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Films of Conscience

OTHER than the Oscar for a speechless 11-year-old Anna Paquin, the Academy Awards ceremony Monday was not a special thriller. ``Schindler's List,'' Stephen Spielberg's black-and-white true story of one German's attempt to thwart the Nazis' ``final solution'' for Jews, picked up most of the top awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Such a film, coming on the eve of the 50th anniversary of World War II's end, deserves all it got.

Still, what struck us about the Oscars is how alive the film arts are. Two years ago Robert Altman's film ``The Player'' indicted Hollywood for mindless scripts and formulas. Yet this year's Best Picture choices included films such as ``Remains of the Day,'' ``The Piano,'' and ``Philadelphia,'' which, though controversial, are serious works of art, films of conscience. As Holly Hunter noted in accepting her Best Actress award for Jane Campion's ``The Piano,'' the industry deserves credit for dropping its rigid commercial criteria and allowing fresh works into the theaters.

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We agree with Mr. Spielberg's acceptance speech that the Holocaust, and the mentality and errors that led to it, should not be forgotten, and should, in some way, be taught. While this may seem obvious, one views with alarm trends both in academia and popular culture to deny this worst of crimes against humanity.

Of special interest is the tie between ``Remains of the Day'' and ``Schindler's List.'' ``Remains'' is set in the castle of one of England's leading Nazi appeasers. In many ways, the mentality of both the British nobleman and the British butler so brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins (Best Actor nominee) contributes to the horror played out in the Krakow ghetto and the camps in ``Schindler.'' The film marks the cost of unquestioned loyalty and blind honor.

In a scene after the war, the character played by Mr. Hopkins is asked how he could have gone along with the appeasement. He answers: ``It is not my place to agree or disagree. I just serve to the best of my ability.'' To teach the importance of independent thinking would begin to answer Spielberg's hope for ``never again.''

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