Rum Diary: A Review

October 26, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Reviews

In college I appreciated Hunter S Thompson’s work immensely and also enjoyed his biographical proclivities. Later Donna and I viewed Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and it was a bit out there for even me. The gratification of the adaptation never took teeth with us, albeit we sure do love us some Johnny Depp. Tonight I attained a preview ticket for The Rum Diary, a film we’ve seen previews for often. It looked like the story of a young journalist obtaining a wacky job south of the border. The trailer made it look somewhat hilarious, comedic, and off the wall. That’s it. That trailer is not this film.

The narrative is Thompson’s second novel which wasn’t published for almost 40 years. Depp, tied to the project off and on for a decade, plays Paul Kemp, a disillusioned New York “novelist” looking for something a little more idealistic and exciting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Much of the film is “auto-biographical” of early Thompson. The addition of Richard Jenkins as his editor-in-chief and Michael Rispoli as staff photographer cum roommate and friend build a well-balanced characterization of subtle misfits early on. Giovanni Ribisi, as the “Religious affiliate” for the paper, all angles and wide-eyed adds an air of Gonzo goofiness to the cast of misfits. Under weight with his weasley ways and wild accent, he over played the role a bit.

Once Kemp arrives in Puerto Rico he is quickly recruited by Sanderson, an American businessman played by Aaron Eckhart, and introduced to Eckart’s fiancee Chenault, played by Amanda Heard. This preternatural beauty uncanningly harkens back to the traditional beauties on the silver screen in the mid-20th century. Kemp immediately falls for her as he utters “Oh God, why did she have to happen.” Eckhart wants Kemp to twist and write about a new business idea to build up a neighboring island for his investors. Over an evening of supposed debauchery in nearby Saint Thomas with said investors, Sanderson, and Eckhart, the movie gets a little wonky.

As the San Juan Star, the Peurto Rican newspaper, begins to falter and Jenkins runs off to Miami, Depp erratically tries to protect Heard from the locals while Eckhart gets too quickly jealous of Depp (albeit appropriately so), but by morning’s light, Heard’s missing, Depp barely seems worried, and Eckhart is pissed and calls off his business relationships with Depp. For the life of me, I can’t explain where the final nightly climax occurred that led to the beginning of the end for a relationship that enigmatically and way too quickly developed.

I enjoyed several comedic scenes (including one where a 1960’s Kemp & co. take LSD), but they are short and few between – something the mainstream audience would expect more of. Depp’s performance is subtle, less maniacal and cartoonish than typical Thompson, and balances well with Respell and Ribisi albeit the narrative ebbs and flows way to quickly across the islands to appease a mainstream audience.

While I argue for an appreciation of the film and immensely enjoyed Depp’s performance, loved watching Heard on screen, and respected Robinson’s vision as both screenplay writer and director, the film doesn’t deliver satisfying motivation, development, or resolution. Fans of Thompson’s work will applaud the film, but I doubt the vision of the trailer and how that same narrative plays out on the big screen and the audiences interpretation of the farce will unfortunately be anathemized.

Sorry but photo “borrowed” from

Oscar Review: Black Swan

January 30, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

When I first heard of Black Swan, it wasn’t yet the critical sleeper hit of 2010. It was an Aronofsky, whose work, such as Requiem for a Dream and Pi, I respect very much. It wasn’t the sunniest direction nor was it for the widest of audiences but it was a style that set him squarely as one of the best contemporary directors working today. Then we added the double feature of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis to the mix, and who can’t win? Portman’s been in the business more than half of her life and has been a favorite of mine from films like Garden State while Kunis’ Forgetting Sarah Marshall showed that she could work outside of Topher Grace’s basement on That 70’s Show.

Black Swan is a ballerina narrative that explores the true nature of the ballet. The mainstreamed version of this ballet explores light versus dark while focusing on the light, while Aronofsky’s version examines the true nature of the doppelganger and sinisterness of the black swan. In the film, Portman’s work over several years in the company landed her as primo ballerina edging out the aging ballerina played by Winona Ryder. Kunis is the most recent addition to the company from the west coast (think contemporary, edgy, passionate west coast versus traditional, structured east coast dancer). Portman immediately finds herself jealous of Kunis and is compared to her often by Vincent Cassel, the company’s director. The relationship between these two is dichotomous in that Portman’s perspective of their relationship is fleshed out albeit the audience is never truly sure what is fantastical and what is reality as their relationship develops throughout the narrative.

The play on the dual nature of this character is demonstrated by Aronofsky through his use of dance studio ballet mirrors and Portman’s Nina who shifts between black swan and white swan through the multiplicity and separation of reflective images in those mirrors. Even in the penultimate climax scenes, mirrors are effectively used to demonstrate how this will all end. And it will all end as Nina’s battle to be both the white swan and black swan on stage will quickly permeate her life off stage, and with that Aronofsky has created a critical favorite that continues to build momentum towards Oscar greatness.

(CC) Nathaniel R

Blue Valentine: A Review

January 23, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Driving to Blue Valentine tonight I felt this anticipated nervousness. See, I was alone, going to an Art Theatre at night, and knew this would be heavy drama. I’d watched Gosling’s Half Nelson when it was garnering Oscar attention in 2006, and I knew that if this film came close to that amount of pain then I’d walk out afterward awkward and exhausted. I almost expected it, but pleasantly, that didn’t quite happen. It’s not that the film wasn’t heavy drama (because it was) nor was it overly dramatic (it sure did hit close to home as a married couple struggling to live with a young daughter, but the film was done well.

Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams

The movie chronicled the relationship of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) cutting between their initial meeting and their sadly married lives five years later. I know Gosling mostly from his art house films (others can’t divorce him from his work in The Notebook as Noah, the main love interest pining away for the girl), and he does not disappoint as Dean who begins his relationship as a high school dropout, idealistic full time blue-collared worker. In the later cuts in their relationship he’s gone from a young, handsome man with a full head of hair, good eye sight, and a quick smile for everyone to later in life when we see him as a painter, with heavy glasses and a receding hairline. The glasses work very well for his character, and he uses them to hide behind as a hurt man trying to win back the love of a woman no longer interested. His hairline leaves the audience imagining him literally pulling his hair from his head every night trying to find ways to relive that early spark that has left with his easy smile.

The film opens with him carrying the young daughter, Frankie, outside to locate their beloved family dog who Cindy finds along side the road having been hit by a car. Frankie is shipped off to Grandpa’s so mom and dad can bury the dog, and it’s evident that the death of the carefree family pet sets a tone for the film and decline of the relationship between these two trapped people. See, Cindy had potential. We see her taking care of her grandmother and trying to not jump when her father yells across the dinner table at her mother (a mother who later in the film is unexplainably absent –I assume dead).


Cindy wants to be a doctor, but before she met Dean she was in another relationship and had unprotected sex (against her better judgment and with a man she quickly ejected from her life). Dean woos her in his own quirky way with a night walk about in a nondescript town that suggested middle Pennsylvania (but was actually filmed in New York) where he plays for her the title song (which surprisingly has it’s own hype since no one in Hollywood can find its origins).

The film cuts between this new romance and the morass of late marriage; the camera uses warm, golden colors to demonstrate the heat of attraction early on while the late marriage shots have a cool, cadaverous blue tint. I was almost relieved when Frankie was ejected through the middle of the film but quickly I felt almost embarrassed as Dean attempted to solve his marital woes. See, he’s a good man. He works hard and claims that he only wants to put food on the table and hang out with his girls. What’s wrong with that? For Cindy, a lot. She’s fallen out of love with him, and Cianfrance (the director) doesn’t try to explain it away; he just lets it marinate. Dean’s not a fighter; he has a temper. He argues that he’s a good husband because he never hit(s) her (and I find it ironic that his nonaction causes her to physically hit him at the climax of this enigmatic anger) and somewhere Cindy regrets getting pregnant and not going to medical school.

Ryan Gosling

The sharp angles and close cropped shots in the film clearly demonstrate the caged, hopelessness of the marriage. Dean fights so hard for what he knows is right and, frustratingly, he only makes it that much worse. When Frankie reemerges at the conclusion of the narrative, my heart goes out to this man who is so good with her–a man who is forced to walk away towards a firework celebration exploding above the concluding camera shots; Cindy holding Frankie back near her own father’s house while Dean’s forced to walk into the distance. A question of future hopelessness or the inevitability of the dual nature of people and how the treat each other.

Update: Ok, I’ve had 18 hours to think about this film, and I’m annoyed. Dean never hits Cindy; he’s a good dad. He works hard for his family. She falls out of love. It’s heart wrenching especially given that he doesn’t seem to be blamed. He tries. He rents a room (with a gift certificate they have) at a motel where the only room left is the themed “future” room (that reminds me of the offspring of hotel room in Hotdog and all of the Star Trek movies put together. There he tries to reinvigorate their physical relationship where we see Cindy accept his advances; when he realizes that she’s given just her body, he stops. They both pass out drunk and in the early morning she is called off to work. She leaves him there, and the audience is given no explanation. He needs to find his own way home (two hours away). The theme of the hotel room, the “future”, is apropos, and there’s no way that escaped Cianfrance’s camera. I wish Dean ran back for Frankie, and I’m frustrated he didn’t. But that ending wouldn’t’ve worked. The hopelessness of love would’ve been lost in the abuse of a failed future.

Up in the Air: A film review

February 11, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Kendrick & Clooney

Clooney is Clooney. He’s good, he’s natural and he can act. I was hesitant to see Up in the Air as it just looked like a romantic comedy for him to bring home a paycheck; and most of the way through the film I still felt this way. Frankly, I only saw this one because it is up for six awards including Best Picture and two Actress in a Supporting Role noms for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Of course, it’s also up for Writing, Directing and for Clooney.

Sitting through a good portion of this film, I was pleased by the concept of single man whose real “home” is on the road flying around the USA firing people for a living and then Kendrick, fresh out of college, comes along to his company and flips Clooney on his head. At first she’s annoying, but she grew on me. I’d seen Kendrick in other things like (God forbid) The Twilight films and she was forgettable, but here, she’s good. Really good. Perhaps it’s because she plays against Clooney or maybe because she was given a role where she could actually act. I bet by now, you realize Kendrick, for me, is the shining exception to a ho hum film.

Farmiga worked very well as the love interest for Clooney, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her of look. There’s something just classy and traditional about her without being too usual.

***Spoilers below.***

But I did say, I saw these things through most of the film. Then we his the big climax and give away. What I liked about the scene where Clooney finally realizes his “love” for Farmiga and rushes off to her home (a brownstone in Chicago, much unlike his hotels and airplane seats) is that the audience doesn’t expect it. Seconds before he knocks on the door, I knew it was a bad idea.

As Farmiga puts it the next and last time they speak, he was her escape. She escaped away from her family to him while ironically she finally is the realization for him that he could be grounded happily. Beyond that Kendrick rushes off to pursue her real dreams with Clooney’s blessing, and his boss puts him back in the sky (played with some aplomb by a bearded Justin Bateman).

Clooney’s chances of winning against Jeff Bridges will be though since he really didn’t do much with this film other than play himself.

As for what it’ll win. We’ll see. Precious has too much hype for Mo’Nique to not be in the running, and two actresses for the same film make this problematic. Precious also butts heads with Up in the Air for both Screenplay and Best Picture, so personally I think Up in the Air will be grounded before the race even begins.

Had Farmiga and Clooney lived happily ever after, this film would’ve been as stale as a mid-America hotel room.

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The Lovely Bones: A film review

January 30, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Books, Movies, Reviews

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Daniel Semper

My name is Salmon. Like the fish. First name Susie.

Ah, and with those words, one of my most beloved novels has come to the big screen.

Gotta tell you that with all my film reviews, spoilers may occur. Deal with it. If you’ve not already read this wonderful book, go do it and then come back.

In 2005 I wrote a novel about a dead girl living through the lives of those still alive in her high school. A book where you don’t even discover how she dies until the waning pages. At the time, several people mentioned a little book to me called The Lovely Bones that I should read since it sounded like I was copying Alice Sebold. I assured them I wasn’t, wrote my entire book, and then picked up this gem.

I adored the irony of the conclusion to the novel and subsequent film, but I was hesitant to push this one towards my wife. See, my own daughter was just born and the rape scene before the murder still haunts me. I suggested that my wife never read the book because of that scene, and I sure have read some wild stuff over the years.

I had no idea how Peter Jackson, director, would handle this early scene, which, in part, was based on the author’s own experience in college. Fortunately, it was unlike my novel but anyway I still fell in love with such a wonderful book. After hearing it was on its way to the silver screen, I waited patiently. And waited. And waited. Wow, did I wait for a long time. But today I got to see it.

That rape scene? Cut out and barely even implied (and maybe I only thought it was implied because I knew the narrative beforehand).

Awards season is upon us and art direction stood out for me, to the point where it didn’t stand out which was perfect. There were a few scenes where I paid particular attention to the authenticity of the frame and I was pleased. The costumes (especially Ronan’s outfit) worked very well for me, and this “era” just worked for me.

People always talk actors when reviewing any film, and I went knowing that Tucci has been getting rave reviews for this film (and has been nominated in several awards so far). I didn’t realize quite how wonderful his performance was until he spoke in the film. He almost fell into the character to the point where I no longer watched Tucci. I watched a sad, depressed killer. He played it perfectly subtlety.

Even the subtlety of his lightened eye color, whose similarity to Ronan’s mesmerizingly pale blue, didn’t escape me. As for Ronan, I was lost in those eyes, albeit I’ve never seen her previous work for which she’d been nominated for an Academy Award. While Ronan’s performance here has the critics talking, for me, Rose McIver as Lindsay Salmon, Susie’s younger sister, stole the film. McIver began as the younger child like sister but after Susie’s death Lindsay matures into a woman, almost as obsessed with finding the killer as her father Mark Wahlberg is. Her onscreen transformation worked very well through the development of the plot, and I am eager to see her future dramatic work.

I enjoyed Wahlberg’s performance perhaps because I too am close to my daughter, Sarandon was hilarious as Susie’s boozy, chain-smoking grandmother but I never stopped wanting to shout “Damnit, Janet!” at the screen. Weisz and Imperioli round out the class. I enjoyed Imperioli’s role (no matter how small it was) but Weisz’s talents were terribly under used. Having seen much of her former work, I expected more from the role although I did understand that Susie’s mother’s healing required her to fall into herself.

I agree with the critics that Peter Jackson could’ve done more with the film and the special effects were well done (more than half of the film was a blue screened Susie-styled purgatory) but the film, if nominated for an Oscar for special effects, cannot beat Avatar in this category.

As with any book made film the critics will lambast certain perspectives and lack of development, and my only concern really lay in the characters of Ruth Connor and Ray Singh. If memory serves Sebold gives more time to these two characters, and while Singh moves in and out of the narrative as Salmon’s almost first love, his relationship with Ruth and then Ruth’s posthumously relationship with Susie could’ve been more fleshed out. Here was my single disappointment with the film. Albeit Jackson’s subtlety of the relationship of the two living teens works well and did well to not overshadow Susie’s tale. Moreover, while the irony of Tucci’s demise is not lost on Sebold or Jackson, some audience will leave the theatre scratching their heads; hopefully, to only return again and again to see this wonderful film.

Where the Wild Things Are: A Review

October 19, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Movies, Parenthood

My wife and I decided to take Claire, our 4 1/2 year old, and her 6 year old friend to see Where the Wild Things Are today. Wow, I think I would’ve rather stuck hot nails in my eye sockets. I won’t posit to suggest I am not about to give stuff away; read at your own pace. The whole opening sequence was really hard to watch and disturbing. The mom, played by Catherine Keener (who I can barely stand in anything), works long jobs and seems clueless, except when she has Mark Ruffalo over to dinner (for frozen corn?!) and to snog with. The only mention of Max’s dad is a globe that’s engraved from him, but there’s nothing about him at all except that this kid comes from a broken family. The sister, named Claire, and her friends have a snowball battle with Max (who by the way instigates it). He loses the battle and cries about it, as Claire leaves with her friends. Big deal. Then kids freaks out because Mom is snogging Ruffalo and bites her on the shoulder. You know what he needs? A spanking and maybe a therapist. Instead, he runs away.

He gets to a land Where the Wild Things Are, and they have cute human names like Carol and Donald. They also sound human. He arrives as Carol is having his own temper tantrum and tearing down everyone’s houses because his girlfriend left the community. (Wouldn’t you if your man threw temper tantrums?). Max brings a new element to the group and of course he pretends to be almighty, so they elect him “king”. He runs around with them for who knows how many days (there are more sunrises and sunsets in the film than stars in the sky; the beat each other, rip trees out of the ground, and are annoying. KW, the girlfriend comes back, and everything is all happy-like for about half an hour in the film. Then Max is paranoid that Carol is going to discover he’s not really a king, so he wants to make a secret compartment where he can hide while sleeping, away from his “friend”. Of course Carol gets pissed off and rips Donald’s arm off!! Yes, a kids movie, everyone. I sure bet the kids love that part. In this big fight KW decides to leave again (sure, sure, she’s said that before), and in the morning Max decides to go home. He leaves a heart made from sticks for Carol (which I suppose means, it’s ok that you’re an abusive asshole). He leaves the group and they just stand there as he floats away (no, there is not any resolution with the group). He goes back across the “seas”, lands, and runs home to his mother. She, of course, is waiting. She cries, feeds him, and she falls asleep at the table while he’s stuffing his face. The end. Ugh.

Side note. Later in the day, my daughter threw her own temper tantrum, bit a huge hole in my wife’s wrist, and yelled that she was going to run away from home to where the wild things are. Great, Spike Jones. Awesome. Thanks a lot.

Out with my girl

May 04, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Leisure, Movies, Parenthood, Reviews

Years ago my wife and I saw Neil Simon’s Rumors at the local college and really enjoyed it, so when the high school announced they were performing Fools, I was eager to go. They only had it playing three nights, and the kids asked me to go. On the final night, I asked Claire if she thought she wanted to go. She really had no idea what I was asking, but I figured if she freaked out, we could leave.

She was totally into the whole idea, but she kept talking about the kids dancing. I tried to explain that they wouldn’t be dancing but she didn’t get it. We got there, got pretty good seats up front (near an aisle where we could slip out), and buckled down.

The show was phenomenal. The kids were great, and my former student, Eric, who has never acted before, did a great job. Claire was wonderful. She mostly sat there and enjoyed the show. She really didn’t talk loudly or anything but asked a few questions. During the intermission, we got some water, she peed, and then we sat back down. We enjoyed the second half as much as the first, and then we headed home. Claire thanked me for taking her to the play when we got into the car, and then she conked out on me.

That was Friday. Last night I asked Claire what she wanted to do today, Sunday. She asked to go to the movies. This wasn’t what I expected so I was a little curious. I knew Monsters Versus Aliens was playing and figured she might like it. After I got home this morning from grading, Claire asked again. I got her cleaned up and dressed, and then we headed out.

We got to the theatre a little early, and Claire asked for popcorn. We got a small popcorn and smuggled in some water bottles from the store. Another girl her size had a booster seat, so I asked Claire if she wanted one. She nodded and grabbed one off the stack before we went into the theatre. Several other parents and kids came in, and the previews started. They were very loud and Claire wasn’t too happy about the noise.

The movie was almost two hours, and there was more of a plot than even The Invincibles, but Claire sat through it all and watched. She only complained a few times when it was very loud or scary.

At one point she told me that if I didn’t eat some popcorn soon, she’d eat it all. I took a handful and thought nothing of it until about twenty minutes later when I went for more. There was none! She’d eaten it all. She told me I missed out and I could use the popcorn bag for trash if I’d like. It was so rational and kinda scary.

We had a beautiful time and she thanked me. Great weekend.

My little Supergirl

March 20, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood

Claire’s taking karate now, which requires her to wear a starched, bleach white karate uniform four days a week. Well, climbing in and out of cars is dirty and so are parking lots. It’s quickly becoming a chore to put on and take off this uniform as we come and go and fit karate in among other things. Today, after karate, we were heading to ASU to pick up a friend. Claire hopped into her car seat and strapped herself in quickly, but as I got on the road she checked with me about where we were going and how we had some errands to run, and then she grabbed a blanket we keep in the back seat and tossed it over her head. I knew she was tired or thought she was playing, but after what seemed like 14 nanoseconds, she tossed off the blanket (almost as if ti cry TADA!) and she was full clothed in a really cute blue plaid short set with pink tank. She smiled at me like she was Helen Slater in that cheesy Supergirl moving from like 1983. Remember the one where Helen Slater was getting a few jobs because her brother was suppose to be the next Jack Nickolson? Anyway, Claire gave me this smile, like “this is how I roll and I’m ready to rock, Dada…”

Helen has her phone booth; Claire has her fleece moose blanket!

Used under (cc) from Mark Owens, 2009.

Used under (cc) from Mark Owens, 2009.

Disclaimer: No I don’t advocate allowing your 3/4 year old unbuckle her car seat & strip in public.

Movie Review: MILK

February 06, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

I had first heard about Harvey Milk several years ago when researching LGBT children and came across Harvey Milk High School. I knew very little of him, and when I heard that Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch were teaming up again after Into the Wild I was ready to see it. I recently finally sat down alone to focus on the historical film. Set in the 1970s Castro area of San Francisco, this film began with shots of the Stonewall Riots and the California reactions before moving into the simpler life of two men who’d just met played by James Franco and Sean Penn.

Sean Penn's Harvey Milk celebrates his big win.

Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk celebrates his big win.

The chronology of Van Sant’s film covered half a decade as Milk slowly emerged as a voice for the gay and lesbian population of the Castro during this politically charged time. A population materialized around him that included Hirsch who played Cleve Jones one of the biggest gay rights activist of present day and the founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt. Josh Brolin (who I still can’t forget was in The Goonies) played Dan White the suggested closeted, religious family-man politician who assassinated Milk and then Mayor Moscone. Brolin did a nice job as a White albeit the film subtly suggests he was gay himself and fearful of his own identity; that message was relatively ambiguous. Franco, Diego Luna (playing Jack Lira jokingly called “Mrs. Milk” by Jones), and a cast of ensembled characters flesh out an ominous plot that caught me by surprise.

The propositions and events of 1978 mirror today’s events in California, Arizona and elsewhere as even three decades later this group of people still do not have their rights. This was most shocking for me, and for that reason alone, it’s one of the best movies of the year. I think MILK deserves the best picture Oscar over Benjamin Button although I’ve still not see Slumdog Millionaire, the critics underdog darling.

Penn’s performance here mirrored his I Am Sam’s performance from 2001. He was able to immerse himself in these roles to the point where Penn disappeared and Milk became reincarnate. His nomination as Best Actor may be overshadowed by the come back kid, Mickey Rourke.

With 8 nominations this year, this film’s sure to win awards. Brolin has a shot, Gus Van Sant is in a battle of heavyweights, and the screen play is a viable candidate. Strong scores and costume design should fade into the background of the film’s narrative. They both do so here, and they both have a strong shot at winning. See this film.

Oscar Review: The Reader

February 01, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Been waiting to see The Reader for several weeks now because I am a huge Kate Winslet fan. I’ve not seen all her films, and she doesn’t make Titanic anymore bearable. One of my favorite films of hers is Little Children albeit I still don’t know anyone who has seen it except for me. So I’ve been eager to see some Winslet love. She’s, once again, up for an Oscar this time for playing Hanna Schmitz, an SS guard who was one of six female guards who didn’t stop the death of over 300 prisoners in a burning church. In this film, Winslet the no-nonsense older woman matter-of-factly begins an affair with a young man (played by David Kross and as an adult by Ralph Fiennes) that lasts a summer before she disappears from his life, only to emerge as as on trial SS guard when he’s a law student. This is where their relationship reemerges and only later ends in death.

Winslet’s performance was spot on and wonderful, and Hanna’s biggest secret hidden only from the young Kross and not the audience is not that she’s SS but that she illiterate. How this plays out gives us the title of our film, The Reader. As Fiennes records audio books to mail to her in jail after she allows this secret to be used against her in court.

The Reader

You know those movies that just bug you and you can’t get over because of all of the holes and unanswered questions? This was that movie. Now while I adored Winslet and was ok with Kross, Fiennes and the story bugged me. Hanna felt so naive during the trial, and even as she answered that they couldn’t unlock the doors to release the women from the burning church, I wanted to yell “Why Not!?” but we never know why not. To me, this felt like half a movie held up by Winslet’s performance.

This film is nominated for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Adapted Screenplay. I believe Winslet can win the Best Actress category if the Academy doesn’t play it safe with Streep or the black sheep Hathaway pulls an upset. Benjamin Button was a better Adapted Screenplay and Daldry is up against stiffer competition for Director. I did notice the beauty of the Cinematography, but the competition there is daunting, as well. Chances are 2 out of 5 wins.

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