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From Under A Rock: A Knight’s Tale

December 9, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
A Knight's Tale
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From Under A Rock: A Knight’s Tale  


Sometimes a movie has just enough going for it that you like it even though it’s sort of underwhelming. This week’s pick is that for Aaron, but will Michael think the same?

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Metropolis. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him A Knight’s Tale.

A Knight’s Tale
Released: May 11th, 2001
Written and Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Heath Ledger as William Thatcher
Alan Tudyk as Wat
Shannyn Sossamon as Jocelyn
Rufus Sewell as Count Adhemar
Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer

Aaron Hubbard: This movie has always been one of those movies that me and my family liked and get in the mood for every now and again. It’s pretty unique, and worth talking about even if I don’t have to have a deep discussion about it.

Michael Ornelas: Eh, movie quality and the ability to have a deep discussion about it are unrelated. The slew of classics that I haven’t been able to easily come up with a third conversation point about is astounding.
Intentional Anachronism
Aaron: Anachronism is usually a flaw in a movie, where something from one time period shows up in another. This is usually by accident, but when done purposefully, it can make something unique. A Knight’s Tale pretty much runs on this. Jousting is treated like a modern day sport and its participants are treated like celebrities. Heralds are like ring announcers, and of course, crowds perform “We Will Rock You”. How did this play for you, Michael?

Michael: I thought it was dumb. But I like dumb, and it was definitely the fun kind of dumb. For better or for worse, anachronisms help younger audiences connect with your material, so I get why they’d go for it. It didn’t hinder this film because once you understood the tone, it stuck to it throughout and ended up being a blast.

Aaron: I think you definitely have a point about sticking to it. Any of the scenes with 20th century music would have been awkward as hell in isolation. But together it makes a unique and cohesive aesthetic. I’ve seen a lot of movies about knights, as I was really into that sort of thing as a kid. Most don’t hold up, but this one strikes just the right chords with me. It knows it’s a farce and revels in it.
Michael: The central plot focus of the film was jousting, and it was riveting. The medieval setting has never been one that has appealed to me, but this showcased the excitement and the brutality of jousting perfectly. By the end, I was actually a fan of the sport and now wish that it were a real thing I could throw on ESPN.

Aaron: I was honestly surprised how well all of those scenes were put together. But when I think about it… this is kind of a movie trope. How many action movies have two sides charge at each other before colliding? That’s basically all jousting is. So the cinematic language was applied to what may be the originator of the idea. Not a bad trick. And this is definitely the best movie specifically about jousting you will ever find.

Michael: Unless you count the ones I’ve found at my local adult video store…HELLO!
The Unsung Cast
Aaron: Something that I think really makes this film work is that its cast is extremely talented but was, at the time, overlooked. Not everyone here went on to great success, but Heath Ledger went on to be a regular at the Oscars, Alan Tudyk is one of the great character actors of this generation. And Bérénice Bejo went on to star in Best Picture winner The Artist. And then there’s Paul Bettany. I think the whole idea of peasants reaching for celebrity was something these actors could connect with and it brings a level of authenticity to what we see on screen.

Michael: Don’t forget Mark Addy, who went on to be Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones! There wasn’t a weak performance in the bunch. Paul Bettany and Alan Tudyk were so much fun, but Heath Ledger proved why he was the star of the film — he gave this role his all and managed to become the heart of the film. It was clear that he was crazy talented, even from a film like this which is never going to be in any “all time greatest” conversations.

Aaron: I was honestly surprised you hadn’t seen more of him. He has a varied and interesting career well before The Dark Knight. Check out Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain for two of his best performances, but also 10 Things I Hate About You and The Brothers Grimm to see how much versatility he had. We really lost a great talent far too soon.

Michael: This was a really enjoyable movie even if it has plenty to roll your eyes at. The performances were a lot of fun and even though it felt like a 2+ hour-long episode of a cable drama, I really enjoyed it. And the jousting is just perfect.


Aaron: I always describe this as a guilty pleasure, something that isn’t really great but works for me anyway. I think there’s enough here to pique someone’s interest but probably not enough for someone to really latch on to.


Michael: That was fun. I truly expected to dislike it, but then you cheap shotted me with some Queen from the get-go. Cheater…

Aaron: I am not above manipulating my audience.

Besides The Joker, what are some of your favorite Heath Ledger roles?

Next week:

Michael: Next week’s pick is a film I sought out after being blown away by the camerawork in Gravity, that being an earlier work of director Alfonso Cuarón. It’s a pretty neat piece of dystopian sci-fi in its own right, but needless to say, it has some killer shots.
Children of Men
Aaron: I’m honestly surprised I haven’t seen it. Cuarón is a great director and I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one.

Michael: I’ve only seen it once, so I’m excited to see what I think of it this time.

What are some of your favorite movies based off their camerawork?

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Aaron Has Another Column!
This week I covered one of my favorite movies: The Empire Strikes Back! Come back next week as I finish the trilogy.

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The final score: review Good
The 411
A Knight's Tale is pretty dumb, all things considered. But it has a strong cast of actors that were really underappreciated at the time, and focuses on something that is rarely featured even in the genre. Paul Bettany is nearly worth seeing this all on his own, but it's one of Heath Ledger's first leading roles and he delivers. It's a good bit of disposable fun.