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RIP Bernd Eichinger

Bernd EichingerVia David Hudson, I’ve learned that probably the best known German film producer here in the United States died suddenly from a heart attack in his Los Angeles home last night. He was 61.

Also a writer and director and the owner of Constantin Film, Bernd Eichinger’s diverse roster of productions includes the excellent, spectacular historical dramas “The Baader-Meinhof Complex” and, most famously, “Downfall.” The acclaimed film about Hitler’s final days is both an excellent movie and the source of all those funny Hitler videos I’m so fond of. (How awful the phrase “funny Hitler video” must read to someone whose never seen one.) As always, our condolences to his family and friends.

Eichinger has an impressive 95 producer credits on IMDb. English language films included “The Name of the Rose” and even “The Fantastic Four” and “Resident Evil.” Other internationally known films include “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” “The Neverending Story,” and “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” Below, courtesy of Jahsonic, is the German-language trailer for “Baader Meinhof,” which he cowrote with director Uli Edel. There are no subtitles but, not speaking a word of German, there’s plenty for me to get.

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Some slightly belated holiday and geek related thoughts from Hitler

My hurried blogging for today continues with two of those gosh-darned Hitler/”Downfall” videos I stumbled over. Yes, I never get enough of the things though I encourage you all to check the very serious actual film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and starring Bruno Ganz, with the correct subtitles

I like to think of these as yet one more delightful aspect of the world’s victory over Hitler and Nazism in 1945.

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Hitler is right!

Yes, this avid and genetically predisposed consumer of matzoh balls and knishes knows a strong argument when he hears it. And, while I usually like to consider the source, as the saying goes, even a racist genocidal maniac is right two times a century, or something like that.

Anyhow, in case you haven’t heard about it yet, Constantin Films, the company that released the excellent historical drama, “Downfall,”  has been going after those often extremely funny videos drawn from that film in which the great German actor Bruno Ganz as Hitler reacts — as only a fascist with serious, serious anger issues really can — to all kinds of pop cultural events.  PopEater summarizes the situation quite nicely.

Of course, we’ve already seen the inevitable meta-rants in which Hitler complains about all those videos of him saying stuff he surely would never say and caring about things he would never care about. Yesterday, the usually very cool Karina Longworth was apparently so tired of this ‘net meme that she all but sided with that particular “Downfall” Hitler and the cutting-nose-to-spite-face tactics of Constantin.

Anyhow, today she returned to form and saw the sweet reason of an argument posed by, of course, Adolph Hitler, who really describes the situation far better than I can.  Let’s see how long it stays up. (I’m hoping they’ll keep the audio up at least.)

I’m sorry, but at least 50% of these make me laugh quite a bit. Guess I’m a sucker for a Hitler joke.

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How many Schickels is an Altman worth?

Probably for the same reason that you don’t often see movie stars diss other movie stars for their acting, or directors critique helmers they think are less imaginative, film critics and writers tend to avoid making negative public comments about each other’s work. There are exceptions, however. Armond White of the New York Press has made a habit of, apparently reflexively, viciously attacking most of the films praised by other critics while praising whatever all the other critics hate, and then adding an extra step and implicitly, or not so implicitly, attacking all the other critics and viewers who may agree with them for being so intellectually lazy as to not see things in  the same eccentric way as he. So, he’s taken some well-deserved crap, although some writers still harbor some affection for his earlier reviews and sometimes even still find him occasionally insightful. Not me. I could never stand the guy’s insanely self-important writing or verbal pronouncements.

Richard Schickel, however, is a more complicated case. Also a strong documentary filmmaker who mainly covers filmmakers of the classic era and his favorite contemporary director, Clint Eastwood, as well as a highly readable writer, I’ve nevertheless have always felt somewhat suspicious of him going back to his eighties reviews in Time Magazine. Those feelings crystallized to some extent when I heard him and critic Emanuel Levy take to task a rabbi on Los Angeles public radio while discussing Robert Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful.” They all but called him a bad Jew for not finding the film offensive and daring to admit he was moved by it, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Still, I’ve enjoyed not only several of his cinephile-friendly documentaries, but also some really good audio commentaries recently featuring Schickel discussing another one of his — and my — favorites, Howard Hawks. I’ve been in a forgiving mood.

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Then, however, some editor at the L.A. Times had a very bad idea last week. I guess there’s no law that says, say, that if someone hates Picasso or Oscar Wilde or whomever, they should not review a new biography of them.  Ideally, I suppose, by itself that should not be a deal-breaker — as long as the writer in question can step away from their dislike of the subject enough to actually review the book rather than simply yell to the heavens that the revered creator being chronicled is wildly overrated while slipping in some snide remarks at the author’s expense for daring to think her subject is worth composing an entire book about.

Schickel, however, is clearly not big enough to do that, as he proved in writing this anti-Robert Altman screed disguised as a book review for the Los Angeles Times.  You can read Anne Thompson‘s take and then Patrick Goldstein‘s critique and defense of Altman, which also includes a letter from Altman’s one-time protegee, Alan Rudolph, a pretty strong and prolific filmmaker in his own right.

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The Scream Awards go down the rabbit hole (updated)

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There was a time in this world when young people were frequently slightly ashamed of being bigger than average fans of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and especially comic books. I, personally, wasn’t embarrassed …and I paid a price. Those days may be over. In any case, the capacity crowd that showed up for Spike TV’s Scream awards, largely in costume and largely dramatically over- or under-dressed for a nighttime outdoor show after a very warm day, seemed more like club kids and less like the kind of uber geeks who become entertainment bloggers and film critics and stuff like that.

The Scream Awards are, in their fun/silly way, a big deal. Big enough to attract a good number of stars and even a few superstars like Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and his living legend “Pirates of the Caribbean” muse, Rolling Stone Keith Richard.

I, however, am not such a big deal and was reminded of that fact when, prior to the show I found myself with the less fashionable members of the not-quite paparazzi on the “red carpet” (actually a checkered walkway) with my little digital camera and even smaller digital recorder device, wondering whether I’d really get a chance to ask a question of one of the super-famed folks, knowing that the only question I could think of at the time would be something in the nature of “What’s it like be the most notorious rock and roll star in the world, having your blood changed, and snorting your late father’s ashes?” That probably would have been inappropriate, especially if I asked it of Jessica Alba.

What actually seems to happen at events like this is that, if you’re a small-timer especially, most of the big stars either go through another entrance or walk right by you at warp speed. Meanwhile, folks who are a bit more anxious to meet the press find their way to you with the help of PR types. As an example, for about half a second, I was almost able to talk with actor Karl Urban, who did such a great job homaging DeForest Kelly while putting his own hilarious stamp on “Bones” McCoy in “Star Trek.” However, within a nanosecond he remembered he was in a big hurry and politely scurried off.

After a few odd reality show people I didn’t recognize, and the pretty young actress who assays the part of “Female Addict” in “Saw VI,” our first actual notable was statuesque model turned actress Tricia Helfer. Helfer is, make no mistake, a true superstar to TV sci-fi fans and is best known as Number Six, aka “the hot blonde cylon” on “Battlestar Galactica.” The actress appeared with her significant other, the owner of a British accent and a Giaus Baltar-style beard, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. I had a not terribly consequential discussion with her — lost because I apparently forgot to press the “on” button on my digital recorder. One would expect no less an effect from Number Six. UPDATE: Yeesh! As pointed out by my PH compatriot John Paulsen, the actress was actually Kate Vernon, who played the lady-MacBeth-like Ellen Tigh. It is true, all statueseque blonde women in shiny dresses look alike to me! My apologies to all concerned or unconcerned.

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