Das rosa Boot

National Attitudes toward World War II as Exemplified in Operation Petticoat and Das Boot

The war film has been a popular American genre during the twentieth century — and of these films, those depicting the Second World War have been by far the most prolific and successful. The spectacle of large battles and the celebration of heroic acts have an alluring quality that has inspired the production of epic films such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (Lean, 1957), The Guns of Navarone (Thompson, 1961), The Longest Day (Annakin et al., 1962), and The Great Escape (Sturges, 1963). An important factor in these films’ appeal is that the (American) audience is meant to sympathize with the (Allied) winning side. Indeed, national attitudes towards wars — and war in general — are affected by the outcomes of such conflicts. Two excellent examples of differing attitudes toward World War II are Blake Edwards’s American comedy Operation Petticoat (1959) and Wolfgang Petersen’s German drama Das Boot (1981). Both films take place on military submarines, but the depictions of the two undersea voyages could scarcely be more different. While Edwards shows life aboard the U.S.S. Sea Tiger as easygoing, dynamic, and occasionally thrilling, Petersen depicts the experience of crewing U-96 as exhausting, bleak, and often deadly. Continue reading

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Cutting the Cord

As a poor college student, I pinch pennies whenever I can. That means Sunday night dinners at Cici’s Pizza, clothes from Target, and those god-awful compact fluorescent bulbs in my lamps.

It also means I won’t pay for cable. Not only would it be an unjustified expense to buy a bunch of channels so I can watch a few shows, but I simply don’t like to build my schedule around my television viewing. With options like DVDs, iTunes, Hulu, and soon Google TV, the benefits aren’t worth the cost.

It would appear that I am not the only one who thinks this. Cable subscriptions are dropping. Time Warner Cable forecasts a “subscriber deficit” for the third quarter, an announcement which led to a three-percent drop in TWC stock. Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s chairman and CEO, says such “cord-cutting” is a result of cheaper alternatives for younger, lower-income consumers who no longer desire to pay cable fees. Analyst Craig Moffett claims that this is not an issue to be concerned about yet, and that “evidence of cord-cutting remains scant.” Moffett blames the current economic condition for subscription drops, despite the fact that the recession is apparently over. (Who knew?)

Perhaps if Mr. Moffett weren’t a well-paid analyst he would realize that cord-cutting is indeed a very real occurrence among lower-income consumers. It may not be making a huge difference yet, but it would be very unwise for cable companies to ignore the potential for more frequent subscription drops in the future. Now, do I think that cord-cutting will be “the death of cable”? Of course not. People will continue to pay for cable due to the large amount of channels and shows available, but some of the poorer, less picky users will inevitably find alternatives, and cable companies may have to rethink their strategies as a result.

Am I out of my mind, or are they out of ideas?

So apparently Footloose is being remade. And apparently TNT has ordered a pilot for an updated version of Dallas. Also, At the Movies is returning to PBS — complete with a speechless Roger Ebert. Is there a single original story idea left in the media business? It would seem not. This summer we received The Karate Kid, an original story based upon… The Karate Kid. Even Avatar, This Year’s Greatest Movie of All Time, is essentially Pocahontas Dances with Wolves in Space. Television demonstrates this trend even more:  how many shows use the Law & Order formula? At least seven? As I’ve pointed out before, Fringe is The X-Files for the A.D.D. generation, and ABC tried to similarly recycle Twin Peaks into Happy Town this summer. (Yeah, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it.) Sure, the producers latch on to the formulas that make money, but whatever happened to risk-taking? Lost was good for the first two years, until the writers ran out of ideas. House was sort of innovative, but it imitates itself too much. The only really original show currently in production that I am aware of is Mad Men — the only show I watch as it airs.

The current drivel that makes up most television programming may reel in the big bucks, but it doesn’t attract me. Maybe when the History Channel returns to history-centered programs I’ll return. But until then, why would I watch The Universe when I can watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on DVD?

3D: The Latest Recycled Fad

3D is an interesting experiment, both in film and in television. It was used in films during the ’50s, and again in the ’80s. It was a gimmick then, and it’s a gimmick now. Too often I’ve seen shots that gratuitously scream, “It’s a 3D film!” as in many 3D IMAX films. Due to this trend, I’ve actually tried to stay away from 3D films. I want 3D to add to my experience, not dictate it. I haven’t seen Avatar, and I have no plans to. I have, however, seen both Up and Toy Story 3 in 3D — and I loved them both. Pixar demonstrates the same care and good taste with its 3D rendering that it does with every other aspect of its films. The 3D was subtle, and I saw none of those annoying 3D! shots. In fact, after Toy Story 3, I overheard a young boy complaining to his mother: “The 3D wasn’t any good; nothing popped out at you!” She agreed.

And there’s the rub:  the tasteless, corny shots are the ones that grab audiences, and 3D makes money. If people tire of it, it may again fade into obscurity, but I think it’ll stick around in film if 3D television catches on. Still there’s a cloud in that silver lining: if 3D becomes commonplace, it is possible that things will stop popping out as us simply because they can.

Note:  The image dimness that people often mention regarding 3D is not always present, and is the fault of the theater. Many theaters simply do not purchase brighter projector lamps to compensate for the polarized glasses. I saw both the 2D and 3D versions of Up, and the 3D version was no less bright than the 2D one; however, Toy Story 3 (which I viewed in another state) was uncomfortably dim.

The FCC sticks its mits in cable deals.

For nine months and counting, the Federal Communications Commission has been mediating Comcast Corporation’s buyout of NBC Universal, Inc. from The General Electric Company. The Friday meeting of economists [link] at the FCC headquarters is interesting in itself. While Bloomberg L.P. has been a respected source of financial news, its role in the Comcast-NBCU deal is a peculiar one:  it has an interest in the deal’s outcome [link]. Assuming the deal goes through, what will happen regarding CNBC and Bloomberg TV? Will Comcast, as Bloomberg currently demands, be forced to sell CNBC, or will some other deal arise? It is a given that the FCC will not allow Comcast to purchase NBCU without some concessions, given that this will the first time one of the “Big Six” media corporations is owned by a television provider. The FCC may indeed attempt to use this deal as an opportunity to gain some regulation of cable content, as they have been attempting to do for a long while.

Speaking of mediation, the FCC has been keeping an eye on the transmission renewal talks between Time Warner Cable and The Walt Disney Company [link]. While this is not particularly unusual, Time Warner Cable has asked the FCC to improve the retransmission process before, and should difficulties arise in reaching an agreement before the 2 September deadline, the FCC may step in and set a precedent for future scenarios.

Finally, a happier story:  Dish Network has begun offering AMC (owned by Cablevision) in HD [link]. This certainly adds some appeal; I am sure that there must be a few discontent cable users who were holding back on switching and who will now reconsider. Mad Men, which airs on AMC, is the only television show I actually watch on television. I watch everything else on Hulu or on DVD. Now if I can watch Mad Men on Dish’s new “TV Everywhere” site [link], I might reconsider as well.

A letter of protest in response to Tommy Wiseau’s legal actions against the Nostalgia Critic

To whom it may concern:

I first heard of The Room several years ago, when a friend mentioned it. After looking up your site, I determined that purchasing The Room would be a waste of my money. However, a few days ago, after viewing Doug Walker’s review of The Room, I had decided to buy a copy. When I heard that the review had been taken down due to claims of “copyright infringement,” I changed my mind.

Mr. Walker’s review of The Room is in fact doing you a service. As stated in his video rebuttal to the legal action, Mr. Walker is introducing your film to people who have not heard of it, or those (like me) who have heard of it, but had previously dismissed it. In addition, his review is protected by the fair use guidelines of U.S. copyright law, as well as the sections regarding parody. Furthermore, there is a good chance that any alleged damage to Mr. Wiseau’s reputation is not punishable under the public figure doctrine regarding defamation. My perception of Mr. Wiseau was certainly not made worse by Mr. Walker’s review. It has, however, been tarnished by the actions that have been taken against Mr. Walker. I urge you to reconsider and to save the reputations of Mr. Wiseau and his associates by permitting Mr. Walker’s review to be republished to his website, and to enjoy the increased publicity and profit that will most likely result.

Sincerely, Jack Fisher

Independent filmmaker

*  *  *

Addendum — four minutes after sending my message, I received the following response:

If you can let your writer to contact us.

The fact is that the original material of “The Room” has been altered.

Thank you for your E-Mail.

I don’t believe I need to say anything more.