Oscar Watch: Will The Reader Debates Cost Winslet a Statue?

by Anne Thompson
February 16, 2009 8:45 AM
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Obviously, enough Academy members liked The Reader, David Hare and Stephen Daldry's adaptation of Bernhard Schlink's 1995 international bestseller about post-World War II German "truth and reconciliation," to nominate it for five Oscars, including Best Picture.

But articulate naysayers, such as writer-director Rod Lurie, have serious issues with the movie's sympathetic portrayal of former Nazi guard Hanna Schmitz, played by Kate Winslet. Lurie even suggests that the movie aids Holocaust deniers.

Slate's Ron Rosenbaum begs Academy voters not to award The Reader an Oscar. And back in circulation is Cynthia Ozick's 1999 Commentary essay on Schlink, who targeted The Reader, which Schlink wrote for the German "Second Generation" trying to come to terms with how their elders behaved during World War II.

"It's not a Holocaust movie," insisted screenwriter David Hare during an industry Q and A session. "It's about how do people live in the shadow of the great crime?" Hare defended Lena Olin's portrayal of a concentration camp survivor as a sleekly successful woman: "I wanted for once on film to show someone who has come through strong, and made a completely different life."

Academy voters tend to favor Holocaust movies, from Life is Beautiful to Schindler's List. But these highly-charged arguments could sway them to change their minds on The Reader---assuming they read them before they voted (ballots are due February 17). And could these aspersions on the film cause Academy voters to rethink voting for Winslet, the film's most likely Oscar winner? Her acting ability is not in doubt. Nor does the movie redeem her character. I suspect that her Oscar votes are as much for a career that includes six Oscar noms and no wins as this role--not to mention Revolutionary Road.


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