Racism in film
Racism in film, sounds like a huge topic, and it is. So here are two things beforehand:
1. The topic is quite far-reaching, yet also complex and varied, that I could not even come close to covering every facet of the it. Here, I only want to deal with the facet of how films – fictional or not – can cultivate world views and what influence this can have, consciously or unconsciously, on our perception of racism. Due to the numerous events as well as their impact on riots and media coverage regarding #blacklivesmatter 2020 and also 2021, as well as the representation of racism in film in the Western world and especially my own exposure to primarily US cinema, this is mainly about racisms towards Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPoC).
2. Since I myself (Yussef) am writing from a privileged position in this context, I will not even presume to include massive personal opinions and experiences with racism here. There will be a few sources for self-information, speaking from experience, giving historical backgrounds or fully scientific sources. In addition, films and series will be used as examples. The most important thing remains to be critical, to inform oneself and to actively question how representations of different ethnicities, beliefs, lifestyles and everything else that apparently gives rise to exclusion are presented and why. That includes this text. Especially, since as a society we often fall prey to small islands of receptivity. Media attention generates impulses to deal with certain issues. For example, after increased cases of police assaults on black Americans in the USA, whose symbolic image was the death of the black American George Floyd caused by the white US police officer Derek Chauvin at the beginning of 2020. Despite the previously unseen wave of uprisings, the issue has slipped back into the background and only briefly resurfaced in the form of even smaller islands – such as the current payment of damages to the family of Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her sleep by US police, and the reopening of the case against Derek Chauvin as the potential third-degree murderer of George Floyd.
Regardless, it is certain that there is a preoccupation with racism in all known media formats and in all nuances between information and entertainment content. This sometimes very fluid transition is to be shown here with a few examples each, from which one can gain a rough overview of the media landscape.
On the primarily informative level alone, there are plenty of good and noteworthy formats. In terms of podcasts, there is, for example, 1619 from the New York Times, which covers the US history of slavery in a narrative style over a few episodes. The Stoop, on the other hand, hosted by Leila Day and Hana Baba, is much more conversational, covering many different topics regarding the contemporary Black experience in the US. About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, presents a British perspective on BPoC racism. She is also the author of Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race, which captures her exhaustion at the attempted dialogue on the topic of systemic racism. All of these podcasts are available on their respective sites, but all can also be found on Spotify, for example.
There is also a lot to be found in the documentary field covering the topic of racism from a wide variety of perspectives at different levels of specification. Of these and subsequent films based on true events, only a few are mentioned to provide an overview. 13th (2016, Netflix) is a Netflix-produced documentary that looks at the prison system in the US. I Am Not Your Negro (2017, Netflix) shows the history of the American civil rights movements beginning in the 20th century and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King & Malcolm X reaching to #blacklivesmatter today. 8 Minutes and Forty-Six Seconds (2020, Sky Ticket) - named after the now symbolically connoted time George Floyd was held down by Derek Chauvin with his knee until beyond death – again reconstructs the events of said incident.
Likewise, films based on real events and people, but acted, cover a huge spectrum, both thematically and temporally. Icons of the 20th century civil rights movements can be seen, for example, in Selma (2014, Amazon Prime) and in Malcolm X (1992, Amazon Prime). The former depicts the demonstrative march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 led by Dr. Martin Luther King, the latter a Spike Lee project showing the life and death of Malcolm X. Stories of less eminent figures grappling with racism against blacks have also hit the big screens in recent years. Among them, for example, Hidden Figures (2016) and BlacKkKlansman (2018).
Fruitvale Station (2013, Netflix, Amazon Prime) by Ryan Coogler, who later went on to shoot Black Panther (2018, Disney+), reconstructs, in part highly accurately using an recreating the original video footage by shooting at the actual station, the events surrounding the death of subdued black U.S. citizen Oscar Grant III, shot by police officer Johannes Mehserle. The incident, which took place in 2009, was later punished with only involuntary manslaughter. The film focuses on the last days of Oscar Grant and his friends and family with a calm and humanistic portrayal. These days, in turn, are completely disconnected from the tragic climax of the story, thus demonstrating the violent arbitrariness with which a person's life was reduced to a skin color and abruptly ended in racist hubris.
The bulk of film & television, however, is not made up of documentaries, autobiographies and period pieces. It is fictional scenarios that make up that majority, being primarily devoted to entertainment. But first, there are some notable intermediate examples that merge or in some way couple entertainment and education, or fiction and non-fiction.
Watchmen (2019, Sky Ticket) by Damon Lindelof offers one example of the mix of fiction and non-fiction. Zack Snyder's much-criticized film adaptation (2009, Maxdome/Joyn) was rendered irrelevant 2019 by a series adaptation from HBO based on Alan Moore's comic book original (1986/1987). It shifts its plot to a semi-fictional post-Cold War America of the comic book, putting the focus on domestic American racism. What caused public attention is that most of the action takes place in the Oklahoma town of Tulsa and is based, among other things, on the traumatic aftermath of a racially motivated massacre in Tulsa in 1921. Because of the semi-fictional setting and the relatively low awareness of the massacre combined with the high level of cruelty depicted, it is easy to dismiss it as merely fictional. In contrast, the actual Tulsa Race Massacre - also known as the Black Wall Street Massacre - is a real historical event of racial violence. Why this massacre was perceived as a fictional one is mainly due to the fact that it was not even part of the school curriculum in Oklahoma itself until this was to be changed in 2020 – possibly triggered by the newly sparked attention. By the way, the series does the same as the comic in that the real background of the Cold War is hypothetically played out and recontextualized within the world of the comic. Only to reproduce the same systemic structures of the real world.
Absolutely worth mentioning in this section is also writer and director Spike Lee. With frequent embedding of fictional stories within historical contexts and sometimes direct contrasting of historical footage against newly shot and decades of work around the theme of racism in the U.S., this is a central figure in the so-called New Black Cinema. Even before his aforementioned film Malcolm X (1992, Amazon Prime), the latter wrote and directed Do the Right Thing (1989), a film that culminates in the strangling of a black man by a police officer. The fictional events of the film were only recently recontextualized by Lee himself in an edit that is only a minute and a half long, but shockingly impressive. The aforementioned short 3 Brothers (2020) alternately depicts the killings of Eric Garner by police officer Daniel Pantaleo from 2014, of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin from 2020, and that of fictional character Radio Raheem from Do the Right Thing. Further commonality and at the same time the binding motif of the three scenes is that of choking and breathlessness. The 30-plus years spanned by these almost parallel scenes become a bitter testament to a nation in stagnation.
BlacKkKlansman (2018) is Lee's next story, which he weaves with current images to denounce the still-contemporary institutional racism in the United States. Adapted from the book by the real Ron Stallworth, the story tells of the latter's infiltration of a local Ku Klux Klan cell as a black police officer in 1978. And, while remaining humorous and entertaining, the film doesn't forget to point out the overwhelming power of institutional racism that ultimately undercuts their efforts. As a result, and in contrast to the system, the entire plot of the film is thus recontextualized as a small victory. The subsequent images of right-wing demonstrations in Charlottesville, which were embraced or at least met with empathy by Donald Trump, reinforce this final framing.
Spike Lee also released his latest film in 2020, Da 5 Bloods (2020, Netflix), in which four black U.S. veterans return to Vietnam. There they encounter their own traumas in terms of experiences of war and racism, as well as an entire country living a post-war trauma.
But even in film & television which is entirely devoted to entertainment and perhaps even to reality escapism and would prefer not to communicate anything at all if it could, the following is true: you cannot not communicate – regardless of whether racism is addressed intentionally or unintentionally, whether it is addressed in text, subtext, or metatext. Communication can be obvious, textual, like characters and their statements and actions in film. It may be communicated in subtext, evident in motifs, the worldview portrayed, or the fates of certain characters. Or metatextual communication such as the ethnic demographics in the film cast, that is, the representation of minorities, the casting of roles, and the casting of extras in a film. No matter the format, something will always be communicated.
The fact that this communication has an impact on our thoughts and actions as a society and as individuals is much disputed and discussed in the social sciences and psychology. The discussion, however, is no longer about whether, but rather how and to what extent. More modern models such as the agenda-setting model and the cultivation hypothesis often provide conclusive explanations and many examples of how media can influence us in everyday life. The agenda-setting model assumes, for example, that by presenting topics, the media can make us aware of them in the first place, but can also take over a weighting and hierarchization. Think, for example, of the islands of attention mentioned at the beginning. It is not only that without reporting in Europe we would not even know what is currently moving other parts of the world. According to the hypothesis, the very frequency with which we are confronted with reports about crime committed by minorities, for example, influences how urgent we feel this topic is in world affairs, irrespective of the truth content and context of reports.
The cultivation hypothesis goes a step further by assuming that the repeated portrayal or even non-portrayal of issues in a certain light translates into the actual perception of these issues in the reality of media recipients. In this context, it is initially irrelevant whether the representation is fictitious, provided, for example, that no counterexample of a representation is available. If you spend your life watching US sitcoms from the 1960s that present reductive stereotypes of black people and you have no other experiences that could challenge this depiction, that perception is potentially also transferred to your own worldview.
Such an interaction of media on society and society on media can reveal and manifest itself in a variety of ways. On the topic of racism alone, there are very direct as well as very indirect examples.
Famously, a very direct example is the film Birth of a Nation (1915), considered one of the most influential cinematic works in U.S. history for its technical advancements in the silent film era. However, packed with massive white-supremacy propaganda, it also made a demonstrable contribution to the re-establishment of the Ku Klux Klan. At the same time, for example, director Spike Lee's aforementioned film BlacKkKlansman (2018) is in turn partly a modern reworking of Birth of a Nation, portraying its social usage and itself employing original footage of it.
It gets more complicated to trace back and more difficult to locate precisely, for example, stereotyping that may have manifested itself over years in the media and its effects on societies. Stereotyping of various BIPoC goes back a long way historically, but has also flourished, especially with the advent of films. Birth of a Nation, for example, again caused widespread damage through its establishing of the stereotype of PoC as "savages." However, one can also discover at least questionable correlations in the rise of certain stereotypes of Women of Color (WoC) and medical consequences such as the concurrent statistical underdiagnosis of diseases of this demographic in the United States. WoC, in particular, have endured many specifically intersectional stereotypings over the past century. Most of these have been explicitly negative, intentionally harmful, exploitative, and reductive. Examples include the hypersexual Black woman, the angry Black woman, or the Black woman predestined exclusively for domesticity and parenting. However, even stereotypes originally intended to be positive, as demonstrated by that of the strong "superhuman" WoC, born out of feminist protests, can have negative social consequences. In this stereotype, a black woman is portrayed as naturally strong, independent, a natural mother, or having sheer stamina in the face of massively unjust circumstances – often having several of these characteristics. Examples can be found in Taraji P. Henson playing Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures (2016), or Lupita Nyong'o as the slave Patsey in Twelve Years a Slave (2013, Joyn+), or Oprah Winfrey as Sofia in The Color Purple (1985) as a very early embodiment of such type of characters. In all examples, the aforementioned women experience excessive resistance from a system that wants to put them in a role based solely on their gender and skin color, which they fight back against, demonstrating an incredible enduring of oppression.
For regardless of whether stereotyping is positively or negatively intended, these simplifications remain apart from diversified representations and produce reductive, one-dimensional, or simply false narratives of groups of people and experiences. Such stereotypes, such as "the savage" or "the superhuman," when internalized, can then have large-scale social consequences that rebound on affected groups of people, for example, in medical care.
For example, one study shows that one in five students in medical school in the U.S. still believes by their third year in tendencies that BPoC have inherently thicker skin than whites. This medical misconception – presumably due to the stereotypes addressed – also translates in part into reduced assessment of pain as well as reduced prescription of pain medication doses to black patients in direct comparison. For women diagnosed with breast cancer, it has also been shown that, after adjusting for other relevant factors prior to actual diagnosis, black women were still significantly less likely to have been recommended a mutation test than white women. This test can significantly reduce breast cancer risk through prevention for patients and their families. Additionally, it is suggested that the stereotype of the strong "superhuman" black woman may manifest as a societal expectation. Accordingly, attempts to live up to this projection can tip over into a chronic stressor for WoC. Such chronic stressors can then also have such drastic medical consequences that one study was able to show that U.S. black women in their early 50s had biologically aged an average of 7.5 years more than U.S. white women of the same chronological age.
Thus, media racism can undoubtedly have an impact on the real everyday lives of many people. So how to approach racism in film? The Gleichstellungsprojekt des AStA der RWTH (GSP) shows one way to break down levels of racism and understand it better sociologically. The GSP is also a point of contact and advice for students on questions about and issues regarding discrimination. Contact is possible, for example, by mail or via Instagram (@gsp.rwth).
The levels of racisms presented in this visualization range from the individual level of internalization up to structural racism, which can be the result of practices and systems that have lasted for years (e.g., racial wealth gap). Especially this highest structural level is often difficult to grasp, as its origin as the result of the lower levels can be hard to place distinctly. For the NGO ProPublica, Lena Groeger has created a visualization that shows the unemployment rate in the U.S. in recent years until the outbreak of the Corona pandemic divided into different demographics. In addition to the massive drop caused by the pandemic, the visualization especially shows a significant gab between BIPoC in particular and the national average in terms of unemployment. Structural racism is evident when, even after adjusting for institutional factors such as academic educational attainment and family financial background, statistical unemployment remains higher among some minorities.
Using the example of stereotyping WoC just shown, one can see how much distance there can be in time, space, or even interpersonally between the causes and effects of racism. Racism, ironically – and as can be seen in the graphic – can be incredibly pluralistic in its manifestations, making classic causation/correlation links at higher levels sometimes difficult to isolate. It also remains important to note that interpersonal racisms represent only the lowest two forms in this structure, and thus are literally only half the story.
How, then, to represent racism in film when the problem is so multidimensional? Typically, it is precisely a highly decentralized, non-singular embodiment of racism that is counterintuitive to the big screen and the established 90 to 120 minutes of viewer attention.
Especially screenwriting traditions preach that clear, simple and, above all, familiar structures of story are the highest good. Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), found something akin to an instruction manual, called "Monomyth" or "the hero's journey," for so many storylines more than 70 years ago that we as viewers seem to be drawn towards. From truly ancient entertainment like Homer's Odyssey to very contemporary cinema like Luke Skywalker's saga in the old trilogy of Star Wars (1977-1983, Disney+), Indiana Jones (1981-1989, Amazon Prime, Joyn+), Neo from Matrix (1999, Netflix), Harry Potter (2001), Simba in The Lion King (1994, Disney+) or even Frodo in The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003).
Screenwriting guidebooks such as Save the Cat! (2005) by Blake Snyder or Robert McKee's classic Story (1997) reinforce these impulses of historically successful storylines with advice on how to make characters empathetic, how to make story arcs suspenseful and tense but above all how to release that tension, and how to remain generally person-centered, monofocal, and manageable.
Now not all stories in the world are taken from the monomyth template. Nor are deviations from these screenwriting principles per se sacrilegious and doomed to fail; but the cross-section of these lessons, even when stories do not strictly follow the monomyth, is widespread. Much of what makes stories and characters emotional, empathetic, moving, and comprehensible according to these preserved principles weakens or is even diametrically opposed to an authentic and holistic representation of racism, which, as shown, is far more than interpersonal and binary. Storytelling clichés and racism juxtaposed then looks like this:
Monofocal meets intersectional – Central meets diffuse – Interpersonal meets structural - Closed, discretized story arc with beginning, middle & end meets continuous, hardly temporally localized story of oppression – Satisfying storyline with ambitions, victories & defeats meets confused, apersonalized everyday powerlessness – In other words: pleasant story meets unpleasant history.
These simplifications, whether intentional or not, often produce similar effects in terms of their reductive, misleading, or trivializing nature. Here are a few examples:
Why, for instance, does the extremely racist U.S. officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Netflix, 2017) allow himself to be beaten defenseless in front of a watching pair of two PoC? The two statists, not mentioned before and after, are instrumentalized into representational figures. Their pity or compassion in the situation is supposed to signal granted redemption from Officer Dixon's racially motivated atrocities. Self-torture is presented here as just compensation and character development away from racism. From a storytelling standpoint, this allows Dixon a satisfying conclusion to his character arc – much in the sense of a third and final act or, more accurately, redemption as one of the stages in the monomyth. However, this also implies a re-establishing of just balance thereby skillfully distracts from the realization that the world established in the film up to that point would almost certainly not react with legal consequences to Dixon's crimes.
Or why are the conservative supporters from the aforementioned HBO series Watchmen (2019), previously hidden behind Republican politics, once exposed, so explicitly and almost cartoon-villain-levels of racist? It allows for unquestionable antagonization from a storytelling standpoint and personifies that racism, so to speak. The elusive level of structural and institutional racism is filtered and focused on a single conservative group that sends clear racist signals and allows for interpersonal confrontation. Deliberate simplification creates clarity in action, allows for direct communication, but also cultivates multiple harmful ideas: That racism is largely interpersonal and that the typical racist acts it out very explicitly and actively thinks it. Which, in turn, prevents reflection on one's own internalized (micro)racisms, as it is easy to distance oneself from anyone here portrayed as racist. The forms of racism shown are clearly identifiable and easy to condemn, nuanced everyday racisms play no role here and thus also clearly fall outside the understanding of racism shown. This nuanced alternative in turn would blur an image of the enemy, would make it difficult to locate racism precisely, enforce more accurate differentiation, and thus potentially unsettle audiences.
White characters like Bass & Ford (Brad Pitt & Benedict Cumberbatch) in Twelve Years a Slave (2013, Joyn+) or Johnny Shepherd (Flea) in Queen & Slim (2019, Sky Ticket) can have a similar effect with the opposite approach. Ford is presented as an empathetic plantation owner and Bass as a white opponent to slavery in the 19th century. Johnny Shepherd offers viewers in Queen & Slim a wealthy white man who risks his life to hide the film's persecuted PoC protagonists in his home. These characters offer white audiences the exact counterpart to aggressively racist portrayals of white characters and are thus deliberate figures of identification. They either show "Hey, in these circumstances I would have helped, too" or legitimize complicity by deliberately portraying the act of the privileged helping the oppressed as impossible, subtextually paraphrasing "Hey, I couldn't have done anything anyway." So, from a storytelling point of view, antagonists, protagonists, and the positioning of other characters are conveyed highly efficiently. It is made easy to express indignation about the conditions of racial injustice and at the same time it is ensured that the audience remains decoupled and is not challenged to trace these injustices back to themselves.
My favorite negative example, as the film manages to fit all of these simplifications, trivializations, and manipulations, and then some, into its 130-minute running time: Green Book (2018), like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, manages to break down the depicted conflict of racism to an interpersonal level and presents the solution to the conflict in mutual accommodation of racists and victims of racisms, thus suggesting the mustering of equal amounts of empathy for each other. This implies that racism would affect all persons involved equally, perpetrators and victims alike, or even, conversely, that BIPoC, without continued outpouring of empathy for the privileged, are themselves at least partially to blame for the status quo. Green Book also only presents whites as either the aggressively racist established stereotype à la Watchmen or as the empathetic, helpful identification figures à la Twelve Years a Slave. With the side effect that the actually massively racist white protagonist of the story, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), falls much more easily into the "good camp" of these two extremes, which from a storytelling standpoint allows him to credibly transform his character and befriend the Black Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). And in general, this puts the responsibility concept of being able to end racism in the hands of the white protagonist in a story about racial discrimination of BPoC. Empowering for privileged viewers, disempowering for the oppressed and thus actually only shifting the status quo and providing a new coat of paint. Magnificently, in 2019, it also won the Oscar for best picture.
Now what am I trying to communicate with these examples (other than I'm really not a fan of Green Book)? Some examples have been mentioned both positively and negatively, and even pure escapism has its raison d'être. What remains important is a critical perspective. But even the decision to completely turn off the head remains a decision that should be backed by a critical process. To what audience is the medium primarily addressed? Am I watching a story that is primarily meant to entertain, or does it aspire to be authentic? There is often a compromise behind simplifications, such as that of a simpler story. But it's important to identify, categorize, and question simplifications as such when similar simplifications appear frequently in pop culture. Otherwise, we cultivate an all too pleasing projection of an unpleasant reality.
To conclude, I would like to mention some films and series that (re-)present alternative approaches and trends in the context of this topic and thus actually correspond most closely to proper recommendations.
In particular, the so-called Social Thriller as a genre offers a platform for the depiction of racism that goes beyond the interpersonal level, since this qua its definition elaborates society and its dynamics as possible antagonists. Jordan Peele had coined the term to situate his own film Get Out (2017) in the film genre landscape. In general, this approach is not new, but in the case of the social thriller, it is added that horror is taken up as a genre foundation and its established "scary" conventions are used to package social issues differently on the big or small screen. The sometimes monstrous, superhuman, and/or omnipresent threats of typical horror films, when projected onto social issues, are far from an objectively audio visually authentic experience. They can, however, create an emotionally authentic experience through the inherent surrealist quality of the genre that a purely textual representation cannot. In Get Out, for example, the fetishization of black bodies, in part propelled by the aforementioned stereotypes of strength and athleticism, is condensed into the story of a family hunting PoC in order to take over their idealized bodies in more than just a symbolic way. Although completely unrealistic, these elements work because of tropes established in the horror genre. Feeling constantly watched as a horror film "victim" is here meant to emotionally convey the voyeurism that many PoC face as part of stereotyping and fetishization. The so-called "Sunken Place" in Get Out combines many emotions typical in horror – powerlessness, disorientation, despair – and attempts to allegorize them to the experience of racism.
His House (2020, Netflix) is a very recent film that uses horror elements similar to Get Out as a vehicle for more structural problems. After fleeing war conditions in South Sudan, the two protagonists are asylum-seekers assigned to a run-down house in the UK. Here, the house becomes a horror antagonist that unites their traumas in relation to the discrimination experienced in their new country as well as the events in their home country and during the escape to Europe.
Simeon's Favourite Movies
Hello dear person out there on the receiving end of this interaction. My name is Simeon and I'm a Filmstudio newbie. Barely two months in and I'm already writing an entry about my favourite movies in this crazy internet medium called blog. Favourite film is in itself naturally difficult to define, and to avoid double entries, the selection is already somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I have collected six fantastic movies and hope that I can inspire someone out there to watch one or more of them.
Let's get started with Whiplash by Damien Chazelle. You're probably wondering right now, "Damien Chazelle?! Isn't that the guy from La La Land?" Exactly! Ten points for Gryffindor! I guess Mr. Chazelle likes Jazz a lot. This movie is about Andrew (Miles Teller), who dreams about becoming a jazz drummer. At a music college, he joins a studio band led by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a bandleader, who wants nothing more and nothing less than to get the very best out of his students, even with methods that push everyone to the limit. Whiplash develops into a thriller, superbly acted, above all by J.K. Simmons, who, in my opinion, rightly received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this performance. Cleverly edited, this film leads into one of the best final scenes in recent years. If you like movies like Black Swan or consider yourself a jazz fan, you should definitely give Whiplash a chance.
American Beauty (1999)
The next film is Sam Mendes' American Beauty. Lester (Kevin Spacey) is going through a midlife crisis, is dissatisfied with his life and no longer has any connection to his wife (Annete Bening) and daughter (Thora Birch). He falls in love with his daughter's best friend and thus a complex story develops, which looks ironically and seriously behind the façade of a typical suburban family illuminating interpersonal and social issues in such a way that I can't get the film out of my head even days after watching it.
Hell or High Water (2016, Netflix)
Hell or High Water is a neo-western directed by David Mackenzie that tells the story of two brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) who couldn't be more different. The two brothers rob banks in Texas and are hunted by aging Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges). This quietly told film thrilled me mostly with its depiction of Texas as a mix of oil towers, small towns and dialect-speaking residents. Hell or High Water is a film about people who have been left behind. It's about family, brotherhood, and cohesion, in a part of country where everything seems to be old and rusty.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
What would a top list be without a Tarantino film? Reservoir Dogs is (apart from My Best Friend's Birthday, which was burned in the editing room) the directorial debut of Quentin Tarantino. And this film has everything we like about our boy Quentin: clever, witty dialogue, plenty of violence and an unusual narrative structure. On top of that, there's a cast of absolutely stunning actors: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, and and and.... The entertaining and briskly told film is about a failed robbery and a group of gangsters, one of whom was probably an informant. But who? Didn’t see it yet? Go, go, go!
Lady Bird (2017)
Ah, Lady Bird. My favourite movie of the last few years. 17-year-old Christine, called Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) has had enough of her hometown Sacramento and wants to study on the East Coast. As a result, the rather special and strong-willed Lady Bird keeps getting into conflicts with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). The film, directed and written by Greta Gerwig, tells a heart-warming story of a young woman coming of age. Lady Bird is a film that highlights the small stories surrounding a family. It is a coming-of-age film that deals with the classic problems of teenagers, which is why every person who has ever lived through that messy age of 15-18, flooded with hormones, will likely in some way or another identify with this film.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Besides Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future, there is hardly a series that has influenced me as much as Harry Potter. Although as a child and teenager I devoured mainly the young wizard’s (audio) books. The films also played a not-so-insignificant role. The quality of the eight films varies greatly, in my opinion, but reaches its peak in the third part.
After the first two films, which were quite bright and child-friendly directed by Chris Columbus, the third part Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is dark and adult. Alfonso Cuarón conveys a wizarding world that seems more threatening, raw and dangerous; and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grind) and Hermione (Emma Watson) also mature noticeably in this film, resulting in a movie that should delight not only Harry Potter fans.
So, that's it! My favourite movies and movie tips! I really hope we can meet again soon and enjoy a few movies together. Until then, stay healthy!
Home-Alternative - Christmas Cinema
Well, there it goes, our Christmas surprise film for 2020. Today and tomorrow, 15 and 16 December, we would have shown it; already under very different circumstances than the years before, but now not at all. In general and as is commonly known, cinemas remain closed beyond December. You can make of that what you will; what remains is the gaping entertainment void aching to be filled at which I will now try to throw some alternatives. For there seems to be no shortage of personal and collective film and television traditions, especially once a Nordmann tree - or its plastic counterpart - has infiltrated the living room. But before, there remains one question to be addressed: What would have been the Christmas surprise film?
There was a bit of back and forth in the decision-making process. Among other things, due to some movie distributors, who are newly involved in streaming *cough*, don't really want to give their Christmas repertoire to cinemas when they can just as easily gather paying customers around the on-demand fireplace. But above all, there was a desire to offer something a little different from the usual Christmas suspects. Of course, those were discussed anyway.
So, there is always talk about Home Alone (1990, Disney+), for which I need more suspension of disbelief year after year as I reflect on the near casualness of child neglect, repeated burglaries and the astonishingly excessive violence, all of which seem rather unremarkable in this world. But nostalgia drives it in. Or Love…Actually (2003, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky Ticket, Joyn+), in which I unfortunately immediately and exclusively see zombie genocide policeman Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead in actor Andrew Lincoln, which makes for a spicy dissonance watching that kind of RomCom. Luckily though, the film is available on pretty much every streaming platform imaginable. But even the jawbreaker candy among Christmas films like Die Hard (1988, Netflix, Joyn+) eventually reveal an old chewing gum at their core. Especially since we already screened that one last year.
So, what's left? Weird stuff! In fact, this year it would have been Gremlins (1984, Sky Ticket), which - like Die Hard - stretches the concept of "Christmas film" a bit, but at least it's also set at Christmas. Was actually really looking forward to what iMDB describes as "the worst Christmas present ever" in the form of comically cheesy soft-horror shenanigans to end the year. Seems only appropriate to highlight a chaotic year with a chaotic Christmas movie.
But there have been a few other whimsical Christmas movie suggestions as well. A very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011), for example, seems at first glance like a crappy film, completely overloaded with gimmicks like 3D, Christmas and Neil Patrick Harris to fill its runtime. And it is. But just that is also a bit funny to see in motion. And the movie still being actually quite okay after that realisation borders on a miracle. A Christmas miracle. With my favourite suggestion to date - Santa's Slay (2005, Joyn+) - I can only assume from the trailer what deliciously fucked-up thing we've missed out on. I really can't put it into words properly either and would like to refer to said trailer. In any case, the German film licence is nowhere to be found, the production studio apparently broke for years. One can only speculate whether the film could have had anything to do with this.
The admittedly somewhat special film selection this year may of course not be everyone's cup of tea. But fortunately, as I mentioned in the beginning, there are also some personal film traditions in and around the Filmstudio, some of which I would like to show here without comment:
My Christmas film is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989, Sky Ticket). The film has achieved a kind of cult status at home and is actually watched once every year at Christmas time.
Sam, long-time Filmstudio member
My favourite Christmas movie tradition always starts when I go home at the end of the year and that's when I really get into the Christmas spirit. And what's the best way to trigger that spirit? Watching Christmas films, of course. By now, it's become a tradition that I always watch Three Wishes for Cinderella (1973, Netflix, Amazon Prime, ARD) with my sister and mum, but to be honest I'd always rather watch something like The Polar Express (2004, Sky Ticket) or Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol*. Nutcracker especially, having once seen Nutcracker as a ballet piece, I can listen to Tchaikovsky's music all year round, too.
Rica, graphics and plants manager at the Filmstudio
*Editor's note: Nutcracker and Christmas Story do not refer to specific film adaptations of these stories, but to arbitrary ones. However, out of personal knowledge of the person we can safely assume Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001) to be the particular suggestion here.
At Christmas, I usually don't have that much time to watch Christmas films because of all the singing and eating biscuits with my family. But when I do, I often go for the classics - a Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) evening, or Die Hard (1988) or Singin' in the Rain (1952)... But for those of you who would like to take a musical look at "What am I watching for Christmas this year?", I recommend the song Das Programm zu Heiligabend by the group Maybebop.
Emily, current Filmstudio boss
Haha, my only Christmas traditions actually have little to do with Christmas per se, but okay. I always go to my parents' house around that time and watch Mary Poppins (1964, Disney+) with my mum (it's OUR film) and all the Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) films in Extended Version with my dad on 25 December before Christmas. This involves destroying Christmas leftovers like foie gras, seafood and cake :D
Maddy, film fan, sending recommendations from the International Office
And me? My classic tradition, almost involuntarily, remains to reliably discover the umpteenth version of Ice Age (2002-2016, Disney+) sometime around Christmas and somewhere on cable, and to follow Otto Waalke’s voice under nostalgic hypnosis. Fascinating, too, that only the first part is an actual part of my childhood and a large part of the nostalgia lies within the cable TV itself. I guess you could just as well watch the films on-demand, but are you really vibing, if you didn’t stumble across the film, can't press pause to go to the toilet, and on the other hand can't go to the toilet often enough to endure the avalanche of commercial breaks.
But new traditions may also be on the horizon for me this Christmas. The blog posts of the other Filmstudio members themselves have made me realise that maybe I should watch a Tim Burton film after all. Frankenweenie (2012, Disney+), Corpse Bride (2005) and The Nightmare before Christmas (1993, Disney+) are all Burton films, all among the Film Studio's favourites. It would only be proper to at least watch the damn Christmas one.
All this nostalgia and love for classics and traditions can be wonderfully put to the test in my new and final Christmas tradition: Disney remakes vs. originals. The instructions are simple and thus: Step 1: Watch the remake of a Disney classic. Step 2: Anger. Step 3: Watch the original in a forced compulsion to cleanse yourself Step 4: Regain love and trust just as Christmas Jesus commands. Step 5. Enlightenment that everything will now be better. Step 6: Return to Step 1, somehow and foolishly expecting a different outcome this time Step 7: Insanity. The results vary. From newfound hatred for the remake of The Lion King (1994 & 2019, Disney+) to newfound love for the original of Mulan (1998 & 2020, Disney+).
In the end, I only hope that everyone can enjoy carefree and, above all, healthy days of winter, so that we can all indulge in the luxury of discussing films in an irrationally emotionally charged way, and at some point in time bring that same energy back to cinemas, maybe eventually sooner or later give or take a few days or months or years or we all just get the sci-fi-future of that crappy Bruce Willis Surrogates movie (2009, Amazon Prime) and get cool robot bodies, but most of us lose the drive to actually leave our houses forever, seems just as likely at this point, I don’t know I guess we’ll see.
Matthias' Favourite Movie
Some movies that I can watch again and again with great enthusiasm and therefore belong to my favourite movies have already been presented in detail among some other blog posts. Since I do not want to bore you with already established movies, I will only (very) shortly comment on each of them.
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003, all three of them). As a Tolkien fan I have to start with it, and breaks my heart that I cannot write more about it. Great movies and even more fantastic books. Cinematically, as well as in terms of the content, I think everyone should have seen these movies.
Hot Fuzz (2007, Joyn+) (really good comedy with typical British black humour... at least the first two thirds... then just wacky action).
Back to the Future (1985, Amazon Prime) (here truly exclusively the first one). This movie has established my preference for time travel movies and series. However, we’d rather ignore the logic regarding the consistency of the timeline here. Yet still a great movie. In this context, I also recommend Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (everything is okay here in terms of timelines), Legends of Tomorrow (since 2016, seasons 1-4 on Amazon Prime) (series, a kind of all-round homage to movie, music & pop culture with more easter-eggs and meta-gags than you can count – Lord of the Rings fans will get their money's worth frequently here) and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (2016-2017, Netflix) (also series, like Harry Potter the timeline is consistent).
As we are already talking about time travel movies. I think I forgot something in the beginning. Just a second, I'll just get into my DeLorean...
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening (depending on when you read this blog post)! My name is Matthias, I've been in the Filmstudio for a while now and have been active in a few areas over the years, “Programmbesteller”, board member, 1st chairman... Now I'm still here when it comes to making (un-)necessary comments and having fun. What follows now is my personal selection of favourite movie. Who would have thought?!
Basically, you can divide my favourite movies into five categories:
- Movies with a good twist (don't worry, this text stays spoiler-free!)
- Movies with time travel
- Movies that reinvent old familiar material in a creative and original way. Fairy tales are among my personal favourites, here. But please don't mention classic (and non-classic) Disney adaptations. Of course, the majority is worth watching but, in my opinion, they don't fulfil my notion of being "original". In my opinion, what movies of category 3 should not miss are well placed, more or less hidden easter-eggs.
- Those movies that don't take themselves too seriously. For example, where the story is not super polished or the laws of nature are not taken very seriously, but where the moviemakers refrain from giving a far-fetched explanation to remedy these deficits.
- Movies I grew up with and to which I am attached mainly because of nostalgia. Here, everything fits that doesn't fit in category 1 to 4.
Curious? Let's get started:
Some movies I can watch again and again with great enthusiasm... (Oh no, you already know this part. I'll fast-forward a bit!) ... and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (2016-2017, Netflix) (also a series, like Harry Potter the timeline is consistent).
Well, let's continue with category 3 and one of my absolute favourite movies: Shrek 2 (2004). “Why not the first part of the series?” you might ask yourself. Well, I saw Shrek 2 before the first part of the series. I could go very much into detail here about why, in my opinion, the personally perceived quality of individual movies forming a connected series of movies depends primarily on the order in which you watch them (the first one seen is usually one’s personal favourite), but I don't think anyone would read on after that. Apart from that, the Shrek series in general (but especially part 2) has countless reinterpreted fairy tales and other works. There is the heroic ogre, the fur ball spitting version of Zorro, a cookie as Frankenstein's monster and much more (I don't want to spoil all of it here).
Wreck-it Ralph also falls into this category (2012, Disney+). The movie and its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018, Disney+) are packed with references and easter-eggs that will sensory-overload every egg hunter into stasis in a matter of minutes. The princess scene in Ralph Breaks the Internet also proves in a very entertaining way that Disney is not above making fun of itself. Before we move seamlessly into categories 1 and 4 with The Lego Movie (2014, Netflix), let's take a quick trip into the world of series with Once Upon a Time (2011-2018, Disney+). Yeah... the series is cheesy (often even terribly cheesy), but the fusion of various fairy tales is well done (especially in the early seasons), so that I can see past the kitsch. In my opinion, the interweaving of the fairy tales Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty into an origin story of the mirror of Sleeping Beauty's evil stepmothers is particularly successful. Otherwise, I can only recommend Legends of Tomorrow again. If you always wanted to know where Tolkien got all his heroic motivations before battles or how George Lukas got the idea with the garbage compactor, you'll find a (winking) reason here.
But now for Lego Movie. Not only since the movies, but also in various computer games, Lego has proven how the replacement of all characters by Lego miniatures and neatly choreographed gags can parody other movies in a very entertaining way. But why Lego Movie will have a place in my heart for all time is the twist at the end of the movie. The creators not only provide a coherent explanation for the inconsistencies during the movie, but also a declaration of love for the little colourful stones and that, with (a little) imagination, you can make the world a better place. But mostly and above all, however, that there is a child in every adult who would like nothing more than to forget all worries and problems and play with Lego (or with whatever one liked to spend one's childhood time).
When talking about movies having twists, I definitely have to go for The Prestige (2006) and Chronicle (2012, Joyn+). The former is also one of those movies that doesn't take the laws of nature too seriously. It also creates a (not very flattering) version of Nicola Tesla's work (but with David Bowie as Nicola Tesla and Andy Serkis as his assistant). Even though the movie has some weaknesses, the twist hit me completely unprepared at the end and asks on a meta-level the legitimate question how far you should be willing to go for a good (convincing) show and where you might go too far. Admittedly, Chronicle has no twist in the narrower sense, i.e. there is no surprising twist towards the end of the movie. However, the story of the movie develops differently than it first seems and unfolds a resounding effect providing a welcome contrast to usual science fiction or superhero movies. In addition, the movie offers an interesting filming technique: Every camera used for shooting is itself part of the movie. Unfortunately, the effect, which is supposed to draw the viewer even more into the action by breaking the fourth wall, is somewhat softened during the movie by the telekinetic superpowers of the main characters. However, this does not harm the movie.
While we’re here, let’s stick to action movies and move on to category 4: movies that don't take themselves seriously. That's where I start with my personal highlight of the last years: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014, Joyn+). This persiflage on spy movies and spy thrillers can not only captivate with completely wacky action and laughing-attack-worthy humour, but also with an excellent cast. Fortunately, no secret is made of the fact that the setting itself is extremely implausible and that the action scenes often seem to exist in realms beyond all laws of physics. Every time you think the movie reached its climax Kingsman goes even further. If you want to see a fantastic action comedy, you've come to the right place. The follow-up Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017, Netflix) is fortunately almost as good as its predecessor. But whatever you do, do NEVER watch the primetime version on private TV! Due to its R-rating almost everything that makes these two movies so great gets cut out to be screened at prime time. In addition, I would like to point out Taken (2008, Amazon Prime) and Pacific Rim (2013, Netflix). Although politically highly incorrect, Taken is worth seeing. But why Liam Neeson aka Bryan Mills, leaving a trail of corpses in his paternal protective instinct, can murder in rage across France without at least an attempt by the state executive to stop him is strange. Thank God, nobody in the movie asks this question. Finally, concerning Pacific Rim, there really is only one proper question to be asked: Skyscraper-high robots for fighting giant "alien lizards"? How absolutely insane is this idea? Ergo, watch it, because: "Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!"
And now, last but not least: Category 5! Here are the movies I'm attached to for nostalgic reasons. (If you're wondering where category 1 and time travel movies are gone, take a look at the top of the blog post again). Here, the already minimal objectivity of this blog post is now completely thrown overboard. With this category alone, I could fill a whole blog post, but with respect to your patience, I'll limit myself to the very, very important movies. First of all, there is Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Disney+). I don't know how many times I've seen this movie and read the book. Even today, the movie manages to make me forget everything around me and immerse me in a wonderful mix of fairy tales, adventure, and epic. There are also Night at the Museum (2006, Disney+) and Johnny English (2003, Netflix). At this point, there are also a few series to be mentioned; Eureka (2006-2012) or Fringe (2008-2013). These two series are all about pseudo-scientific shenanigans, but for that very reason they are very entertaining. And then finally (but now really) my absolute favourite series, my on-in-a-million, my personal highlight among movies and series: Scrubs (2001-2010) (only the real eight seasons, of course... not that stupid amalgamation that calls itself season 9!)
Lara's Favourite Movies
Hi there, I'm Lara, responsible for social media, first semester acquisition and currently also a member of the board. But this text is about something else: My favourite movies. Although I've been in the Filmstudio for many years, it's actually not an easy question for me because I rarely watch movies a second time as a matter of principle and I'm more of a series junkie *whoops*. But just for you, I went deep inside myself and thought about which movies I like the most and which I might have even seen more than once ;-).
The first thing that comes to mind is one of my first movies I saw in the cinema, or rather the first one I remember: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001). You probably all know it. I mean, who did not go through Hogwarts with Harry, Hermione and Ron as a child and have the wildest adventures? For all muggles who still don't know what I'm talking about: This is the first part of Joanne K. Rowling's book adaptation which focuses on Harry Potter who finds out on his eleventh birthday that he is a wizard and from now on goes to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, he gets to know the most wondrous things. I basically grew up together with the books and the corresponding film adaptations. A lot of time at hand? I recommend a Harry Potter Marathon; it’ll feel like a time travel. Not all movies can keep up with the books (one could certainly get into a fundamental discussion here), but all these movies are worth seeing, if only for the magic...
Been there, done that? Or still haven't had enough of the magic world? I recommend Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016). I prefer only the first of the two parts, because the fantastic beasts do play a very special role here. I’ll keep it at: Niffler, Bowtruckles, Thunderbirds, Demiguise, Murtlap ... Have I already mentioned Niffler?
After an excursion into the magical world, we return to reality or, well, rather the exaggerated reality: Serial (Bad) Weddings (Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu?, 2014). The film focuses on the family Verneuil; Claude and Marie with their four now grown-up daughters. How could one describe them? Very conservative catholic French people. But life does not always go as planned: The first daughter marries a Jewish businessman, the second an Algerian-born Muslim lawyer and the third a Chinese banker. Now, it’s all up to the fourth daughter regarding a "normal" church wedding. As you can imagine, chaos is pre-programmed. If you want to get to know every cliché attached to the different religions and countries of origin, then this film is definitely the right one. Fun Fact: We have shown this film two *almost three* times in the Filmstudio. You like this kind of French humour? Then have a look at postman Philippe in Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, 2008, Joyn+).
Let us now turn to two more book adaptations (by the way, it was not intended that I present several book adaptations here): Hidden Figures (2016) and The Martian (2015).
First, I would like to introduce you Hidden Figures, which was even nominated for an Oscar in three categories in 2017 (Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer). We find ourselves at the US space agency NASA during the 60s. The three mathematicians Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson work here on complicated mathematical calculations – including but not limited to trajectory calculations. They not only have to hold their own in a male domain, but in two ways, since coloured people are treated as second-class citizens.
The science fiction film The Martian is about the astronaut Mark Watney who, due to unfortunate circumstances, is left alone on Mars without contact with the outside world. On his own he tries to survive until the next Mars mission arrives - not that easy of an undertaking. Or as Watney himself says: “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.” Even if not all events are quite scientifically correct, it’s a film worth seeing filled with humour.
After so many serious topics, now it's time for something to do away with any necessary thinking. Or, in other words, a few film recommendations, you might not expect from me: More or less senseless action movies whose most important feature are spectacular action scenes. One film I saw last and whose first five minutes already meet these criteria is 6 Underground (2019, Netflix). For all those who need more information than “an action movie with lots of explosions and bursting heads”, here are some facts about the somewhat *cough* not very mature storyline. Six anonymous "heroes", thought to be dead, decide to leave their past behind and fight together against evil. I guess that says it all about the story, doesn't it? But for all fans of actor Ryan Reynolds (and his humour), I can recommend the two Deadpoolmovies (Deadpool, 2016, Netflix & Deadpool 2, 2018). Here, the story is enhanced a bit by the "bad" jokes on the part of Deadpool, but in my opinion the action scenes are again the most relevant ones. For all those who still don't have enough action movies to switch off in these Corona plagued times: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) (more on this in the next blog post ;-)), Den of Thieves (2018, Netflix), Baby Driver (2017, Amazon Prime) or the film series Mission: Impossible (1996, 2000, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2018, mostly Amazon Prime). In the latter example, it is easy to follow the developments, especially in the field of special effects, making the first Mission: Impossible (1996) seem almost boring when compared to the latest Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) in terms of action scenes.
Last, to confuse everyone trying to decipher my taste in film, we lower the averaged FSK limit again a bit with a film from a completely different category: Despicable Me (2010, Amazon Prime). Supervillain Gru, a nasty guy with a pointy nose and always dressed in black, considers himself the best thief in the world. However, he is put to the test by Vector and is dependent on the help of three orphans who will turn his life upside down. But we all know who the real stars are. A little hint: BANANAAAA!!!! The yellow creatures do the most absurd things apart from their actual "work" for Gru. To get a grasp of what I mean, here is a short insight into the life of a Minion.
For closure, only one final question remains: Niffler or Minion? Or as Agnes would put it: "It's sooooo fluffy!" Oh no, that was about another animal...
Josef’s Favourite Movies
Hello everyone, do you often click on the wrong link and suddenly watch a movie on Netflix instead of following the extremely exciting lecture on Zoom? And get annoyed that you are only comfort binging and not discovering anything new. Then, here are my favourite movies which are (partly) great for procrastinating or fit extended study breaks.
By the way, the one in the picture to the left of Batman is me, Josef. Why the mask? – To protect those who are closest to me and because it is so mandatory in the cinema these days. Actually, I'm only supposed to present my top six favourite movies here, but I can't. I love movies and, according to my presumably incomplete list, have already seen over 860 movies. As of today. Many of them even several times. And the countless series that I watch casually are not even listed there. Therefore, it's really difficult for me to make a selection, but I'll try to be brief.
Hot Fuzz (2007, Joyn PLUS +), to take the title literally, is all about hot cops. More precisely, two police officers in the English town of Sandford. I don't want to reveal more at this point. Hot Fuzz is the second movie in the so-called Cornetto trilogy, consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz and The World’s End (2013, Netflix), and is, in my opinion, the best movie of this series. The trio Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright are the creative force behind these movies. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright co-wrote the scripts and Edgar Wright directed all of the movies. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in all of the movies and have been good friends and roommates before even making successful movies. The two of them also wrote the script for Paul (2011), yet another good comedy, but not part of the Cornetto trilogy because it was directed by Greg Mottola instead of Edgar Wright.
The Gentlemen (2020) is a great gangster movie from the screenwriter and director Guy Ritchie. The movie was unfortunately released shortly before the pandemic and got therefore not the attention it deserved, but recently, during our brief window of showing movies, we took the opportunity and screened it. If you missed the date, I could recommend instead almost any other Guy Ritchie movie as an alternative, but there is not enough time for that. That's why I only name a few here:
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) is another movie about King Arthur and the legendary sword Excalibur in the stone. But the movie isn’t a boring repetition of the saga but a very entertaining movie with good action scenes, lots of good lines and gravity at the right times. Almost everything I've said about King Arthur applies to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015, Joyn PLUS +), too. But this one tackles the cold war wherein two secret agents from the CIA and the KGB are forced to work together.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) are also gangster movies but, in contrast to The Gentlemen, they focus more on small-time crooks than drug dealers with a net worth in the millions. At this point, I should mention Guy Ritchie's (probably) greatest commercial success: Aladdin (2019, Disney +), although he only directed this movie and was not involved in writing the script.
The Fast and Furious series is now well known and has arrived in the mainstream with leading actors such as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham and supporting actors such as Helen Mirren. But who has watched the movie that started it all? The Fast and the Furious (2001) is still one of the best movies in the series for me. The stunts are realistic and had no CGI involved, heavily contrasting jumps between skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi (Fast & Furious 7) or a chase between a submarine and cars on or under an ice shelf (Fast & Furious 8). The transmission in the cars and how drivers put it to use is also much more realistic than in the mainstream successors. In addition, the movie shows the tuning and racing scene from Los Angeles in the early 2000s quite realistically, because the many extras are real cars from real tuners from L.A. and not just some background props. A small side note: The first seven movies in the series are currently available on Netflix, I personally can recommend movies 1 to 4 to all car and tuning enthusiasts. From part 5 on the series is more of a popcorn action flick. Which isn't necessarily bad but doesn't have much to do with the original street racing movement anymore.
Trainspotting (1996) is one of the best movies about drugs, in this case mainly heroin. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh which is about a group of friends, their drug abuse and its consequences. The movie walks a thin line between glorifying and demonizing consumption. And it's not only worth seeing because of the strong performance by Ewan McGregor and the perfect soundtrack. I can only advise everyone who thinks of themselves as fluent in the English language to watch the movie in the original version WITH English subtitles because the Scottish accent is not always understandable. If you want to know why a movie about heroin junkies from Edinburgh is called Trainspotting, I recommend the sequel T2 Trainspotting (2017, Joyn PLUS +). The sequel not only takes place 20 years later but was also shot 20 years later. Nevertheless, T2 Trainspotting is very worth seeing because it continues the mood and story from the first part perfectly. Alternatively, you can read the Wikipedia article of the first movie to find out why the title Trainspotting was chosen.
As many people have written on this blog, Christopher Nolan is a brilliant screenwriter and director. His latest work is called Tenet (2020) which only was released recently but it is already one of my favourite movies. Robert Pattinson was asked to describe Tenet in one sentence in an interview. He just laughed. If I had to try that, I would say: Tenet is a typical Nolan movie. A fairly short sentence that describes the movie very well. When you see the trailer you don't really have a clue what to expect but, with the knowledge of his earlier work such as Memento (2000, Netflix), The Prestige, Inception (2006, Joyn PLUS +), Dunkirk (2017) and Interstellar (2014, Joyn PLUS +), you can at least roughly guess what Tenet is.
A great action movie with a brilliant script, good dialogue, a lot of real action (the movie uses almost no CGI) and a great soundtrack (this time by Ludwig Göransson). After watching the movie for the first time you have the feeling that you have only understood half of the movie. You shouldn't try, for better or for worse, to understand the logic, because it isn’t really about that in its core. Rather, you should rely on your feelings.
Time and time travel are also an issue in many other movies. There are almost as many time travel movies as there are a dime a dozen, but not all of them are good. That's why I'd like to recommend a few more good time travel movies here:
Looper (2012, Netflix) and 12 Monkeys (1995, Amazon Prime) both have Bruce Willis as a supporting and leading actor, respectively. Although you can't really compare those two movies, personally I think Looper is a bit better because I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's great performance. Which isn't just because he's one of my favourite actors.
Now, a small excursion: Project Power (2020) is a new Netflix movie with him. Yes, Netflix is supposedly the enemy of cinema but this one has a wholly different approach to the superhero genre. Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Joyn PLUS +) is also a very good movie based on a book which in turn is based on classic video game mechanics. So, you could argue Edge of Tomorrow is the best video game adaptation of all time that isn’t based on a specific game.
So far, I have only mentioned real-life movies but when it comes to time travel the most successful anime of all time must not be missed: Your Name. (2016, Netflix). Even if many think of anime as children’s series or movies, Your Name will change your mind. Although it's about the rather exhausted body swap between a boy and a girl trope this movie is well worth watching. Because the topic is approached in a genius manner and, in my opinion, this cannot be done better.
I would also like to give two more unusual recommendations. Kung Fury (free on YouTube) is a short movie from 2015 which was funded via crowdfunding. Despite the relatively small budget of $600,000, the screenwriter, director, producer and leading actor David Sandberg was able to persuade David Hasselhoff (yes, the David Hasselhoff) to write a title song for the short movie and to speak a few lines for a voiceover. Misfits is a 2009 television series that revolves around a group of teenagers on probation. In a strange thunderstorm, they suddenly get very unusual and very peculiar superpowers. I don't want to reveal more than that, except that season 2 is also about time travel.
The Blues Brothers is rather light compared to Tenet, but here, too, the stunts are all real which could perhaps be due to the production year of 1980. Although the movie does not rely on huge, spectacular stunts, but rather on many “smaller” stunts, the production set a world record with 103 crashed cars. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are on a divine mission and must save the orphanage in which they grew up. The movie is a well-made and very funny comedy, even by today's standards, which is partly due to the extremely funny John Belushi. Belushi is one of my favourite actors. But because he unfortunately passed away early, he couldn't star in many movies. Another very good and funny movie with him is Animal House (1978), which we screen publicly every year during the winter semester, assuming we are not dealing with a pandemic.
Well, that was a lot of movies. I said I'll TRY to be brief. And I didn't even mention a lot of great movies and directors because, firstly, the blog post would have been way too long and secondly, some were already mentioned in the previous blog posts. Phew, I haven't written that much since my bachelor thesis. I think I need to drink a Coase. In case you have way too much free time and read both versions of this blog post and wonder why in the English version there is no mention of the movie quotes, those all refer to the German dubbed version of all the movies. So, it wouldn’t make any sense to include theme here.
Urban's Favourite Movies and Series
Hi, my name's Urban, if you visited us already before Corona, we may know each other from the cash desk or the "Filmstudio Lehrjahre" ("Filmstudio years of apprenticeship"; an annual event where we show two classical comedy movies playing at school and university). As professor "Schnauz" - a character from one of the movies - I unsuccessfully tried to uphold an orderly lesson ;) Actually, I'm done with university for two years now but, as I found work here in Aachen, the Filmstudio still has to endure me. Last year I was the treasurer, now I write screen advertising texts and take a bit of care of the technical stuff. Besides, they taught me as one of the last recent members how to show *real* films (from an actual reel of film). But much to my regret, we show analogue movies quite rarely these days, so I can do this only (in a sometimes not entirely sober condition) on our annual celebration.
So, now I'm supposed to say something about my "favourite movies" here. Since I don't have an absolute favourite movie, I decided to tell you about a few ones I liked, and which may not be so commonly known.
My first recommendation is the German movie Der Wixxer (2004). If you don't know what it's about, please don't be discouraged by the title: It's a parody of the classical Edgar Wallace crime thrillers of the 60s. I would be able to quote from that movie for about an hour, but I can't say much more about the content without spoiling. Just so far: A friend of mine didn't want to watch it (again) after an abdominal surgery since laughing still hurt him.
One of my favourite movies as a child was Mousehunt (1997): Two brothers (whose relationship compares slightly to that of Charlie and Alan from Two and a Half Men) inherit a run-down house from their father. Being little enthusiastic at the beginning, they find out the mansion is worth about ten million dollars since it's the forgotten work of a famous architect. But before selling it by auction, they desperately want to get rid of their only roommate: A mouse living in the house. Since "Charlie" had to close his successful restaurant due to a cockroach, he is convinced that: "One single piece of vermin can lure you on to destruction, I know what I'm talking about!" Of course, just ignoring the mouse would have been much easier...
I also liked The Internship (2013; Amazon Prime, Sky), even if it's practically a propaganda movie for Google: Two comparatively old men (mid-40s) lost their jobs as wristwatch salesmen because "people just look at their fucking smartphones, nowadays". Thanks to admirable creativity in the job interview, they get hold of an internship at Google – with the chance of a permanent position, but only for the one most successful team. The problem is that their technical competence is limited to using a browser, whereat you still have to remind them that there's a website where you can enter an arbitrary search term...
Another funny but seemingly not so well-known movie is The In-Laws (2003). During the last preparations for a wedding, the bride and her family have no idea that her father-in-law is no copier salesman (as pretended), but a CIA agent. Unlike him, the bride's father always wears a belt pouch containing several emergency implements, and would never come close to dangerous things like a plane or a foreign restaurant. Due to a misunderstanding, he has to accompany the other father on one of his missions where he's supposed to masquerade as an arms dealer called "The Fat Cobra" ("Yes, it means exactly that."). In doing so, both fathers are eager to let the wedding take place as flawlessly as possible... (During my research on how "Die fette Kobra" is called in English - I didn't find anything, so I just translated it 1:1 hoping it's right - I discovered that there's also a version from 1979 with Peter Falk, whom I'll mention later in terms of the series Columbo. Maybe that's also worth a look...)
The movie typically connected to me by the Filmstudio (which is unfortunately of my own making, as a significant part of what I'm saying is quotes from there) is Ballermann 6 (1997, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Maxdome), together with the related series Hausmeister (caretaker) Krause (1999-2010). Unfortunately, both are only available in German, slightly tainted with the dialect of Cologne - although "unfortunately" is not quite right, as this arranges most of the humour.
I recommend the series more than the movie: It spoofs the typical German attitude using the example of Dieter Krause, caretaker of the "tidiest housing estate of whole Cologne", and recording clerk of the "Cologne Dachshund Club" founded in 1881. As "the arm of the house rules", he sees himself as a kind of addition to the police (which already knows him, as he regularly has "another issue to report") and puts all his energy in keeping "the enemy" (the tenants) in check. In contrast to Dieter, his children Carmen and Tommie do not match his ideas of normality (which is, next to orderliness, his highest ideal) at all, so that he sometimes wonders "Don't the children have a proper guide?!".
Of course, everything is exaggerated but, as a German having older relatives in the Rhineland and being member of several registered associations, you will surely recognize some habits and manners. For example, if the relevant part of your sports club's annual assembly – approving the correction of spelling mistakes in the charter – starts at agenda item no. five (after reception and opening, assessment of quorum, election of a chairperson and approval of the agenda), you have to think of the Cologne Dachshund Club. Unfortunately, the quality varies heavily between the episodes which is why I recommend trying several ones (especially, Episode 2 is better than Episode 1).
The movie Ballermann 6 plays in the same environment as the series, but a couple of years later. Dieter's (at least physically) grown-up son Tommie and his best friend go on holiday to the 17th German federal state (Mallorca), since they need to relax from two entire days of work. To their regret, "the free booze is so expensive" there, so that they cause numerous destructions while trying to earn money.
Let's stay topical with another series: The next one I want to present to you is Columbo (1968-2003), which was starring the same actor Peter Falk for over three decades. The protagonist is Lieutenant Columbo from the Los Angeles Police Department, appearing endearingly foolish, despite actually being an excellent detective. What's different from most crime movies here is that you already know who's the murderer, as the murder (together with its background) is shown at the beginning. The exciting thing is the intellectual contest between Columbo and the murderer who is usually successful and intelligent and doesn't see an actual menace in Columbo due to his slightly shabby appearance combined with his manner ("Just one more thing: My wife..."). Nevertheless, Columbo suspects the murderer typically right from the get-go because of some nearly invisible inconsistency, and corners him or her more and more by asking detailed questions, pretending to hope for the murderer's help ("I couldn't sleep all night because of this, maybe you have an idea..."). As a viewer, you actually never know exactly how much of Columbo's clumsiness is tactics and how much is the character's nature...
Another nice retro series is Quincy, M. E. (1976-1983) where the coroner with the same name permanently extends the scope of his department by solving the entire case by himself. In the same breath, the episodes often also deal with social problems due to which the murder took place. As an engineer with the master's major in "Medical Engineering", I also enjoy recognizing some familiar devices I've heard of during lectures (like a now outdated sort of heart-lung machine) in the episodes. Another interesting thing is that Quincy seems to find the rhythm for reanimation (when there's a patient he doesn't want on his table yet) by saying "one thousand" between counting ("One – one thousand - two – one thousand..."). Then again, it appears to me a little too slow to match the desired value of 100-120 beats per minute, so that the often-referenced rhythm of the song *Stayin' Alive* should still be the better choice.
By "inheriting" a USB-Stick containing several episodes, I also became a fan of the series Futurama (1999-2013, Amazon Prime). It's made by the producers of the Simpsons, showing a similar style. The main character is (apparently) accidentally frozen on New Year's Eve 1999 and wakes up in the year 3000. Although occasionally missing his family and era, luck seems to favour him in the end, since his future life becomes much more satisfying than his old one was. While revealing some nice nerdy jokes to the attentive viewer, this series – having been launched just over twenty years ago – also serves as an amusing example of how futuristic stories are still partly stuck to their own days, as the writers couldn't foresee certain changes. For instance, phone booths are shown as still being regularly used in the year 3000 (where you have to be careful not to mix them up with a quite similar-looking and equally widespread "suicide booth"), and the internet can be entered using a brain-computer interface, but, at least in earlier episodes, not without a landline. If my memory is correct, they even still use floppy disks to store a robot's personality...
Furthermore, the series Fringe (2008-2013) helped me through some dully circuit board tests (plug in board, click button, wait, fumble board out again and repeat it all with the next board) during an internship in my second semester. It's about a special department of the FBI that deals with cases barely explicable by science. The team's advised by the eccentric Dr. Walter Bishop, who already studied fringe science decades ago. Unfortunalety, Walter has been declared insane for 17 years, which is why his son Peter reluctantly has to serve as his legal custodian. Apart from the thrill of the cases, I loved this series for the arguments between Walter and the often annoyed, sarcastic Peter.
My last recommendation was already mentioned during the first days of this blog, but as I recently watched it from time to time, I’ll allow myself to repeat it: Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989-2013). The series picturizes the Belgian detective's cases in London in the 1930s. If you want a recent adaption of Poirot (well, recent in my days, but at least in this millennium and there seems to be something like WLAN on the train), you may also take a look at the 2001 remake of Murder on the Orient Express. I didn't watch the counterpart Agatha Christie's Marple (2004-2013) yet but I suppose it's equally good. In any case, I can recommend the four classical Miss Marple movies (1961-1964) with Margaret Rutherford. Despite being black and white (although some people say this matches the atmosphere) and the fact that Agatha Christie was quite unsatisfied with the actress at first since her interpretation of Miss Marple deviates strongly from her novels, the films are both funny and thrilling. An amusing side fact is that the character Mr. Stringer doesn't exist in the novels, he was just added to the movies because Margaret Rutherford wanted her husband, actor Stringer Davis, to take part.
To return to my actual suggestion, there's one strange situation I remember concerning Agatha Christie's Poirot: When I watched some episodes in English on YouTube, having no problems understanding them (as a German), I suddenly had to focus really hard to even roughly follow what the storyline was about. After ten minutes or so I figured out why: This particular episode was not in English, but in French.
So, that‘s all from my side, hopefully I could help making the second lockdown a little more endurable. If we overcome Corona and „all that harmony crap“ (as Tommie Krause accurately describes Christmas), see you in 2021.
Leon’s Favourite Movies
Hello to everyone, my name is Leon. I joined the Filmstudio in the year 2000. Since then, I occasionally utilized our equipment to produce short films, with the help of many of our club members. My latest assignment has been sifting, sorting and shelving the books for our new library room.
As I have about 500 favourites, the following six films can only be representative for a small percentage of my cinematic taste.
Andrei Rublev (USSR 1966)
In Andrei Rublev, Andrei Tarkovsky’s second feature after Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Anatolij Solonitsin, one of his favourite actors, can be seen in the eponymous role of the medieval icon painter. The film consists of several chapters, so, if three hours is too long for you, you can also watch it in sections like a series. Somewhere out there exists a version that is even longer, 205 minutes to be precise, but I do not know that one. Not in all chapters does Rublev take centre stage, and strangely we never see him actually painting. Often, he is not the agent, but simply an observer of the events. Rublev, as portrayed in the film, has a strong conscience, which sometimes hinders his “career”. One time, he refuses to paint the Last Judgement, for he does not want to terrify the people who will behold it. Unlike later Tarkovsky works, Andrei Rublev not only offers intimate scenes but also impressive action and crowd scenes.
Days of Heaven (USA 1978)
Vast Texan wheat fields are the main setting of Terrence Malick's tragic triangle Days of Heaven. The story revolves around young poor Bill who at the beginning of the 20th century drifts around looking for work, accompanied by his little sister and by his lover, whom he passes off as another sister. Being harvest hands on the lands of a rich and lonely farmer Bill devises a plan on how the three of them can escape their bleak situation...
Malick's career in US film business has been quite unusual: Following his first feature Badlands (1973) he already created his masterpiece Days of Heaven. After a hiatus of 20 years he made two other exceptional films, those being The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (2005). Then his fall began. To the Wonder (2012) shows us a director who thinks he doesn't need a screenplay anymore when making a film... Days of Heaven however is a perfect film, like a sublime symphony. All the elements of the film are equally important and meaningful: Faces & landscapes, dialogues & music, animals, plants & machines and so on. Sometimes it is stated that the film's story is only there for allowing a collection of beautiful shots, but that's not true. It may only appear so if you have the typical Hollywood movie in mind where everything has to serve the story and the actors.
Candy (France/Italy/USA 1968)
Candy is a delightfully clownish film. It bears a certain resemblance to Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968), both films being an obvious product of the magical year of 1968. Unlike Barbarella, Candy wasn't very well received and faded into obscurity – undeservedly, as I like to point out. The book on which the film was based was written by Terry Southern – screenwriter on Dr. Strangelove (1964), Barbarella and Easy Rider (1969) – and Mason Hoffenberg; the adaptation was skilfully devised by screenwriter Buck Henry. Candy is a sweet, nubile blonde girl who during her American odyssey encounters several men (a poet, a surgeon, a guru and more) who all nefariously take advantage of Candy's ingenuousness. In spite of all that, Candy remains to be the innocent and gentle creature that she was in the beginning; at the end, she experiences a kind of apotheosis, which is quite fitting, as Candy was originally introduced as a luminous being from outer space. Candy was directed by actor Christian Marquand; the great cast includes Richard Burton, Marlon Brando and Walter Matthau.
C’est la Vie (La Baule-les-Pins, France 1990)
C’est la Vie was written and directed by Diane Kurys. The story takes place at the end of the 1950s: Two sisters and their nanny are sent to the sea during the holidays where they meet with the family of their happily married aunt. However, their own parents are right in the middle of a divorce. We see the impact the divorce has on the children, but still the film doesn't come off as a gloomy drama. Its charm lies in its naturally combining of funny & sad scenes, everyday life & crisis, the children's world & the adult's world. Many scenes are not about the divorce at all, and thus the film defies being ascribed to a specific genre. You can enjoy a lot of well-known French actors in this film: Nathalie Baye, Richard Berry, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Zabou Breitman, Vincent Lindon, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. Julie Bataille is acting as the older sister and sings the beautiful chanson La bouche pleine de sable.
Credo (France 1983)
Credo is a made-for-TV production, directed by Jacques Deray. I was able to view a dubbed version on German television once. It's a chamber play, taking place in only one room. The great Jean-Louis Trintignant stars as professor Lenski, a christian who is ordered to the authorities of a communist country. Different people (among them two clerics) try to convince him to abandon or at least relativize his faith, in order to spare him the fate of being committed to an asylum because of his "mental illness". I fondly remember the closing scene, which is as unspectacular as it is effective. I am always pleased if an author/director offers a final scene that not only appropriately sums up or closes the film but focuses the film's energy, and possibly lifting it on a higher level. These kinds of endings can be found for example in Andrei Rublev or in Brian De Palma's The Fury (USA 1978). In Credo, the ending plays out as follows (!spoiler warning!): After the unwavering Lenski has been taken away only the secretary is still in the room. The professor's compromising Bible has been left lying on the desk. The woman curiously opens it and turns the pages before she hesitantly, pensively closes the book, tucks it into a drawer and leaves the room. It may come as a surprise reading the name of the screenwriter: It's Jean-Claude Carrière, multiple collaborator of Luis Buñuel, who usually had a critical attitude towards church and faith.
Speaking of Buñuel, I'd like to add another title to my little list: The Phantom of Liberty (Le Fantôme de la liberté, France/Italy 1974). It's one of Buñuel’s most enjoyable films, once you get used to the unusual narrative structure, with different episodes blending seamlessly into one another, protagonists changing all the time. By the way, the same structure was utilized by JuBaFilms for their short film Be Individual (2011), free to watch on YouTube, which will be my last recommendation for today.
Tim’s Favourite (animated) Movies
To answer the question that no one has asked yet, I am Tim. I have been on the board for the last two years and during that time, I have put together our program. Currently, I have fled to the south (of this country) to build rollercoasters, in exceptional situations, I am provided with work by the board through video conferencing, and have to listen to accusations that going to the mountains every weekend is not a hobby.
But now it's all about films. As Rica has already slightly touched upon, the definition of a favourite movie also describes the movies that have accompanied me for a long time, that I can watch again and again or that I associate with something special.
So, let's start with my Top 10 animated films:
1st place on my list is taken by the animated film Lilo & Stitch (2002, Disney+). In shortest summary: Aliens in Hawaii. I'm not counting, but the number of times I've seen this movie is in the higher two-digit range. I also have to mention the whole franchise which is based on this movie. With Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005, Disney+) and Leroy & Stitch (2006, Disney+) you can watch a heart-warming and crazy trilogy that at least I never get bored with.
In 2nd place comes Moana (2016, Disney+). At first sight a wonderful Disney movie which is not much to complain about. But the reason why the film makes it to my second place has a name: Lin-Manuel Miranda. Partly responsible for the music of the film which I may have heard too often. If you want to admire more of his musical skills, take a look at the recording of his musical Hamilton (2015, Disney+).
I like Wes Anderson movies. I also like dogs. No wonder Isle of Dogs (2018) made it to the 3rd place on my list. You can watch the movie just because of the incredibly detailed stop-motion-animation which brings the world created by Wes Anderson to the screen.
Unfortunately, I couldn't avoid re-picking a movie despite the genre limitation: For my 4th placeSpirited Away (2001, Netflix): Read what Michi had to say about it in his blog entry.
Much to my own surprise, but only at 5th place does the first Pixar movie make the cut. Although I take great pride in saying that I saw every single one of the studio’s production, there is a movie that continues to make me shed a tear or two on repeated viewings. The suspect at large is, of course, Inside Out (2015, Disney+) and I’d say it speaks for itself.
Just like some of the previous speakers, I, as well, am a big Tim Burton fan. Even though he was only a producer on my 6th place, the film is based on a story by him. A classic and an absolute must at Christmas time: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, Disney+).
Pick number 7 is a film that has accompanied me since childhood. Just like the CD of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, the DVD of Robots (2005) had to be bought by my parents multiple times, because it was no longer usable due to wear marks. With scenes that radiate visual comedy and a perfect cast, including Robin Williams, a movie you can't get enough of.
In total, two Studio Ghibli films made it into my Top 10. The second and my 8th place is called My Neighbour Totoro (1988, Netflix). With memorable characters, a heart-warming story and a cat-bus, an absolute classic of the studio.
A second Pixar film is represented, too. My 9th place is Wall-E (2008, Disney+). Since its release in 2008 still (unfortunately) topical and a wonderful example of interesting stories being told without dialogue thanks to animation.
The last place of my small Top 10 is not a movie. Firstly, because I haven't found a worthy film that deserves to finish in last place and secondly, because there is one form of animation that has been neglected here until now: Series. To name them all here would go beyond the scope of this little piece. But a small selection of classics that are worth watching again at a more mature age or little insider tips that have so far stayed under the radar: Avatar - The Last Airbender (2005, Netflix/Amazon Prime/Sky), Gravity Falls (2012, Disney+), Futurama (1999, Amazon Prime), South Park (1997, Netflix/Amazon Prime), Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (2010, Amazon Prime), Over the Garden Wall (2014).
I would like to conclude my blog entry with a video that summarizes the wonderful world of Disney animation in a short and concentrated way: It's worth subscribing, because soon there will be a video about Studio Ghibli.
Have a nice day and see you soon in the holy halls of the RWTH (Aula)
Sazvan's Favourite Movies
Hello, you out there! You are bored, would like to watch a movie and need good tips? Then you are definitely wrong here! Due to my terrible taste in movies, I can only offer you bad tips. Are your expectations lowered? Well, then there is nothing that could go wrong. By the way, my name is Sazvan, but you have probably already forgotten that by the end of this sentence. I used to be the vice chairman of Filmstudio, now I am helping out where I am needed (or not needed).
The first movie on this list is also the newest and one of the many science fiction movies by Denis Villeneuve, one of the most promising directors of our time. He has gained some attention around the world of film with Incendies (2010), Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015) and BladeRunner 2049 (2017). But my favourite movie by Villeneuve and one of my current favourite movies is Arrival (2016). It is about aliens coming to Earth (yes, to Earth, not just the USA), and these evil humanoid aliens have to be fought mercilessly by the good humans and the world has to be sav… Oh, wait, that is the plot of Independence Day. But Arrival is also about aliens coming to Earth. But what do you do when a bunch of complete strangers enter our beloved domestic Earth? Shoot them down? Press the red button? In this movie, the chosen strategy is communication. But how do you even manage to communicate with a species whose communication methods have no commonalities with the human way of communication at all? What influence does language have on the way we think and the way we think on language? This movie is definitely a pleasure to linguists. But also for everyone else who would like to watch a calm, slowly paced film with an inventive story, beautiful images, an extraordinary soundtrack and great acting. The film is currently available on Amazon Prime.
My current favourite director is Christopher Nolan. In my opinion, he always manages to create blockbusters that do not feel recycled, he has original ideas and captivating characters in his movies. It was very difficult to pick out one specific film: Memento (2000), the DarkKnight trilogy (2005-2012) and The Prestige (2006) are all amazing movies that I highly recommend. With Inception (2010), Nolan created a film that amazes me every time I get to see it. In this movie, we get the perfect mix of a brilliantly directed action movie, an emotional drama, a thought-provoking science fiction film and a thrilling heist movie with a touch of James Bond.
But Interstellar (2014) is the Nolan movie that had the biggest impact on me. It is set in a near future in which the Earth is not inhabitable anymore, which is why the former astronaut Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) travels to outer space again in order to find a new home for human beings. Interstellar broadened my horizon and made clear to me how gigantic our universe is and how limitedly we think when we think in borders, different peoples or ethnicities. It does not matter to me that the movie does not have a very complex plot or the philosophical scope of movies like 2001 – A Space Odyssey (1968) (to which Interstellar is unfortunately compared to very often), because I never felt like the movie tries to be deeper than it is. In my opinion, Interstellar manages to incorporate the dimensions of our universe and the relativity of time (two things, that most people know about, but you never really think about it that deeply) into a beautifully told plot. Additionally, Nolan shows some courage by adding his ideas to all the astrophysical concepts that Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne told him about. In case you live on another planet (hehe) and you have not seen this magnificent movie yet, you should definitely catch up on that. Interstellar and all the other named Nolan movies, except Inception, are on Netflix.
Unfortunately, the painter, craftsman, musician, actor, writer and director David Lynch never really arrived in the mainstream. The closest he has gotten was probably with the TV show Twin Peaks that influenced TV a lot after its first two seasons in the years 1990-1992. That fact is not very surprising considering what kind of movies he has made throughout his career. The surreal, Kafkaesque nightmare spectacles that he has created with Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), Lost Highway (1997) or Inland Empire (2006) are truly extraordinary and partly disturbing films. While most people that know and love Lynch think that either Eraserhead or Blue Velvet is his best film, to me it is Mulholland Drive (2001). It tells the story of a young actress that goes to Hollywood full of hopes and dreams and meets a woman that was involved in a car accident and does not remember anything. From there, a plot evolves that is hard to describe. The movie deals (as do most Lynch movies) with nightmares, dreams, the search for one’s own identity and the oh-so-nice Hollywood. Mulholland Drive offers a mix of thrilling, confusing and absurd moments and is a cumulation of many Lynch-y elements. Coincidently, the movie is newly available on Amazon Prime. If you would like to see more of David Lynch, I can recommend you his currently daily released weather reports on YouTube.
The next movie on my list is The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) by Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has created milestones of film history and has an extensive and broad filmography full of legendary movies (e.g. Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1982) or Goodfellas (1990)), but still, The Wolf of Wall Street is my favourite Scorsese film and one of my favourites. Why? Why THIS film? I do not really know the answer to that question. Maybe it is the unbelievable and insane performance by Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe it is the humour that does not feel forced or even intended but is perfectly incorporated into the movie. Maybe it is all these motivating speeches in which in the main character motivates his employees to become richer. Maybe it is the completely exaggerated excess that is ruthlessly shown and characterizes the finance world. Or maybe it is just the 569 Fucks that appear in this movie in all different variations and do not feel like 569 Fucks. The Wolf of Wall Street is currently on Amazon Prime as well.
While I am already listing one famous director after the other with my unoriginal taste in films, of course, Quentin Tarantino cannot be left out. All his movies are worth a watch for the most part, especially Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Pulp Fiction (1994). There is not really anything new to tell about the cult classic. I could listen to Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) for hours talking about the drug policies in the Netherlands, citing wrong verses from the Bible and philosophizing about the significance of a foot massage. And then, there is Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and her pilot for “Fox Force Five” and Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) and his golden watch that was hidden in the insides of different people over the years. And what is in the suitcase? Pulp Fiction is available on Sky Ticket and Sky Go or elsewhere for renting or buying.
The best is saved for last. The movie that I always name when I am asked about my favourite movie of all time is Back to the Future (1985) (actually the whole trilogy, but Part III is not as good as the first two, but still pretty good). To my pleasure, Julietta has already acknowledged the trilogy in her post. It is about the teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his buddy Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), a crazy scientist that invented a time machine out of a DeLorean. Marty accidentally travels to 1955 from 1985 and must make it back to the future, which is not such an easy task. This film has the perfect mix of extraordinary plot, interesting characters and a lot of charm. The first movie deals with the question who our parents really are. Most of us have the privilege to be brought by their parents but who are these people actually that order me to clean up my room? The second film has a prediction for the year 2015 in store that did not happen in its entirety (fax machines are dead, the fashion is not that bizarre and the justice system does not work that fast), but some things like video chat and hoverboards (even though they do not have anything to do with the hoverboards from Back to the Future) are used nowadays. The trilogy is definitely not for people who look for logic in detail in movies because time traveling always has logical problems by nature. Good time travel fiction is characterized by setting rules and boundaries and in my opinion, that is done sufficiently in the Back to the Future series. The complete trilogy is currently available on Amazon Prime.
I am a big fan of old classics as well and would like to shortly name some, because the movies I have mentioned are mostly young and well-known.
A whole bunch of old classics I can recommend is Rear Window (1954), which was already mentioned by Lukas, Dial M for Murder (1954), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock. All four films are great thrillers but told rather slowly and have different acting than what we are used to nowadays. But still, they have had a lot of influence on cinema and TV, especially Psycho, that is basically the mother of all splatter movies and from which one scene and the music have been referenced in other works oh so many times.
Many people know the famous scene with Marilyn Monroe in which her dress is blown up. But hardly anyone can probably say where that scene is from. The answer: From The Seven Year Itch (1955) by Billy Wilder. Wilder has made other (much better) movies, from which I can recommend the film noir thrillers Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).
If you would like to watch a beautiful Christmas movie that is not shown on TV every year, I can recommend It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Lastly, Singin in the Rain (1952), which deals with the transition from silent movies to talkies, is a fun recommendation for all musical fans.
Lukas' Favourite Movies
Hi, I’m Lukas and despite the fact I graduated last year, I am still stuck to the Filmstudio. After two years of being second chairman, today most of the time I work in the graphic department. In addition, I’m mainly responsible for our last film project Programmkonferenz.
In my freetime, I collect movies and, thanks to my 400+ DVDs, it’s my turn to present my favourite films.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
People who know me won’t be surprised: The dude stays number one. So, I start my list with a film by the Coen Brothers, too. These guys are doing something right.
Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski just wants to enjoy his life between bowling and White Russian when he’s mistaken for a millionaire of the same name and is thrown in an adventure of bizarre people and situations. Apart from a great cast (John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott), the film satisfies with fantastic dialogues. Some quotes even gained access to my language. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t included in any big streaming services, but every good household should own a DVD or BluRay anyway. It isn’t an insider tip anymore, more like a cult-classic with its own festival and even religion, Dudeism. This worship might be a little too much, but I always enjoy watching this master piece again – in proper style with a robe and with a glass of White Russian (3-4 ice cubes, vodka to the edge of the cubes, add some Kahlúa and fill up with milk or cream).
Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
This movie is representative for a variety of movies, all connected through one, or rather three names: ZAZ. ZAZ stands for Jim Abrahams and the brothers David and Jerry Zucker, three filmmakers, shaping my taste in movies with their parodies like no other. Kentucky Fried Movie is their first work with the then unknown director John Landis (who directed Animal House (1978) and Blues Brothers (1980) a few years later) and a small budget of $600,000. The result was a collection of sketches and parodies of movies, television an everything in between. Despite the fact the movie is over 40 years old, almost no other movie is quite as wacky and funny at the same time as this film.
Unfortunately, this pearl isn’t available on Netflix or Prime, nevertheless, if you want to get an impression of ZAZ, watch Airplane! (1980) on Netflix – for many people, the greatest parody film of all time. It’s a reckoning with the disaster movies of their time period and the start of Leslie Nielsen’s career, known better by many as Frank Drebin.
The Naked Gun trilogy also has its roots in ZAZ, the first film was made by all three of them, part 2 1/2 and 33 1/3 was made by David Zucker. And after you developed a taste for these kinds of movies, watch Ruthless People (1986), my personal insider tip. Sam Stones’ (Danny DeVito) wife has been kidnapped – but he wanted to get rid of her anyway. On the other hand, his wife (Bette Midler) won’t stand for this.
Top Secret! completes the ZAZ collection, a parody of spy films with Val Kilmer. My personal highlight: A whole scene was recorded backwards, is played forwards and the incomprehensible audio is identified as Swedish and subtitled.
If you‘re still not fed up - Jim Abrahams made both Hot Shots! movies, too, starring Charlie Sheen as a fighter pilot like in Top Gun in the first movie and as a Rambo-like fighting machine in the second movie. Luckily, both movies can be watched on Netflix.
Wanna watch a religious movie of some other kind? Maybe Dogma by Kevin Smith is the right movie for you. The angles Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) have been kicked out of heaven by God and try to get back. However, this would debunk the infallible act of God and therefore would end all of existence. So, Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) is assigned to stop them by Metatron (Alan Rickman). She‘s assisted by the thirteenth apostle Rufus (Chris Rock), a muse (Selma Hayek) and the stoner duo Jay and Silent Bob – you may already know them from other Kevin Smith films like Clerks (1994) or Mallrats (1995).
Some parts of the film might by a little bit rough, but overall, it’s a lot of fun and maybe some of you will start thinking about God and the world, too. Unfortunately, this movie is currently hard to get. If you have the chance to watch it, don‘t miss it.
Wayne’s World (1992)
Wayne’s World is one of the movies my siblings and I were allowed to watch when my mum wasn’t home – in their opinion these movies are dumb. Anyway, we were impressed by the films and my brother and I quote films like Hot Shots!, Spaceballs and Wayne’s World on a regular basis. Maybe you know Mike Myers as Austin Powers, but his career started as Wayne Campbell on SNL, where he and his best friend Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) hosted a tv show on the open channel. At some point, they made a movie out of those sketches – Wayne’s World. A shady producer (Rob Lowe) discovers the two slobs and wants to make them big. With the professionalism growing, their show starts to lose its heart. In addition, the producer starts hitting on Wayne’s girl Cassandra (Tia Carrere). The opening sequence – Wayne and his friend sing along Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in their car – will always be legendary. Fun fact: Mike Myers is starring in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody as the producer who prognosed no success for the same-named single.
Wayne’s World is a movie stuffed with crazy ideas, wacky jokes and a guest appearance of Alice Cooper – what else could you ask for? Party on, Wayne!
The Princess Bride (1987)
Most movies so far are inspired by my father. The Princess Pride by Rob Reiner on the other hand, is one of my mother’s favourite films and one of my favourites since childhood, too. The beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright) is supposed to marry prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) against her will. In addition, Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his henchmen (Mandy Patinkin and André, the Giant) kidnap her to provoke a war by her dying. Now Buttercup’s presumed dead true love Westley (Cary Elwes) has to make every effort to save his girl.
A great adventure film, somewhere between fantasy and swashbuckler film, romantic, funny and always entertaining. Unfortunately, like Wayne’s World just for rental on Amazon Prime.
Rear Window (1954)
For those of you who think the movies so far were too wacky and dumb, now something more reasonable: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Hitchcock is one of my favourite directors, his movies haven’t lost any of their suspense and atmosphere in the last 50 years. One of his best films, in my opinion, is his thriller Rear Window. The wheelchair-bound photographer L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and is thus increasingly convinced one of them has committed murder. The film is available with Sky Ticket.
Unfortunately, most of my favourite movies aren‘t available on the big streaming platforms, so I will give some quick suggestions, too: Natural Born Killers (1995, Amazon Prime), Bang Boom Bang (1999, Netflix), Point Break (1991, Netflix), Schule (2000, Netflix) and OSS 117: Cairo, Net of Spies (2006, Amazon Prime).
Rica's Favourite Movies
Greetings to everyone who eats their snacks so loud that they can’t listen to the movie they’re watching, and the people who fall asleep before the movie is over. Unfortunately, I also belong to these people...
Even more to me: I am Rica, another member and I am one of the few FH students in the Filmstudio. Maybe I'm just a member because you can’t fall asleep in our premium cinema chairs and I can buy snacks for a cheaper price.
For my favourite movies, I rather picked the ones I watched as a kid or would have if I knew them back then. So, either very colourful and musical or gray.
One of my favourite movies is The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain. I don’t know exactly when I saw it first, probably after my big sister had hung the movie poster in her room. Right away, I was a big fan, since I really like French movies. What stuck in my head the most is probably the music by Yann Tiersen. Everything, but most of all "Comptine d’un autre été, l’après-midi” and “La Valse d’Amelie” because I still like to play them on the piano to this day. Fun fact: A few years ago, I went to the café in Paris. The food was ok, unfortunately the toilet was not. But the photo booth near the vegetable shop is great and I still like visiting it. The film is on Mubi every now and then, or you can rent it for a few Euros on Amazon Prime. Anyone who asks nicely and has snacks can also borrow the DVD from me.
I don't know how many times I've seen the following movie, but I will probably never get tired of it, as there are always some new details that you didn't discover the last time around. It's about Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events. Not the Netflix series, but the 2004 movie with Jim Carrey. Based on a series of books, they picked out a few events (events, hihi) and turned them into a movie with Jude Law as a narrator. However, the Netflix series is a lot more extensive – which I can also recommend – but in this case it’s a little too colourful for me. You should probably watch both and decide for yourself which one you prefer, since both are currently available on Netflix.
A movie that was very present during my childhood is The Wizard of Oz. I loved the movie so much that I dressed up as Dorothy once for carnival. Unfortunately, nobody knew my character. In addition, my self-glued on red stones on my shoes always fell off. You can borrow the movie on Amazon Prime or from me. Just follow the Yellow Brick Road up to the end.
Like Emily, I'm a big fan of Tim Burton, so I couldn’t let one of his movies out. I chose Frankenweenie, another Stop-Motion, which is in black and white. The movie is about the death of Victor's dog and I hope you can rhyme together the rest by looking at the title. The movie makes me cry every time, whether at the age of 13 or today with 21. Same principle as above, unfortunately currently only rentable.
Colourful and musical fits very well with La La Land. I somehow just like everything about it. Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, the colours, the cinematography (shot on film), but above all the dynamic duo Damien Chazelle & Justin Hurwitz. Together, they also worked on movies like Whiplash or Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. Really, really good soundtracks. Really good.
A movie that has been around for a few years but has only been in my favourite collection since a few months is Her. Again, because of the colours and the soundtrack. If you only know Joaquin Phoenix from Joker, you should watch this movie as well, even if it might not fit the genres you’re usually watching. I always find it exciting how actors can slip into different roles. The plot, is in my opinion, also a current topic but not so present…
If you have almost fallen asleep while reading, I can only recommend World on a Wire. This two-parter is 3 ½ hours long, but every few minutes there are weird noises, which makes falling asleep a lot more difficult. This 70s WDR production by Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a movie you should take a look at, because Michael Ballhaus’ camera work is just great. The use of colours – in this case a lot of orange and blue – is just tasty for the eye and everything reflects on different surfaces which lets you dive into another world. I don’t want to talk too much about the content, but those who like to watch dystopias should give this one a try.
A genre that I really enjoy watching are documentaries. I have to admit that I don’t have a favourite documentary, most of the times they are about art. Mostly on ARTE. I'm currently trying to watch every video on ARTE’s YouTube channels, which is not that easy cause they are constantly uploading new documentaries and reports. In addition to that, I can also recommend the different funk formats (e.g. Y-Kollektive, STRG_F etc. sorry, they are German). They also upload pretty frequently and talk about exciting, current topics. Between art, culture and Corona, it’s pretty chill to watch a documentary about mushrooms now and then.
At the end, there is not another movie recommendation that tries to trump all the aforementioned ones, but a snack recommendation. Salted chips always work, but what's even better is salted popcorn with cheese sauce. So, there you go.
Julietta's Favourite Movies
Welcome to this week’s edition of “Filmstudio’s Favourite Movies” and my blog entry. My name is Julietta and I’ll be your Filmstudio Blog Guide for today.
Who I am? If you ever watched High School Musical with us and saw the person in the HSM bathrobe making the announcements before the movie or noticed the person in the very back at Frozen 2 singing more out than in tune, a tad too loud – that was me. If you were not present at these movies, no worries, it’s never too late and after all, this entire text is about getting to know my favourite movies.
I do find the expression “favourite movie” a bit difficult, since my favourites are always changing, or I forget to list one. Hence, the movies I will tell you about are mostly movies I really enjoyed in the past year.
Since I already mentioned Frozen 2, I might as well start there. This one belongs on my list if only because I have watched it so often already. Yes, the storyline is a bit peculiar and the songs aren’t as catchy as Let it Go the first time you hear them (then again, something some people might be thankful for), nevertheless I still liked it better than the first. The detailed animation creates such wonderful scenes and motives and is simply stunning to watch. Maybe concentrate less on Elsa and more on Olaf trying to adjust to growing up, being more aware of his surroundings and his delusions of adults knowing everything and everything making sense as soon as you get older and voila: The movie becomes well worth seeing on the spot because, and let’s face it: We have all been there.
Anna’s character development deserves a lot more attention as well. How she suddenly must deal with the death and disappearance of beloved … (no spoilers) is an unusually dark moment for Disney. But at the end of the day, it stays a classic Disney movie with the mandatory happy ending and joyful spirit. Though in times like these, we can occasionally use and allow ourselves a little pick me up and a movie like this.
Speaking of better times, if you asked me today “what is your favourite movie?” I would definitely say A Million Ways to Die in the West, even though I don’t know when that answer will chance again. This comedy by and with Seth MacFarlane demonstrates in a very funny way that this so frequently romanticized period of cowboys and adventures in the wild west was actually a pretty shitty time to be alive.
A surprisingly star-studded cast, including Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson and Neil Patrick Harris, is confronting the audience with a splendid, hilarious performance. Apparently, they all told their famous friends about this wonderful project, as it is filled with Cameo appearances. I totally missed and did not recognize Ewan McGregor the first time I watched the movie. However, you just cannot miss Christoper Lloyd’s appearance as Doc Brown himself with the original DeLorean from Back to the Future.
To those of you who enjoy this humour I recommend Seth MacFarlane’s Sci-Fi show The Orville. I would describe it with the words: Star Trek as a Sitcom! Besides the usual renting and buying suspects, both movie and series are – as of now – included within the Amazon Prime subscription.
Next on this list is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie was received with mixed emotions by many. It was “too long” and too many scenes weren’t “contributing to the plot”, but the latter was exactly what I liked about this one so much. For me, it was not about getting to the actual Manson killings and brutal scenes as fast as possible, but the story of these two men, this “Golden Age of Hollywood” and its end. The film transports an incredible sentiment for this time and in the light of it being based on a true story an immense severity. Debatable but worthwhile, Tarantino changed the story and brought in fictional characters. When the movie finally came to its big finale with the familiar brutality, shrinking into my cinema seat, all I could think about was how the real murders – even compared to this – must have been an entirely different level of disturbance and senseless violence. The movie can be bought on Amazon, iTunes etc. or watched via SkyTicket.
Without further ado, I want to recommend some other highlights to you, which you probably already know, but can always watch a second, third or any time like The Truman Show (included in Amazon Prime) or Catch me if you can (Netflix).
I already mentioned Back to the Future (Amazon Prime, Joyn+) earlier in regards to A Million Ways to Die in the West but this franchise deserves its own mention and heartfelt recommendation.
Before I end this list, I also want to include The Grand Budapest Hotel (Joyn+, SkyTicket, Maxdome), a film full of beautiful scenery, that uses the old vacant mall in Görlitz as the set for their Hotel. Gorlitz, sometimes called “Görliwood”, is a nice little town in East Germany, often used as backdrop for movies set in times before or during the World Wars. Scenes from Inglourious Basterds and Never Look Away were shot there, to name two. Just in case you also needed a little film fun fact or an idea for a city trip in Germany.
Have fun watching.
Michi's Favourite Movies
Hey there, fellow surfers of the worldwide interwebs! My name is Michi (short for Michael), I have been a computer science student at RWTH for my entire adult life and currently I am either the CEO or COO or executive secretary or whatever you call this position wherein you handle the Filmstudio’s finances. My hobbies are fishing, bear-hunting and watching movies for the very reasonable price of three Euros per film. Although, as a member I enjoy the friends and family discount and pay three Euros less (*wink, wink, nudge, nudge* join us). Usually, my friends from the Filmstudio only come to me to ask for money as per my function within the club, but this time I was asked to write a little about myself and my favourite movies. So, here is a list of six movies I came up with to recommend to you fine folks out there. Enjoy!
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Let’s begin with the compulsory Kubrick pick that belongs on any credible wannabe film critic’s top whatever list. After some back and forth, I finally settled on Dr. Strangelove rather than Full Metal Jacket because in my opinion, Dr. Strangelove is Kubrick’s most focused movie. Also, I like comedies, and this doesn’t really come through from the rest of my list, I think there can’t be a best-of list without George C. Scott.
In this film, published the same year my mother was born, a U.S. Army general, who is really into conspiracy theories, commands to drop a nuke on the Soviets. So it is up to British officer Mandrake (Peter Sellers) to try and talk the general out of his delusions while President Muffley (also Sellers) and general Turgidson (George C. Scott) are doing their best to keep the peace with Moscow.
While later Kubrick movies tend to explore more abstract topics and lose themselves a bit too much in visuals for my taste, Dr. Strangelove is pretty clear in terms of its message and hilarious to boot. The quote “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!” along with the scene where Peter Sellers sponges quarters off of a U.S. marine in an effort to save the world from thermonuclear annihilation via a payphone may be the greatest allegories to foreign politics ever. In a time when most people were genuinely afraid of nuclear warfare, director Stanley Kubrick does an excellent job in demonstrating why humankind maybe shouldn’t be the species in possession of the earth’s destruction codes.
From Peter Sellers to Peter Weller. There are plenty of good reasons why Robocop shouldn’t be missing from a best-of list. Be it the entertainingly over the top action courtesy of 80s US cinema using almost exclusively practical effects, a good portion of sarcasm few directors can match or the quotability of basically every single line of dialog. For me personally, it comes down to the fact that Robocop simply is a perfect movie as it achieves everything it sets out to accomplish.
The plot may be razor-thin, but that’s hardly the point. In a future crime-ridden Detroit, a private company puts officer Murphy, who has been shot to bits, inside a machine in an attempt to create the ultimate crime fighting weapon. That’s more or less it.
Much more important than what is going on in this case is how the story is being told. Every character is incredibly over the top. Starting with the insanely reckless thug Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and ending with the unapologetically robotic performance of Peter Weller as Robocop, every character is gloriously exaggerated, and for this exact reason, works perfectly in Paul Verhoeven‘s sarcastic action sci-fi capitalism critique / existential drama about what it means to be human. I‘d buy that for a dollar!
Spirited Away (2001)
From one perfect film to the next. As was the case for most Studio Ghibli movies, I never really cared all that much for Spirited Away as a child. I gravitated more towards the colourful world of Pixar and Disney and I still find the majority of Pixar movies to be layered, well put together and enjoyable. However, now that I’m all grown up, I can definitely appreciate Studio Ghibli’s metaphor-riddled and gorgeously 2D-animated pictures much more.
Based on what I heard from friends, I would assume most people know about Spirited Away and have seen at least parts of it. I also don’t want to give anything away as I think this film can’t really be described that well, it should be experienced. That’s because Spirited Away isn’t a very literal movie. Suffice to say, the German title which roughly translates into “Chihiro’s trip to spirit land” provides a pretty good summary of what might be going on in the movie.
Compared to other Ghibli productions like Princess Mononoke or Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away is less dramatic and instead more reflective. I love the creative framework provided by the bath house for spirits and gods our main character finds herself in. Every character does double duty and works perfectly both as part of the literal story as well as a representation of different aspects of adult life and corporate working environments. Nothing more to add, simply a masterpiece.
For the last five years when somebody asked me about my favourite movie, my go-to answer was: “At the moment probably Drive.” No doubt there are “objectively better” movies, maybe even on this very list, but Drive just feels like a movie especially made for me.
A taciturn stunt/getaway driver (Ryan Gosling) befriends his neighbour who happens to be a young mother (played by Carey Mulligan). When her husband (Oscar Isaac) comes home from jail, the driver offers his help in settling some overdue business.
Besides the already mentioned cast members, Drive also features Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, and Ron Perlman, and everyone delivers a flawless performance. The action scenes are shot just as they should be in my opinion: Intense, with clear motivation and purpose and with stunning cinematography. Drive is about a person acting morally dubious at best, outright reprehensible at worst, in his pursuit of purpose, deconstructing the classic action hero. All that on top of the excellent, synth y soundtrack makes Drive what I find to be a stylized, entertaining, as well as emotional and thought-provoking experience. Everything just comes together so nicely and creates a movie I can watch over and over.
Although I’ve only seen Starlet once all the way through, I was infatuated enough to add it to this list. And not solely for having an indie hipster flick nobody knows or cares about, but also to include at least one movie whose IMDb keywords feature the term “unsimulated sex”.
Young porn actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) buys an unassuming thermos from the aging widow Sadie (Besedka Johnson) at a yard sale after discovering a large amount of cash hidden inside it. Since Sadie is struggling financially and didn’t know what she gave away, Jane starts feeling guilty and tries to make it up to the lonely lady by keeping her company.
To everyone familiar with director Sean Baker it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve seen few movies that manage to hold one’s attention this well without having a lot going on. We follow the young and naïve Jane clinging to aged and bitter Sadie as they either go to the local bingo hall or shop for groceries. Now and then, we spend time with Jane and her roommate smoking weed or learn about their landlord Mikey’s (James Ransone) grand plans to break into the adult movie industry. I think it’s the authentic and reliable portrayal of the characters and their struggles and dreams what keeps this movie going. In the end you wish almost everybody, especially the two protagonists Jane and Sadie a happy conclusion to their story. A kind of hidden gem for all you people out there, spending way too much time thinking about other people’s issues.
The VVitch (2015)
Concluding with the sort-of-horror movie that excited critics and put audiences to sleep all around the world. On closer inspection, The VVitch is more of a family drama than a horror film, but it’s just so darn bleak, eery and unconventional that most put it into that corner. I genuinely cannot say what it is about The VVitch that makes it so watchable to me, but I love it, nevertheless.
The story takes place in New England of the sixteen hundreds. A family – made up of father (Ralph Inseon), mother (Kate Dickie), oldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son (Harvey Scrimshaw), a pair of twins and a new-born – sets out to settle an uninhabited stretch of land. Plagued by misfortune and trapped in a desperate situation, distrust and resentment starts tearing the family apart.
The VVitch’s strongest asset in my opinion is the constant, slowly building tension. While we, the audience, get to see all viewpoints and thus know exactly what is actually going on, each character is limited by their own prejudices, beliefs, and ignorance regarding the bigger picture. Ultimately, their transgressions and inability to relate to one another drives their hostility towards each other which ultimately leads to their dire situation. Although this is Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, the uncanny precision with which the film is assembled is reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining. As such, following the characters as they put themselves into an increasingly hopeless position keeps you at the edge of your home cinema seat. Completely without jump scares and CGI demons, The VVitch creates a deliberately dreadful atmosphere showing once again: The most terrible monster of all is… man (duuum, duuum, duh)!
Emily's Favourite Movies
Hello, to all you diligent couch cinema critics! My name is Emily, and right now I am the first chairwoman of our fun little (currently cinema-deprived) group of cinephiles. Here, I’ve brought you a few of my favorite movies – maybe you’ll find something new to watch, or maybe it simply gives you the urge to dig up some of your own old favorites…!
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
This quirky-strange comedy, directed by the Coen Brothers (well… so far, the description matches nearly any of their movies), plays around 1930 in the Deep South of the U.S. of A. We follow three escaped prisoners on their obstacle-studded treasure hunt for that small fortune that might give ‘em the chance to start anew. The story is loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, and as such, they encounter all sorts o’ strange folk – from cyclopes and seductive sirens to crazy KKK members – all the while being pursued by the devil incarnate! For those of y’all who are especially attentive, it might be fun tryin’ to find all the historical errors built into this movie (mostly intentionally). And, as y’all might ha’ reconned, I get a giggle out o’ them character’s southern accents…
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
The songs from this memorably magnificent musical adaptation by Norman Jewison have accompanied me since childhood – amongst others of course those catchy tunes To Life! and If I Were A Rich Man. Through the eyes of the Jewish dairyman Tevye, most charmingly and convincingly portrayed by Topol, we experience the conflicts of love, belief, and traditiooooon! in the Christian-Jewish shtetl of Anatevka around the time of persecution and Pogrom in the Russian empire. I’ll admit, this movie always ends in a sea of ambivalent tears for me…
The Lord of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Well, I guess this title is rather self-explanatory, isn’t it? Please forgive me for not offering you a more unknown insider’s tip with this one, but it is a list of my favourites. And, being a massive LOTR fan myself (yes, I’ve read the books, and yes, I watched the extended editions and behind-the-scenes footage…) I couldn’t help myself but put this movie adaptation by Peter Jackson of J. R. R. Tolkien’s books on my list. And who knowns… maybe this is a wake-up call for some of you to have a LOTR marathon night again…?
Corpse Bride (2005)
This dark musical, directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson, is for those of you, who are up for a colourful and lively evening with the dead. To me, the most fascinating aspects are the artful visuals and technical expertise of this movie. And if you find yourself thoroughly puzzled by the end of it, how these typically Burtonesque spider-legged, large-headed characters managed to stay upright through the entirety of this stop motion animation, I’d recommend checking out the very interesting and entertaining making-of.
In Order of Disappearance (2014)
It appears, that with this title by Hans Petter Moland, an action thriller made it onto my list – and it serves all the stereotypical traits a good revenge storyline should have. As such, it’s no surprise to encounter drug deals, bloody murders and never-ending conflicts between two rivaling Mafia gangs. And aside from Stellan Skarsgård’s convincing performance as the vengeful father, you’ll find quite a few more delightfully original characters in this movie – perhaps the most amusing one being the ever-so troubled, single parent, vegan Mafia boss. Oh, and all this entertaining mayhem takes place in the icy snow of Norway.
Yussef's Favourite Movies
Introducing: Yussef, sometimes studying engineering, other times engaging musically, mostly just sipping drinks at the office maintaining appearances as the vice guy at this Filmstudio. There, I write blog stuff for film recommendations, assemble the program – if there were any to speak of – deal with cooperation efforts – again, if there were any possible right now – and vote for all the shitty art house movies, that delight me whilst putting off huge chunks of our audience :)
Choosing favourite movies or to paraphrase slightly: Giving me a major headache trying to balance this collection of movies for recommendability, personal affection, anecdotal quality, ease of watching, aspirations of the work, influential character… The list might never end. As an act of compression, I at least tried to give a glimpse into singular works of my favourite creative craft people instead of delving into each of their respective works. (In hindsight: Might have done it anyway.) Quick! Before my train of thought derails further.
I always was and will be the biggest fanboy for the works of directing and screenwriting brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. While dipping their creative feet into all kinds of genres, they maintained a recognizably dark yet quirky humour and an array of quirky yet real characters persisting throughout. The list is long and diverse: From Fargo (1998), which was adapted into an equally fascinating Netflix series, to cult comedy classic The Big Lebowski (1998), suspenseful finger nail annihilator No country for old men (2007), touching folk music homage Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Odysseus-in-America-simulator O Brother, where art thou? (2000) to crushing yet hilarious loss of faith journey A serious man (2009).
But especially Barton Fink (1991) is a microcosm of all that aforementioned weirdness, that allows scenes to be light-heartedly funny yet darkish and frightening at the same time. Herein, John Turturro is a successful broadway author getting into Hollywood while trying not to sell out and maintaining his focus on the everyday man. The resulting writer’s block followed by a slow but steady descent into madness is visualised by ambiguous images of maybe imagined conversations with the police, creepy hotel personnel and Hollywood stereotypes, but mostly John Goodman as his room neighbour and devil or nazi or serial killer or all of the above? But don’t think about it for too long, because the hotel is already on fire and the lady on the back of the necktie is alive or maybe she isn’t – who knows?
On to the next chaotic creative: Charlie Kaufman, who might not once in his life as a screenwriter have delivered a conventional script. In that regard, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (2004) serves the double purpose of being a phrase in an Alexander Pope poem and the title of a movie about choosing a surely failing love and the justification of doing so. The movie stars a diverse cast, containing a depressed Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet’s multiple hair colours, by which the viewer can navigate through and reassemble the movie’s fractured timeline, as well as Frodo (Elijah Wood) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) operating a memory erasure machine. Too conventional of a casting selection? Charlie Kaufman also offers Being John Malkovich (1999) starring John Malkovich as John Malkovich, wherein most roles are played by and do in fact depict John Malkovich. Still too conventional? Try stop motion puppet animation movie Anomalisa (2015), in which a man is desperately looking for long lost enthusiasm in love and life in general. To emphasize this decolouring of emotions, every other character in the movie has the same voice and the same basic (puppet) face, whether they are men or women, old or young. Anomalisa was also awarded for its authentic and believable depiction of nudity and sexuality, while still being a movie very much only starring puppets. Now, that’s something I’d put on my CV!
And Kaufman-last but not Kaufman-least: Adaptation (2012). A movie so meta, that it depicts its own process of creation. It’s the Xzibit meme of meta narratives. To semi-elaborate: Charlie Kaufman (the real one) is tasked to adapt a book for the big screen, suffers writer’s block and instead tries to depict the adaptation process itself as the movie’s story. It is the real story of the movie and the story depicted in the movie at the same time. Which means, the story undergoes massive changes, when Charlie Kaufman (now the fictional character but – as was mentioned – kind of the real one as well) decided to change it up, for example for something more light-hearted. Did I mention that Charlie Kaufman is played by Nicolas Cage? Did I mention that Donald Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman’s fictional brother, is also played by Nicolas Cage? It’s a mess. A beautiful, weird and one-of-a-kind mess.
From complex and quirky to complex and contemplative, introducing: Cinema’s philosopher, one Andrei Tarkovsky. Still considered one of the greats having only delivered seven movies before his early demise presumed cause being exposure to chemical waste close to Stalker’s (1979) shooting location resulting in multiple cancer cases within the crew. The Russian director used his movies to explore emotions, moments and the beauty of nature rather than to elaborate on complex stories. Exhaustively long shots and slow explorations of facial expressions, nature and dream-like compositions, that create a more deliberate and deliberately meditative experience, while always being highly autobiographical in certain aspects. One autobiographical aspect is shown in my favourite of his, his penultimate movie Nostalghia (1983). It is his exploration of his protagonist’s and – in extension his own – grave feelings of home sickness towards the Soviet Union while living in Italy. It actually doesn’t go much deeper than I just explained, story-wise. It’s the protagonist’s perception of his surroundings and his efforts to deal with these emotions, that take centre stage in the movie.
Okay, only one more movie. Let’s pick Road to Perdition (2002) by director Sam Mendes. Mendes, who also delivered American Beauty, Jarhead, the younger bond flicks Skyfall and Spectre as well as last year’s one take wonder and Oscar snatcher 1917. Road to Perdition is Mendes’ exploration of a comic book adaptation of a mob movie, that rather focusses on father-son relationships than on the inner workings of the Irish mob, thus being much quieter than most of its mob movie peers. Herein, Tom Hanks plays the unusual role of a killer for father figure Paul Newman and his clan, whose son witnesses him murdering and thus becomes a target himself. The emerging story of father and son fleeing and simultaneously searching for retribution almost evokes road movie vibes, if it weren’t for the fatalistic touch of the story. No major character chooses or wishes for the movie’s events to happen yet is forced to due to familial bonds and obligations. It evolves into a question of existential determinism of sons following into their fathers’ footsteps and if that even is a matter of choice. Still not convinced? Conrad L. Hall – as his last Oscar receiving effort as director of photography – makes it all look sexy as hell (figuratively).
Sigh, okay, maybe one more. Because dang it, if A Sun (2019) is not one of the most moving and sad and uplifting movies in recent memory, while also having been made in Taiwan, a place very dear to me. It’s a venture into the choice between rejection and empathy and learning the latter, when the universe seemingly decides to tear your life and family apart in the blink of an eye. It’s on Netflix, peeps.
Please don’t leave, I swear I’m almost done! But it would be inexcusable not to mention Super – Shut up, crime! (2010). It’s the fucked-up superhero movie you didn’t know you wanted! For all of you critical of superhero vigilantism but not quite satisfied with Hancock’s gimmicky-ness and Watchmen’s lacking film adaptation. Also, Elliot Page plays a nymphomaniac hyper brutal side kick and I really don’t know how any of you would need any more convincing beyond that point. While I’m at it, Studio Ghibli shouldn’t even be necessary to mention, but obviously only make the most beautiful of films, My Neighbor Totoro (1988) is just the word “cozy” in the shape of 88 minutes of visual entertainment. Aaaaaaaand everything Wes Anderson ever crammed onto a reel of film. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)? *Chef’s kiss*! And, oh shit. Did I forget Mulan? MULAN! How could I have forgotten MULAN?!??! AND DID YOU WATCH BLADERUNNER 2049?!?
Home-Alternative - The Farewell
On March 18th we would have loved to show you Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. I guess we owe it to cosmic irony that the first movie being cut due to counter-pandemic precautions is titled The Farewell. Yet let’s cling to the more optimistic German idiomatic counterpart “Auf Wiedersehen” regarding us not showing movies for the not-quite-foreseeable future. It seems twice as ironic and deplorable, regarding the partly Chinese origin of the movie – unfortunately, movies of non-western origin don’t often get to see the light of day around these corners. Then it seems even thrice as ironic, in regard to the Chinese origin of the current pandemic, so being open to Chinese people and Chinese culture would have been a welcome exercise in these times, in which generalized condemnation and avoidance seem like the go-to reactions.
In this movie, based on a true story, we follow grandma Nai Nai and her family getting together in China to celebrate a big wedding. As it turns out, the wedding is only a superficial excuse to gather the family around Nai Nai one last time, since she is fatally ill with cancer – but ironically, the only one who is not in on the whole charade is Nai Nai herself. The storyline evolves into a cultural dialog between granddaughter and New York resident Billi (Awkwafina), and her Chinese heritage. Fun fact find: Nai Nai is the literal translation of a father’s mother, so not the most creative of nick names.
Based on a true story, life-threatening illness, family gathering meets cultural collision, seasoned with generous pinches of humour? Did you say… The Big Sick? Containing all mentioned similarities, this Amazon production by married screen writer couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani depicts their relationship’s origin story, so to speak. Kumail – played by Nanjiani himself – is herein torn between the family’s expectations of a traditional Pakistani marriage, Emily’s reserved parents, and a coma Emily falls into shortly after them meeting. Without a doubt much more on the RomCom side of things, yet entertaining as well, and retrievable within Amazon Prime.
Those of you who have yet to quench their lust for Chinese or Taiwanese movies can check out The Sun on Netflix or Ash is purest white on Amazon Prime. Both are highly contemporary dramas, creating an atmospheric intensity through negative space. And both have a very distinctive style, especially contextualized in the culture shaping them. Similarly to the film Parasite, which manages to merge Korean culture as well as contemporary criticism of capitalism and class conflict, The Sun portrays life in Taiwan culture-specifically, while universally illustrating intra-familial drama and personal history haunting one’s life – no matter how hard one tries to shake it or put it behind oneself.
For those of you who are seeking a wider idea of Chinese culture for that diverting little culture kick, you might want to try out the game Mahjong. If you’re the type of person to get a nostalgic rush of endorphins at the sight of the card mayhem after winning a Windows 98 Solitaire game – then you might be able to revive that feeling by playing this variant of the Chinese game. Alternatively, you can always support your local Asian supermarket or delivery service, as their existence is currently in jeopardy, just as many other’s are. And who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favourite umami-flavoured pot of gold at the foot of the grand aroma rainbow – far off from the culinarily explored potato horizon. So, go (wasabi) nuts!
Perhaps a few ones among you might know Nora Lum, the lead actress of The Farewell, by her alias Awkwafina. Though she was recently honoured with a Golden Globe for her performance in The Farewell, she is also known for her rapping. Both of her records can be found on Spotify, amongst which you will find the feminist counterpart My Vag to all the diss tracks, in which the ego ruler is held up to any symbolic (or non-symbolic) phallus. A personal favourite and little extra tip is her feature song Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You.
Since it still isn’t every day that you see movies executed by women in direction, cinematography, script etc. we will now briefly move the spotlight onto female directors:
Here, especially Greta Gerwig – also known for her acting – has recently been attracting attention with her self-scripted films, as well as adapted ones, such as Lady Bird and Little Women. Both focused on the mother-daughter(s) bond. We ourselves are hoping to be able to show Little Women towards the end of the year… but if not, we’ll be sure to bring you some more info on Lady Bird here in the blog a few weeks from now. A little spoiler in advance: That movie be great. That movie be on Amazon Prime.
Just as noteworthy are the Wachowski Sisters, Lena & Lilly, who’ve brought some few little movies to the big screen… such as Matrix (Sky Ticket/Go), V for Vendetta (Netflix), and Cloud Atlas (to rent on Amazon Prime). Another worthy mention is their Netflix production Sense8. It is similar to the small-town superhero series Heroes, only that it simultaneously creates the impression of trying to counterbalance the absence of LGBTQIA representation in all the rest of current entertainment – all compressed into two short seasons. Reason enough to recommend this to all you curious people.
However, if you love The Farewell’s director Lulu Wang herself so much… well, then maybe you should marry her. At least that’s what Barry Jenkins did, being a successful director himself. Jenkins is known for movies, such as If Beale Street could talk and Moonlight. The latter won the Oscar for Best Movie 2017 and is available on Netflix. We follow the story’s protagonist Little through three phases of his life and watch, as his development of personal identity clashes with the expectations and stereotypes the world he grows up in lays upon him – and we watch, as people with any healthy influence on him and his personal development retreat further away from him.
The excellent music of both of Jenkins movies is credited to Nicholas Britell. Whoever finds his music especially worth-while can also find it in The King (Netflix) and The Big Short (to rent on Amazon Prime). Alternatively, the soundtracks to all of the above listed movies can be found and enjoyed on Spotify. Especially the soundtrack to Beale Street creates a kind of warm melancholy, a sense of wonderful longing, and a dash of comforting homesickness – to make you forget this social distance, even just for a blissful moment or two.
Home-Alternative - Bad Boys for Life
Today we originally wanted to watch Bad Boys for Life with you.
After 17 long years of waiting for a sequel, Miami detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) return to the big screen along with explosive action and witty one-liners. You can find some of them on quotes.net, if you want to freshen up your memory of the past movies. Thanks to the lengthy development of the story, this movie does not only contain carefree fun and a lot of action but a comprehensible storyline, which answers questions and plot holes of the first two movies, too.
But gladly, even Popcorn movie escapism can be translated from the big screen into the smaller screens out there, whether they be your TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone and/or smartwatch. However big or small your preferred device might be. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and neither do our first suggestions for you as the first alternatives to Bad Boys for Life are – you guessed it – its predecessors Bad Boys and Bad Boys II. You will find both on Netflix and the second one on Amazon Prime as well. To prevent confusion: You will most likely come across the FSK16 version, which leaves out some scenes to make it more age appropriate. But with a sense of poetic justice, this version contains scenes, which are not within the original cut. Maybe you wouldn’t even have noticed, but now you are warned. Whichever version you end up watching, great entertainment and a taste for the new Bad Boys is guaranteed and you don’t even have to worry, that the fun is about to end, because Bad Boys 4 has already been announced.
For those of you, who prefer buddy movies and could do with less action yet more jokes, you should take a good look at the American comedy Ride Along. In this movie Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) has to tag along on a police patrol to prove he is tough enough to marry James Payton’s (Ice Cube) sister. A few harmless car chases, a cool and tight-lipped Cop and a nerve-wrecking chatterbox might just be enough to slowly warm you up to the action-genre.
Those who want more of Will Smith will find an entire mountain of alternatives. Starting with his oldest project The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, for which he contributed the infamous theme song that you probably also heard once or twice or a hundred times at karaoke parties. If you are ready for your next binge marathon just look it up on Netflix and you will find plenty. That Will Smith has got a neck for theme songs and music in general is also evident in the Men in Black trilogy, which you can find on Netflix or Amazon Prime and if you don’t know what song I am talking about you know what you will watch this evening – if only to find out how many funny cameos are hidden in this movie, like the late Michael Jackson. If you are already set to watch a cop movie but now thought about all the great Sci-Fi elements of MIB we recommend you the Netflix original Bright. Just two cops cleaning up a rather racist LA with one of them being Will Smith and his partner just so happening to be an Orc.
Those of you who like to pride themselves with trivia knowledge might already know that the Story of Bad Boys for life was co-written by Peter Craig, who also wrote the adapted screenplay for Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. Since Harry Potter’s and Twilight’s releases no other movie franchise was as big a hit as these four movies (the last book is split into two movies) among teenager and young adults. Do not mention this while Percy Jackson is in the room, though…
Loyalty, love, power and friendship alike are tested in this dystopian world. The first two movies are available on Amazon prime and all four within the Maxdome flat. Talking about trivia facts: The word “Panem” derives from the Latin phrase “Panem et circenses”, meaning “Bread and Games”. The Romans already acknowledged that arena fights fascinate the masses and distract the population from other things. A tradition enthusiastically continued by the government of Panem. The movies follow the personal character journey of its protagonist – portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence – and deals with psychological questions like the compulsion to kill and other socially critical themes like manipulative Media and the power of propaganda.
With this last suggestion we are closing this Blockbuster-Blogbuster in eager anticipation of all the entertaining movies, which await us at an unknown release date in the future but for sure at some point.
Home-Alternative - Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
Happy Easter, peeps! Just like Jesus rose, so would have risen Skywalker in Star Wars Chapter IX today.
Hollywood’s rebirther of franchises J.J.Abrams herein delivers the pedestrial Ascension, i.e. the skywalk, of the sequel trilogy, that – alongside Star Trek (Amazon Prime) in 2009 – he resurrected with The Force Awakens in 2015.
In doing so, he is merely one of many tools in Disney’s Star Wars shed, that continue to detonate an omnidirectional content explosion for over five years now. Being purposefully contained within their platform Disney+, here is just a quick glance over content, that the Star Wars IP gained since 2015: The trilogy consisting of chapter VII: The Force Awakens, chapter VIII: The Last Jedi and chapter IX: Rise of Skywalker, the spin-off “Star Wars stories” Rogue One and Solo, more content for the animated series Clone Wars and Rebels and last but not least the first season of live action series The Mandalorian. Considering the high court of digitally ravishing internet communities, I won’t even dare to plead for completeness of that list.
The Mandalorian earns some special praise here by not even attempting delusions of grandeur and telling rather personal stories of new characters, that are more reminiscent of old westerns, set at some point in time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Due to Baby Yoda sucking all the viral energy out of the reporting around The Mandalorian, let’s focus on two other cool partakers in the cast. There’s German directorial legend Werner Herzog, who plays what boils down to a space Nazi clinging to his rank in the fallen empire – including bad German accent and all, it’s a delight. And then there is Giancarlo Esposito, who remains just as intimidating as his depiction of Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad, all whilst rocking a pencil moustache.
Apart from visual media, there is also Star Wars’ big and colourful world of merchandise, which simply by existing for over 40 years now had to have accumulated its fair share of weird stuff within that world. This delightful top 10 list can help reassuring you of that very fact.
Existing for this long also paves the way for a lot of inspired work, be they made by fans with loving intent or opportunists, who just want to ride the wave. Little sketches like this one from Saturday Night Live can show, how the world of Star Wars could look like dragged into our much weirder world of undercover boss reality TV shows – played by actual Kylo Ren actor Adam Driver.
Movies like Battle Star Wars (Amazon Prime) on the other hand, can show us how Star Wars could look, if it was much, much worse.
Or maybe the real-world US’ Central Intelligence Agency wants to try plagiarizing Star Wars. Interesting thought experiment? They did, though, to get a license to enter Iran back in 1979 when the US embassy was occupied and diplomats were in dire need of evacuation. Director and sad man Batman Ben Affleck depicts these events in his Oscar-winning thriller from 2012 called Argo – based on the name the fake movie was called.
More in the realms of fan-made but nonetheless noteworty is Aachen’s own Shawn Bu and his short film DARTH MAUL: Apprentice - A Star Wars Fan-Film. You can find the whole movie and some “behind the scenes” stuff on Youtube, just to revel in the production value compared to the smallness of the team behind it.
So far, I have efficiently been able to dogde getting into the movie itself by discussing all the fuzz around Star Wars in general. But giving any opinion – while there is plenty on the internet, I can assure you of that – would serve no purpose here. So, saturate your confirmation bias your algorithm bubble might feed into, be that bias derived from childhood nostalgia, deep affiliation with the expanded universe, annoyance over all the hype, doesn’t matter. Acknowledge your expectations and then enjoy the movie for what it is. The end of a trilogy, but Star Wars has already proven twice, that finitude is a concept that is bewildering to Star Wars and even more to Disney. Speaking of overstaying one’s welcome regarding trilogy: Multi-millionaire Movie-making Masterminds George Lucas and Steven Spielberg managed to pull the trilogy franchise stunt a second time with Indiana Jones. And then, in the same breath, decided to not conclude and instead add crystal skulls and Shia LaBeouf into the equation. But even ending a trilogy on a high note with the actual third part has proven to be non-trivial. Examination pieces 1 & 2: Matrix Revolutions (Sky Ticket, Sky Go) by the Wachowski sisters or Godfather III (Amazon Prime) by Francis Ford Coppola. Both most certainly made by skilled craftswomen and -men yet doomed by bearing their iconic predecessors’ names. Some movies just have irreplaceable Brand(o) recognition.
Even J.J. Abrams had to get involved into yet another trilogy with Mission Impossible III. Fans of self-explanatory Tom Cruise action shenanigans will find the first three parts inside Amazon Prime’s video library. And, to introduce Steven Spielberg back into the equation, these two collaborated on Super 8. This 2011 proto Stranger Things with added lens flares found its way onto the STARZ channel on Amazon, where it can be watched freely within a trial period.
Today’s stream of consciousness finally disembogues into a musical breather and a man, who contributed music for a surprising number of mentioned movies. You might have already had a song of his stuck in your head without even knowing it was Michael Giacchino. The opportunities are plentiful, considering his contributions only within the Pixar universe, them being Ratatouille, The Incredibles 1 & 2, Inside Out and Up (Recommended: The song Married Life).
Also, there are his soundtracks for Star Wars story Rogue One and J.J. Abrams’ projects’ Cloverfield, Lost and Star Trek, to mention only a few. In conclusion: If that man does not provide at least a single thing anyone out there can enjoy, then I guess I underestimated the internet once again.
Home-Alternative - When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Today we would have shown you the German film When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, based on the book by Judith Kerr. It’s the autobiographical chapter of her family fleeing the emerging Nazi regime of ’33 to ’35, passing through Switzerland and France to eventually arrive in England. The loss of the pink stuffed animal rabbit is herein elevated to the symbol of them being forced to leave all material belongings behind. The book is part of a trilogy of novels that accompanies Judith Kerr's life until 1956.
Let’s dive deeper into mostly German productions today to challenge their – sometimes rightfully but not generally deserved – bad reputation when compared to their international peers. We’ll start with the German Oscar winner of 2007: The Lives of Others. It takes place in 1984’s GDR, where and when playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his partner Christina-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) live in a wiretapped apartment to be monitored by Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe). Anyone who has not yet infiltrated their respective significant other’s Netflix account is hereby advised to do so, as it is currently available there.
Already straying away shortly from German production, we rather recommend an American reaction to German’s darkest hour, depicting the arguably most mystified person of the modern world. And not just any reaction, but that of – silent picture icon, yet first time talkative here – Charlie Chaplin with The Great Dictator from 1940. Imagine doing that as early as 1940. The BRD would need five more years to start the process of denazification, another four to be founded in the first place and yet another nine years to show the movie to the general public, just to give some historical context. Chaplin’s concluding speech remains legendary and impactful. So much so, that it is used in modern music like this to create a multi-layered gesamtkunstwerk. As of today (April 8th), this film is freely available for students on the platform MUBI for another six days. Or for anyone with an Amazon prime subscription as part of a MUBI test subscription.
If you are more into series binging, you could take another look at the ARD media library. Besides mostly guilty pleasures (it’s okay, we all do it) like ‘Tatort’, ‘Sturm der Liebe’ and the Sunday fairy tale, you can discover Babylon Berlin’s first two seasons. The German crime television series set in the Weimar Republic is about Cologne-based commissioner Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), who moves to Berlin and investigates there with Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries). It was also part of the exhibition “Modern Cinema - Film of the Weimar Republic” in Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle. If you are interested, you can also browse their archive. Not quite like being there, but maybe a welcome dose of that savory taste of culture.
If you want to see more Carla Juri – who plays Mother Dorothea in today’s topical movie – I can recommend the film Paula, another biographical piece. This one deals with the life of artist Paula Modersohn-Becker, who sadly died in young age. You can rent this movie on Amazon for 2.98€. Sounding unbeknownst to you yet raising curiosity? There sometimes are special exhibitions in the region containing her early, expressionist paintings. However, since we cannot visit museums at the moment, take a look at this small online exhibition of hers.
If you don’t know us for long or weren’t quite aware of its greatness, The Invisibles might have slipped your perception when we showed it in 2018. The story is about four adolescents, who managed to turn "invisible" during the Second World War, as the title suggests. The film is accentuated with original interviews by the four, where they reminisce about living and staying alive. Highly unlikely we will show it again any time soon, but you can lend it from Amazon for a small bargain.
Other films I wanted to mention are Annaluise & Anton – also directed by Caroline Link and included within the Amazon Prime membership – as well as Roman Polanskis The Pianist, which tells the true story of polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman – victim of the infamous process of ghettoization. Universally recommendable for its plea for humanity. You can also watch it on Amazon Prime for about 3€, however set aside both time and handkerchiefs.
Home-Alternative - Joker
This evening we would have loved to present to you Todd Phillips’ psycho thriller / comic book chimera of a movie Joker to start off the summer semester. To be frank, we had expected this movie to perform quite well, so we already had a second screening date in our back pocket. Unfortunately, this ain’t gonna happen now and probably not in the immediate future, either.
Although things may look bleak for us, we’re still well off compared to the citizens of 1981’s Gotham City. In this origin story of the iconic Batman villain, the full time clown performer and amateur stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck more or less accidentally becomes a symbol for the downtrodden lower class, who violently riot in the streets against such elites as the Wayne family. The focus of the movie however clearly lies on Arthur Fleck’s vulnerable yet mentally unstable character, which is defined by the unsettlingly authentic performance by Joaquin Phoenix. So much so, that he can now count himself among the club of well-deserved Oscar-winning Joker actors next to Heath Ledger. Thus, Joker replaces the explosion filled car chases of its trigger-happy predecessors with scenes, in which our hero baths his elderly mother or discusses budget-cuts in the social sector forcing him to drop his mental health medication. Still, Joker belongs on the big screen, due to both Lawrence Sher’s tense and gloomy cinematography as well as Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Oscar-winning soundtrack. So everyone, who sees themselves incapable of waiting to see the movie at our cinema but is willing to fork out close to double what we charge, is hereby begrudgingly referred to any online streaming offers.
The role of the clown prince of crime has always been a magnet for the more eccentric proponents of method acting. Starting with one of the all-time Hollywood greats (and possibly real-life madman) Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman, passing the aforementioned Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, who funnily enough already began his acting career as a clown in the 1995 children’s series Clowning Around, up to Thirty Seconds to Mars’ lead singer and yet another Best Supporting Actor Oscar owner Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. To you people, who prefer seeing a billionaire / playboy / real-life voice modulator endlessly punch goons in the face, let me remind you that all of the caped crusader’s latest exploits are available on Netflix. Most notably, my personal favorite, Christopher Nolan’s excellent trilogy. Furthermore, I’ll use the opportunity to remind everyone, who can relate to my (perhaps unwarranted) obsession with 2000’s MTV lineup, to rewatch the Stanley Kubrick inspired music video of The Kill and give Closer to the Edge another listen.
Less well known, but nonetheless great is Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill’s interpretation of the Joker character, who lends him his voice in both the numerous Batman animated serieses and movies as well as the Arkham video game adaptations. Circling back to Todd Phillips, we also have Zach Galifianakis, who voices the blocky Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie and also plays Alan from the Hangover movies (also available on Netflix). If you feel like numbing your brain before the delayed semester begins by means of prepubescent lowest-brow comedy, I additionally point you towards Todd Phillips’ masterpiece Road Trip from the year 2000 starring the well-forgotten gross-out comedian Tom Green.
Maybe you count yourself among the people, who are not into comic book movies. Well, you’re in good company as Martin Scorsese is also a critic of such films and laments young people’s understanding of cinema. Ironically, the very same man, whose movies substantially inspired Todd Phillips. Thus, you may want to check out Martin Scorsese’s 1982 film King of Comedy, in which Robert De Niro plays an overly enthusiastic fan of a comedian and talk show host portrayed by Jerry Lewis (so essentially Robert De Niro’s role in Joker). Or, if this Lynchian role reversal is too confusing for you, I’d recommend Taxi Driver also by Martin Scorsese (available on Sky). This movie matches Joker’s realistic tone and portrayal of pre-90’s run down New York City. In this movie from 1976 we follow a young De Niro driving his taxi through The Big Apple, encountering one human tragedy after another. One of the unfortunate characters we meet is an underage prostitute played by Jodie Foster. In this deconstruction of a troubled mind in a troubled city, Travis Bickle (De Niro) slowly turns into a ticking time bomb threatening to hurt both himself and the people around him.
In case you lean more towards the musical aspect of film, give Hildur Guðnadóttir’s atmospheric record Without Sinking a listen (on YouTube), who not only composed the music for Joker, but also HBO’s excellent series Chernobyl (available on Sky). Or perhaps you’re more of the nihilistic type and share Todd Phillips’ fascination with punk rock musician, misanthrop and self-proclaimed warrior soul GG Allin. That guy and his last band before his untimely, drug-related passing, who tastefully called themselves The Murder Junkies, were the subject of Todd Phillips’ first movie Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies from 1993. I feel like I once stumbled across this documentation on YouTube, but be warned: It’s not for the squeamish amongst you. Besides getting a glimpse into a bizarre microcosm of human loathing aimed at no one in particular, but everybody at once, you can look forward to low quality recordings of hardcore punk music and drunken bar brawls. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but I find it kind of fascinating.
Finally, I of course also want to mention the source material of today’s original pick and most recent big summer blockbusters alike: comic books. Whether you spent every day pre-quarantine at the local comic book store or you’re only familiar with the concept courtesy of Spiderman memes, feel free to check out Comic Book Resources. Here, you’ll find countless articles, best-ofs and naturally the most heated discussion forums amongst previews for brand-new comic issues including the myriad of -mans, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Basketful of Heads written by Joe Hill. The same guy, who wrote the source material for both Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe and the Netflix film In The Tall Grass. The latter together with his father, one Stephen King.
I dare to think this should be more than enough to get you through to next week. In that vein, Cheerio!
Home-Alternative - Knives Out
Today we would have shown Rian Johnson’s high society murder mystery Knives Out.
A big mansion, an established and equally dead mystery author, an obviously staged suicide, sons, daughters and in-laws with possible motives, a worried housemaid played by Ana de Armas, if only there were a notorious and egocentric detective – and that’s where Daniel Craig enters the stage. Everything you could ask for in a whodunit spectacle, searching for the mystery’s ménage-à-trois – murderer, motive and murder weapon. In fact, so much potential that you might catch yourself expecting played out genre tropes or the complete opposite – too much genre subversion or ironically raised brows left and right. But Rian Johnson sticks the landing with this homage avoiding blatant tropes and subversions just for their own sake alike.
If you like story tapestries like these, you might also enjoy Murder on the Orient Express; either the classic adaption from 1975 – included within Amazon Prime – or the modern adaption from 2017. Still exciting, filled with tension and a prominent cast alike; like Daisy Ridley you might know as Rey from the Star Wars sequels or Ana de Armas, who coincidentally also stars in Knives Out.
Agatha Christie adaptations are instant entertainment chunks in general though. Her body of work – i.e. the holy corporis Christie – then again is hidden in the internet’s nooks and crannies but it’s worth it. Audio books on Spotify and Audible or multiple seasons of Agatha Christie’s Poirot & Marple on ARD’s media library could get you started and lost immediately for a while. And if you’re still longing for more crime mysteries after that, you could as well just stay at the media library to absorb last Sunday’s Tatort. Included right around the corner is contemplating the everlasting discussion of the best Tatort location at this survey. Spicy takes on semi- relevant topics, Tatort and the ambivalent love-hate-relationship towards GEZ, maybe it doesn’t get any more German than on this very site.
Countering posh and maybe slightly used genre tropes, David Fincher enters the ring with a broad spectrum of intense and dark thrillers under his belt. Gone Girl, The Social Network, Fight Club, Seven, the American version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, all of his making with a distinctly recognizable style. If you’re fonder of the darker murder mystery you may certainly find it in Zodiac from 2007. Prominently cast, all of which are even more famous today, does the movie follow the search for a serial killer over decades with realistically depicted police work shown through the lens of a diabolical David Fincher who always remains one step ahead of the viewer’s perception of the events.
If you are finally fed up with whodunits and the alike, you could enjoy indulging in more stuff casting actress Ana de Armas. Like, there are way worse decisions than choosing Blade Runner 2049 in that regard. In this unfortunate box office flop sequel to the original Blade Runner Ridley Scott did 35 years prior director Denis Villeneuve shows replicant Ryan Gosling searching for the meaning of synthetic life accompanied by artificially intelligent and augmented reality love interest Ana de Armas. It thereby depicts grand topics like humanity, identity and the meaning of dreams and memories in that context.
If you are more interested in Knives Out’s director Rian Johnson, you will be delighted to hear that there actually are a few hidden gems, he was creatively involved in over the years. There’s the obvious feature film Looper (Netflix or Maxdome) – following the at most fascinating, at least head scratching decision to cast Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the same person in different time travel periods. And then there’s Breaking Bad. He in fact did direct three of its episodes. It gets fascinating, when you start looking into the episodes themselves. He directed the series’ worst and arguably best episode of any series both, Fly (S3 E10) being the worst and the antepenultimate episode Ozymandias (S5B E6) being the best.
Another hidden Johnson can be found in LCD Soundsystem’s song oh baby. They made him direct the song’s music video, which is a mesmerizing example for compact, non-verbal story telling in about five minutes. Also, the song’s a blast.
If eternally discussing which one of the sequels killed Star Wars at last floats your boat, you might consider reliving Johnson contribution to the matter with part VIII, i.e. The Last Jedi. To be rented for a small fee on several on-demand services or on Disney+.
Diving deeper into Star Wars, you could regain a new hope (*winks at camera*) for the franchise with the spin off series The Mandalorian. More like old westerns, we follow the mostly silent bounty hunter only referred to as Mando while he escorts materialized internet meme Baby Yoda – played by a fully-mechanized puppet – through a galaxy far, far away. The first season is the main seller of Disney+, which just started its service in Germany.
Noticed the great music? Noticed that it is surprisingly different from John Williams’ iconic orchestrations? You just discovered Ludwig Goransson. He, who already got an Oscar for Black Panther’s original score, also worked behind the scenes of musicians and bands like Childish Gambino. He is very much co-responsible for the worldwide hit Redbone – and in extension for the whole album Awaken, my Love!
If you made it through all this and might be just as lost and wondering which film we started with, props to you and a last invitation to guess which of the links in the text doesn’t redirect you to being rick rolled. Happy first of April!
Home-Alternative - The Peanut Butter Falcon
Tonight we would have shown you The Peanut Butter Falcon.
The film is about 22-year-old Zac, who is abandoned by his family because of his Down's syndrome and is placed by the authorities in the care of a nursing home. He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. Since he can no longer bear to watch Zac's dreary life his old roommate helps him to escape one day.
For those of you who would like to watch films that deal with the everyday life and interaction of people with disabilities, we can recommend both films Crazy and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
In the rather unknown, German film Crazy, you are taken on the coming-of-age journey of 16-year-old, hemiplegic Benjamin, who is sent to a boarding school after his parents' separation, where he only has to face typical teenage challenges. The film is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name. It can be rented for a fee via Amazon, iTunes or Youtube.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape shows the small town life of a family whose father took his own life. Gilbert and his sister Amy take on the role of surrogate parents after his death and take care of their unstable mother, her pubescent sister and mentally handicapped brother Arnie - impressively played by 18-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio. The film can be rented for a fee via Amazon, iTunes and Google Play or is included in the Sky Go flatrate.
If you are interested in how disability is portrayed in the media, you can also find out more about the recent World Down Syndrome Awareness Day (21 March) on the UN homepage.
On the other hand, if you are more curious about the wrestling aspect of the film, we recommend The Wrestler and Foxcatcher.
In The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky you can follow the former wrestling star Randy "The Ram", whose life is a wreck. After a heart attack he decides to take his life into his own hands again. The film can be watched via Maxdome subscription or alternatively can be rented with costs via Amazon, iTunes or Sky.
Foxcatcher is about two successful wrestling brothers. Mark, however, has the feeling of being in the shadow of his brother. When he is invited by a millionaire - surprisingly dramatically played by Steve Carell - to come to his wrestling training centre, he accepts the offer. This is the beginning of a friendship that is getting out of hand. The film is included in the following subscriptions: Amazon Prime, Joyn+, Sky Ticket, Sky Go and Maxdome or can be rented for a fee.
If you are simply a fan of Shia LaBeouf, we recommend the Disney film Holes, which is off the Transformers series. And if you want to see Dakota Johnson one more time, check out the Amazon-Studio horror movie Suspiria, with its unmistakable atmospheric sound, which Radiohead front man Thom Yorke contributed to the soundtrack.