One more thing about the Berlin Filmmuseum

Casablanca is on TCM tonight, and it just got to the scene in Rick’s Café where the German soldiers sing “Deutschland Über Alles”, and everybody else sings “La Marseillaise”, drowning out the Germans.

That reminded me about one more thing about the Berlin Filmmuseum, which I mentioned last week. That scene was playing on a loop in one of the rooms in the permanent exhibition near the Marlene Dietrich section that showed all the German actors who went into exile in Hollywood in the 30′s and 40′s. How weird must it be to see a fairly propagandistic film from a former enemy country playing on a loop in one of your museums.

Either/Or (or, “Terri Wins”)

Yesterday evening before I left work, Terri and I decided to meet for dinner at Johnny D’s. On the train I thought of a game to play over dinner, which I decided to call the either/or game. I would ask Terri either/or questions, and she’d have to pick one. I got there before she did, so I got the first “either/or” of the night, from the guy at the door: “are you staying for the show or just for dinner?” (Just dinner). I waited at the bar and eavesdropped on a bunch of good conversations between the bartenders and a couple of patrons (who also seemed to be fellow Johnny D’s coworkers and/or girlfriends who were hanging out on an off day). One of these conversations was another either/or conversation: who was hotter, the Celtics cheerleaders or the Patriots cheerleaders? (no consensus was reached).

Here are the highlights of my Either/Or questions for Terri:
“red or blue”? (declined)
“John Coltrane or Miles Davis?” (declined)
“The Specials or The English Beat?” (The Specials)
“Laurel or Hardy?” (Laurel)
“Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. Dubois?” (Booker T.)
“Greeks or Romans?” (Greeks)
“Beethoven or Mozart?” (Mozart! I can’t believe I married a Mozart-over-Beethoven!)

Terri asked me a bunch, too.
“Imperial or Parkay?” (Parkay)
“Mary Tyler Moore before or after Georgette?” (before)
“Empire Strikes Back or Star Wars?” (Empire, too easy)
“Mr. Ferley or Mr. Roper?” (Mr. Ferley, but if it were both of the Ropers as a unit, the Ropers).

The show started, and we asked for the check. As we were paying up, we exchanged pleasantries with Willie (the former Someday baristo (baristo?) who now waits tables at Johnny D’s). The opening band (violin, guitar, upright bass, female vocals) started off with “Love for Sale” (“Cole Porter or Rogers and Hart?” (ummmm, what did Rogers and Hart do again?…. besides “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”, I couldn’t name a song on demand!). I was almost tempted to stay, but then their second song was kind of a crappy country-sounding thing, and we left.

As we were heading home up Holland Street in the cold, I asked Terri, “Woodstock or Altamont?” She answered, “Monterey”. She totally won! She also thereby confirmed that I married the right girl.

Best snowstorm song ever

“Snowstorm” by Galaxie 500.

I always think it’s the one where they talk about being on Route 128, but that’s “Blue Thunder”; nonetheless, there’s a very Massachusetts snowstorm feeling to “Snowstorm”.

Well I listen to the weather
And he’s changed his tone of voice
And he can see it on the radar
Only seven hours away
Well there’s gonna be a snowstorm
When the t.v.’s goin out
And they got nothin else to think of
And they’re letting me go home

Well I’m lookin at the snowflakes
And they all look the same
And the clouds are goin by me
They’re playin some kind of game
Well you know there’s a snowstorm
When the t.v. has gone out
And they got nothin else to think of
And they’re letting me go home

Last Monday, This Monday: compare & contrast

Last Monday

Nice, France, around 57°F, Sunny.

Terri and I walked around the little shops in the lovely windy streets of Vieux Nice and perused the weekly antiques market. We met up with my parents and siblings, grabbed slices of pizza, and ate them on this seaside wall, watching the Mediterranean Waves.
Ball (and Wise, Sultana, Prokop) posse
We went back to our hotel and got changed, and walked to city hall for April’s civil wedding. Apparently in France, a church wedding does not count as a legal wedding, so you have to have a civil service first, and apparently this is typically performed by the mayor of the town you live in). And then April and Manu were officially married! Yay!
april and manu
photo by Terri. Doesn’t she have a way of making people look like movie stars?

The whole wedding party (All the Ball siblings, our parents, Manu’s sisters, parents, parents’ significant others, and a couple of April’s ballet friends) had a drink at Le Meridien, and then went to dinner at an Italian place that had insane portions. Everybody was making jokes about them being American-sized, but I have honestly never seen anything like this in the states. The pasta dishes were at least 20″ in diameter. Check out Abby’s desert, the “pot of chocolate”.

abby's pot of chocolateabby does the chocolate dance

This Monday

Somerville, Mass., low 30′s°F, snowy
Woke up to about 6 inches of snow and near white-out conditions. Decided to work from home. As it slowed down at 1pm or so, upstairs neighbor tried out the new snowblower, and it seems to have worked pretty well. I went out and shoveled all the icy slushy stuff at the bottom that the snowblower couldn’t get to. All things considered, it was actually a pretty good day. I got a lot of work done, the snow was actually quite lovely (and was even lovelier once it was clear it was going to slow down and not start back up), and I got to be at home with Terri and the cats all day.
View from our house, 14 Jan 2008

Is it just me or is the Persepolis film getting zero press?

When we were in Nice last week the main shelves at FNAC (sort of the French version of Tower Records or Virgin (I almost just said “French Virgin”, nyuk nyuk)) were full of copies of the movie version of Persepolis on DVD. I was surprised, because I couldn’t remember it even being in theaters.

But it is, at least here at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge. Anybody wanna go?

Is it just me or is it getting no press? Or have I just been so busy in December that I haven’t noticed? I don’t really think that’s the case because I feel like I am seeing stuff about Juno everywhere. I was just trying to figure out which studio/distributor released it and just noticed on Yahoo! Movies that it was released on Christmas Day and has made a whopping $313,000. Maybe it isn’t just me that hasn’t heard about it… The reviews seem OK. What’s the deal?

The conspiracy theory here is that it goes too far in humanizing a potential enemy, what with the (almost bizarrely) continued hostile anti-Iran rhetoric from the administration. But that doesn’t really make sense either; if anything, it could be used as propaganda with the picture it paints of life after the revolution of ’79, and the heroine ends up fleeing to Europe rather than living under a repressive theocratic regime.

Book Report: John Peel: Margrave of the Marshes

I picked this up at a bookshop in Berlin for reading material, since I was sort of out of reading material, and it seemed like a good read. It was pretty entertaining. It was supposed to be an autobiography, though the final 50% or so was finished by his wife after Peel’s death in 2005.

I won’t bother going into who he was, that is what wikipedia is for.

What I came away feeling was that there’s just not a place in the current media universe for someone like that. Despite how little choice we get from the tepid, bland mediocrity of coast-to-coast ClearChannel and Infinity stations, despite how much infinite and overwhelming variety we get from the internet, there’s nobody out there who has a pulpit, and an audience big enough to make the pulpit credible, where they can challenge people to listen to things they might not otherwise have listened to. You can get more of what you already know, you can spend all your time trying to find new things on your own, or you can listen to the same 10 songs everybody else is listening to.

Also, he was an extremely clever writer; was not surprised to hear him say that he admired Wodehouse.

Filmmuseum, Berlin

Sony Center atriumThe only time I’d seen Potsdamer Platz before seeing it in real life was in Wings of Desire, where the old poet is looking for the once-bustling plaza, and finds only a decimated square right on the border between East and West Berlin.

In 2007/8, it’s again a bustilng plaza, albeit with sparkling glass towers sporting the logos of mutinational corporations. Despite this, it still seems to actually be used as a viable public space. While we were there, a small Christmas market (with an artificially snow-covered intertube sledding hill!) was in operation, and less seasonally, it is also the site of a major U-bahn and train station, and the Sony Center, a gigantic pavillion housing many offices, restaurants, bars, shops, and museums.

Filmsmuseum basementOne of these is the excellent Filmmuseum, which houses rotating exibits and a permanent exhibit of the history of German film. Two special exhibits were on while we were there. There was one moderately interesting one about the introduction of sound to German film; several films were playing in little rooms, and these were mostly cute musical comedies. There was another one devoted to the work of Ray Harryhausen, the famous stop-motion animation special effects artist (of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans fame, among many many others (and as I write this, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is on TCM!)) which included many of his stop motion models. The coolest display in my opinion showed how live action was mixed with stop motion using a combination of projectors and cameras and models; a loop of Jason and the Argonauts was playing with a live actor fighting a stop-motion monster, and the setup showed how the loop had been filmed. Also, the model for Bubo was there!

marlene_dietrich.jpgIn the permanent museum, Marlene Dietrich had at least three rooms devoted to her. The collection included letters, her outfits (both dresses and tuxedos), costumes, photos of fellow stars, and other mementoes. The displays went into great detail, with a seemingly positive slant, about how she was fiercly anti-Nazi and discussed the many ways in which very actively supported the American war effort. Two rooms were devoted to the Nazi period. One room discussed Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, concentrating somewhat on the technical aspects of how it was filmed (with a model of the olympic stadium showing the different camera locations and scaffolding), and how well orchestrated / propagandistic the entire 1936 Olympics were. Another room had other Nazi-era films, from light comedies to out-and-out hateful propaganda (including the notorious Jud Süß); each film was playing in a morgue-like drawer. As you pulled out the drawer, the film clip was already playing, but the sound would become audible; as you pushed in the drawer, the sound would disappear. The message embedded in this presentation seemed to be “there is too much here for us to pretend it didn’t happen, but look at these for what they are, and leave them dead in their drawers”.

One of the saddest things for me was to find out that Emil Jannings appeared in Nazi films; there was a photo of him smiling with Hitler and Göbbels. He had come to Hollywood in 1926, but went back to Germany in 1930 or so, realizing that, like many non-Anglophones who had enjoyed fame in the silent films, he had no future in the Hollywood talkies. He was so unbelieveably good in Murnau’s The Last Laugh, it’s just hard to stomach that he was a Nazi collaborator.

After we went through the Filmmuseum, we had a drink at the nearby bar in the Sony Center, Billy Wilder’s. And watched people curling on a refrigerated indoor ice rink.

Currywurst at Zoo Bahnhof

achewood clipSo, we’re now back safely in Boston.

We did not keep a trip blog this time, but I plan to post little snippets as I remember them as a way of prolonging the fun.

Editrix pointed out an excellent Achewood plot thread about currywurst which mentions Bono, which reminded me that Berlin really has a thing for U2, which I guess is reciprocal since I dimly recall them having had some kind of Berlin thing in the 90′s. There’s some kind of diagram that probably should be drawn linking U2, Berlin, Wim Wenders, Zoo Station, and the year 1992.

Hier GlühweinAnyway, on our first evening in Berlin, when we went to the Christmas market near the Zoo Bahnhof itself, we heard probably no less than 3 U2 songs. The Christmas markets are sort of like the Topsfield Fair here in Massachusetts, with rides, carney games, food stalls, and such, but also with booths with more artsy craftsy Christmas gift kind of stuff, different cookies and foods, and alcoholic drinks, like Glühwein, which is a hot and somewhat stanky mulled wine. Many cheap meals involving sausage (or various vegetarian options) were had. This is the currywurst I had at a fast food type joint in the Zoo Bahnhof on our last day in Berlin: