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Friday, January 13, 2017

Filme Friday - "Gold" (2013)

"Gold" is a 2013 piece of historical fiction set in 1898 during the Yukon gold rush. I gave it a shot because it's a newer film, I like a lot of historical fiction, and I enjoy movies set in that time period. The film has really mixed reviews, and that makes sense. The pace can be a little slow and the story's been done before with more to it. But for a one-time-watch, it was good.

Source: IMDb

The movie follows seven German and Austrian-Hungarian immigrants as they travel through the Yukon territory in Alaska in hopes of finding gold. They all have the same goal, but for different reasons. Some are seeking fortune, while others are looking for freedom, escape, and a new start. Wilhelm Laser leads the group, claiming he is experienced in finding gold and knows the way. He hires an older couple, Otto and Maria Dietz, to drive the wagon and cook, and Carl Boehmer, who has experience with horses, to be a packer. Three others join the group: Joseph Rossman is a family man trying to bring his family out of poverty and Gustav Muller is a journalist who hopes to make it big by publishing a first-hand account of the trek. Emily, who seems to be the main protagonist, is a single woman who the others are immediately suspicious and unsure of.  All seem to think it will be a rather straightforward and simple trip, and none are ready for the hardship that faces them.

source: IMDb

It sounds strange, but the film is reminiscent of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Cannibal! The Musical" (yes, the guys who write South Park). "Gold' doesn't have the same humor at all (or much humor at all...I think I chuckled at one part where Maria tells the others to get used to the food after someone complains its inedible) and there are no song and dance numbers that will stay stuck in your head for years. But, both follow groups hoping to find gold and both groups need to (and fail to) trust the relative strangers they're with. And both end with a much smaller number of adventurers than begin the journey.

I'm really not sure how realistic "Gold" is concerning what people who joined the Yukon gold rush faced, but it is believable. The story is a little dry, and it lacks some character development. Clearly, the audience is meant to be left in the dark about some of the members of the group until later in the film, but after some backgrounds and stories are introduced, not much is explained or used later.

If I didn't watch the movie with the intent to write about it, I might not have made it past the first half hour. The story drags on and there's no real action or conflict until almost halfway through. There are small hints at possible obstacles, but nothing really happens. Once the story starts moving, it's more engaging. I did enjoy Emily's character as an independent and closed-off woman who slowly opens up to one person in the group and eventually shows other sides she's kept hidden. I also liked Rossman, but wish his story had been delved into slightly more.

Source: IMDb

While I enjoyed "Gold", I wouldn't watch it again. It could be a great teaching tool for what it was like in the gold rush of the late 1890's and to look at human nature and interactions between strangers forced to depend on each other. There are some beautiful shots, and while the electric guitar being the only soundtrack is offputting at first, it does fit the mood of the film. I also liked the ending, which surprises me. In some way it offered closure, but was also somewhat ambiguous, and I'm normally not a fan on ambiguous endings.

If you're looking for a dramatic, realistic, serious, and somewhat dark movie about people trying to find fortune during one of the gold rushes, "Gold" fits the bill. If you want to follow it up with something in the same setting that's silly and will have you humming catchy tunes for days, might I suggest "Cannibal! The Musical"?

Source: IMDb

I guess my point is that you need to watch "Cannibal! The Musical."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Filme Friday - Goodnight Mommy (2014)

This movie is creepy in the best way!  It's perfect for the month of October and just days before Halloween.  I love horror movies, so I've been excited about watching this film since I first heard about it.  I kept seeing articles calling the trailer disturbing and terrifying, which added to the intrigue.

It's an Austrian film with the title originally "Ich Seh Ich Seh", which translates to "I see, I see" in English.  This is a reference to the game "I Spy", where instead of "I spy with my little eye", German-speaking children say "Ich seh, ich seh, was du nicht siehst" (I see, I see, what you don't see).

Without giving too much away, a mother and her two sons, Lukas and Elias, live in a beautiful house in the country.  The film begins with the 9 year-old twins waiting for their mother to come home and when she does, her face is completely bandaged from surgery.  The boys notice that their mother is acting strangely, particularly that she is being strict and cruel, especially toward Lukas.  It doesn't take long before they wonder if this person whose face is hidden by bandaging is actually their mother.  They take matters into their own hands to determine the true identity of the woman in their home, which has terrifying consequences.


I'm a horror junkie and this movie lived up to my standards for a quality film.  It had a great mix of psychological horror and gore.  There were a few scenes that had me cringing despite my normally strong stomach.  Those Madagascar hissing cockroaches...*shiver*


I really don't want to say too much about the plot itself because I liked that the trailer didn't give much away at all.  The entire style is creepy and cute at the same time.  There's a bizarre innocence in the boys that only makes everything they do that much darker.  I also liked that actual twins were cast instead of using one actor for two characters.  Maybe I'm imagining it, but it really seemed to add something to the film.


After the final scene, I went back and rewatched previous scenes.  Even though I anticipated the ending, I still missed things and I wasn't sure I quite understood what I saw.  There's actually a bit of debate over certain scenes in the movie, which is always fun.  Definitely a thought-provoking, eerie horror film.  It certainly doesn't do much to dispel the creepy reputation twins get from movies like The Shining.

German and Austria have plenty of well-known classic horror movies, but this film gives hope for the more modern ones as well.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Filme Friday - "Der Nanny" (2015)

Let me start by saying that this is one of the funniest movies I have seen in any language.  I came across it by accident.  On my second day of my new job (yay new job!) I was sent to a conference in Arizona with my team. This meant I had a decent length airplane trip and since I was lucky enough to have movie choices, I took advantage of it.  Seeing foreign language movies available absolutely made my day.

The first thing that caught my eye about "Der Nanny" (aka "The Manny") were the names Matthias Schweighöfer and Milan Peschel in the cast list.  A year and a half ago, I wrote about the film Schlussmacher, which starred these same actors.  I remembered liking that movie enough, so I gave this one a try.  Plus, Schweighöfer is nice to look at.

Schweighöfer plays Clemens, a single father with two ill-behaved children.  It's clear early on that his job as a real estate developer rules his life and he places it as a priority above all else.  He's handsome and wealthy with a great career, but a couple of intersecting problems.  First, his kids do their best to chase away any nanny he hires.  Second, he is facing pushback from residents of buildings he is looking to demolish for an urban development project.  This is where Peschel, who plays Rolf, comes in.


Rolf is a resident of an apartment building Clemens plans to tear down.  He pays a visit to Clemens to  voice his protest, but Clemens mistakes him for the new nanny.  Thinking this is a great opportunity for sabotage, Rolf goes along with it and endures the torture inflicted on him by the children in hopes of saving his neighborhood.

Source: IMDb

It's a heartwarming comedy that really hits hard on the message of being there for family, whether you're related by blood or not.  All of the main characters have pretty in depth development and stories.  Even as I was consistently laughing, I was considering my normal workaholic lifestyle and how I can't do that and have a family.  It honestly made me more relieved to have found my current job, with a company that values work/life balance and a boss who values family.

Source: IMDb

I'm not sure how popular this movie was in Germany, but I'd never heard of it.  I'm not too surprised because it's rare for a German comedy to gain popularity in the United States in the same way that a drama or historical piece does.  It's a movie I found hilarious and would watch again.  These actors have great chemistry together and I'll keep a lookout for any other films they're in together.

Source: IMDb

I recommended this film to my mom to show for German Club's movie night since they shoot down my horror movie suggestions, so maybe a few more people will see it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Twinnies CDs!

I saw something on my Facebook newsfeed the other day that my blog audience might enjoy.  Franziska Pauli's Facebook page posted a photo with the caption "Look, what I've found! People told me, that the TWINNIES album isn't availabe at amazon anymore... Few days ago I discovered, that I still have some of them at home. So, does anybody want one or more of them with a personal message for each 15,00$/15,00€ + shipping? Just send me a message! Maybe you still need a christmas gift..."

Considering that my original post about Die Twinnies (from 3 and a half years ago!) is still my most popular post, I thought there might be interest in this sale.  I'm tempted to buy one if any are left!

I couldn't resist commenting on the photo when I saw it:

And to my surprise, Franzi liked my comment!

Lucky me!  So, go buy that album!  And, for a "where are they now" post about Die Twinnies, check out my post from last September.  I'm sure they've been up to a lot since then.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Filme Friday: Das Millionenspiel (1970)

This weekend is the premier of the last Hunger Games movie. Unfortunately, once all us fans see it, there's nothing else to look forward to!...right?  There are two popular themes that the audience seems to love: dystopian future and twisted fight-to-the-death reality show.  I'm one of the many who love it.  It's not really a new idea, even if it's been done in a lot of different ways.  For example, it you like "The Hunger Games", you might enjoy the 1970 Austrian movie, "Das Millionenspiel."


The film follows the finale episode of a tv show called "Das Millionenspiel" where the contestant must avoid being killed by the Köhler gang for a month.  Bernhard Lotz is the 15th contestant and he only needs to survive one more day to win the 1,000,000 DeutscheMark prize.  The movie follows his last day as some try to help him win and others try to bring him to the killers.  Just like other films in this genre, human nature is examined and whether murder is still immoral when it's legal.

The style of the movie reminds me a lot of "Series 7: The Contenders", which I highly recommend (I watch it every couple of years and like it more each time).  It's meant to make the viewer feel like they're watching the actual fictional reality show.  The movie viewer sees what the tv show viewer would see.  "Das Millionenspiel" even includes filler segments of interviews and performances by singers and a colorful dance group.  Think of how shows like "Dancing with the Stars" and "America's Got Talent" have special star acts between the meat of the show.  "Das Millionenspiel" also includes fake commercials that fit with the kind of society that would condone such entertainment.  They're a good way of adding commentary without going outside the overall style.


Maybe it says something about my age, but I feel like I have a short attention span for a lot of movies made before the 1980s.  I'm not sure why, but I get easily distracted when the movie feels "old" (I'm sure the generations younger than I am feel that way about movies I grew up with).  I don't know what it is honestly.  This movie managed to hold my attention for the most part, partially because I was watching to review it.  It also moved quickly enough that I didn't get bored with any one scene.  

It seems like the film was intended to be more of an alternate reality than futuristic.  This reminded me again of "Series 7: The Contenders" and also of "Battle Royale".  Side note: If you like "The Hunger Games", but you've never seen "Battle Royale", stop reading right now and go watch it.  Or read it. (Well, finish reading this first).  The book and movie are both Japanese, but the English subtitled version is one of my favorite movies.  I will admit that I have yet to get through the entire sequel though...some movies are better standing alone.  All three could be visions of the future just as easily as they could be alternate realities.  Yes, "Battle Royale" is set in the future, but, these films aren't as futuristic sci-fi as others like "The Hunger Games" and "Running Man".  I like them all, but prefer something somewhat easier to relate to.  Maybe it's similar to how I tend to prefer horror movies where the monster could be real.

Bad news:  No more Hunger Games Movies.
Good news: I just gave three great recommendations in three different languages to fill that void.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Steuben Parade 2015

Today is the 2015 Steuben Parade in NYC! It goes up Fifth Ave from 64th to 86th street. It's a ton of fun and you can see a lot of groups from America and overseas. This year, there are 3 grand Marshall's, including:
Klaus Wowereit, a German politician, member of the SPD (Social Democratic Party), who was the Governing Mayor of Berlin for 13 years from October 2001 to December 2014. 
Contessa Brewer, a nationally recognized Emmy award-winning television news anchor and the host of MSNBC’s primetime series “Caught on Camera.” 
John Ratzenberger, a multi-Emmy nominated actor and accomplished screenwriter, director, producer and author who may be best known for playing mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the long-running NBC sitcom “Cheers.” 

I'm excited about John Ratzinger. I loved watching Cheers growing up (on Nick at Nite) and he's a talented voice actor as well. He's had a role in every Disney-Pixar movie ( Plus, he's from Connecticut, my home state!

Can't make it to the city? No worries.  You can watch the parade streaming live on the website. It starts at noon today:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Musik Monday - MfG by Die Fantastischen Vier

Musik Monday is back!  And this week is one of my favorite songs.  I have about 10 songs on my phone, and this is one of them.  It's so clever and fun to listen to and sing along with/mess up many of the lyrics. 
Die Fantastischen Vier (Fanta 4) have been around for a while - officially since 1989 to be exact.  They are a German hip-hop group that was the first to really reach the top of the music charts in 1992.  Their music employs a lot of comedy, but later in the group's career, some of their songs became more serious.  Fun fact: they voice the Penguins in the German-dubbed Madagascar films.  

The group is still making music, but this song is from 1999.  The song is MfG, which is an acronym for "Mit freundlichen Gruessen," which translates literally to "with friendly greetings"; it's a way to end a letter before signing your name, like "sincerely yours". *Warning: Some adult themes*

If you know the German alphabet, it might sound a little like random letters being rapped then a chorus of actual words thrown in.  It's not random at all though.  First, the title itself is "text speak" and a way that people shortened words to make things quicker and easier.  The other letters in the song all go in groups of 3 as well, and each group of 3 stands for something.

Going even further into the song, each line of 3 acronyms is its own grouping.  The sets of 3 all have something in common.  I took a Deutsches Popmusik class when I studied in Heidelberg and we had a worksheet where we had to try to fill in each group of 3 letters while listening to the song.  Then, after we reviewed those, we tried to figure out what each acronym stands for.  Some were easy, because they're used in English as well as in German.  Others we knew because of learning German.  But the remaining ones were total guesses if we put anything down.  We started seeing patterns though, which is extremely interesting.  I'd urge anyone to try to figure out what the acronyms are before looking at the chart in this link.  I'm a bit of a nerd, but it's kind of like a puzzle and really fun:

While some groupings immediately make sense (i.e., EDV, IBM, and WWW are all computer related), some require a little research or additional knowledge to understand.  For example: KMH, ICE, Eschede refers to the Inter-City Express trains (ICE) known for their speed (KMH), one of which crashed in a town in Lower Saxony (Eschede) in 1998.

This is a great tool for teaching adults who are beginning to learn German.  It could also be useful for high school students, but there are some PG-13 themes in the song that a teacher might not want to explain to younger students (or their parents).  Most of all, it's a fun, clever song.