The Reader: A Fast Note on the Oscars

I am above the Oscars I am above the Oscars I am above them above them them them them them dammit

The Reader is the kind of film that exposes the critical ineptitude of the Manhattan Upper Siders (I saw it at an uptown theater full of these ecstatic people, so I can say this). One should not have to read a film’s source novel, period. And while there’s nothing wrong with making the comparison, familiarity with a book that’s been made into a simplistic, stylistically stiff, predictably melodramatic tearjerker doesn’t make the film any more worthy. On the contrary, failure to take a film on its own terms, as a motion picture, cheapens the experience and weakens cinema’s ability to do its damn job in the future, when, as a result, films like The Reader achieve inexplicable popularity and score five Oscar nominations. Furthermore, I find it hard to accept that the same crowd that adored No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood last year feel so passionate about this film; the only thing The Reader exemplifies is how bland Roger Deakins’ cinematography can be when it’s at the service of emotional fluff.

Then again, last year’s Academy Awards were a huge anomaly, led as they were with those two aforementioned masterpieces. In general, it’s worth remembering that genuinely cinematic experiences like The Man From London or Zodiac have no hope of creeping into the dog-and-pony show. This year’s concession to legitimate, uncondescending filmmaking is Milk, and for that we can be grateful to the Hollywood elite for their politics, let’s guess, and err on the side of caution that their taste was incidental.

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