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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher)
by James Adams Smith
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

AFTER the writers strike this year, the Oscars had trouble keeping audiences watching. Not only was the lineup of nominated films—such as There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, and Michael Clayton—unheard of by most, the films were too artsy to invite the public eye. The Best Foreign Language Film Award has had a history of favoring art house cinema. The trend continued when the Oscar went to Germany’s The Lives of Others last year.

This year’s winner, The Counterfeiters from Austria, takes on a weighty subject, The Holocaust, without really getting to the center of it. While most Holocaust films touch on the graphic and malicious nature of genocide, this film takes another approach. It tells the true story of a group of Jews who are chosen to work at a concentration camp as counterfeiters, illegally copying the British Pound and US Dollar to fuel the Nazi plan of bankrupting foreign economies.

The group, led by former conman Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Marcovics), must work to stay alive under the supervision of Nazi war criminal Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow). They are given comfortable places to sleep, stuffed with food, and worked strenuously for the Nazi regime in a sealed-off bunker.

The Counterfeiters

All the while, they can hear other Jews being tortured and murdered just over the wall. Sorowitsch’s top priority is staying alive, but a younger idealist in the crew plans a strike in hopes of sparking a revolution. The tension builds as the group encounters trouble reproducing the US Dollar.

The film’s cinematography, dark and grainy, adds a stylistic glow to the scenes. The handheld camera shakes from scene to scene. At times, the style is overdone, distracting from the significance of events on screen. Since the living conditions for these Jews were not as bad at the real concentration camps, the film’s sets worked well.

Although this film digs persistently to find a new path through the Holocaust—diverging from its forerunners Schindler’s List, The Pianist, and Faithless—it doesn’t separate itself from the pack. The dreariness and gloom of these movies has been touched on already. Still, Filmmakers keep returning to the Holocaust to find new material. The problem is that eventually the realistic nature of the Holocaust comes only as memory of a film.

The Counterfeiters

An example is James Cameron’s Titanic, which emptied many bags of buttered popcorn, but also distorted a real tragedy. This is not to say that tragic history should not be touched. However, once a real-life occurrence—with the people who died or the families who were affected—becomes an entire genre, it begins to market a mere interpretation of human tragedy.

Beyond its social failures, The Counterfeiters works in a detached way – the audience is not invited to interact with the characters. The protagonist Solomon, with his own set of moral failings, is hard to trust. Therefore the narrative rolls disjointedly back and forth, and the audience is given the ending first. The result of this is a loss of emotional impact—rather, it seems to declare itself a film, or just: another Holocaust film.

Most critics and the Academy Awards declare The Counterfeiters to be a work of art and originality. Then why didn’t Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, another Holocaust drama, win Best Foreign film last year? Although the Holocaust itself will forever haunt the memories of the world, filmmakers need to find new subject matter.

A more deserving film was the more uplifting tale of Jean-Dominque Bauby’s dealing with paralysis, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Nevertheless, since the Academy Awards received some of their lowest ratings this year, it probably makes little difference who won.

The Counterfeiters

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While you anxiously await the newest edition of DEconstruction, enjoy these articles by Jasmine Pues and Molly MacMillan, a DEconstruction magazine blog exclusive. The Summer ’07 DEconstruction will be available on May 18th at the second floor of Memorial Hall and other locations across campus. Contributing writers have one copy on reserve, which will be distributed at the meeting on Monday, May 21st.

Lysistrata or Dallas Debbie?

What’s Your Fantasy?
A Girl’s Commentary on Pornography

by Jasmine Pues

I’m going to talk about porn.

Yes, porn. Pornography. Yes, I’m a girl commenting on pornography— surprise you?

Good.

The vast majority of porn is made by men, for a male audience. It shows too. Because of this, there tends to be two general approaches to porn:

Men: “…it’s porn.”

Ladies: “Ewww. Besides, isn’t my boyfriend supposed to be focused on me and not the TV? Or those videos? And isn’t it demeaning to women, making them out to be objects?”

And then there’s me.

My response: “That must be silicone. And this was definitely directed by a male; a pity too, this would’ve been better if it had some plot to it…”

Or, taking some lines from Kevin Smith’s movie Dogma: “Take sex for example. There’s nothing funnier than the ridiculous faces you people make mid-coitus.”

Alan Rickman’s voice aside, I’m the type that wonders how quickly guys would stop watching porn if their girlfriends sat with them and offered running commentary about what they would like to see. Or if you decided to point them to sites that offer porn, but are managed by women – yes, such things do exist.

If you’re of a more literary bent, there’s always the erotica section, the romance section, or adultfanfiction.com. It seems to me that it’s more socially acceptable for women to have porn, as long as said porn is in the tame medium of the written word; so (There’s erotica fan fiction for nearly every fandom there is, from TV shows to cartoons to video games, written by both men and women.) You could tell them how to find out if a piece was written by a woman or not; you could function as Quality Control. If they must look at porn, if they must read it, then it must be to your standards. While you’re enjoying the eye candy, why not have some plot? If these are supposed to be fantasies, let us care about what’s happening, somehow.

Porn comes in many forms, after all, and these forms contain plot; Laurell K. Hamilton’s a good one, if you like the subgenre of paranormal romance, though there’s some dispute about whether it’s “paranormal romance” or just erotic fiction that happens to involve vampires and werewolves. For the woman of letters, there are classics; the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon), for example. For your Greco-Roman sources, there’s Lysistrata. Shakespeare was known for ribald and naughty things: A Midsummer Night’s Dream involves fairies and rolling around in the forests. For the less classically inclined, there’s always soap operas, prime-time TV, and romance novels.

Romance novels are the same thing as porn, but targeted toward women, and remarkably lucrative for the publishers. You see them everywhere; in the convenience stores, in the Walmarts of the world. The males become “targets” – the goal for the woman is to “land” or “catch” a suitable mate. Instead of the man wanting to bed as many ladies as he can, and in as many pleasing (to the man) positions as possible, there is a lady wanting to “catch” a suitable man, and hopefully learning more about how he really is in the process. Sure, it focuses more on the relationships, but doesn’t this objectify the male character just as much as the female character? These are fantasies just as much as the male-dominated ‘stories’ or ‘films’ are fantasies. However, they at least have the pretense of having the readers care about the fantasies and those characters involved.

Why can’t we have more engaging fantasies generally? Women of the world, raise your standards! If nothing else, that way you can talk about the newest character developments in your porn together with your significant other.

Zippy makes Molly nervous.

Country Squirrels, City Squirrels
by Molly MacMillan

In Newark, squirrels are forward but endearing. The university campus is lovely and nature is palatable here although the squirrels are a bit brazen. In Wilmington, squirrels are shameless, ungrateful parasites.

I moved to Newark from my hometown of Milford four years ago. Last winter I moved from Newark to Wilmington, the largest and only “real” city in Delaware.

Since my move, I’ve come to the realization that city squirrels hate humans despite depending on us for survival. See, Wilmington squirrels long ago abandoned traditional squirrel-fare. Instead, city squirrels prefer rummaging though trashcans and garbage for their next meal. It’s unnatural.

Despite the failings of my hometown, it has charm. Nature is appealing and you can find it there. When nature is noticeable in Wilmington, I’d rather it not be. Nature is far more endearing outside the radius of the reek and vulgarity that makes the city so human.

In Milford there is room for bunnies and loads of squirrels and my parents to watch hummingbirds at the feeder they set up in the backyard. It’s serene. My mom reads books on the porch while my father curses the groundhog in the backyard. Nature is part of life.

At home, squirrels frolic with bunnies and my dad calls every squirrel he sees “Zippy;” in fact, every squirrel in his universe is named Zippy. He gets aggravated with Zippy when it plays in traffic, but it’s just because my dad cares.

Downstate, squirrels generally keep their distance when they see someone. They are happy observing humans, cracking nuts, and gathering junk for their tree-top nests.

A city squirrel is not rambunctious Zippy, the fluffy-tailed car dodger. In the city, there is no Zippy. What passes for nature in the city is actually repugnant and considering my roots, troubling. The wildlife I see in Wilmington usually consists of stray dogs, feral cats, and squirrels. Mostly, though, it’s squirrels.

The lethargy and lack of “Zippy-ness” among city squirrels probably has to do with the fact that every time I take out my trash, I’m alarmed by a noise from one of the dumpsters and a furry tail bouncing away. Yes, the squirrels here in the city no longer collect nuts and bury them for winter. Zippy does that.

City squirrels eat human trash like raccoons. These squirrels suck down all the same preservatives we do and are even less afraid of people than the ones in Newark.

Newark squirrels, though brazen, have nothing on Wilmington squirrels. They are nice, though they could stand to be a little more timid. After all, I am at the top of the food chain.

I understand that in Wilmington, or any city, it’s only natural for squirrels to be more accustomed to humans as part of their world.

Regardless, these squirrels leave me disturbed as they scurry around just inches away from me. It’s almost as unnerving as having a raccoon scamper around my feet. These citified squirrels might just be rabid!

City squirrels don’t even have fluffy tails. The tails of squirrels in Wilmington are gnarled, balding, and tend to have bits of their garbage haul caught in them. I think city squirrels are a completely different species than Zippy.

Check it out with Charles Darwin; it’s almost summertime and I’m paying Zippy a visit.

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