Monday, December 17, 2007


I watched The Good German while wrapping Christmas presents, which is again not the best holiday scenario. Need to work on that.

Stylistically, it's brilliant. It's shot the same ways as an old film noir. The ending and the poster imitate Casablanca. I haven't read the book, so I don't know if the movie is based on it or not, but the plot is also rather similar to Casablanca (American guy goes to politically charged area, meets his old girlfriend, who is now married to a politically important guy who needs to escape. Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship...) The ostensibly neutral eye of George Clooney's journalist character even parallels the apolitical attitude of Humphrey Bogart. At any rate, Casablanca is a great movie, though propagandistic, and I could rave about it forever. Suffice to say The Good German gets major points for not just its homage to it, but for its dedication and adherence to the entire film noir genre.

Howeer, it falters a bit in the question I think it wants to pose, about whether or not there could have been (or can be) "innocent" citizens when atrocities are committed under their noses. The film takes place in postwar Berlin, when the city is divided into sectors by the Allies, and a black market where food, people, information, and other goods fuels the city. Enter George Clooney, who's just trying to report on the Potsdam conference. There's a murder. There's the legacy of the Holocaust. There's the issue of survival, and what people do to survive in wartime. There's a disturbing rape scene. Lastly, there's the issue of guilt. In theory it's all very good. But I think those themes all could have been a little stronger.

So then I read Connie Willis' collection of Christmas stories, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. It fit with the post-wrapping activity, but not with all the heavy post-film thoughts still running through my head.
Though I've only read about four of her books, I still don't quite know why Willis is considered a science fiction writer. (I know, I know, time travel counts as science fiction. That's my own bias.)
At any rate, I liked her collection of Christmas stories. They ranged from bizarre to cute to more bizarre. The cute ones were predictable and truly saccharine, in the holiday spirit, of course. I appreciated the more bizarre ones, like "Epiphany," about a minister who gets this weird feeling to just head west in search of Christ's Second Coming. You spend the story thinking he's gone off his rocker and also wondering why it's a Christmas story -- then suddenly on the last page, when there's no real resolution, you realize it's an allegory for the Three Wise Men. "Hats" was funny and bizarre, too -- aliens take over people at Christmastime, making them all nicer, and people wearing hats are the ones who are possessed.

One more Xmas present left to buy!

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