During last year’s Oscar race, the question of an oversaturation of Holocaust film dominated discussion among Jews in Hollywood and in the mainstream press.
In fact, the year 2008 saw no less than four major theatrical releases riffing on Holocaust narrative including, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” “Adam Resurrected,” “The Reader,” (for which Kate Winslet won the Best Actress Oscar) and “Valkyrie.”
All this prompted New York Times film critic A.O. Scott to address Hollywood’s obsession with the Holocaust in an article entitled, “Never Forget. You’re Reminded.” In it, he joked that industry trades Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, who thrive off of “For Your Consideration” ads promoting awards contenders, would be “overrun by Nazis.”
This year has seen yet another WWII/Holocaust narrative with Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which has re-ignited discussion of the Holocaust’s hold on Hollywood, though its fantastic elements (Hitler is slaughtered by a pack of vengeful Jews) as well as its humor, hardly qualify it in the same category as “Schindler’s List.”
No doubt its labeling as a “Jewish revenge fantasy” and a “re-writing of the Holocaust” will continue to stir the seeds of debate, but only in relationship to other films also generating attention for their treatment of Jewish subjects. Among these is the Coen brothers portrait of their Midwestern Jewish upbringing in “A Serious Man” and the relationship between an older, morally debased Jewish man and an impressionable high school student in “An Education.”
Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke weighs in on the Oscar buzz—or badmouthing—surrounding this year’s Jewishly-themed films. (She also gives a shout out to Irina Bragin’s critique of “An Education” that was recently published in The Jewish Journal’s print edition, though you can also read it here.)
This year, the always delicate Jewish issue in Hollywood has taken a new and unexpected turn. Speak privately to producers, agents, executives, and other major players and they’ll complaint to you (privately, of course) that the movies An Education and A Serious Man depict Jews in the most venal light. A recent article in The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles lashed into An Education saying the film’s depiction of its Jewish character is reminiscent of the parasitical Jew in the infamous Nazi anti-semitic propaganda film of the 1930’s, Der Ewige Juden (The Eternal Jew). Similarly, Hollywood is incensed privately by the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man and its Jewish stereotypes. Trust me, this will bubble up to the surface before too long if either film looks to be in serious contention for Best Picture.