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Friday, Feb. 6 at 12:30 p.m. ET

At the Movies With Ann Hornaday

Ann Hornaday
Ann Hornaday (Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)

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Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Movie Critic
Friday, February 6, 2009; 12:30 PM

Is "He's Just Not That Into You" the best date movie option this weekend? Which Oscar-nominated films should you definitely make sure to see? Ann Hornaday can help you decide. She was online Friday, Feb. 6 at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss what's currently showing in theaters and what's on the horizon.

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Hornaday has been a film critic for the Post since 2002. Prior to that, she reviewed movies for the Baltimore Sun and the Austin-American Statesman.

Submit your questions and comments any time before or during the discussion.

A transcript follows.

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Ann Hornaday: Hello, chatters! It's a beautiful day out -- perfect weather for talking about the movies we'll see once it gets dark and cold again!

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Bethesda, MD: Hi, Ann. I routinely see three, four or even five films a day at film festivals, but had an awful time sitting through both parts of "Che" at the E St. Theater one afternoon last week. I think part of the problem is that the second film is just so bleak. You know from the start how it's going to end, and that 90-minute final flight is just excruciating. They are excellent films and I'm glad I saw them, but the second in particular really wiped me out.

Ann Hornaday: Hi Bethesda -- happy to hear you're a festival-goer! I think I know what you mean about that second half of "Che," it *is* excruciating (the moment that sticks out for me is when he can't even get his horse to move, just the pure exhaustion and futility of it, ugh). Unlike you, I was completely transfixed by the experience, as painful as it was. Glad you gave it a chance!

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Ashton, Md.: I saw the play "Doubt" at the Olney Theater and was not sure I wanted to see the movie, despite its talented cast. But I did go see it, and I'm glad I did. I don't think it's giving anything away to say that the play/film involve a Mother Superior's suspicions about the actions of a local pastor. In the play there was, to me, very little evidence to support her concern; but the playwright seems to have tweaked the script a bit for the movie, so that it's a much closer call. Just my take, if anyone else is in this situation.

Ann Hornaday: Hi Ashton -- I'm so glad you got to see both versions of "Doubt." I also saw it as a play, in an outstanding production at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre. But I was actually a little bit disappointed that Shanley stacked the deck a bit more against the priest in the film! (That dinner scene with the other priests, for example.) I think of the two versions, I much preferred the play -- but I'm so very grateful that a wider audience now has a chance to experience it, and with such a fantastic cast. A win-win!

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Davidsonville, Md.: I loved Last Chance Harvey -- what's not to like? -- but was a little concerned by your comparing it to "Before Sunrise," so I was not sure I would like the ending, but I did!

On a vastly different front, critics are now comparing "Wendy and Lucy" to "Into the Wild." They also say it's too "arty" for its own good. Have you seen this? It's down to one showing a day at the E St. Theater, so I figure if I want to see it, I should go this weekend. I don't necessarily need happy endings, but am not in the mood for total downers. Thanks!

Ann Hornaday: Hi Davidsonville -- so, so glad you enjoyed "Last Chance Harvey," a film near and dear to my heart! And to make yet another movie comparison, for a minute there I thought it was going to turn into "An Affair to Remember," so like you I was relieved and exhilarated by that fabulous ending!

As for "Wendy & Lucy": I have seen it, and while I didn't love, love, love it, I think it's absolutely worth seeing. For one thing, Michelle Williams delivers an astounding performance (even if I think her character is underwritten); for another, the director, Kelly Reichardt, I think is doing something really brave in exploring a new genre, sort of American-regional-neo-realism...And about the ending: It's *not* a downer; it's one of those movies where you feel it ends the way it should -- not happy, not sad, just honest and right.

If you go, come back and let us know what you thought!

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Washington, D.C. 20009: Hi Ann, do you know if any D.C. theaters will be showing "Coraline" in 3-D, or will be have to settle for plain old 2-D? Thanks!

Ann Hornaday: Hey there DC! You have lots of good options -- Georgetown, Potomic Mills, Tyson's Corner, and lots of other suburban theaters are playing the 3-D version; check out the Washington Post's Weekend section for a full listing! Enjoy! (I was going to take my 7-year-old this weekend but with the current weather forecast I think we're going to spend as much time outside as possible!)

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Seattle, Wash.: in your "... Into You" review, you write that Scarlett Johannson's "predatory voluptuousness takes over every scene she's in, as if a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float constructed entirely of lips, breasts and hips had suddenly barged into the frame."

I'm hoping you don't think that's a BAD thing.

Ann Hornaday: Exactly! I tried to put that in a non-committal way for just that reason! If you've got it, flaunt it, sister!

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St. Pete, Fla.: My wife and I have a new baby and only time (and babysitter money) to see one (maaaaybe two) of the best picture choices before the awards. Which two would you recommend? If it helps, the one I'm least interested in is "Benjamin Button." Thanks!

Ann Hornaday: Congratulations, St. Pete! And just so you know, "Benjamin Button" is probably my least favorite on that list, so we're on the same beam. Of that line-up, I'd say my very favorite is "Milk," followed in very short order by "Frost/Nixon" and "The Reader." I wasn't as fond of "Slumdog" as many people, but it's a dazzling visual and technical achievement. Hope that helps, I know how precious your time is!

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Just saw "Slumdog Millionaire", and I loved it! I'm really hoping it wins the Oscar, and I can't wait to see the songs performed on the telecast (really, when was the last time a Bollywood-like showstopper was performed on that stage?). I find it funny how some people will get outraged about anything -- like it's not REALLY an 'indie' film or that it's poverty-porn. It's an intense movie, for sure, but I'm glad I saw it on the big screen.

Ann Hornaday: Hello Harrisburg -- Glad you liked "Slumdog," you are certainly in good company! And even if I didn't love it as much as so many viewers and critics (I found it a little bit formulaic, and that lead character/actor didn't really move me), I agree that those songs will be very cool to see and hear on Oscar night (although won't we miss Springsteen and Clint Eastwood?). Thanks for writing!

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Arlington, Va.: Your review was not so favorable for "Not That Into You." I feel like I've never seen a positive review from you for a romantic comedy or "chick flick." (No comments on NTIY since I haven't seen it) I've also noticed you always seem to be the one reviewing such movies, and I can't figure out whether they send you because you're a woman or because they know they'll get a good critique since you don't seem to like such movies. Thoughts?

Ann Hornaday: Oh no! That makes me sad...I *know* I've enjoyed and praised rom-coms in the past, it's just that it's probably one of the most difficult genres to do really well, with originality and heart....To throw out some that I've liked (even though I didn't review all of them): "Enchanted," "Music & Lyrics," "Ghost Town," "About a Boy," "Baby Mama"...Really liked "Something New" a few years back. And I thought "Sex and the City" very honorably served its core audience ... Oh lord, am I turning into a total curmudgeon????

On your other point, I can guarantee you that our brilliant movie editors make a point of mixing up the review assignments, so that no one is 'tracked' by gender or age or other perceived biases. Which is why I won't be reviewing "Confessions of a Shopaholic" next week!

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Alexandria, Va.: In the Friday movie section of the Weekend magazine, there are stars given for some of the movies in the "On Screen" portion of the Weekender. What do they denote? It can't mean perferred movies, because "Slumdog Millionaire" doesn't have a star; and neither do "Revolutionary Road" or "The Wrestler." So, what does the star denote?

Ann Hornaday: Hi Alexandria -- actually those stars *do* denote 'preferred,' at least by the person who originally reviewed them. And I cannot tell a lie: I reviewed both "Slumdog" and "Revolutionary Road," and gave them both mixed-to-negative reviews (okay, "Slumdog" fans, hit that "Send" button now....). The Weekend editors affix the stars according to their reading of our reviews,and they're very reliable.

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Alexandria, Va.: Ann,

I have had the toughest time finding out where we can see Coraline in 3-D. I know it's only being shown in 3-D in certain theaters, but which ones? Any chance you can help my wife and I figure out where we're going for date night this weekend?

Thanks!

Ann Hornaday: Run right out and buy a Washington Post! Seriously, the Weekend section has a nice big ad where all the theaters are listed, both 3D and 2D. Lots of Virginia theaters showing "Coraline" in 3D, including Potomic Mills and Tyson's...

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The armchair critic returns: So who do you think has the better chance of pulling off best foreign... "The Class" or "Waltz with Bashir"??

Ann Hornaday: Armchair! Good question on the foreign-language Oscar...I would think that "Waltz With Bashir" is a shoo-in, although I know "The Class" has already won festival awards and has lots of admirers. But for my money, they're no question "Bashir" should win. It's the "Gurenica" of its time and medium.

There, I said it!

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Alexandria, Va.: I was surprised to see Secret of the Grain get such a lukewarm review in the Post today after almost unanimous rapture from the national press. Have you seen it, and do you have a take on whether it's worth 2.5 hours?

Ann Hornaday: Hi there -- you know what, I was surprised by that too, for the same reasons you were...I haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, but I intend to catch up with it next week. We'll have to huddle next time and compare notes!

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ArtMovieLover, VA: Another reviewer in today's Post gave "Secret of the Grain" a middling review. Did you happen to catch the movie? I know it was highly praised by many other critics.

Ann Hornaday: Woops, see above (or below?)....

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Occoquan, VA: Ann, every year I watch the Oscar-nominated shorts at the E St. Cinema. Every year I ask myself, why? Out of the presumably hundreds to choose from, you would expect all of them to knock your socks off. Not so! Most, IMO, are nothing to write home about. I've seen better shorts at the annual Rehoboth Beach Film Festival!

But my question isn't whether I should go, since I probably will, but how to get the criteria for these shorts' being nominated. I'm a pretty good googler, but so far no luck. Thanks to you and any other chatters who might be able to help!

Ann Hornaday: Greetings, Occoquan! And let me say how pleased I am that you attend the Rehoboth Film Festival -- I've long admired their programming(for as long as I had a house on the Eastern Shore, I never made it to the festival, but rooted for them from the sidelines).

As for criteria for the shorts program, a great question and one I'm completely unqualified to answer except glibly, from off the top of my head. It seems to me that the Academy sees that category as a way to reward ambition and technical prowess -- the art of filmmaking being compressed and distilled in the short form so that things like writing, casting/acting, editing and sound have even bigger impact.

I defer to chatters more knowledgeable than I in this matter to weigh in.....And thanks for that question!

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Burbank, CA: Hi Ann!!

I work at the studio that released HJNTIY so we had an advanced screening. Your review was spot on, my gal pals all desperately wanted to like it, but it somehow fell flat and seemed more sad than funny. Plus the cheat predictable ending had us hissing at the screen. I have no doubt that women will flock to it, but it did not live up to its potential. (and what on earth was the point of the Kris Kristofferson character? Poor guy, paycheck time).

Ann Hornaday: Oh Burbank thanks for that reality check! Women were laughing a lot at the screening I attended, giving me that are-we-watching-same-movie feeling, but like you I think they may have been wanting to like it so much they kind of over-compensated....Sorry to it fall flat. And yes, as the world's biggest Kris K. fan, huh????!

Thanks for the note, now I don't feel like as much of a grumpy old goop....

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a guy who generally goes to the typical guy movies, sports, anything with Will Ferrell, and action stuff. However after hearing about "he is just not that into you" for what seems like an eternity from different girls, I am interested in seeing it. Is this a movie that would be okay to see with a date, or is this basically some movie out to demonize men and I should just skip it?

Ann Hornaday: Oh ask me a *hard* one why don't you?!

Hmmm. Date movie? It has that vibe, but it gets squirmily uncomfortable in the men-are-dogs department...I wouldn't say it demonizes men, but it does reduce them to certain sterotypes...I honestly think of it more as a movie for girls to see together. I doubt very much, given your taste (which is impeccable, at least in the Will Ferrell department), that you would enjoy the HJNTIY experience.

Ladies? Gentlemen? Thoughts 'n' feelings?

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Laurel, Md.: Ann, have you seen Roger Ebert lately? I saw him on Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday and didn't realize that he had part of his chin and throat removed due to his cancer. He had to lalk to Leonard Maltin through a comptuer/voice box. It made me very sad. He and Sieskel were such a big part of my moviegoing experience but I'm glad to see him pushing on.

Ann Hornaday: Hi Laurel, no I haven't seen Mr. Ebert recently. (The last time I saw him was at the press junket for "Gangs of New York," both of us waiting to interview Martin Scorsese. Good times.) Like you, I've been saddened by his recent medical challenges, but so gratified and inspired by his continued outstanding work. No matter what form it comes in, his is still a vital, passionate voice in the cause of film criticism and journalism in general, and we're the richer for it. More power to him!

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Arlington, VA: Ann, just letting you know that I miss your photo today.

Ann Hornaday: Awwwww! I guess my campaign to single-handedly remove every graven image of me in the public universe is working! Bwa-ha-ha-ha! (Actually, our wonderful Post photographer/genius Julia Ewan took that photo and it's one of the very few I can stand to look at! Love her!)

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New York: First of all, "Something New" is probably my favorite RomCom of all time so thanks for mentioning it.

Also, I'm in college and the previews for "Coraline" look kind of terrifying. It's like everything I would have been afraid of as a child. How is this a children's movie?

Ann Hornaday: Yay, "Something New"! One of those movies that deserve much more love!

As for "Coraline": I missed seeing it, so I'm going on reviews just like most parents...Our Family Filmgoer, Jane Horwitz, really liked it, but recommended it for kids over 8. Another of my favorites, Sandie Angulo Chen at commonsensemedia.org, gave it a positive review as well...Seems like a judgment call, depending on your kids' tolerance for frightening and intense material.

Let's just say I'm relieved we're having 60-degree weather this weekend, so I don't have to decide right away!

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Dover, Del.: Hi Ann,

Is "The Wrestler" worth seeing in the theatre? I love action movies, but am up for a good drama about redemption. I'm trying to convince my wife that it will be worth seeing. Thank you!

Ann Hornaday: Hi Dover!

I think "The Wrestler" is worth seeing -- incredible performance by Mickey Rourke; redemption, check; terrific direction by Darren Aronofsky (who knew you could learn so much about a character from the back of his head?). I'll warn you, however, that the wrestling sequences are *brutal.* If you or your wife are the least bit squeamish about graphic violence (even the put-on kind of WWE), be forewarned.

Oh, and there are quite a few shots of Marisa Tomei with her shirt off. Make of that what you will. Good luck.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm on a quest to see all five best picture nominees. I saw the Reader last weekend and thought it was OK, but nothing I'd recommend to a friend. Having seen "Slumdog," "Benjamin Button," and "The Reader" so far, I can say "Gran Torino" and "The Dark Knight" were much better than the latter 2 nominees. Why do you think they weren't considered for best pictures?

Ann Hornaday: Very good question about "Dark Night" and "Gran Torino." ... Lots of people are scratching their heads over the former, since it did such boffo business, and received high marks for its technical/artistic ambition (marks I personally didn't think it deserved, but....) For "TDK" it could be a case of bias against comic book/action movies (much like comedies get overlooked)...For "Gran Torino" it could just be that the Academy deemed it too confrontational in its politics (as opposed to "Crash" which couched issues of race in a softer melodrama)....?

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Fairfax, Va.: Ann,

You mentioned wanting to take your 7 year old to see Coraline. My 7-year-old seems very excited about this movie but the impressions of buttoms being sewn over eyes really sort of freaks me out. Do you think it is really an appropriate movie for kids this age?

Ann Hornaday: Hi Fairfax -- we were just talking about that. It's weird, because my daughter *never* asks to see a movie, this is the first time she's piped up! (Thanks, Nickelodeon!) I'm totally on the fence about it. My ideal would be to see it first, then decide if it's appropriate for her.....Or maybe, best case scenario, see if she's forgotten about it by Monday and then Netflix it when she's 18!

Seriously, I'm inclined to wait and see. (However I *do* want to see the movie myself, it looks amazing!)

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Ann Hornaday: Chatters, we've done it again. Solved all the problems of the world, except whether to take a 7-year-old to "Coraline." You've been grand -- please enjoy what looks to be a gorgeous weekend -- and see you next time!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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