Music Box: Gang of Four’s “Entertainment!”

After Marie Antoinette I couldn’t help but wonder, why I haven’t written anything about Gang of Four’s Entertainment! before. This is one of my most influential albums that is so bold in deconstructing our society and goes beyond the “everything sucks” ideology of many punk albums. This is post-punk, of course, and while there are other political albums in music’s history, at least for me nothing achieves what this album achieves. It’s angry without being loud, it’s intelligent and challenges the listener because it doesn’t provide easy answers. It’s simply brilliant, lyrically and musically. If I ever need inspiration for change, for doing something, I put this one on and get going.

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Borat (2006)

(no spoilers for this unspoilable movie)

Borat is … oh man, where to start? I know I’m supposed to like this movie. Critics loved it. Audiences loved it. Its screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. For a while people were constantly talking about it and I felt strange not having seen it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just never got around to it (because every other movie in existence also calls for my attention), so now, eight years later, I finally watched it and, what do you know, I didn’t like it. Strangely, I expected to like it so this was a surprise to me. I have some issues with the movie but it boils down to one thing: I didn’t find the movie funny.  I saw what it was trying to do but I sat through all of it with an earnest face, not even registering a smile. It’s not that I didn’t understand it or that it was too offensive or something, I just couldn’t laugh about it. It was boring to me, especially the “story” parts. The interactions were somewhat interesting, but that was about it. I couldn’t even say it’s a bad movie, but it’s definitely not a movie for me. And I think its ideas don’t translate well to a movie, this is just made for TV.

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Why We Should Care More Than Obama

In his reaction to the Grand Jury decision not to put Darren Wilson on trial, Barack Obama again showed pretty well why politics won’t help us change anything unless they are forced. Politicians don’t care, that’s not their job, and Obama is no different in that than anyone before and probably after him.

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Interstellar (2014)

(no real spoilers until I tell you so)

Interstellar is certainly something like an event, a movie that is highly entertaining and engaging, but somewhat hollow at its core. The movie wants a lot but ultimately fails to reach its own ambitions. The production values are excellent, the images are stunning, the music is epic, the visual and sound effects are flawless. The editing shows some of the movie’s problems, because it uses hard cuts for effects but overuses them, showing that the movie really wants to be special. This also goes for the parallel montages that are interesting but ultimately don’t lead to much. You find the same problem in many of the movie’s aspects, especially the last twenty minutes, where the movie really tries to be clever but simply isn’t. It’s more show than tell, unfortunately. The acting is very good but some dialogue doesn’t do the talent of the actors justice. My impressions are still fresh, but I’m not sure where the movie lands in my perception. I loved it’s ideas about time and there’s one very emotional scene that I found really effective. It’s worth watching it, I think, but it’s one of those movies that seems more problematic in its ideas the longer I think about it.

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Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman is stunning in its badness. I had low expectations, but I didn’t expect just how bad it really was. The movie defies anything you expect from a comic book adaptation or a superhero movie or a movie with a female protagonist. It does everything wrong, looks cheap and amateurish, has a terrible script, some of the worst CGI, an annoying soundtrack and bad (over)acting. This is really, really bad, though enjoyable in its failure because you can’t stop being amazed that they this or that way.

You can read the full post here.

Inventing the Child – Unschooling and Normal Families

I was asked to write not only about all those bad children’s books, but also to provide some good examples. What’s the point of criticizing all the books your children want to read, if there is no alternative? Sure, I’d still say that you can read the problematic books anyway, but point out the problems to your kid, but it is better of course to just have a good book that follows your own ideology. So, that is what I’m doing today. Be aware, there are many more examples, but in my recent attempt to write shorter articles (just in case that’s a reason people are turned off from reading them), I’ll just focus on some and come back to all of this again in the future.

You can read the full post here.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette is a truly divisive film that seems to make people angry easily, despite being rather soft and mild-mannered. The problem is that people expected the movie to be political, or to be more precise, to be critical of aristocracy to make the French Revolution more understandable. But that’s not what the movie provides. I think does provide something else and is political (I know, I’m not alone in that), so you shouldn’t blame it for what it isn’t. But the film is very well-made by Sofia Coppola, very determined and precise. It shows the story from the point of view of its protagonist (played very well by Kirsten Dunst) and I don’t see a fault in that. If a young girl becomes Queen of France, where’s the problem in showing how a teenager deals with that? And unlike many critics, I didn’t find the movie dull but really interesting.

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Kids with Guns (1)

When I wrote about the Marysville School Shooting two weeks ago, I discovered this list on school shootings on Wikipedia and it fascinated me endlessly. I wasn’t sure why until I started doing research because I wanted to write more about this topic. It’s fascinating to see that while almost all of those incidents are reported in the news, it often isn’t more than the initial “someone has been shooting at a school” report, but rarely any follow-ups. So it’s very hard to learn what was behind those shootings, to read about motives or reactions. I guess that’s not surprising for our media that it is only interested in the shock value of such news and doesn’t dare to dig deeper. Still, there are some follow-up articles and as I realized I might get obsessed with this topic because I endlessly wanted to look up everything, I decided to turn this into a series, focus on a couple of incidents and come back to that long, long list again (and again).

You can read the full post here.

Submarine (2009)

132 submarine-poster

(no real spoilers this time)

Submarine is a brilliant movie about growing up that really tries to put you into the mindset of an adolescent, thereby showing how our culture tries to shape you into something you don’t want to be. Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is a 15-year-old boy who struggles with love and the unhappy marriage of his parents. The movie follows his point of view and director Richard Ayoade uses every trick in the book to make the movie interesting and also to show how Oliver’s mind works. The directorial style is what really makes the movie work because the tricks rarely feel like showing off, but are effective and clever, always leaving you waiting what will come next. The acting is great, especially in the main role, the songs by Alex Turner fit perfectly and even the production design adds to make the movie special, mainly by using a somewhat obvious, but still successful color scheme of reds and blues.

You can read the full post here.

Taking It to the Street

As I came into one of my classes today, the students all gathered around me, waving red pamphlets and telling me we have to go outside! I didn’t know what was going on until I realized there was a demonstration going on, right outside the building, visible from the classroom window. My students tried to convince me that they were really interested in that demonstration and wanted to go there, which I doubted since they obviously preferred this to a lesson. Eventually we went outside to see what it was all about.

You can read the full post here.