Tag Archives: Roger Ebert

The Grey Zone (2001)

grey_zoneThe Grey Zone is the Holocaust movie that every other Holocaust movie isn’t. As Roger Ebert points out in his review, The Grey Zone denies us any kind of hope, which most other Holocaust movies do. Things may be bleak, but not all is forsaken. Here it is. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who try to do good things, but the strength of the movie (or more specifically the script), is that it doesn’t allow you to find easy answers. Often the questions seem so difficult, that an answer seems impossible. I came to this movie after watching The Pianist (which I really liked, more than The Grey Zone), because the idea of an even tougher Holocaust movie intrigued me, if that word can even fit in that context. It is a good and uncomfortable movie, with some flaws that keep it from being great, but it definitely is a movie that stays with you. Which flaws? Some of the conversations just go on to long, reminding us that the movie’s origins are in a play (and all of it is done by Tim Blake Nelson, play, screenplay, direction), but the worst part is definitely Harvey Keitel’s accent. Everyone talks in normal English, but Keitel applies the heaviest German accent you can imagine and it’s unnecessary and completely ridiculous. Some of the other actors also evoke that feeling that they really wanted to play the part of a poor, conflicted Jew, starved and desperate, but this is not a movie that should boast itself with semi-big names (sorry, Natasha Lyonne, Mira Sorvino and Steve Buscemi, even David Arquette is more convincing). It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen about the Holocaust and despite its missteps that counts for something. And the fact that you’ll probably never forget some of its images.

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Our Life Is a Movie: Dead Poets Society (1989)

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     dead_poets_society posterJoining the Robin Williams honorary bandwagon? I’m happy to! Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite and most influential movies, so it seems obvious to look back at it now in the late aftermath of Williams’ death. The movie works for me on many levels, mainly in its depiction of a good and unusual teacher, but also by showing an authoritative, limiting and cruel society and the effects it has on its young people. This way the film inspired me in many ways, not just for becoming a teacher. I must have seen it the first time early, when I was around 11 or 12 and I watched it again and again. What’s really a shame is that in schools, the novelization is often read when there is no reason on earth not just to use the movie. Curiously, this is one of the few movies where I really disagreed with Roger Ebert (who got me into movies so much more than I already was, so I’m a big fan of his), who called it “manipulative” and full of “platitudes.” Reading his review makes you wonder how he even came up with two stars. I get what he says and maybe even understand how you could view the movie this way, but to me, it’s just a great inspirational movie. Here’s why.

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