head's up about the Kovacs novel. It's one of those bittersweet moments, because if my dad were still alive, I'd have jumped to buy it for him. Instead, I bought one of the copies online (the cheapest listed) to read myself and think of him. Dad was a huge Kovacs fan; he died two years ago.

Graham Powell said...

I was a comp sci major, and Turing was one of the leading founders of computer science. The Turing Machine and the Turing Test are still taught today.

And it's not just sad how he was treated by his own government after the war, it's an absolute outrage. I don't know how much of his postwar life was covered in the movie so I won't spoil anything, but it's truly reprehensible.

Sharon said...

Ken, I've seen The Imitation Game too and I concur! In fact, I left the theater feeling it was the best movie I'd seen in years. Wonderfully written, beautifully performed, and just all around terrific filmmaking. I've been telling everyone who'll listen to go and see this movie when it opens. I hope that the movie awards gods shower it with praise, despite the fact that the Weinsteins are involved. :-)

Anonymous said...

If Schpeeelberg had done the movie, it wouldn't have been that good!

AlaskaRay said...

A computer wouldn't have made the error of forgetting to put the name of the main character, so I guess you pass the Turing test.

D. McEwan said...

Entertainment Weekly loves Bendydick Cumberbatch (Which, in an interview in Out Magazine last month he said was his favorite fan name for him) and have been mentioning the movie. Of course, all gay publications are featuring it as Turning is an heroic gay martyr.

I prefer to think of myself as a Cumberbastard.

D. McEwan said...

Oops. the fan name is "Bendydick Cumonmysnatch." I reverted to his real last name.

D. McEwan said...

Turing, not Turning. Must adjust my glasses before proofing my comments.

Johnny Walker said...

Better than THE KING'S SPEECH? That's all they needed to put on the poster. I loved that movie.

Ken, I wonder if you could settle something. My Dad just went on the Paramount studio tour a few days ago. On the tour the guide told him that, after years of imbibing horrible no alcohol beer, it was finally switched to the real stuff... Leading to some "memorable" off camera moments.

On the other hand, when I did the tour last year, the guide told me that it was the early seasons, before anyone had really solved the problem of creating a fake beer, that had the actors getting a bit merry. And it was later seasons that switched to non-alcoholic beer.

I also seem to remember you mentioning some sort of low-alcohol near beer that was used at some point.

Which is it? Thanks!

Johnny Walker said...

Also, with regards to the Weinsteins, I believe they have another movie they're hoping to snag Oscars with coming out later this year.

The Mutt said...

Not a fan of the term Cumberbitches.

How about Cumberbunnies instead?

Allan V said...

With all due respect to Ken (& Hamid), I believe that 159 million, million, million would actually be written as 159,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or in other words, 159 QUINTILLION.

And to think, Alan Turing and his fellow codebreakers broke the Enigma code with 1940's technology. Simply amazing.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Baldwin said...

I thought he quit because he couldn't handle the soul crushing, physically exhausting, sweatshop existence of filming nine episodes a year.

Oliver said...

Here's a Friday question: What are your thoughts on the ABC sitcom Cristela, which was just picked up for a full season?

Barry Traylor said...

Since Alan Turing did as much if not more than any other single person to shorten WW II it was horrible how he was treated after the war.

Barry Traylor said...

I have to dispute slightly what Anonymous said...(why are people so fearful of putting their names on a comment?)Although it is true the Soviets lost many more men in that war than the Western Allies did they might not have done so well without supplies and material from America. Not to mention the Russian winter had something to do with destroying a large part of the German army. Stalin was also stupid enough to sign a non aggression pact with Hitler.

Unknown said...

I'm always dubious about 'true stories' because as much as it gives you that feel-good factor, stretching the truths and adding entertaining, yet non-factual events ruins the magic.

The Railway Man is a good example (*Spoiler Alert*)... The two enemies never met after the war was over and one of Eric's best friends never committed suicide - all added for dramatic effect because clearly, there weren't enough plot points to keep it going as a drama. In my view, the story needed to be a documentary.

However, from my limited knowledge of Turing, The Imitation Game seems to have fared much better.
For those interested, The Theory of Everything looks worth a try as well.

Loosehead said...

Hi Ken
Something on your page is playing music. Could you make it stop?

Loosehead said...

Anonymous is mistaken (I wish I could tell _which_ anonymous). The second front wasn't just a distraction to the axis, it also ensured Stalin stopped at Berlin and didn't carry on to the Atlantic.
Also, it wasn't just Saving Private Ryan the film that lost out that year; Tom Hanks also lost out for Best Actor to a complete unknown, who is still unknown, in a feel-good movie that no-one remembers.

Bruce100 said...

Over here in the UK, Turing's story's fairly well known.

It's probably an apocryphal story, but isn't Apple's logo - an apple with a bite taken out of it - a tribute to Turing?

It's also ironic that we have to prove we're not robots to comment here.

Jim said...


Roberto Benigni's still one of the biggest names in Italian cinema. It's just that he's shown no interest in trying to make his films abroad. His choice I guess. I still reckon that the first act of Life is Beautiful is one of the tightest scripted cinema farces ever made. OK it's a shame about the second, but without that the film probably wouldn't have got international distribution. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

Not that the Oscars are any good predictor of how much later generations will give a shit. Look back at any list of Oscar winners v box office smash hits and you'll see that the public does a far better job at filtering out the crap than the insiders and those in the business.

Robbie the Robot said...

I, like Mr. Turing, have broken the code. To this blog. Robots rule. Go bots, too.

D. McEwan said...

Roberto Benigni is not a complete unknown. He's completely obnoxious, but he's internationally famous.

MaryRC said...

I'nm not a fan of Cumberbatch, in fact I find him rather off-putting to the point where I would consider not seeing a movie just because he's in it. But I had the pleasure of seeing Derek Jacobi play Alan Turing in the play "Breaking the Code" on a trip to London in the 1980s. Amazing performance and what a sad, sad story.

XJill said...

Ken, as a certified Cumberbitch please know that a) we have been rebranded as the CumberCollective and b) we are happy for his engagement, if anything the stock has gone UP.

Now, as for the film, I thought it was very well done and Alex Lawther was amazing as young Turing - just soul crushing, but I wish they had a bit more about his trial and suicide, that was glossed over a bit too much for my liking.

In the Best Actor race Redmayne gets my vote though obviously I have not seen Selma or Unbroken yet, which have the other Lead Actor contenders. Keaton & Cumberbatch will be in the mix.

Andy Lee said...

I've been interested in the whole Bletchley Park story for many years now, and had to see the film when it came out. It may well be a good watch if you know nothing about the true story (good acting at least) but in terms of accuracy it's woeful.

For starters, Turing did *NOT* break Enigma - that was done by three Polish mathematicians several years before, and the films dismissal of the Polish contribution borders on disrespect. Turings contribution was to extend their ideas to cope with the growing sophistication of the device as the war started.

And contrary to what the film says, he did not build "his machine" in isolation and against the judgement of his colleagues. The Bombe is better known as the "Turing-Welchman Bombe" which he jointly designed - and which was actually built elsewhere under contract with the full support of BP management.

Arguably most silly is the scene of the "revelation" in the pub where he supposedly realizes the final piece in the jigsaw. What "revelation" is about was a key design feature from the outset - the scene equates to a biopic about Stephenson designing the first railway locomotive, building the Rocket, getting nowhere, then having an inspiration that it may work better if put on RAILS!!!

If you know the true story, the film really is that silly.

There's lots, lots more, but maybe the worst is the exaggeration about his death. It makes a good story that he was "persecuted for homosexuality", forced to take drugs and took his own life as a direct result. The truth is somewhat more complex. Yes, he was prosecuted, but saw the chemical treatment as a much softer option than prison and by all accounts (read Hodges book) remained relatively relaxed. (Relatively.) Most importantly, his death was two years after the conviction, and a year after the drug treatment had ended - it's by no means certain the events were directly related. There is also a body of evidence that his death was not suicide anyway - rather a tragic accident. (He was doing an electrolysis experiment involving cyanide at the time.)