Film review – Good (2008)

11 April 2009
John Halder (Viggo Mortensen)

John Halder (Viggo Mortensen)

In the last twelve months there have been several films tackling the very complex issue of how German people living during the Nazi era responded to the horrors of the Holocaust. Now comes Good, an adaptation of a 1981 play by the British playwright Cecil Philip Taylor. Directed by Austrian director Vicente Amorim, Good is a portrait of John Halder, a man who despite seeing himself as a good person still allows himself to become drawn into the upper echelons of the Nazi party. While The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas presented the innocent perspective of a child and Valkyrie presented a very Hollywood and uncomplicated depiction of men opposed to Hitler, Good is more interesting. Halder opposes Hitler but is so lacking in courage to act that he allows himself to be swept along by the tide and resorts to self-denial. He prefers to keep his head down rather than speak out but finds himself in a very difficult situation when the Nazis react favourably to a novel he wrote about euthanasia. Also unlike Hanna Schmitz in The Reader, Halder can’t elicit sympathy through being uneducated or make the excuse of supposedly being put in a position of just following orders. He is a literary professor and author and through the suffering of his Jewish friend Maurice, he knows exactly what sorts of injustices are occurring.

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Cinema Autopsy on the 81st Academy Awards ceremony and winners

24 February 2009
Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Go straight to the list of Award winners

Who would have thought that getting a host who was not a comedian would make such a difference to the Academy Awards ceremony? Hugh Jackman on first glance may not have seemed like an obvious choice but when you realise that he comes from the old-school showman song and dance tradition, it makes perfect sense. Jackman’s funny, warm and self deprecating opening set the tone for a ceremony that was fun, light and mostly free of awkward moments.

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Cinema Autopsy’s predictions for the 81st Academy Awards

19 February 2009
Jamal (Dev Patel) and Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) from <em>Slumdog Millionaire</em>

Dev Patel as Jamal and Anil Kapoor as Prem Kumar from Slumdog Millionaire

As promised in my piece about the Academy Award nominees, here are my predictions for who I think will win the major awards and who I think should win the awards this Sunday night. If this year is like any other year then I will be way off the mark, but that’s not going to stop me from still having a go.

 

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Reader and Milk are really the two most deserving films nominated but given the popularity of Slumdog Millionaire and it’s current winning streak at other awards then I think it is going to be the film that takes home the prize.

Predicted to win: Slumdog Millionaire
Should win: The Reader or Milk
Would annoy me if it won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and frankly, despite initially liking it, the fuss over Slumdog Millionaire is starting to really turn me against it.
Also nominated: Frost/Nixon

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Film review – The Reader (2008)

15 February 2009
Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) and Michael Berg (David Kross)

Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) and Michael Berg (David Kross)

The Reader is an adaptation of Der Vorleser, a partly autobiographical novel by Bernhard Schlink, a German law professor and judge. Since it’s original German publication in 1995 and then English translation in 1997, it has won multiple awards and become a best seller. This film adaptation is aware of its distinguished literary background and the serious acting, serious Philip Glass inspired score and serious cinematography all insist that The Reader is An Important Film. In the hands of less capable filmmakers it could have been excruciating but as they demonstrated when they collaborated on The Hours, director Stephen Daldry and screenplay writer David Hare are more than capable of making such a text accessible to wider audiences. The Reader is not a cold academic exercise but a deeply moving film.

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Cinema Autopsy on the 81st Academy Awards Nominees

29 January 2009
Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz  in The Reader

Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader

The nominees for the 81st Academy Awards have recently been released and like most critics and film buffs that I know I am far more interested and excited by the outcome than I like to admit. The Academy Awards are notoriously political, conservative and populist, and are rarely a barometer of good quality filmmaking. In just the past ten years two extremely average films (Shakespeare in Love and Crash) and four popular good-but-not-that-great films (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) have won the Best Motion Picture of the Year award. But then again, American Beauty very much deserved its win and I was also pleased when Million Dollar Baby won. The last two years have actually seen awards go to deserving recipients across the board and giving the top prize to The Departed and No Country for Old Men made me think that the standards have lifted at the Academy.

I’ll post another piece closer to the time with my notoriously inaccurate predictions about who will win and who I think should win, but for now I thought I’d share my thoughts about the actual nominations.

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Film review – Valkyrie (2008)

19 January 2009
Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise)

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise)

Audiences rarely see American films about the German perspective of World War II and Nazism. There is Lewis Milestone’s 1930 antiwar classic All Quiet on the Western Front but it is set during World War I. Sam Peckinpah’s brutal Cross of Iron (1977) shovels scorn upon the treatment of German soldiers by their careerist seniors and psychotic Nazi commanders, but it is a criminally underappreciated film that few people have seen. Valkyrie is hence an intriguing film for Hollywood to make because it is told from a German perspective and, like Cross of Iron, it sharply distinguishes the differences between members of the Nazi regime and the regular German army.

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