Wednesday, January 22, 2014

THE BOOK THIEF - 1 nomination


Music (Original Score) - John Williams (I don't often share this bit of trivia, but this is John Williams' 49th Oscar nomination, 49 nominations, holy moly!  The link that I will provide below to the movie trailer also includes his list of films for which he was nominated.  It's worth it to peruse the list for a minute.  It's practically the history of cinema.  Walt Disney holds the record for most Oscar noms ever with 59.  Will John Williams beat his record?  I bet he will. Ok, I will now stop gushing, but the guy is a genius.)

The Book Thief is an adapted screenplay from the superb book of the same name, which I read a couple of years ago and loved.  Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson play the adoptive parents of a little girl whose brother has just died and whose mother is running from the Nazis.  Emily Watson's character is tough-minded and mildly verbally abusive, but her love for her family is evident and we see her good side, as well.  Geoffrey Rush is the softer of the two, and takes to fatherhood easily.  He takes the girl, Liesel, under his wing and helps her not only learn to read, but to love reading and learning all at once.  They are two outstanding actors who are both wonderful in their roles.

Eventually, they take in a Jew, Max, who they hide in the basement, and we see the struggle of average Germans who themselves are afraid of every move they make, attending book burnings and speeches supporting Hitler, even when it is clear that they know what's happening is wrong.  To his own detriment, Geoffrey Rush's character refuses to join the Nazi party, so it is left to the mother to earn a living by doing laundry for the wealthy couple in their town, where Liesel is granted access to the vast library in their home.  When Max grows gravely ill, she "borrows" books from the library to read to him in his ailing stupor.

Death is the narrator of the story in both the book and the movie.  However, in the movie, it isn't done as well, and if you didn't read the book, I think it will be confusing until the end of the film who is talking and why.  The device worked much better and was much more clear in the book. The characters are appealing, the story is moving, and it's a very good film.  There are parts that are difficult to watch - man's inhumanity to man is always gut-wrenching, but thankfully, we see much more uplifting parts of the human spirit.  It's also refreshing to see a Holocaust-era film that is focused on the lives of ordinary Germans, and not just on its victims.  

The music is beautiful but not very noticeable.  The score is haunting where it should be, and compliments all aspects of the story.  I can see the rationale for the nomination, but even watching the film knowing that the music was the nominee, I couldn't find specific parts where the music was as much of the experience as the story, as it has been in prior nominees like Life of Pi and The Artist, or even reaching further back to Titanic or Schindler's List (that's a John Williams winner).  

Am I right?  We'll see on March 2nd!

Haven't seen the film?
Watch The Book Thief movie trailer

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