Category Archives: TV & Movies

Americanization of Film

The two largest film industries in the world (number of films produced and gross profit) are Hollywood (USA) and “Bollywood” (India). English is also the most widely-spoken language (it is also one of the three official languages of India), so it make sense that anyone producing a film to be released worldwide would want to at least make an English-dubbed version or even re-make it with English-speaking actors. This is a seemingly logical phenomenon, but it has its caveats as well. Let’s look at a few, shall we?

Harry Potter

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in London in 1997. In 1998, an edition was published in the US. However, the US publishers thought the US readers wouldn’t know what a “philosopher’s stone” is, and thought perhaps that images of Socrates holding a rock would be conjured up instead of a mystical, magical object, although the term “Philosophers’ Stone” has been in English-speaking lure many centuries. Regardless, the change went through and nobody batted an eye.

hp-philosophers-stone

Fast-forward a few years, and we have Warner Bros. (Hollywood) in cooperation with UK film teams/actors unions starting the daunting task of filming J.K. Rowling’s epic book series, even before all the books have been written. And because Hollywood and the American-English-speaking community commands such a large portion of global viewership, every scene where the term “Philosopher’s Stone” was mentioned had to be recorded twice. Let that sink in. We have all these child actors and acclaimed UK actors and multi-million-dollar budgets, and the director is trying to capture the magic of a scene, and finally gets a good take. And then they do it again, reciting “Sorcerer’s Stone” instead of “Philosopher’s Stone.” This happened of course a lot in the first book/film, but the object was also mentioned in further books/films. This is the only example I can think of at the moment where US and UK versions of a film differ only in a few scenes, and only in the dialogue/dialog.

Oh yeah, and they made two version of the audio books, one UK-produced and the other US-produced, but both read by Englishmen.  Go figure.

Funny Games

Also in 1997, an Austrian filmmaker released a rather dark thriller called Funny Games.  It was filmed in German (the language of the Austrians, although with a distinct Austrian accent and some difference in vocabulary/vernacular [think British vs. American English]).  It won some awards at film festivals around the world, and 10 years later, the creator of the film convinced someone in Hollywood to re-film the entire thing in English using English-speaking actors.,but he insisted on zero screenplay changes.  The end result is a film filmed with the same cameras in the same locations using actors wearing the same clothes.  Even the pacing of the film and the special effects are very close.  But we have a seemingly Hollywood-produced American-English thriller.  You can really watch the two films side-by-side and the cuts are nearly in the same place.

funny-games

But the tale gets even funnier (if you’ll pardon the pun): Germans are notorious for dubbing all films into German using well-known German voice actors.  These voice actors take their jobs very seriously and study and portray their actor counterparts so well that they are essentially assigned to an actor for their whole life.  The German voice actor who portrays Bruce Willis in all his films, for example, commands a large salary and is very well-known in Germany for his voice-over work.  Many Germans also claim that the voice-actor’s voice is even better than that of the real deal, Bruce himself.

So what was the decision the Germans made when importing Funny Games?  You’d think they’d just have taken the original Austrian version, spoken in German, and maybe only have a few subtitles when the Austrian slang becomes less-than-understandable.  Of course that would have made too much sense.  Of course the Germans took the US Hollywood production and dubbed the voices over with German voice actors.  They didn’t even use the voices of the original Austrian actors.  I find this simply weird and unnecessary.

Films Done Right

It is, however, worth mentioning that some filmmakers successfully and, in my opinion, properly, bridge the English/international gap: the Indiana Jones series, The Mummy series, The Davinci Code series, Inglorious BasterdsThe Saint, to name a few. In each of these films, people of other nationalities speak their native tongue when speaking with each other, and resort to English only when addressing English-only speakers or when speaking with characters of many tongues.  I think it’s so great, for example, that in The Mummy, the ancient Egyptians speak an Arabic dialect thought to be used at that time.  Never once do the ancient Egyptians speak English, because they would never have learned it.  Even in the loosely-related The Scorpion King, the nomadic characters often speak in a desert-dialect believed to be used at that time (although much of the main dialog(u)e is in English).

The Saint is another classic that deserves a blog post in its own right, but I will mention that the main character, played by Val Kilmer, goes through a variety of foreign languages and accents quite convincingly.  We see the character practicing his Russian in order to bluff the guards to gain entry into the Kremlin, and we see him portraying a homosexual German in the Berlin airport who converses with the local staff with ease.  The film itself is very exciting, and it can also be inspiring for English-only-speakers to think that learning new languages can open a whole new world, even if (or perhaps especially if) that world is dangerous and full of excitement.

the-saint

 

What are your thoughts on American/English versioning of film?

The ADHD Generation

Introduction

So, there was this huge deal with ADD/ADHD as I was growing up (let’s say early 90s until 2000), and I knew a few kids who were super hyperactive, and they took medication that calmed them down somewhat.  Later in life, they seemed to be fine, but nonetheless, there was much controversy about too many kids misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD when they just genuinely required discipline.  Fast-forward fifteen years to 2013…

In an attempt to get in touch with the generation of kids ten to fifteen years younger than me, I became an active member of an online humour community.  I had already seen these “internet memes” become trend and receive publicity in the media, and even a South Park episode based on it.  But why is it so popular and what exactly is popular and why do they do this?  Without going into boring details, here’s what I found out about people born roughly between 1995 and 2005:

College Students Have the Right Idea

It would seem those born near 1995 (those entering college or already enrolled) seem to have a good grasp on social issues.  They know they are the next generation, and thirst for knowledge and wisdom.  They take notice of global socioeconomic and political issues and even start forming opinions other than those imposed on them by their parents and professors.  They also have held onto their childhood.  These guys grew up playing pokémon and Call of Duty and Halo and are used to phenomenal graphics, and missed the big internet boom of the late 90s, or, rather, were five or six years old when it happened, so they got the very best of the internet and learned how to properly make use of all the technology that the older generations were creating for them.

This makes them an effective work-force and their minds are sharp and they are keen on learning and on gathering information.  Perhaps the only downside is the slight generation gap they might be feeling.  They spent a lot of time on video games and internet in their youth, and that continues today.  I spent my fair share of course, but I didn’t have life-like graphics and online play to keep me glued to the TV/Computer for days at a time.  I had the feeling that at first meeting, they seemed very set in their ways and egoistic.  They had all the answers because they figured out how to use all that technology by themselves and didn’t need any new ideas from any older generations.  But after some intelligent chat, many of them opened up and some friendships even started to form.  The younger we get, the more these two opposites start to change places…

High School Students are Preoccupied and Unknowledgeable

My browser tells me that is not a word, but whatever.  High school kids are bombarded by the constant media, and have all the latest gadgets that their hard-working parents bought for them.  The high school teachers are much older and wiser, but often lack the necessary tools to get that wisdom and knowledge across to them.  It would seem that people in this age group are hyper-focused on their immediate surroundings/situation and unless something can appeal to them and keep them entertained for the next fifteen seconds, they’re going to ignore it.  I imagine most of them can sit in a 40-minute class period and tweet/check e-mail/facebook / play games on their smart-phones while still seeming to pay attention.  They might get engaged in some classroom participation for a few moments, but then trail off to whatever it is they are doing.

However, these bunch of “ADHD” kids are also hyper-productive.  They scour the internet for the latest buzz, and most often re-use all the “internet memes” (most often meaning pre-made images where they can enter their own text to give the reader a short chuckle) and post in various places.  These memes are often way over-used, and are making fun of something that has recently happened in the media.  Miley Cyrus did that “twerking” thing at the VMAs, and all of a sudden the internet was flooded with a bunch of posts making fun of her – in every way imaginable.  These ranged from incoherent “hey look, I also made something culturally relevant” to a short chuckle, at best.  But they seem to live for the instant gratification of getting a “like” or a comment on something they made.  Back in my day (now I sound old) we told jokes to each other in school, and waited until the next day in order to have the opportunity to talk again.  Of course good friends did sometimes call each other, but it wasn’t the norm.  Today’s high school students have had smart-phones and facebook and twitter since they were 10, so they’ve been utilising/over-using these technologies since then.

However, due to their mass use of all these social technologies, and the fact that these technologies haven’t really changed the last five years, these guys have basically migrated their social lives to completely online.  You wouldn’t believe the stories of people going out on dates, super socially awkward, and then the flood of posts in every conceivable online community about every single detail, utilising every available meme and method to make their online presence look as best/funny as possible.  A short example:

OMG MY DAD JUST PICKED ME UP FROM MY DATE WITH STEVE AND HE LOL’D SO HARD I THINK HE THINKS HES A GIRL BECAUSE HE HAS TITE JEENS AND GURLY FEATURES. #FML #YOLO #DADS

Yeah, that was pretty terrible.  And they really do just write run-on sentences in all-caps and hack up the English language.  But it’s SOOOO cool these days to convey how you are feeling by talking fast with no breaks and hash-tagging as “fuck my life” (FML) or make fun of your parents or whatever.  Like I said earlier, these guys are mega-ADHD and can’t even stop for one second.  And every generation of high-schoolers had their fair share of drama – they are still in their suburban plastic bubble and want to imitate what they see on TV, the movies, and in their parents’ lives.

But all this has made them generally unknowledgeable.  They don’t pay attention in class, and don’t have the patience to learn how to properly use the technology.  The just type away, hit “send”, and refresh the page until somebody comments or likes their post/content.  Before attempting to figure out how to use a new feature of a website they frequent, they either complain about it for a few weeks or write their more knowledgeable friends on how to do it.  It’s sad, but that’s what seems to be going on – and it gets worse as they get younger…

Twelve-Year-Olds Have Probably Seen More Porn than I Have…

That’s right.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of explicit pornographic material I’ve seen on some of these sites.  And the people who post them?  They’re twelve to fourteen years old.  There’s a huge masturbation culture – “fapping” it’s called (I assume due to the sound it makes).  In my day we all masturbated as well, but we sure as hell didn’t talk about it or share links to our favourite porn sites – what if our parents found out?  And at some point that was over and we started looking for relationships with real girls, and didn’t have to worry about what would be posted about us after we went on a date.  But ten to fourteen-year-olds should be holding hands and kissing, right?  Well that’s the funny thing – they would appear to have seen every kind of porn imaginable (I’ll get to that in a moment), and supposedly  jerk off all the time, leaving them little time for homework or outdoor activities, let alone any kind of pseudo-sexual advances toward real-life people.  This affects both boys and girls.

This might scare you, but there seems to be a huge trend toward really freaky sexual stuff – like boys fantasizing about sex with cartoon ponies rather than busty women.  The Japanese hentai and its sub-genres of weird octopus-sex, graphic nubile orgies and much, much more, seem to be commonplace.  People laugh about it online, and trade pics, and talk about which one they like to masturbate most often to.  I find this somewhat disturbing, but I have hopes that this early sexual peak might produce a less sexually-charged/fixated generation that might even turn out to be super-geniuses by the time they hit twenty.  Only time will tell…

Conclusion

What should we conclude?  Well, if you’ve ever talked to me or read a post I’ve written, you can gather that it will be some sort of Utopian hippie-bullshit answer.  Well, that’s exactly what it is!  I’ve already seen examples of teachers embracing this cringe-worthy culture in an attempt to gain their attention.  It seems to work somewhat – a lot of kids talk about how cool their teachers are and post pictures of their failed tests where the teacher has used memes like “Y U NO STUDY?” or “I don’t always fail my students, but when I do, I try to give them a second change (see me after class)”.  Will this work?  Maybe.  There has always been a rather large proportion of students who don’t succeed in school and go on to be the major work-force while their more diligent colleagues go on to earn big paychecks in science, engineering and business industries.

What can we do?  Talk to them – try to peak their interest.  Once in a while, one of the ADHD kids will post something about “wow!  have you ever put two mirrors face to face and looked inside?  #blewmymind #crazyshit #fuckingscience” and I reply with a long-winded and whimsical basic explanation of how light particles work, and how the human eye works, and at the end pose some deep philosophical questions about “is seeing really beliving?” and so on.  You wouldn’t belive the response!  A lot of them respond positively, saying things like, “wow, ur smart” or “yeah, my dad said something like that but I didn’t listen.  Very interesting….”  And I even get into some lengthier conversations about what they think about life thus far, and they ask questions about my life, and I try to encourage them to take time from their online lives and contemplate the universe (in a crafty way, of course).

Each person can find his/her way to accomplish this, but I think it very necessary.  These are the ones who will be going to Mars – not us.  Of course we’re not all gone, yet, and still need to pursue our individual goals and make the world a better place, but if we can get the younger ones to think about life at that age, then probably a lot of the current problems will start melting: the entertainment industry will be forced to make better, more socially and intellectually engaging films/albums, and every business can stop sinking billions of dollars and hours into social media shit and concentrate on producing great products for a better society.

All these New Movies…

So, I recently came out of my art-film kick and decided to watch some good, old-fashioned (or rather, new-fashioned) blockbuster action films. I’ve seen so much hubbub about The Avengers, and the complete Marvel series, as well as The Dark Night Rises. I also decided to catch up on the X-Men series. I basically have been out of the blockbuster scene (excluding Harry Potter, of course) since 2005, so I had a lot to do. I had lot to do. Well, let’s dig in, shall we?

The Avengers was the first I watched, and I must admit that all the hubbub about Robert Downey Jr.’s role as the Iron Man held up. It inspired me to then go on to Iron Man 1 + 2. But let’s stay on Avengers for a moment. It just blams right in with this S.H.I.E.L.D. agency and a Stargate-reminiscent portal to another dimension where demi-gods are at large and have a beef with mortals. OK, I guess I missed something – or I wasn’t maybe a fan of comics as a kid.

Iron Man, in a similar vein to the latest reboot of the Batman series, does a wonderful job of creating a really nice back-story that draws the viewer in. We are right there with Bruce Wayne as he flees society to find himself, and becomes a martial arts master, then uses his wealth and skills battling the human evils that lurk indeed with all of us, but of course personified in the extremism of the Bourgeois vs. Proletariat power struggle. And as Mr. Stark finds the humanist in himself, and uses his billions and his brains to again help the common man.

But, wait – The Dark Night Rises is basically the same as Batman Begins and The Dark Night, right? Equilibrium of the weak and the power-hungry through some sort of technological device that levels the playing field. And it seems in each installment that the city is cut off from the mainland for some reason, and the prisoners are let out onto the street and Marshall Law takes effect. Plus it just takes a long time to get this stuff going, and the mysticism is somewhat lost. Not to mention the two things that just turned me off in a big way: the fact that the Joker was only so beloved because he died before the film came out; and the fact that Bane’s voice is just terrible. Really, just terrible. Plus Bruce Wayne is kind of a dick. I’d rather that Ra’s al Ghul succeed with his idealistic plan, and let the world equal itself out.

Ok, on to the new Hulk movie. I saw the original reboot in 2003, and it again did a wonderful job of explaining where he came from, and I could really empathise with Bruce as he underwent this massive psychological and physical changes. Plus, the action was just awesome. But many simply didn’t like the film, so they again quasi-rebooted it with absolutely the wrong actor: Edward Norton. He’s just too intelligent, soft, calm and collected to be the Hulk. His track record of absolutely wonderful films (American History X, Fight Club, Death to Smoochey, The Valley, Red Dragon) will not, however, be overshadowed by this clear money-maker. I mean, the dude earns regularly considerably less than his A-List buddies and donates tons to charity on a regular basis – so, the dude needs to eat, too.

Spiderman (although a bit older, and not necessarily in this new wave of recent action/comic movies) was actually a real treat (the first one, at least). They took a no-name actor and did a cool back-story, and bad-ass bad guys, and geared up for sequels very nicely. But again, people just didn’t want it. I personally am OK always with only one comic film per superhero – leave the serialisation for the pimple-faced geniuses who see the light of day just long enough to stand in line for a comic-book-signing.

I’m still not all the way through the X-Men series, but it’s so far much more fulfilling, as far as an action movie goes.  It’s intelligent (genetic mutation is the basis of life!) and with great action scenes, and is really carried by two real level-headed and experienced actors: Sir Patrick Stewart and the Prestige himself, Hugh Jackman.  And none of the other actors ruined it with their egos.  Nice work!

I haven’t got to Thor or Captain America yet. But if The Avengers is any kind of preview, then I think I’ll pass. It just seems like around 2006 these block-buster action comic superhero movies are just too full of themselves and long and drawn-out. The saving grace is of course Robert Downey Jr. in all of this, but that’s perhaps only because he is wonderful in every movie he makes. I guess I’ll go back to art-films. Here’s a good one with Mr. Jr. and Neo: A Scanner Darkly

X-Files in a Nutshell

So, I’m first of all a huge fan of the X-Files, and have watched every episode and every movie multiple times, in English as well as in German, and have read many fan-sites and documents explaining the all-elusive X-Files mythology.  However, I just wanted to, once and for all, explain the mythology in my own words, in a paragraph.  So, here goes:

When aliens first contacted humanity, they expressed interest to kill everyone and use the planet for their gains.  However, the people they at that time contacted (which would become the secret society, or “Men in Black” portrayed in the series) convinced the aliens to allow them to work on creating a human-alien hybrid, so as to allow for a controllable work-force for the aliens, and saving a large portion of humanity.  So these guys worked simultaneously on creating a human-alien hybrid, as well as a vaccine for the process, unbeknownst to the aliens.  However, a second group of rebel aliens started coming to earth and killing all the hybrid test subjects, as well as the doctors responsible.  Of course, when the invading aliens get wind of such events, they’d likely cancel their treaty and just wipe out humanity.  So the shadowy figures have to continue their research, stop these rebel aliens (by stabbing them in the back of the neck), and continue developing a vaccine, and keeping the public in the dark, in order to have a hope at saving humanity.

This sounds like a real nice gesture of the board of shadowy figures, and I’d only hope that if anything like this were ever to happen, that someone would care enough about humanity to sacrifice their own lives in such a manner.  Then along comes this good-looking, super-intelligent FBI agent wanting to expose the “Men in Black” and blow the lid off the whole conspiracy.  If I were a shadowy figure, I’d consider taking Fox Mulder on into the board – he could be a good ally in the FBI.  And apparently Fox’s parents were part of everything from the beginning, sacrificing their own daughter to the aliens as collateral for the human-alien hybrid research pact (I’ll call it HARP).  But instead, they just toy with Mulder, giving him clues here and there (sometimes through a “leak” or sometimes directly).

In any case, hats off the shadow-men and their unbelievable sacrifice for the hope of mankind, and I feel bad for Fox Mulder, for believing so much in his cause, that he effectively turns his back on humanity.  Like I said, if I were a shadow-man, I’d invite Fox into the group in a heartbeat, and kill him if he didn’t come on board.  It is very important not to let the public in on this, for if the invading aliens get wind of it, they’d cancel the treaty and just wipe out humanity.

Perhaps the X-Files is really about humanity and not about the paranormal, although it plays a huge part.  Of course, every unexplained phenomenon is dubbed “magic” or “evil” or “paranormal” until science finds a way to satisfactory explain it.  Here’s to humanity, science and The Smoking Man!