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TWO BEST PICTURE NOMINIEES… FROST/NIXON & THE READER (2008) movie reviews by COOP **UPDATE**

Posted on February 5th, 2009
Posted on February 5th, 2009


FROST/NIXON ***

Torn from the pages of history, “Frost/Nixon” tells the story behind the interview between British talk-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) and former U.S. President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) after the Watergate scandal. Frost pushes hard to secure the interview, offering a tidy honorarium and recruiting political analyst James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell) and reporter Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) to help him prepare. Despite his enthusiasm, Frost becomes intimidated by the former president and throws soft pitches at Nixon who uses them to segue into long, droning stories. Feeling humiliated, Frost resolves to use the last night of the interview to redeem himself and ask Nixon the controversial questions that made the interview infamous.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Director Ron Howard has no style. He’s responsible for a high volume of high-profile movies, some award-winning, presented in the most bland, mediocre way. At least he gets phenomenal performances out of his actors, which frankly carry the film despite Howard’s lack of vision. Frank Langella delivers an Academy Nominated performance as Nixon, disappearing into the role completely, and justifying his nomination. Michael Sheen is not necessarily a new face but, like Langella, has a chameleon-like ability to become unrecognizable from role to role (I still can’t believe this is the same guy who plays werewolf leader Lucian in the lucrative, yet lousy, “Underworld” films).

I appreciated the education I received from “Frost/Nixon” about events that happened before my time, but I couldn’t help but notice how the film depicted Nixon as some sort of smooth-talking, evil ogre. They portrayed him as a villain who gets a half-hearted moment of redemption at the end, making the representation of the historical events seem biased and partisan. It also makes me shudder to think what other, much more beloved presidents DIDN’T get caught doing while in office. At least “Frost/Nixon” made me think and for that, I commend it. However, I don’t think it has a prayer of winning Best Picture.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Trailer below…


THE READER ****

“The Reader,” based on the award-winning book, begins Shortly after WWII with a teenaged Michael Berg (David Kross) falling ill in a Berlin alleyway. A streetcar attendant, Hannah Schmitz (Kate Winslet), takes pity on him and escorts him to her apartment to clean him up. Once he recovers, Michael returns to thank Hannah, but the encounter ignites a passionate affair. Hannah convinces Michael to read stories to her, but his obsessive behavior prompts her to disappear within a matter of months. Years later, Michael becomes a law student and sits in on a Nazi war crime trial. The lead defendant… Hannah. Witnesses claim she had a hand in choosing who lived or died in Auschwitz. Michael has personal info about Hannah that could reduce her sentence. Could their mutual shame destroy or strengthen Hannah’s chances? An adult version of Michael (Ralph Fiennes) bookends the story, explaining the motivations and fates of both characters.

Kate Winslet is the shining star who propelled this film into the Best Picture category for the Academy Awards. She performs her role as Hannah so strongly, with such skill, I predict she is a lock for Best Actress in a Leading Role. A win by any other actress would be unfathomable. Her fearless performance has her nude for about 20% of the film, but she obviously trusts her director/husband Steven Daldry to guide her through the difficult scenes. While “The Reader” is their first feature together, I expect them to continue making fantastic cinema together for years to come based on its success.

**UPDATE** >Sebestian wisely informed me that Kate is actually married to “Revolutionary Road” director, Sam Mendes and not Steven Daldry (D’oh!). My thanks to him for pointing out my massive goof.

-Coop

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