thereaderIt seems as though every year there is a deluge of Holocaust-themed films that come out during Oscar season. This year, no fewer than six films meet that criteria. Lilit Marcus of examines this phenomenon.

By Lilit Marcus,

The 2009 Academy Award nominations were announced on January 22. While there were a couple of obvious names on the list – Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler, Meryl Streep for Doubt, Heath Ledger getting a posthumous nod in the Supporting Actor category for The Dark Knight exactly one year to the day after he died – it wouldn’t be an Oscar lineup if there weren’t a couple of surprises thrown in.

Kate Winslet, who is the consistent Academy Awards bridesmaid, scoring no wins for five previous nominations, was considered a shoo-in for her work in Revolutionary Road after winning the Best Actress prize for the role at the Golden Globes. However, while Kate’s name was called, she’s being recognized for her much more controversial role as Hanna, a former concentration camp guard, in The Reader. [Confusingly, Winslet also won a Golden Globe for The Reader, but in the Supporting category. Isn’t awards season fun?]

The Reader is based on the excellent novel of the same name by Bernard Schlink. Winslet’s character, Hanna Schmitz, is a German woman who embarks on an affair with a teenage boy named Michael, who she asks to read to her from classic novels. Years after the affair, Michael finds out that Hanna was a concentration camp guard during the Holocaust when he sees part of her trial. While the story – and Winslet’s performance – is powerful, it’s getting frustrating to see the deluge of Holocaust-centric films that conveniently surface every year just in time for award nominations. As Roi Ben-Yehuda noted in his post There’s No Business Like Shoah Business, this year alone spawned at least a half-dozen Shoah films, including Defiance and Valkyrie, most of whom had big star names attached (Defiance had Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber; Valkyrie starred Tom Cruise). Perhaps the most amusing part about Winslet’s nomination for The Reader was her hilarious cameo in an episode of the Ricky Gervais show Extras, where she played an exaggerated version of herself and talked about how she was going to have to do a Holocaust movie if she ever wanted to win an Oscar.

Another notable spot in the Oscar nomination lineup is the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir, which scored a nod in the Best Foreign Film category. The film, which is animated, deals with the symptoms post-traumatic stress disorder in some Israelis who fought in the First Lebanon War in 1982.

As for other Jewish representation in the list of Oscar nominees, well… Josh Brolin (nominated in the Supporting Actor category for playing Dan White, the man who assassinated Harvey Milk, in Milk) is Barbra Streisand’s stepson. Yes, I’m reaching, I know.

This piece previously appeared at