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November 18, 1999 - Image 24

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-18

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine - Thursday, November 18, 1999 - 138


te Movies of the Decade - #3
Spielberg's vision makes "List""-.^£M
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To be on the list for work at German
industrialist Oskar Schindler's enamel-
ware factory meant more than extra
pieces of bread and hot rather than cold
soup; it meant life. The chance for sur-
vival is what this German industrialist
gave to thousands of Jews during Nazi
occupation in Poland. "Schindler's List,"
an epic piece of work unlike any of
director Steven Spielberg's former
endeavors, painstakingly and ingenious-
ly tells the story of the Holocaust
through the story of one man who hap-
pened to have agood heart.
Schindler wasn't a simple man,
though. He obviously has his weakness-
es for succumbing to temptations -
drinking, carousing, women, etc. But he
undergoes a transformation as the hor-
rors of the Holocaust slowly unfold in
front of his eyes. Initially he picks up
Itzhak Stern, a smart and diligent former
businessman who, to the advantage of
being a Jew, is able to help Schindler
find capable workers from the Plaszow
forced labor camp in Poland, but more
importantly, to help him run the busi-
Schindler's sole purpose at first is the
success of his business. Yet as conditions
worsen in Krakow and forced labor
camps are turned into death camps,
Schindler can't ignore the slow progress
of dehumanization and loss of all moral-
ity practiced by the Nazi officers
involved. He even questions his own
morality when he discovers how many
Germans are involved in such inhumane
practices. Over a couple of drinks

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Liam Neeson somehow looks cool at the end of an ail-nighter in "Schindler's List."

Schindler impressively conveys to Amon
Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), the commandant
of the Plaszow camp, the meaning of
power. Power, he says, doesn't equal
unjustified, cold-blooded killings, it
equals saving one person's life, sparing
him from what's unjust. For a little while
it seems Amon may be able to turn
around and become a changed man. He
makes several attempts, but in the end he
fails - he is a Nazi fanatics and is no
Oskar Schindler.
Then, when Schindler is forced to
move his factory to Brinnlitz, his focus
changes - no longer is he fighting for
his business, he is now fighting to save
as many Jews as he can, hiring 1,100
more to his factory. He is able to bargain
with German officers and convince them
that it is necessary he get as many work-
ers as possible for his factory. In reality
he saves lives.

Spielberg shoots the film in black and
white, creating the necessary dramatic
effect not only by giving a dark and
intense feel, but also heightening the
stark emotional extremes of joy, pain,
sorrow and hope through careful atten-
tion to the degree of light and dark shad-
ows in the scenes. Spielberg's scenes are
powerful, real and intense. When one
man is dragged outside and onto his
knees to be killed because he isn't mak-
ing hinges fast enough, horror is realized
when the SS officers can't seem to get
any of their guns to shoot. We see the
officers baffled by the malfunction, and
we also see the excruciating pain of wait-
ing for death by the old man.
"Schindler's List" moves the audience
as it recounts; it does not merely docu-
ment a historical atrocity, but it adds per-
spective through the moral character of
one person, and the lives he affected.

lMovies of the
Scorsese's 'GoodFelias' dead on -[

By Erin Podoisky
Daly Arts Writer
In each of the past three decades,
Martin Scorsese has directed at least one
truly astounding film. After a few gener-
ally unnoticed movies, he burst into the
1970's nitty gritty film revolution with
"Mean Streets." Three years later with
'Taxi Driver;" his first collaboration with
writer Paul Schrader, Scorsese made
Tra s Bickle (Robert De Niro) into the
world's most misunderstood miscreant,
consistently emasculated by his own
inability to make his intentions clear. It
might be the best film of that decade.
In 1980, Scorsese, Schrader and De
Niro reteamed for "Raging Bull," a box-
ing biopic that brought a bloody new
meaning to "on the ropes"- and again,
very possibly the best film of that decade.
"The Last Temptation ofChrist" and "The
Color of Money;' two of his other '80s
films, also stand tall in his oeuvre.
The 1990s haven't been quite as good
to Scorsese. He's had several flops in a
row now, including the recent "Bringing
Out the Dead" But at the start of this
decade, he made the greatest gangster
flick this side of "The Godfather" where
the protagonist is not a high-ranking
Mafioso --hell, he isn't even pure Italian.
"GoodFellas" stars Ray Liotta, De Niro
and Joe Pesci (who picked up an Oscar for
his troubles) as a trio of New York City

working wiseguys, following them from
the good old days where authorities were
bribable and the Mafia was king to the
recent past. And it's damn close to being
the best film of this decade.
Liotta plays Henry Hill, a Mafia
wannabe whose clear blue eyes reflect all
the way back to his Irish anestors. The
first lines of his running voiceover tell us
all we need to know about him: "As far
back as I can remember, I always wanted
to be a gangster." Case closed.
Throughout "Goodfellas," that's all
Henry really wants. He wants to be one of
the guys even though the wrong blood
runs through his veins, he wants the life,
the camaraderie, the love..
He gets it, and then some.
It's Henry's voiceovers that carry us
through "GoodFellas'" that explain the
things that don't make sense, that com-
ment with wrly deadpan humor on the
images before us. Often voiceover is just
a cover for plot holes and a lack of clarity;
not so here. Liotta does excellent voice
work, providing just the right balance of
subtle enthusiasm and necessary detach.
ment for relaying his life story.
Henry, for his part as a fictional char-
acter, is the unsilent observer, our guide
on this journey through the depths of a
crime family, through the unraveling of an
empire, through the thrill of a heist and
the pain of a sting. His wife, Karen

(Lorraine Bracco), a lone Jew to Henry's
lone Irishman in this culture of Italians,
narrates later in the film, but she cannot
hold a candle to her husband (though she
certainly does try, and were Liotta not so
great at what he does, she would suc-
ceed). The staccato cadences of "Fuck
you, pay me, fuck you, pay me," the
woodenly amused introduction of dinner
participants like Jimmy Two-Times - it
all creates an atmosphere of assurance, of
security. We are in good hands with
Henry, even when his own life is in peril.
We are in the best hands with Scorsese.
Scorsese's conception of the film is
what marks it as a can't-miss endeavor.
There's something about a Scorsese
movie that's different from others - you
can always tell when you're watching
something he's had a hand in. It might be
the mobile, fluid camera, or the way he
uses a cinematographic trick just right. It
might be his ability to choose just the
right song to fill out a scene, like the Wall
of Sound number "Then He Kissed Me"
that accompanies an endless steadicam
shot - cribbed by dozens but equalled
by few (see "Boogie Nights" for a suc-
cessful copycat).
Or maybe it's just the slightly seedy,
grungy New York City that the majority
of his works take place in. It's the kind of
city that's so much fun to watch but not
where you'd want to live, full of characters

De Niro doesn't always age quite this gracefully in Martin Scorcese's "GoodFellas.

with problems galore and no reprieve in
Whatever the reason, "GoodFellas" is
a gangster epic of a different color. Our
guys are not Mafia royalty with body-
guards and compounds. They do not
come through their ordeals with flying
colors; some die, and some suffer a fate
worse than death - otherwise known as
the shnook-laden Witness Protection
Program. The heady days of the '60s and
'70s give way to the sprawling-out-of-
control, drug-fueled desperate hours of

the 1980s. Loyalty gives way to betraya
Planning gives way to impulse. The pe
feet gangster life gives way to uncertain
ty in a world where the rules are chang
The only thing that doesn't tell
Scorsese's unwavering vision of spiralir
human nature as it falls prey to circun
stance and happenstance. It's enough 1
remind us that for all the Spielbeq
pumping out hit after hit, it's Scorset
who rightfully owns the title ofAmerica
greatest living filmmaker.

... .. ." . l

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