Monday, 5. February 2018
SnubOSCARitis²

A brief worthy mention of two films that the U.S. Academy - the well-known, filmic one - chose to totally ignore this year.

WONDER WOMAN

This may not figure as the best film in a cinematically literate sense. But it was surely one of the most rounded ones in the sense of a special ensemble effort by directrix, acting company & crew, as well as one of the most unanticipated world-wide successes ever. Add to that the probable significance to the feminist cause. (Yes, I know die-hard feminists disliked it, as they have probably always disliked an asymptotically perfectly-appearing superheroine being associated with their cause; but... could #MeToo have happened without this film helping to set the societal tone?)

If I had to reduce the film to two nomination-worthy categories, it would be the directing by - up till she got the go-ahead for this new one - one-hit-wonder Patty Jenkins, whose personal verve & vision of the first female comic superhero permeates this work of fantasy. Plus the manuscript by Mr. Heinberg, which i.a. makes the central figure one who simply doesn't get gender inequality, and, thus freed of all traditional containments, in her words and deeds in the world of men, becomes the ultimate feminist role model. To which, amazingly well-cast Israeli model & up 'n coming & bright-eyed actress Gal Gadot may also have contributed!

IN THE FADE

Diane Kruger (pictured) is cast as a young Hamburg mother in this film by rebel no-holds-barred German director Fatih Akin, but then pops out a hardened & brittle "beyond her years" (and closer to her real-life age) sudden widow, when both her Turkish husband & young son are horribly killed by a cowardly neo-nazi bombing near his office. With a particularly nasty kind of (nail) bomb, similar to the one used in the Boston marathon bombing some months ago.

Akin also wrote the screen play, dividing it into three acts, which all have their own "universes", and come across very different: Where the first one simply begins the sad story of what happened on that original explosive day, the second one transports us into the antiseptic white-marmoured hall of a German court, replete with a wise but encumbered-by-basic-law-principled judge, and diverse lawyers testing the weight of proof, that the accused, a young couple, whose female half the widow saw leaving the scene of the crime, are the perpetrators, without a doubt! In the third act, Akin turns the whole thing surprisingly into a kind of revenge Western at the Greek oceanside, without guns, but with more deadly nails...

Subtract the veteran German actress, one of the few who have definitely made it internationally, i.a. as a wise & sad Helen of TROY, and Akin's plot is a pretty flat deadly-action-loving one, with the truly saving grace of putting the German justice system on a glaring pedestal - not having done enough over decades to bring murdering Neo-Nazis to justice, i.e. in the end appearing too soft, once more in this fictional film story.

However, Kruger lifts the film into one's attention in all three acts by the force of her emotionally true acting-out of the woman who slowly learns she has lost everything... but the will to "clean up" hate mongery in the end.

As did Cannes jurors re Kruger herself, the members of the Academy should have nominated this film as Best Foreign Film, but probably were put off by the wild "Western" ending. Perhaps also overseeing the afore-mentioned critique of Germany's handling of neo-nazism - no small matter!

Well, c'est la vie Oscarienne. To be snubbed, or not to be. My two cents' worth: At least one nomination each should have settled on these gems! Shame!

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Thursday, 25. January 2018
On Masekela and inner hype resistors

Hugh Masekela, probably Africa's greatest jazz trumpeter, died a natural death the other day. He, who in essence fled the - at the time - bloody country of his birth for many years, was able to return (from the land of Louis Armstrong, whom he i.a. befriended) without compromising his often hurtfully truthful themes in his works. (As in one of my favourites, "Stimela", describing the coal train, taking miners to Jo'burg for another months-long life-endangering stint to drill for coal & gold & phosphor.)

He seemed to have always been a very generous guy. He liked to speak & sing in his performances as well as display his mastery on the trumpet, as he does (both) in this South African song* of, for me, one of the best Blues singers Germany (in fact: Berlin!) has ever produced: Joy Denalane...

Rest in Peace, musically holy man!


So, here's the text for an Introduction to constructing your Inner Hype Resistors, a fictitious course I'd like to give any who are up for it. Not that I'm an expert on hype or the history of agit. propaganda through the last century or so, or on what the exact difference is between hype and fascist disinformation of the Nazi era. Or anything.

But I am, and for the longest time, have been a doubter; and you probably need a basic practical experience of healthy doubting, on a daily basis, before you take this course...

Here is a starting set of resistors for you to build as soon as you can. Each has two sections - first, how recognise the hype - in form of a question you need to honestly put to yourself - and last, how to then build resistance!

Hype can be...

  • DISTRACTING... = Do "breaking" news of some sort make you follow that "new ball" a little too effectively at a time when life seemed complicated, but perhaps solveable? If it's unexpected & perhaps even shocking, it may well be intended to distract you, to pull you away from the (truths of) other more general problems, for which a solution may be in fact be obvious or just around the corner; it's just that the hype mongers don't want you to see that. Resolution: Keep your eyes on the old ball! Focus your attention on what you find truly important & ignore the rest for the moment, or in a crisis. Finish up that thought/deed. You can always come back to the "new" big thing later.

  • FACILE! = Does a current "great" meme sound just right, easy to believe, servicing many of your wishes, continuously? Then it's probably hype designed to pull you in; resist by opening yourself to contradictory sources of info - follow news channels you dislike on social media, speak to proponents of contrary views. Get to know the "dark side".

  • DENIGRATORY!! = Does the grand movement grabbing your attention argue its agenda on the basis of stamping humanity or parts of it as idiotic or even sub-human? Then it's plumbing one of the most basic self-establishing drives individuals can have - believing in one's own (either already present, or soon-to-be-achieved) superiority/worthiness at the cost of putting down others. Hand in hand with the resulting denigratory impulse often comes an invitation by the hype to feel like a victim - the others have been putting me down for so long, now it's my turn! So, recognise this inner tendency and avoid self-pity; see others as potentials of understanding & cooperation rather than conspiring to hurt you. As a rule, that turns out to be true, once all sides have overcome their fears of each other; for the few people in your life who do really want to hurt you, (i) defend yourself while bringing the problem to a rapid conclusion, and/or (ii) research why the other guy is so set on your blood - did something happen a while back, that both of you need to address, perhaps with a neutral third person present?
Did that make any sense? As far as I'm concerned, I've decided to portion out a small part of my future focus on identifying hype generators - currently I'm re-evaluating my Twitter membership, for one.

(* and yes, it's available in English - a rescored drum 'n bass version, that will knock your layered winter socks off!)

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Thursday, 21. December 2017
Now, what's cool?

In the current issue of the popular German magazine, STERN, I read an interview with Kristen Stewart, on a brief visit to Hamburg accompanying Karl Lagerfeld, where she said, "I want to be remembered for being cool and honest". I like Stewart but I wondered whether she sees the counterpoint of the two descriptions.

What is coolness? If it's a generally definable term, isn't it defined by current trends (currently among people a lot younger than me)? So, what would honesty mean in that context? -- If it isn't generally definable, isn't it per se a subjective definition, differing from person to receiving person? Maybe that's what she meant, subjective honesty.

I currently receive the following as cool, sorted from least to most important (in my eýes):

  • The new Star Wars movie - I liked it a lot more than many of my peers & apparently* some of the die-hard fans. I see in fact the movie turning around the reason Rose gives Finn for why she saves him from self-emolation - LOVE drives the Resistance. I.a. it's the reason Finn is still part of the current ensemble. Duh.

  • I understand how the U.S. movement described by the picture got started, and I utterly agree that women need to be heard, and above all legally assisted/compensated, if blundering idiot/s go too far, or - macho bullies! - even threaten them. Having said that, I am unhappy about the way a colleague of the starter of this movement i.a. slandered Ben Affleck, and may have seriously damaged his acting career. She tried it, slightly milder, but still nasty, once more this week, with Meryl Streep - who turned out to be too powerful an icon. That Streep put a brake on well-intentioned slandering... I find cool! (Here's hoping social media hate posters, mostly male, now some female, learn a little from that.)

  • That the by now Zulu-driven ANC managed to collect its wits, and vote Cyril Ramaphosa into its no. 1 spot within the party this week, is cool. The amount of damage Zuma - a Zulu - has managed to cause the party, as well as the country, has become overwhelming. Now, Ramaphosa - a Venda - one of the major movers toward the breakdown of Apartheid almost 3 decades ago, needs to take the next step, and throw out Zuma as president, and take up those reins! Amandla, Ramaphosa!!!
(* this, e.g. the low audience score on Rotten Tomatoes,
could also turn out to be a slandering attempt
by SW fan/troll brigades)

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