January 9th, 2009

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"The Reader" works on a cinematic level

With "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader," Kate Winslet enters Meryl Streep territory of double nominations. By inviting the audience to witness such emotional vulnerability, Winslet deserves her kudos on the awards circuit. April Wheeler from "Revolutionary Road" always seems to have an underlying desire under her skin. The character runs the gamut of emotions, it is not until her final scenes that one witness April true and vulnerable emotional core.

Winslet is even more revealing, both emotionally and physically, in **The Reader.** Based on Bernhard Schlink’s novel on the same name, Winslet portrays Hanna Schmitz, a woman who seduces a teenage boy named Michael Berg (David Kross). At the end of a memorable summer. Hanna disappears and Michael pursues law school. Years later, Michael attends graduate school. While observing a trial featuring Nazi War crimes, Michael learns that Hanna is a defendant for mass murder. As Michael (who grows up to look like Ralph Fiennes) matures, he realizes how Hanna influenced his adult life.

In terms of important subject matter, **The Reader** easily outshines **Revolutionary Road.** **The Reader** enhances it’s title theme and keenly reveals how a victim of illiteracy can grow into a monster. Kate Winslet is probably the only actress today that could pull off such an complicated role like Hanna Schmitz, bridging the emotional gap from siren to harpie. It is too bad that **The Reader** was released after I completed my Top Ten list for 2008.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Gran Torino" is Clint Eastwood's "Shootist"

The most inspirational book that I read last year was Alice Cooper's autobiography, **Golf Monster A Rock 'n' Roller's Life and 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict.** Vincent Furnier, the author, discusses creating his alter ego and then placing Alice Cooper in different situations; like nightmares, hell, outer space and an insane asylum. The same could be said of Clint Eastwood's iconic characters from film to film, with a slight variation. Like Alice Cooper's latest album, **Along Came a Spider,** Clint Eastwood's role in his new film, **Grand Torino** is both a composite and a swan song for Clint Eastwood's iconic screen image.

**Grand Torino** opens with a funeral. The widower Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) stoically accepts this situation while observing his children and grand children. A Korean War veteran who lived the American Middle class dream as a Ford factory worker, Walt has a hard time accepting a world where young girls wear belly button rings. While hosting the wake, Walt observes his Korean neighbors, with whom he dislikes. Walt's enmity grows when the teenaged Thao (Bee Vang) attempts to steal Walt's prized procession, a 1972 Gran Torino.

Having dishonored the family, Thoa is sent to Walt's house to do chores. While the old racist does not want the boy around, Walt finds Thoa to be better companionship than his own materialistic family. Walt and his Korean neighbors find unity in diversity and learn to accept one another during dangerous times.

**Gran Torino** grows as a narrative and Director Clint Eastwood is in no rush to tell the story. Like his previous Best picture Oscar winning movies, **Unforgiven** and **Million Dollar Baby,** **Gran Torino** is filled with little moments that are character gems; such as Walt reading his birthday horoscope to his dog or when Walt visits his neighborhood barbershop to torment his barber.

**Gran Torino** is also a meditation about life, death and taking responsibility for one's soul. Walt is often challenged by his parish priest; Father Janovich (Chris Carley) who seeks a formal confession from his grumpy parishioner. The debates are simple, spirited and form a core assertion for morality that is truly lacking in most mainstream motion pictures.

Given the recent 29 millon dollar box office gross of **Gran Torino**, the American consumer seems to appreciate a moral debate told in an entertaining way.