Along with many others, I was surprised and disappointed at the failure of “Waltz with Bashir” to win Best Foreign Language Film honors at the Academy Awards ceremony. “Bashir” was a remarkable cinematic achievement.
Bradley Burston, a Haaretz columnist, has reacted to this turn of events with an acerbic column on “how Hollywood likes its Jews”; he contrasts Kate Winslet’s win for Best Actress for portraying a Holocaust-related character with the loss for “Bashir.” He even quotes Winslet in an awful-sounding snippet in an interview with Ricky Gervais about why she has chosen to play a role in such a film:
Gervais: You doing this, it’s so commendable, using your profile to keep the message alive about the Holocaust.
Winslet: God, I’m not doing it for that. We definitely don’t 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. I’m doing it because I noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, you’re guaranteed an Oscar. I’ve been nominated four times. Never won. The whole world is going, ‘Why hasn’t Winslet won one?’ … That’s why I’m doing it. Schindler’s bloody List. The Pianist. Oscars coming outta their ass …
Kate Winslet is a marvelously talented English actress who is married to the well-known film director, Sam Mendes, who happens to be a Jew. She fully deserved her Oscar for “The Reader”; I don’t agree with Burston that her work in “The Reader” (as opposed to “Revolutionary Road”) was less than stellar.
Still, there’s a cynical edge to this exchange that I find appalling, but it evidently helps Burston make his point that “Hollywood knows exactly how it likes its Jews: Victims. Civilian victims. Targets of genocide. None of this Goliath stuff. None of these pre-emptive, disproportionate, morally amorphous behaviors.”
Since it was Gervais, might the exchange have been made tongue in cheek. He is a comic, no?
While I am inclined to agree with Burston regarding how Hollywood likes its Jews as either helpless victims at least in drama– (Hollywood still loves Jewish comedians), Gerry has a point: Winslet might be talking tongue-in-cheek, in fact it sounds like Jewish humor– it might be her husband’s joke.
So let us give Ms. Winslet the benefit of the doubt until we hear the full exchange– remember she was playing against Gervais, whose best known character is the ethnically insensitive David Brent.
Besides, Waltzing with Bashir is in good company: many of the greatest films have never won the Academy Award.
Bradley Burston and his wife are either naive — or stupid. The Oscars are very much like the Nobel Peace Prize. If you watch carefully you will see that where there is a political/military no-no in the world at the time of the vote, the prize very often goes to the opposition or to others who didn’t stand a chance until then. Ergo, the Dalai Lama received the prize after the Bejing Massacre. Until then nobody wanted to offend the Chinese.
Waltz with Bashir HAD EVERY CHANCE IN THE WORLD of winning the Oscar. However, the conflict in Gaza and the way it was carried out (namely using digital highly militarized weapons against a civilian population), which was the major headline on NPR this morning, not the Oscar wins, erased all those hopes in a split second, never mind a full month of depressing negative news. Because once again, in spite of a film that retraces the trauma of Lebanon, the same thing is happening — maybe worse in terms of the weapons used. Which is not to say that I don’t agree with the Israeli position of defense, but I do hold by the Geneva Convention. Ergo the Japanese win, not the Germans though. One cannot have one’s cake and eat it too — there is a powerful synergy here and the Oscars, which are ‘political’/ human rights reflect that…and the day they don’t I won’t be watching them any more.
I will give you another example having less to do with the Jews. Mickey Rourke who was neck in neck with Sean Penn for the best actor — fortunately for the world they are both greater-than-life men and friends. Rourke almost lost all chances of the Oscar when he was commending Darren Arronovsky, his director, at the Golden Globes and Darren, unaware that the camera was on him, gave him the finger — which is something between them because Darren hates it when Mickey describes him as tough or mean. But this didn’t go over very well with the powers-that-be, they see it as reflecting on the awards and on the industry. So Darren was practically in harim, (until Christian Bale had his rant which was so over the top, all was forgotten). You could see Rachel Weisz, Darren’s wife, who is British and proper, literally diving out of the camera’s eye. (A similar thing is said to have cost Julie Christie her Oscar last year, after winning the Golden Globes — she got in a fight with her studio).
Then Rourke regrouped and it was again neck and neck with Sean– until a few days ago when the man who played the dealer for selling steroids in the Wrestler was caught after a car chase through Westchester for doing just that, selling steroids. Well, that — it was clear to me — was the end of that, if only because the number one crit of Mickey was that he was playing himself — whereas if you listened to his speech at the Golden Globe and even more so on Charlie Rose you would know that Darren pulled that performance out of him.
So Sean, who did a real acting job, who is not gay but became another person, who has a consistent track record won and gave a speech about gay rights, long overdue, and said he was thankful to live in a country that elects “such an elegant President” but especially to work in an industry where sensitive talented artists who have to meet such extraordinary challenges are given a second chance to rise to the occasion (i.e. Mickey Rourke by Darren, the Jew)….and while he commends all the nominees, Mickey Rourke has come back AND HE IS MY BROTHER.
Kate Winslet’s maturity leaves something to be desired. You could see it at the Golden Globes where her speech for supporting (THE READER) was solid and good, but when she won again — she was all over the place. She is British and not Jewish, with still alot of childhood in her, so between the three, what sensitivity does one expect?? It was another British actor, a rather crass comedian, who brought up the business of Kate being told that if she wants an Oscar she should do a Holocaust film — (and PS NEITHER NEIM LEESON WHO PLAYED SCHINDLER OR RALPH FIENNES WHO PLAYED ARAM THE NAZI HAVE YET TO WIN AN OSCAR — THEY ARE GREAT GREAT ACTORS, PASSED OVER, NOT JEWISH).
It’s very possible that Winslet’s performance in Revolutionary Road was superior to her performance in The Reader, which was very good and demanding of her — beyond her usual. What the Oscars were doing was correcting something from the Golden Globes — they made sure she wasn’t nominated twice, winning twice. And THEY chose THE READER as the film and performance of choice, not Revolutionary Road — which SHOULD COUNT FOR SOMETHING. And what B.B. and his wife are missing about the Reader — what I found the greatest flaw in the script is that the boy never pointed out to the Court that she could not have been the person who wrote the report, nor did he come visit her and give her personal hope — because in his mind he did not want to be associated with such a woman, a woman whom he really loved and from whom he learned to love. And sure she had betrayed him, but did he not connect the dots about her disappearance?…..So in effect, the weakest point in the film from my view is precisely that, although a boy still — all feeling — still loving this woman; he stood by the ban.
So no, this is not a Holocaust film in the usual sense. It is a film about the German side of the trauma and the question of how to shake off the stigma of foul deeds. He was one of those new Germans who do not affirm the old Nazi position of their forefathers (still around) but sought to transcend. He did not want to be associated with a Jew killer, even though he knew she couldn’t have been the main party responsible. So he essentially let her fall. Social position wins out — which is very German. So much for love.
You see this message again when he takes her limited savings in the painted tin can to the Jewish Park Avenue survivor, who is more real than everyone but the boy. She takes the tin like the one that was lost, marking the end of her innocent life and the beginning of horror. But she refuses the redemption money, as she should and did. Her role is the very opposite of the torn and tattered Jews — it affirms reparations, restitution, and the carrying out of justice — no matter how long it takes. And it shows that among the feeling who were caught in a bad scene and needed to work who ended up in the SS, there can be remorse. That was the beauty of this story — how she processed everything through her ignorance. The choices she found to make peace with herself. And by the way, I was not in love with that movie at all.
For the record, I thought this was the best Oscar ever — not because of “who” won, but because of the way they gave the awards — with a real exchange between past winners and the new, personal statements about their performances so that even though “only a nominee” there was something special to take home if one lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t true of the film category for Waltz with Bashir, nor do many people have access to any of the other films in the category — only Waltz with Bashir was accessible in the theatre and so the Israelis are right, in that sense, that they won.
As for the film industry, we know how the Jewish moguls built that industry and also how they supported Israel — at least I do. It’s a new generation now — views change with the generation, ditto the way the themes are treated. But the Jews are still there and the focus as far as I can see
I thank my good friend, Gerry Regan, for his point about Gervais. I don’t take Winslet’s comment on the Holocaust as meaning that she doesn’t feel basic human compassion for the victims (clearly she’s no Holocaust denier), but people only truly “move on” from an experience as cataclysmic as the Holocaust when the survivors have all “moved on” from this earthly existence, and maybe not even until their childrens’ generation have passed away.
Gerry and Ian Thal are right that Gervais kids around and he obviously encourages the same in his guest; he plays characters known for irreverence and being politically incorrect. Still, It was jolting to read Winslet’s comment, and I’m sure it’s exactly how she feels.
After reading this discussion on the Oscars and ‘Bashir’ and Wislet, I feel it necessary to correct this misinformation about Wislet’s comment on acting in a Holocaust film to get an Oscar. Ralph writes:
“He [Burston] even quotes Winslet in an awful-sounding snippet in an interview with Ricky Gervais about why she has chosen to play a role in such a film:”
The fact of the matter is that what Burston and now Ralph are quoting is NOT from an interview at all, and is not even Winslet’s own words. It is from a sitcom written and created by Ricky Gervais.
If you would like to watch this snippit of the show called “Extras” which satirizes the goings on of behind-the-scenes movie biz, then use this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEnjiGwVw6o
The other interesting part of using this quote is that it was pre-Winslet winning the oscar AND pre-“The Reader”.
Now, whether any of this will matter to someone who finds any joke that uses the Holocaust offensive, is not something I can or will argue with, but I would like to think that this joke is not about the Holocaust at all, but about how Hollywood uses it.
And to be blunt, it is absolutely unacceptable to assume how Winslet feels about this topic. To say so, without even understanding the source of the material you are referring to, is shameful.
I hope that in the future you will check your sources more carefully before you run someone’s name through the mud.
Indeed, it was from a sitcom. However, Hollywood does have a real problem with depicting Jews and the Holocaust.
Spielberg’s List? Catholic protagonist.
Sophie’s Choice? Polish protagonist (and I’ve worse to say about it).
How about Anne Frank? It was intentionally and explicitly deracinated. “We’re not the first Jews who have had to suffer” became “We’re not the only people who have had to suffer.”
The Piantist? Well, not a Hollywood movie, actually. Made in Europe.
So I think Burston is quite right. See also Ron Rosenbaum and Deborah Lipstadt. Also, Judith Doneson.