Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Cinema stalled

In the year Slumdog Millionaire swept the Oscars, it's perhaps appropriate that Hollywood should follow Bollywood and target suburban multiplex audiences so assiduously. The Oscars have always been middle-brow, but never can the list of award contenders have been so middle-class.

Away from the Slumdog glare, there was Milk, Frost/Nixon, ChangelingDoubt – even the best animation winner, Wall-E, has an environmental message. A series of movies that stand up as fine demonstrations of film-making craft but hardly blow you away (which is perhaps why Slumdog had its day).

Kate Winslet deservedly won for her performance in The Reader, a film with a lot of German accents. David Hare's script is notable for excising much that doesn't make sense in Bernhard Schlink's humdrum novel but foregrounds every surprise the book has in store. Winslet's other turn, in Revolutionary Road, was perhaps a little underhand for the Academy; Leo and Kate reunite for an abortion-suicide movie, luring suburban audiences only to throw their existences back in their faces.

Best for fun? In Bruges was nominated for its script, though lost out to nutritious Milk; and Penélope Cruz won for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, though Rebecca Hall's was truly the stand-out performance in Woody Allen's little farce. You almost wanted a film inspired by a studio attraction to be up there just for the ride.

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