The Couch Potato Report – April 18th, 2009
This week The Couch Potato Report peels a Genie Award winning film, two Academy Award winning films, and offers doubt.
I have two very serious films to begin with this week, both of them are about the Holocaust and both of them are very different.
The Oscar winning film THE READER in a moment, but first the Canadian made, Genie Award winning film FUGITIVE PIECES.
FUGITIVE PIECES is based on the book of the same name by Toronto’s Anne Michaels that was first published in 1996.
The film begins in 1942 in Poland as a young boy named Jakob witnesses the slaughter of his family by Nazi soldiers.
Jakob escapes into the nearby woods where a sympathetic Greek archeologist finds him buried under some leaves and smuggles him out of Poland to Greece.
Eventually the pair move to Toronto.
FUGITIVE PIECES is a movie about the Holocaust, and so it has some very powerful scenes, but it is also a film about people, relationships, and how you have to give love to get love.
Its a good movie!
FUGITIVE PIECES was nominated in six categories at this year’s Genie Awards – which are given out each year to recognize the best of Canadian cinema – and it won the Award for Best Cinematography.
It is a smart and interesting movie, and I easily recommend it.
I also recommend this week’s other Holocaust film, even though I didn’t like THE READER as much as FUGITIVE PIECES, but even so…THE READER is also a smart, intelligent film with some spectacular performances, mainly the one from Kate Winslet in the role that finally won her an Oscar for Best Picture after four previous nominations.
THE READER is primarily about Michael Berg. We meet him in 1995 Berlin where he has become a German lawyer, and as a teenager in the late 1950s who meets and has an affair with an older woman.
She likes it when he reads to her.
Kate Winslet plays Hanna Schmitz, who disappears from the boys life one day only to resurface years later as one of the defendants in a war crimes trial stemming from her actions as a concentration camp guard late in World War II.
As a Law student studying the trials Michael realizes – long after the audience does if you are paying attention – that Hanna is keeping a secret that she believes is worse than her Nazi past.
It is a secret that could set her free.
While her performance is great, and the rest of the cast – which also includes Ralph Finnes – is also above average, I still don’t think that Kate Winslet gave her best ever performance in THE READER…but the Academy did, and backstage at this years Oscars she was absolutely beaming after receiving her Award.
Up next this week is a film that received five nominations this year, but left with no Oscars…writer/director John Patrick Shanley’s film DOUBT, based on his play of the same name.
DOUBT is set in 1964 and Meryl Streep stars as a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a student.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Father Brendan Flynn.
The Father denies the charges, and a young naive nun – played by Amy Adams – isn’t sure what to believe.
DOUBT takes on themes of religion, morality, and it is a well-written, incredibly acted film.
I highly recommend this film too…of that I have no doubt.
Of this next film, I have plenty of doubt…I am not even 100% sure how to say the name of the film…and I didn’t even see the title or an explanation of it in the film.
I had to go online and do more than a few searches to find out that Vinyan is a spirit world for souls unable to rest because of untimely deaths.
Anyway…this next film is spelled v-i-n-y-a-n and I am pronouncing it VINYAN.
VINYAN features a rich couple whose young son disappeared during the infamous Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.
One night at a party, the mother is convinced that she sees her boy on a video shot in Burma, and so they set off on a journey that will take them couple deep into the harsh jungles.
The locations and sets in VINYAN are all unique to look at, and for a time there is enough happening in the film to keep you interested at the start and ending…but the slow and horribly boring middle part of it ultimately makes this film unworthy of your time.
VINYAN isn’t a complete waste of time…but of all the films this week, it comes the closest.
So lets move on to this week’s BLU-RAY BEACON…a film that won the Academy Award in 2003 for Best Original song…8 MILE.
8 MILE is the 2002 film starring rapper Eminem.
He gives a great performance as a man struggling with every aspect of his life, who is hoping to take what might be his final opportunity at being someone, but his life and the people around him are casing him problems and filling his head with doubts.
8 MILE’s debut on High Definition looks and sounds great, but unfortunately this is the same edition that came out on DVD a few years back, with absolutely no new bonus features.
That said, the film is still as good as it has always been, so if you are a fan of underdog stories or Eminem himself…this one is for you!
The great films 8 MILE, DOUBT and THE READER are all available on Blu-ray and DVD.
The not great film VINYAN and the very good Canadian film FUGITIVE PIECES are both available only on DVD.
Coming up on the next Couch Potato Report
The movie TORONTO STORIES features several stories about different lives over the course of 48 hours in Toronto.
Also next week, the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA prequel CAPRICA, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, SEASON ONE of the television show RHODA, Mickey Rourke’s Oscar nominated peformance in THE WRESTLER, and Ron Howard’s FROST/NIXON.
I’m Dan Reynish. I’ll have more on those, and some other releases, in seven days.
For now, that’s this week’s COUCH POTATO REPORT.
Enjoy the movies and I’ll see you back here next time on The Couch!
The Couch Potato Report – April 18th, 2009