Filmism.net Dispatch February 3, 2014

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As Monuments Men comes out across the world over the next few weeks, it raises a very pertinent question. What is it about Nazis and art that go together so well in movies and literature?

Maybe it's because Naziism and art represent two very powerful and totemic ideas to pit against each other in drama - repression versus intellectual freedom.

The Nazis-vs-books cinematic subgenre is not only rich, it's groaning under the collective weight of awards kudos. The Book Thief (still rolling out across the globe right now) is about an unlikely friendship found over a shared love of reading under the threat of being discovered Jewish in Nazi Germany.

The Reader was about a boy's love for a woman, and how something as seemingly everyday to the rest of us – reading – becomes the focal point for her being found guilty of hideous crimes as a former SS guard.

And Life is Beautiful took the story of millions – being captured and locked up in a Nazi death camp – and gave it an artistic bent, Roberto Benigni spending the entire imprisonment protecting his son from the truth by turning it into an elaborate pantomime piece.

The list goes on. The Pianist was about a classic musician. Inglourious Basterds is about a Jewish girl who runs a movie theatre. Cabaret is about a burlesque show. The Sound of Music speaks for itself. You could argue Schindler's List is about writing, because it's about a list (maybe that's a stretch).

There's simply nothing in our collective revenge fantasies about the Third Reich than defying it with books, song, music and art.

In other news, I'd like to invite Spike Lee to take a good look at his career. Firstly, I'm sure he's already doing that after the disastrous reception to his remake of Oldboy , and second, I'm sure he's a regular reader and will heed my advice forthwith.

With Inside Man, Lee seemed to let go of his roots. I'm sure he didn't want to make movies from the 'angry black' point of view forever, but films like Girl 6, Malcolm X, Clockers, Bamboozled and Do the Right Thing really said something. I loved them and identified with them, and I'm as close to an African American raised in the mean streets of inner city New York as I am a Martian.

They were all entertaining movies, but they were urgent calls to action, pleas for understanding, angry demands to be heard. When much of Hollywood jumped on the Tarantino gravy train of representing blacks with fast-talking, endless violence and the 'n' word, Lee told us contemporary American blacks were facing all sorts of real problems on top of the same ones we all face when it comes to earning a living, relationships and a vacuous media.

Inside Man was an enjoyable and professionally made movie, but it could have been directed by any thriller hack. Red Hook Summer shows promise, but I (along with most other moviegoers) haven't seen it. Maybe the reception to that film convinced him to drop it.

But whatever 'it' was, anything's better than accepting a fortune in filthy product placement lucre to pointlessly remake a Korean movie most mainstream fans found impenetrable in the first place.

On screens big and small lately, a very cool look at the rise of Kiwi stuntwoman Zoe Bell in Double Dare. I also finally caught up with a classic of Americana, The Last Picture Show.

And one of the last movies I saw in 2013 that effortlessly went straight to the top of my list was Mr Nobody. Made in 2009 and buried for years, it's beautiful, confusing, heart-rending, all over the place, free-wheeling, transcendent, expansive and sublime. The film of 2013.

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