So once again we have survived.

Schindler’s List

tn_schindlerslistspielbergYou know what movie’s good? SCHINDLER’S LIST! Why did nobody tell me this before?

Would you believe this was my first time seeing SCHINDLER’S LIST? It’s getting toward 20 years old and I remembered I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it yet. It’s kind of a heavy decision to make one day: hey, I got 3 hours before I gotta leave for work, maybe I should watch SCHINDLER’S LIST? Never had the urge I guess.

But recently I did just that and I gotta admit it didn’t bum me out as much as I expect, because it left me high on how good the movie was. It’s a great movie, and all the more impressive to watch right after HOOK. Spielberg must’ve felt real guilty about that one to follow it up with the JURASSIC PARK/SCHINDLER’S LIST one-two punch. And after years of avoidance I gotta say SCHINDLER’S LIST is not what I expected. Of course it’s really emotional, but it’s not at all a chore to watch. Is it bad to say that this is an entertaining movie?

mp_schindlerslistIt begins with Spielberg’s mastery of imagery. A candle dissolves into what looks like a smokestack – a horrific sight in a WWII movie, but as the camera pulls out – phew, it’s just a steam train. But oh shit, wait – trains are usually bad too! In this case it’s bad, but not as bad as I feared for a second there. It’s Polish Jews arriving at the Warsaw ghetto. The beginning of the horror. They don’t realize yet how bad it’s gonna get. (Later they even have discussions about it, and there are varying levels of optimism.)

Next we see a man getting ready for a night on the town. No face, just glamorous closeups of him putting on his watch and jewelry, his cufflinks, money clip, lighter. This is some suave motherfucker. Then the last thing you see is his swastika pin. Ah shit, cinema tricked us into thinking this guy was cool! Now we feel like assholes.

But of course it’s Liam DARKMAN Neeson as Oskar Schindler, future list-writer, current player, schmoozer and businessman. As the movie and war begin he’s hatching a scheme to buy a pot and pan factory and use it to become the king of black market goods. He finds a brilliant Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) and convinces him to use his connections in the community to find investors and employees. In a way it kind of feels like a crime movie like GOODFELLAS, AMERICAN GANGSTER, KILL THE IRISHMAN or anything where you watch a charismatic outside-of-the-box-thinker ingeniously build an empire. Obviously the difference is he never feels like a bad guy or an anti-hero. He’s a criminal against the fuckin Nazi regime. He’s dealing in goods that are only black market because the place got invaded. It’s nice suits and stuff. ‘Cause he likes that stuff. Same thing Diddy would do.

So he’s a good guy, but he’s not exactly Superman or Robin Hood because the only reason he’s sheltering Jews is he thinks it’s “good for business.” Just a convenient part of his money-making scheme, more like a paying-illegal-immigrants-under-the-table type of deal than an intentional good deed. His accountant Stern (Ben Kingsley) is the one that starts claiming old amputees as essential workers to save their lives. But hey, the boss man doesn’t stop him. So he’s a good guy.

Man, what about that scene where Stern doesn’t have his work permit with him and gets put on a train, and Schindler has to threaten the soldiers in charge with getting them fired, then run along the side of the train yelling for Stern until he finds him? It’s an intense struggle to rescue an important man that’s ultimately gonna save hundreds of lives, but at the same time it’s so cold-hearted and uncomfortable – he’s looking past all these people who are gonna be put to their death, searching for the other guy to save. Sorry folks, just looking for my accountant.

Of course this and other experiences lead to a gradual awakening and eventually his activities do become completely about saving lives at great risk to himself. It’s not a business anymore, it’s a front. He even turns it into an ammunition factory for the war effort and then intentionally makes defective ammo. Straight up sabotage. He’s brilliant at justifying his actions with logic that will make sense to Nazis. For example he claims he needs children in his factory because their tiny fingers are the best way to polish the inside of .45 shells. Nazis are assholes, they must love child labor so he’s throwing it out there for them.

And in some sense he is Superman, because there’s something unrelatable about his specific type of heroism. Schindler is not an Everyman. We’re not in his position of power, and even if we were we can’t imagine ourselves ever encountering an evil on the level of the Holocaust. Still, what he does is relevant to any time, ’cause there’s always gonna be business people that could grow a conscience and some balls and use their resources and connections to try to do the right thing and make the world a better place. In some cases it might even be like Schindler at the beginning, it might be “good for business.” There could be profits in getting us off fossil fuels, in letting gay people have weddings, whatever. Or even if there’s not, still you can “Go home to your families as men, not murderers” for doing what you knew in your heart was right.

Ralph Fiennes as the Nazi commandant Goeth is a hell of character too. He’s an evil fucking bastard – some mornings he likes to go out on the porch shirtless and pick off random prisoners with a sniper rifle – but like Verhoeven did later in BLACK BOOK Spielberg dares to give him the monster a few human qualities. His lust for a Jewish woman makes him fantasize about running off with her after the war, and that in turn makes him stand up for Schindler when he gets in trouble for kissing a Jewish woman. It almost seems like they’re building a real friendship, but of course it’s more of a working relationship. Schindler’s gotta butter this guy up to get what he needs out of him, just like buying drinks for the officers in the opening scene. He’s gotta become sort of buddies so he can spray the train cars with hoses (to get much needed water to the prisoners) and make Goeth think it’s a funny, cruel trick. Ha ha, let’s spray ’em with hoses.

This guy is one of history’s biggest monsters, but in his mind he’s just a hard-working joe who never catches a break. In one amazing scene he complains to Schindler about what a pain in the ass it was to build a concentration camp. I mean, have you ever worked with barbed wire? You don’t really think about how hard it is to string that shit up. It’s hard to imagine somebody being so oblivious to whine about something like that, but of course if somebody was gonna do it it would be the fuckin Nazis. Something felt really horribly true about that scene. I believed that he probly really felt that way.

SCHINDLER’S LIST is obviously a story about an exceptionally heroic operation, but I think it’s comforting just to know there were some people in Germany and Poland who tried to do something, didn’t just go along with the program. The Bad Germans, maybe you’d call them. I read that Adi Dassler of Adidas did a little bit of that, giving jobs in his factory to Jews in order to shield them. Obviously not on the same level as Schindler, but I wonder how widespread that was? It’s nice if alot of places were doing it. I mean, what do we sacrifice these days to try to make the world better? Maybe drive a Prius?

There are a hundred little details in the filmmaking that work brilliantly. In the opening, as hundreds of Jews are brought to the ghetto on trains, he starts to focus in on a bureaucrat’s preparations of pen and ink, so he can put their names on a list. Of course this is later reflected with the preparations of the titular list to save as many of them as possible. Another great early scene – one that feels very loose for Spielberg – has a bunch of Jews standing around talking about life in the ghetto, offering different opinions of it, because none of them really realize how bad it’s gonna get. I swear it’s like a Spike Lee scene, like Mother Sister or Da Mayor talking to Martin Lawrence and the other kids in DO THE RIGHT THING.

I don’t know specifically why Spielberg went with the black and white, but it’s perfect. When people use it now black and white can be very stylized, another step away from reality, and a way to emphasize shadows and contrasts, create a dreamy film noir type of atmosphere. That’s not what this is at all. This looks raw and real, like a newsreel maybe. Spielberg tried out more stripped down documentary type of camerawork, but not the kind where it shakes around and looks like crap. I guess he didn’t use cranes or steadicams and did almost half of it with handheld cameras, so it looks different from his other movies. I think subconsciously it feels a little more “real,” but without sacrificing his usual clear visual storytelling and energetic cuts.

Some day if somebody wants to humiliate me they could confront me with all the movies I have publicly admitted to crying at part of. And alright you assholes, you can add this one to the list. I gotta admit I was unprepared for the little epilogue at the end where real life surviving “Schindler Jews” visit his grave. I thought I was through the woods with my manhood intact and that fucker snuck up on me. It could’ve ended with the ol’ onscreen text telling you how many lives Schindler saved, but it takes the next step and makes you actually see real live people who would not exist if not for the events depicted in the movie. I mean, I thought Neeson was really good in DARKMAN too, but it didn’t end with actual saved lives.

Nothing against DARKMAN, I also like DARKMAN. Part 3 is pretty good too. SCHINDLER’S LIST is not very much like the DARKMANs in my opinion but I still recommend it highly.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 at 2:14 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

121 Responses to “Schindler’s List”

  1. For any reason, when this movie is shown on German TV, they never interrupt it with commercials. Doesn’t matter what channel it is on. It’s like they all agreed that it would be pretty tasteless to bomb the audience with colourful spots about candy, cars and washing powder, inbetween scenes of the holocaust. I’m okay with that. I agree, I just wonder why this is the only movie that gets this treatment. I’m just saying either you ban commercials in all movies about real life tragedies like this or you don’t.

    Also it was WAY more common to not agree with the Nazis and help others, than it seemed. My Grandparents and some of my older aunts and uncles could have easily been deported for being stateless and so not being aryan. Y’know how they survived? By being surrounded by a whole street full of neighbours, who all knew the truth about their nationality, but didn’t rat them out to the Nazis.

    Another story: A former boss of mine told me the story of how one of his friends served as soldier in WWII and then later had the chance to become a guard at a concentration camp. Not knowing what this was about, but happy to get a supposedly easy job, that doesn’t involve getting killed in a battle, he took the job. Of course when he found out what happened in this place, he tried everything to get transferred to somewhere else and after a while even succeeded. Cut to decades later, when he and his family are on vacation in Poland and visit a holocaust museum. His young daughter is looking at some pictures from a concentration camp and suddenly yells through the museum: “Hey dad, look, that man in the uniform looks like you!” They left the museum pretty quickly afterwards.

  2. What were your feelings on the Red Coat Little Girl, Vern?

  3. Glad this had such a positive effect on you, Vern. First Tree of Life, now this. We’ll make a drama lover out of you yet. I think I should recommend two of my favourite films: Kieslovski’s The Double Life of Veronique and Malick’s The New World. Try ’em out.

    Now, as much as I fuckin adore Jaws and Close Encounters, Schindler’s List is my favourite Spielberg, and I think some strong arguments could be made that it’s his best. To me Liam Neeson will always be Oskar Schindler, and that emotional breakdown of his towards the end still gets me every time.

    I read once that Spielberg wanted Polanski to make this film at some point, but Polanski said he wasn’t yet ready to take on something so close to his own childhood experiences. I’m glad he did make that decision, because it lead to him eventually making his own holocaust masterpiece, The Pianist.

  4. LOL @ CJ’s story. Talk about an awkward moment.

    Man the last time I saw this movie I was 11 years old and we were learning about the holocaust in 6th grade social studies class. It might be time for me to revisit this one again.

  5. i rewatched this not long ago myself, having not seen it in maybe 15 years. i was afraid that it wouldn’t hold up, but its really still a hell of a movie.

    ralph fiennes’ performance as amon goeth is really something. i think his scenes still stick with me the most, especially his death scene.

    i disagree a little about schindler not being an anti-hero, at least early in the movie – i feel like we’re meant to be apprehensive about this guy who appears to be a slick, amoral war profiteer looking to line his pockets at any cost. he’s charismatic but a bit sleazy too (like a used car salesman), and i think one of the movie’s strengths is in how it views him clearly, as a man from a specific milieu and not as a Braveheart style ‘movie hero’

    and then it spoils that a bit with schindler’s speech at the end of the movie, which i felt struck an incredibly false note and undid some of that specific groundwork they’d laid down. from an emotional/storytelling perspective i get why it’s in there, but i think they were trying to have it both ways with the schindler character. one of the few major missteps in a great movie.

  6. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve not seen this yet, like Vern I always assumed it would be very difficult and upsetting to watch

    but trust me, as soon as it comes out on blu ray, that will change

  7. also Vern, please tell me Jurassic Park is next on your list

    I’ve been waiting years for you to review that

  8. Liam Neeson explains how he got the part, from Life’s Too Short.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKTh7zBIcrM

  9. Griff considering that you love Spielberg’s work so much I’m seriously surprised. It’s generally considered his greatest directorial effort ever. I haven’t seen it since 1995 but that movie still had an effect on me the few times I did see it and I’m not anywhere near being jewish. I remember a lot of it still on a very visceral level and again it’s been that long since I haven’t seen it. I think now as an adult I’ll appreciate it even more and I liked it well enough back then.

  10. Oh yeah I’m looking forward to Vern’s THE LOST WORLD review very much the most out of anything Spileberg he has yet to review. I wonder if he’ll dig the whole T-Rex in san diego madness as much as I did even if I hated the rest of the movie.

  11. I agree this is a great movie but one that I have seen only once. Can’t help it, it depresses the shit out of em, it’s too damn effective. Reading this review reminds me of an article I read a while ago on Cracked.com, which describes the life of Oskar Schindler after his adventures with the Jews. Poor guy couldn’t catch a break apparently, so much for karma.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19564_6-based-true-story-movies-with-unpleasant-epilogues.html

  12. “Also it was WAY more common to not agree with the Nazis and help others, than it seemed”

    –> gotta disagree with you there, Herr Holden. Not agreeing with the Nazis may have been relatively common, but actually DOING something? That was very, very rare in Germany. The overwhelming majority of Germans of that generation is implicated in the events of that time in some way or another. Even the ones who claim to have been apolitical or even sceptical of the regime. Case in point: my grandfather, who, at the ripe old age of 95 cheerfully related the story of encountering a bunch of Polish prisoners, one of whom said “you German pig” to him, in Polish. Now, my grandfather was a Russian teacher, so he could understand the insult and promptly went to the officer in charge and proudly told hima bout the insult. Don’t even want to imagine what happened to the Polish guy. And after the war, in the so-called De-Nazification phase, he cheerfully gave testimonies of good conduct to a local NSDAP-functionary. He is not an exception, little acts of collaboration, seemingly insignificant gestures of content characterize that entire rotten generation.

    And, apart from this, admittedly personal and unsystematic anecdote, Germany, of course, did not have any problem reintegrating the worst Nazi criminals into the emerging Republic after the war. Diplomats, Bureaucrats, judges, mass-murdering policemen, they all became important pillars of postwar society. As opposed to Schindler himself, who had to live off donations from Israel, as opposed to deserters who were ostracized for decades to come, as opposed to Marlene Dietrich, who was deemed a traitor for remaining in the US (to mention a few).

    I think that even movies like Schindler’s list, which is, of course, very good in and of itself, is used to make some problematic ideological points in Germany (i.e. “we weren’t all bad” / “there was resistance”) and obscure the best description of the Germans’ relationship to the Holocaust I have ever read: “Nobody knew everything, Everybody knew something, Nobody knew nothing”.

    Oh, and I second the endorsement of Darkman, of course.

  13. I second the endorsement of DARKMAN III: DIE DARKMAN DIE. Such an underrated movie there. Loved Vosloo and Jeff Fahey in that shit.

  14. Bombie: I’m not saying that all Germans were fighting Hitler, while his Nazi soldiers kept repressing them, but what I wanted to say is that it often looks in movies like nobody cared and they were all fine with sending their neighbours to a concentration camp. And especially Americans (no offense to anybody here) seem to believe the same. Even Vern seemed in this review seriously surprised that there were more than handful of people, who didn’t agree with the Nazi’s view and politics.
    Believe me, I’m not going to deny that a HUGE part of Germany was actually happy with what went down in their country with Hitler in charge, but there are way more stories to be told. Not all of them are as spectacular as Schindler’s, Stauffenberg’s or Rabe’s, but if you hear stories like what I told above, about a whole street of “aryans”, with husbands in the party and kids in the Hitler youth* hiding a family in public and lying for them, you do realize that “the one good German” wasn’t as rare as it often seems. Especially in movies.

    *Okay, it’s not like they had a choice.

  15. I’ve also never seen this one because I have this problem where I’m allergic to a) dramas, b) three-hour long movies, and c) “important” films. But if Vern swears it’s entertaining (even if comparing it to a gangster movie is another good way to make me not want to see it) then I guess I should give it a shot one of these days.

    You hear that SCHINDLER’S LIST? You’ve arrived.

  16. I am German myself, by the way, in case that wasn’t clear from the horrid grammar in my last post. Yes, not ALL Germans agreed, but actively subverting or opposing the regime? Very, very rare indeed. Which is slso apparent from the way Rabe and Schindler were treated after the war. But I am sure you are aware how extraordinarily rare the behaviour exhibited by the neighbors shielding your aunt and uncle is. Of course the situation of living under an oppressive system is much more complex than it is often characterized, maybe especially by American pop-culture. But then, I am very much inclined to treat all those “I was really against Hitler, but what could I do?”-stories with utmost suspicion, because under close inspection they often fall apart.

  17. My grandma got to be the 1 person pulled off a train in a similar situation. And then later, was living in a chimney when the actual Gestapo shined their flashlights down the same chimney to see if anyone was living in there. Fortunately, they weren’t very adept at their job, so I got to write this comment.

  18. Really surprised some of you regulars haven’t seen this one. I thought it was film-lovers 101 kind of stuff. Don’t think this movie will ever not hold up, it really is the perfect time capsule of that period of time.

    I’d say it ranks up there with The Pianist and Saving Private Ryan as my favorite WW 2 movies, with Ryan being my favorite.

    Some stuff that really stuck out for me/are forever burned into my brain. The women being herded into the showers thinking they are going into a gas chamber only to be elated when it turns out to be a shower. The scene with the naked men running laps in the concentration camp yard. Did they starve those actors for real to get that realistic look of people turning into skin and bones?

    I think my favorite bit would be when the boss at the factory times the old man making gun parts or whatever and decides he’s not working fast enough. He drags the dude outside to do a cold-blooded execution only to find his gun won’t fire(wasn’t it one manufactured at Schilndlers factory,or maybe the ammo?) but anyway out of frustration they just pistol whip the dude and storm off pissed. A good way of showing how he saved Jewish lives with not only his list but his saboteuring(?) as well.

    Know, you say you will always remember Neeson as Schindler? I say, have you not seen Krull my good man.

  19. dieselboy: The reason I haven’t seen it is BECAUSE it’s Filmlovers 101 stuff. I got a problem. You tell me I need to see something, I tell you to go fuck yourself. Nothing makes me want to see a movie less than hearing how indispensable it is. I gotta come to it on my own, and if you try to force it on me, I’m pretty much guaranteed to hate it. I miss out on a lot of good shit that way, but what can I do? I’m just wired wrong, I guess.

    Anybody else have this problem?

  20. It is a really great movie. People do complaint about that scene at the end where Schindler cries saying “This ring” saying it could have been used to save more lives” would have liked that scene if he had had that epiphany alone or with just with Stern watching it. Having him do it in front of all the people makes it kind of an uncomfortable spectacle. It’s kind of embarrassing to see a man so emotional in public.

    Also there’s this scene where one of the prisoners in the camp is a female engineer and the Nazis are using her expertise to build something and she starts complaining that their doing it wrong. Don’t get me wrong it was great that women back in those days were able to engineers and shit but I was watching “Will you shut up?! You’re in a concentration camp run by Nazis! These guyswill kill you over nothing and you start bitching them out?!” And of course they do put a luger to her head and she says “This won’t stop me!” and Goeth goes “Yes it will” and just shoots her and shed drops dead instantly. I was wondering if this part of the movie where those high school kids in Oakland were laughing at when the movie came out. It’s like a slasher movie where somebody does something unbelievably stupid that gets them killed.

  21. Bombie: Yeah, the truth is that most people who were against Hitler, just decided to play the game anyway. Often out of fear, but more often out of “Nah, whatever, at least I am doing fine.” A real revolution from the inside would have been nice, but well…humans. I think there where many people who did their part by doing small things, like not snitching or turning a blind eye if nobody else was watching and I think that should count too.

    I also recently read that Gert Fröbe himself apparently helped many Jews to escape, when he had to serve as Nazi soldier in WWII. I would love to hear this story in more detail. One should think that the true story of the most famous Bond villain war heroism would have been at least turned into a script.

  22. I didn’t hear about this until recently, but I think that Chiune Sugihara deserves an honourable mention for related (though not as dangerous) heroism. He enabled the escape of thousands of Lithuanian Jews through the awesome power of office work. It’s astounding how a visa and train fare at the right time could be the difference between freedom and a short life in the concentration camps.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiune_Sugihara

  23. I second Majestyk’s point. That bit in SEINFELD where Jerry makes out during SCHILDLER’S LIST and causes a small scandal always gets a laugh from me. And Elaine’s exasperated “go to hell!” directed at everyone waging a pro-ENGLISH PATIENT campaign against her decidedly SACK LUNCH sensibilities.

    I never bothered with SCHINDLER’S LIST because I dislike SAVING PRIVATE RYAN so much.

  24. Jareth it was always disappointing to me that when they showed the poster to SACK LUNCH there was no Dabney Coleman on it.

  25. It continues to disappointment that Dabney Coleman has yet to appear in a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie.

    But at least we’ll always have DEATH BLOW. That Hawaiian guy, he had it coming to him.

  26. It’s perhaps difficult to understand for people living in countries that never have been under attack or been occupied, but life normalizes after a while. You have to go on with your daily life, work, feed your family and simply endure, even if the country’s being led by a dictator.

    Here in Norway we had Vidkun Quisling and his nazi party who seized power and acted as a sort of government during the German occupation. He was hated of course, and the Norwegian resistance was very active during the whole war (see the movie Max Manus: Man of War for references), but still Norway sent thousands of soldiers to fight with the nazis on the eastern front and over 90 000 Norwegians were convicted for war crimes afterwards.

    A lot of people here in Norway, and all over the world I guess, were basically fascists when it came to the jews and the gypsies and the communists. They didn’t really care what Hitler was doing to them, as long as he kept stum about it. They didn’t even care that he filled up the prison camps in Germany with his own people during the 30’s.

  27. SCHINDLER’S LIST is on a lot of critics’ “Best Movies of the 1990s/Ever” lists for a reason.

    It has excellent filmatism, an intriguing story, and an unflinching commitment to depicting evil. There are no conveniently timed & angled windmill blade shots to mask a bullet to the face. The material is selective & inherently subjective, as it is in all films, but the style, length, multi-facetedness, and thoroughness of this film often makes it feel a bit like the work of a documentarian, in a good way. Then in the parts that depart from realism, when the violins kick in or when a child looks up in the most melodramatic shot ever filmed this side of Chaplin’s THE KID, you realize the disturbingly pure magic of great cinema, that it can depict horror & human suffering, yet it can do so with the benefit of added artistic flourishes without being utterly manipulative.

    It’s important to remember that SCHINDLER’S LIST is pre-SAVING PRIVATE RYAN so that the memorial/cemetery bookend technique doesn’t ruin the movie for you. Spielberg borrowed from himself with that narrative framing device, unfortunately, but you shouldn’t hold it against this movie.

    I’ve had the Thomas Keneally novel on my bookshelf since I was about 10, and I’ve never read it. But I did read Viktor L. Frankl’s MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING, a short book, and I highly recommend it as a companion piece for this Spielberg joint and for anyone interested in being both uplifted & newly depressed by a concentration camp story.

    I wish Vern had covered Ralph Fiennes’s character’s tragic evolution & degeneration from monstrosity to mercy to psychologically tortured back to monstrosity. His story is a fascinating meshing of Old Testament lessons with a 20th century tale of humanism, and possibly a microcosm for the history of the western world up to about 1946.

  28. The only flaw is that the actors speak English.

  29. Put me in the “Not seen this film although everyone else seems to have but that doesn’t make me any less of a man, does it?” camp.

    Which is odd as I’m kinda obsessed with WW2 flicks in general and therefore am not entirely sure how this has kept passing me by.

    I recently learned that my late Grandfather was away fighting during WW2 and his family in Holland were killed by nazis.

    As a consequence, he moved to England and met my Grandmother; which means that, had it not been for the nazis, I wouldn’t be here.

    Thanks, Nazis.

  30. They came for his grandfather’s family. And now he’s coming for them.

    KARLOS is UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

    Those who forget history are condemned to have their ass kicked by it.

  31. Mr. Majestyk, I recommend SCHINDLER’S LIST to you because it is largely an interesting, scary take on what we here might call arthouse badass manliness. I mean, you’re going to want to be in the right mood for this movie, if that’s possible — don’t try to watch it as a cure for “the Mondays” or as a date night in with the ladyfriend, but it’s worth a look someday when you’re pissed-offness/disgust toward most things Spielberg is at least temporarily ebbed.

    SCHINDLER’S LIST’s script & exposition bits are clear (and, umm, yeah, in English), so the movie is totally accessible in that respect, and what makes it an especially rewarding film is that there’s a lot of unbearable silences and a lot being said with unspoken words between the spoken parts of the dialogue. You know, like that jazz analysis about the “notes not being played” that people use sometimes to express the inexpressible, but in this case the stakes are higher because, in the story of SCHINDLER’S LIST, every sound a person makes, every action or inaction he/she performs or fails to perform, every lie he/she justifies or refuses to tell, and every painful truth he/she can’t withhold will affect the lives & deaths of potentially thousands of innocent people.

    And that’s also why I think the tearful ending, when Oskar breaks down, is pretty much perfect. I read y’all’s complaints about it, but I kindly disagree. He’s triumphant, but his efforts weren’t enough, and the eyes of all those people witnessing his sad catharsis are as much a representation of the many many eyes who won’t be able to see him in this lifetime because they are in a mass grave or floating as vaporized human atmospheric particulate somewhere.

    How can you be an angel, someone who seemed to do everything he could to save lives, and still keep a gold plated pen in your pocket? How can you be a true hero, a literal lifesaver thousands of times over, and still feel righteous guilt about your failures?

  32. I don’t have any “pissed-offness/disgust toward most things Spielberg.” I like if not love most of his work. Hell, he directed my favorite movie of all time. I’m not resistant to SL because it’s a Spielberg joint. Practically the only Spielberg movies I haven’t seen are his historical dramas, not because he made them, but because I don’t like that kind of movie, pretty much as a rule. But sure, I should make it a point to make an exception for this one someday. It feels like eating my vegetables, but I guess I’ll take your word for it that Spielberg has ladled enough delicious cheese sauce on top to make it worth it.

  33. I don’t care if some say it’s manipulative or artificial, for me, that ring scene in the end is cinema at its greatest. A pure visceral gut punch. It never fails to choke me up.

    And I don’t even know any Jewish people, or know much about their culture. My country also kept its hands off the whole ethnic cleansing mess during the war (we managed to end up fighting both the Russians and the Germans), so there isn’t any national guilt here over the holocaust either.

    But Spielberg manages to connect me to both the darkest and the brightest aspects of humanity with the film on a very emotional level. It’s one hell of a feat for a black and white movie about something that happened way before I was born in a place I’ve never been in to people I don’t know.

    I consider SCHINDLER’S LIST to be one of Spielberg’s best.

  34. My bad, Majestyk, not “most things Spielberg” — I should have said “some things Spielberg, as it relates to historical drama” or “the Spielberg ‘boy and his horse’ sensibility” perhaps.

    {sob} It’s like we don’t even know each other.

  35. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    knox: “I think some strong arguments could be made that it’s his best.”

    Oh, I think you could say more than that. Of the films I’ve seen of his, it’s his best by a country mile. And that’s the voice of somebody who’s seen “Jurassic Park” something like fifteen times now. I remember to this day the chill I got (I was quite young when first seeing the film) when realising that the white stuff wasn’t snow. If you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about.

    To my eternal shock, I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Mouth’s opinion of a film. (Had to happen eventually, I guess.)

    Since nobody seems to have mentioned it, I’d like to add that this is IMO vying for “John Williams’ best Spielberg score” honours with “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. This one I think is better though because it’s so muted and self-contained. The Auschwitz concentration camp theme in particular… Williams could so easily have done what I found so objectionable about “E. T”‘s score and just hammed it up, but instead he went for a very Herrman-esque minimalism with a single jarring violin solo, slowly joined at the end by the rest of the strings in an off-pitch crescendo that actually bears comparison nowadays to the Joker’s theme in “The Dark Knight”. (Although plainly, the impact is somewhat greater when you’re talking about a place where thousands of innocent people were slaughtered wholesale, as opposed to a place where some guy goes around fighting crime while dressed as a giant bat.)

    Anyway, Auschwitz theme… this is pure legacy-of-Herrman stuff (and in case you hadn’t already gathered, that’s a very, very, very good thing in my opinion.) Utterly pared-down, minimalist, using the absolute least “noise” possible, totally unobtrusive, yet at the same time essential to the mood of the scene. This is what great scoring is all about.

  36. Jareth, you just made me laugh my ass off, bro.

    Who said WW2 couldn’t be funny?

  37. It’s a brilliant, gripping film, one I will watch all the way through if I catch it on TV.

    Interesting point about choking up at it, Vern. SCHINDLER’S LIST doesn’t have that effect on me, but SAVING PRIVATE RYAN – I can’t watch the battle in Ramelle at the end any more, mainly because of Mellish.

    With Spielberg’s productions including these two, Empire of the Sun, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, he’s a powerhouse of serious WW2 drama. Also comedy and adventure.

    Perhaps a review of BoB…? Well worth your time is all I’m sayin’.

  38. As far as the culpability of the German people go, I’ve heard some historians suggest that anti-Semitism was so rampant during 1930s and 40s Germany that the vast majority of the population would have accepted the final solution. Of course, these statements are hotly debated. I do remember a statistic taken in the early 1940s U.S., before we entered the war, where over fifty percent of Americans claimed that German Jews were partially responsible for what was happening to them in Germany. In other words, most Americans weren’t bothered by the fact that Jews in Germany were being stripped of citizenship and corralled into ghettos. My guess is that, at the very least, most Germans were willing support early anti-Semitic policies, and probably turn a blind eye towards the concentration camps. Accepted cultural truths are an incredibly powerful tool.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t grey areas, and I think we’re in a place in history where these need to be looked at. I also understand why some people have avoided Schindler’s List. I sometimes avoid movies when people tell me that I just have to go see them.

  39. I don´t like this movie.

  40. “I miss out on a lot of good shit that way, but what can I do? I’m just wired wrong, I guess.

    Anybody else have this problem?”

    Majestyk, I hear ya. I’m completely the same. Not on Schindler’s, mind you (think I saw it back in the mid 90’s, and thought it was awesome. Saw it again recently, and thought it was even better……it really is that good). But yes, When people try to force things on me, I invariably go the other way. I didn’t see Shawshank for at least 5 years after it was released. And what’s more annoying? I then become one of those people trying to force it on other people.

    But yeah, I hear ya. I’m still to see Hurt Locker and numerous other recent gems because of this affliction…..and oh yeah, a lil film called Citizin Kane. Yep. Need to sort that out…

  41. When I was young in the early-med 90´s, we were forcefed SCHINDLERS LIST. Sure fire way of not liking it at the time. Also it may be an important “film”, but it´s not important for me. I´m sorry but it´s not. I guess it´s a good movie, but I don´t like it that much.

  42. I guess in a lot of ways I like SCHINDLER’S LIST for the same reasons I love THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

    Like Shoot says, the movie might not be important for me. I don’t have much of a personal connection to the content, and I don’t think I share its maker’s beliefs. However, it is pretty much a cinematic masterpiece when you look at the technical aspects of it, the acting, and the impressive structure of the story.

  43. Great review, Vern.

    I’ve been reading the comments on the general German / European population’s complicity with the Nazis’ final solution with great interest. (Gert Frobe was in the German army in WWII? And he helped save Jews?!?)

    After watching SCHINDLER’S LIST (and Vern, you are absolutely right: the great secret that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone admit in print before is that SCHINDLER’S LIST is indeed an entertaining movie) check out SHOAH. You don’t even have to watch all of it, but look at some of the interviews with the Poles and Germans. Anti-Semitism back then was virulent beyond belief.

  44. Schindler’s List is an A+ but I still say the scene where Schindler breaks down crying “I could have done more” nearly ruins the movie. In real life, he simply drove off into the night without saying a word with diamonds in his trunk. That’s a better ending.

  45. Also, yeah, it’s one of the great John Williams scores. When people accuse Williams of only being able to do the giant orchestra thing, I want to shove Schindler’s List down their throats.

  46. Vern – I think you sorta touched on it, but LIST never really gets any credit for being a great thriller.

  47. I too avoided this movie for years. When I pick out a movie it’s always on the basis of being something I would enjoy watching because it’s funny or badass or what-have-you, not something that’s going to make me feel wretched. About a year ago I finally got it through Netflix & let it sit on my coffee table for 2 months. I finally popped it in while I was puttering around the house & figured I’d turn it off when it got to be too much & make a trip to the store. I stopped puttering & sat on the couch watching it from start to finish. It’s sneaky because it is entertaining to watch while at the same time feeling so real. It was phenomenal.

  48. Broddie – I know it’s surprising, but hat can I say? SCHINDLERS LIST just feel through the cracks

  49. Majestyk: I am EXACTLY like you say, and I, too, have never seen this movie. If I treated movies like vegetables (“eat these, they’re good for you”) I think I’d lose interest entirely. But getting a Vern seal of approval is a big boost.

    Mouth: Great book, Frankl’s. I don’t know how helpful it was to people in general–I sure haven’t heard anything about logotherapy anywhere else–but it helped my outlook on life.

  50. I lost the source, but I read this anecdote that the whole Schindler story didn’t become a book until the 70s/80s, whenever it was. But a reporter for LIFE (I think) magazine in the 1940s came upon it and thought, gee what a great story. But the editor killed the story. Why? “People are tired of Holocaust stories.”

    So imagine if that story had gone public in the late 40s, or public as in mainstream America was concerned. I’m damn sure somebody in Hollywood would’ve read that article, thought “gee what a great story,” and would’ve produced a movie about it or tried at least.

    I wonder how a 50s movie of the same story would’ve approached it? Who would’ve played the lead? I’m tempted to joke and say Bogart, because that’s what WB would’ve wanted for the cynical swifter/war profiteer. Point is, if you thought that one LIST scene was corny beyond belief….imagine this movie I’m speculating. Yeah.

    Griff – reminds me of movie buffs busting my balls for not seeing SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN yet.

  51. hey, I’ve never seen SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN either

  52. RRA: Wikipedia says “Poldek Pfefferberg was one of the Schindlerjuden, and made it his life’s mission to tell the story of his savior. Pfefferberg attempted to produce a biopic of Oskar Schindler with MGM in 1963, with Howard Koch writing, but the deal fell through. “

  53. My favorite male European badass WWII survivor got a pretty good movie made about him, I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN YOU: THE LIFE & LEGACY OF SIMON WIESENTHAL (2007).

    From http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/i_have_never_forgotten_you/

    It’s about. . .
    **”. . . Wiesenthal, a concentration camp survivor released from the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in 1945 on the verge of death from starvation. During his imprisonment, Wiesenthal dreamed of one day re-entering society and establishing himself as an architect, but the atrocities of the camp pointed Wiesenthal’s life and career in a much different direction. When Wiesenthal returned to the outside world, with 89 of his family members exterminated by the Holocaust, he vowed to track down and bring to justice as many of the perpetrators of the Nazi atrocity as he could find – and spent years at this task, via a running list of the camp torturers, that he had secretly kept as a detainee. In the early years, with much of the world still ignorant of the extent of the Holocaust, Wiesenthal’s was virtually a one-man operation, but in time, he joined forces with the American War Crimes Unit and U.S. Army War Crimes Committee to see the task through to fruition. All told, Wiesenthal helped incriminate an astonishing 1,100 individuals, including the leaders of the Sobibor and Treblinka camps, Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele – and his overarching goal, astonishingly, was not cold blooded revenge but a simple love of humanity – the need to free future generations from the dark shadow of the Nazi threat.”**

    This documentary choked me up a little bit, not because it’s overpoweringly sad or something, but because I just want so badly, so intensely for this guy to find & prosecute as many old Nazis as possible.

    Imagine how difficult it must have been in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s to track people down, with no google, no fancy credit card systems, no cell phone triangulation, no easy networking with sympathetic fundraisers, and no streamlined communications among international embassies, although the US Army & State Department helped in some of those areas. And Wiesenthal just kept going and going and going, practically 24/7, finding asshole Nazis & war criminals and guiding them to prison. To me, that’s badass.

  54. Vern – MGM, 1960s? That means if that movie had happened, a chance perhaps that Stanley Kramer would’ve directed it. In that case, I’m glad it fell to Spielberg much later. Except for two movies (MAD WORLD and INHERIT THE WIND), Kramer leaves very little for a moviegoer to enjoy if you aren’t necessarily marching to his political outrage/morality preaching drumbeat.

    Griff – My fault, it’s actually SINGING IN THE RAIN. I don’t know why I thought the first word ended in “n'”.

  55. DavidBalls, everyone else – I’ll defend that scene in this way. We’re not talking reality or what “actually happened” because this is a movie, and it’s thematically intentionally. The protagonist starts out indistinguishable from the Nazis, fully aware we are that he’s kissing their asses with major league skill.

    But as the movie wears on, that public face grows thinner and more transparent. There’s (thankfully) never a scene where he says the obvious that I have to start doing the right thing or whatever. The closest surrogate was that whole ghetto liquidation sequence when Neeson is silent, horrified and numb. That was great.

    Anyway, the end happens and that “face” is now gone for he doesn’t need it anymore. Within the narrative, he’s gone 180 from his introduction and is now not a monster or mindless rage and violent anger like Nazis and Fiennes were. He gave away all his money, and look at Fiennes acts like a kid who found his dad’s porno stash. But going broke by choice, Neeson became human in the symbolic sense. Whether his failings, he found within himself his “humanity” (if you want to use that term) to….pure cliche….to bring out his best at the worst of times.

    As much as I admire Kubrick and Gilliam and Godard, but those guys pretty much missed the point with LIST, they really did in their criticisms. Spielberg wasn’t making history. Historical movies don’t just represent depicted times, they also represent the contemporary history of that production. Remember early 1990s what was happening in Europe, Kosovo and Bosnia, war crimes rivaling WW2 yet the West ignored it. A Holocaust rerun in many regards. I’m pretty damn certain that news was what pulled the trigger in Spielberg’s mind to make the movie. His liberal, human outrage that history was repeating again. (or if you want to be relevant today, Syria.)

    Of course his optimistic response to all that, he wants to find something for an audience hang onto during such a damn, hopeless depressing setting. He believes that such horrible things are not fated, they only happen as consequential of previous decisions and actions (or inactions) made, culminating in such tragedies. One guy saved a thousand people, which propegated thousands more to this day because of him. Virtue is not a solitude duty.

    So yeah is that LIST scene corny? Sure. But so is IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, a movie that insists that God allows the Holocaust and wars and everything else bad that ever happened, yet is concerned enough to send angels down to help people from committing suicide. Or that a Savings & Loans bank owner isn’t a soulless greedy fucker but in anti-Rand tradition, actually cares about his neighbors (and customers.) Every year, easy to be cynical as fuck about LIFE, yet every year on TV I watch it, and I’m still moved. In some ways, a better movie than it’s given credit for interestingly enough. That scene and LIST still work.

    Plus filmatically, I would argue that whole scene sets up the cemetary sequence and makes it work even more.

  56. I never saw this. I was offered to go and see it when I was a kid, when it was on the cinema but I passed it by. Not because it was black and white or it didn’t have Indiana Jones in it, it just seemed to heavy and grim for me and as a young kid I guess I lost my bottle over it. Since then I’ve wanted to watch it but haven’t. Reading this review has convinced me that I must see it. Thanks Vern, you even got me striving for excellence.

  57. Jesus Vernon, first The Godfather and now this? What else haven’t you seen?

  58. As I’ve said before I’m extremely old, and I remember very well the controversy surrounding the TV series Holocaust in 1978. A lot of people hated that they made entertainment out of such a tragedy and even more hated it for being too “soapy” to be a realistic tale of what happened in Europe in the 30’s and 40’s. It was like “what the hell does the Americans now about our history”, you know. I liked it, but it was of course way too tame to shock anyone with a basic knowledge of history. The best portrait of what happened in Auschwitz and similar camps during the war, and yes, it has scenes that are actually way more graphic and intense than those in Schindler’s List, is episode 11 of the TV series War and Remembrance from 1988. Sir John Gielgud and Jane Seymour’s characters are sent to Auschwitz and director Dan Curtis doesn’t shy away from anything in a long dialog free sequence that shows what happened from the minute they got of the train to the gas was turned on. It’s one of the most gruesome moments in TV history and it has never been bettered. For those of you who haven’t seen it, seek it out!

  59. just how old are you pegsman?

  60. Not as old as I sounded in that last post, but old enough

  61. Regarding earlier attempts to film the story: Oh, yeah, people had been developing versions of it since the 50s, at least. There was indeed an entire previous script written (which I remember seeing a synopsis of in some book once, and it sounded pretty bad); then Billy Wilder was going to do it for a long time and could never get his version greenlit. When Speilberg got the rights, he offered it too Sidney Lumet and Roman Polanski, who both turned it down, and then Martin Scorsese was actually set to direct it with Spielberg producing. Scorsese oversaw the earliest drafts of the script–he said he was interested primarily in Schindler’s character, the idea that he was such a hustler, almost a con man, yet transcended himself to become so heroic. Personally, I met one of the Schindlerjuden in the late 80s and she said she’d heard Hollywood wanted Paul Newman to play Schindler.

  62. Oh man, if I ever get around to seeing SCHINDLER’S LIST it’s going to be difficult to not imagine Judge Reinhold during that “I could have done more” scene.

  63. I remember that particular episode of War And Peace. Truly harrowing stuff. I saw that when I was very young and it stuck with me. I also remember the Allied troops finding the camp in Band of Brothers. It all makes for difficult viewing for me.

  64. Though I also thought this was a really pretty movie, with some really immersive scenes, for me the tail end cemetary scene pissed me off rather than making me feel moved. The end Schindler speech maybe isn’t quite as epic as it wants to be, but I get why somebody would decide that’s the climax of the movie. But shit, showing the actual old people who were portrayed in the movie at the very end to me was the height of manipulation. And hey, if a filmatist CAN manipulate us well, it’s probably cause he’s that good. But seeing the real-life people being tacked on to a made-up movie is not good filmatism, it’s cheating. It’s taking the movie out of the category of being one fictional take on a story and putting it into the category of representing reality. It’s saying that it’s an Important film, which also can’t quite communicate it’s full importantness without impressing upon us how true to life it is. It takes us out of the movie in order to tell us not to evaluate the movie like any other movie. Kind of like if THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST went a step further and ended with actual footage of Jesus walking out of the tomb. Although I would definitely pay to see that. So hey, it created a very emotional response in me too, I just feel extremely wary of how it seems to resist evaluation (not so much here, thankfully).

  65. Tim Roth shared an interesting anecdote about his private audition with Spielberg for the role of Goeth. Apparently The Beard asked him if he could do a German accent and the cheeky Englishman asked what part of Germany he was talking about.

  66. In Beard-related news, Spielberg is apparently closing in on a deal to make the Moses movie.

    http://www.deadline.com/2012/01/steven-spielberg-moses-movie-gods-and-kings-warner-bros/

    Four thoughts:

    (1) didn’t he produce one already in PRINCE OF EGYPT?
    (2) I have doubts he’ll ever get around to making it, like his INTERSTELLAR which apparently has gone into a black hole.
    (3) How many people crave another Moses movie?
    (4) filmatically, he could totally fucking pull it off.

  67. Vern, I’d love to see you tackle more directors like this. For example, Scorsese. I’d love to see your thoughts on his earlier works (Who’s that Knocking?, Boxcar Bertha, Mean Streets, etc). Just a thought. I’m loving this series so far.

  68. Thanks Stu: your link broke my brain.

  69. I wonder why people are making such a big deal about PRINCE OF EGYPT, in terms of Spielberg’s Moses movie. Yes, he produced it, but it was an animated movie, done by thousands of people, who were not him. If he had any input in it at all, it was probably either giving the directors some suggestions for the final cut or maybe just signing the contract over it.

  70. CJ – Because he’s making a movie starring Moses after having already produced one starring Moses. No you’re right, but that’s why everybody is making that comment. It’s lazy and easy, and you know RRA is all about the Lazy and the Easy. (Eazy-E too, but that’s another topic.)

    You know come to think of it, I never saw PRINCE OF EGYPT. Saw I believe a half four of it one time on HBO, and thought wow the animation is great but why did they insist upon Disneyfying it? Then I cicked the remote. At least they didn’t castrate some of the dark pathos inherit to the material like Disney did with HERCULES*.

    *=After I make that point, one person I know defended it to me as being a screwball comedy. And in retrospect, that makes sense.

  71. I like HERCULES. I don’t want to derail the comment section of SCHINDLER’S LIST too much, but why have animated movies to carry the burden of always being deep? What’s wrong with making a lighthearted, sometimes even pretty silly animated comedy. Like HERCULES.
    For any reason as soon as something is animated, critics and audiences seem to have problems with accepting them, when they aren’t filled with true feeling and heartfelt character development. I’m not really a fan of MADAGASCAR (I did like part 2 and the penguin show, though), but I appreciate that Dreamworks just said: “Nah, screw that. We don’t want our animals to sing about how much they miss home and learn an important lesson in the end. Let’s just portray them as neurotic goofballs, who say something wacky, whenever they open their snouts.”

  72. Isn’t PRINCE OF EGYPT, like, Vern’s first review? Or was that MEN IN BLACK?

    Either way, look it up if you want to see how far he’s come. It’s like watching those old Simpsons shorts on the Tracey Ulman Show.

  73. Do we really need another movie about Moses? There’s no new revealing facts that’s just been discovered, no new biopic out or old girlfriend at last talking to the press about his strange sexual life. It’s the same old boring fairy tale once more. Mel Gibson didn’t come up with anything that improved on Zeffirelli’s 6 hour 1976 version of the life of Jesus, so what can Spielberg show us that we haven’t already seen Chuck Heston and Burt Lancaster do? It’ll probably be Anthony Hopkins with a fake beard parting a CGI Red Sea and talking to a burning bush voiced by Ian McKellen. Didn’t Mel Brooks do this 30 years ago?

  74. Well, maybe this time it will be a more gritty and realistic take on the bible. And maybe closer to the original source, which will make the movie only 10 minutes long.

  75. Maybe a film about Moses, played by Liam Neeson, where he punches some wolves?

  76. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ralph Fiennes have another go as the Pharaoh. He was pretty good in PRINCE OF EGYPT, even if that was voice only.

    I don’t know. On one hand, it’s a well-worn story that has been told many times before. But on the other, Spielberg might knock this one out of the park. He has the passion for all things Jewish which might push him to treat the project something more than a made-for-money blockbuster. He also has a good sense of scale and wonder that’s very important for a story like this. And the big setpieces like parting the Red Sea are probably going to look pretty phenomenal using cutting edge visual effects.

    So I’ll give it a shot if Spielberg ever gets around to doing it (he does seem to always have a half dozen projects in the works simultaneously). But I think I’d rather see him tackle something new and unique than something we’ve seen many times before – INTERSTELLAR, for example, sounded pretty interesting and fresh from the bits and pieces we heard about it. But that seems like a buried project now.

    Whatever the outcome of this thing will be, we still have PRINCE OF EGYPT. Even if it is only produced by Spielberg, it’s still a phenomenal film. Possibly the best film to come out of Dreamworks Animation – a studio that has devolved into churning out smarmy, cookie cutter and entirely forgettable CGI flicks.

  77. You didn’t watch HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and KUNG FU PANDA 2, didn’t you?

  78. CJ – Perception is reality. DRAGON certainly was Pixar-esque, and KFP2…not seen it, but whatever.

    As for HERCULES, no my problem is that the myth’s inherent pathos were castrated and really, that turned me off as a kid. (ROBIN HOOD certainly didn’t suffer from being purely lightweight entertainment) I might give it another chance from the screwball angle. I mean why not?

  79. I remember exactly one thing from HERCULES:

    “Hercules? More like Jerkules!”

    Burn!

  80. Mr. M, I think you’ve just answered the question I had about why they had the Roman form of Hercules when everything else used the Greek. Not a whole lot rhymes with Heracles.

  81. I remember liking HERCULES as a kid because I thought Greek stuff was cool (still do, as a matter of fact)

    did you guys know that Gerald Scarfe was involved with that movie? the art style of it does vaguely resemble his art if you squint (because it’s been heavily Disneyfied)

  82. It’s just a matter of time before he slips up and we all have the chance to denigrate Mr. Majestyk with chants of “More like Mr. Vag-estyk!”

  83. “Kieslovski’s The Double Life of Veronique” I second that recommendation, in fact I think Kieslowski’s Three Colours is also a good recommendation. I have a feeling that Vern would enjoy those.

    As for Schindler’s List, I think it is a great film but it disturbed me that the actors were speaking English. But this is a pet peeve of mine valid for some other U.S productions.

  84. Griff – So that explains those scenes in HERCULES with the marching hammers or those flowers fuck each other until one devoured the other.

    Eliza Bennet – That’s always been something of a pet peeve/joke for me, when such movies insist upon foreign accents but still speak in English. What’s the point? Maybe if you’re highlighting regional differences to make your point, OK I don’t mind.

    I’m reminded of DOCTOR WHO how no matter where that time-traveling asshole goes into the past, he usually meets up with English-speaking actors with English-accents, whether Ancient Rome or King of France. And really, I don’t mind that because we’re accepting at face value that we’re supposed at a different time, different place. Better that than a distractingly bad foreign accent, like Harrison Ford in the otherwise pretty good K-19 movie.

    I also remember now John Frakenheimer’s awesome THE TRAIN, where Burt Lancaster is a French resistance fighter and doesn’t even fucking bother disguising his very American accent. And that didn’t detract the movie, not one bit. I would prefer that if said actor can’t cut the accent mustard than one try to use a horrid accent that probably distracts an audience from the movie.

    *=Martin Scorsese got his balls busted for LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST at the time for having Harvey Keitel not even bothering to hide his Brooklyn accent in ancient Judea, but what Scorsese did was clever. He used different obvious accents to subtlety display how diverse Judea was at that time, not so necessarily homogenous as some people like to believe.

  85. RRA – I own the complete making of The Wall book and in it Gerald Scarfe shares a story about how when he was making Hercules he showed some of the Disney people a short animated film he made in the 60’s that showed Micky Mouse smoking a joint and tripping out, needless to say they didn’t find it very funny (though they didn’t fire him or anything)

    Gerald Scarfe is really awesome by the way, someone should give him a ton of money to make his own animated film before he passes away

  86. also RRA, Martin Scorsese got his balls busted for a lot of things in The Last Temptation of Christ, like Jesus doing it

  87. oh and one last interesting Gerald Scarfe tidbit, did you know that he worked with the band so closely that they actually considered him an unofficial fifth member of the band?

  88. Ah THE WALL. I know Alan Parker disowned it because of the production history*, but I still say that’s probably my favorite movie of his. An awesome one, in the truest sense of the word in spite of whatever flaws one could point out. I know THRILLER gets the credit for revolutionizing music videos in the 80s, but THE WALL movie came out in 1982 as well, and I always suspected that it played some sort of influence.

    *=I admire his musical achievements, mostly Pink Floyd (though PROS & CONS OF HITCHHIKING is a pretty good album) but Roger Water without doubt is a wanker. Still I went to that WALL concert of his last year, it was fucking awesome. (“awesome” and Pink Floyd somehow end up being associated with each other alot, don’t they?)

  89. The Wall is actually one of my favorite movies (sure wish it was on blu ray)

    I’ve never understood why neither Alan Parker or Roger Waters dislike it either, even after reading the making of book

    say Vern, you should review The Wall sometime

  90. As an old punk rocker I’m under contract to hate Pink Floyd, but I like The Wall as a movie.

  91. pegsman – I take it you’re contractually obligated to also hate Steely Dan and Foreigner too, right?

  92. Hate Steely Dan? Only a fool would say that.

  93. Mr. M – aren’t mindless genre advocates all fools?

    Reminds me of dumbass white trash who still insist that hip-hop is a trend.

  94. I like Steely Dan a lot because there’s a lot of cynicism smuggled into their cheesy lounge rock, but I can see why people wouldn’t like them. My comment was just referencing one of their more famous songs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqVtM1hax7Y

    Foreigner, however, is above reproach. Let’s not even go down that road.

  95. I always wondered if the Foreigner guy ever did find out what love is. He really seemed to want to know.

    Answer: love is a stranger in an open car. Also it is a battlefield. War is won by the best dancing.

  96. If he ever did find out, he never told Haddaway.

  97. hey now, I like Foreigner

    I mean, they’re not like one of my favorites or anything, but they’re perfectly listenable classic rock

    I also like “Second Chance” by 38 Special if that tells you anything about me

  98. Griff: Anybody who digs both Foreigner and the Special is alright with me. Respect.

  99. Mr. Majestyk: Musical Elitist.

    *This ad brought to you by the Jukebox Antihero Super PAC.* lol

    I got nothing against Steely Dan*, but punkers I know tend to like tog group them and Foreigner/Eagles/Wings/REO Speedwagon/mainstream late 70s rock along with the prog rockers all together as beingthe bland evil of why Punk emerged.

    Or something that silly.

    *=Only listened to one SD album all the way through, and the biggest cliche really: AJA. Good record. Not a fan of theirs, but I respect them. But Foreigner and Eagles, those two are dull as dishwater. Of course that said, I love Queen, so yes Mr. M, yes that shocking revelation in your inevitable revenge Super AD you’ll run against me in your next posting.

    Here’s an idea. “RRA: He calls Foreigner lame, but loves “I’m in Love With My Car”?”

  100. say what you will about the rest of The Eagles songs (I’ve not really listened to them), but Hotel California (the song) is a classic, I really don’t understand how someone could hate that song at least

    and saying you love Queen is like saying to love orgasms, how could you NOT?

    keep in mind, I’m 22, the entirely of 1970’s music, nay 1970’s culture in general, is laid out before me for me to partake of without any personal experiences or memories shaping my opinions on them, so I don’t care what was “hip” at the time or what was not, I like what I like, the past is my playground

    and let me tell you, I would rather listen to Pink Floyd than the Sex Pistols aaaaaaaaany day of the week

  101. I don’t have anything against Foreigner (really, how could anyone dislike the music that Les Nessman got his freak on to?) but it has always seemed to me that it would take only the slightest nudge for Foreigner to become REO Speedwagon.

  102. RRA, yes I really am that silly. And Griff, Floyd over Pistols?! I agree with Majestyk, let’s not go down this road.

  103. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 28th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Pegsman – as much as I enjoy anti-monarchist sentiment in pretty much all its forms (it being so regrettably rare nowadays), I am very much on the side of Griff on this one. I own four “Pink Floyd” albums. I don’t own a single “Sex Pistols” album.

    And LET’S GO DOWN THIS ROAD.

    Anyway…

    Griff – you can hate “Hotel California” for the same reason that you can hate “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Imagine”. Because they’ve been relentlessly, suffocatingly overplayed. (This is why the only Christmas song I actually like any more, “Blue Christmas” by Elvis, is the one that never seems to get played anywhere.) FTR I think they’re all fantastic songs, but you’ve not been a student if you haven’t heard a gaggle of drunk nineteen-year-olds scream “GALLILEO! Gallileo! GALLILEO! Gallileo!” at least twice a week, every week, ever.

    How the heck did we get from Schinder’s List to the Sex Pistols, anyway?

  104. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 28th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Yeesh, talking of music, anybody else find this unspeakably depressing, especially #5:

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/53027

    Really? REALLY?

    Evidently some people LIKE being blasted by a fanfare of trumpets every time the main character makes a wisecrack or picks his nose. What the FUCK?

    On the plus side, AICN have a rave review of “The Raid”. Hopefully that won’t be another let-down.

  105. Paul, if you don’t own a single Pistols album, then I really think you should get one (or THE one, since they only released one album). Everyone need a bit of thet energy once in a while, especially after listening to the pre 1976 music dinosaurs for too long. It doesn’t even have to be the Pistols. Why not try some Ramones, Clash or Dead Kennedys?

  106. Speaking of I have to buy a copy of that album. I had mine stolen years ago. I’d recommend that album just fine over most other punk joints though. I can’t fathom anybody not feeling the manic energy of songs like SUBMISSION and PROBLEMS in their very veins when listening to them. It’s powerful music.

  107. So I just saw Schindler’s List for the first time as well. Actually I was prompted by Vern’s review. I’m sure you all know what that’s like.

    Anyway, I had a few thoughts on it and then I found a review that expresses them better than I would have:

    http://filmfreakcentral.net/dvdreviews/schindlerslist.htm

    Although I would not give the film a mediocre rating as the linked reviewer did, I am sympathetic to a number of the positions he takes.

    1) The “one more life” speech isn’t the problem, it’s the preceding speech where he invites the SS to start shooting his workers. Although that “men vs. murderers” line is nice and resonant, I really have a problem with him saying “So now’s your chance to shoot them” and then dramatically pausing before saving face. But it’s crap, it’s a moment that is crafted to manipulate the audience. Realistically I don’t think Schindler would have given all those people 2.5 seconds of horrible terror as they wait for the bullets to start ripping into their bodies.

    2) The “one more life” speech. It’s not a ring people, it’s his Nazi pin, outlined in gold!! The ring was made by the Jews as a thank-you present for Oskar. He hadn’t obtained it until just then, so he couldn’t have used its material worth to help because of plain and simple chronology. Also I really like this part, because it sums up the emotional impact of the movie for me. He goes, in his speculation, from 10 lives to 2 to 1, and even just the 1 matters enough to bring him to tears. That’s how much each one of these people mattered, and same for the 6 million who didn’t make it*. It’s just….it’s pretty impossible to comprehend the realities of genocide, but I think it’s an earnest attempt to do so.

    3) I REALLY had a problem with Fiennes’ character. Coming from a guy (Spielberg) who reportedly was so offended by Life is Beautiful’s moviefication of the holocaust that he walked out on a screening, I was pretty shocked by the amount of comic relief that centered around this character. I think it’s totally fine and healthy to combat the world’s bullshit with humor, but to me this character felt as if Spielberg chickened out and went for a cartoony caricature instead of something truly unsettling. It’s more comfortable if the movie’s #1 dick Nazi is a doofus that you can make fun of. The scene where none of their guns work and they can’t execute the latchsmith would have been more at home in something like The Sopranos (or Coen bros, or basically anything that gets pitch-black humor better than Steven). And christ, that scene where he makes the brief attempt to be merciful and fails? How is that scene not playing a child’s death for laughs?

    Yeah, the more I think about it, nearly every aspect of this character’s involvement in the movie has some sort of problem. The scene of him sniping off the porch is good, but then you literally hear a character recount the exact same scene later. The scene of him and his maid is probably the most out-of-left-field bit in the film, what with the imaginary conversation that is only taking place in his mind. It reminded me of that thing in Elizabeth where she is practicing her speech and it goes into this outtake-reel style of editing that is not used anywhere else in the film.

    4) All that shit aside, the film is pretty fucking awesome just because of the raw power of Spielberg’s visual storytelling chops. I don’t mean to say “it had good camerawork” but that this guy understands the visual medium as a storytelling tool better than anybody, and when he’s on, he is so on. Also I’d hate to be the one to point this out but there are way more naked chicks in this movie than in most of his films. Still I don’t think it was as good as Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Catch Me If You Can which remain my two favorite films he made.

  108. Oh and BTW, they hate the film The Wall because the all the songs in it are ridiculously bad renditions of the mediocre originals upon which they are based.

    If the flowers weren’t in it would you really still like this movie?

  109. First four Sabbath albums instead, please.

  110. More PINK FLOYD THE WALL talk since I haven’t seen SL. Roger said he was dissatisfied with the movie in part because it didn’t have any laughs (apart from Bob Hoskins as the manager). There is a rather dark humor in the record that didn’t translate onto the film, especially the fascist rally stuff which was filmed with real Neo-Nazi skinheads. It mangled the satire of rock concerts being akin to those kinds of events, into something that could have been taken the wrong way by people sensitive about that stuff. Fortunately it wasn’t as the film as a whole flew over a lot of people’s heads (including Spielberg’s too).

    I like the movie for what it is, especially as a rabid PF fan. I think if I was even a casual fan I’d probably have less of an opinion of it. I feel the same about the record, too. I’m really much more of a fan of the period from when Syd Barrett left to WISH YOU WERE HERE which is my all-time favorite album. But the majority of albums they have put out from the beginning to the end have deeper meaning to me because I was absolutely the right age to have gotten into them. 13, when my mind was just beginning to comprehend the deeper meanings to lyrics, but still have a somewhat child-like response to how utterly profound the music was. It was 1997, a year when almost no mainstream rock bands a teenager would have been exposed to, had that kind of depth. I got into other classic and progressive rock bands too as I got older and for the most part didn’t look back much.

  111. Ironically it was THE WALL movie how I discovered PF. I heard of PF, but I assumed (as “Have a Cigar” mentioned) that it was a dude’s name and not a band. Took a chance on it because of the cover and then…..holy shit what the hell is this? Fan for life.

    I think its a wonderful, ballsy uncompromising sort of musical that just wouldn’t get produced today. One of a kind. Many memorable, effective filmatic sequences. If you’re a musical movie made today, its as a supposed universal audience friendly entertainment like LES MISERABLES or ROCK OF AGES (which bombed hard) or whatever. But a depressing, cynical movie that rubs your face in wallow in this awesome “self-pity rock opera” (as Rolling Stone called the album back in the day) and without dialogue….hell not even the Emo groups and those sorts that would dig this shit and topic material would even consider making a movie today of their albums. (Didn’t Green Day have an album that became a Broadway show? But that was it.) No they just do a concert film and that be it.

    Worth reading is the late Ebert’s Great Movies essay on THE WALL. He gets several facts embarrasingly wrong, but otherwise he makes a hell of an argument for why the movie rocks.

    Fun memory: I remember seeing the movie late at night as a teenager, wanting to make sure my parents wouldn’t wake up because of the volume. So yeah after the bombastic “The Trial” which I tempered the volume, then came that long quiet sequence at the wall. I wondered WTF and I raised the volume…just then the Wall exploded BOOOOOOM the whole fucking household could hear it.

    Ah good times.

  112. My little brother watched it when I’d rented it during the time I was 13 and getting into the music, on his own and without me knowing because he’d heard there was female nudity in it. He later told me he got nightmares from it. Good times indeed.

  113. I find it hard to call the movie a musical, RRA. Geldof sings only a couple times in the movie (and quite awfully, which I never understood because he does have a good singing voice). The “extended music video” analogy a lot of critics use is more apt, though not entirely. It does have a plot, it just doesn’t bang it’s head over the audience. The songs move the plot along, which if you force yourself to listen to the words it does move along quicker. I haven’t seen it yet, but I think this is what the film version of QUADROPHENIA does though I believe there is more dialogue in it.

    You are right when it comes to something like this never being produced by Hollywood again. It’s also because the era of the album ended shortly after it came out. MTV became part of the culture, CD’s took over from vinyl and things were never the same again. For his part, Roger did continue into the 80’s with albums of a very highly narrative nature that were largely ignored for these very reasons. It was only when he made AMUSED TO DEATH, that he returned to a less story-driven narrative and more and more into social commentary. It was as well largely ignored as well, which is a shame because it’s some of his best work.

  114. onthewall2983 – Well Waters got ignored because lets be honest, he wasn’t a Beatle or anybody well known when he was with Pink Floyd. So when he quit Pink Floyd (and tried and failed to retire that act), he really didn’t get that much benefit from being so tied with PF to be honest. Not to mention his solo albums (which I’ll add have some merit) just weren’t as good as the Pink Floyd records. Waters has the bad tendency of having the musicality of a one-key piano. Then again the Waters-less PF albums (which I’ll add have some merit) weren’t as good as the PF records either. I just remember Rolling Stone back in the late 80s saying A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON and RADIO K.A.O.S. together would’ve made a pretty good PF album.

    Not to mention the times were changing, and yeah music tastes were going against Waters and PF. Times were changing.

    As for THE WALL=not a musical, yes its a musical. A musical is a movie which uses music/songs to propel the narrative forward. If action movies the star is the action, the star in musicals is the music. THE WALL is a musical, albeit the 1980s MTV music video variety but a musical none the less.

  115. The start of YET ANOTHER MOVIE from A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON sounds just like the music at the start of ABOVE THE LAW. Coincidence? Almost certainly

  116. “I just remember Rolling Stone back in the late 80s saying A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON and RADIO K.A.O.S. together would’ve made a pretty good PF album.” I say the same thing about ATD and THE DIVISION BELL (although that is one of my favorite Floyd albums, even above THE WALL for me).

    I’ll have to defer to you about the opinion of being it a musical then. I’m not a huge fan of them period, so it’s probably out of my ballpark to defend that earlier notion.

  117. I’ve been wanting to rewatch JAWS the past few days but lately, thanks to the greatness of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, I’ve had Liam Neeson on my mind, so I did a compromise and rewatched this one instead. And damn if it’s not a classic. I always thought it was, mind you but here’s the thing – this time I was aware of how tense my body was through most of the film. I’m lying in bed, stretched out, my butt cheeks are clenched, my toes are curling up, and I’m breaking a sweat in the scenes where Schindlers workers get accidentally sent to a death camp and he has to go in and rescue them, in the scene where a factory worker gets taken outside to be executed but the guns won’t work(!!). And it’s not just Schindler but his Jewish buddy Ben Kingsley who wrangles Jews from the “wrong line” on a daily basis. I was exhausted by the end of it, and I reckon Spielberg did it on purpose, just so he could kick me in the guts again when Schindler breaks down in the final scenes.

    I’m still gonna watch JAWS again, but I’ll be surprised if I find it as masterful as this.

    (Also, Ralph Fiennes is an evil prick.)

  118. Note on Neeson – Im preaching to the converted about how good this guy is, but I just think he is one of the all time greats. A movie star thanks to the success of the TAKENS and such, and a gifted dramatic actor as in Schindler. He has the presence and swagger of John Wayne, (in SCHINDLERS LIST he reminded me of a youngish Wayne), and he’s got the emotional gravitas to ground his roles and make him an accessible entry point for us.

    In Schindler, I noticed his character Oskar had a lot in common with Matt Scudder – both self serving, alcoholics, both come up against serial killers (Ameon Goethe – psychopath in a uniform), both are redeemed somewhat through selflessness.

  119. Quite ironically Liam Neeson appeared in a brief intro before last night’s screening of ROGER WATERS THE WALL.

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