Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Subtitles for the Accent- and Mumbling-Impaired

So the husberband and I started a new movie last night: BROTHERS, with Tobey Maguire, Jake Gylenhaal (sp?) and Natalie Portman. (If you don't know my family, you may wonder what I mean by "starting" a movie. Frankly, everything in our house is treated as a potential mini-series. In this case, there was no time to start the movie until after the Mariners wrapped up their pounding of the Orioles, and I have book club tonight, and Wednesday Scott writes his sermon, so most likely we won't see the next installment until Thursday, and we'll wrap up on Friday.) Anywho, the movie is quite compelling so far, but darn it if Jake G. isn't mumbling his way through the whole thing. Plus, he's been drinking a lot in this segment, which doesn't help the mumbling. Up to this point, I have managed to resist asking Scott to turn on the subtitles for the hearing impaired. It's a pride issue. If he can hear and understand, then--doggone it--so can I.

After all, I made it through SWEET LAND and very much enjoyed it, despite the gal's gibberish "German" and the fellow's unintelligible Norwegian accent. Kind of the like the time I saw AMADEUS in France as a teenager. You just go with the gist. Pretend you're watching a silent movie and grasp things like plot from the visuals and the ups and downs of the soundtrack.

I dread the day when actual physical DVDs are a thing of the past and everything downloads directly to the TV because what will I do without the subtitles? How could I have understood THE COMMITMENTS or THE FULL MONTY without subtitles? We struggled through NORTH AND SOUTH, loving it, but being totally at sea whenever the "Milton" (that is, Manchester) folk opened their mouths. I would turn to Scott and ask, "What did he say?" To which my husband would reply, "I'm only following this scene in the most general sense."

Maybe it's all those rock concerts we didn't attend in our youth? Of course, part of the problem could be our ancient television with its not-so-state-of-the-art sound system. Or it could be poetic justice because older people in our congregation frequently accuse Scott and me of speaking too quickly.

In any case, if the People's Choice Awards ever opens to new categories, we would like to suggest Best Enunciation. Or, Most Easily-Read Lips. Or, Best Screenplay Not Dependent on Dialogue.

Have any favorite mumbling actors?


  1. A couple days ago I watched the last half of "Lady Sings the Blues" 1972 and Diana Ross as Billie Holiday. Saaad, sad story about a beautiful voice. But I was frustrated I couldn't make out a lot of what they were saying! Again, the characters were chemically impaired so I guess that was part of the story. But probably being an old movie didn't help either.

  2. Whenever we watch an action movie or one with an asian/kung fu flair we just know to turn on those subtitles! You and Scott are not alone on the mumble train! We have a fantastic sound system but can tell you tht all 4.5 seasons of Battlestar Galactica was watched with me asking my husband "what did they just say?" I hope that one day all shows will be beautifully enunciated.