November 15, 2013
The Book Thief: The Holocaust as Afterschool Special

“I don’t think we really need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It’s like, how many have there been?” Thus lamented Kate Winslet in the U.S. debut of the Ricky Gervais series Extras in late 2005. Winslet was playing herself, and she was in the process of explaining why she’d accepted the role of a nun in a Holocaust movie. She continued: “I’m doing this this because I’ve noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust you’re guaranteed an Oscar…. Schindler’s bloody List, The Pianist—Oscars coming out their ass.”
It was a cunning bit of snark at the time, and it only became more so three years later when—life imitating satire—the Academy voted to grant Winslet her first Oscar for her performance in, yes, a Holocaust movie, The Reader. It was a particular irony given that this was a subpar performance in a mediocre film, and that Winslet actually deserved the award for another performance the same year, in Revolutionary Road, for which she was not nominated. Suffice it to say that the whole episode did not exactly put to rest the calculated gamble that Holocaust movies beget Oscar gold.
And so another awards season brings another film (adapted from another international bestseller) offering up the unrelated and uncontroversial lessons that reading is good and Nazis are bad. The Book Thief, directed by Brian Percival and based on the novel by Markus Zusak, is essentially The Reader reimagined as an Afterschool Special: similarly earnest and plodding, but with the sex and moral ambiguity removed.
Read more. [Image: 20th Century Fox]

The Book Thief: The Holocaust as Afterschool Special

“I don’t think we really need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It’s like, how many have there been?” Thus lamented Kate Winslet in the U.S. debut of the Ricky Gervais series Extras in late 2005. Winslet was playing herself, and she was in the process of explaining why she’d accepted the role of a nun in a Holocaust movie. She continued: “I’m doing this this because I’ve noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust you’re guaranteed an Oscar…. Schindler’s bloody List, The Pianist—Oscars coming out their ass.”

It was a cunning bit of snark at the time, and it only became more so three years later when—life imitating satire—the Academy voted to grant Winslet her first Oscar for her performance in, yes, a Holocaust movie, The Reader. It was a particular irony given that this was a subpar performance in a mediocre film, and that Winslet actually deserved the award for another performance the same year, in Revolutionary Road, for which she was not nominated. Suffice it to say that the whole episode did not exactly put to rest the calculated gamble that Holocaust movies beget Oscar gold.

And so another awards season brings another film (adapted from another international bestseller) offering up the unrelated and uncontroversial lessons that reading is good and Nazis are bad. The Book Thief, directed by Brian Percival and based on the novel by Markus Zusak, is essentially The Reader reimagined as an Afterschool Special: similarly earnest and plodding, but with the sex and moral ambiguity removed.

Read more. [Image: 20th Century Fox]

  1. hoomanao reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    This has been out now for three weeks. I haven’t read or watched this yet. I plan to. For now, I’m posting this because...
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  8. catedrals reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    This reviewer either has no soul or did not read the same book I did. The thought makes me sad.
  9. catedrals said: This reviewer either has no soul or did not read the same book I did. The thought makes me sad.
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