'Reader' Director Targeted For Smear | Slumdog’s Sad Irony; 'Milk' Rises

'Reader' Director Targeted For Smear

As millions of readers around the world know, Bernard Schlink’s novel “The Reader” recalls the Holocaust.

Last week, Schlink got to see Stephen Daldry’s film version of the book, starring Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and Lena Olin, and endorsed it. He liked it so much he’s coming to the States to support it.

“The Reader” is tipped for several Oscar nominations, and should compete for Best Picture with a group culled from “Doubt,” “Revolutionary Road,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and a few others.

At the movie’s first screening ten days ago, a selection of literati kvelled over the film, calling it “beautiful” and “important.” Among the viewers: playwright John Guare, journalist Marie Brenner, “Angela’s Ashes” author Frank McCourt, and so on. I had the pleasure of sitting next to book publisher Joan Bingham, who also loved it.

The group was treated to a surprise Q&A from director Daldry, who was still coming off his “Billy Elliot” success on Broadway and didn’t have a ready shpiel for us. He just wanted to be friendly. But you know, no good turn goes unpunished.

Suddenly, Daldry found himself attacked by a large unruly looking man sitting in the middle of the room. Today, nasty art blogger Charlie Finch’s comments are reprinted in the New York Post’s Page Six as if he was the only one in the room. He wasn’t. His behavior was uncalled for, and totally off the wall. Be careful of who you let in your house, I guess, is the moral.

I don’t know Charlie Finch, but the New York Observer describes him thusly: “At 52, he is a voluble, gregarious man with a Falstaffian physique, a tangle of graying blond hair and a smile that bares several missing teeth … His writing is fluent, witty and opinionated; it can also be crude, puerile, venomous and gratuitously scatological.”

I think that says it all.

“The Reader” is a stunningly poignant film about a young German man coming of age after World War II and coming to terms with the Holocaust. It has the same gut wrenching, lump in your throat arc of “The English Patient.” As with the other people at that screening, every new audience that sees “The Reader” is moved to tears—and discussion of the Kate Winslet character’s self-degradation through sex, her self punishment and humiliation because of her illiteracy, and the lessons learned

Slumdog’s Sad Irony; 'Milk' Rises

It may be unnecessary to point out, but one of the current films in the Oscar mix, Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” is set in Mumbai (Bombay), India. The sometimes gritty story with a happy ending showcases Mumbai in all its glories — making the tragedies of the last few days seem so much worse. “Slumdog” is the crowd pleaser of the 2008 holiday season, and a box office hit with “Best Picture” written all over it. It’s also Mumbai’s best p.r. right now in the wake of what’s happened. …

…While “Slumdog” already has $3.5 million in its till, another film in the Oscar game is rising on the box office list. “Milk,” starring Sean Penn as slain gay activist Harvey Milk, was number 10 this weekend and it’s only in 36 theatres around the country. It’s a long movie, but beautifully made by Gus van Sant. Penn’s performance as Milk is astonishing. He’ll be the only real challenge for Frank Langella from “Frost/Nixon,” for Best Actor, although there are other strong entries this season from Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), and Langella’s co-star Michael Sheen. Penn isn’t the only standout in “Milk.” James Franco is superb in a supporting role as Milk’s partner and friend, Scott Smith. …