Sunday, December 6, 2009

Schindler's List

Day 339 - 12/5/09 - Movie #339

BEFORE: Let's take a minute to talk about lists - right now my life revolves around them, between a Christmas card list, gift list, and the list of over 400 movies that dominates my late nights. I'm also trying to catch up on the first season of "My Name Is Earl", since I didn't start watching that show until late in Season 1. I want to give a shout-out to this great sitcom that was cancelled last season (prematurely, if you ask me...). If you've never seen it, Jason Lee plays Earl Hickey, who learns about the concept of karma after winning the lottery, then getting hit by a car and losing his ticket. He makes a list of all the bad things he's done to people over the years, then sets out to find them and make amends as a way of improving his life. It was a madcap, often juvenile sitcom set in a town of rednecks somewhere in Middle America, but every episode had a life lesson that made me smile, as Earl (and his brother Randy and ex-wife Joy) learned that doing good deeds would bring good things his way. It's in syndication now, so check your DVRs and catch it if you can. Now, on with the countdown.

THE PLOT: Oskar Schindler uses Jews to start a factory in Poland during the war. He witnesses the horrors endured by the Jews, and starts to save them.

AFTER: Unquestionably a powerful film, and until now perhaps the most egregious omission on the list of films I'd seen. I've got no quips or jokes tonight - I'm inclined to just assign a rating and move on...

But thinking about the concept of karma, and how it applies here... Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who started a factory, and initially he was interested in the Jews from the Krakow ghetto as a source of cheap labor. His initial efforts to save Jews were done as a way of protecting his business, but the movie suggests that over time his motivation changed to a purely humanitarian one.

Well, he did make a fortune, but between the bribes to German officials, administrative costs, wining and dining his mistresses, and (one assumes) all that list-making, he was out of money by the time the war ended. But then, not all fortunes are measured in money.

Despite saving 1,100 lives from the concentration camps, Schindler was distraught that he didn't do enough. Yet the numbers quoted at the end of the film tell the tale - at the date of the film's release, there were about 4,000 Jews living in Poland, while those rescued by Schindler and their descendants numbered over 6,000.

If I have any complaints, they revolve around the length of the film, which clocks in at about 3 hours and 15 minutes. A large number of German atrocities are depicted, and instead of focusing on one man or a small group, the movie seems to want to tell the tales of thousands, which would be overly ambitious regardless of the subject matter. I have no doubt that the holocaust was a terrible, terrible time, and I'm left wondering at what point its depiction becomes overkill.

Starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes and a cast of thousands...

RATING: 7 out of 10 bottles of cognac

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