In another year this could very well have been my choice for Best Picture. Instead of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood winning, it might … oh, wait. That didn’t win, did it? Once more the Academy fucked up, as it did recently with Green Book, The Shape of Water, Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist, The King’s Speech, and The Hurt Locker. In fact you have to go all the way back to 2007 and No Country For Old Men to find a truly deserving winner. Come on, Academy, get with it!
All the way back in 1967 Mel Brooks pulled off the unlikely trick of making a comedy with Adolf Hitler in it. Of course it was a stage Hitler played by a crazy guy, and it lampooned Nazis, but there were those who thought it was in bad taste. Now in 2019 we get this lovely little movie about a young boy, a member of the Hitler Youth and enthusiastic supporter of his Fuhrer. In fact, Hitler is his imaginary friend who he talks to all the time. It’s a goofy, funny, friendly Hitler, played by the film’s New Zealander screenwriter-director, Taika Waititi, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
It’s mostly all in good fun at first, even when Jojo discovers that his mother is an anti-Nazi and is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic, a girl who was the friend of his late sister. But this is real war, not musical comedy, with real Gestapo always ready to knock down the door, and by the end things are falling apart and getting really nasty. I won’t get into details too much, it will be better if you let the story unfold on its own. Everyone involved is first-rate, particularly Waititi and Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s mother. She probably jinxed her Oscar chances last year by being nominated both for this performance as well as Best Actress for Marriage Story.