MFS provides screenings of awards season contenders

“The Company Men” and “The King’s Speech” are shown. Director John Wells talks about the real life aspect to “The Company Men.”

By Meg Boberg / Special to The Malibu Times

The second annual “Awards Season Screening Series” kicked off Sunday night for Malibu Film Society with a crowd of more than 100 people, including members of 16 professional guilds. “The Company Men” and “The King’s Speech” were screened with a question-and-answer session following the first film with director John Wells.

“The Company Men,” an independent film featuring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper, focuses on the economic recession as corporate downsizing forces three men from varying backgrounds to find new jobs and a new identity.

Wells, who also wrote and produced the film, made his feature directorial debut with “The Company Men.” He has a background mostly in television, having produced such dramas as “ER” and “The West Wing.”

Wells said with “The Company Men” he wanted to address real life situations.

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“We need to do a little bit more of the things in the American cinema where the events that happen to a lot of people are actually dramatized in film,” Wells said, adding that major studios often are reluctant to tackle character-based dramas.

In his research, Wells received feedback from countless people who had been laid off in recent years, and he included many of the interviews about those real life experiences in the film.

“Oftentimes, when they [the people I interviewed] would tell me things that happened, they’d find ways to tell me that were humorous, and I saw this remarkable dignity and integrity of the way in which they were approaching what was impacting their lives,” Wells said. “I felt it was important in telling the story that I got across that sense of loss and disassociation that happens.”

Audience members got the chance to speak directly with Wells before the second screening. One person asked what the differences are between the pacing of a film versus television episodes.

“It doesn’t have any commercial breaks,” Wells said. “Particularly when you’re doing network television or cable television, you have to worry about how you’ll build the story arc, but, in film, the audience doesn’t have to wait through the Massengill commercial.”

The second feature of the evening, “The King’s Speech,” a drama starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, is based on the true story of the Duke of York who became King George VI before World War II. The plot highlights the king’s struggle to overcome his stammer with the guidance of his speech therapist and his unusual techniques. The film has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and is expected to earn Academy Award nominations.

A planned appearance from actor Guy Pearce, who plays the Duke of York’s older brother, King Edward VIII, in the film, had to be canceled. Instead, Hollywood publicist Dick Guttman introduced the film and mentioned the important contributions of Malibu Film Society.

“It’s wonderful, because [Malibu] is an industry town, and it’s important to create dialogue about some of these films,” Guttman said. “Not all make it to Malibu Cinemas, so this is a great way for us to be able to discuss films.”

Guttman also noted that David Seidler, who wrote the film, also suffers from stuttering.

“This film might not have been made … if he had not faced the same kind of agony,” Guttman said.

Screen Actors Guild member Declan Joyce, a Malibu resident, saw “The King’s Speech” for the second time.

“Geoffrey Rush’s performance was off the charts,” Joyce said. “It goes to show how supporting actors contribute, and a lot of times in American films, the lead actors get all the credit. Foreign film really highlights how important they are.”

Joyce, an Irish-American actor, has attended most of the Malibu Film Society screenings and is a member.

“This organization encapsulates what Malibu believes in, and why we are here,” he said. “It’s the belief that the arts can change the world, and that is the heartbeat of the Malibu Film Society.”

Malibu Film Society resumes the awards season screening series Sunday, Jan. 23, with “The Fighter,” which stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale, and the documentary film “Waiting for Superman,” which spotlights education reform. “Blue Valentine” will be shown Feb. 6, and another film is to be announced.

Films are screened at the Malibu Screening Room located at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway. More information about reservations or membership can be obtained by emailing Executive Director Scott Tallal at scott@commcinema.com or visiting MalibuFilmSociety.org.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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