Category Archives: Holocaust

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)


We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that?

— Bruno

Everyone knows about my hang up with Holocaust movies. I think that they are done to death. No pun intended. Every year, there has to be a dozen movies about the Holocaust trying to grab an Oscar. Everyone knows that’s true. I put my feelings aside to watch writer/director Mark Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Actually, this particular movie was playing at my local Landmark Theatre alongside Milk and I’ve Loved You So Long. I was standing in line to purchase my matinee ticket to Milk.  Two older gentlemen  standing behind me were also in line for the same movie. They looked at the start times and one of them talked about this movie about it was good with a sad ending. That revelation kinda spoiled the ending for me. Somewhat.

Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by John Boyne, the movie focuses on an innocent eight-year-old boy, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) that is uprooted from his life in WWII Berlin to a home in the countryside.

His father, Rafe (David Thewlis) is a SS officer that is transferred to a post in Auchwitz. Elsa (Vera Farmiga) knows that he is an officer, but she doesn’t know the extent of his duties. There are SS officers all around the house. Being so young Bruno doesn’t know what is going on around him.

Bruno is bored with the country life. One day, he sees a man in striped pajamas working around the house, Pavel (David Hayman). Bruno asks him why he is peeling potatoes. A former doctor, he helps bandage Bruno after he falls out of a makeshift swing. His family doesn’t want Bruno to associate with anyone in striped clothes, but they don’t tell him why.

His father wants Bruno and his older sister, Gretel (Amber Beattie) to have an education. The tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) comes and teaches the children Nazi propaganda. Bruno doesn’t understand what he is being taught, but Gretel takes to the lessons to transform into a Nazi sympathizer. Elsa doesn’t want her children to be taught like that.

Going into the woods in the back of the house, Bruno sees a concentration camp in the distance that he thinks is a farm with weird people in the same striped pajamas. He befriends another eight year old boy that sits alone by the electrified fence, Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). They becomes instant friends.

Every day that Bruno talks to Shmuel, he realizes some of what is happening to the people in “the farm.” He sneaks food out of the house to give to Shmuel to eat.

I was feeling lukewarm with the movie until there is a scene at the dinner table that turned the entire movie on its head. I knew that the sad ending was going to happen, but I had no idea of the magnitude it would affect me.

I have implore that Vera Farmiga is vastly underrated as an actress. She gives Oscar caliber work every movie that she is in. She was terrific as a glamourous Berlin socialite, a concerned mother and total basketcase. Wonderful work.

Lastly, I have a problem that a prisoner could walk up to the fence and now get shot. From what I heard when that couple on Oprah that met at a concentration camp would not happen, because anybody going up to the fence will be shot on sight.

Judgment: If you are looking for a movie that wasn’t made for Oscars, I would suggest this movie to you.

Rating: ****

The Reader (2008)

The Reader is a movie that has been nominated for four Golden Globe awards including Best Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Drama Picture.

This film comes from the director of Billy Elliot and The Hours, Steven Daldry. I was skeptical that I would like this film and I was right. I hated it.

The movie centers around the illicit affair between 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross) and a train conductor, Hanna (Kate Winslet) that is twice his age that lasts for the summer of 1958. Michael reads to Hanna every time that they are together, right before they make love. Until one day, when Hanna is promoted, she leaves without telling Michael goodbye.

Eight years later, Michael, as a inspiring lawyer, he witnesses a trail of six women that are accused of killing three hundred Jewish people in a church fire during the Holocaust in 1944. Michael learns that one of the defendants is Hanna. He realizes that Hanna was an SS guard.

There are some clues that leads you to Hanna’s secret shame, the decisions that both older Michael (Ralph Fiennes) and Hanna made throughout their times together. It culminates to a scene that I didn’t understand. The motive for Hanna’s last act.

I was bored to tears during this movie. The only highlights of the film were Kate and Lena Olin who plays the daughter of the lone survivor of the tragedy. The flashbacks and forwards where godawful. That’s it.

My rating: ** stars.

Schnidler’s List (1993)

After the endless craptastic movies that I have seen over the past couple of days, I wanted to see a GOOD MOVIE. I realized that my mother has a copy of the #7 movie from IMDB 250 list, Schindler’s List on tape when it was shown on NBC back in 1997.

I sat down and watched it. Is it me or is this film terribly overrated? Okay. Before you harp on me, hear me out.

My problem with the movie is the lead character Oskar Schindler’s personality. He is an unscrupulous character that when he sees the atrocities on the Holocaust, he tries to save the Jews. I don’t buy that.

I thought that the pace at the beginning of the film was very slow. The only way that saved it was when Ben Kingsley came in.

I have seen so many Holocaust movies that I am getting sick of them. I believe that if I have seen this film when it came out in 1993, I would have thought that it was best movie ever. I think this is just my bias that Hollywood is draining the well dry. Just beating a dead horse. We get it. Holocaust, bad. Jews, good. Nazis, evil.

I will say that I loved Ben Kingsley as Oskar’s accountant, Itzhak Stern. He was wonderful. He deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Liam Neeson was fine as Schindler. Ralph is Ralph. Nothing special.

The crispness of the cinematography. I loved it. It felt like a noir film. The lighting, the shadows. Great.

I just have to say that my tolerance for these movies is waning. I have seen so many that it’s like it has been done before.

Maybe the film is showing it’s age. Maybe it doesn’t hold up. That’s my opinion about this movie.

My rating: *** stars. (Up to review at a later date.)

The Counterfeiters (2007)

The Counterfeiters won the Foreign Language Film Oscar last year for Austria. The movie tells the true story of the greatest counterfeiter working for the Nazi in exchange for their lives, Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics).

This was based on the book by Adolf Burger, played in the movie by August Diehl. He worked alongside with Sally. During last months of WWII, the Nazis were secretly outsourcing Jews in Sachsenhausen to create fraudulent British pound notes and also the American dollar.

At first, I thought the movie spoiled the ending at the beginning of the film. It starts with Sally in Monte Carlo spending the “money” that he stored in a bank. He meets a woman. They spend the night together. She looks at his arm to see the prisoner number from the concentration camp. Then, he flashes back to when he was captured by a secret SS soldier, Herzog (Devid Striesow) and taken to Mauthausen.

After seeing his talent for drawing, he is taken to Sachsenhausen to head up the operation to help the Nazis. They were fed, clothed, showered while others were exterminated around them. They feel guilt that they are treated better then their follow bretheren.

It was a good movie. It wasn’t best movie I have ever seen. It beat out Mongol, which I thought it was a shoo-in to win. You have to wonder was this movie better than Mongol. I can’t answer that.

My rating: ***1/2 stars.

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