Year-End Dash: The Book Thief

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve not read The Book Thief. Now usually the read/unread status of book only bears mentioning when I have read it and am insulating myself from either some comments on fanboy-dom or adding a grain of salt. Here I mention it because this seems as if it was a tricky adaptation to pull of. I say that because there are some rather literary traits to the story that are far easier to execute in prose than onscreen. However, the film while not avoiding missteps in the adaptation of said traits does put it forth immediately. While that same approach is part of what gets in the way of the final impact of the film there is much felt throughout that is worth noting, and, ultimately recommending.

First and most noteworthy in the story are the five principal figures. I used that diction specifically to discuss both character and performance. For the engaging part of The Book Thief is the humanity it finds and expresses in its characters. Its signature piece of dialogue alludes to to that underlying truth. The zeitgeist in World War II films is to explore the gray area. Not that this film is specifically gray, but it does go somewhere many films don’t which is to deal with Germans who didn’t quite follow the party line in a number of small and significant ways.

To bring those thoughts and emotions to life, and to show them truly (even to show them in a conflicted manner and still engender empathy) is the grand task of this fine cast. Perhaps it’s symbolically apropos that they each call a different nation home and portray German characters (US, Canada, Australia, England and Germany respectively). Taking that fact into consideration they also blend seamlessly well with one another and handle the anglicized German dialect they’re given superbly. Sophie Nélisse in my estimation had her breakout role with Monsieur Lazhar; here however her role is larger still, more dialogue-driven and in accented English such that her feat is perhaps even more impressive and she’s well on her way to becoming a household name. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson play two diametrically opposed types and parents, but the end result and the emotions the engender and exude in the end must be the same making their characters fairly ideal dramatic foils if those inhabiting the roles deliver, which they do. Ben Schnetzer as Max has the task of being sickly much of the time, believably and naturally poetic and philosophical in the face of, and in tandem with his emotions. His performance is such that his presence lingers even when his image does not grace the screen. Last but not least there’s Nico Liersch who stands out as the revelation of this film for his well-rounded and sensitive portrayal of Rudy a character who pines for Liesel from the moment he is introduced but never comes across as a doormat in that or any other situation, as characters with that affectation can at times.

The Book Thief does eventually come through with very moving moments, and while doing so in a very populist manner does cause people to think and reflect on the varied reactions and actions of people during that era in history.

7/10

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Children in Films Blogathon: A Revisionist Look at the Juvenile Award

When I learned of the Child Actor Blogathon at Comet Over Hollywood, I had two ideas for it almost right away: the Jackie Searl spotlight and this one. Not too long ago I argued for why the Juvenile Award should be re-instated. In this post I will follow up on that notion to augment my case. It’s one thing to quickly cite who won while it was around and state it never should have left, it’s quite another to show you who would have had they never gotten rid of it. Now I have decided to illustrate that in three ways, including some omissions found when it was instated (it’ll make more sense when we get there, trust me). First, I will list the young actors who since the end of the award (after 1961) were nominated for an Academy Award.

These actors obviously, had there still been a Juvenile Award, would have won that. While on occasion they were awarded the prize, more often than not they didn’t have a realistic chance. Regardless, their nomination was deemed prize enough it would seem, but I disagree and as you will see there have been plenty of instances where the Juvenile award could have been handed out either in addition to or in place of the nomination.

Based on Academy Award nominations from 1961-Present:

Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Fox Searchlight)

2012 Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild
2010 Hailee Steinfeld True Grit
2007 Saoirse Ronan Atonement
2006 Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine
2002 Keisha Castle-Hughes Whale Rider
1999 Haley Joel Osment The Sixth Sense
1993 Anna Paquin The Piano
1979 Justin Henry Kramer vs. Kramer
1977 Quinn Cummings The Goodbye Girl
1976 Jodie Foster Taxi Driver
1973 Tatum O’ Neal Paper Moon
1968 Jack Wild Oliver!
1962 Patty Duke The Miracle Worker
Mary Badham To Kill a Mockingbird

Personal Selections

Super 8 (2011, Paramount)

In 1996, when I was 15 and the young actors of the day where my contemporaries, I started making my own award lists. Being young myself at the time I wanted to recognize young actors where most awards excluded them more often than not. These selections reflect those that were my among my BAM award selections that were eligible and the Academy bypassed. Prior to 1996, I thought of significant performances that were worthy of noting and would’ve had a strong case for the Juvenile Award had it been around.

2012 Rick Lens Kauwboy

This one is highly unlikely as Kauwboy wasn’t shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film prize. However, the fact that it was the official selection for The Netherlands did make it eligible.

My young actress choice last year, Sophie Nélisse, was a year off from the Oscar calendar but also a strong possibility for Monsieur Lazhar.

2011 Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Riley Giffiths Zach Mills, Gabe Basso Super 8

It figures that both the best young ensemble, and perhaps individual performance, of the past 25 years got overlooked. So they are all honored here.

2009 Bill Milner Is Anybody There?

2008 Bill Milner and Will Poulter Son of Rambow

A slight wrinkle here from my original selection. Since the Academy set precedent of awarding tandems, why not do so here as well?

2005 Dakota Fanning War of the Worlds

2004 Freddie Highmore Finding Neverland

My 2004 winner was one where I was awarding a film from 2003, due to my stand on release dates, which is different than the Academy’s. Having said that I then had to factor in both my nominees and who the Academy would be more likely to pick and decided if they chose anyone it would have been Highmore.

2003 Jeremy Sumpter Peter Pan

2001 Haley Joel Osment Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

2000 Haley Joel Osment Pay It Forward

1998 Vinicius de Oliveira Central Station

1997 Joseph Ashton The Education of Little Tree

Here’s another interesting case: my winner was in a TV film which the Academy would never honor. Then two more nominees were either shifted due to my interpretation of release date rules and one erroneously in my revisionist phase. That leaves two eligible: Dominic Zamprogna in The Boy’s Club and Joseph Ashton in The Education of Little Tree. Some people besides me actually saw the latter so I’d put that one up as a winner.

1996 Michelle Trachtenberg Harriet the Spy
Lucas Black Sling Blade

Michelle was my actual winner in 1996. Sling Blade in my awards was shifted to 1997 due to its release date. It being an Oscar nominated film make it a more likely retrospective candidate.

My Girl (1991, Columbia Pictures)

This section marks personal selections prior to my picking extemporaneous year-end awards.

1994 Elijah Wood The War

I recall watching E! and hearing there was some buzz being stirred by the cast/studio for Elijah. I knew it would never happen, but it was deserved buzz.

1992 Maxime Collin Leolo

I have since expunged them but for a time I did backtrack BAM Award to back before they started. Some of these picks reflect those findings.

1991 Anna Chlumsky My Girl

1990 Macaulay Culkin Home Alone

Say what you will, but you know if the award was around that this would have happened.

1988 Pelle Hvengaard Pelle the Conqueror

1987 Christian Bale Empire of the Sun

1986 River Phoenix Stand by Me

1983 Bertil Guve Fanny and Alexander

1982 Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

1979 Ricky Schroeder The Champ
David Bennent The Tin Drum

1972 Nell Potts The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Who Should Have Gotten One But Didn’t

No Greater Glory (1934, Columbia Pictures)

I honestly almost scrapped this section. However, looking back through young nominees I noticed the discrepancy that some young nominees did not get a Juvenile Award while there was one. So I figured while I was at it I’d list a few notable performances that didn’t get recognized. Those that “didn’t need one” since they were nominated as in their respective categories against adult competition have denoted those with an asterisk.

1956 Patty McCormack The Bad Seed*
1953 Brandon deWilde Shane*
1952 Georges Poujouly Forbidden Games
1941 Roddy McDowall How Green Was My Valley
1936 Freddie Bartholomew Little Lord Fauntleroy
1934 George Breakston No Greater Glory
1931 Jackie Cooper Skippy*

BAM Award Winners: Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

This is a newly-siphoned off post from the original Young Actors post. This category came into being in the 2011 BAM Awards as part of the start of the diversification of the Youth Categories. This division of the category was necessary because while there were female winners, most of the time that was not the case and even nominations were hard to come by. This year’s nominees not only validated this decision, while hard to find as many titles the quality was high, the Supporting categories, which was a gamble, also provided great candidates.

2018 Elsie Fisher Eighth Grade

2017 Sophia Lillis It

2016 Madison Wolfe The Conjuring 2

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2015 Olivia Dejonge The Visit

The Visit (2015, Universal)

2014 Giulia Salerno Misunderstood

Misunderstood (2014, Good Films)

2013 Lika Babulani In Bloom

In Bloom (2013, Big World Pictures)

2012 Sophie Nélisse Monsieur Lazhar

Monsieur Lazhar (2011, Music Box Films)

2011 Elle Fanning Super 8