Mögen Sie Filme?

Do you enjoy watching movies?  A simple question, but the follow-up question to a yes answer can lead you into a great number of situations; “What is your favorite movie?”, “Do you like French New-Wave films?”, “Do you find German Expressionist films from the 1920s pretentious?”  Some people are serious about movies, some are not.  The people who really enjoy cinema are usually very hip to film festivals that take place all over the world, and to the films that are being shown and judged.

Somebody somewhere watches movies only on reel film.

Somewhere there is a guy who only watches movies on reel film. Copyright: Flickr Creative Commons

We all have that friend who tells us about that independent movie you’ve never heard of that just won the Cannes award for Best Original Screenplay.  Film festivals have become a very important venue for independent films, as it is a first chance for many of the films to be introduced to international audiences.

I am what you may call a purveyor of films that I find interesting.  I keep my finger on the pulse to keep up with movies the best I can, and I watch films from specific time periods that typified a certain type of cinema (French New-Wave, Blaxploitation, Arthouse, etc.), but I am not a Filmcyclopedia (possibly invented word, possibly awaiting patent rights).  I did, however, become very intrigued by something I saw the other day online, and due to this, I may just spend the next few weeks of my life watching and learning all that I can about German and foreign films at the moment.  What I saw was a news headline saying that Isabella Rossellini, daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and star of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and “Wild at Heart”, will be the president of the jury at the 61st Berlinale Film Festival taking place in Berlin, February 10-20, 2011!  I know what you’re thinking… Green Porno, right?  Yeah, me too.

Isabella Rossellini, Animal Lover

Isabella Rossellini, Animal Lover Copyright: Sundance Channel

There are quite a few film festivals every year: Cannes, Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance, and the annual True/False Film Festival that takes place in Columbia, Missouri every March.  Locally know as simply True/False, the festival welcomes independent and amateur documentary movies to share the silver screen with bigger name titles and other independently made movies that have been nationally recognized.  Though True/False takes place in my city of residence,  I am drawn more to the happenings of the Berlinale Festival.  First off, I am studying German culture and language, so it is a given that a German film festival would catch my eye.  Secondly, it is inspiring that this massive celebration and critique of film and film culture takes place in the bustling capital of Germany.

Here’s the plan: I am going to make a valiant attempt to watch all of the films that are contenders for awards at the Berlinale in February 2011.  Tall order of business?  Maybe, but I experience watching great films on par with having great conversation,  always worthwhile, and always better with friends.

P.S. If you’ve seen it, but you’re still reading this, thank you, but go watch Green Porno, done by the lovely Isabella Rossellini.  Oh, and it is definitely SFW (safe for work), unless you work for an exterminator… or safari hunter.

DJ’s Mortal Remains in Vinyl

RIV - need copyrightRob Perkins, a disc jockey from Munich, Germany since 1991, is best known for his performances in radio and television. While most of his work as a DJ is in Germany, he also works at private parties worldwide. This German DJ has a funky idea of the perfect resting place after death.

The online British company andvinyly.com makes it possible for anyone to RIV (rest in vinyl.) This literally means you can have your cremated remains pressed into a vinyl record. These Vinyl records can be further customized by adding artwork and recorded music or a personal recorded message from the deceased.  The price for this service ranges from  $4600 – $7700 dollars.

The final resting place of the deceased varies depending on the culture. To the British culture, which is known for an ironic and dark sense of humour, the RIV solution may be completely appropriate, if not humorous. But the Germans are stereotypically thought to lack a sense of humor, especially from the viewpoint of the British. Additionally in Germany, the post-death tradition is: get rid of it as cheaply as possible.  So it’s no wonder if you are surprised that a German has decided to RIV.

Would you want to be remembered this way? How does RIV spin in your culture?

Barbeque… On The Radio?


Mmmmmmmm.... Burger. Photo © 2010 Patrick T. Fallon

In Paris, the sounds of summer fill the air, the sizzle of chicken and vegetables on the barbeque.

Yet, there is not a BBQ in sight, just a radio tuned to television and radio personality Laurent Mariotte’s program on France Info.

With chef Alain Ducasse, a three star Michelin Guide chef, Mariotte has “orchestrated the barbecue on the airwaves” – installing a grill for the program outside of the radio studio among the buildings and parking lots of the city.

Teasing the listener’s taste buds, the program draws its audience into a friendly and appetizing atmosphere.
It discusses the flavors and tastes inspired by the grilled marinated chicken and seasonal veggies, inspires one to bring friends over and grill at home tonight.

Hearing the sounds and talk of the flavors and tastes is a twist on the traditional Television cooking program, where you can see the food. Just hearing the cooking allows you to think about and imagine how it looks and tastes – putting your mind to work to think of a meal to create on your own.

In France, like most of Europe, meals are not the quick grab and scarf event that Americans have created. They are an extended social event, discussing food, culture and life. This program emphasizes that aspect of food – even if you can’t actually eat any of it yourself – why not relax a little bit and enjoy the experience of cooking and eating?

En français with Paris March. Listen to Laurent Mariotte avec Alain Ducasse on France Info.

Come as you are (but only in France)

This past summer, a French commercial for the popular fast food chain McDonalds made waves in the United States. The advertisement shows a young man on the phone with his boyfriend while his father orders food at the popular restaurant. The young man ends his phone conversation as his father arrives at the table with the food. As he sits, the father begins explaining how when he was his son’s age he got “toutes les femmes” and that his son would if his school wasn’t an all-boys school. The son then just looks at the camera and delivers a cheeky smile as the screen fades to black and delivers the line “venez comme vous êtes,” (“come as you are” in English).

The ad made its way from French television and movie screens to America via more than 2 million hits on youtube.com. The commercial has received both positive and negative feedback stateside. Conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, for example, declared that an Al-Qaeda ad might as well be featured as part of the “Come as you are” campaign by the company. Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation suggested that the ad be recreated for the American market. McDonalds COO, Don Thompson, declared in this interview that the ad was a mistake and would not be remade in the United States, stating, “There are core values that [McDonalds] stands for.”

The French seem to have perceived the commercial much differently than it has been in the United States. Nathalie Legarlantezec, McDonald’s brand director in France explains that the commercial is not targeted at gays but rather, “McDonald’s clientele in France is the country’s entire population; we don’t have to target anyone specific.” This advertisement is then not just suggesting that this young gay man and his father are welcome at their restaurants as they are, but it is also suggesting that their polar opposites are similarly welcome at their restaurants as they are.  This statement undoubtedly draws up a few questions. Is this commercial really population inclusive and not targeting the gay community specifically as the brand director claims? And is America ready for this type of population inclusive advertising?

On thing is for sure, even when America is ready for advertising similar to this McDonald’s commercial, it likely won’t be able to handle something like this risqué Orangina commercial featuring a studly feline which was even deemed too scandalous for France.

Nina Karlsson – Electro-Jazz Привидения

Classifying the music of Nina Karlsson would probably result in a label far more obscure and foreign than her music itself. Karlsson, along with bassist Victor Sankov and drummer Sasha Popatov,  mixes elements of jazz and electronica, ending up with a very unique, eerie sound.

Her voice has a fragility reminiscent of Regina Spektor, especially on tracks like “Bored and Tired,” though Karlsson cites jazz great Billie Holiday as a primary influence.
The latter influence is evident in Karlsson’s willingness to branch out and experiment with her voice, even delving into some scat singing on “Follow the Dancers” and “I Deny.”

However, some of Karlsson’s songs (“Goodbye”) seem haunted by the ghost of big band jazz, which enjoyed continued popularity throughout the latter half of the 20th century in the Soviet Union, long after it had largely died out in the United States.

Nina Karlsson’s approach to music, as a piano-based singer-songwriter, would hardly be unconventional were it not for the way the music is produced. Karlsson’s voice is modulated and distorted, along with the piano and bass, creating a gloomy atmosphere in the tradition of fellow Russian singer Zemfira, particularly her song Любов как Смерть (Love like Death).

For having just released her first album last week, Karlsson sounds very mature and is a very exciting prospect. According to an interview with Russian music blog Far from Moscow, she still has no plans to tour the United States in the near future, but doesn’t know what the future might bring.

You can hear a lot of her tracks at her myspace page, and read an interesting interview done by Far from Moscow.

Soccer falls short in America compared to Europe

This summer’s World Cup in South Africa drew attention worldwide. Most countries in the world, especially those in Europe and South America, view the month-long tournament as a sense of national pride, bragging rights; or, if the team fails, an embarrassment.

For example, in the 2010 World Cup, Spain won their first title ever, and the scenes around the country were of crazy fans celebrating their nation, heritage and culture. Then there was the embarrassment that the French team put on their country, when they refused to practice after a disagreement between a player and the coach.

While the World Cup was seen as a huge event around the world, it wasn’t nearly as big in the US as it was for the European countries. There are several reasons that could lead to this, but for the US soccer teams success in the tournament, it is a wonder why they don’t have the type of following that some other teams do.

Dutch players Dirk Kuyt & Mark van Bommel hug each other after a goal in their World Cup game against Denmark, showing how important soccer is to European countries. Photo by Ryu Voelkel.

Dutch players Dirk Kuyt & Mark van Bommel hug each other after a goal in their World Cup game against Denmark, showing how important soccer is to European countries. Photo by Ryu Voelkel.

Americans often complain that the sport of soccer is too low scoring and often results in ties. Also, there are multiple trophies and championships that the teams compete in, rather than just one, such as the Super Bowl in the National Football League. Some of the famous soccer trophies and championships include the FA Cup, Premier League Championship, Champions League Championship and Serie A. In America, there is only one league, one championship: the MLS (Major League Soccer), which has not seen success since the league was formed in 1993. The European season runs from August to May. The American version goes from March to November. Between the two, there is no off-season; should a fan be interested in only one or the other, the off-season amounts to a month of inactivity, during which international competitions often take place.

The success that the United States had in the World Cup in 2010, in which they won the group play stage before losing in the round of 16 to Ghana, might lead to slightly higher ratings and a larger base for the immediate aftermath, but it appears it will never be at the same level of cultural importance as it is in European countries.

Making Sense of Soccer

As (almost) every European would agree, soccer is more than just a sport and it is obvious that soccer has an influence that goes way beyond the action on the pitch. Soccer has become a mass phenomenon, a multi-billion-dollar business and nothing short of a pseudo religion for many. Italian writer Umberto Eco describes soccer as one of the most common superstitions of our time and even calls it the new opiate of the people. While many soccer fans in Germany (and Europe) might not be acquainted with philosophy, there is a kind of philosophy that they do understand. It’s the philosophy of soccer and the philosophers are the coaches, managers, and players who generously share their insights into the game.

Trap's famous press conference

Trap's famous press conference

Likewise, Eco’s statement can be broken down to soccer terminology as the famous quote by Scottish Bill Shankley proves: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” And Giovanni Trappatoni, who is best-known for his notorious press conference during his spell as coach of Bayern Munich, might want to add: “Soccer is ding, dang, dong. There is more than just ding.”

Soccer has always provided the media with plentiful bloopers and the occurrence of the most absurd statements is by no means restricted to German soccer players. It seems, however, that Germans take soccer quotes more serious than other nations. Which might sound like another (bad) soccer joke, the Deutsche Akademie für Fußballkultur was founded in 2004 to gather bits and pieces of soccer information that are now officially considered cultural. Each year, the academy, whose members among others are the Goethe-Institut, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit and Süddeutsche Zeitung awards the Deutscher Fußball-Kulturpreis in various categories. The  soccer quote of the year usually gets the most attention. With plenty of material to choose from, the committee has just announced its final 11 soccer quotes of the year 2010 and it promises to be a close race for number one.

soccer is boring

This year, Jürgen Klinsmann hopes for a top position with his description of Spanish world-class forward David Villa: “It is delightful to see him play one-on-one, especially against two.” Math has always been a treacherous topic, most famously for Fritz Walter jr. who boasted: “Jürgen Klinsmann and I are a great trio … I mean, quartet.” Lukas Podolski also made it among the last 11 when he was asked which prevails, his happiness to have scored or his disappointment about the 1:1 draw. His answer: “Actually, both prevail.”

Internationally, German teams are feared for their ability to win even when they play less than poorly and therefore, the game can be easily understood from a foreign perspective. “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” (Gary Lineker) For obvious reasons, this rule does not apply to games of the Bundesliga which poses a problem to some teams and brings about brilliant ideas such as Mainz 05 coach Thomas Tuchel’s game plan for the clash with Bayern Munich. “A fast goal and a fast final whistle would help us … and maybe we can park the team bus in front of our goal.” The winner will be announced on October 29th.

It could be argued that soccer’s role in European society is not justified, but the argument may be settled (for now) with Thomas Häßler’s attitude toward the game: “Wenn man mir die Freude am Fußball nimmt, hört der Spaß bei mir auf! “ (translates freely to: “If you take the fun out of soccer you take the fun out of life.”

Jackass à la française?

Ever since Johnny Knoxville created MTV’s Jackass, a television show featuring a group of guys trying to pull off a bunch of dangerous stunts and ridiculous pranks, Americans throughout the nation became obsessed with this popular culture phenomenon.

Little do Americans know, pulling outlandish stunts and making embarrassing video footage is also a sensation in France. Thirty-five year old Rémi Gaillard of Montpelier has been circulating his less dangerous but equally entertaining videos via the internet.

This Frenchman, often referred to as the “French Johnny Knoxville,” claims that, “C’est en faisant n’importe quoi qu’on devient n’importe qui” – It’s by doing whatever, that you become whoever. But this “whoever” has quickly become one of the best-known pranksters online.

After launching N’importe qui in 2001, a website documenting a series of pranks, jokes, and soccer tricks, Rémi continues to show the influence of the Internet on popular culture – and how it is possible for any ordinary schmuck to become a celebrity.

According to L’Édition Spéciale (Canal Plus), it is Gaillard’s goal to “declare war on television.” He wants to show that popular culture is no longer predominately determined by the television business and the celebrities within. Instead, the internet has given a stronger voice to the majority – the public.

One of the hilarious acts that launched Gaillard into celebrity stardom was when he snuck into the victory celebrations of the Lorient soccer team after winning the Coupe de France tournament in 2002:

Nearly eight years later, Rémi’s website, nimportequi.com is thriving off of millions of views – as are his Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, and Dailymotion accounts.

This year roughly marks the 10th anniversary of the N’importe qui website. Be sure to check out his most popular videos, highlighted at the bottom of the homepage.

Viral marketing literally flies through the internet

Companies all across the globe are going to extraordinary lengths nowadays to get the attention of potential customers. Check this video out below of a man in a neoprene suit going down the ultimate water slide. This was produced as an ad for Microsoft Germany,  but what it has to do with computers we will never know. Although completely irrelevant to the company, I will admit that I watched this about six times . By doing this, I know that I am doing exactly what the company wants me to: look at it’s name over and over again. But I must admit, I  love watching less-than-intelligent stunts like this. This stunt got people all across the globe arguing over whether this was real or not and brought the company an invaluable amount of attention. As it turns out, this is unfortunately just a cheap stunt and is not really a man flying 100 yards and landing into a kiddie pool. In fact, the “man” flying through the air is nothing more than a digital animation. Wiedersehen!