10. Schindler’s List

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Movie: Schindler’s List

Release Date: December 15, 1993

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz.

Tag Lines: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

“The List Is Life.”

Relevance: ‘Schindler’s List’ was released in December of 1993 to international acclaim. It was hailed as a triumph for Steven Spielberg and went one to score twelve Academy Award nominations, winning seven including Best Picture and Best Director. It was listed as one of the greatest films ever made and attracted a worldwide audience. It was a huge commercial success, despite being over three hours long, and eventually became the fourth highest grossing film that year. (A good year for Steven Spielberg as his film, ‘Jurassic Park’ (see 52. Jurassic Park) was the highest grossing film in 1993.) I was one of the many that saw the movie during its theatrical run.

In January of 1994, I was starting my second semester of Graduate school in upstate New York. Before the semester started, me and my two roommates went on a trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania just for the hell of it. The night before we left on the short weekend trip, we went to see ‘Tombstone’ (see 138. Tombstone). On one of the nights when we got back, before classes started, we went to see ‘Schindler’s List.’ It was quite the difference in films, but both made a huge impact on me, although Steven Spielberg’s epic historical drama was ten times more emotional.

The documentary style film mixed with violence, gore and Spielberg’s trademark tender humanism was both devastating and riveting to watch. Even though there was a run time of over three hours, the time spent in the theater seemed to fly by as the tragic story unfolded. It was quite unlike any film I had ever witnessed before. I of course knew of the appalling events of the holocaust, but never before was I subjected to watching the horror that happened. It was a difficult film to watch but an important one. The film left me devastated. When the movie ended I was a complete emotional wreck, tears and all. Being with my two male roommates, I was embarrassed by my emotions and sprinted to my car, leaving them many steps behind me. By the time they caught up to me, I was able to compose myself, but it was clear what the movie had done to me. It was a quiet ride home from the theater.

The movie stayed with me for weeks. I couldn’t shake the harsh realities of World War II and those striking images that were depicted on the screen. I loved the film but I was equally disturbed by it. I of course recommended the movie to everyone, but with a warning that it was definitely not a movie for the feeble minded. With that said, I felt like it was an important film that everyone should and must see, so the recommendations continued. I rented the movie when it was released to home media and watched it with my mom. This was not her kind of movie in the least, but it was one that she respected and glad that she saw, although I think it was the first and last time she sat through it.

‘Schindler’s List’ remained one of my favorite movies of all time and one that I hold in very high esteem in regards to filmmaking. It was a history lesson as well as a work of art and one that resonated with you after you watched it. It was that rare movie experience that was more than just entertainment and a Hollywood movie. It was a personal journey and healing for the director, one that the viewer was lucky (and unlucky) to take with him.

Today’s Thoughts: “This list…is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.”

I own ‘Schindler’s List’ on DVD but unlike most movies I own, especially ones that appear on this list, I do not watch it very often. In fact, including the time I first went to see it in theaters, I have only watched it a handful of times. It’s just a very difficult, somber movie to endure and I always feel drained after watching it. I actually started emotionally preparing for the viewing yesterday. So alone in my bed, with a box full of Kleenex by my side, I once again revisited ‘Schindler’s List.’

Steven Spielberg is quite a remarkable director and ‘Schindler’s List’ is still, after twenty-seven years, a tremendous piece of art. Everything about this film is gorgeous. It just seems that he along with his cast and crew put every ounce of heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into the making of this story. It is still horrifying. It is still devastating. It still makes me cry over and over again. That last scene always leaves me sobbing like a child. Any movie about persecution, regardless if it is due to race, color, creed or sexual orientation, angers me. A lot of my tears are angry tears. How can something like the holocaust happen? Then I remember the president we currently have in office in the United States and I am quickly reminded. Hate. Ignorance. Intolerance. Thankfully the orange stain will be removed in twenty-nine days.

There is one moment in ‘Schindler’s List’ that always kind of bothered me. Well, there are many, many scenes in this movie that bother me, but this one is in regards to artistry and not the horrific realities of the holocaust. Late in the film, a group of women are led into a room for showers. What made this an intense scene was the viewer doesn’t know if it was really a gas chamber or a shower. For one split second there is a shot of a woman taking off her clothing over her head revealing her breasts. I am not disturbed by her breasts, as there is plenty of justified nudity in the movie, both male and female, but by the way it was photographed. It is almost shown in a seductive, sexual manner. Maybe it’s just my interpretation but I always notice it and it always slightly takes me away from the film.

Speaking of nudity, there is quite a bit in the film, but only in a few scenes dose it involve a sexual act. Most of it is shown to emphasize the atrocities that are taking place in the concentration camps. With that said, ‘Schindler’s List’ gets added to my list of films that show full frontal male nudity. I do so begrudgingly because I don’t want to make light of anything regarding this film, but to stay consistent, here it is. You can check out the rest of that list here: 16. Pulp Fiction, 32. Philadelphia, 39. Brokeback Mountain, 47. Fight Club, 92. An American Werewolf in London, 93. Angels in America, 105. American History X, 110. Shortbus, 112. A Clockwork Orange, 113. Weekend, 120. Sex and the City, 133. Porky’s, 139. Trainspotting, 144. Fargo, 183. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 199. Six Degrees of Separation, 209. The Fisher King, 295. Being John Malkovich, 296. Wildcats, 332. The Crying Game, 335. Born on the Fourth of July343. Sideways and 357. Amadeus.

‘Schindler’s List’ is Steven Spielberg’s dramatic cinematic masterpiece. That is saying quite a lot when one looks at his impressive filmography. He has been behind the camera in some way, shape or form for countless blockbusters over the last fifty years. This is his seventh film that he directed on my list of most influential and favorite movies of all time (see 234. Saving Private Ryan, 169. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 83. The Goonies, 61. E. T. the Extra-terrestrial, 52. Jurassic Park and 18. Raiders of the Lost Ark for the other six). With two more to go and an astounding three films in my top ten, he is by far my favorite contemporary director.

“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Steven Zaillian (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (winner), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Allan Starski, Ewa Braun (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Michael Kahn (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Williams (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Liam Neeson (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Ralph Fiennes (nomination), Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Anna B. Sheppard (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound, Andy Nelson, Steve Pederson, Scott Millan, Ron Judkins (nomination), Academy Award for Best Makeup, Christina Smith, Matthew W. Mungle, Judith A. Cory (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Steven Spielberg (winner), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Steven Zaillian (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Liam Neeson (nomination), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Ralph Fiennes (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Steven Spielberg (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Ralph Fiennes (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Adapted, Steven Zaillian (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Michael Kahn (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Score, John Williams (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Liam Neeson (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Ben Kingsley (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Anna B. Sheppard (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up Artist, Christina Smith, Matthew W. Mungle, Judith A. Cory (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, Allan Starski (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Andy Nelson, Steve Pederson, Scott Millan, Ron Judkins (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Production Design, Allan Starski (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor, Ralph Fiennes (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Best Film (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (2004), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, Ralph Fiennes (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Steven Spielberg (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay, Steven Zaillian (nomination), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg, Branko Lustig, Gerald R. Molen (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Steven Zaillian (winner).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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