The new movie paradigm: viruses

September 20, 2011

If two recent movies are any indication, there is a new movie paradigm emerging:  the growth and spread of viruses.  This by no means new – think Adromeda Strain (1971), Carriers (2009), Outbreak (1995), 28 Days Later (2002), Cabin Fever (2002), I Am Legend (2007) and Quarantine (2008).

Contagion has topped the US box office and follows the release a short while ago Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which (ALERT: plot giveaway about to come – do not continue reading if you have not seen the film) ends with a fabulous sequence showing how humanity is about to die by a man-made virus that makes apes “super-human” and kills humans.

But why is this happening now?  Jeanine Stein’s September 9th article in the Los Angeles Times investigates this phenomenon (I certainly am not the only person to notice it) and observes that:

We use killer virus movies to channel our worries about jobs, gas prices and the economy. But we’ve had some recent up close and personal brushes with pandemics–sure, they haven’t annihilated humanity, but people have died. That … makes it all the more real to moviegoers.

It’s partly the “September 11th effect” (yet another indication of how that event has lodged itself in our subconscious in ways still being played out in the cultural realm) and partly the post-AIDS/HIV era (if it is possible to term it that way).

Some good links – and and





Film review of Berlin 36

September 17, 2011

Film review of “Berlin 36” – opens in New York now (German with English subtitles)

It is often said that “truth is stranger than fiction”, and the events that are dramatised in the film “Berlin 36” serve to remind us that stories of Jewish survival are fantastically varied.  This film tells the true story of Gretel Bergmann (played by a very luminous Karoline Herfurth), a champion German-Jewish high jumper during the period of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Although Bergmann has already migrated to the United Kingdom (and had become a star athlete there), she is coerced by the Nazis to return to Germany to participate in the German Olympic team trials in the lead-up to the 1936 games.  Under pressure from the International Olympic Committee and a threatened American team boycott, the Germans need to be seen to including a Jewish athlete, so an extremely reluctant Gretel participates in the team.  When her sympathetic coach is replaced by a bullying Nazi, her life on the team becomes almost unbearable.

The film also introduces a second fascinating (and absolutely true) complicating story:  Gretel’s room-mate, fellow high jumper Dora Ratjen, turns out to be a man pretending to be a woman, recruited by the Nazis in order to prevent Gretel from making the final team.  The film includes a short interview with the real Gretel Bergmann (who looks astonishingly like the Herfurth, who plays her), who survived the war and moved to the USA, revealing even a more astonishing sequence of events in the following years.  (Note that this film is suitable for teenagers 15 and over, despite its Holocaust and antisemitism themes.)

Digital world message for Australia: you are lagging!

September 13, 2011

Here is a digital world message for Australia:  you are lagging!  I am currently in temporary residence in New York City, and here’s two examples of what I have found:

– Our local internet (cable) service gives us 144 mbs, even through a low-cost wireless router, unlimited down and upload.  The best I ever saw in Australia was 100mbs and that was the very best.  Has anyone ever seen better than 100 in Australia?

– Netflix costs $7.99/month for unlimited viewings of movies, TV, etc.  Not all films are on their streaming system, so for an additional $7.99/month you can get unlimited DVDs sent to your home.  No wonder the only DVD shops I have seen are, as they say, of the “erotic” or “adult” sort.  Goodbye DVD shops, Australia.  The question is only a matter of when, not if.  (Cancel at any time, no expensive long-term plans.)

Australia’s broadband in the cities (even!) will continue to retard economic growth and development when people are struggling with high fees and low download speeds, even in upper-income suburbs.

To be continued ….