Saturday, February 14, 2009

Oscar-Nominated Movies: Doubt

The Academy Awards ceremony will be held on February 22--just one week away. That's not enough time to see even a handful of the recently-released movies that are up for awards. So far I've seen Australia (nominated for costume design) and The Reader (nominated in five categories--see post below). Movies I still want to see--either before or after the awards--include Slumdog Millionaire, Frost-Nixon, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Changeling, and Rachel Getting Married--quite a list. I'll probably wait and watch most of them on NetFlix.

Today I saw another strong contender: Doubt, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Like The Reader, Doubt has been nominated in five categories--it's up for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actress (two nominations: Amy Adams and Viola Davis), and Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Meryl Streep, as always, nails her role perfectly--she is fabulous as Sister Aloysius, the authoritarian mother superior/principal of a Catholic elementary school in the Bronx. Amy Adams plays Sister James, the ingenuous, young nun who teaches history to the school's eighth graders; and Philip Seymour Hoffman is Father Flynn, the new parish priest, whose "progressive" ways are at odds with Sister Aloysius' sense of propriety.
The story revolves around Sister Aloysius' and Sister James' suspicions that Father Flynn may be initiating an "improper relationship" with Donald Miller, the school's only African-American student. Convinced that her interpretation of the situation is right, Sister Aloysius vows to rid her parish and school of the predatory priest. Sister James is torn--she wants to protect her students, but she longs to believe that Father Flynn is innocent. Despite the disturbing theme, this film is very watchable and has moments of warmth and humor. The three lead actors are riveting as they struggle with their suspicions, fears, and doubts; and the school children are wonderfully believable-- especially Joseph Foster (as Donald Miller) and cutie Lloyd Clay Brown (as Donald's classmate, Jimmy Hurley).
Viola Davis, as Donald's mother, delivered an incredible, emotional performance. She and Amy Adams are both nominated for Best Supporting Actress--what a tough choice! Still, as impressed as I was with Davis' performance, I think her appearance in this movie was too brief to merit an Oscar. Amy Adams' was a much larger role, and she deserves the award. But I'm sure we'll be soon be seeing more of the talented Viola Davis in future films.

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