Thursday, March 20, 2014

Moribund the Burgermeister

...didn't I use that headline already?  Anyway, the context is slightly different.  Two tyrants in the late 1930s, keeping all the choice meat for themselves, while everyone else has to go on an all-grain diet.  Totally different.
Anyway, time to review an actual bonafide film that someone this century might have actually seen as well.  And even though The Book Thief was dissed at the Oscars, WWII Germany proves to be a worthy topic to visit again and again.  Think of this as a prequel to The Reader, perhaps.  And Spoiler Alert: it's narrated by a rather cheerful Death!  Kinda reminds me of Lester Burnham in American Beauty, except I don't think Lester spoiled life's great surprise by explicitly saying that someday we are all going to die.  Still, it's comforting hearing it from a human being than from some invisible omniscient force.  Of course, we've been hearing a lot from all corners lately about the finiteness of life.  If Stephen Colbert, for example, really wanted to make a stink about it, he could point out that he at one point pointed that out, I believe during one of his "The WØRD" segments.  A more savvy Colbert archivist will have to pinpoint the exact date for me.
Personally, I prefer my grim reapers a little more insidious than the one here narrating The Book Thief.  Maybe thrown in something about the demise of the world's only freshwater dolphin, but that's just me.  But I can see why he would be infatuated with Liesel.  Meet America's Next Great Jennifer Lawrence, actor and young Thespian Sophie Nélisse.  Our omnipotent narrator gives us the long and short of it, telling us that Liesel Meminger lives a long, full life of 90 years, and apparently she eventually makes her way to New York City and gets a great rent-control apartment overlooking Central Park!  I mean, Germany's great and all, but it's far from the center of the known universe.
But for the time being, we focus on her formative years.  Now I hate to superhero-ify everything, but we do see her origin story where she steals her first book: a For Dummies-esque manual about gravedigging left behind at her brother's rather no-frills funeral.  And even though she reluctantly throws a book into a raging fire, she hangs around after the fire's died down and everyone's gone home to... yup, you guessed it, steal a book.  An older woman sees this just before getting driven home.  As it happens, Liesel's stepmother's doing this very same woman's laundry, and she introduces Liesel to her and her husband's vast collection of books.  That's right, not all Germans at that time were going along with the program.  Book burning's more for the rubes, a passing fancy for the cameras.  There's also a bully who could've been phoned in from an Adam Sandler movie set in WWII Germany, but there's also a Jew named Max.  He's apparently given papers during Kristallnacht, but he doesn't quite make it out of Germany.  He ends up back at Liesel's step-parents' house, either to serve as a metaphor for Anne Frank or as a love interest for Liesel.
Needless to say, a serious movie like this can't be under two hours long.  Two hours and ten minutes is not bad, but it still felt a bit long.  One of my viewing companions is a fan of Geoffrey Rush, but felt that he was wrong for the part of a German.  I suppose I felt that as well, but he brought what silliness to the role that he could.  He probably wasn't as wasted here as he probably was in The Banger Girls, but that's just me.  As much as I hate to agree with The A.V. Club, they apparently gave The Book Thief a B-... but apparently you'll have trouble getting to it.  I'm shocked at the World Socialist Web Site!  They actually seemed to like it!  I guess there was no room to complain about American Imperialism or something.
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is... ENOUGH WITH THE HOLOCAUST MOVIES!!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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