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“Worst Holocaust Film Ever Made” – author blasts The Reader February 16, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Entertainment, Movie Reviews.
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Surely there have been worse films about the Holocaust than The Reader

Surely there have been worse films about the Holocaust than The Reader

Author/Journalist says ‘We don’t need another ‘redemptive’ Holocaust Movie

Ron Rosenbaum, a Jewish-American journalist and author who spent years researching Adolf Hitler, has slammed Stephen Daldry’s The Reader as the “The Worst Holocaust Film Ever Made” just a couple of weeks out from the Academy Awards.

Have a look his rant/article entitled ‘Don’t give an Oscar to The Reader’ here.  What do you think?  In it, Rosenbaum says: “This is a film whose essential metaphorical thrust is to exculpate Nazi-era Germans from knowing complicity in the Final Solution. The fact that it was recently nominated for a best picture Oscar offers stunning proof that Hollywood seems to believe that if it’s a “Holocaust film,” it must be worthy of approbation, end of story.”

He then goes on to tear apart the film and its central character, Hanna Schmitz with a lot of exclamation marks, and also takes a few jabs at other Holocaust-related films such as Valkyrie, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and the “disgraceful” Life Is Beautiful.  In short, Rosenbaum doesn’t like The Reader because of the message he perceives it sends.

Who is this guy?

Just where did this dude pop out from?  Does his opinion hold any value?  I was determined to find out, so I looked him up.  According to his Wikipedia entry (and other sources), Rosenbaum is best known for his critically acclaimed book, “Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil.”

According to Rosenbaum, The Reader somehow attempts to exculpate Germans from the Nazi era and post-Nazi era.  Is he reading too much into this?  Did he simply not get the movie?  Or is he so narrow minded as to think that any movie which even mentions the Holocaust needs to be solely focused on the evil and brutality of those involved and any suggestion that they may have been remotely human equates to exculpating them?  Isn’t understanding the best way to ensure that something like the Holocaust never happens again?

It’s clear from the way he blasted the Holocaust-related films such as Valkyrie, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas (which he hasn’t even seen yet) and Life Is Beautiful suggests that Rosenbaum believes that there is no place in cinema for any fictional films that touch on the Holocaust in any way, and even if there is, all it should do is condemn condemn condemn.  Any film that attempts to understand the actions of those complicit in the Holocaust is unforgivable to him.  For a guy that dedicated years of his life to ‘explaining Hitler’ through researching the origins of evil himself (and wrote a book about it), what he has said strikes me as extraordinarily ironic and moronic. 

Rosenbaum’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t believe viewers of films are capable of making up their own minds.  He’s concerned that films like The Reader will brainwash people into believing that the Holocaust was somehow excusable.  He even links the film to Holocaust revisionism and Holocaust denial.  This has clouded his ability to judge the film properly and without overwhelming bias. 

An example is Rosenbaum’s scathing view that Hanna’s illiteracy is the film’s way of excusing her for the unspeakable crimes she committed.  To him, it’s an obvious metaphor for the Germans who pleaded ignorance during the time Jews were being sent to their deaths.  What he fails to see is that the film actually tackles the issue of German ignorance head on.  The scene in which one of the students has an outburst in class sends a clear message that there was no way people didn’t know about what was going on.  As the student implied: everyone, including his parents and teachers, knew but did nothing.  Just because that particular student appeared clueless was just the method of getting the point across, but Rosenbaum completely misconstrues it as exculpating all Germans who pleaded ignorance.  It actually does the opposite.  Further, there is a subtle but enormous difference between ‘exculpating’ and ‘understanding’ – personally, I think the film walked the line well – allowing viewers to understand Hanna’s story and make up their own minds about her.  It’s unfortunate that Rosenbaum couldn’t pick up the difference and rubbishes the entire film for it.

I’d have no problem if he hated the movie because he thought it just wasn’t very good, but his poor reasoning for calling it “The Worst Holocaust Film Ever Made” simply demonstrates that while he might know a lot about the Holocaust, he doesn’t have a clue when it comes to movies.

How will the comments affect the film’s Oscar chances?

The Reader is nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Stephen Daldry and Best Actress for Kate Winslet.  Out of all its nominations, only Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Hanna Schmitz is a favourite to win (thanks to Slumdog Millionaire).  So how are Rosenbaum’s comments likely to affect Kate’s odds of winning her first Oscar statuette after missing out 5 times previously (thrice for Best Actress, twice for Best Supporting Actress)?  Chances are, not very much.

Oscar voting closes tomorrow (17 February 2009), in time for the 22 February ceremony.  Though the critique was published on the 9th of February, it didn’t really gather much press until the last couple of day.   Therefore, despite Rosenbaum’s plea for voters not to cast their vote for the film (and presumably, Kate Winslet), it appears he has left it a little too late.  Even if it did manage to persuade some voters, it’s unlikely that Kate, who has already won most awards on offer thus far, will miss out this year. 

It should be recalled that this is not the first time that the film has been criticised.  When The Reader first came out, the film was condemned by film critic Charlie Finch (unsurprisingly, a friend of Rosenbaum), who complained: “It trivialises the Holocaust. What is repellent is how Daldry uses Kate Winslet’s nubile body to create sympathy for a repellent character. Daldry avoided showing the horror of her crimes – instead we have Holocaust chic which is all about sex, not mass murder.”

This guy was obviously paying too much attention to the sex and Kate’s “nubile body” to have noticed what the film was about.  While the first half of the film does contain a fair amount of nudity and sex, how the attractiveness of one’s body stirs up sympathy remains a strange concept to me.  Finch’s comments caused a little bit of media attention at the time, but they quickly died down and Kate Winslet went on to sweep most of the awards.

I can still recall when negative press about the accuracy of The Hurricane cost Denzel Washington his Oscar and when controversies surrounding Brokeback Mountain‘s subject matter may have prevented Heath Ledger from his.  But in neither of those cases were they as clear cut favourites to win as Kate Winslet is this year.  Most people simple believe it is her time.  I do too.

Thoughts on the NBA All-Star Game February 16, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA.
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Shaq and Kobe try and forget the old times

Shaq and Kobe try and forget the old times

The 58th NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix on Sunday turned out to be an okay affair.  The Western All-Stars creamed the Eastern All-Stars, 146-119, and Kobe Bryant (game-high 27 points) and Shaquille O’Neal (17 points)  made up after years of public bickering by winning co-MVP (I feel all warm and fuzzy now).

The usual stuff

The game itself was what the fans expected.  Highlight dunks, flashy passes, plenty of silly stuff and minimal defense for most of the night.  The Western Conference thoroughly dominated the East with size and speed, though no one seemed to be taking things too seriously.  Shaq provided the entertainment with his dancing and stunts, including one of the highlights – a give ‘n go jam after going through Dwight Howard’s legs.

East played bad

Lebron led the East with 20 points (but on only 8-19 shooting), and provided plenty of eye-popping lay ups.  He may have been trying a little too hard.  There were actually quite a few poor performances on the East team though: Joe Johnson going scoreless in 22 minutes, Allen Iverson scoring 2 points in 16 minutes as a starter; and Devin Harris going -31 on the plus/minus charts in only 17 minutes!

Granger’s first Al-Star appearance!

Danny Granger (perhaps still bummed by the knee) played the least number of minutes (11) on the East squad but was tied for leading FG% with Kevin Garnett (both shot 100%, though Granger only took one shot whereas KG took 5 – but that’s beside the point…)!!  His first All-Star Weekend could have been better – injured knee, first around elimination at the 3P contest, playing the least minutes in a losing effort in the All-Star Game.  Don’t worry Danny, you’ll get more chances in the coming years (hopefully).

Gripes

My main gripe has to be Shaq winning co-MVP in playing only 11 minutes and scoring 17 points with 5 boards.  I know he was the star of the show and the hometown hero, but come on.  It must have left a sour taste in Amare Stoudemire’s mouth – he had more points and rebounds (19 and 6) than Shaq, plus he’s supposed to be the biggest star in Phoenix (I recall Shaq saying it was Amare’s team when he arrived in Phoenix), and yet Shaq’s the one getting all the attention and MVP trophy whereas he’s at the centre of all the trade rumours.  What about Chris Paul?  If anyone should have gotten co-MVP it was the sensational Chris Paul who powered the West’s engine all night.  14 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds – including an alley-oop dunk where he was the receiver!  There were a lot of quiet achievers on the West squad – Brandon Roy, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker in particular.  As a team they shot over 61%, whereas the East only shot 47% against no defense!

Also cringeworthy was the fake love Shaq and Kobe showed for each other.  At least Kobe was a little more honest with himself when he said: “We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff.  We had a good time. That’s all.”

I’ll leave it at that because I might start vomiting.

Finally…well, I got another 3 predictions wrong – the East didn’t beat the West, the final score wasn’t close, and Dwayne Wade didn’t win MVP.  I think out of all the events, I only got one thing right: Kevin Durant to win the Rookie Challenge MVP – but anyone could have seen that one.  Oh well, better luck next year.

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