I just had to take a minute and let you know about some great films that are out or coming out soon. I get to see a lot of them before they are released due to being industry-connected here in LA.

I don’t want to tell you much about most of them, and will save longer reviews for Bob Parry’s site at ConsortiumNews.com. But here is a quick update of what I think some the must-see films of the season are, in no particular order.
1. Valkyrie.

Just saw this last night. Fascinating tale, based on a very real event, of how a group of people in the army – not everyone was a Nazi in the military – tried to overthrow Hitler. If you know anything about history, and most of you here do, you’ll know it didn’t work. But how it even came about, and the events of the near coup, are really wonderfully told in this suspenseful and well-acted tale. Tom Cruise does an excellent job, btw, as one of the coup leaders.

2. Gran Torino.

Despite it’s dumb title, the film is about a racist biggot who comes to learn about and love his Hmong neighbors. That’s a dramatic oversimplification, of course, and a central character is, in fact, a Gran Torino car. The less you know about this film before you see it, the better. I hope the script gets an award. This has enough crackling and fresh dialog to be this year’s Juno, in that regard. Very funny, even when dealing with very serious events.

3. The Reader

While I have a few issues with the pacing and storytelling, this is a remarkably compassionate film that will tug at your heart, if you have one, and show you that even complicit Nazis are complex people, and not cardboard cutouts, with motivations so simple as to be frightening, and heartbreaking. The film is also worth seeing for Kate Winslet’s performance alone.

4. Australia

This one will not win any awards, but if you enjoy a film that has zany humor, doffs its hat to forties film cliches, a hot body (Hugh Jackman’s shower scene will be discussed and parodied for years), romance, suspense, and, of course, incredible vistas of Australia, then go see this. The key character is not even a name actor. It’s a miraculous young boy who will steal your heart. If any awards go to this film – it should be to the boy for best supporting actor.

5. Slumdog Millionaire

So far, this one is still my favorite. Go live in the shoes of a couple of poor kids from Mumbai for a while. You’ll thank me. Again, the less you know about the story going in, the better. Just don’t miss this one.

6. Revolutionary Road

This film is for people who love good acting. The story is not as compelling as the people who perform it. I was moved by this film, and thought it was well done, but this is not a favorite. If you had to skip one, I’d say skip this, unless you like dark, brooding stories. The only saving grace is that if you’re feeling bad about your own life, you’ll feel much better after seeing this film. I left feeling so happy I was single, for the first time in years. 😉

7. Doubt

This is a tight film, which I always appreciate. No wasted moments – no meandering here. This film is a must-see simply for Streep’s performance. Even Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the best actors of our time, looks like a novice next to her. She’s really that amazing. She brings humor to a role that could have been so incredibly humorless. It’s really a marvel to watch her at work here.

Films I have yet to see:

Benjamin Button (missed the screening where Brad Pitt spoke afterwards, darn it! Made up for it by talking to Hugh Jackman after Australia.)

Seven Pounds (dang, I have to miss a screening next Wednesday!)

The Wrestler – a friend of mine highly recommended this. I’ll be seeing a screening on Sunday, with Mickey Rourke there talking about it afterward.

Frost/Nixon (missed several chances to see this. Hoping one more screening comes up at a time I can catch it!)

Many others. If you have a favorite I didn’t mention, let me know, and I’ll try to see it before the year is out!

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