Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

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Love, Actually

Seen: 2003.11.10   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.12.28

At no time could I tell all the characters apart, even in description.

Theatre experience

Great care by the playa at the desk to pre-screen reflectors for damage. We signed ourselves in. He said we all knew each other anyway – i.e., all the RW®C/DVS® users knew each other. “You don’t see there’s a privacy issue here?” I asked. The playa then had the gall to ask for three IDs for the three of us.

A full house. People at the end of the row moved to get away from us, though.

Caption quality

Uh, no thanks: Comma, please. “No, thanks” and “no thanks” are two different things (“I managed to find something clean to wear, no thanks to you, Edna Turnblad!”).

Billy does an interview in a radio station. Some dialogue is prefaced with (over radio): which I don’t think was quite necessary.

It's 270 pounds: Apparently the MoPix character set is missing £, present even in Line 21 captions since day one.

♪ If I could,
then I would ♪

quite likely didn’t need a comma.

Sam shouts “Joanna!” through a plexiglas wall. It’s captioned (inaudible).

I believe some speech was described as nonsensical. Notes unclear.

Description quality

Pat Lentz is our narratrix. But she’s an American voice in a film where every actor but one is British. This will not do, though I know for a fact WGBH doesn’t give a shit.

We hear descriptions prefaced by “now” three times before first actual footage.

“A short-haired blonde talks in the kitchen”: Boy or girl? “It’s a grinning blonde”: Ditto. “Brunette” and “blonde” are also heard again. “A redhead holds out a cellphone”: What – Seth Green does a cameo? “He hands the blonde his bags and leaves.” Also: “Daniel turns and bumps into a blonde woman. She looks just like Claudia Schiffer.”

“Workspace” used twice.

The following is such a delightful and anomalous but spontaneous and entirely accurate description we need to put it on T-shirts: “Peter’s friend high-fives the vicar.”

A subplot in this mishmash of subplots involves either porn actors or stand-ins for real actors who will ultimately film love scenes. Handled with disturbingly proficient aplomb and offhandedness. They were also rather hard to describe. Similar trompe-l’œil scenes in Dow with Love were more extensively described, I recall. “On a movie set, Jack lies nude, while Judy, also nude, straddles him.”

Separately: “Sarah rocks Karl onto the bed and straddles his muscular form.” Any more straddling and this’ll turn into Seabiscuit. “The lie back on the bed, pressed tightly together, and kiss with fervour.”

“Three girls” – not women? – “look at an exhibit painting of nudes wearing Santa hats.” “Nude” is a term biased toward a female reading: classic nudes, nude paintings. Here the nudes are black guys! (Sorry, “dark-skinned” guys. Or “African-American” – oh, but wait, they’re British. They even look British.)

Product placement: “They both reach into a box of Frosted Flakes.”

Cussing like sailors: This was totally the best part of the movie. It’s another case where the description narrator is forced to swear! Onscreen type and subtitles had to be read. (What passes for scholarship in the subtitling field holds that obscenities written out in subtitles are much more shocking than those heard spoken. It’s true!)

It gets even better. (Really, this is one film for the annals of accessibility.) Endearing Colin Firth stammers through in beginner Portuguese, whose grammatical errors are carefully replicated in beginner-English subtitles, all read by Lentz: “and of course I prediction you say no.”

However, the soon-heard description “Jamie glances around at his future in-laws, then at his fiancée” is much too interpretive.

Beautifully-chosen, somewhat-garish multicoloured striped clothing worn by the winsome and sensitive actor Andrew Lincoln is not, sadly, described. The blind audience is at least able to enjoy his luscious accent and lovable delivery.

Certainly DVS handled the reading of his silent intertitles in a superb fashion. (He shows up at his love’s doorstep during Xmas and holds up handwritten cardboard signs. They are read with perfect intonation and dead-accurate pacing by Pat Lentz. It was an otherwise-trite scene positively rescued by a loving described rendition.)

Wow, typography comes to audio description! (Two true loves united – Richard Curtis should write a movie!) Christmas cards are described as “The first two offer him best wishes and season’s greetings in a nearly-identical printed font.”

“Meanwhile, in France, Jamie’s taxi pulls away from the airport.” That actually happened like ten minutes ago. Now he’s just in France.

End credits begin with the now-familiar description “Remaining opening credits.” MPAA notice (“This motion picture has been rated R”) is heard, but the slide we’re looking at is a pitch for Universal Studios’s theme park.


A film clip from Titanic lists “Jack” in description but DiCAPRIO: in captions.

Exit interview

A Chinese d00d asks “What is that?” about the reflector. Eastern European Eurotrash girls (Eastern Eurotrash women?) who had been sitting next to me rather ostentatiously say “Excuse me” as they press by. No, we don’t have this back in the old country, where I suppose they had deaf and blind people locked away for the good of the party, or perhaps testing munitions for duds, Bugs Bunny–style.

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