Monuments Men Out, The Book Thief Joins the Race

http://www.awardsdaily.com/blog/monuments-men-out-the-book-thief-joins-the-race/

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With one Holocaust movie now out, enter The Book Thief. Most Oscar watchers would not think The Book Thief would be the film to crash the Best Picture race but it might do just that once Academy members start screening it. For instance, check out Dennis Harvey’s opening graph in Variety about the Book Thief:

Markus Zusak’s international bestseller “The Book Thief” has been brought to the screen with quiet effectiveness and scrupulous taste by director Brian Percival and writer Michael Petroni. This tale of Nazi Germany seen from a child’s perspective translates into solidly engaging drama, albeit one that may not be starry, flashy or epic enough to muscle its way into the front ranks of awards-season contenders. Bolstered by the novel’s fans, the Fox release (which opens limited Nov. 8) should ride solid reviews and word of mouth to midlevel prestige returns in line with such comparable medium-scaled WWII dramas as “The Reader” and “The Pianist.”

Astute readers will note the other thing The Reader and The Pianist have in common. They were both Best Picture nominees. The Pianist ended up winning Screenplay, Director and Actor before losing Best Picture to Chicago. Thus, though Harvey dismisses The Book Thief as not being “big” enough to get in, he dismantles his own argument with these examples.

The Book Thief enters the race as yet another person-in-peril story of survival. But this time, it’s a teenage girl who is sent to live with a German couple — the excellent Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson (both are good enough to get into the supporting acting races). All around their family, the Nazis have infiltrated Germany. The nationalistic ubiquity of Hitler and the Swastika colors every element of their lives. The Nazis have taken to book burning — which offends the film’s star Sophie Nélisse as Leisel. Her passion for books ends up being her own quiet defeat of fascism. That passion eventually blooms into a passion for life. It’s a hard to watch but also delightful film that will nestle nicely into the holidays and will likely be that one DVD families put on during the holidays. It is also a film anyone can watch, young and old, rich and poor, Jew and gentile.

The Book Thief is scored by John Williams, no less. It’s directed by Downton Abbey’s Brian Percival, gorgeous cinematography by Florian Ballhaus. The standouts are Rush and Watson but the costumes, the art direction and the film’s moving ending all seem to point to The Book Thief having a good chance to be thought of as a contender, and one of the more soothing of the year.

Sure, it’s an incredibly crowded season. Pushing through will be difficult for any film that is outside the usual suspects. And yes, some might look at it as a “children’s movie,” which might also ghettoize it from voters. But it’s worth taking a look at. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year, among many.

36 Comment

  1. Hope they come out with better trailers. That first one looked horrible to me with a ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’ voiceover quality.

  2. scrupulous taste

    By this he means it looks like THE PRINCESS DIARIES and THE CHRONICLES OR NARNIA

  3. You never know! Though the trailer doesn’t so much suggest The Reader or The Pianist (both of which occupied very different positions in the race, mind) but Finding Neverland, in a kind of sweet, gentle, family-friendly way (I love Finding Neverland btw). But then surely that position is taken up this year by Saving Mr. Banks…

  4. I don’t know about The Book Thief. It seems like one I’d skip for now. Maybe if it gets nominated, then I’ll take action.

    Patrick: I thought that Finding Neverland was good, but way too sad at the end. It ruined the movie for me. I’ve still only seen it once. Do you think I’d have an easier time the second time knowing how it ends?

  5. Do you think I’d have an easier time the second time knowing how it ends?

    Well if the reason you disliked the ending was because you found it too sad, then sure, you’ll find it a lot less sad knowing what’s coming! For me, though, that made the film. A great film up to that point, and then an unutterably perfect film at that point. I love a good weepy!

  6. Patrick:

    Okay, thanks for the reply. I think I’ll give it another shot. I’ve never been one for crying during a movie, except for when I shed a tear or two during the first time I saw Titanic. I know, “how typical”. :-)

  7. Oh, and of course Marley & Me. I loved that movie, but Jesus Christ! Way to break someone completely down. I cried so hard at the end of that one.

  8. Very interesting. Been kind of following the news on this one since Hammond gave it good remarks way back when. Started with Rush and been slowly adding more and more of it to my predicts and it was your tweet that actually got me to add it to Best Picture.

    And the UK trailer that came out today is much better then first…no voiceover!

  9. I think the top10 will be

    1. 12 Years a Slave
    2. Gravity
    3. Captain Phillips
    4. Inside Llewyn Davis
    5. Nebraska
    6. Philomena
    7. Saving Mr. Banks
    8. Her
    9. The Butler
    10. August : Osage County

    BUT obviously if American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street hit, two of these will have to go, and even then I could see one of the Dallas-Thief-Jasmine trio surprise. To me, it’s pretty much down to these 15 films.

    For a heartfelt prestige pic based on beloved source material, featuring an esteemed cast, from a big studio., The Book Thief did an excellent job at flying under the radar. Fox could have a real sleeper on their hands with this one and emphasizing the Life of Pi connection is definitely a smart move. If everything goes well, I think Picture, Supporting Actor, Score could happen and considering Adapted Screenplay is lighter than usually, maybe even that.

    Sasha, is Sophie Nelisse’s lead turn awards-worthy ? Best Actress sure could use some excitement, everybody has been predicting the same 5 contenders for weeks now.

  10. Oh, I didn’t hear that Monuments Men was out…when did that happen?

  11. DAVE L: Right now. That’s the news this post is reporting. It is shocking and unforeseen and it just happened.

  12. Phantom, I am basically right there with you with nominees, almost in the same order. I do think American Hustle will jostle the top 5. I am just unsure about WoWS. I’m going with the fact that it IS still being released this year as a sign it’s worthy of a major player come awards season. I think Butler gets bumped for sure. And sadly, probably Her even though I hope I’m wrong.

    I am not sold on Philomena either to be honest and I really think Out of the Furnace COULD be a big shocker. Have an uncle that is an SVP for a national theater chain and he emailed me recently saying ‘Heard of Out of the Furnace? It’s incredible. Definitely up for awards this year.’ He never boasts a movie out of the blue so I’m quietly optimistic.

  13. Out of the Furnace is definitely an exciting wild card at the moment, and the Rome/AFI selections are also encouraging. It will be interesting to see how it will play out.

  14. At least John Williams will get a nomination. Oscar #6?

  15. Off Topic:
    There are no reviews at RT for “The Counselor.” Could it be that it’s a bomb?

  16. Roeper gave is **** out of **** however McCarthy from Hollywood Reporter was much less.

    On Metacritic, Roeper is 100/100 while McCarthy gives it a 30. Apparently extremely divisive.

  17. Slant Magazine also liked Counselor, albeit only 63 on Metacritic but says it’s a bloody pleasure.

  18. Blue Jasmine is in.

  19. This is totally off topic, but I had an eye opening conversation with someone tonight that might portend a serious snub. John Ridley, writer of 12 Years A Slave, was one of only 21 names the WGA singled out as having crossed the picket lines during the writer’s strike and worked. Does this mean Screenplay is out of the question for this film? Or, to make a bigger point, does this news majorly effect the chances of the film itself for the big prize? I sure hope not, but this is a dark cloud hanging over the film, just waiting to rain down hard.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reny-monk/writers-guild-calls-out-s_b_97502.html

  20. Jeffrey Rush is always good in movies, but goshdarn, I’m done with survival dramatic movies this year! I’m ready for comedy and music!

  21. Question to the Moderator and Sasha: Are you beta testing blog platforms, because it seems the design changes every week.

  22. We had a malware intrusion, so the fastest way to protect readers from aggravation of bad javascript code was to swap themes. The malware trouble went away instantly, and now Sasha is deciding if this new theme can be adapted to suit the needs of the site.

  23. I only just saw the trailer for THE BOOK THIEF yesterday before CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. It look really cheesy. Do. Not. Want.

    I didn’t like CAPTAIN PHILLIPS either. So far I’m not having the great year everyone else is.

    btw, if this is the new format it’s cool. The nesting was getting confusion. I could never remember where I’d been.

  24. What’s better -

    Book Thief

    or

    Europa Europa?

    If the latter, I don’t see BT getting to BP.

    If the former, then heck yes BT will be a BP nominee – that would make it one of the best films of the 21st century, cause Holland, she made a masterpiece (that the Oscars ignored, teens-hiding-from-Holocaust notwithstanding)

  25. I wasn’t going to weigh in on the nesting comments because it might become something beyond anyone’s control if we switch to disqus. But thanks Antoinette for speaking up about your lack of fondness for nesting. Might just be you and I all alone in our relief to see it go away.

  26. No on The Book Thief. I saw it this week and there is something fundementally pedestrian about the treatment, particularly for the first hour. It’s heart is in the right place, but it feels awfully familiar and the tone, for the first half anyway, feels very kiddish. I never felt during the film that I was seeing anything new, fresh or different, or any particularly compelling directorial vision. Rush and Watson are just fine — more than fine, actually — but the film is really nothing special, and it is positively a Hollywood-y, sentimental and, at times, maudlin. Sophie Nelisse was also fine. It’s all fine, just not very good. I was particularly annoyed with the relationship between young Liesel and Max, the Jewish kid they are hiding. It’s all very predictable, including her loss of innocence. And the famed narration device in the story — Death himself — felt very contrivied, at least to me. Been there, done this material before. It just doesn’t have an extra ingredient.

  27. “Its,” not “it’s.” Apologies.

  28. From the trailer it doesn’t appear that The Book Thief has enough weight for it to be a Best Picture candidate but stranger things have happened. We know the Academy cannot resist a Nazi/WWII movie!

  29. Nesting might work with smaller threads and a less active site, but as we really kick into gear over the next months, I think nesting would be a nightmare. To go back and check to read replies would be nearly impossible.

  30. And in turn “American Hustle’s” wide release has been moved up to December 18th (formerly occupied by “Monuments Men” More 11th hour changes yet to come?

  31. Monuments Men set to open Feb 7th, I hear. Same weekend the Winter Olympics begin. Must be a stinker.

  32. I knew I smelled a stinker with “The Counselor.” When reviews don’t start until late Wednesday, 9 times out of 10 — clunker.

  33. This is one of my favourite books of all time. Top 5 for sure. I hope the movies is all things wonderful.

  34. Just saw The Book Thief and it was fantastic! Not a dry eye in the house. Seems everyone in the theatre absolutely loved it. I predict this to sneak into the race and outstanding reviews.

  35. Sophie Nélisse was mesmerizing and think the true Oscar buss should be about her. Although I agree that all the supporting cast should also be nominated.

  36. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up very fast! What host are you using?

    Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

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