Posted by Danielle Berrin
There is little doubt in my mind that Kate Winslet is one of Hollywood’s most talented screen gems. It was she, as much as Leo, that kept me going back to see Titanic over and over and over again. Amidst all the melodrama sinking into the sea, it was Winslet that kept the film afloat with her deep and determined yearning for a different life. How could she drown when she was already dead, just coming alive?
Winslet is also the redemptive quality in the screen adaptation of Bernard Schlink’s The Reader, though her brilliant performance isn’t enough to save the film from a cold, hard death. The Reader tells the story of 16-year-old Michael Berg who has an affair with Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), an illiterate German woman twice his age. Years later as a law student, Berg encounters Schmitz in a German court where she is being tried as an SS officer for the slaughter of 300 Jews. The first half of the film is rife with sex, love and Winslet, naked and moaning. The latter part is heavy with Holocaust courtroom-drama—horrifying survivor stories, guilty Nazis squirming, public crimes brought to a public reckoning. Yet even with so provocative a subject, the film never elicits the wrenching emotional response the subject matter demands.
Perhaps Winslet is too pretty for the kind of sordid and desperate Pedophilia the film posits as “love.” In fact it isn’t until Schmitz is serving a 20-year prison sentence, her face wizened, blemished and discolored that the two lead characters even act as if they care for each other; Ralph Fiennes plays an older Berg, who sends her tapes of himself dictating her favorite novels. As young lovers, Schmitz is drawn to the boy but vulnerable in the face of his education; he is her senior when it comes to knowledge, and his real powers of seduction reside more in his ability to read than his skill with raw flesh.
Still, the chemistry between the two fizzles and their lack of emotional intimacy makes it difficult for the audience to care when they need to. As a weak and lonely Schmitz confesses to murderous crimes, there is less a feeling of betrayal and more, an air of tragedy. Intellectually, we know Schmitz has committed an egregious offense, but there is no outcry, no anguish, not even anger. A dumbfounded Berg skips class and court to brood and smoke cigarettes instead of grieving. His reaction is as passionless as Winslet’s face is terrified.
What is left isn’t much, so for those who read the book and know the ending, it comes as no surprise.
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December 9, 2008 | 9:57 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Once a dedicated Clinton supporter, good ‘ol Babs now has eyes only for Obama. To her credit, the Democratic switch hitter had a ready endorsement for the President elect as soon as he won victory in the primary, and her devotion hasn’t wavered.
Honored for lifetime achievement in performing arts at the Kennedy Center this past weekend, Streisand said she wished Obama was there, watching from the balcony. The White House substitute was Condoleeza Rice, who hosted the six honorees—which also included Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Twyla Tharp and Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of the Who—at a private dinner at the State Department.
The gala will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 30.
Read more in The New York Times
December 8, 2008 | 5:35 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
What hard times?
The economic recession proved no barrier to fundraising for The Saban Free Clinic among Hollywood’s elite on Nov. 24 at the Beverly Hilton. Among those who helped raise $1.3 million for the affordable health care clinic with four locations across the city were: CBS CEO Les Moonves and wife, CBS news anchor Julie Chen, Wes Craven, Garry Marshall, Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. television. and of course, the clinic’s namesakes, Cheryl and Haim Saban, who had previously donated $10 million to The Los Angeles Free Clinic, which was subsequently renamed.
Cheryl Saban has a special relationship to the clinic, the place where she and her two children received medical care more than 25 years ago, as Brad Greenberg wrote in March 2008. Back then, Saban was a divorced mother with a low-paying job and no health care. When she married Egyptian-born media billionaire Haim Saban, the clinic became a philanthropic priority.
In the meantime, before Washington can get their plan straight, Hollywood is heaping healthcare upon the underserved communities of Los Angeles.
Plus, there’s nothing like Barry Manilow’s a capella to inspire the box office bosses to give.
Besides raising $1.3 million for the Saban Free Clinic, the BevHilton dinner Nov. 24 answered the question: Can Barry Manilow sing a cappella? He could indeed, to loud applause after his piano was found to be unplayable.
Though the piano malfunctioned, other parts of the evening including remarks from Cheryl Saban, Tom and Ellen Hoberman, Bob Saget, Dana Walden, and a touching video tribute intro’d by Norm Crosby to the late Bernie Brillstein, went smoothly.
The evening also drew many TV honchos including Leslie Moonves, Kevin Reilly and honoree Warner TV prexy Bruce Rosenblum.
December 4, 2008 | 3:10 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
You can’t get away with everything in Hollywood—-or can you? Just ask Roman Polanski, who absconded from the country over three decades ago when he was charged with drugging and then having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Despite her pleas to have the charges dropped and the licentious filmmaker’s disturbingly casual admission of guilt, the sex case stamina endured. Now, new evidence revealed in the documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” may provide Polanski’s pedophilia with a get out of jail free card. Or at the very least, a long awaited homecoming to Hollywood.
Polanski’s attorneys cite “extraordinary new evidence” that has surfaced with the release of Marina Zenovich’s “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” as reason to reopen the case. The complaint zeroes in on interviews in which then-deputy district attorney David Wells admits discussing the case with Judge Lawrence Rittenband during legal proceedings from the 1970s and further charges the current District Attorney’s Office with misconduct in statements made upon the docu’s June release.
Polanski, the complaint charges, “was and continues to be the victim of repeated, unlawful and unethical misconduct on the part of the L.A. District Attorney’s Office and L.A. Superior Court.”
A hearing has been set for Jan. 21.
Here’s where The Guardian says it better:
His lawyers have fixed on fresh evidence uncovered in a new documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, that highlights “a pattern of misconduct and improper communications” between the district attorney’s office and Judge Rittenband. In other words the grounds for dismissal appear to be based not on any doubt over Polanski’s guilt (so far as I can tell, there isn’t any) but on the suggestion that the subsequent trial was not handled as spotlessly as it might have been. On such technicalities are guilty men recast as heroes.