Friday, 29 January 2016

M&M: Gridlock'd

Dear reader,

for the end of a year or a beginning of a year a movie like “Gridlock'd” from the year 1997 seems quite fitting. The movie is about two musicians, Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth), who at New Year's Eve decide to quit taking drugs. The idea comes when the third member of the group, Cookie (Thandie Newton), has to be brought to a hospital after an overdose. They decide that life can't go on like that anymore. So off they go.

But the drug withdrawal turns out turns out more difficult than the two expected. They are sent from office to office and have to fill out different forms and meet requirements. Meanwhile they're also chased by gangsters and eventually the police is after them as well.

Howard Hesseman only plays a rather small supporting role as a blind man. However that man is repeatedly there in critical moments and able to help Spoon and Stretch. That's why there's even a topic on in the forum for this movie, where people discuss what role Howard Hesseman has. At the very least he seems to be a sort of guardian angel for the two.

Overall Gridlock'd is a nice, entertaining comedy for me. Especially Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur seemed to have good chemestry between them. I don't know how realistic the movie is in regards to drug withdrawal and the many problems the two in the movie have to overcome. But it's no secret that the American healthcare system is very bad. I think, regardless of truthfulness of the movie, this fact does come across in this movie. Contrary to movies like “John Q.”, where the drama of the American healthcare system is shown, here it's used for entertaining comedy.

Gridlock'd is one of the last movies with Tupac Shakur. I can only agree with the opinion of others on the internet, that with his early death, the world has lost a talented actor.

Until next blog,

Sunday, 17 January 2016

What a way to start a year...

Dear reader,

the first couple of days of this year must have been what conspiracy theorists have been waiting for: Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister died of cancer on December, 28 aged 70. Followed by David Bowie on January, 10 and Alan Rickman on January, 21, both aged 69 died of cancer. Okay, Lemmy Kilmister was 70 years old, not 69 anymore, but close.

I didn't know who “Lemmy“ was, until I heard of his death and David Bowie never fascinated me as much as he did masses of other people, who are now more or less openly moaning him. For many young movie fans Alan Rickman on the other hand is probably mostly known for the role of Professor Severus Snape from the Harry Potter. Older fans probably deride that, because for them one of his great roles is more that of Hans Gruber in “Die Hard”.

The social media seems very much divided, especially about the moaning of David Bowie. For some a world fell apart. Others however insult those fans and demand, that they pull themselves together. They were “only” fans and regardless of their obvious grief, they don't feel as much a loss as the family and relatives of the deceased. I think that grief of fans truly is different than those of relatives. However I also think that there shouldn't be understatement of how much the artist meant for the fans. Especially when it comes to people like David Bowie, who were active and present for huge parts of their lives sort of accompanying them. Regardless of all the controversies whether or not fans should moan, I like it that there are some also writing about different ways of grieving and about death.

When my mother died a bit more than three years ago, there were increasing discussions about death, dying and related subjects around the time of the last Sunday before Advent commemorating the dead (in Germany celebrated as “Totensonntag” - Sunday of the Dead). I liked that these things were openly talked about. In earlier times it was natural for a dead person to be lied out in a coffin in the house. The person was openly moaned, often with black cloths. These days black cloths are most often worn by metal or gothic fans and there are hardly, if any talks, about death and dying. Most of all Hollywood, model casting shows and series or documentaries about cosmetic surgery want to make us belief that juvenility, beauty and looking thin are important and desirable even at old age. Especially at old age! Death reminds us that our time will pass.

I didn't choose the following quote deliberately, because it was something Alan Rickman said, but because I think it fits. It's from the movie “Mesmer”, where he plays the doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, who is present at a party in that scene. A woman approaches him mocking a man, who reportedly keeps people at two arms length when they have the faintest spot, for fear of a disease. Mesmer tells her, “We're the only animal who knows its going to die. And we're also the only species that has some faint sense of perfection.”

Until next blog,

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

From the child's mouth

Dear reader,

the other day I was sitting at the underground station waiting for the next one. A boy of maybe five years or so sat next to me and a man accompanying him kept standing a bit further from the bench.

Boy: “Stefan, I'm in favour for not going out anymore today.“
Stefan: “Why?”
Boy: “Because it's raining and if we go outside, we'll get wet.”

I agreed with the boy in my head and stayed at my place for the rest of the day.

Until next blog,

Friday, 25 December 2015

M&M: Home Alone

Dear reader,

most of you will already know Home Alone from the year 1990 with Macaulay Culkin, one of the child actors of all time. If now, go watch it. If you missed it yesterday, there's a repeat this afternoon, much like every Christmas. (At least this applies to the German television program.)

Kevin begins rather pitiful. He's the youngest of an extended family and is either ignored or gets riled up. The older siblings don't even grant him a piece of cheese pizza! When he gets attention, then it's in a bad way, at least for the others. While the mother is totally annoyed with Kevin, sending him to the attic, Kevin wishes some quiet time from the others before the Christmas days.

When he comes down from the attic the next day, he finds that his wish was granted. In the haste of the departure for the holidays in the early morning, the others totally forgot about him up in the attic and he's home alone. Naturally this is like an invitation to make just everything he was never allowed. Eating ice cream as much as he wants, also his beloved cheese pizza, without sharing it with anybody at all. But things like doing the laundry, and the washing machine is in the basement, together with the scary heating boiler and shopping has to be done as well. Kevin manages being brave and clever. Just like when Kevin meets an elderly neighbour, he has to pull himself together a bit so he doesn't ran away in panic. But since he's alone now, he can't afford avoiding everything and running away.

But his cheese pizza order already hints that Kevin is by far not a little angle. He scares away the deliverer away in such a way that he runs away and is actually scared for his life!

Cleverly wrapped as a comedy, the viewer hardly notices just how sadistic (yes, sadistic) Kevin already is with his 8 years. He shows absolutely no compassion, but is full of creativity and a high rate of malicious glee, when he protects his home from “wet bandits” Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) towards the end of the movie. The two burglars against Kevin are almost like a real-life Tom & Jerry. Like Tom & Jerry, Kevin's traps against the “wet bandits” are pure comedy and you better don't think at all about what such injuries would do in real life. An interesting article with assessment of the injuries by a doctor can be read at The Week.

“Home Alone” is a very strange movie. It shows the experiences of a boy, who days before Christmas, the celebration of family and love, is simply forgotten by his own family and has great fun, as he protects his home in the most brutal ways. If you look at it like this, that's basically a movie in all points a movie that can ever get you in the mood for celebration of love and yet... and yet it manages just that every time, at least for me. Who of you, at the time of screening, is not busy with your own family, should go and certainly treat yourself with this movie. Although made for children, it's also a nice entertainment for adults as well.

Until next blog,

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Headless Christmas!

Dear reader,

all right, I know that Christmas is at a bad time this year. For us at least, you can go shopping up until 2 p.m. on the 24th though. Friday and Saturday then are Christmas Day and Boxing Day and the next “normal” day is stupidly a Sunday. Which, in my humble opinion, doesn't explain or justify the panic buying, some certain people are currently doing. While I was standing in line at the cash register for lettuce for my guinea pigs, I overheard the female cashier at the cash register next to me, tell a buyer that they are actually out of some stuff even at the headquarters, because certain things were bought so often. While some people were speaking of shopping “like for a war time”, others were talking of shopping like for a nuclear blast that was ahead. In any case totally insane. Yes, there are some holidays and most people probably have visitors coming over and are cooking a couple of courses, rather than the usual single meal plus maybe a small starter and/or dessert. And yet...

On the way back from shopping I came past a house where a group of people were going back and forth between the car and the house entrance. In the hallway I could see four six-packs of water. After I told that to a friend of mine, he suggested, I should have asked what they need all that water for. Even if one partied three days straight with 30 people, I could hardly imagine them drinking all that water up.
By the way: a Christmas hat I searched for on the 24th for in about six or so shops, including toy shops and as well as variety stores, turned out to be utterly unsuccessful. Christmas hats were of course sold out.

May we all survive the long four days without possibility of shopping head of us! Merry headless Christmas to you all! ;-)

What kind of shopping experiences before Christmas or on Boxing day did you have this year?
Until next blog,

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Fortune cookies

Dear reader,

I'm always at certain friends on New Year's Eve and I always like to get a small present with me for that circumstance. Now I always get a bunch of glow lights and the year before last and the year before that I had made caramelised nuts. Years before that I once thought I could make fortune cookies myself. Judging from the pure recipe, they're relatively easy to make. My sister, who is more experienced with baking, helped me dividing egg white and yolk as well as getting the cookies on the sheets and removing them. The really difficult part with that is that you have to work fast, because the dough on the one hand has to be baked to a certain degree to be able to shape the circles you put on the sheet to their typical fortune cookie shape and of course you've got to put the slip of paper in as well. On the other hand the fresh cookies, when they come right out of the oven are of course very hot and if you wait for too long, they get hard and you can't quite shape them anymore.
I don't remember anymore which recipe I actually had used, but the following one from is an example of how it's typically done. I spare me copying the recipe here and just give you the link instead:

I'd suggest looking up the fortunes ahead of everything else and either writing them by hand or on your computer and printing and cutting them out. I forgot which fortunes I used. I'm certain there are many pages with fortunes for fortune cookies to be found with your preferred search engines. Just look for fortunes that you like best.
I still have a small note on my cookies though: of course I wanted to make a test run (or rather test baking) before my visit with the friends. So I made a few cookies just for us as family, but already with the fortunes in the cookies. So I had a small bowl with cookies sitting in the living-room and my father, who didn't know about the cookies, saw them and put one whole one as it was in his mouth. I cried out in horror that there was a slip of paper in! He fumbled with his finger to get the paper out of his mouth and threw it in the waste without a further glance on the paper. After that experience I told the friends and everyone, who grabbed one of the cookies on New Year's Eve, that they have a slip of paper in them. Contrary to my father, the friends took it for granted and ate the cookie accordingly with caution. ;-)

Until next blog,

Saturday, 28 November 2015

M&M: The Kingdom

Dear reader,

The Kingdom is a movie from the year 2008. Whether a movie is good or bad is certainly always also a matter of taste. I found this movie, because I like the composer Danny Elfman, who wrote the soundtrack for this movie. More about the soundtrack below.
I don't find the movie as such particularly good, actually rather bad. It's been a long time since I've seen it and I had forgotten most of what happens at first, so I had to read up on some of the things. Why am I writing about the movie, if I didn't like it? At the end of the movie, two characters make a statement, which shows very clearly the absurdity of war. What they said was, at that moment, scarier and more frightening than any thinkable war scene. But let's start at the beginning. This is what the movie is about:
As an introduction certain key moments between Saudi-Arabia and their relationship with America are shown in a quick walk through history from 1932 up until the attacks from September, 11 2001.

The actual story of starts with a softball game of Americans in Riad, where a terror attack happens and Americans get killed. A female FBI agent gets note during a conference that her friend is among the dead Americans. A colleague whispers something into her ear, which makes her calm down. The two of them and other FBI agents go to Riad, to investigate the circumstances and to find the people involved in the attack. Towards the end of the movie the group gets in an ambush and one of them is kidnapped. The others follow the kidnappers to an abandoned house, where the showdown takes place. A grandfather is present on the side of the Saudi people and he gets a fatal wound. He whispers something into his grandson's ear. The case is closed for the FBI and they go back to America. One of them in the group asks his colleague and the woman, what he had whispered back at the conference. Meanwhile the aunt of the Saudis asks her nephew, what his grandfather had whispered into his ear before his death.
Caution: If you want to see the movie, you should make your own choice whether or not to read what they whispered.

Both of them reply with: “Don't fear them. We are going to kill them all.”

The way I see it, The Kingdom is a rather typical, American war movie. I personally agree with the negative critics that (once again) Americans celebrate themselves with with movie and lots of action and Islamic people, like so many times recently in real life as well as in movies, are used as representation as evil. There are exceptions in The Kingdom, but they are, in my opinion, almost meaningless. Americans are the greatest and Islam and Islamic people are the enemies. I find that very sad, unnecessary and needless in the end. That was the case back then when I watched it already and in sight of the current conflicts, in which America (once again) is involved, even more so. I watched the movie once, because I wanted to sort of see the pictures to the soundtrack and the last line impressed me a lot. It's the meaninglessness of war in a nutshell in a very good way, for me anyway.
A few final words now about the soundtrack: Danny Elfman is mostly known for his collaboration with Tim Burton and his movies. The soundtrack here is very different. Very electronic, mostly simply to be called loud pieces alternate with calm (electric) guitar sounds. The latter has much more melody and structure. A very unusual mix, which one would probably not necessarily listen to a lot. The electronic tracks fit probably mainly with the movie, than for listening to them just like that. The guitar tracks remind me personally a bit in their way they are of the soundtrack of “Thelma & Louise” by Hans Zimmer.
Until next blog,