Friday, February 17, 2006

Stephen Holden Reviews Sophie Scholl

The New York Times Never Fails To Disappoint

Ten days ago, I pointed to the trailer of Sophie Scholl, this year's German nominee for best foreign film, as a movie that looked compelling. It's the story of a young German idealist with the courage to dissent under Hitler's regime, a crime for which she paid with her life. Acts which took extraordinary, exemplary courage in the worst of worlds.

So this morning for reasons no longer apparent to me, I thought, what the heck. I'll look at the NYTimes online. And when I saw the little thumbnail for Sophie Scholl, curious, I opened the review.

This is the opening paragraph:
"Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" conveys what it must have been like to be a young, smart, idealistic dissenter in Nazi Germany, where no dissent was tolerated. This gripping true story, directed in a cool, semi-documentary style by the German filmmaker Marc Rothemund from a screenplay by Fred Breinersdorfer, challenges you to gauge your own courage and strength of character should you find yourself in similar circumstances. Would you risk your life the way Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) and a tiny group of fellow students at Munich University did to spread antigovernment leaflets? How would you behave during the kind of relentless interrogations that Sophie endures? If sentenced to death for your activities, would you still consider your resistance to have been worth it? In a climate of national debate in the United States about the overriding of certain civil liberties to fight terrorism, the movie looks back on a worst possible scenario in which such liberties were taken away. It raises an unspoken question: could it happen here?
Oh, good to know that Stephen Holden identifies immediately with the heroine. He is a young (well actually I don't know how old he is), smart, idealistic dissenter in Bush's Nazi America. The story of her time is also the story of his. For obviously the question of whether he would dissent at the cost of his life in this neo-Nazi Con regime has occurred to him frequently. Does he have as much courage as Sophie??? Because obviously, the Hitler regime might make another appearance here.

The question of courage seems to be much on Democrat's minds these days. There are two obvious rejoinders to this: the Democrat's really feel they are living in a proto-Nazi regime and think they better keep on testing their internal fortitude. The insanity, lack of perspective and ahistoricity of that one pretty much speaks for itself.

And the other one is that many of their positions don't appear on the face to be particularly brave. So they need to keep wondering about their own level of courage as they give up the fight on so many fronts.

It is with this question in mind that we turn now to those brave dissenters who work in the entertainment industry who recently have remarked publicly on their own courage: George Clooney and Steven Spielberg.

How do I know they are brave?

Why, Steven and George told me they were.

They, too, dare to be dissenters in Bush's Amerika. From a recent Newsweek interview:
CLOONEY: From the end of the first wave of the civil-rights movement, all the way through Watergate, people were constantly talking about what was going on in the country. Now it seems that's happening again. You can sit in a room and have people talk about politics—in Los Angeles, of all places.

LEE: There seems to be a collective social consciousness.

SPIELBERG: I think we all have been given our marching orders ... Maybe I shouldn't get into this. [Pause] I just feel that filmmakers are much more proactive since the second Bush administration. I think that everybody is trying to declare their independence and state their case for the things that we believe in. No one is really representing us, so we're now representing our own feelings, and we're trying to strike back.

So Bush has been good for film?

SPIELBERG: I wouldn't just say Bush. The whole neo-conservative movement.

CLOONEY: Because it's polarizing. I'm not going to sit up and say, "This is how you should think." But let's at least acknowledge that there should be an open debate, and not be told that it's unpatriotic to ask questions.
And to think, they might suffer by being excoriated in the press. Or by making less money. That's some courage they're displaying.

Or as Mark Steyn points out about George Clooney:

"We jumped in on our own," [Clooney] said, discussing Good Night, and Good Luck with Entertainment Weekly. "And there was no reason to think it was going to get any easier. But people in Hollywood do seem to be getting more comfortable with making these sorts of movies now. People are becoming braver."

Wow. He was brave enough to make a movie about Islam's treatment of women? Oh, no, wait. That was the Dutch director Theo van Gogh: He had his throat cut and half-a-dozen bullets pumped into him by an enraged Muslim who left an explanatory note pinned to the dagger he stuck in his chest. At last year's Oscars, the Hollywood crowd were too busy championing the "right to dissent" in the Bushitler tyranny to find room even to namecheck Mr. van Gogh in the montage of the deceased. Bad karma. Good night, and good luck.

No, Mr. Clooney was the fellow "brave" enough to make a movie about — cue drumroll as I open the envelope for Most Predictable Direction — the McCarthy era!
Hollywood prefers to make “controversial” films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won. Go back to USA Today’s approving list of Hollywood’s willingness to “broach the tough issues”: “Brokeback and Capote for their portrayal of gay characters; Crash for its examination of racial tension . . .” That might have been “bold” “courageous” movie-making half-a-century ago...

And, just as Transamerica’s allegedly unconventional woman is a perfectly conventional woman underneath, so the entire slate of Oscar nominees is, in a broader sense, a phalanx of Felicity Huffmans. That’s to say, they’re dressing up daringly and flouncing around as controversy, but underneath they’re simply the conventional wisdom. Indeed, “Transamerica” would make a good name for Hollywood’s view of its domestic market — a bizarro United States run by racists and homophobes and a poodle media in thrall to the administration.


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