Monthly Archives: July 2014

You Belong on the Radio – German Music Charts

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Inspired by someone‘s suggestion (you know who you are, constant reader) and following something I did many years ago, I decided to start a new series about music. Here’s the plan: I look at the music charts to see what the most popular songs are actually telling us. Most people can sing along the lyrics without ever thinking about them. If you do that, sometimes you discover interesting, disturbing or surprising issues. Today I look at the top 10 of the German single charts but only pick the songs where I find something worth writing about. Whatever I write about the songs does not necessarily say anything about whether I like them, so no one should feel offended. I don’t know what will happen, but that’s part of the appeal!

Continue reading You Belong on the Radio – German Music Charts

Looper (2012) [Part 1]

       looper poster(spoilers ahead)

Looper is the rare intelligent movie that also delivers on action, suspense and sci-fi elements. To me, it was a perfectly constructed story that constantly surprised me (I’m not surprised by movies very often) and kept me at the edge of my seat. When it ended, the first thing I thought was: “I want to watch that again.” It’s also one of those movies I enjoyed so much while it was still on that I was sure it would fail at its ending. But it certainly didn’t disappoint. It definitely cranks up the action factor towards the end, but the action always has a purpose and is story-driven and Rian Johnson, the writer-director, keeps coming up with innovative ideas to film the action. In fact, the whole movie is so well-made and uses the possibilities of cinema in a way that you wonder why everyone else doesn’t do that more (I guess it boils down to talent). Johnson’s use of camera and editing is brilliant, which is maybe surprising because his script is so well-written, too. Is this the better Inception? I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison, but the moment a student mentioned it, I couldn’t stop thinking that Looper shows why Inception might be overrated. Then again, both feature great performances, but I enjoyed the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis pairing so much and all the supporting actors and actresses keep up that level easily. The movie doesn’t even disappoint when it comes to the role of women (I think), but I should save that for my analysis.

Continue reading Looper (2012) [Part 1]

Comics Are For Everyone – Captain America Comics #1-19

Comics are of course no exception when it comes to depicting stereotypes, dealing with authority and discussing our society. I have a long list of comics that deal with various topics and now is a good as any to start digging through my archives. And when I say “archives”, it sounds like going way back in time, so let’s do that.

It’s 1941. The world is a simpler place. There are good and evil people. The good people are Americans and its allies. The evil people are Nazis and some of the Asians. Who do we need to fight this fight between good and evil? Of course, it’s the perfect time to create Captain America, the personified patriotism. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (later joined by Stan Lee) started Captain America Comics in 1941 to fight World War II in the “funny pages.” It’s pure propaganda of course and it might be unfair to judge those old comics nowadays. Culture in general was much more open about its racism and stereotypes and it was more accepted. I would argue that as embarrassing as some of these stereotypes are nowadays, at least there was less pretense. Today a lot of it is still there (okay, not as extreme as here), but it often seems like it isn’t. Anyway, let’s take a look at some examples from the old times.

Captain America Comics #1 - Page 1

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Our Life Is a Movie: Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) (1998)

lolaposter(spoilers ahead)

The movies I have written about here up to now have all been movies I had just seen for the first time. Today I wanted to start writing about movies that I already know and also love and the first one has to be Tom Tykwer’s Lola rennt (Run Lola Run), mostly because I really, really love it, it changed my way of looking at movies and I just recently discussed it with one of my courses and noticed some new things. So, with other movies I’d just talk about the one thing that makes the movie interesting to me, but Lola rennt is stuffed with things to talk about. Again, I could write a long book about this movie and obviously people have written about it already, but that’s not my intention here. I want to focus on some aspects that fit on this blog the most and that are by coincidence the things I only recently discovered (or realized) on my 20th+ viewing. But just so you know how much there potentially is to discuss, all the things I’m not talking about here now:

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Lady in the Water (2006)

  lady_in_the_water  (spoilers ahead)

Lady in the Water is not a misunderstood movie. It bombed when it came out and Wikipedia says since then it has been more appreciated than critics did then, but seeing it for the first time now, it’s easy to see that it’s a big failure and the definitive tipping point for director M. Night Shyamalan. Sixth Sense was great, Unbreakable maybe even greater, Signs I still liked a lot (even if I was suddenly alone), The Village is not good but somewhat enjoyable, but Lady in the Water hit a new, very low level. It has its few moments, but overall it’s a complete mess. The opening is already confusing and goes on for too long, the movie then goes back and forth on the same ideas over and over again for what feels like forever only to end with one of the most absurd endings ever seen. The bad thing about the ending is that it is supposed to feel grand and spectacular, but you can only sit there and wonder if all of this really happened. The biggest reason for disbelief for the end is that the movie tries to be some kind of metaphor most of the time, but throws of all that out of the window for an effects-heavy fairytale ending that is just laughable.

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Fack ju Göhte (2013)

fack-ju-goehte(spoilers ahead)

Fack ju Göhte is the most successful film in Germany in 2013. Does that mean anything? Probably not, as success is rarely in conjunction with quality when it comes to movies (or anything). The movie is something like a school comedy, which might be a reason why it is so beloved by students since they enjoy laughing about school. But the plot is… you can’t even call it absurd because it so obviously is just an excuse for the movie to get a bank robber into a school posing as a teacher – that’s the “gimmick” of the movie and the plot behind it (that his bait money is buried under the school) is not believable for a second. Does the movie work? It’s difficult for me to say. My expectations were very low and the movie was better than I had thought. But it wasn’t great. It has its moments but the style of comedy, a sort of constant noisy, over-the-top, aggressive humor, is hard to bear at first, but you get used to it. The characters are mostly clichés, but they are allowed to have some depth at times and even some growth, more or less. Some of the humor works too. The movie strangely grows on you over time, if you don’t think about it too much. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it didn’t hurt to watch it.

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I Want to Hear What You’ve Got to Say

Every year every teacher and student dreads the last weeks before the holidays. Once the grades are made, all potential motivation vanishes and everyone just waits until it’s over. This is interesting because it shows the pretense we hold up that we learn important things in school. If they were so important, it wouldn’t matter if there are grades or not, but the last weeks always unmask how everything is governed by grades, thereby taking away any interest students could have in a subject. But that’s a different story.

Continue reading I Want to Hear What You’ve Got to Say

The Wicker Man (2006)

wicker_man_poster(spoilers ahead)

The Wicker Man is one of those notorious movies where it’s hard not to stumble upon YouTube clips before you’ve actually seen it. It stars Nicolas Cage and probably marks the movie that started his downward spiral during which he became known for making crappy movies and overacting wildly in them. The Wicker Man somehow qualifies for both as he acts sleepily for most of the movie before going completely over the top in the end. Is the movie crappy? That is so hard to say, at least for me. I know it is heralded as one of the most unintentionally funny movies ever and I can see that. There are definitely enough scenes that can make you laugh because they are so weird. But the director is Neil LaBute who is normally a very deliberate writer and director of thought-provoking movies that never make it easy for the viewer to make easy judgments. I have read his plays in school and really liked some of his movies (The Shape of Things, Nurse Betty). So what happened here? Cage said in interviews that they intended to make an absurd comedy but the movie does not make that clear enough. LaBute is also known for challenging gender roles and The Wicker Man is full of that. But what is the movie trying to say?

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