81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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English Patient, The

October 27th, 2009 · No Comments · 1996, Adaptation, Color, Drama, English Patient, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Ondaatje, Miramax, Naveen Andrews, Nudity, Ralph Fiennes, Sex, War, Willem Dafoe

The English Patient Once again, I must turn to Seinfeld to help set the tone for my blog entry. This time, it’s Season 8, Episode 17: “The English Patient.”

Mr. Peterman and Elaine are in a theater watching the movie The English Patient. Peterman stares, enraptured, at the screen. Elaine is totally frantic with boredom.

PETERMAN: Elaine, I hope you’re watching the clothes, because I can’t take my eyes off the passion.
ELAINE: (quiet vehemence) Oh. No. I can’t do this any more. I can’t. It’s too
long. (to the screen) Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid
desert, and just die already! (louder) Die!!
The other movie patrons turn and shush Elaine, who sits back in her seat.
PETERMAN: (surprised) Elaine. You don’t like the movie?
ELAINE: (shouts) I hate it!!
ELAINE: (shouts) Oh, go to hell!!
PETERMAN: (quietly) Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? You’re
ELAINE: (grabbing her bag and coat) Great. I’ll wait for you outside.
Elaine hurriedly gets out of her seat and leaves.

Elaine had the right idea. The English Patient is precisely the kind of movie for which the word ponderous was coined.

Usually, I enjoy watching the special features (all the making-ofs and interviews) as much as the movie itself. But not so for The English Patient. Even the special features are pretentious: feature after feature about Michael Ondaatje, the author of the novel on which the movie is based. How many ways can you say the author is gifted? How long should one watch people – including the author – talk about how gifted the author is? And does anyone really need to watch the author read from his book?

Not me.

On paper, The English Patient ought to be a great movie. It features three of my favorite actors (Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, and Naveen Andrews) and an actor who’s always interesting, but not one of my favorites – Willem Dafoe. (As for Ralph Fiennes…meh.)

Kristin Scott Thomas is always brilliant, especially in foreign films such as I’ve Loved You So Long.

The English Patient, however, is arduous. There seems to be 3-4 subplots going on. The movie is told in flashbacks. That, in itself, can make a movie hard to follow. But add in the many subplots, the myriad characters, and the lugubrious theme, and you have a movie that, had it not been for my commitment to 81 Days With Oscar And Me, I would have made like Elaine Benes and split.

Next time I want to watch a movie in which everyone cries and everyone dies, I’ll skip the film, watch the special features, and just let the author tell me how amazing his book is. I’ll be just as bored, but I’ll have saved over two and a half hours of my life.

The Cast
Ralph Fiennes (1962- )………………………Count Laszlo de Almásy
Juliette Binoche (1964- )…………………….Hana
Willem Dafoe (1955- )………………………..David Caravaggio
Kristin Scott Thomas (1960- )……………..Katharine Clifton
Naveen Andrews (1969- )……………………Kip
Colin Firth (1960- )……………………………Geoffrey Clifton
Julian Wadham (1958- )………………………Madox
Jürgen Prochnow (1941- )…………………..Major Muller

Directed By
Anthony Minghella, 1954-

Written By
Michael Ondaatje, 1943- (novel)
Anthony Minghella, 1954- (screenplay)

Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, The English Patient won nine: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Juliette Binoche), Best Art Director- Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director (Anthony Minghella), Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, Best Picture, and Best Sound.

NOTE TO BUDDING SCREENWRITERS: The English Patient is the 49th adaptation out of 69 movies to be chosen Best Picture. That means Hollywood gives the Best Picture nod to adaptations 71% of the time.


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