2009: Watch What Happens

A three part look at the year ahead, now that the Oscar have happened. Today: January to April!

The Only Movie This Year You Should Have Seen Aleady: Coraline

We all know January and February are dead months at the multiplexes. The only film worth your money so far has been Henry Selick’s masterpiece Coraline- it’s like The Nightmare Before Christmas without songs (except for one fun piano tune from one of the They Might Be Giants dudes), but more colorful, technically flawless, and with actual creepy moments.

If you can make it to a 3D showing, it’s well worth the extra $2 to rent the glasses- it’s the first film I’ve seen to use 3D as a way to enhance the storytelling instead of a “aaah! things in your face!” gimmick. Plus, it does a wonderful job of adapting a novella by my favorite author of all time, Neil Gaiman (I’m in a facebook group called “I may or may not be stalking Neil Gaiman.” Seriously, he lives in Wisconsin, too! I could have a sleeping bag outside of his house by tomorrow!).

The Weekend of February 27th: Nothing!

It’s a slow time. You can either go see the Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience, even though it might be a sign of the apocalypse, or Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun Li, because if there’s one film that needed a spin-off/sequel/whatever, it’s the 1994 Jean Claude Van-Damme vehicle Street Fighter.

You know what you should do instead? Rent The Fall!

The Weekend of March 6th: Watchmen

I don’t think, after The Dark Knight’s stigma-busting success, there’s an excuse not to go see what looks to be an as-faithful as possible adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen. It’s one of the best 100 works of literature of the last century. There are midnight showings. Get out of your house.

Unless you just don’t like movies. Or violence. Or blue people.

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The Weekend of March 13th: Nothing II: The Quickening!

Seriously, March is a wasteland. Will your life be improved in any way by watching Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the remake of Race To Witch Mountain? Perhaps it will help you realize every moment we spend on this earth is precious, and not to waste a single one.

Or you could see another remake, of Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left, and learn that humans are nothing but annalistic savages that torture one another in an endless cycle of blood. Or you could read a book, or something.

The Weekend of March 20th: I Love You, Man

There is one reason to see I Love You, Man, and it isn’t the dubious track record of Director John Hamburg and screenwriter Larry Levin- its cast is a veritable comedian highlight reel, lead off by the trio of Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and Rashida Jones (who I miss on The Office). Small parts by Andy Samberg, Aziz Ansari, Nick Kroll, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Curtin, and Lou Ferrigno (not a comedian, but come on- Lou Ferrigno!) promise to make it a worthwhile trip.

Let the record show that this weekend Nicolas Continues his war against good movies with Know1ng, and Tony Gilroy follows up Michael Clayton with Duplicity, which I’d be excited about if not for the questionable casting of Julia Roberts as a femme fatale. We’ll see how that one plays out on RT first, thank you.

The Weekend of March 27th: Adventureland

Greg Mottola, fresh off the hit Superbad, decided to go for the mulligan and essentially make it again with his next film. Jesse Eisenberg takes over the Michael Cera nervous guy role as a recent college grad putting his dues in at an amusement park.

Monsters Vs. Aliens might be passable entertainment as well, if only for the 3D novelty and the voice of Seth Rogen as a blue blob.

The Weekend of April 3rd: Nothing With A Vengeance!

Although I bet, if you asked him nicely, Dave would save a seat for you when he lines up for the first screening of Fast & Furious.

The Weekend of April 10th: Observe And Report

Based on the trailer, it looks like Paul Blart: Mall Cop for people with brains. Maybe wait for review, but has Rogen steered us wrong so far?

Alternate options include Hannah Montanna: The Movie (because remember, normal girls are brunettes but rock stars are blondes) and Dragonball: Evolution (or as I like to call it, Speed Racer 2: Electric Boogaloo).

The Weekend of April 17th: Maybe State Of Play?

It looks like it could be good. If you’ve got nothing else going on, give it a shot. Plus there’s Crank 2: High Voltage, which is so Least Common Denominator is almost ironically highbrow.

The Weekend of April 24th: The Soloist

I know, it was delayed, so it must be bad, right? But RDJ in the trailer hooks me, as does that one bit of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 that you hear everywhere. Or if you like to look at Beyonce without hearing her sing, go see Obsessed, where she tries on her “acting face.”

And so wraps the pre-summer preview. For the record, that’s pretty only one movie I’ll definitely see in theaters (Watchmen). But a few more to catch up on, at least.

IMDB#225 In The Heat Of The Night

Next up is the 1967 classic In The Heat Of The Night, in which I finally am introduced to why Sydney Poitier is awesome (my only previous exposure 1966’s Paris Blues with Paul Newman, but even that was chopped down on broadcast tv). Other questions discussed today: Is racism bad? What ever happened to movie theme songs? And why does incessant gum-chewing send me into fits?

(answers: Yes, it is; they're only in Bond movies now; and because I'm slightly crazy.)

The Key Players:

Our director, Norman Jewison, a long-storied director and producer of everything from Cold War satire (The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming) and an adaptation of Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar to racially charged dramas like 1999’s The Hurricane and today’s subject, for which he was a Best Director nominee. He’s also a regular source of inspiration for modern unnecessary remakes, as he directed the original Thomas Crown Affair and the thriller Rollerball, and you know what they say about imitation.

Poitier, of course, is the Jackie Robinson of the Oscars, winning a statue for Lillies Of The Field, and with two other successful 1967 films (To Sir, With Love and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner), the top box-office star of the year- and keep in mind this is when Will Smith was negative one year old. Sharing the screen is Rod Steiger in an Oscar winning role. Steiger appeared in over 100 films, garnering Oscar nominations in On The Waterfront and The Pawnbroker and putting in a memorable turn in Doctor Zhivago.

In a fun turn of top 250 countdown synergy, In The Heat Of The Night was edited by Hal Ashby (director of #249), and scored by Quincy Jones (who also scored #247- which also had Scott Wilson in it, who has a minor part in Heat).

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The Story:

A bumbling Barney Fife type policeman in the sleep small town of Sparta, MS, stumbles upon a body on his night patrol- the local police chief (Steiger), an abrasive Southern SOB if there ever was one, is quick to point the finger at a black man (Poitier) picked up waiting for a 4:05 AM train out of town at the local station.

Stieger quickly discovers he’s accused not just a police detective from Philadelphia, but that city’s pre-eminent homicide expert- he grudgingly asks Poitier to help investigate the murder, since the victim is a businessman who was in the process of creating a factory vital to the town’s future.

After Poitier proves the first suspect that Steiger brings in to be clearly innocent (when Steiger and all the cops had been happy enough to just assume guilt and call it a day), the victim’s widow insists Poitier lead the investigation- an uneasy working alliance forms between our principled hero and the heavily prejudiced police chief.

It’s quickly apparent, however, that the case is bigger than it appeared, and that Steiger’s far from the worst kind of bigotry that Poitier will have to face.

The Artisticness:

In The Heat Of The Night begins, somewhat oddly from my perspective, with the song “In The Heat Of The Night” sung by Ray Charles over the credits. The song recurs briefly, during a driving interlude halfway through, and again at the end of the film. It’s a great song and all, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the grimmer mood of the film- though that might be a matter of perspective. The film is brightly lit, most of the time, and visually has more in common with a detective series than a dramatic film.

That might be because the story’s emphasis is on the murder, largely, with the racial strife as a constant undertone- but we don’t meet Poitier until twenty minutes into the film when he’s rounded up by the deputy. But his presence immediately dominates the proceedings- never have I seen anyone act with a steely-eyed glare.

Steiger does a great job, himself, but I certainly can’t see why he gets an Oscar over Poitier. It might be because the whole “good ole boy bigot who realizes there are worse demons than negroes in the world” has been done to death, but I imagine it hadn’t in 1967.

Plus, I don’t know if this was in John Ball’s original novel or not, but good god why did Steiger have to constantly chew gum? And not a lazy, southern laconic gum chewing, but a rapid, nervous, grating habit that made me want to punch a wall. I know that’s a personal thing, but I would seriously have trouble watching this film again because of it. (Another thing I skip- the very end of A Clockwork Orange where Malcolm McDowell is chewing extra loudly- that makes me convulse. Does anyone else have little annoyances that they hate to see portrayed in films?).

Otherwise, I really liked the visual detail of In The Heat Of The Night- it starts with a fly on a calendar, it closes in on Poitier’s hands as he inspects the corpse, or the hands of workers in a cotton field as they drive by.


The mystery takes some typical twists and turns before Poitier figures out that it was the lanky guy who works in the diner, the first person we actually see on camera. But the real progression is between Steiger and Poitier- Steiger saves him from a mini-lynch mob of four young whites, and they actually sort of open up to one another overnight at Steiger’s house.

When Poitier leaves, Steiger pointedly makes a point of telling him to “take care,” and then they both smile a little too much (I really didn’t buy it completely, I guess I mean to say). But it’s not overdone to the point of a ham-fisted transformation (I’m looking at you, Crash and American History X).


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I’d almost have to say higher, if I knew more about what lies ahead. I enjoyed not only the mystery, but I’d say it’s worth the price of admission for Poitier alone (way to take a stand, I know. Next week, Citizen Kane was a pretty good film).

The Legacy:

Let’s run it down: Five Oscars (Steiger, Ashby for Editing, Sterling Siliphant for Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Picture), NFR preservation, not one but two sequels (the goofily titled They Call Me MISTER Tibbs and The Organization), and it was adapted into a tv series in 1988 with Archie Bunker himself, Carol O’Connor, in the Steiger role.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

The first confrontation between Poitier and Steiger is rife with tension, and played pretty well by both actors... But oh, the gum chewing.

Leftover Thoughts:

I had been led to expect a much bigger moment for the “They call me Mister Tibbs” line than there actually was, but it’s still a pretty awesome moment.

Quincy Jones, once again, still a really insane choice to score a film. The scene where Steiger chases down a suspect on the Mississippi River bridge had some completely ridiculous music.

Up next on the countdown: Big Fish! That’s a change of pace.

Comprehensible Oscar Hangover Thoughts

This will be the last thing about the Oscars, I promise (unless Dave also has some post-Oscar thoughts he feels need to be shared). It's time to look ahead.

RE: The Ceremony.

Meh. You can change it up all you want, but it's still a three and a half hour monstrosity that drags for most people when non-acting and non-picture awards are announced. I'm always stoked for the whole thing, but mostly because I do the whole picks business. Hugh Jackman was serviceable, but really didn't do any heavy lifting. I'm sure people liked the dance number in the middle (I muted it), but there's a reason Viva Laughlin got canceled after two episodes. Just saying.

RE: The Winners.

Triple-meh. It's not a good sign when the Awardsdaily.com "most likely winners" on their big chart gets 20 out of 24 right. AMPAS is supposed to be a fickle, capricious voting block of artists that reward merit where they see fit. This can make them frustrating to follow, but it makes the Oscars somewhat exciting, most of the time.

Last year we saw some minor upsets in both actress categories, art direction, costume, both sounds, as well as stunner in fx and documentary feature. What happened to the unpredictability, I ask?

RE: The Eventual Legacy.

I have to agree with Dave that there is no way that Slumdog Millionaire can possibly age that well. As undeserving winners go, at least Crash only won three Oscars it didn't deserve, not eight. And as much as I liked Button or Milk, I don't think, in the years to come, that you can point to either one as the particular unjust loser in a Titanic/L. A. Confidential or Crash/Brokeback Mountain debate. This will always be, for me, the year that The Dark Knight was overlooked by an Academy determined to recognize only the tastefully dull.

IMDB#226 The Philadelphia Story

With an entry on 1940’s The Philadelphia Story, we are officially One Tenth of the way through the countdown! Wooo! That list just got decimated, which literally means to reduce something by ten percent. Woo! Word humor!

Anyway, my love of words also translates to a love of screwball comedy, and if you remember months ago I was pretty big on Arsenic and Old Lace. So I was pretty stoked to watch what on all accounts is a classic.

The Key Players:

Our director is George Cukor, an Oscar winner for the much more famous but not on the countdown My Fair Lady. Cukor is also famous for being slow and difficult to work with, at least earlier in his career, leading to his dismissal from projects as famous as The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind.

He directs three cinema heavies- Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart (whom we’ve seen before), and the late, great Katherine Hepburn. Hepburn, a Hollywood legend whose imdb trivia page is filled with fun facts like “did all her own stunts because the stunt women never stood up straight enough,” is a record-setting four time Lead Actress Oscar winner.

Not a trailer, just a mushy scene with Hepburn & Stewart.

The Story:

Hepburn plays a rich socialite with an iron will, about to get married for a second time after divorcing Cary Grant’s schmoozy business man some years before. Grant, not invited to the wedding but not shy about showing up anyway, makes a deal with a tabloid to smuggle a failed-writer/reporter (Stewart) and a photographer into the ceremony for the scoop.

Hilarity ensues. Pretty simple.

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The Artisticness:

Much like previous countdown 40’s comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, The Philadelphia Story was based on a play, and reflects that to a great degree. There’s not a terrible amount I remember that struck me visually, but it’s quick-witted and sharp.

Hepburn apparently bought the rights to the play and developed the film as a comeback role after a series of flops, and it certainly is a proper showcase for her talent (though somehow I’ve only seen On Golden Pond among her long filmography. Well, at least I’ll get to The African Queen before this is over).

Stewart and Grant both bring the usual cleverness to their roles, quickly pushing Hepburn’s stodgy “man of the people” fiancé to the background and creating a fun little love quadrangle.

As a comedy, The Philadelphia Story is certainly slower-paced than I expected, but the twists and turns happen quickly enough, and the stars are winning enough to keep me interested. Plus, Stewart plays a struggling writer, which always appeals to my sensibilities.

And it’s hard not to fall into rhythm with dialogue like this:

-I suppose I should object to this twosome!
-That would be most objectionable.

-I’m testing the air. I like it, but it doesn’t like me.

-You hardly know him!
-To hardly know him is to know him well.

-I would sell my grandmother for a drink- and you know how I love my grandmother.


For a lead role that she oversaw, and for a well-remembered personality of Hollywood royalty, Hepburn spends a lot of The Philadelphia Story getting pushed around. She drinks, goes for a swim with Stewart’s bumbling character, gets a stern talking to from her father for driving him to infidelity somehow, and eventually, after some chicanery with blackmail, misunderstandings and the like, accepts Grant’s proposal to get remarried- though it seems more like he tricks her into it.

And I’m pretty sure near the beginning someone piches her bottom. But that’s the 40’s for you. Otherwise, it’s pretty harmless fun, and I guess there’s a message about not having a heart of stone in their somewhere.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

It seems fine where it is, to me. Not my favorite example of old-school comedy (and I’m excited to get to His Girl Friday pretty soon and compare), but I laughed. I’m an easy mark for banter.

The Legacy:

All the good stuff- National Film registry preservation, lists of 100 films and so forth. Jimmy Stewart won Best Actor and the Screenplay Best Adapted at the Oscars the following winter and everything.

It was even adapted into the 1956 musical High Society, which in turn was adapted into a stage musical ten years ago.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

One of my favorite scenes, when a drunk Stewart shows up at Grant’s house with an idea to reverse the tabloid-blackmail scheme that they’ve been embroiled in, since they both like Hepburn’s character after all.

-This is where Cinderella gets off- now you hurry back to the ball before you turn into a pumpkin and six white mice.

Leftover Thoughts:

-Champagne is a great levelerer. Leveler- it makes you my equal.
-I wouldn’t quite say that.
-Well, almost my equal.

-What’s wrong?
-Oh nothing, nothing. My head’s just fell off, that’s all.

Actual tagline for this film: Broadway's howling year-run comedy hit of the snooty society beauty who slipped and fell — IN LOVE!   That’s just how they talked back then, I suppose.

81st Annual Academy Awards Running Diary!

6:57 PM CST: Seriously we (I'm watching this year's telecast with my folks) just flipped from Andy Rooney to Barbara Walters. Can we retire people forcibly from tv journalism when they start saying random old grandparent things? Enough is enough already.

6:58: Time for half an hour of red carpet pre-show. Just so you're aware, I don't care who anybody is wearing, even if it's the dead flesh of an actual person.

7:00: Oh, it's pronounced "Tah-Rah-Gee" P. Henson. That's one mystery solved.

7:01: Tim Gunn is worth fifty of the Riverses of the world, but he needs to do better than ask Kate Winslet if she's more worried about "winning or tripping."

7:03: As Dave would say (if he didn't have to work, like a loser), Josh Brolin- luckiest man alive... This other silver-haired guy (henceforth "Other Guy") seems to make people uncomfortable, while Tim Gunn makes people happy (plus I do agree that stripper vs. nun is not a fair fight- meaning Marisa Tomei in the Wrestler vs. Amy Adams in Doubt).

7:09: I care about Valentino dresses? I'm getting something to drink.

7:11: The entire cast of Slumdog Millionaire! The "rags to riches" story of the movie's success is apparently a case of "life imitating art," according to our interviewer lady. Did they all sleep in garbage shanties last night?...Oh, don't talk to Mickey Rourke, good lord. I'm regretting that pick already.


7:13: Robert Downey, Jr.! Save this red carpet for me! What? Stop talking to his wife! Other Guy is terrible- he didn't set RDJ up for a single quip... I understand that Miley Cyrus can sing, but her speaking voice makes me grind my back teeth together...

7:16: A trailer for Knowing! Nothing says Oscar night like the trailer for Knowing. Or perhaps Antonio Banderas as the Nasonex bee.

7:20: The cheesy montage to accountants just makes me wish Vesper Lynd was carrying that suitcase... Other Guy continues his streak of hardly talking to the nominees themselves, talking over Meryl Streep to ask her daughter questions. Penelope Cruz's dress is sixty years old, so make a note of that.

7:22: Is there are rule that no question can be interesting at all? How do people watch more than half an hour of this stuff? Jack Black to the rescue, sticking it to Other Guy with copious eye-rolling.

7:25: Did Seth Rogen attend the Oscars stag? Why do we need a "sneak peek" at the Oscars at this point? They're five minutes away! Speaking from what I know of music copyright law (former job, long story), this incorporation of multiple movie themes was probably a nightmare to put together.

7:28: And finally, it's done. Two minutes to go time!

7:30: Wow, the set really does look like a huge nightclub- the kind that seats several thousand and a live orchestra.

7:31: RDJ applauds himself during the monologue, awesome. Wait, Hugh Jackman starts with a monologue? But then breaks into a song and dance routine, ah.

7:35: The Button thing is cute, and we'd all like to run off with Anne Hathaway. Actually, after her and Jackman's Frost/Nixon duet, I'd much rather see Anne Hathaway host the Oscars. She was aces on SNL two months ago.

7:38: People are standing and applauding? I liked the medley well enough, but does Hugh Jackman always sing like he has a cold? Now he's sitting in Frank Langella's lap? Can we present an award already? Even a sound one- I'm geeked for all 24.

7:41: I actually kind of like random montages, since they're always more fun to watch than awkward live television, and we get several clips of past winners of the (finally) Supporting Actress award. Come on, Amy Adams! I'm either going to look like a genius or an idiot.

7:43: Uh, why are we dragging this out? Five former winners are delivering speeches on each acting nominee? We enraged Peter Gabriel for this? Could they not get rights to film clips?

7:47: Seventeen minutes in, still no statues handed out...

7:48: Penelope Cruz wins! Damn! "Not an auspicious start," says my mom. Ugh- Cruz is killing me here. At least she thanks Almodovar for making her career. 0 for 1.

7:49: My dad's new tv has subtitles on all the time, and whoever's keeping up with the show just copped out and put [speaking in foreign langauge] when Cruz broke into some rapid Spanish.

7:53: Steve Martin and Tina Fey! Okay, I'm actually sort of digging not knowing the presenters ahead of time. We get a writing award already? Original Screenplay better go to Milk or this night will not go well at all for me.

7:56: Based on the applause-o-meter, Wall-E might steal this... No, it's Dustin Lance Black! I'm batting .500. Black really knows how to get to the point in a speech, by the way, but he is a writer. That speech was a hell of a moment, right there. Right on.

7:58: And Adapted Screenplay! Man, are they going to just rattle off all the techs in a five minute span later? I audibly "booed" The Reader's screenplay, by the way.

8:01: Beaufoy and Slumdog start the process. 2 for 3. He did make me smile with his opening line: "There are few places in the world you can never imagine yourself standing- for me that's the moon, the south pole, the Miss World podium, and here."

8:03: That was a good Dreamworks slam, Jack Black. Can we give Wall-E a statue already? No, it's time for another montage.

8:06: Unexpectedly awesome? The Animation montage is set to Does It Offend You, Yeah? music. Point to you, Ganis. Wall-E wins Best Animated Feature! Andrew Stanton also knows how to make a speech, but he probably had the most time to prepare of anybody. 3 for 4.

8:08: Animated Short: here's where my random guessing skills come in to play. Come on, french title... La Maison De Petites Cubes wins! Boo yah! 4 for 5! I just threw up my arms with more vigor than at any point during the Superbowl (and I grew up in Pittsburgh).

8:10: If the Oscars get a third of the Superbowl's audience (hopefully), then do ads cost one third as much? Like $1 Million?

8:15: Craig... Daniel Craig. He sounds pretty authoritative even reading pre-pared Art Direction banter. Come on, Dark Knight love... Did I pick with my heart too much on this one? Yes, I did. Button takes it. 4 for 6. Last year I nailed Sweeney Todd out of nowhere for Art Direction and was so proud...

8:17 Straight into Best Costumes. I kind of like the "Oscars as narrative" gimmick they've got going. The Duchess- woot! 5 for 7.

8:22: Man, that costume guy went on forever. Straight into Best Makeup! Can Daniel Craig host the whole thing? Come on, Button... Nailed it! 6 for 8.

8:25: Did the announcer just say "Robert Patterson"? I really am sick of all the Twilight hoopla, but it's Robert Pattinson, people. He and Amanda Seyfried look like anime characters. Why do we need a "romance" montage? These should all be set to Does It Offend You, Yeah? I think.

8:28: Included in the "romance" clips is The Reader! Hooray for pedophilia! Commercial time. For the curious, Dave is one ahead of me at 7 for 8, presently- he missed only the animated short.

8:31: Ben Stiller's Joaquin Phoenix impression is pretty winning. Here comes Best Cinematography, another Oscar I picked for The Dark Knight that won't happen...

8:33: I really, really don't want Slumdog Millionaire to wine nine Oscars. Did I let that influence my decision making? Yes, yes I did. 6 for 9, now that Anthony Dod Mantle has an award. Hopefully I can make it up on the shorts and sound awards.

8:37: How come a guy never hosts the tech awards dinner? That's sexist, that is. Jessica Biel talks about one of the Pixar co-founders for a little while.

8:46: Okay, I forgot to write stuff during the Pineapple Express skit because I was actually entertained, so point there, Apatow. Live Action short: Spielzeugland! Go H-Caust factor! Bam! 7 for 10.

8:51: Hugh Jackman? Haven't seen him for a while. I thought Chicago brought the musical back, but Hugh informs us that Mamma Mia! has done so this year. And now Hugh's singing and dancing again... with Beyonce. Again, no Peter Gabriel for this? I'm checking out until this is over.

8:55: And people from High School Musical also join in. And the young ones from Mamma Mia!... I feel like Will Ferrell in the Celebrity Jeopardy sketches right now: "French Stewart, you answered 'threeve,' a combination of the numbers three and five. And you wagered 'Texas' with a dollar sign in front of it... I'm speechless." Just... why? There are no nominated musicals this year. How are musicals back? Mamma Mia! didn't even win any BAFTAs, and it's the highest grossing film of all time in Britain.

9:02: Finally, it's Heath Ledger time. I say we just let Matilda give the speech, that would be adorable... Christopher Walken alert!... Phillip Seymour Hoffman is wearing a knit cap, at the Oscars.

9:05: Man, they're lucky Cuba Gooding Jr. was available for this. Hee.

9:07: Okay, Heath Ledger isn't winning an Oscar for his entire life, people. Three family members accept? Couldn't we just have had Nolan say a few polite words? I bet they don't do the playoff music, for once. Anyway, 8 for 11.

9:14: Looks like it's documentary time, judging by the montage with the Phillip Glass music we just saw. Bill Maher is kind of a jackass, but that's not news. Man On Wire wins doc feature! 9 for 12. Okay, I love the French high-wire guy now- he made a coin disappear during his speech. Magic! Bring on Doc Short...

9:17: Damn it! I never get all three shorts! Congrats to Smile Pinki, but I'm skipping the speech. 9 for 13.

9:22: Time for Sound awards, I think. It's make or break time- does Slumdog sweep all nine, or will my Wall-E predictions hold any weight? Ooh, the Hives for this montage. Nice. Although the song overpowers most of the effects they're highlighting...

9:25: (Why are they taunting me with a part of Howard and Zimmer's not-nominated Dark Knight score as Will Smith is raised onto the stage? Don't rub it in). Turns out it was Visual Effects First, by the way. This category went rogue last year...

9:26: But not this time! Button picks up another. 10 for 14. How did those four dudes decide which one got to speak? Draw straws?

9:28: Now it's sound time. Sound Editing, to be precise. Anything but Slumdog, dear god. Yes! The Dark Knight! Whoo! Suck it, India! I got this wrong but I'm happy we don't have to hear about Slumdog in the same company as Return Of The King as a clean sweeper.

9:32: And Sound Mixing goes to...Slumdog Millionaire. Ugh. I'm heading to the bathroom. That's 10 for 16.

9:33: Will Smith, still? All right, let's do Editing. I would love Slumdog to lose here, as long as my percentage is dropping anyway... but Chris Dickens takes the statue. 11 for 17. Dave is still one ahead of me at 12 for 17, and it's going to come down to Penn vs. Rourke to see if I can tie him or not.

9:37: Let's see, are they going to present seven more statues and the lifetime achievement award before ten thirty? I say no.

9:42: Clearly there's no better choice to present a humanitarian award than Eddie Murphy. I'll be back in a little bit...

9:53: A montage of the Best Original Score music... can we hurry along? Nothing makes the Oscars seem longer than writing about them while you watch. Try it next time. Alicia Keys and the obligatory Zac Effron present Slumdog with yet another Oscar. 12 for 18.

9:57: How do we know that Best Original Song is stacked for Slumdog? John Legend gets to sing "Down To Earth" from Wall-E with backup dancers from Slumdog's first performance, at least at first. "Jai Ho" also clearly sends the subtitler into fits- he only gets the chorus.

10:00: Wow, you know what you get when you mix "Jai Ho" and "Down To Earth" together? A pile of garbage, that's what. And the Oscar goes to... "Jai Ho." Yawn. 13 for 19.

10:06: Foreign language time, and Waltz With Bashir inexplicably loses to Departures. 13 for 20. I'm getting tired.

10:18: Sorry, just checked out for the "People We've Lost" montage, set to Queen Latifah singing something or other. Reese Witherspoon trots out for... director? Before the lead actors? Come on, that's going too far.

10:19: I forgot all about Frost/Nixon until I saw Ron Howard just now... Danny Boyle takes home his first award. It's too bad he can't sell his Oscar and donate the proceeds to providing India with a better social infrastructure. 14 for 21.

10:25: Lead Actress highlight reel! For the record, I would love to be wrong about this one (much as I love Kate Winslet, you can't tell me she was better than she was in Eternal Sunshine). Making it through a whole paragraph with the 74 year old Sophia Loren was an adventure...

10:31: And the Oscar goes to Kate Winslet! 15 for 22. That's the only Oscar it gets, Dave. Content yourself with that. She's really milking her time here, but she's accepting for six previous nominations, to be fair.

10:35: Just so we're all aware, I'm at 15, Dave's at 16, and if Rourke wins we'll tie, and it Penn wins he'll beat me by two. It's go time here at Kinematoscope.

10:37: No Daniel Day Lewis for our quintet of Best Actor presenters? Aw. Again, what luck that Adrian Brody had the free time. Rourke has a slight aplause-o-meter edge, but that might be because De Niero didn't pause long enough talking about Penn...

10:43: Sean Penn?! That does it. I am officially not caring next year. (Yes I will, actually). Also, you know what kills drama during an acceptance speech? Reading glasses.

10:45: And Mickey Rourke was never heard from again. 15 for 23.

11:00: Slumdog Millionaire wins Best Picture and a total of eight Oscars. Just so we're clear, we're saying that Slumdog F*cking Millionaire is twice as good as No Country For Old Men, The Departed, A Beautiful Mind, Unforgiven, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man, Platoon, Chariots Of Fire, Ordinary People, Annie Hall, Tom Jones, Marty, Oliver's Hamlet, and Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend. We're supposed to believe that it's precisely, exactly, twice the film that any of the Best Picture winners I just listed ever were.

Give me a break.

To sum up, I came up from last year's 13 with 16 correct out of 24. Last year I went with mostly conventional thinking and largely got burned, this year I would've done better to pick all favorites (I lost on Cruz, Penn, Button for Art Direction, Slumdog for Cinematography, and I would've got one Sound award if I put Slumdog for both like most people. That would've been 21, not that I'm counting).

Dave put in a very solid 18 out of 24 correct, missing only the two sound awards, the three shorts, and foreign language, which is really like getting 18 out of 20 for films he's seen.

I guess I'm a bit disappointed that there was only one surprise of any kind (Waltz With Bashir losing Best Foreign Language)- I thought the whole theme of the Oscars is "nobody knows anything," not "they're a herd of mindless sheep with a lot of white guilt to work off."

I did enjoy some of the things they tried with the telecast- making a film as narrative determining the presentation order, the Apatow short, and best of all no awfully boring speech from Sid Ganis. And of course, I'll be watching next year, because this is what I do.

T-Minus One Minute...

Just a quick note to say enjoy the dresses, awkward presentation banter, unnecessary Hugh Jackman dancing, and (hopefully) upsets in the next three hours.

I'll be keeping a running diary of thoughts and crass humor throughout the ceremony that I'll post tomorrow- liveblogging is so 2006, everybody.

So in the words of the best character in the best film of the year:

And here... we... go!

Official Oscar Predictions- Duncan

It’s finally time- a relatively anticlimactic Oscar season is still littered with a few tight races, and there’s always the fun business of predicting the odd categories I know nothing about at all.  Many thanks to Dave for the alternate viewpoints for all of Oscar week, and for listing all the nominees in his picks post, because I didn't bother.

First, let’s blitz through the categories where I’ve seen none of the films. My analysis is largely based on whatever trailers are on YouTube. So you know, you can take them to the bank!

Best Documentary Feature: Man On Wire

I used to see a lot of docs, but I saw none this year. I blame Landmark cinemas for hardly getting them anymore. Man On Wire is the only one in the group with any buzz that I’ve seen out there.

Best Documentary Short: The Witness From The Balcony of Room 306

This category is almost always four for four completely depressing- this year we have dramatically similar docs about polio still holding on in the third world (The Final Inch) and cleft palates in rural India (Smile Pinki) duking it out to sadden us with the tale of a photographer of record in a Cambodian death camp (The Conscious Of Nhem En). But I think they’ll lose to The Witness From The Balcony of Room 306, a well-timed shot about the last surviving witness to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Best Animated Short: La Maison En Petits Cubes

Pixar (Presto) is becoming so good it’s passé, Lavatory Lovestory looks cute but sparse, This Way Up and Oktopodi are disposable CGI numbers, so I pick what looks like a beautiful hand-drawn piece in La Maison En Petits Cubes. The only year I saw the shorts I still missed this category, so I’ve learned to go with your gut and not worry about it.

Best Live Action Short: Spielzugland

I’d rundown each film, but I have two words for this choice: Holo. Caust.

Mark it down.

Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir

And finally, a film shafted for Animated and Documentary (depending on who you ask) should win Foreign language. Now let’s get to the categories where I can have real opinions about stuff!

Click for More...

Best Original Song:

Will win: “Jai Ho” – Slumdog Millionaire
Should win: “Down To Earth” – Wall-E

Hey did you know there’s this thing called “Bollywood”? It’s like Hollywood, but for India! I know, how adorable is that? They even sing and dance at the end of the movies. If only we could give an Oscar to the adorable singing and dancing somehow!

Best Original Score:

Will Win: A. R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: Thomas Newman, Wall-E

Don’t really remember much from any of the five nominated scores, to be honest. I can’t really think of a moment in Slumdog that wasn’t a more defined music video sequence with a full song. And I’ve watched it a bunch, sure, but all I have to do is think of the line “Computer: define ‘dancing’” to hear Newman’s dreamy score.

Best Achievement in Sound:

Will Win, Should Win: Wall-E - Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt

Best Achievement in Sound Editing:

Will Win, Should Win: Wall-E – Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood

I’m not worried about what the guilds say- last year these statues went where they should, and I think Wall-E is a revolutionary sonically made film. I mean, there’s just no way a just god would give Slumdog Millionaire NINE Oscars, right?


Best Achievement in Visual Effects:

Will Win, Should Win: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – Barba/Preeg/Dalton/Barron

Best Achievement in Makeup:

Will Win, Should Win: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – Greg Cannom

No question that Brad Pitt’s radical transformation from geriatric infant to teen heart-throb takes both of these statues.

Best Achievement in Costume Design:

Will Win: The Duchess – Michael O’Connor
Should Win: meh.

I guess, from a technical standpoint, period costumes are impressive to pull off, but isn’t the whole point sort of that they could make them 200 years ago just as well? Could they make a Batsuit back then? No? Then where’s that nomination?

Best Achievement in Art Direction:

Will Win, Should Win: The Dark Knight – Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando

I say that since this is arguably the most pretigious category The Dark Knight doesn’t share with Slumdog (sorry, sound categories), then this will be where people reward it. Button is the favorite, but Art Direction never really follows the crowd.

Best Achievement in Editing:

Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire – Chris Dickens
Should Win: The Dark Knight – Lee Smith

Here, however, will be the last giant, flashing sign that Slumdog is our inevitable champ. Oh well.

Best Achievement in Cinematography:

Will Win, Should Win: The Dark Knight – Wally Pfister

You know what, though? Screw Slumdog mania! This category burns me every time I go with the consensus, so I say Slumdog loses this one and misses the sweep by three, not just the sound awards. So there.

Best Animated Pixar Film (I mean, Animated Feature):

Will Win, Should Win: Wall-E

I kind of want a pet cockroach. That’s all I got here. Now, time for the big eight!

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen:

Will Win: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Should Win: Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Black is essentially winning for having the wherewithal to complete his script independently and stick with it until he got it to the right people’s attention, after many other previous attempts to dramatize Harvey Milk’s life floundered. The script itself is pretty traditional, though.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published:

Will Win: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: meh.

Can’t say I really care for any of the five, not to an Oscar level. I wonder if you could guess which film I would’ve given it to instead?

Best Performance By An Actress in a Supporting Role:

Will Win, Should Win: Amy Adams, Doubt

Here’s a poorly researched, random theory I came up with: when one supporting category is a complete lock, the other category goes rogue. See: last year (Bardem was certain, Swinton surprised) and the year before (Hudson was a safe bet, Arkin was a shocker). So I say Amy Adams takes it, my favorite of the five.

Best Performance By An Actor in a Supporting Role:

Will Win, Should Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role:

Will Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Should Win: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Don’t get me started.

Best Performance By An Actor in a Leading Role:

Will Win: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Should Win: Can’t Rourke and Penn tie?

Seriously, I personally can’t choose, but I justed changed my pick back to Rourke, after waffling several times.  If Penn wins, I'm throwing something at a wall.

Best Achievement In Directing:

Will Win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: David Fincher, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

I thought, as Dave said, there was a second director on Slumdog? What happened there? But if we’re talking achievement, Button is clearly a more controlled vision than Boyle’s breathless fairy-tale.

Best Motion Picture of The Year:

Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Win: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Of the options given to me (okay, I’ll let it go), Button would get my vote. But it’s Slumdog fever these days, even if saying that in the slums of Mumbai might get you killed.

I really, upon writing this out, didn’t feel as enthusiastic about making picks as last year (a year with multiple classics that, importantly, were mostly duly honored by the Academy). But I’m sure I’ll feel the drama before each announcement before tomorrow night.

And if I get 20 out of 24 right I’ll be super enthused. Just watch.

Official Oscar Predictions- Dave

Best Documentary (Full Length):

The Betrayal
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

Who Will Win: Man on Wire
Who Should Win: Man on Wire

Should I act indignant and say, “Yeah, Man on Wire all the way. I totally saw it. Like, totally.”

Best Foreign Language Film:

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
Entre les Murs
Vals Im Bashir

Who Will Win: Vals Im Bashir
Who Should Win: Vals Im Bashir

Vals Im Bashir should win solely for the fact that the film’s director, Ari Folman, is having a contest for people to write his Oscar speech. That and the movie looks pretty trippy.

Best Documentary – Short Subject:

The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306

Who Will Win: The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306
Who Should Win: The Witness from the Balcony of Rom 306

Calling it.

Best Short Film – Animated:

La Maison en Petits Cubes
Ubornaya Istoryia
This Way Up

Who Will Win: Presto
Who Should Win: Oktapodi

Presto will win because it’s a Pixar Year. I want to see Oktapodi win because I want Keanu Reeves to try and pronounce that.


Best Short Film – Live Action:

Auf der Strecke
Manon Sur le Bitume
New Boy

Who Will Win: New Boy
Who Should Win: Spielzeugland

New Boy will win because it is the only one that anyone can pronounce.

Best Animated Feature:

Kung Fu Panda

Who Will Win: Wall-E
Who Should Win: Wall-E

Thanks for playing, Bolt and Kung Fu Panda.

Best Visual Effects:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Who Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Who Should Win: The Dark Knight

The digital wizardry of Button will take home the trophy, but the practical effects of The Dark Knight were something to truly behold.

Best Sound Editing:

The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Wall-E

Let the Slumdog juggernaut begin.

Best Sound:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: Wall-E
Who Should Win: Wall-E

From what I understand, this category is about the creation of sound, which means it has to go to Wall-E. Right? Dave Karger says if Slumdog wins here it would be an upset. So, it has to be Wall-E, right?

Best Song:

“Down to Earth” – Wall-E
“Jai Ho” – Slumdog Millionaire
“O Saya” – Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: “Jai Ho” – Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: “Down to Earth” – Wall-E

At this point in my show, Wall-E is turning into a juggernaut. Anyway, Slumdog will take it because it is high energy and a feel good song that is getting radio play.

Best Score:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Alexandre Desplat
Defiance – James Newton Howard
Milk – Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire – A. R. Rahman
Wall-E – Thomas Newman

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire – A. R. Rahman
Who Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Alexandre Desplat

While Rahman’s score was one of the highlights of Slumdog, I feel that Desplat’s score was more poignant and elegant.

Best Make Up:

The Curious of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hell Boy II: The Golden Army

Who Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Who Should Win: The Dark Knight

When you make an iconic face – see The Joker – you should be rewarded over scale. Too bad the Academy does not share my sentiment.

Best Costume Design:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Who Will Win: The Duchess
Who Should Win: Revolutionary Road


Best Art Direction:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Who Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Who Should Win: Revolutionary Road

Even prettier.

Best Editing:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: The Dark Knight

Action movies that aptly build tension have been rewarded in the past, like The Bourne Ultimatum last year. However, this will factor into the Best Picture race, inevitably knocking The Dark Knight out.

Best Cinematography:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: The Dark Knight

I missed this category last year and was stunned. The dizzying work of Slumdog will beat out The Dark Knight’s technological marvel.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare – The Reader
Peter Morgan – Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley – Doubt

Who Will Win: Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: David Hare – The Reader

Let my Reader juggernaut begin!

Best Original Screenplay:

Dustin Lance Black – Milk
Courtney Hunt – Frozen River
Mike Leigh – Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh – In Bruges
Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Jim Reardon – Wall-E

Who Will Win: Dustin Lance Black – Milk
Who Should Win: Martin McDonagh – In Bruges

Are you f-**-king deft? Yeah?

Best Direction:

Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry – The Reader
David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard – Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant – Milk

Who Will Win: Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Stephen Daldry – The Reader

I am still baffled by this co-director credit for Danny Boyle. So, Daldry gets my vote for his touching film.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams – Doubt
Penelope Cruz – Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis – Doubt
Tareji Hanson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler

Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz – Vicky Christina Barcelona
Who Should Win: Viola Davis – Doubt

Cruz will win because she is liked and due, but Davis’ performance was stirring.

Best Supporting Actor:

Josh Brolin – Milk
Robert Downey Jr. – Tropic Thunder
Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road

Who Will Win: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Who Should Win: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

Bet the house, the barn, your children.

Best Actress:

Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo – Frozen River
Meryl Streep – Doubt
Kate Winslet – The Reader

Who Will Win: Kate Winslet – The Reader
Who Should Win: Kate Winslet – The Reader

Long overdue for the best performance of the year.

Best Actor:

Richard Jenkins – The Visitor
Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn – Milk
Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler

Who Will Win: Sean Penn – Milk
Who Should Win: Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler

This is the closest category. It is a toss up between Penn and Rourke. I give Penn the edge because of past history, the statement the film makes, and the Academy’s fear of Rourke’s acceptance speech.

Best Picture:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: The Reader

And the lowest rated telecast ever is completed with Slumdog Millionaire winning it all with a grand total of eight. I will not proceed to take a shower.

Best Picture Part 1.5: Dave's Take on The Reader

Ironic that I am about to defend a movie which contains a trial.

I am a huge fan of The Reader. I saw it multiple times. I purchased the soundtrack. I read the book – though that was before the movie came out. I think it deserves any accolades it receives, I feel that it should have received more Academy Award nominations, and I feel that it will be rewarded on Oscar Night. I thought so well of it, I placed it in the two spot on my top ten of the year.

However, The Reader has been met with much criticism and tends to divide people into “love it” or “hate it” categories. While it is understandable that people will not have the same reaction to a film, has a film in recent memory been so polarizing? Why do people take great issue with the film?


One issue that I discussed is the ambiguity that exists in the film and how it makes Germans seem less culpable for their crimes during World War II. Ron Rosenbaum and Rob Lurie saw that film is a “revisionist” (Rosenbaum, 2009) account of Germany during and post-World War II. Rosenbaum critiques Hanna as being overly “sympathetic” (Rosenbaum, 2009) and chastises Daldry’s depiction of nudity in the film.

Rosenbaum goes on to call The Reader “the worst Holocaust film ever made” (Rosenbaum, 2009). His concern about a New York Times article depicting Hanna as someone who overcomes a disability is not without merit because of a poorly constructed page layout by the Times.

I found Rosenbaum’s treatment of The Reader to be overly harsh. He does not like the film, which is fine with me. I wholly understand that every film is not going to be enjoyed by all. I understand that Mr. Rosenbaum read the film much differently than I did. However, what I find hurtful and negligent on his behalf is the use of hyperbole – he called The Boys in the Striped Pajamas “the worst Holocaust film ever made” earlier this year and he called Life Is Beautiful “disgusting” upon its release ten years ago – and the fact that he does not mention countering viewpoints in his article. That is his editorial decision, but I find the argument poorly constructed because he also proclaims that Hanna’s character would not be able to exist because SS Propaganda was distributed through Der Stϋrmer, making it impossible for Hanna to be illiterate (Rosenbaum, 2009). His argument is undermined by Rob Lurie who acknowledges that there might have been circumstances allowing for a few Hannas to be illiterate and function in the SS (Lurie, 2009).

A few days after Rosenbaum’s article, Rob Lurie wrote an article for The Huffington Post where he takes issue with The Reader. Lurie’s article works much better because he engages opposing viewpoints and makes some concessions. Lurie acknowledges the film as “well made” (Lurie, 2009) and finds Winslet and Kross’ performances “nuanced” and “well developed” (Lurie, 2009).

Lurie’s concern was that film would give “ammunition to Holocaust nay-sayers” (Lurie, 2009) and the omission of the “postwar awareness” (Lurie, 2009) affects the outcome of the film.

While I disagree with Lurie’s initial concern about The Reader becoming a flag-bearer for Holocaust doubters, I find his concern about the film’s omission of Hanna reading Holocaust Literature – as her character does in the novel – compelling.

I find the omission acceptable. The film is attempting to get away from the novel in some respects for thematic purposes. Perhaps it was best summarized by Erica Abeel of IndieWire. In an interview with Stephen Daldry regarding the film, she states: “Rather than viewing it as inferior or equal to its source material, it deserves to be viewed simply as a freestanding creation: provocative and likely to divide viewers, affecting, and exquisitely filmed in hues that capture the quality of memory.” (Abeel, 2009) This statement coincides with the concept that Daldry, David Hare, and Bernard Schlink were going for. Schlink said that, “voiceovers are a cop out” (Abeel, 2009) and worked extensively with Daldry in Hare in creating the film.

Though there was a disagreement, the omission of Hanna reading the works of Primo Levi and other Holocaust survivors (more on this later), Schlink is happy with the end product and has been on tour promoting the film. If the author of the book is content with the changing of the message – which took persuading from Daldry and Hare based on the notion that the viewer will arrive in the same location of the reader of his book – then why is the audience allowed to take issue with it? The author ultimately gave his blessing, allowing for the omission of Holocaust literature because the book and film are not actually Holocaust works.

Schlink himself has said the novel is about “German guilt” (Rotten Tomatoes, 2009) and Brad Brevet eloquently explains that “The Reader is not a Holocaust movie” (Brevet, 2009). The film is about moral dilemmas that must be resolved between people and within people.

The film is about two people who cannot identify with who they are, come to terms with who they are, and are adversely affected by it. Hanna’s illiteracy is not solely lacking the ability to read. Abeel and Brevet stated in their articles that her illiteracy is compounded by her inability to express herself and that she is “emotionally illiterate” (Abeel, 2009) as well. This internal confusion and fear that resides within Hanna is superbly drawn out by Winslet’s haunting performance.

However, Winslet is not the only character with issues. Michael lacks the maturity in the first two acts of the film and the emotional capacity in the last act to define himself. Early on in the film, Michael loves Hanna after merely three weeks. Yet, that love is actually reciprocated by Hanna, and not just through sexual means. Michael gives a teary speech where he says, “I can’t live without you. The thought of you leaving kills me. Do you love me?” It was not until the second time that I noticed it, but Hanna nods. Again, she is crippled by her inability to come to terms with her emotions, yet Michael’s are so manic because of his lack of worldly experience.

The middle act shows Hanna again being unable to cope with the internal conflict that resides inside of her. She cannot face having the world know she is illiterate. While Rosenbaum was quick to equivocate, “She would rather go to prison for murdering 300 people than admitting she cannot read” (Rosenbaum, 2009). Brevet points out that Rosenbaum’s article is “filled with such snarky, passivity, and deep seeded hatred” (Brevet, 2009) that he is not watching the film and attempting to judge it on its merits. The message the film conveys is not as blunt or trivial as Rosenbaum would have the reader believe, but about “German guilt” (Rotten Tomatoes, 2009) as Daldry, Hare, and Schlink have stated.

To summarize it, The Reader is truly not meant to be viewed as a Holocaust film. If someone views it as such, the film will fail her or him.

Roger Ebert pondered,

“Is The Reader a Holocaust movie? No. In terms of its two central characters, it is a movie about lacking the courage to speak when we should. That’s something I think we all can identify with.” (Ebert, 2009)

Mr. Ebert, who I have a tumultuous relationship/understanding with, put it simply what the movie is meant to be about.

I think the movie is technologically sound and well-crafted. The cinematography, art direction, and costumes are top notch. I felt Nico Muhly’s score was egregiously overlooked during the nomination process because it is the most beautiful score of 2008. I feel that Daldry’s direction is purposeful, method, and has achieves a grand level of success. More over, I feel that Winslet’s performance was nothing short of stellar.

Claudia Puig of USAToday wrote in her review of The Reader that “a tale of eroticism, secrecy, and guilt is bound to stir discussion” (Puig, 2009). The filmmakers have achieved this by the praise and criticism the film has received.

My concern is that people are too often looking for the superficial when it comes to a film because they want to escape. Like Lena Olin says in The Reader “if you seek catharsis, go to the theatre.” However, most people want to be entertained. I will admit The Reader will not have the same thrills as The Dark Knight. It will not have the feel good story that Slumdog Millionaire has. The Reader offers an exploration into human emotion: how we connect, disconnect, lie, do not do the right thing, feel guilty, and feel remorseless. Sometimes that can be more profound than anything else, the identification with another on film because that may be how we feel too.

I am not trying to equivocate all this in direct comparison with the Holocaust because, again, The Reader is not about the Holocaust. I am not trivializing the “greatest trauma of the 20th century” (Spiegelman, 1998) by making it seem simple. I speak about the content of a book and film and how the two central characters in it can be made people that an audience can identify with.

In the end, The Reader does leave the viewer with a lot of questions, but they are the types of questions that have a great affect on the viewer.

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