Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Great Escape From Nazi Reality

Last week was Nazi movie weekend at our house. Strictly by coincidence we had “The Miracle at St. Anna”, “The Reader” and “The Great Escape”.

The Reader concerns a young German boy who reads the Aeneid to an cougar-aged ex-nazi because the story makes her horny. The woman teaches the boy all about sex and how to take a bath. I just wish that I had known the Aeneid was an aphrodisiac for older women; I wouldn’t have wasted all those lunches in the high school library.

As for the Nazi theme, I don’t want to spoil it but let me just say that the woman preferred being held responsible for the Holocaust rather than expose the fact that she had missed at least one of the three r’s in school.

The Miracle at St. Anna is a 2008 film that depicts the gruesomeness of war. The movie is long because Spike Lee includes an engaging story and various sub-plots with political and social messages; he also provides contrast to the horror of war with the beauty of a nekkid woman. Italian semi-fascist, Valentina Cervi will make men forget Nazi Kate Winslet. The “Miracle” part of the movie is a bit hokey but I recommend the movie.

“The Great Escape” was on our list because I’m catching up on the classics and hadn’t seen this one in so long, I forgot what made the Escape so Great. Turns out it wasn’t. The premise is that the Nazis have built a special prison camp to house the best Allied prison camp escape artists. Some of these men have escaped from prison camps 15 to 20 times.

Wait. If a guy escaped from prison, say, 17 times and he is now in this special camp, doesn’t that mean he’s been caught 17 times? Shouldn’t staying escaped be part of the criteria for the Escape Quality Index?” I think these “special” escape artists were probably transported to this “special” camp on the “special” short bus.

Each of these men has been involved in so many escapes that they have developed “special”ties. Together they conceive and execute an elaborate tunnel project but THEY END UP 20 YARDS SHORT OF THE WOODS, coming out not far from the fence, in front of the guard. So, instead of getting the planned 250 out they get out less than half that and guess what? Right, almost all of them end up back in prison camp – or dead. But the living ones still have that same pride and pluckiness that makes them “special”.

Take out the dead guys and the movie seems almost comical, with con-artist prisoners, an oblivious commandant, and a goofy guard. Add in the depiction of civilized prison life where men garden, drink tea and go in “the cooler” for 20 days but emerge clean shaven, well-fed and still plucky and you have a movie that resembles the pilot for “Hogan’s Heroes” more than a serious war movie.

Fortunately there are movies like St. Anna’s to remind us that the war was brutal and those like The Reader to remind us that the Nazis were also.

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