Friday, January 16, 2009

Holocaust Overload?

DEFIANCE. VALKYRIE. THE READER. THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS. Four holocaust movies released within weeks of each other. The timing just makes you wonder: Is Hollywood using all these tragic, inspiring, and emotionally-charged stories as Oscar bait? And how will this over saturation affect audience reactions and attitudes towards the subject matter?

I think it's amazing that there are more holocaust stories (especially those based on true events) that have not been told and stories that we can still definitely learn a lot from. I just wish I didn't have to process them all in the same month. One can also argue that while the four storylines are very distinct, the underlying theme still remains the same -- the resilience of the Jewish people against the tyranny of some really evil men.

THE READER is the strongest of the four and the one garnering more attention among the award-giving bodies. I thought Kate Winslet is sensational. I just hate think it's tacky that all the actors in the film are submitted for supporting acting categories to maximize their chances at a nomination or, in Winslet's case, a win. (Her handlers don't want her competing against herself and possibly canceling her chances against her other 2008 entry, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. But they'll have to face that at the BAFTA anyway.) This is not an ensemble piece without any leads! The delicious and uncut talented young actor David Kross is also unjustifiably being ignored in the awards. His performance rivals that of Winslet's as the emotional center of the film. On a side note, it is good to see Florian Bartholomäi (from ImageOut 2008's FASHION VICTIMS) as the Berg character's brother.

Of course, DEFIANCE, with both Daniel Craig and Jamie Bell (BILLY ELLIOT), already looks very tasty good on paper. But while I thought the film could have been better handled by a more able director, at least it does not dwell on sentimentality. The story of the Bielski brothers is definitely worth celebrating.

I still have yet to trek to the multiplexes to see VALKYRIE. But I've only heard surprisingly favorable comments from those who have seen it. And did I mention I just recently saw Tom Cruise while I was in NYC for the holidays? He was going to see Katie in ALL MY SONS on Broadway. He even looks much better now than when he was younger. He carries maturity really well.

Of the four films, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS has the weakest message, I thought. I'm sure some people would disagree. But I could not get over all the German characters speaking with an English accent and an ending you could see a mile away. And frankly, I still don't know what the message of the film is. That during the holocaust, sometimes the wrong people get gassed? Well, duh!

Anyway, how many of these films have you seen? What do you think? Are you starting to get mental fatigue on the topic? Share your thoughts here.
~Michael Gamilla


Woody said...

Just please, for the love of all that's holly, keep this in mind next time you're lining up films for ImageOut. The past couple years you've had some pretty depressing line-ups on Tuesday or Wednesday nights! And while you got to seem them spread out over a year, we saw them all on one night. ;)

Michael G said...

Thanks Woody. Hopefully, we won't need to distribute Xanax after our screenings. =)

Stefan said...

The only one of these films that I have seen is Boy in Striped Pyjamas. I did enjoy that film, and I think the message is, well a couple of things actually: 1) How far would you go to help a friend 2) Look at what can happen when people hate. That film made me think a bit of West Side Story. I don't know why but it did.

Anyway, the problem I had with the film is a "factual error." I.e. in real life it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to dig a hole under the fence of a Nazi death camp. So, you know....yeah, yeah, I'm a bit of a "party pooper" but I want historical films to be accurate. Otherwise make the film "pure fiction" don't base it on actual events. [Do you] know what I'm sayin'?