WTFN Oscar Preview
Lance Boyle (THE SCENE: WTFN抯 annual Oscar show. Host Lance Boyle and critic Miriam Kale are in their usual high-backed upholstered chairs amid the predictable movie posters and Oscar bric-a-brac.
The floor director comes up to the stage: 搮and we抮e on in 5432" backs away pointing to Boyle. Theme music starts up.
LANCE BOYLE: (to camera) 揥elcome to WTFN抯 Oscar Show, the annual event when Hollywood pats itself on the back, and critics kick it in the butt. Joining me in our West Coast studios for this special edition of 揟he Cutting Room, is WTFN抯 resident movie maven Miriam Kale. (turns to face her and the camera pulls back into a two-shot)

MIRIAM KALE: 揌i Lance! Got my boots on.

BOYLE: 揥ell, let抯 get at it, and let抯 start with one of your predictions that came true梩he list of Best Picture nominees still stands at 10.

KALE: 揅urse my accuracy! I could understand this increase if there were a surfeit of great movies, as there was in 1939, but today, when schlock is Paramount and also a Universal blight, a film now merely has to be good or even average to get a nomination. Eventually, though, the one, two or three creditable movies will garner the most votes and then we抮e back focusing on the best five. All this fatuous padding does is expose Hollywood抯 pathetic need to inflate its own image because it can抰 compete with foreign films.

BOYLE: (laughs) 揥ell, how about starting on a less pessimistic note. Usually we end the show with your pick for The Leni, so this time let抯 begin with it.

Oscar Banner桾he Leni

KALE: 揋reat idea! First, for those who don抰 know, The Leni Riefenstahl Award is a new Oscar category for Holocaust propaganda films. This year there a few worthy nominees, but my pick goes to The Debt, an espionage thriller about retired Mossad agents and the (supposedly) botched kidnapping/assassination of a Nazi war criminal.

BOYLE: 揋ood choice, but before we get to your analysis, let抯 look at two films I had on my list that you didn抰 pick: first, Footnote, the serio-comic Israeli film about duelling Talmudic scholars.

KALE: 揑 considered it, but decided the subject matter to be too esoteric. Admittedly, the Talmud has numerous passages that are cited to justify Jewish exceptionalism and the violent mistreatment of non-Jews, and this is clearly relevant to what we see today in Occupied Palestine and throughout the Middle East. However, The Leni is not a religious award. Moreover, since all organized religion is fundamentally irrational and can be exploited by militant lunatics to justify atrocities in the name of 揼od抯 will, nominating Footnote risked conflating Jews with Zionists, and that would itself have been an act of Holocaust propaganda!

BOYLE: 揤ery logical! I hadn抰 thought of that. OK, what about In Darkness, the Agnieszka Holland-directed story of Catholic Poles hiding Jews in the sewers of Lviv to keep them safe from Nazis?

KALE: 揑 debated a long time over this. The film clearly meets the Leni criteria of promoting the Jew-as-victim stereotype that drives the Israel-has-a-right-to-exist mantra. It also perpetuates our habit of compartmentalizing fascism to the Nazi era. As much as German fascists persecuted Jews, Jewish fascists are today persecuting Arabs. Gaza is recognized as the world's largest ghetto, and the Israeli press is very open about the extreme brutality, even bestiality, of Israeli settlers and soldiers toward Palestinians. The more we regurgitate World War II stereotypes the more easily we give ourselves permission to gloss over this reality.

BOYLE: 揝o, why didn抰 you select it?

KALE: 揈ssentially, because it is based on a true story, and as such has a defensible historical component. It also shows Catholics being compassionate towards Jews, and this counters the argument that Polish Catholics were anti-Jewish. It, therefore, has some value.

BOYLE: 揘ow, tell us about The Debt and why you picked it to win The Leni.

KALE: The Debt takes place both in 1997 and in 1965 as two sets of actors portray the central agents: Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) and Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson) and a former colleague David Peretz (Ciar醤 Hinds) play the contemporaries, while Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington, respectively, play them as younger Mossadniks. The Nazi in question is Dr. Dieter Vogel, a Joseph Mengele trope played by Jesper Christensen, perhaps best known for his role as the odious 慚r. White in the two most recent James Bond films.

揑n 1965, Vogel is bound and gagged and being guarded by our three agents in an East Berlin apartment because the plan to smuggle him out of East Berlin to stand trial in Israel for war crimes falls through. Vogel manages to free himself, slash Rachel抯 face and escape. Rachel manages to grab a gun and shoots at him as he flees, but did she kill him or did he get away?

BOYLE: 揝ounds like a typical spy movie, and vaguely similar to Mossad抯 kidnapping of Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to stand trial in Israel for war crimes.

KALE: 揑t should because it抯 based on that event, though this is not a true story. In fact it憇 a remake of an fictional Israeli film of the same name! So this is recycled, Anglicized propaganda!

BOYLE: 揑 take it that the Leni nomination comes from the movie抯 heroic depiction of Mossad.

KALE: 揑n part, yes. This slick film reinforces the perverse myth of the Mossad agent as hero. In reality, Mossad agents are international criminals. They have been behind the assassination of Iranian scientists, the World Trade Centre attack, and even plots to assassinate American politicians, like former senator James Abourezk. This film celebrates Jewish terrorism by making these criminals out to be crusaders for justice.

BOYLE: 揃ut as a Mengele figure, Vogel is supposed to have conducted medical experiments on people. Can抰 a case be made for kidnapping a war criminal to be brought to justice?

KALE: 揥e have Interpol and other police agencies to arrest people to stand trial. If you condone Israeli vigilantism, you condone criminal behaviour. But because Vogel was a Nazi, he is placed beyond the moral law, and so it is easy for us to subvert our respect for the law and endorse whatever is done to him and at the same time endorse the Israeli mindset. The irony is that Vogel isn抰 really so terrible.

BOYLE: 揥hat!

KALE: 揚sychological and mental torture, including medical experiments, still goes on today at the Guant醤amo Bay Detention Centre. If we condemn Vogel then we have to condemn ourselves.

BOYLE: 揧ou can抰 be serious!

KALE: 揈ver hear of David Hicks? He was the Australian drifter who became one of the first detainees at Gitmo because of the World Trade Centre attack. He was arrested in Afghanistan on a false charge of being a terrorist, and held in seclusion for five and half years. He describes in detail the torture he endured, including medical experimentation, in his book Guantanamo: My Journey, which has been banned in the U.S. and cannot even be sold on-line, despite being published by a large company like Random House Australia. According to Hicks:

慣here were many pills and injections, plus constant blood tests over the years. Everybody regardless of their citizenship should acknowledge that medical experimentation, whether on human beings or animals, is unacceptable. As with animals, we were held as prisoners when these procedures were forced upon us against our will. And as with animals, we were voiceless.

揑n short, 慥ogel is alive and well and working at Gitmo. He isn抰 a villain; he抯 one of us. If kidnapping or assassinating Vogel is supposed to be morally defensible, why shouldn抰 Israelis, Americans, Canadians or other Westerners who are complicit in the Gitmo torture facility also be kidnapped or assassinated?

揑f you condone Israeli vigilantism, you condone criminal behaviour. But because Vogel was a Nazi, he is placed beyond the moral law, and so it is easy for us to subvert our respect for the law and endorse the Israeli mindest. Miriam Kale
BOYLE: 揈arlier, though, you said the depiction of Mossad was only part of the reason you picked this film. What抯 the other part.

KALE: 揟his has to do with the film抯 title and the transparent lack of justice driving the latter-day agents. Killing Vogel is all about selfishness and ego. In 1997, Rachel抯 daughter penned a book extolling her mother抯 honour killing of Vogel, but when an old man in a Ukrainian nursing home surfaces claiming to be Vogel and the press gets wind of it, the book is put in jeopardy. If this old man turns out to be Vogel, Rachel must kill him to settle 搕he debt she owes for taking credit for a 30-year-old killing that she apparently didn抰 do. Essentially, the The Debt is concerned with public relations as a justification for premeditated murder. So much for justice and the great reputation of Mossad!

BOYLE: 揂nything else?

KALE: 揙ne last point. The film garners inflated credibility from its excellent cast, especially Helen Mirren in the lead role. When an A-list actress like Mirren, and A-list actors like Wilkinson and Worthington lend their collective talent and reputation to such a movie, the propaganda can easily pass for truth.

BOYLE: 揧ou make a convincing argument, as always. Before we move on to the other categories, there is one prediction you made last year that didn't come true.

KALE: 揧es. I thought that Bruno Lustig憇 inability to find funding for his film about Jews in Shanghai梠f all places梬as one sign that Hollywood was finally getting the message that the Holocaust genre was creatively, morally and politically exhausted. Even the Jewish Telegraph Agency speculated that the Holocaust movie had been done to death. Alas, there is more pro-Israel propaganda on the way, including a new Steven Spielberg version of Moses, the same Moses that Shlomo Sand said never existed. Where are the scripts about Cast Lead, Mavi Marmara, Qana or some other aspect of our modern Holocaust featuring an updated fascist villain?

BOYLE: 揌ave you forgotten who runs Hollywood?

KALE: (sighs) 揘o, I haven抰. As the saying goes: 慣here抯 no business like Shoah business, so I guess we抣l be talking about The Leni for some time.

BOYLE: 揥e抣l have to wait to see if the Academy agrees with your choice, but I can抰 see how it could disagree.

Click Here To See The Winner

BOYLE: 揥e抣l be back with more of Miriam抯 Oscar picks after this commercial message.

(Theme music and fade out)