Future Template: Snowpiercer (2013)

Future Template: Snowpiercer (2013)

In Future Template I want to look at stories that depict our future and analyze the pattern that most of them follow and what this tells us about our culture.

(spoilers ahead)

Snowpiercer is a fascinating and breathtaking science-fiction movie that has an intriguing premise which is explored to the fullest. The movie works so well because you feel how the filmmakers really dig into their idea, which makes the movie very rewarding since you never know what to expect next. From the outside it looks like some B-movie but the production values are excellent as the cinematography and the visual effects really work well. The acting is great, too, all the way through. Chris Evans might be at his best here, Tilda Swinton is just amazing, Ah-sung Ko is really good too and besides all the other great people here, Ed Harris and Alison Pill have short but very striking moments too. This is a fun, clever and exciting movie.

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Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)

(spoilers)

Ex Machina fulfills the expectations I had after reading and hearing so much about it in the last couple of months. It continues Alex Garland’s streak of writing thought-provoking stories that challenge common perceptions we have about ourselves and our society. The movie uses amazing performances (Isaac, Vikander and Gleeson are all excellent), impressive visual effects and its gorgeous locations to generate a very effective movie that is intriguing from beginning to end. Just when you think it becomes too conventional it takes an extra turn at the end to become even more than we thought. It might not be an absolutely amazing movie (it’s not Looper), but it nevertheless is very good.

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The Daniel Quinn Files: Ishmael (1)

The Daniel Quinn Files: Ishmael (1)

I’ve mentioned Daniel Quinn too often to not have gotten into his work yet here, so finally that’s what I’m starting now. Daniel Quinn is the author of many books and the first one, Ishmael, is the one that changed my and many other people’s lives. My plan is to work through his books step by step, discussing his ideas in each of them. Nothing I say can substitute actually reading them, so if nothing else, you can see this as a very long recommendation series. Maybe you know some of his books and find it interesting to hear some thoughts, maybe you don’t and my discussion encourages you to check them out or maybe you generally don’t read books and attain some of his ideas anyway through this.

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Revolutionary Road (2008)

Revolutionary Road (2008)

(no real spoilers)

Revolutionary Road is the adaptation of a great novel by Richard Yates that I read many years ago and dearly loved as an amazingly early criticism of our culture.  The movie achieves to portray the problems from the novel in a very effective way. I don’t want to compare both of them too much, because I think the movie is its own thing that works well. It features great performances, especially by Kate Winslet and Michael Shannon, but really, all the actors are great. It’s beautifully directed and shot, with a great Thomas Newman score. Director Sam Mendes treads very similar territory as in his American Beauty, but the movies are very different in their tone.

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Book Report - 2004 Edition: Building Temples, Cheering and Getting to the Final Sentence [2004 Week]

Book Report - 2004 Edition: Building Temples, Cheering and Getting to the Final Sentence [2004 Week]

I was tempted to write about music this week because the albums from this year were so important to me. But then I thought again about the books from 2004 and I wondered if I will ever have a year with at least three books that really mean a lot to me and that have something to say that fits here. So, welcome to the 2004 Book Report!

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An Education (2009)

An Education (2009)

An Education is a strangely unconventional film that feels more conventional than it is. It acts like a romance between two people that have to fight against conventions but turns out to be a bildungsfilm, the story of a girl growing up and becoming more mature than the adults around her. That makes it a much more powerful movie than it would have been as a tragic romance. Carey Mulligan is absolutely brilliant in the lead and after seeing her in six different movies in six wildly different roles in the last year, I believe she could play anyone. The movie is very entertaining, maybe a little slow in the middle, but especially the ending is powerful and effective.

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London Rambling, Part 2

London Rambling, Part 2

It’s so hard to summarize all the impressions I’ve been having here over the last two days, but I’ll try. What I do notice more and more that I really enjoy exploring such a big city because there is so much to see and discover, but it also becomes more exhausting each day.  I wouldn’t want to live here, as much as I like the city by now. It’s simply too much of everything and the bad parts would depress me soon.

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Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Notes on a Scandal is fascinating right from the start. I had the big fortune of not knowing what the movie was about at all. In fact, I was under the impression I was watching Veronica Guerin and was waiting for Cate Blanchett to become involved in politics and spies. This way, the movie surprised me several times because if you really have no clue, you don’t expect many things that happen. The main drive comes from the incredible performances by Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett who are really as good as any review says. In a way, it doesn’t matter what they are talking about because they inhabit their characters so perfectly that anything they do would be interesting to watch. The direction by Richard Eyre is also excellent and Philip Glass’ score is breathtaking (again). It is a captivating movie that forces you to keep watching the disaster unfolding.

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10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 1: Homework

10 Basic Principles of Our School System, Part 1: Homework

I decided to start a meta-series about school. After discussing the principles of our school system with a class again (something I do on a regular basis), I thought that it would be interesting to look at everything that we consider basic aspects of this system and discuss what doesn’t work about it and why. “Wait,” you say, “does that mean you’re trying to dismantle the school system from the ground up?” Well, yes, in a way, but I also want to look at those aspects and see what could work or how you could change it. But still, I do believe our school system is one of the biggest problems in our society, shaping young people in a way that makes them accept many absurdities and lies that keeps our culture alive and destructive. So any suggested change is relative to my overall disregard of this system. Note also by the way, that when I say “our school system” I mainly talk about the German school system as I know it. I know there are other systems or simply other schools (which is one way I was inspired to write this), but I’m sure much of it also resonates elsewhere. So, here you go, the 10 basic principles of our school system as I see it (in no particular order):

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Kriegerin (2012)

Kriegerin (2012)

(some minor spoilers)

Kriegerin (Combat Girls, which is a stupid English title as Warrior would work perfectly) is a relentless portrait of two young women who end up in a neo-Nazi organization simply because society doesn’t offer them anything else. It is a very effective movie that doesn’t shy away from anything, making it hard to watch at times. It also doesn’t simply paint people as bad or evil, but mostly as lost, which I will get into in a second. The movie takes its subjects seriously and doesn’t really judge them, it observes, mostly. Marisa, the main and basically title character, is played by Alina Levshin in an amazingly strong performance. I’m unsure if the plot always works and if the off-screen narration at the beginning and end are really necessary (especially the last lines made me cringe a little). The in medias res opening also added a hopelessness that I’m not sure the movie really needed. But this is nit-picking, overall the film is very well directed by David Wnendt and presents a subject matter that is not talked about enough, at least not from this point of view.

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Lessons from the Cosby Case

Lessons from the Cosby Case

I read this fascinating (and very, very long – it has 15 chapters) article by Max S. Gordon about Bill Cosby and I couldn’t stop thinking about it because the author poses so many interesting questions, not only about Cosby but also about our society. It is interesting how we deal with guilt in our society, how we use double standards depending on gender, race, class, “even today” or more precisely, just like we always did. Things are changing because more and more people write about these issues, but it still happens all the time, everywhere. Gordon has many compelling things to say and I really urge anyone to read his essay, even if I will quote from it.

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Comics Are for Everyone: 1988 Edition [1988 Week]

Comics Are for Everyone: 1988 Edition [1988 Week]

Because of the amazing comics that have been released in 1988, I decided to have another comics section in this theme week. Grant Morrison and Alan Moore are big enough names for this, I guess, but we shouldn’t forget Jamie Delano. I’ll just focus on the issues published in that year, since that’s enough already. Let’s go!

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Music Box: Gang of Four's "Entertainment!"

Music Box: Gang of Four's "Entertainment!"

After Marie Antoinette I couldn’t help but wonder, why I haven’t written anything about Gang of Four’s Entertainment! before. This is one of my most influential albums that is so bold in deconstructing our society and goes beyond the “everything sucks” ideology of many punk albums. This is post-punk, of course, and while there are other political albums in music’s history, at least for me nothing achieves what this album achieves. It’s angry without being loud, it’s intelligent and challenges the listener because it doesn’t provide easy answers. It’s simply brilliant, lyrically and musically. If I ever need inspiration for change, for doing something, I put this one on and get going.

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Why We Should Care More Than Obama

Why We Should Care More Than Obama

In his reaction to the Grand Jury decision not to put Darren Wilson on trial, Barack Obama again showed pretty well why politics won't help us change anything unless they are forced. Politicians don't care, that's not their job, and Obama is no different in that than anyone before and probably after him.

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Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette is a truly divisive film that seems to make people angry easily, despite being rather soft and mild-mannered. The problem is that people expected the movie to be political, or to be more precise, to be critical of aristocracy to make the French Revolution more understandable. But that’s not what the movie provides. I think does provide something else and is political (I know, I’m not alone in that), so you shouldn’t blame it for what it isn’t. But the film is very well-made by Sofia Coppola, very determined and precise. It shows the story from the point of view of its protagonist (played very well by Kirsten Dunst) and I don’t see a fault in that. If a young girl becomes Queen of France, where’s the problem in showing how a teenager deals with that? And unlike many critics, I didn’t find the movie dull but really interesting.

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Go Play: Escaping, Assassinating, Warring

Go Play: Escaping, Assassinating, Warring

I realized I look at so many different things here, movies, music, books, comics, etc., I should include something else. Sure, I could also narrow my focus, but I’m not good at that, I want the big picture, all of it. So, today I want to look at video games. Why? Well, just like all the others, they are an essential part of our cultural canon, especially (but not exclusively) for younger people.  More than all the others, they engage you actively in an activity, thereby shaping your ideas and values in a different way than other mediums. I’m not saying they have a bigger impact, but it is a more unique impact than just consumer media. Anyway, I think video games have a different way of portraying and transporting cultural ideas. So, I thought I face them now. Here’s my plan: I look at the list of upcoming games (from Wikipedia, all the quotes are from there), pick some games and see what’s there to see.

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