20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
HOLLYWOOD SHOULD STOP MAKING HOLOCAUST MOVIES
If the recent release of The Monuments Men proves anything, it's that Hollywood should stop making Holocaust movies.
There's no denying that The Holocaust was a horrific event, and that we should make every effort to remind young generations that terrible tragedies can occur when individuals become corrupted by power. However, just as disturbing is Hollywood's endless need to exploit this tragedy for the pursuit of profit.
It was Theodor Adorno who once said, "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." Adorno's point is especially relevant when we consider the constant circulation of Holocaust movies like The Monuments Men. In order to understand the problem, it's important to realize that George Clooney and his co-stars are cashing in on this movie, as are the major Hollywood studies that produce it. Hollywood is a business after all, and we all know that there's no better way to attract moviegoers than to release another "important" story about the Holocaust. In this particular case, we follow a group of American soldiers who are sent to rescue artwork from the Nazis, because apparently artwork is more important than people.
There was a time when it was necessary for Hollywood to make Holocaust movies. Film is popular entertainment, and it has the potential to enlighten the masses about this brutal event in history. However, we already have Schindler's List (1993) and The Pianist (2002), and there are hundreds of excellent, important documentaries worth renting. What we don't need, and what Hollywood keeps giving us, is American movie stars like Clooney and Matt Damon engaging in witty banter through World War II rubble. We aren't going to benefit from Kate Winslet hanging herself at the end of the The Reader (2008). And we especially aren't going to be moved by Brad Pitt's collection of Nazi scalps in Inglorious Basterds (2009). It appears that Hollywood failed to understand that they were only supposed to make one or two important movies about the Holocaust. Instead, they've unleashed a genre.
Hollywood has made movie after movie about the Holocaust to the point where audiences become so distant from the real event that they only think about it in terms of cinematic conventions. Last year, for example, critics and audiences panned The Book Thief (2013) for being too "sappy" and "precious." And maybe it was, but we've gone too far if we're judging Holocaust movies by the same standards that we judge a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
The Holocaust was a horrific, brutal event, and we must remember and honor its victims. To do this, Hollywood must stop making Holocaust movies.
HOLLYWOOD SHOULDN'T STOP MAKING HOLOCAUST MOVIES
If the recent release of George Clooney's film The Monuments Men — based on Robert M. Edsel’s book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History — proves anything, it’s that Hollywood can still create emotional and compelling films about the Holocaust.
Though World War II is a dark time in the world’s history that many would like to forget, we shouldn't. Of course, many fans of cinema will tell you that we have enough movies focusing on this period of time. Some might even say Hollywood should have stopped after creating Schindler’s List. However, the Holocaust will never stop being part of the world’s history, and Hollywood should never be told to stop creating films based on the subject.
History shouldn’t just be taught by school teachers or textbooks; history can be taught by survivors, by those choosing to tell the survivors' story. History can be learned through any medium whether it's a factual first account or a fictional retelling, like Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.
Perhaps some moviegoers see mentions of the Holocaust as cheap plays on sentimentality, but it also shouldn't be a topic Hollywood wholly avoids — especially in non-historical films. Two specific movies come to mind: The Avengers makes a brief allusion to the World War II and Magneto’s revenge story in X-Men: First Class deals with a survivor’s story — a very fictional survivor who can control metal with his mind, but still.
However, both these films are impactful in different ways. The scene in The Avengers that references the Holocaust is amazing. An old man stands up to Loki, who presumes to be Earth’s one true ruler, and tells him he is nothing special; there will always be men who wish to subjugate humankind and they will always be defeated. Similarly, Magneto’s storyline in X-Men gives the character agency so that he is not simply a one-dimensional victim archetype.
The fact that we can still be moved by the Holocaust — whether it’s in a superhero flick or a serious drama like The Monuments Men — is an important factor to respecting and immortalizing history. Holocaust films should not be disregarded simply because someone is tired of remembering something uncomfortable.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
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The Up in the Air actor has co-written the script for The Monuments Men, about a group of art historians and curators who were picked by the U.S. government to retrieve masterpieces stolen from European museums by Nazi thieves.
Clooney will also direct and star in the film, which already has Daniel Craig, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett attached - and now Damon has signed up for a role.
Confirming recent rumours, he tells E! News, "Yes, I will be in that movie!"
Clooney's film is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel.
George Clooney's directorial efforts have thus far been pretty grand projects. His debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, took on American pop culture and the secret operations of the CIA. Good Night and Good Luck examined the era of McCarthyism and the true story of Edward R. Murrow's vendetta against its oppression. Most recently, The Ides of March made a strong play at illustrating the corruption inherent in the political underworld. And Leatherheads...um...
In any event, Clooney's next project seems to topple the lot in "epic-ness." Clooney is writing, directing and starring in The Monuments Men, a film set during World War II about the retrieval of invaluable pieces of art stolen by the Nazis. The story, based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel, will follow an elite troupe of American and British art enthusiasts, historians, curators and museum directors who chase down stolen pieces of artwork throughout Europe during the war with a dedicated mission of restoring and preserving them.
Clooney is writing the project with Grant Heslov, his production partner who co-wrote Good Night and Good Luck and The Ides of March with the Golden Globe nominee and directed his 2009 comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats. The two also collaborated on the TV series Unscripted.
Source: The Wrap
The Hollywood actor will co-write, direct and star in The Monuments Men, about a group of art historians and curators who were picked by the U.S. government to retrieve pieces looted from European museums by Nazi thieves.
Clooney has yet to decide which role will be his - but he insists it will be a "fun" project because he's got a big budget to spend on the shoot.
He says, "Hitler was an art fanatic, and he stashed masterpieces everywhere. He hid 27 Rembrandts in a coffin... I'm excited about it. It's a fun movie because it could be big entertainment. It's a big budget, you can't do it small - it's landing in Normandy.
"I'm not opposed to doing a commercial film, I'm just opposed to doing a commercial film that doesn't feel organic to me. So if we're going to do a commercial film we thought, 'Let's do something that seems fun and actually have something to say.'"
Clooney's movie is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel.