It was great to see “The Counterfeiters” win the foreign language Oscar last night. writer-director Stefan Ruzowitsky and lead actor Karl Markovics told me how thrilled they were to be nominated, and how much they were looking forward to attending. I enjoyed Ruzowitsky’s graceful acceptance speech, and I hope Markovics got his wish to meet Gene Hackman!
Better than the Oscars! Beliefnet announces its picks for the best spiritual movies and performances of last year. I like these awards because they honor what is inspiring and moving, because they let both professionals and movie fans vote, and because they provide pro and con arguments for each of the nominees that are thought-provoking and insightful.
Cheers to the winners and all the nominees! Judges
Best feature film: “Amazing Grace,” the story of William Wilberforce, pioneering abolitionist
Best performance: Emile Hirsch in “Into the Wild” (my argument for is here)
Best documentary: “Into Great Silence,” which brings audiences into the world of the Grande Chartreuse, one of the worldâ€™s most ascetic monasteries.
Best feature film: “Amazing Grace”
Best performance: Will Smith as the last man on earth in “I am Legend”
Best documentary: “For the Bible Tells Me So,” an exploration of tolerance for and acceptance of homosexuality within the religious traditions
In Michel Gondry’s delightful new film, “Be Kind Rewind,” an entire video store filled with tapes is erased and Mos Def and Jack Black recreate the films themselves, dubbing the process of making their versions “sweding.” Here is the original trailer:
And here, writer-director Gondry “swedes” it:
And there’s more! Go to the movie’s website (watch out as Mikey and Jerry swede the Internet), watch their sweded movies, and swede yourself into some of your favorite movies. Or go here to submit your own sweded versions of movies!
Rated R for language, drug content and brief nudity.
Very strong language used by teenagers and adults
Drinking and alcohol abuse, drug use and abuse of prescription drugs, smoking all by both teenagers and adults
Gun, fistfights, bullies
Date Released to Theaters:
February 22, 2008
Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) has been kicked out of so many posh prep schools that the only thing left to try is the local public school. At first, he shows up wearing his prep school blazer and carrying an attaché case, but he soon learns — around the time that a Mohawk-haired bully gives him a swirly — that this is not the way to fit in. And it only takes him a little bit longer to discover that he has what it takes to become truly popular: the willingness to listen to kids and the access to a wide range of prescription psychotropic drugs.
Charlie’s popularity is a concern to the harried principal (Robert Downey, Jr.), especially after Charlie attracts the attention of the principal’s daughter (Kat Dennings). And Charlie has some issues of his own to resolve. He will not speak to his father and feels responsible for his mother (Hope Davis), whose devotion to him is is lost in a mist of pharmaceuticals and alcohol.
Interview: “The Counterfeiters” writer/director and star
Posted on February 21, 2008 at 8:00 am
“The Counterfeiters” is the Oscar-nominated true story of the biggest counterfeiting operation in history — one that was run out of a concentration camp during WWII. The Nazis took prisoners who were expert in engraving and printing and put them to work counterfeiting British pound notes, so that they could destabilize the British economy. The film is based on a memoir written by Adolf Burger, a printer and communist who worked on Operation Bernhard and helped to sabotage its efforts to counterfeit dollar bills.
I spoke with writer-director Stefan Ruzowitsky and Karl Markovics, who played the leading character, master forger Salomon (Solly) Sorowitsch.
It seemed to me that the title of the movie had many layers of meaning. The prisoners were making counterfeit currency but everyone in the movie was counterfeiting in some way. The prisoners and even the Nazi in charge of the operation were all pretending to be something they were not.
SR: This is something interesting, the thing that intrigued me for the first time about the story and the main character of Solly: Will he be able to counterfeit reality himself?
How did the idea of this movie get started?
In Germany and Austria this is not a well known story. It was a strange coincidence. Two producers within a couple of days approached me with the same story, each not knowing about the other. I felt this was destiny. This is how this German-Austrian co-production came about. The German producers bought the memoir of Berger but I right away loved the idea of , a crook, a jailbird in a concentration camp; this is a perspective that I don’t know yet that would be interesting.
The memoir is from the young communist, who was one of the youngest inmates and was a good friend of Solly’s and for the last decades been traveling doing lectures, to tell his story.
Why did you decide to begin the movie the way you did, letting the audience know that Solly survives the concentration camp?
SR: I did not understand why I did it myself at first. It was instinctive. It starts with the ultimate happy ending, a guy after six years of a concentration camp arrives in a beautiful resort, meets a beautiful woman, with pockets full of money, and asks himself “did I deserve it, did I compromise too much, did I get too close to evil?” I wanted it to be compelling and suspenseful but not about whether he will live or go to the gas chamber. I wanted to make the suspense in how he will survive.
How has the movie been received in Germany?
SR: They don’t . The only country where it does not work is Germany. It made three times as much box office in the UK as it did in Germany, which is remarkable given that it is a German movie, German language, German actors. It is a misconception to say that they do not want to face the guilt. These are the grandchildren. Our generation is aware of the dimension of the crimes. We know there is a responsibility but it is difficult to know how to deal with it. “What do I do with this knowledge?”
Karl, tell me about Sally, the character you play.
KM: I loved him at once. Really, I loved the script and I loved the character, as if I had waited a lifetime to get a character like this one, a real gift. Normally you get even in good scripts a raw model and you have a feeling there is much room to create. Here it was rather “Can I get familiar with the person which is done? It is really here in front of me. How can I be able not to seem but to be this character?”
And how do you approach that task? Do you do a lot of research?