In Brief: One of the all-time best, and all-time most important movies celebrates its 25th anniversary in a theater near you.
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is in theaters again for a brief run. The film is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release. By 1993 we all already knew Spielberg was a great director and storyteller. He’d wowed us with the TV thriller Duel, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Arc, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and earlier in 1993, Jurassic Park.
However, it is Schindler’s List — and later 1998’s Saving Private Ryan — that forever cemented his place as one of the great directors of all time.
Most considered it 1993’s best picture and Spielberg the best director. Many of us — including me — consider it to be one of the best movies ever. The film won dozens of deserved awards including seven Oscars and three Golden Globes. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes picked up acting nominations. Neither won.
As for Spielberg, his decision to do the movie in black and white was brilliant. It adds a stark, hopelessness to the plight of the film’s victims. In the middle of all that black and white, Spielberg placed a little girl in a red dress representing the innocent blood being spilled by barbarians.
Neeson plays Oskar Schindler and gives what is certainly his best ever performance. Ben Kingsley — who could play a lampshade and be better than most of his cast mates — is Itzhak Stern, the man who persuades Schindler to save the 1,100 people he ended up saving.
The best performance, however, belongs to Fiennes. He gained a bunch of weight for the role and plays Amon Goeth, the goon who ran Nazi Germany’s Płaszów concentration camp. Fiennes is the perfect picture of the immoral, pitiless, cold-hearted killers who attempted to exterminate a race of people from the planet.
It’s a very good — and very important — piece of acting. And like Neeson, it’s the best Fiennes has ever been, too.
The acting matters as do the production values but what’s really important about “Schindler’s List” is the story itself. You’re going to find it odd that I sum up what’s important about one movie by quoting a line from another. However, in this case, it fits. In the movie Starman Jeff Bridges’ alien character makes a statement about what his species finds interesting about the Earth.
“Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you?” he asks. “You are at your very best when things are worst.” And that perfectly defines the reason Schindler’s List resonated 25-years ago in 1993 and why it resonates with us today.
The “very best” from the quote was Oskar Schindler and others like him. They were the best at the time when humans may have been their worst ever.
While we must not — and cannot — ever forget what the Nazis and Adolph Hitler did to seven million Jews, we must also never forget the thousands of others who attempted to protect them.
In every humanitarian crisis there is an Oskar Schindler. That was true in the 1940s. It was also true in 1993 and is true in 2018.
I made my youngest son — who was 12 a the time — go with me to the see the film. Twenty-five years ago Schindler’s List was a very important movie. It is a very important movie today. Maybe you’ve never seen the film. Or maybe your 12-year old hasn’t seen it either.
This is a great time to see it and today you can see it — once again — where it belongs, on the big screen.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Johnathan Sagall, Embeth Davidz
Rated R for mature themes, extreme violence and graphic nudity. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen, or never seen it at all, don’t miss this opportunity. Schindler’s List is one of the most important films ever. Not to overstate the obvious, give this one a 5 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Catch Gary Wolcott Friday afternoons at 4:50 on KXL’s Afternoon News.
Gary has been KXL’s movie critic since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 28-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
He is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
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