MADELEINE BRAND, host.
From NPR News, it's Day to Day. The new film "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a potent reminder of the Holocaust. So is another movie new to the box-office "The Reader" and another "Adam Resurrected." And then there are three more Holocaust movies coming to theaters in the next few weeks "Defiance", "Valkyrie", and "Good." What is with the perfusion of all these Holocaust films? Critic Andrew Wallenstein has a theory.
Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Critic, Deputy Editor, The Hollywood Reporter): I have no right to complain. Better we have too many films that deal with the Holocaust, some might say, that none at all. And that's true. And how can filmmakers resist all the rich story material the Holocaust has to offer? There's no argument there either. But while it would be nice to chalk up this trend to some grand artistic need to grapple which such a terrifying period of history, you have to note the timing of the release of these films, smack in middle of the award season, that end-of-year rush to court Oscars and the like. So let's just say it. The real reason we see so many of these movies is that they are awards bait When you look back on how many Oscars were won movies like "Schindler's List," "Life is Beautiful" and "The Pianist" can you blame Hollywood for revisiting the Holocaust over and over? Well, yeah we should assign blame. Allow me to wag a finger on actors and producers exploiting mass tragedy to earn the kind of gravitas the Holocaust confers. If you don't believe me, ask Kate Winslet. Years before she played a Nazi guard in "The Reader", she satirized Hollywood's Holocaust fetish on the British TV comedy series "Extras." Here she's playing herself opposite series star Ricky Gervais.
(Soundbite of comedy series "Extras")
Mr. RICKY GERVAIS: (As Andy Millman) I'd like - I just want to say I think you know you doing this, is so commendable. You know using your profile to keep the message alive about the Holocaust.
Ms. KATE WINSLET: (As Kate Winslet) My God, I'm not doing it for that. I mean, I don't think we really need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It's like how many have there been, you know? We get it, it was grim, move on. No, I'm doing it because I've noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, guaranteed an Oscar. I've been nominated four times, never won. The whole world is going, why hasn't Winslet won one?
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Sorry, Kate, but I'll be rooting against "The Reader" at the Oscars just to discourage this trend. If there's any Holocaust movie, I'll be polling for, it's "Defiance" which stars Daniel Craig as a leader of a Nazi stopping resistance movement. Strange as it is to see the Holocaust turn into an action movie, I'll support it for no other reason than it shows not every Jew in World War II was led like a lamb to slaughter. In this scene a resistance fighter played by Jamie Bell issues a rally of cry.
(Soundbite of movie "Defiance")
Mr. JAMIE BELL: (As Asael Bielski) This is not the gun. To you it is Bar Kokhba's spear. It is Samson's jaw bone. It is Ehud's sword. It is the slingshot young David use to bring down the monster Goliath. And we will become warriors like the Maccabees and the Sicarii, brave men and women fighting for their freedom.
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: The point here isn't just to call out the film business for impure motives. There's a consequence to their actions to consider. Ultimately, the sheer volume of these movies is going to end up distorting the public perception of the Holocaust, cramming unfathomable horror into a tidy three achromatic structure. But catastrophe should not become cliche. This genre is a field that needs to lie fallow maybe for a decade or two. Sorry to say it, but if a filmmaker is truly moved to tackle the Holocaust, the most meaningful response may be none at all.
BRAND: Andrew Wallenstein is deputy editor at The Hollywood Reporter.
(Soundbite of music)
BRAND: Stay with us, Day to Day returns in a moment.