The Reader: After hearing that The Reader made its way to the big dance at the Academy Awards (nominated for best picture and 5 other awards), I put it at the top of my must see list. The story takes place in post World War II Germany and spans over 25 years. It is told during three different time periods. We begin in the late 1950’s when a teenage Michael Berg begins to have an affair with Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a woman who is twice his age. The affair lasts for a summer and while Hanna is older and not as emotionally attached, young Michael falls deeply in love. Besides an abundance of nudity, this section of the film also reveals that Hanna loves being read to. When Hanna picks up and leaves, Michael figures he will never see her again. We then jump ahead about 10 years with Michael now a law student who sits in on a Nazi war trial against several women. One of the women being accused is Hanna Schmitz. The third time period in the story takes place in the 1980’s with an older Michael (Ralph Fiennes) who is still in contact with Hanna. The movie has a unique viewpoint of the Holocaust and contains a potent love story. However, the finale actually came across as a little clunky on screen. Winslet’s performance while good was not even her best of the year (see Revolutionary Road). So in closing, while I found the story to be very captivating I still would not have had this in my “best of the year category”. I would have preferred to see The Dark Knight or even Revolutionary Road get a nod in lieu of The Reader.
Ry's Rating: B
If this movie had parents they would be: Schindler’s List & Atonement
Ryan: From a dark knight to a slumdog, a trash compacting robot to a man who ages backwards. The year in movies for 2008 was one entertaining ride. To be honest though, I think this year was rather weak in comparison to the last few. However, the year did produce some noteworthy pictures that were just a cut above the rest. Below I list my top 10 films of the year. There are some sacrifices made in seeing enough films to compile such a list. The worst has to be sitting through the same trailer multiple times to the point where I am able to recite the lines in unison. It is bad enough having to sit through a trailer for “Bride Wars”, but having to do it three weekends in a row is just brutal. Luckily, I always have someone next to me to roll my eyes with when the trailer for Last Chance Harvey pops up for the 7th time – Jen? (Jen's list is included as well)
Jen: Woo hoo! We agreed on our #1 film of the year! It is without a doubt that Slumdog, Milk, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, and WALL-E were some of the year's best. There were some strong performances in all of them including the most charming animated robot. I am glad that we both included some smaller films. Chicago 10 was so well executed through the weaving of fact, animation, and live footage to tell the story of the riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968. I loved Richard Jenkins in The Visitor - he is an amazing actor. In Bruges was funny and witty and The Duchess showed the strength of one woman. The Dark Knight was very entertaining. It is really a shame about Heath Ledger, he was brilliant as The Joker. As always, thanks for another great year of conspiring to see how many movies we can cram into a week. It is always fun to compare notes after arriving late, managing to find two seats next to each other, and sitting through yet another trailer for Last Chance Harvey.
Ryan's Top 10
9. The Visitor
8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
6. The Wrestler
4. Revolutionary Road
2. The Dark Knight
1. Slumdog Millionaire
Jen's Top 10
10. W .
9. In Bruges
7. Chicago 10
5. The Duchess
4. Revolutionary Road
1. Slumdog Millionaire
Looking to join in the fun: The Visitor, The Duchess, Chicago 10, In Bruges, and Wall-E are all out on DVD.
Revolutionary Road: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite for the 1st time since the Titanic sailed into theaters 10 years ago. The two movies could not be any more different. Revolutionary Road is a drama driven by the intense dialogue hurled out by the two leads with a special effect shot nowhere to be seen in the 2 hour runtime. Frank (DiCaprio) & April (Winslet) are a young married couple living in suburbia with their two children. They begin to feel as if their lives have become formulated and uninteresting so they look for a change - a change of scenery, a new job, a new way of life (they decide on all three). At the heart of the film is the question - “what should we be doing with our lives?” Why does it seem that so many people fall into the same rut of working at a job that they don't like to afford things that they really do not need? For one, to support their family, but many forget during that journey what it is that they truly set out to discover in life. Just before Frank & April are to leave suburban life behind for Paris, April discovers she is pregnant with their 3rd child. This causes Frank to have second thoughts about their decision to start a new life. The acting by both DiCaprio (he should at least see an Oscar nomination for this) and Winslet is phenomenal and it actually has to be at that level for the film to have any weight at all. Through their on-screen arguments they carry the ideals of the story. This movie is certainly not for everyone and I can see some people brushing off the dreams that the characters have as “crazy notions of an unhappily married couple.” However, it worked for me as I believed their story and their feelings. This is one of the year’s best!
Ry's Rating: A-
If this movie had Parents, they would be: Little Children & The Hours
Doubt: Meryl Streep plays a strict nun and Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an unconventional priest, I doubt you can find two better actors for such roles. The story is set in the 1960’s when child molestation scandals within the Catholic Church were not as prevalent as they are today. The period when the film is set works in favor of the story for this reason. The scandal remains within the school walls and only involves the priest, two nuns, the boy, and the boy’s mother. The acting by Streep and Hoffman creates some tense moments, but I would have actually liked to see a few more of those moments. The script was adopted from a stage play and it is easy to see how well this would work in the theater. The film tries hard to create the Catholic school atmosphere and I thought that this is where it succeeded the most! Amy Adams plays the nice, naive nun. She is perfect in contrast to Streep’s character who is at the center of the accusations. Since there is never any hard evidence to convict or reprieve the priest, the premise is one of belief and doubt, religion and faith - making this a great film to discuss with friends. This is a well executed film with great acting…however, I think the story would work better as an intimate play than as a motion picture.
Ry's Rating: B
If this movie had parents they would be: Deliver Us from Evil & The Scarlet Letter