No. 100: Schindler’s List
Steven Spielberg’s astoundingly stupid Holocaust melodrama
1993, dir. Steven Spielberg. It would take a doctoral dissertation to elaborate on just how much is wrong with Steven Spielberg’s astoundingly stupid Holocaust melodrama, and, certainly, many dissertations have been written on the director’s films. Still, a highlight reel is in order: the baffling scene with the showers that turn out to be nothing more than showers; the soppy final scene in which actors and real-life survivors march together; the excessive use of Christian iconography; and the fact that the movie, really, is about a Christ-like gentile who saves a horde of hapless Jews who have no agency or resolve of their own. This makes Schindler’s List not just one of the most ham-handed Holocaust films ever made but also, peculiarly, one of the least Jewish in sensibility. And yet, for all of its wretched awfulness, we couldn’t help but include the film in our list; its massive visibility helped educate wide swaths of the population previously only dimly aware of the subject. It also drove Spielberg to invest his considerable resources in an infinitely more valuable kind of Holocaust-related filmmaking, namely the collection of videotaped testimonies by survivors, a singularly important historical enterprise. If the cost of these terrific resources is three hours of kitsch, death, and Liam Neeson, so be it.