Ron Rosenbaum

Christoph Waltz's Phony Nazi Cartoon Doesn't Deserve an Oscar

I’m sure he’ll win, because the members o the Academy are, for the most part, so ignorant of history (as attested to by giving the Oscar nomination to the loathsome production of The Reader last year). But that’s not the point.

The point is that everybody is hailing Waltz’ performance as if he had created a super, super sophisticated SS character–sophistication we’re supposed to be in awe of, a new kind of intellectual-friendly Nazi. But in fact this sophistication is about as convincing as Snidely Whiplash. It is only excusable if you can believe (and I’d like to believe) Tarantino (whose work I often admire) was mocking the Hollywood SS cliche. But if so I don’t think that’s why Waltz got the nomination. I think he got it because the Oscar voters in their ignorance bought its bogusness as if it were something real.

What’s worse is that it plays into one of the oldest, most misbegotten myths about the genocidal SS (they were in charge of the Final Solution): that they were somehow an elite, intellectual corps of esthetes compared with the other, more crude Nazis. We’re almost encouraged to admire him by the movie, he’s so (supposedly) charismatic and deeply complex and clever.

Please. I’m sure he’s a fantastic actor. I can’t blame him for doing a good job with the part that was written for him, but the part is a lame ahistorcal farce. The SS were crude, bloody mass murderers, not sophisticated esthetes. The Oscar voters seem to be imprisoned by some Hollywood version of the Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to confronting Nazi evil. Thus the nomination of the repellent Reader and now Waltz. They want to make absolute evil something they can understand and accept–relate to–through their impoverished vocabulary of film cliches. Sorry, evil of this magnitude cannot be contained or explained by such stunted impostures.