Speechless

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (in English, surprisingly: The Baader Meinhof Complex) is an immensly powerful piece of cinema.

Starting with the events of the 2nd of June 1967, where a demonstration in Berlin got out of hand, the movie chronicles the formation of the Baader Meinhof Group and the Red Army Fraction.


June 2nd – one of the most claustrophobic scenes I have ever seen

The film has a really good cast – basically anyone who has ever had a role in a “serious” movie in Germany was in there (with some curious exceptions) and they really deliver gripping performances. Apart from the obvious talent, it’s also amazing how much they look like their real counterparts.

And it’s one of the most intelligent movies about terrorism I have seen, mostly due to Bruno Ganz‘s character. His insisting that, yes, terrorism is bad, but we should listen to what they go on about so we can get to the root of the problem, really hit home: If people know those kinds of things, why doesn’t anybody do it?

The movie got raving reviews in the German speaking countries, and it’s Germany’s official submission for the Oscars. But there’s been also two major points of criticism. First that the movie is confusing for people, who don’t know their history that well, because not everything is explained and not every character properly introduced and second that it might be dangerous to make a movie from the terrorist’s perspective.

To that I want to respond:

  1. The movie is over two hours long as it is and it’s fully packed. You could have made a 6 hour movie and still not cover everything.
    They concentrated on three of the characters, but it’s clear that those three are not the only ones, who were important. And I think that in this case, this was the right way to go.
    Maybe it will even lead to people making their own research.
  2. People really should accept the fact that just because the main character says something doesn’t mean that it’s the truth. Yes, the story follows terrorists and shows how they came to be terrorist. Explaining is not apologising. Apologising is not approving.
    It’s the same mistake people made and still make with Lolita: Nabokov did in no way endorse paedophilia. He just wrote the story of a guy, who liked little girls.

Anyway, summarising: Great movie, one that really has a chance for the Oscars. You might want to read a bit history before watching it, though.

Answering Questions Asked Through Google XV

I think in this week’s AQATG, I will need your help! Amazing, isn’t it?

The question: “what are some artsy movies?”

First, we should define artsy in this context. Personally, I have a pretty broad definition of art and films usually pass it. But I think it’s clear that artsy doesn’t mean art in general but a special kind of movie, defined by the following criteria:

  • Independent/unknown studios
  • Usually not Hollywood or US-American
  • Underlying message that can only be extracted after hours and hours of interpretation or not at all (meaning, the movies are deep); often those messages are political/sociocritical
  • No humour! Humour and depth cannot be combined.
  • Unknown actors or famous actors who practically worked for free
  • Small budget
  • Characters, not special effects
  • Usually it’s seen as a quality measurement – an artsy movie is perceived as a good movie more often than not (probably because some just aren’t understandable)

I think that’s mostly it. Of course, not always all criteria apply. I think, whether a movie is artsy or not is basically determined by your intuition.

Now, to list a few movies that fit this description… I’ll start here, but I’ll be happy about any addition you have to make in the comment section.

I can’t think of anything else right now. So, my invitation stands: do add to the list in the comment section. I will do the same thing, if inspiration hits me.

The Indian Clerk (David Leavitt)

The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt is a fictionalised biography of the mathematicians G. H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan. It’s also the book that sparked the math theme on this blog the past week or so. Now that I’m done with it, I’ll probably be done with the theme as well. But who knows? :)

Hardy, a Cambridge based and very successful mathematician one day receives a letter by an unknown Indian called Ramanujan, who claims to have made important mathematical discoveries. Hardy is fascinated and he starts a correspondence with Ramanujan, which ultimately leads to him coming to England.

The story follows mostly Hardy, we hardly ever get an insight into what Ramanujan is thinking – he remains a mystery to the reader as much as he remained one to Hardy.

Things are complicated, by Ramanujan’s religion and his different culture, his sickness, World War I and the difficult situation at the Trinity college and, marginally, by Hardy’s homosexuality.

Leavitt manages to tell us a compelling story in clear and beautiful prose. He gives us mathematical details (don’t ask me about that, I could only tell you the gist of some of the theories, I’m far from understanding it all), without ever becoming to technical or boring for people, who are not mathematicians. His story is alive with people we have heard much about (Wittgenstein, Russell, D. H. Lawrence, …), but who actually become characters, maybe for the first time.

He touches on many subjects – cultural identity, gender, pacifism, maths, of course, relationships etc etc. – whithout becoming overbearing.

A fascinating read and definitely one I can recommend without hesitation.

Read a bit for yourself:

At Cambridge we were taught to view our lives as train journeys along appointed routes, station following upon station until at last we arrived at some glorious last stop, the end of the line which was really the beginning of things. From then on we would bask in a glow of rest and ease, of comfort institutionally sanctioned. Or so we thought. For in truth, how many ways there are to go off the rails! How frequently the timetable is changed, and the guards on strike! How easy it is to fall asleep and wake up only to discover that you have missed the station where you were supposed to change trains, or that you’ve been riding the wrong train all along! The worry it cost us… yet of course, all the worry is futile, because this is the cruelest secret of all: all the trains go to the same place.

Erdös-Bacon Number – Unusual Wikipedia Monday

Now, to keep the Math theme just a little bit longer, but to mix it with a bit of entertainment, I present you the Erdös-Bacon number.

Paul Erdös was a mathematician. Except for the maths, he was famous for being a bit (or a lot) eccentric and having literally hundreds of collaborators.

Kevin Bacon might be a little more known, at least in non-math circles, as the actor, who blessed us with Footloose. And some good movies.

Now, how do these two come together?

Well, developing from the Small World Phenomenon, there first were the Six Degrees of Separation:

Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is an average of six “steps” away from each person on Earth.

Out of this concept, the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon came into being – a theory that Kevin Bacon is the center of the entertainment industry. Although later it was discovered that there are better centers (like Sean Connery or Christopher Lee), Kevin Bacon kind of got stuck with it.

With the same background – the Small World Phenomenon – after Erdös’ death, the Erdös number was created, as a tribute to the man.

And then somebody decided that it would be a wonderful idea to combine the two. And I think that someone was right.

The whole thing works like this:

Erdös has an Erdös number of 0, being Erdös. Everybody who collaborated directly with him has an Erdös number of 1. Everybody who collaborated with one of his collaborators has an Erdös number of 2. Etc.

The same for the Bacon number: Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number of 0. Everybody, who worked with him directly, has a Bacon number of 1 and so on.
[Example: Bacon (0) was in Wild Things with Matt Dillon (1), who was in Crash with Don Cheadle (2), who was in After Sunset with Salma Hayek (3)…]

To get the Erdös-Bacon number, you just have to add the Bacon number of a person with their Erdös number.

Natalie Portman, for example, has an Erdös-Bacon number of 7, through various papers she wrote for Harvard.
Other examples:

For a time, the person with the lowest known Erdős-Bacon number was Brian Greene. He appeared in Frequency with John Di Benedetto, who was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon, for a Bacon number of 2. He also wrote a paper with Shing-Tung Yau, who wrote a paper with Ronald Graham, who wrote a paper with Paul Erdős, for an Erdős number of 3 and a combined Erdős-Bacon number of 5. Greene was later outdone by Dave Bayer, mathematical consultant to A Beautiful Mind who received a minor role on screen in the movie. Rance Howard was also in A Beautiful Mind and in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon to give Bayer a Bacon number of 2. Bayer wrote a paper with Persi Diaconis, who has an Erdős number of 1 due to a jointly authored 1977 Stanford University technical report, later published in a 2004 compilation.[10] As such, Bayer’s Erdős-Bacon number is 4. Diaconis himself has an Erdős-Bacon number of 5, and Bacon number of 4. He was in the documentary The Math Life[11] with Freeman Dyson, who was in A Glorious Accident[12] with Oliver Sacks. Sacks has a Kevin Bacon number of 2.[13]

 And there’s even a horse with an Erdös-number

Now, what’s your Erdös-Bacon number? :)

Austrian Election

Austria had national elections today. Maybe not the most important political thing world wide, but pretty important for Austrians, as you can guess.

And I’m shocked. I’m absolutely speechless. I want somebody to hold me and tell me that it’s going to be alright. Even if it won’t be.

Austria has four five parties, who are actually in government

  • SPÖ – Social Democrats (red party, middle-left)
  • ÖVP – People’s Party (black party, middle-right)
  • Grüne – Greens (green party, left)
  • FPÖ – Freedom Party (blue party, right)
    and more or less the same:
  • BZÖ – Alliance for the Future of Austria (orange party, right)

We’ve also some smaller parties, who regularly try to get into government (Communist Party, Liberal Forum) and fail to get the necessary 4% and this time there were 3 more parties, who’ve just formed and tried the same thing on a national basis and four more, who only could be elected in a few parts of Austria.

That’s a total of 14 parties. An Austrian record and definitely remarkable.

Anyway, the actual players here are the five big parties I mentioned above.

Ever since 1945, the reds and the blacks made up the government (mostly together, sometimes alone and for four years in the 80s, the reds and the blues made up a coalition), while the other parties were in opposition (the greens weren’t founded until 1986 and the oranges until 2005).

Things changed in 1999, when the blue party suddenly became strong enough (with about 27% of votes) to form a coalition with the blacks. Everything went pretty bad pretty fast and we had elections after three years – with other percentages, but the same result: a coalition between black and blue.

The black party, suddenly very, very strong, started to destroy the blue party. Eventually, this resulted in a split in the blue party into the blue party and the orange party, led by Jörg Haider (whom you may have heard of). Which made for the curious situation of a party being in government, which was never elected. [Which I personally thought not legal and there should have been new elections right away.]

New elections were held and in 2006 the black and the red party entered in a grand coalition once more, as the blue party had lost a lot of points and the orange party barely made it into government at all.

Shortly before this summer, this coalition crashed. The black party called for new elections and today, we had them.

And the results, not finalised yet, are as follows:

SPÖ (red party): 29.7% (58 seats)
ÖVP (black party): 25.6% (50 seats)
FPÖ (blue party): 18% (35 seats)
BZÖ (orange party): 11% (21 seats)
Greens: 9.8% (19 seats)
The rest is for the other parties. (No seats)

The results will be finalised next week, when the votes by the people voting by mail will be counted. It’s basically cemented, but what still could change is that the green party could move ahead of the oranges and probably get one more seat in government, taken from the blue party.

Now, I make it no secret that I’m with the green party. And obviously, the results were disappointing. But what’s really, really scary – if the blue party and the orange party hadn’t split, they would be the second strongest party in Austria.

And goddammit, they’re basically neo-nazis. I’m in no way suggesting that all the voters are neo-nazis, because mostly they get voted by people, who are under-educated and just don’t know better. But the party leaders definitely are.

Don’t people ever learn? I mean, usually, the blue and the orange party get the protest voters. But they just were in government! And it sucked! And it didn’t work! AND HOLY FUCKING SHIT! DID THEY MISS THE SECOND WORLD WAR, WHERE IT COULD BE SEEN THAT GETTING A CERTAIN GROUP OF PEOPLE OUT OF THE COUNTRY DOESN’T HELP????!!!!

I’m sorry for the punctuation abuse, but I just can’t cope with this. I don’t understand. I really don’t. How the fuck is this possible? Is there an emoticon for bewilderment? Shock? Imagine it here.

The most likely results from this election: Another red-black coalition (which just failed) or a black-orange-blue coalition (which failed 2 years ago). This is disgusting and very frightening (like most politics).

And another thing that gets me: only about 71% of Austrians voted (what is it with you 29% anyway? That is not okay!).

And a lot of people went from voting blue/orange to voting green and the other way round. How is that possible? How can you go from one end of the spectrum to the next? Don’t people vote for convictions, political points of view, politics? [I know that it’s an illusion to think that people actually listen to what the parties suggest. But it should be that way…]

I don’t know what else I can say. I’m disconcerted, to say the least. This will be awful.

What Just Happened?

Mathieu Kassovitz is one of my favourite directors (though he’s also a good actor). So, I had high hopes for Babylon A.D., even though Vin Diesel was the main actor. Plus Charlotte Rampling, Michelle Yeoh and Gérard Depardieu are a really strong cast.

I have to admit, the movie left me a bit confused. There were scenes, which were really cool, but mostly, it felt like they didn’t take their time. The introduction of the world was too short, things happened too quickly and everything just seemed so… hurried.

To defend my sweetie Kassovitz right away: He had some major issues with the production company and had to cut a lot of the movie and shoot scenes differently etc. Well, it was pretty noticeable. At least, I got the European version, which is about 10 minutes longer than the US American one.

There were many details that I liked a lot [the advertisements!] and the whole world seemed to be really well thought through. I haven’t read the book – Babylon Babies [French] by Maurice G. Dantec, but the film made me want to.

Unfortunately, they didn’t use Michelle Yeoh like they could have – in the action scenes, she gets to kick ass, but we hardly get to see it. Also, give me more Charlotte Rampling! And Gérard Depardieu!

I didn’t much like Aurora (Mélanie Thierry). She is pretty, but didn’t do anything else than look pretty and cry a bit. Even though she was physically the strongest, she was a really weak character.

Well, I think I can summarise it with saying that it was good material wasted, unfortunately.

Oh, the Cuteness of It All!

So, finally Wall-E has made its way to Austria!

I’m absolutely in love. Wall-E might be the sweetest thing ever. And the movie was so nice. Funny, compassionate, sweet. And EVE was probably the strongest female character in the movies all summer (maybe even all year). [Which is generally sad, but very cool for this movie.]

The story is nice, never mind the plot holes (and yes, they were there). The message was pretty strong, but it’s a message I liked. So, fine by me. It’s not perfect, but the little faults it had could be overlooked easily.

Plus: How could one resist that?

Or that?

I know this post’s a bit wordless. But what else can I say? The movie was wonderful and you should go and see it.

And, Wall-E and me, we have something in common:

We both look at Rubik Cubes the same way.

Johnny Depp News

So, Johnny Depp will play The Mad Hatter in Tim Burton‘s upcoming Alice in Wonderland – that I knew already. [And I’m really, really excited about it. Take one of my favourite actors, one of my favourite directors and one of my favourite books and the result can only be greatness (see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).]

Anyway, this article in the Guardian tells us that apparently, there will be a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean (link’s to the first) with Johnny as Jack Sparrow (no word on whether or not the other major characters will be back as well).

And Johnny will be Tonto in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie.

I don’t know what I should say about that. I don’t really know the Lone Ranger, so I can’t say whether to be excited or not.

And a fourth Pirates? I hope they know what they’re doing, I don’t want to see the whole thing destroyed (some might argue that that happend already. I liked parts two and three).

Fun for Teens, References for Me

When St. Trinian’s came out here, I figured I had to see it, because of Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry, Colin Firth and Russell Brand. Plus, it’s always nice to see Lena Headey. I haven’t seen any of the old movies, nor read the book or had any other connection to St. Trinian stuff before. [Just so you know.]

I think it’s mostly a film aimed at teenagers [My teenage sis will love it, I think.] and men who get off on sexy school girls. Which can potentially make for a pretty weird crowd in the theatre.

Gemma Arterton (middle) will be in the next Bond… and she’s definitely a good choice, at least considering sex appeal.

Anyway, the humour was mostly a bit bland, boring so to say… It had the usual jokes. It was nice, but it didn’t leave me rolling on the floor.

Except when Colin Firth and Rupert Everett were seen together and the movie references just flew around.

Ms. Fritton (Rupert Everett): We met in college. It was another time.
Geoffrey Thwaites (Colin Firth): And Another Country.

Or when Geoffrey walks up to Ms. Fritton in his wet white shirt, which was so much more revealing than in Pride and Prejudice. [And while we’re at it, how come Anna Chancellor always gets the Miss Bingley roles?]

Well, summarising, it was nice, had some good scenes, but I just wasn’t the target group.

[SPOILER WARNING FOR MAMMA MIA!, OF ALL THINGS.]

[Oh, and btw, maybe you remember that when I posted about Mamma Mia! there was this comment, where Dee told me that Colin Firth couldn’t possibly be uncomfortable with portraying a gay character because he kisses Rupert Everett in St. Trinian’s. Well, he doesn’t. Sure, they get together in the end, but there’s never more than a hug seen on screen.
Which pissed me off. Seriously, people, I didn’t go to this movie to see them make out (although that would have been an attractive sight), but if you have two guys, who get it on together (regardless if one of them dresses up as or plays a woman or not), show them kissing, just as you would with a heterosexual couple. It is not shocking anymore (or, the people who are still shocked by this, need to be), it’s just plain weird when you have loads of special shoulder squeezes. Really.]

Further Reading:

An Interview with Anna Chancellor