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Sometimes, we hear the fireworks long after they have fizzled out in Hollywood. Three of this year’s Oscar hopefuls – Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Reader – will have been seen, panted over and mostly forgotten by the time they get to us in March. All three are in cinemas now. We trawled the US news sites to find out their verdicts, to save you that horrible moment of indecision at the cinema box office.

Slumdog Millionaire

"This is a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time," gushed the Chicago Sun-Times about the film that by now has probably won the Oscar it was being mooted to win at the time of writing. It follows the story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is one question away from 20 million Rupees in the Indian Version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, when he is accused of cheating.

The praise is unanimous. "Brimming with humour and heartbreak, Slumdog Millionaire meets at the border of art and commerce and lets one flow into the other as if that were the natural order of things," says Rolling Stone. The Philadelphia Enquirer got even more excited, saying, "it doesn't happen often, but when it does, look out: a movie that rocks and rolls, that transports, startles, delights, shocks, seduces. A movie that is, quite simply, great."

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards. "This film's manifold pleasures come in a series of small packages, with treats inside as tasty as they are unexpected", says Time Magazine.

 

It's not for the impatient, mind you. The San Francisco Chronicle complained that "the movie's excruciating length is without dramatic or thematic justification." Maybe so, but the good reviews vastly outnumbered the bad, with Newsweek's appraisal perhaps the most appetising. "Lyrical, original, misshapen and deeply felt, this is one flawed beauty of a movie."

 

The Reader

In post-WWII Germany, a teenager becomes ill and is helped home by a stranger twice his age. When he recovers from scarlet fever he seeks the stranger out, beginning a passionate but secretive affair. "Winslet deserves an Oscar for her amazing performance," trumpets Premiere Magazine, which awarded the film 100%.

 

Rolling Stone Magazine was less awed by the film but no less impressed by Winslet's performace. "Winslet's fierce, unerring portrayal goes beyond acting, becoming a provocation that will keep you up nights." Make what you will of the New York Post's amusing summary: Although the script works in a couple of pages of collegiate-level ethical debate about "the question of German guilt," what the movie is really interested in is the question of German sex. So think of it as "Schindler's Lust."

 

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