11 March 2003

The Good, and the Better

The Pianist: 3 Stars. I'm not sure what I expected to get out of this Holocaust film by Roman Polanski. It was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards, but I hadn't heard much by word-of-mouth. Turns out it's, and I hate to put it this way, just another Holocaust epic. The first half of the movie is like any of the others -- focus on one family, Germans invade, Jews are rounded up, senseless destruction and killings, railcars stuffed with people, pretty much the worst that humanity has to offer. The only thing new that this film brings to the table is some depiction of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I'd've prefered a film that began in the Ghetto, taking it for granted we knew how all the Jews got there, and then really showed what happened, how they organized, how they fought, etc. Instead, it was just a loud accompaniment to the hidden isolation of the title character, played by Adrian Brody. Brody is unremarkable as the title character, and I suspect he got his Academy nod simply because he played a character who survived the Holocaust, not as a result of any spectacular acting. Liam Neeson was far better as Oskar Schindler (and also deserved the Oscar, which was instead given to Tom Hanks simply because he played an AIDS-afflicted gay man, not as a result of any spectacular acting). Kudos to Thomas Kretschmann, who turned in the best acting in the film portraying a sympathetic German officer.

The Guru: 3.5 Stars. Easily the best film I've seen since The Two Towers, this light, funny, and enormously entertaining romantic comedy was just was I needed last Friday night. British actor Jimi Mistry is a charismatic wonder as a recent immigrant from India to New York City who finds himself being billed as "The Guru of Sex" after he spouts some sex advice (gleaned from porn actress Heather Graham) at a party thrown by socialite Marisa Tomei. There's no surprises in the plot, but it's the getting there that makes this film so much fun. Graham and Mistry have a great chemistry, and the supporting cast of fellow Indian emigres can only be described as top-notch casting. I especially enjoyed the self-mocking dialogue referring to the stereotypical work opportunites for Indians in the US. Double Kudos for the always entertaining Ajay Naidu (you will recognize him from Office Space), who is hilarious in his brief scenes.

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