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.

Oscar-Nominated Movies: The Reader

I'm making progress on my goal of seeing at least a few of the movies that have been nominated for Academy Awards. Last night, I saw The Reader. Kate Winslet has already scored a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a SAG award for her work in this movie ... I wouldn't be surprised if an Oscar is next! David Kross and Ralph Fiennes, who played the male lead character at different ages, were also excellent. The Reader has been nominated in five categories, including best actress, best director, and best picture. I thought it was a stunning movie--very affecting and thought-provoking. Stephen Daldry, who also directed The Hours, has done it again. If you haven't seen The Reader yet, hurry--it's still playing in a few theaters.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ten Things That Made Me Smile

1. The sweatshirt I got for Christmas (see photo).

2. Finally finding bulk baking yeast at River City Natural Food Market in Kirkwood so I don't have to use those silly little paper packets of yeast any more.

3. Sipping a soy latte at Foundation Grounds, the new eco-friendly coffee shop in Maplewood, Missouri.

4. Walking at Route 66 State Park. This area was once the town of Times Beach, Missouri, which, in the 1980s, became uninhabitable due to dioxin contamination. Residents were displaced, incinerators were brought in, and all the soil was dug up and burned to remove the toxin. Now, 25 years later, the earth is recovering from the disaster. The area is now a park with trails for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Lots of smiles on people's faces on Saturday--everyone was so happy to be outdoors!

5. The unseasonably warm, spring-like weather St. Louis enjoyed this weekend.

6. Making my own soy milk.

7. Trying out the new kinds of beans my husband brought home from Global Foods--pigeon peas (gandules), cow peas, and Roman beans (also called cranberry beans). They were delicious in 5-bean dal made from a FatFree Vegan recipe--sorry, no photos (we ate it up too fast)!

8. Going to a Saturday night movie on impulse (Last Chance Harvey, with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson).

9. Finding out that my son is a National Merit Scholarship finalist!

10. Settlers of Catan (to be discussed in a future post).