Why “Jojo Rabbit” Deserved Its Oscar

Feb. 13 2020

At the Academy Awards last Sunday, the film Jojo Rabbit—about a boy in Nazi Germany whose mother is secretly hiding a Jewish child—won the prize for “best adapted screenplay,” and was nominated for several others. John Podhoretz, who is no fan of Holocaust movies, or of Jojo Rabbit’s writer-director Taika Waititi (né Cohen), was surprised to find himself praising the film:

Jojo is Johannes, a boy whose father is (he thinks) off fighting the war and whose glamorous mother (Scarlett Johansson) goes off every day to do things about which he is not in the least curious. Lonely and solitary, he consoles himself through conversations with an imaginary Hitler (played by Waititi), who is every bit the ten-year-old boy Jojo is.

As the film begins, Jojo goes off for the weekend to train as part of the Hitler Youth, a broadly comic sequence featuring ludicrous exercises that suddenly becomes something else when Jojo is tasked with killing a rabbit with his bare hands to demonstrate his readiness to serve the Nazi cause. His inability to do so leads to the mocking nickname that gives the movie its title. And the reversal of mood in the scene gives a hint of the reversals Jojo will experience as the movie continues.

Waititi shows an uncommon grace in his portrayal of Jojo, who has had his head pumped full of disgusting ideas he barely even understands. What he does understand is the joy of a uniform, its swastika insignia, and the hunter’s knife that comes with it—and the fatherless fantasy that Hitler could be his intimate friend.

His mother is afraid that the Nazis are turning Jojo into a robot, but his problem is not a lack of feeling; it’s too much feeling. It is precisely his openness to emotion that will save Jojo. And it will cause him to experience terrible grief in the town square. It’s a scene that features one of the most devastating and brilliantly rendered moments in contemporary cinema, and fittingly so, since Jojo Rabbit is just an extraordinary piece of work and maybe the year’s best film.

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

More about: Film, Holocaust, Nazi Germany

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount