30 April 2008


In honor of the mini-revolution that takes place in Berlin each year on May 1, I offer Gil Scott-Heron.

Since May 1 in Berlin is always televised, it must mean that nothing revolutionary happens. Wannabe anarchists burn cars and throw rocks at the police, while the police crack them on their heads if they get close enough. Then it's over again until next year. So predictable, it's almost as if it's scripted.

Still, it's nice to imagine a May 1 when something profound actually happens...

27 April 2008

Thriller Inmates Now a Popular Tourist Attraction

And why not?

Previously discussed on one of my blog entries last year, those dancing prisoners in the Philippines have apparently become a tourist attraction. According to Reuters,

At the end of the two hour program, which is held the last Saturday of every month, visitors can have their pictures taken with the prisoners. They can also buy souvenir prison shirts.

If you can think of a better reason to go to the Philippines, I'd like to hear it.

22 April 2008

Funny Games

It was summer 1999 and I was living in Park Slope and working on my MA in Film and Media Studies. I was wandering around the Foreign Films section of Tower Video in the East Village, when I came across Funny Games. I had seen a preview for the film on some other video I had rented, and thought that it might be a wild ride. It was also a German-language film, which is always a good way to practice listening-comprehension skills. Whatever. I took it home.

Wild ride my ass. Funny Games was a complete and total skullf**k.

I watched it repeatedly that weekend, then tried to force everyone I knew to watch it, too. I shudder now to think how some of them must have scurried in the opposite direction when they saw me coming, to avoid hearing me go on and on (yet again) about Michael Haneke's masterpiece.

I first heard about the remake a couple years ago, and my first thought would have been, "What kind of fuckery is this?" had Amy Winehouse been out back then, but she wasn't. So my actual response was denial, since I was loath to process such a ridiculous piece of information. My previous experience with a European director going to Hollywood to remake (and seriously f**k up) his own film was George Sluizer, who directed The Vanishing. Just thinking about that mess he made with Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, and Nancy Travis gives me a headache. The brilliance of the Dutch version is the absolute horror of the ending. Desperate to know the fate that befell his missing lover, the protagonist unwittingly allows himself to suffer the same fate. Thus, his end is all the more chilling, and The Vanishing (OV) remains one of the most quietly terrifying films I have ever seen.

The Hollywoodification of that film lies somewhere in the belief that Americans need happy endings. This is perhaps true, and if so, very telling. As the conventional wisdom goes, the folks who flock to the multiplexes for entertainment, aren't there to see their heroes fail. And since Hollywood doesn't make films to lose money, the multiplex crowd must be kept as happy as possible. This wasn't always the case, but to save me the trouble of explaining why the movie industry in the US began to suck after the phenomenal success of Jaws, buy a copy of Easy Riders and Raging Bulls: How the How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, by Peter Biskind.

In any case, I digress...

I checked out the trailer for the new version of Funny Games and from what I can see, it sucks.

While it does appear (at least from the trailer) to be a shot-by-shot reconstruction of the original, Naomi Watts is not going to go where Susanne Lothar went in this role, and the places she does go are problematic. As for the Tim Roth-Ulrich Mühe comparison, there is none. Look, I know I'm being unfair, but that's the way it is. If you've seen it and disagree (but only if you've seen the original at least twenty times as well) drop me a line and let me know.

As for future remake madness, I will continue to pretend that I didn't read this article in the Guardian last year that claims that The Lives of Others is going to be remade. Apparently, Americans are too stupid to read subtitles, so the entire film has to be remade. In terms of the Americanization of this film I'm sure they could add a scene featuring Ronald Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate imploring Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."


On the bright side, however, it appears that Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck won't be tasked with screwing up his own film. That job has apparently been given to Sidney Pollack.

18 April 2008

Sometimes all I need is The Clash

Please don't ever let me get so drunk that I...

...fail to notice that one of my drinking buddies has stabbed me in the back with a kitchen knife.

I especially loved this line:

"We were drinking and what doesn't happen when you're drunk?" he was quoted by Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying.

I guess this is what is meant by Russian Drunk.

17 April 2008

The Wallace and Gromit Effect

There's a story on the BBC website this morning about a five-year-old boy named Sam, who has received a patent for a double-headed broom. Inspired by Wallace and Gromit, Sam came up with the idea as he watched his Dad sweeping leaves. According to Sam,

I saw my Daddy brushing up and made it. There are two brushes because one gets the big bits and one gets the little bits left behind.

What's really stunning here, is that Sam was only three when he created his invention. As fate would have it Sam's dad is a patent lawyer. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

14 April 2008

The Subprime Mortgage Crisis

If you are inclined to explore the causes of the subprime mortgage crisis, you will undoubtedly be confronted with a complex tale of high-risk borrowers, mortgage-backed securities, and collateralized debt obligations.

In fact, all you really need to know is that the crisis now choking the globe was brought about by a bunch of greedy bastards (GBs), who thought that it was a good idea to lend lots of money to people with poor credit, often without verifying the income of the borrowers. Betting that the housing market would continue to rise, the borrowers and the GBs were then f**ked when the housing market began to fall in 2006: the borrowers because they were losing equity (which they could get on appreciating mortgages even if they weren't able to pay the principal monthly), thus making it impossible to refinance; and the GBs because the borrowers began to default to the tune of billions of dollars.

Of course the story is FAR more complex than this, but as I was "researching" this post I read that Bush's economic stimulus package might offer me a tax rebate, so I gotta go do my taxes...

If I do get a rebate I promise to buy something to stimulate the US economy and not the German one.

10 April 2008

Raising Girls vs Raising Boys

This post is dedicated to my brother, who became a father last August...

There was a scene in a film I saw last night, in which the father pressed a condom into the hand of his seventeen-year-old son and virtually pushed him out of the car to go meet his date. [That the son was a seventeen-year-old pedophile and not really interested in the lovely young woman waiting for him, was a detail the father was trying desperately to remedy.]

In any case, my mind's eye attempted to fastforward to some bizarre future where my brother would be pressing a condom into his daughter's seventeen-year-old hand, encouraging her to "have fun" and "not to worry about coming home."

At this point I felt my brain starting to melt, so I quit.

05 April 2008

Happy Birthday Bette!

Trying to find a clip to honor Bette Davis on what would have been her 100th birthday wasn't easy. It's not that there weren't clips available, quite the contrary. The difficulty was in choosing between a clip from one of her films or an interview clip. Each had its merits, but I finally settled on an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in which she discusses kissing scenes in Hollywood. The mind reels...

I'm loving the short black dress and the black boots. Ms. Davis was fierce!

04 April 2008

The Mountaintop

Chillingly prophetic given that he was assassinated the next day. That aside, it remains an incredible testament to the oratory power he possessed.

What a man...

02 April 2008

Old Women and Young Men: TV vs. Real Life

I was sitting in my favorite cafe this afternoon (no surprise there), when a thirty-something year-old man came in and sat at the table next to mine. I glanced at him when I noticed that the waitress put on a big smile when she took him the menu. Yes, he was handsome, well dressed, and seemed nice enough. He ordered and I went back to concentrating on the manuscript I'm currently editing. About thirty minutes later, a woman in her mid to late fifties came in and joined the man at his table. The waitress stopped smiling.

The woman, who wasn't German but perhaps eastern European, was very attractive and also well dressed. The only problem was her hair, which was [dyed] jet black, a bit too long, and seemed to be teased. No, really. I thought women stopped teasing their hair a long time ago. But what do I know, right?

In any case, she seemed happy to see him, and he seemed bored. To make a long story short, everything about that encounter--from the body language to the conversation--screamed that she was the weak partner in the power struggle otherwise known as a "romantic relationship." There was even an extremely painful moment (for me, at least) when she leaned over his food so that he would have to look her in the eye. Ouch. I actually gave her the quizzical eye, which was meant to communicate: "Okay, he's cute, but he ain't all that. Pull yourself together!" After which they moved to a more private corner at the other side of the cafe. She even said as they were going to the other table: "So we don't disturb you anymore." Tja, was kann man machen?

Well this got me thinking about a melodrama I saw on TV Monday night. [Yeah, I know what you're thinking: no TV watching in the US, but melodramas on German TV?? It's a transnational media studies thing. Seriously...] In this particular film, a beautiful, but somewhat shy fifty-year-old woman goes to spend the summer in Paris teaching literature at La Sorbonne.

The Woman

She stays in what must be the most beautiful pension in the world (thus, clearly beyond the budget of any adjunct lecturer I know), and is drawn into a relationship with the Russian author in the adjacent room, who happens to be about twenty years younger than she is.

The Man

When the two of them first meet, he has a girlfriend who lives with him in the pension and is a hair stylist.

The Girlfriend

They invite the woman to dinner and the man insists that his girlfriend cuts the woman's hair; the plan of course is to update her rather dowdy look.

Well, after a while the girlfriend goes back to Russia and the man and the woman begin an affair. Of course she is torn because: she can't give him kids; she thinks that he'll dump her for a younger woman; he's always making decisions for her; the girlfriend comes back from Russia and calls her old; and so on and so forth. Unlike the guy in the cafe this afternoon, however, this man is clearly into his old babe and goes to superhuman efforts to convince her that his love is for real and that he deserves a chance.

The Couple

Making all of this easier, of course, is the fact that both of them are really beautiful, she gets a contract to stay in Paris and teach, his book is a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and she has the support of her family, who thinks that the man is really good for her. Beyond all of that, of course, they are in the City of Love.

The City of Berlin, however, seems a bit hard on lovers, though I am perhaps reading too much into the experience of the couple in the cafe. We'll see...

Gotta go. A Tatort rerun is on...

Note: The pics are my shots of the TV screen.

01 April 2008

Blogroll: My Gayest Look

Hilarious response to Jay Leno, who appears to be an idiot.

Hauptstadt Graffiti

Berlin is famous for its graffiti, and there's so much of it that it just becomes part of the landscape. Occasionally, however, some stuff catches my eye...

(Translation: I want to live today, not tomorrow.)