Monday, March 31, 2008


Written by Fumo Verde

Back in 1997 an exhibit was put up in Munich, Germany. It was an exhibit about war and the atrocities committed by those who fought it. When we think about war atrocities and Germany, we think of the Nazis and the dreaded SS, but this exhibit looked deeper into who also committed those horrible crimes.

It was known as the Wehrmacht Exhibition or Army Exhibition, and the pictures and letters that were in the exhibit showed that the German Army itself also acted like the SS death squads by murdering innocent men, women, and children. Protests from hard-line German nationalists and other older Germans who believe the exhibit is out to slander the German Army and take away what pride those fighting men had left have their say in this film. Director Michael Verhoeven captures the feelings of all those involved, from the people who brought us the exhibit to those who still live in the lie that the deaths of six million Jews never occurred. This is a disturbing documentary about a proud people and the horrific part of their past that some are trying to forget while others are trying to re-kindle.

This exhibit takes a big step by saying that the German Army was not so glorious and honorable as people would like to believe, yet it doesn’t condemn the whole Army either, nor does the film. Verhoeven opens up this can of worms very carefully by giving us views from the exhibit of those who were involved with it and those who came to see it along with those who were opposed to it. Even a boyhood friend of Verhoeven, who was there to protest because he believes that his father was just a regular soldier and would have never committed such despicable things, gets a chance to speak his peace.

From authors to historians, Verhoeven tries to figure out what made such a simple people, like his friend’s father, who was a teacher, become numb to the murdering of innocent life. As he asked people who were visiting the exhibit most seem to grasp try to tackle the idea that “orders are orders” and that hopefully their grandpa wasn’t one of the brutes committing these acts. Others say that the pictures were staged and that the Army had no idea what the death squads were doing. True, some of the pictures were faked and because of this the exhibit was taken down for a period of time, but then was later reopened to the public. This just gave fuel to the fire for the young nationalists who still believe that the Holocaust never happened. Even when one soldier, who was there and had served on the Eastern Front committing these acts himself, reads his statement about what he did and about what others had done, there are still those who believe that even this man is part of the “bigger picture,” which lowers all Germans to the level of common criminals.

The exhibit itself is dramatic with its pictures and letters, and the tour guides explain both sides of the story, not only telling of the horrors that were committed but also of the brave Germans who refused to follow such orders. The tour guides say that nothing happened to these officers and enlisted men who refused to kill Jews or Gypsies which brings the audience and Verhoeven back to the question, “Why did the Army act in a way that was against every principle of which it stood for?” These questions may never be answered but The Unknown Soldier brings that discussion back into the limelight. It may open some old wounds but if these wounds aren’t healed properly, it may infect the world and we may find ourselves once again wondering how it happened, but then it maybe too late.

As someone who has studied the subject of war and of armies, it is easy to see both sides of the argument. True some soldiers committed atrocities and others didn’t, but we need to study the past as so as not to have it happen again.


Written by Pollo Misterioso

Bee Movie is the recently released Dreamworks 3D animated feature that centers around the life of bees, or more specifically the life of Barry B. Benson, voiced by Seinfeld. For a film that got so much hype and attention, especially since it was the first major project that Jerry Seinfeld signed onto since his much loved show, I would have expected something with a little more bite, or perhaps in this case sting. Unfortunately, it was all just a lot of buzz.

So enter the world of bees, where life inside the honeycomb is as busy as, well, a bee? Barry is about to graduate from school and get a job within the community that will ultimately be his job for the rest of his life. For him, there are bigger and better things than stirring the honey everyday and he winds up on a pollen-collecting mission that takes him out of the comb. Once outside the honeycomb he meets Vanessa Bloom (how appropriate for a florist) who is voiced by Renee Zellweger; they become fast friends. This is because bees can talk to humans.

Barry soon becomes outraged with the way that honey is distributed and used by humans, therefore he sues and the bees no longer pollinate or make honey. When the bees take a break, devastation strikes the entire world; without bees to pollinate, no vegetation will thrive. With that, natural order is finally restored when the bees go back to doing what they do best and Barry becomes a pollen jock and a lawyer that represents other under-appreciated species.

The film plays more like an environmental public service announcement: save the bees, or we will all waste away. But at least it is nice to look at. Overdramatic in its devastation of all of New York, the film makes Central Park look like a landfill after the strike. Apparently with no one to pollinate, there is no more food within the year.

If one can get past this message that seems to be uncomfortably obvious, there is no novelty and it lacks the charm that is present in most 3D animated films. Films like this are so pleasant because of its genuine and enchanting way of showing us the world we already know through another set of eyes—in this case through the eyes of Barry. But when the unknown world mixes with what we already know, the line between fantasy-fun and just crazy becomes blurred. Did I mention that the bees talk to humans?

Some of the most entertaining scenes are within the honeycomb, where honey is used for everything, from hair gel to toothpaste, and it is used as the water in a swimming pool. Even their antennas are like blue-tooth headsets that pick up signals from other bees.

I just can’t seem to get past the human/insect relationship that develops between our characters. It is too unbelievable, and yes, that is hard to do in a film like this. The storyline even hints at a love story that is happening between Barry and Vanessa. This is just a perfect example of how Bee Movie took on too much for it to handle. Our protagonist just wants to do something outside of the hive. Of course he does find his place again, but suing humans and going to court is a pretty strange way to get there. Bee Movie clearly tried to be timely and appropriate for people of all ages, but in its struggle to be marketable (just look at the trailers that Seinfeld did, they are in the special features of the DVD) it lost the heart of a great story and nothing creates more buzz than that.

There is a separate DVD containing more special features in the two-disc edition of the film. This includes games and trivia about the film. An interesting extra is “Meet Barry B. Benson” and you can ask him questions about life as a bee. There is a separate selection of extras for kids that includes “A Buzz Bout Bees” and “That’s Un-bee-lieveable” which are trivia games about bees. “Tech of Bee Movie” which is a behind-the-scenes look at the film, with interviews from the director, actors and it goes into the technical side of the film. Also take a look at the live action trailers, and “Jerry’s Flight over Cannes” which documents Jerry’s trip to Cannes Film Festival.