cinema, media

The Life of Others II

I’m not too sure what I’m thinking about “Daily Variety” reports from Hollywood indicating the possibility of a Hollywood remake of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Life of Others” - “Das Leben der anderen”. After all the original just won the Oskar for “best non-English language film.”

Of course, those allegedly interested in midwifing the project, Bob and Harvey Weinstein as well as Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, aren’t just anyone. But since the only successful Hollywood remakes of a European films I can think of off the top of my head were “Nikita”, “True Lies”, and “Three men and a baby” – all of which weren’t exactly rooted in French culture, a remake of “The Life of Others”, seems like a natural candidate for a “lost in translation”-style disaster. I’m saying this inspite of my sympathy for every project exposing the danger of the eavesdropping culture that is slowly being established in the US as well as in Europe.

Maybe it was that what Steven Spielberg meant, when he, according to Donnersmarck’s own words, congratulated him after the ceremony by saying – “You’ll never get over this.”


Summing up.

If you have been on planet earth last week, you will have at least heard of some photos showing singer Britney Spears exposing her C-section scar and a little more while getting out of a car to party with Paris Hilton. Here are the final words on said “incident”:

Gynecologist Jackie Thomas cautions against fans following in the footsteps of their Hollywood idols. In terms of vaginal infections, no underwear at all can often be better than constricting synthetic panties, she says, but there are other considerations to take into account. “It’s unhygienic not so much for the woman who’s not wearing underwear, but to the people around her,” says Thomas, who practises in Toronto. “Let’s face it – like every other woman, they’ve got a certain amount of discharge and they are hanging around with other people.” (source)

And now good luck getting *that* image out of your mind ;)…



Now, these six new Apple spots are all spelling condescension in… English, with a little German strewn in… (btw, when did “Gesundheit” become the cool word for “bless you” in English). Still, they’re quite funny. And quite frankly, given bootcamp & parallels, and all the rumors about a native compatibility layer for Windows XP applications in OS X 10.5, I hope that pride won’t come before fall this time around. I’m seriously contemplating the purchase of an imac.


Frauenparkplatz, II.

Looking at today’s sitemeter, I can safely conclude that someone with a certain readership in the Netherlands must have written a little something about about the latest development in gendered catering that I mentioned in a quicklink on October 14th: The Maennergarten, a place where women can leave their men so they can shop without him wondering about the intrinsic value of the 130th handbag or the 52nd pair of shoes.

That was the executive summary. And as a service to all my newly google-acquired Dutch readers, please find below what I wrote a month ago – ah, and don’t forget to have a look at a fistful of euros for creative coverage of other interesting developments from all over Europe.

“Frauenparkplatz is German for one of the usually well lit and extremely conveniently placed discriminatory parking spots in car parks reserved for female use. A few weeks ago, I saw a comedy programme on German tv take the word literally: Husbands about to run errants parked their wifes on a “Frauenparkplatz”, leaving them holding the parking tickets in their mouths…

Well, maybe it was because of this gag that the Nox Bar in Hamburg has now started a “Maennerparkplatz”, or rather, “Maennergarten”, as in Kindergarten for men: “[f]or $11.80, [they are] offering boy’s games and home-improvement coaching as well as a meal and two beers for men left there for a Saturday afternoon, leaving women free to shop in the city’s swanky boutiques.” I don’t know if this will survive in the long run – but they had 27 parked guys there on the project’s second saturday… who said the German service industry isn’t sufficiently innovative? [via Papascott, noted by AP last week.]


Good Bye! European Film Awards.

Germany-info, the news service of Germany’s US embassy is claiming that Wolfgang Becker’s “Good Bye! Lenin” is poised to sweep the European film awards which are being handed out on December 6 in Berlin.

The competition for “Best Film 2003” includes Lars von Trier’s “Dogville,” Michael Winterbottom’s “In this World,” François Ozon’s “Swimming Pool,” Stephen Frears’ “Dirty Pretty Things,” and Isabel Coixet’s “My Life without Me.”

Now “Good Bye! Lenin” is certainly a great movie and it deserves all the success it currently enjoys, notably in France, where now more than a million people went to see it on the silver screen. It is being released in 65 countries. Even though 2003 saw a number of eligible movies for a German nomination to the Oscar’s best foreign language movie, it was no surprise at all that “Good Bye! Lenin” won the nomination. It is, also in my opinion, the best German film of 2003.

But having recently seen lars von Trier’s “Dogville” I don’t think “Good Bye! Lenin” is the best European picture this year, I’m afraid. While I’d actually say that all competitors are incommensurable, juries at festivals usually aren’t offered that easy way out. So if I were asked and then forced to make a decision, “Dogville” would be the one. To say this about an epic play where actors knock on imaginary doors of inexistent houses in a town with streets merely painted on the studio floor is quite something for someone like me who usually rolls his eyes whenever I hear of “Brechtian influences” on a movie. So, if you haven’t yet seen “Dogville”, do that. But be prepared to be shocked.

Oh, and while I’m talking about great films ;). “FilMZ” the “Festibal Of The German Film” will be showing “Not The First, Won’t Be The Last”, a short film I act in which was produced by my friend Sebastian Linke.


Of Bubbles Burst.

Allegedly, there was a time when former Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff regretted that his main shareholders did not allow him to accept former AOL/Time Warner chairman Steve Case’s offer to merge with Bertelsmann.

Case is said ot have contacted Middelhoff before anyone else when he decided to buy himself some turnover with his pre-burst-internet-bubble-valued stock in 1999. Reportedly, the two men are friends since Mr Middelhoff invested in Mr Case’s then ailing AOL back in 1995 and they joined forces to rival Europe’s national telcos in the end-user ISP business with – never too successful – AOL Europe. The latter company nevertheless became one of Bertelsmanns most profitable investments when then AOL Time Warner decided to buy out the Germans after there merger in January 2000.

Mr Middelhoff’s decision to help out Steve Case in 1995 paid off with 7,5 billion Euros in 2000. Bertelsmann is the only vertically integrated media conglomerate that survived the convergence wars of the late 1990s almost unscathed, not least because of the decision not to merge with AOL bak in 2000. What seemed unwise then, certainly to Mr Middelhoff, does look entirely different today. And in some way, Mr Middelhoff himself says so.

After being sacked as Bertelsmann’s CEO last year, he became a partner with the London based investment house Investcorp and if Sueddeutsche Zeitung is right, it looks like he is once again getting involved with AOL. According to the newspaper, he is one behind the rumours that German T-Online might be interested in buying 70% of (now) Time Warner’s AOL unit for one billion Dollars – roughly 1,3% of the value at which these 70% were quoted at the time AOL and Time Warner announced their merger.

It seems like a strategic fit for the Telecom subsidiary that is eagerly looking to get a piece of the US internet market as well as using the opportunity to get rid of a European competitor, should antitrust not intervene. The purchase would also open up possibilities for further cooperation with T-Mobile’s US unit, which is increasingly engaged in WLAN activities like the StarBucks hot spots, or “t-zones”, the companies’ mobile multimedia venture that, not least, recently helped Charlie’s Angels catch Demi Moore.

But there’s a reason AOL is not too expensive these days: the company has problems getting their broadband services right and has recently lost some of its 25 million clients. T-Online’s success is primarily based in Germany, where its broadband service is almost unrivalled. It is certainly questionable if the company would be as successful on the far less hospitable US market.

Plus, there’s the brand issue. America Online owned by Germans? Or Germans getting rid of AOL as a brand? I’m sure, some pollsters are already asking American consumers interesting questions…

cinema, compulsory reading

The Digital Dilemma Revisited

Quote 1: The BBC News Online today

“Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, told BBC News Online earlier this year that digital piracy could become “debilitating” for the industry.

‘Digital piracy has become a real menace,’ he said. Despite the availability of pirate copies, The Matrix Reloaded has made more than $363.5m at the box office worldwide so far.

Quote 2: Brad DeLong, Speculative Microecomomics For Tomorrow’s Economy, draft, November 14, 1999 –

“The ongoing revolution in data processing and data communications technology may well be starting to undermine those basic features of property and exchange that make the invisible hand a powerful social mechanism for organizing production and distribution. The case for the market system has always rested on three implicit pillars, three features of the way that property rights and exchange worked.

Call the first feature excludability: the ability of sellers to force consumers to become buyers, and thus to pay for whatever goods and services they use.

Call the second feature rivalry: a structure of costs in which two cannot partake as cheaply as one, in which producing enough for two million people to use will cost at least twice as many of society’s resources as producing enough for one million people to use.

Call the third transparency: the ability of individuals to see clearly what they need and what is for sale, so that they truly know just what it is that they wish to buy.

All three of these pillars fit the economy of Adam Smith’s day relatively well. …

But digital data is cheap and easy to copy. … Without the relationship between producer and consumer becomes much more akin to a gift-exchange than a purchase-and-sale relationship. The appropriate paradigm then shifts in the direction of a fund-raising drive for a National Public Radio station. When commodities are not excludable then people simply help themselves. If the user feels like it he or she may make a “pledge” to support the producer. The user sends money to the producer not because it is the only way to gain the power to utilize the product, but out of gratitude and for the sake of reciprocity.

This reciprocity-driven revenue stream may well be large enough that producers cover their costs and earn a healthy profit.
Reciprocity is a basic mode of human behavior. People in the large do feel a moral obligation to tip cabdrivers and waiters. People do contribute to National Public Radio. But without excludability the belief that the market economy produces the optimal quantity of any commodity is hard to justify. Other forms of provision–public support funded by taxes that are not voluntary, for example–that had fatal disadvantages vis-a-vis the competitive market when excludability reigned may well deserve reexamination. …

[But t]he market system may well prove to be tougher than its traditional defenders have thought, and to have more subtle and powerful advantages than those that defenders of the invisible hand have usually listed.



Robert Mundell, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Economics, apparently created a list of the ten most important perks of winning the Nobel Prize and presented it on the Letterman Show. You can find the list in Bradford DeLong’s Blog. It might be due to cultural reasons, but I can’t find a lot on this list funny. And there’s only two items worth all the long years of hard work which usually precede such an award –

  • 3. Any meaningless crap I say, the next day it’s in the Wall Street Journal
  • 10. Can end almost any argument by asking, “And did you ever win a Nobel Prize?”

Let’s be honest. Who would not want to be able to stir up the financial world if in need of cash or be able to end a discussion by intellectual superiority without having to prove it ever again…

almost a diary, cinema

The Bourne Identity

Can you believe it – Franka Potente is the German movie industry’s darling to the extent that cinemas have scheduled an additional 0:01 showing on the opening day of her latest film, “The Bourne Identity” in which she is acting alongside Matt Damon. Potente plays Marie Kreutz, a Swiss-German loafer who happens to open her car in the very second that amnesiac Jason Bourne needs a ride. I dire need of cash Marie accepts $20.000 in return for driving Jason to Paris, where both soon find themselves in the middle of some serious secret service trouble. It’s no cineastic marvel, but its a decent action film which always tries to keep the moral ambiguity surrounding the main character. One never really gets to know who’s the good guy and who’s the bad. Somehow all participants have to work with the moral hand they have been dealt. That is true even for Marie, who decides to stay in the car with him when Bourne tells her to get off. For a $75m film, moral ambiguity is quite an achievement, in my opinion.

The things in find most remarkable in this film? Firstly, the car chasing scene in Paris. It’s hilarious. They jump from one end of the city to the other within seconds. I guess that’s what “beaming chases” will look like in the future. Secondly, the French, especially, the French police get a decent amount of bashing for no apparent reason. Finally, the CIA, their technological abilities as well as their organisational imperfections, are portrayed in a scary way.

Summary: Two hours of decent entertainment. IMDB rating 7.5/10, my rating: 6.5/10. That, as well, is quite an achievement for an action film.