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Just before the Oscars every year, two other important awards are announced. The Razzies (named for the rude noise called a “raspberry”) are given to the worst of the year from Hollywood. This year the recipients are:
Worst Picture: The Love Guru (which I also picked as the year’s worst in my essay for Rotten Tomatoes)love guru.jpg
Worst Actor: Mike Myers in “The Love Guru”
Worst Actress: Paris Hilton “The Hottie and the Nottie
Worst Screenplay: “The Love Guru”
Worst Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan in “Mamma Mia!”
Worst Supporting Actress: Paris Hilton again in “Repo! The Genetic Opera”
Worst Couple: Paris Hilton again with either Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore in “The Hottie & The Nottie”
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
And by the way, anyone can vote on the Razzies for a modest fee.
The Spirit Awards (formerly called Independent Spirit) are given out by Film Independent, a resource group for independent film-makers. Its annual awards ceremony is broadcast on the Independent Film Channel and it is always hilarious, outrageous, and lots of fun (warning: very strong language and provocative material).
This year’s Spirit winners include:
“The Wrestler” (best feature, best actor Mickey Rourke, best cinematographer)
“Vicky Christina Barcelona” (best screenplay by Woody Allen, best supporting actress Penelope Cruz)
“Milk” (best first screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, best supporting actor James Franco)
“The Visitor” (best director Tom McCarthy)
“Synecdoche New York” (best first feature, Robert Altman ensemble award)
“The Class” (best foreign film)
“Man on Wire” (best documentary)
“Frozen River” (best actress Melissa Leo)
Membership is also available in Film Independent.
2009 Independent Spirit Awards at

“Don’t Give an Oscar to ‘The Reader'” is the headline of an angry Slate essay by Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. Rosenbaum says it is “a film in which all the techniques of Hollywood are used to evoke empathy for an unrepentant mass murderer of Jews.” He argues that “This is a film whose essential metaphorical thrust is to exculpate Nazi-era Germans from knowing complicity in the Final Solution.”

I’ve argued that most of the fictionalized efforts either exhibit a false redemptiveness or an offensive sexual exploitiveness–what some critics have called “Nazi porn.” But in recent years, a new mode of misconstrual has prevailed–the desire to exculpate the German people of guilt for the crimes of the Hitler era. I spoke recently with Mark Weitzman, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s New York office, who went so far as to say that The Reader was a symptom of a kind of “Holocaust revisionism,” which used to be the euphemistic term for Holocaust denial.

SPOILER ALERT: Based on Bernhard Schlink’s best-selling The Reader, an Oprah book selection, the movie stars Kate Winslet as a German woman in the early 1950’s who has an affair with a 15-year-old boy. Years later, the boy has become a law student and he sees her in court, being tried for atrocities during the Holocaust. He discovers that she cannot read and that her humiliation and efforts to hide her ignorance
On the other side is Roger Ebert, who says “The Reader” is not a Holocaust movie; it is a movie about the consequences of not speaking up. He agrees with Rosenbaum that Winslet’s character “was responsible for inexcusable evil.” But he does not feel that the movie excuses her or redeems her in any way. He believes the movie’s point is that Michael was guilty of worse not because the consequences were as bad but because his education and circumstances gave him more of a choice.

Who committed the greater crime? Michael, obviously, although few audience members might see it that way. He was more mentally capable than she was. She is deeply, paralyzingly ashamed of her illiteracy. It has led her a lifelong neurosis. She worked for the Nazis, as many other Germans did with much less reason, or none at all. What did she go through to keep her secret? What lies did she tell, what intimacies did she betray? Has she never been able to have a relationship with a man without using sex and her greater age to prevent the man from learning of her shame? What kind of a monster was she, that she helped innocent victims to go to their deaths because of a secret that seems trivial to us?

One of the most intriguing elements of the graphic novel is the excerpts from other documents that provide a glimpse into the story’s layered and fullly-imagined world. Warner Home Video is supplementing the feature film release with Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood, exploring these elements of the book. “Tales of the Black Freighter” is an animated film version of the graphic novel’s richly layered story-within-a-story, a comic book pirate story read by a young man in New York City while the city is being destroyed. A marooned sailor’s story mirrors the events in the Watchmen’s world. “300’s” Gerard Butler provides voice talent. And we get one perspective on the origins of the Watchmen from Hollis Mason’s tell-all autobiography, “Under the Hood.”

The Lights, Camera … Faith! A Movie Lectionary book series by Peter Malone, MSC with Rose Pacatte, FSP, explores movies that highlight themes or issues emphasized in the Gospel. The books propose practical points for reflection, conversation and personal growth, in addition to insightful film analysis and information about the film and the people who made it. Sr. Rose, FSP director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, CA, and a fellow Beliefnet spiritual movie award judge, has a blog that includes thoughtful commentary about movies and media literacy.

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