By Sandy Cohen
LOS ANGELES — With no less than six World War II-focused films out this month, it’s shaping up to be a very Nazi Christmas.
In theaters now are “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” which tells the story of a forbidden friendship between the son of a Nazi officer and a Jewish boy imprisoned in a concentration camp; “The Reader,” which stars Kate Winslet as a former concentration-camp guard on trial years after the war; and “Adam Resurrected,” which follows a Holocaust survivor (Jeff Goldblum) living in a mental institution.
“Valkyrie,” which opened on Christmas Day, stars Tom Cruise as a German officer who heads up a plan to kill Hitler.
And two more Nazi-oriented films open on New Year’s Eve: “Defiance” stars Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber as brothers who battle the Nazis from a secret hideout in the woods, and “Good” features Viggo Mortensen as an academic and novelist reluctantly enticed into the SS fold after he’s approached to write some mild propaganda for the Nazi party.
In a recent interview, Cruise joked: “Go kill Hitler on Christmas!”
So why, during what’s supposed to be the cheeriest time of year, this abundance of stories from one of humanity’s darkest hours?
“Much of it is awards-driven,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, which tracks box-office totals. “Downer movies come out this time of year as a reflection of the fact that people are vying for Oscars.”
Indeed, Holocaust-themed holiday releases have fared well with academy voters for decades. “Sophie’s Choice,” a December release in 1982, earned five Oscar nominations and a win for star Meryl Streep. “Schindler’s List” was nominated for 12 Oscars and won seven — including best picture — after its release in December of 1993.
“The Pianist” opened two days after Christmas in 2002. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won three, including best actor for star Adrien Brody and best director for Roman Polanski.
“These movies take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride,” Dergarabedian said. “They’re powerful, moving, and Oscar loves that.”