4B - Thursday, December 4, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Recent Holocaust films pay
tribute, but not necessarily
in the right ways
By SHERI JANKELOVITZ
Daily Arts Writer
In a recent article called "Never Forget.
You're Reminded," New York Times writer
A.O. Scott wrote of the sudden influx of Holo-
caust films in Hollywood, He claimed these
films were only made to be awards fodder,
rather than pay tribute to the Holocaust itself.
This is an issue I have long had a problem with
I am the grandchild of Holocaust survivors.
I always believed that because of this, I've
grown up with a far greater awareness of this
historical atrocitythan most other children my
age and a deeper sensitivity to the subject.
Within the next month, three Holocaust-
themed movies are being released: "The Boy
in the Striped Pajamas," "Defiance" and "The
Reader." This seems awfully coincidental,
especially considering it's so close to award
The Holocaust is one of those "serious" sub-
jects that filmmakers attempt to grapple with
in order to gain accolades from their peers.
It may seem blunt to say so, but it's true. But,
isn't gaining Academy Award recognition for
the Holocaust on the same plane as someone
portraying a mentally handicapped person for
the same reason? It seems exploitative to gain
prestige off of someone else's tragedy.
This is not to suggest that films about the
Holocaust are an abhorrence, or shouldn't be
made. After all, as the generation of Holocaust
survivors slowly begins to pass away, there
is that lingering question of how the. stories
of these survivors will be remembered after
they're gone. Film is certainly an excellent
medium to keep the stories alive, but there's a
right and a wrong way to do it.
First, the right way: "Schindler's List." This
film manages to be gripping, tragic and infor-
mative without veering off into actual false-
ness. The film's greatest strength is its brutal
honesty and unwillingness to portray the
Holocaust as either an action-adventure tale or
one full of schmaltz. Therefore, it's more than
just a "Holocaust movie." It's a harrowing,
emotional tale of the brutalities of humanity,
made all the more horrifying because the story
is true. Unfortunately, many other filmmakers
haven't learned how to approach this subject in
HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
From Page 1B
"FROST/NIXON: THE ORIGINAL WATERGATE INTERVIEWS"
Shaman Dram Bookshop, $14
Thinking about seeing Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon" in the next
month? Well, that's fine. But why take a risk on a phony Hollywood
adaptation when you could watch the real thing? Anderson Cooper?
Larry King? Forget about it. David Frost was an artist. A hard, pushy
and brilliant telejournalist, Frost never settled for the easy questions.
Perhaps the most notorious, but seemingly unknown dialogue of the last
century, the interview deserves epic treatment. On Dec. 2, Liberation
Entertainment will release the first part in a series of DVDs showing
the real interview. A greatest hits set with over 28 hours of footage, this
is easily more stimulating than that "Mamma Mia!" special edition you
"MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000:
20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION"
"Mystery Science Theater 3000" - the funniest show in TV history after
"The Simpsons" - would make a greatgift any time of the year, and this
20th anniversary box dropped right on time for the holiday season. It's
a bit pricey, but it's worth it just to hear those riotous one-liners again as
Mike Nelson, Joel Hodgson and their robot pals make wisecracks over
four of the worst movies ever made. Especially hilarious in this set are
"Werewolf" and the pathetic sci-fi thriller "Future War," where rubbery
dinosaurs attack a cast of woefully inappropriate-looking "heroes" ("Is
this a halfway house for fat people?" Mike asks at one point). Plus, it
comes with a bust of Crow T. Robot. Now that's a gift.
"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" sacrifices realism for Oscar viability.
the same honest way.
"Life is Beautiful," the Holocaust-as-a-
whimsical-comedy movie, falls into the second
category. Here's the problem: While the great
thing about Judaism is our culture's ability to
find humor to mask pain, the Holocaust is sim-
ply not funny. It never has been and never will
be. Roberto Benigni made a misguided effort to
inject romance and humor into the Holocaust.
The problem is, once society begins to laugh at
something, the seriousness is weakened. This
cannot be allowed to happen.
Filmmakers realized long ago that money and
prizes could be gained fromthe re-telling of past
tragedies. Yet it seems there are few filmmakers
out there who have the talent to address the sub-
ject of the Holocaust without, for lack of a better
term, "Hollywood-izing" it. To imply that audi-
ences today need action, as in "Defiance," or
cute child stars and a complete lack of reality, as
in "Boy in the Striped Pajamas," to view a Holo-
caust film is insulting, to both the generations
who actually survived the Holocaust and their
children and grandchildren.
The Holocaust as a subject is far more com-
plicated than a Hollywood film can ever seek
to capture. Yet the story must be told to ensure
it will indeed never happen again. The prob-
lem lies mainly with Hollywood and its need
to glam up the story with unnecessary action,
sappiness or comedy. To film the Holocaust,
one must be prepared to be real. Filmmakers
often seem afraid to approach the subject with-
out masking it as something else altogether.
The movies that can truly express even a slight
hint of the horrors of this tragedy are those
that address it for what it is. It seems absurd
that most filmmakers don't seem to recognize
this, as the stories of the survivors are certain-
ly amazing enough.
From Page 3B
In one scene, college boy
Marcus marvels at Olivia's
"darting, swabbing, glid-
ing, teeth-licking tongue, the
tongue, which is like the body
stripped of its skin."
I'll admit, I have a soft spot
for the "Red Hot Reads" section.
I love the premises of the select-
ed novels: The private investiga-
tor who falls for the woman he's
supposed to be following; the
hot-shot lawyer who seduces
her possibly murderous client;
the amusement park engineer
and vacationing mom who
embark on a torrid love affair.
Most of the female characters, it
seems, are always named Sum-
mer or Heather or something
like a Stevie Nicks song, and
the men, more often than not,
Dylan - always described as
But just as so much of the
pleasure of reading fiction can
be derived from its escapist
qualities, one would think sex
- even the most embarrass-
ing, uncoordinated episodes
- would be more elegantly,
eloquently described. Or at the
very least, make-more sense.
(From Irvine Welsh's "The
Bedroom Secrets of the Master
Chefs": "Work it in, Mary urged,
as Skinner took his thick green
slime and spread it like a chef
might glaze some pastry, at the
same time slowly breaching and
But for budding writers
with aspirations of badness, it
may be encouraging to know
that it's not necessary to script
an entire sex scene, or even
an entire novel, to win a cash
prize. The Bulwer-Lytton Fic-
tion Contest was established
in 1982, named for the author
of the introduction "it was a
dark and stormy night," and
gives a $250 award for the best
submission of a worst first
line. This year's winner, from
a gentleman named Garrison
worst of erotic
Spik of Washington D.C., how-
ever, shows that the power of
impassioned, hot, breathy love
still has a firm hold on inspir-
ing bad writing.
"Theirs was a New York love,
a checkered taxi ride burning
rubber, and like the city their
passion was open 24/7, steam
rising from their bodies like
slick streets exhaling warm,
moist, white breath through
manhole covers stamped
'Forged by DeLaney Bros., Pis-
cataway, N.J.' "
Chou wants to read your
wildest fantasies. E-mail her
From Page 3B
from the success of Rankin/Bass's
holiday productions by creating
remakes, sequels and spin-offs.
In 2001, Goodtimes Entertain-
ment released a straight-to-DVD
sequel of the beloved "Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer." Though the
sequel, which now runs each win-
ter on ABC Family, stays true to
the characters, has musical num-
bers and uses the same general
plot line, the show has received
criticism for the computer-gener-
ated style of the new "Rudolph."
Abandoning the distinct Rankin/
Bass animation ruined any chance
the movie had of appealing to fans
of the original.
This failure should've discour-
aged further attempts at reviv-
ing Rankin/Bass stories - but it
didn't. In 2006, NBC premiered
a remake of "The Year Without a
Santa Claus." The film discarded
the classic style, swapping stop-
motion animation for live-action
and eliminating the songs that
made the original so appealing.
Needless to say, this effort to revi-
talize the story was unsuccessful,
as the complete divergence from
the original confused those famil-
iar with Rankin/Bass style.
After NBC's poor attempt at a
revival, it would seem that "The
Year Without a Santa Claus" had
been subjected to enough anguish.
But yet another spin-off will air on
Dec. 13 on ABC Family: "A Miser
Brothers' Christmas." Unlike the
others before it, this Rankin/Bass
revival may have hope. Itwill fol-
low the popular characters, Snow
and Heat Miser, who - as in
most other specials - must over-
come their differences to -save
Christmas. But what makes this
one different is that the "Miser
Brothers' Christmas" anima-
tion remains loyal to the classic
stop-motion and was produced
by Warner Brothers, who owns
a large section of the Rankin/
Bass library. These factors will
hopefully bring "Miser Brothers'
Christmas" closer to emulating
the classic aesthetic and give it
an edge over other remakes.
holiday crap on television, it's
easy to see that the stories have
little purpose beyond capitaliz-
ing on the Christmas season. But
the original Rankin/Bass holiday
specials are innocent and sincere.
Their timeless animation makes
TV watching during the holiday
season enjoyable, and it's a shame
that their sad revivals remain a
large contributor to frustrating
is the newest
Despite the fact that these
revivals are devoid of the integ-
rity that made the originals so lov-
able, it's unlikely that studios will
stop trying to renew Rankin/Bass
specials. No matter how awful
the final product is, it will still be.,
associated with a holiday favorite
and thus will always find an audi-
ence. At least that will create a
new tradition: Dodging mediocre
Christmas programming and find-
ing relief in Rankin/Bass's holiday
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In a society dictated by money, class, andpretension,
two young people rise above it all to find true love
PI 1'1tP_ 1'i
romps ral %
By Jane Austen
Adapted for the stage by James Maxwell
Directed by Timothy Douglas
Dept. of Theatre & Drama
December 4 - 7 . Power Center
Tickets $24 & $18 - Students $9 w/ID
League Ticket Office 734-764-2538
MuicThmare &Dance www.music.umich.edu