Oscar buzz swirls around "The Reader" director

Mon Dec 8, 2008 12:33pm EST
 
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stephen Daldry's first two feature films earned him best director Academy Award nominations and his latest offering, the Holocaust-haunted "The Reader," debuts this week with a dose of outsider Oscar buzz.

"The Reader," based on Bernhard Schlink's novel of the same name, tells the tale of a 15-year-old German boy who becomes involved in an affair with a woman twice his age who is hiding a dark secret -- her involvement in the Holocaust.

"This is not a Holocaust movie, it is a movie about the second generation and how you come to terms with and how you can approach living in a society and loving in a society that has been involved in genocide," Daldry said in an interview.

Starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, the film -- opening on Wednesday in major U.S. cities and elsewhere in January -- has received mixed but generally warm reviews and several critics predict it will be in the Oscar mix.

Todd McCarthy of Variety said "The Reader" is "sensitively realized and dramatically absorbing, but comes across as an essentially cerebral experience without gut impact."

Rex Reed of The New York Observer described the film as a "masterpiece" and Tom O'Neil of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it "is a serious contender in all top Oscar races."

On the Los Angeles Times "The Envelope" buzzometer, which ranks Academy Award chances according to a variety of critics, Daldry is now seen in seventh place in the running for best director, while the Movie City News "Gurus o' Gold" ranking put the film at eighth for best picture.

"Stephen likes to take a lot of time, which I'm sure gave the producers headaches, but he really wouldn't move on until everything had been explored," said Fiennes, who plays the young boy Michael when he is grown up.   Continued...

 
<p>Stephen Daldry poses as he arrives at the Academy Award nominee luncheon in Beverly Hills March 10, 2003. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>