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"Sequelitis" chart (credit: Hollywood Reporter)

Hollywood Reporter has affectionately dubbed this new phenomenon”Sequelitis” (credit: Hollywood Reporter)

2016 has been a historically awful year for Hollywood. Cinemas have not sold this few tickets per person in the US since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, sequels have become Hollywood’s new addiction.The number of sequels among the top-grossing Hollywood movies has doubled in the past 10 years. At the same time, we see that several sequels failed at the box office this year while Marvel movies are still living up to their usual numbers.

Could this signal the decline of the long-standing sequel strategy?

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Lee Don Ku's KashiggotAt this year’s Berlinale, South Korean director Lee Don-Ku debuted Kashiggot, a film which explores the commission, atonement and punishment of sin. In the Asian market, prolific filmmakers traditionally prefer to remain within the often painfully saccharine genre of the “Asian blockbuster.” This presents a stark contrast to Asian art-house cinema, which aims at commenting on the more nuanced aspects of Asian society. Rather than being primarily concerned with the maximization of profit through the production of trite and accessible narratives and flashy special effects, these auteurs work with a fairly small budget in an effort to focus attention on the development of nuanced storylines. Often these films are more ominously composed, as they depict violence in a rather visceral fashion. Responding to this burgeoning genre, Kashiggot’s introductory credits pay homage to the predecessors and contemporaries who made this cinematic cannon a material reality—from Park Chan Wook to Kim Ki Duk. As such, Lee Don-Ku’s film was conceived with the intention of incorporating himself and his work into the Korean art-house cinema movement. However, in spite of his best efforts, this slow-burn thriller does little to indicate that this work is worthy of such consideration.

The initial scene swiftly envelopes the audience into the drama, as the director begins with a focus on the wrath of bullying; the film opens with four tough-talking high school boys smoking cigarettes in the kitchen of a shabby apartment. Timid Sung-gong (Nam) is hounded by his supposed friends: domineering Sae-woon (Kang Gi-doong) and his docile minions, Kyung-sang (Hong Jung-ho) and Hung-woo (Kim Hee-sung). After a few moments, the camera pans to the adjoining room revealing the source of the boys consternation—an unconscious girl lays carelessly upon a disheveled bed.

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Little Red BIFF

Little Red

For the cinephile living in Berlin, February means attending as many Berlinale screenings as possible. The still-intact Friedrichstrasse Christmas decorations add a sense of cheer to the festival, and with the arrival of movie stars – be it yesteryear’s goddess Catherine Deneuve or sex-appeal induced James Franco – comes the hope of a glimpse of those made famous by our approval. Yet, with the commercialism and the large audience – consisting of both Berliners and international tourists – a sense of intimacy is lost in the glaring lights and on the red carpet of the Berlinale Palast. So, while booking tickets for three Berlinale screenings, I was pleased to come across a brochure for the Berlin Independent Film Festival. Considering the sad state of my Berlinale-cinephile wallet, I was hesitant at first. However, realizing that this was my last chance to attend a 7 euro Berlin film festival marathon (packed with two feature lengths and a block of 7 shorts), I couldn’t resist. Considering the relatively short distance of the Babylon Kino from ECLA’s campus, a screening room that would fit only 25 people and a chance for more exposure to the independent scene (packed with struggling, sometimes amateur, directors), this festival was worth more than its price value. When the tickets were booked, there was no room for regret.

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Martin Scorsese portrait

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Every year Professor Matthias Hurst takes the students of ECLA of Bard for a walk around Marlene Dietrich Platz (where Berlin’s international annual film festival takes place), stopping at the Museum of Film and Television, located in the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz. Beyond being of particular interest for students – like myself – taking film classes, the museum is a great place for anyone interested in cinema. One can find here various exhibits ranging from film scripts, props, and costumes, to personal letters of famous actors and writers, like Marlene Dietrich or Ernest Hemingway.

Besides the permanent exhibition which provides an overview of German Cinema, from German Expressionist films to contemporary films, the museum hosts various temporary exhibitions. This spring The Museum of Film and Television in Berlin hosts the first international exhibition on Martin Scorsese, between the 10th of January and the 12th of May. The exhibition focuses on Scorsese’s sources of inspiration, and specific methods and themes that reveal his unique style and the great impact of his work. Even if I have been a fan of Scorsese for quite some time, it was only through this exhibition that I gained a comprehensive view of Scorsese’s work as the work of an auteur.

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Drop/Add Request form

At the close of every school term, students brood over next semester’s course selections. Evermore the neurotic endeavor, the success or failure of the upcoming term hinges upon striking a careful balance of the right classes. Navigating the process tests one’s wisdom, intuition, and tenacity. This whole drama is explicitly acted out in the cafeteria, which serves as the central meeting place for students and ideas. There, one could become an unwitting participant to passionate discussions concerning changing concentration seminars, the benefits and consequences of dropping compulsory language classes, and/or forsaking it all by taking an overload for the opportunity to study under an exceptional professor (I chose the latter).

All of this excitement is compounded by some fundamental changes to ECLA of Bard’s academic policies implemented this term. The following is an account of my personal experience of this semiannual process in light of these amendments.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream


This weekend, the 63th Berlinale comes to a close. On Saturday, a winner will be chosen and awarded the Golden Bear to reflect superior achievement in film making. However, before all that pomp and circumstance, ECLA of Bard’s film instructor, Prof. Dr. Matthias Hurst, has recommended to the Die Bärliner community the following films in “The Weimar Touch” section of the Berlinale, which will be shown over the weekend.

Films created during the time of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) astutely capture Germany’s fascinatingly complex political climate. Fraught with tension, the nation struggled with the influx of democracy, the loss of a world war, staggering unemployment and economic instability. With the dawn of 20th century, film become an established aesthetic medium in the Weimar Republic, which sought to make its own distinct impression on the broader artistic community. As a consequence, a myriad of uncensored, avant-garde work began emerging. Berlin itself became an epicenter for progressive European art, which witnessed advancements in literature, painting, and (of course) cinema.

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As the week was wearing off, on the Friday night of November 16, Matthias Hurst, professor of film studies at ECLA of Bard, did a thorough presentation of title sequences of James Bond movies. He covered the years 1962-2008, starting with Dr. No and ending with Quantum of Solace, thus celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bond.

What one could gather from Matthias’ presentation was that the James Bond title sequences were visually fashioned in such a way that they could stand as artworks in themselves. And in possession of this quality of autonomy, they either create the structure of the film or point freely to the plot that is about to unfold.

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© Jennifer Rainsford, Virlani Hallberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the various thematized screenings of individual films, the organizers of the Berlinale also created several exhibitions and forums to coincide with regular film screenings during the festival. These extra events seemed mostly to be an attempt to engage a wider audience interested in film that may only have been interested in the festival from a distance.

Forum Expanded is one of these attempts. In its seventh year, the forum hosted an exhibition series titled Critique and Clinic, introducing audience members to works and the artists that were not a part of the larger film competition that made up the rest of the Festival.

Exhibition I (of four) was held in Schöneberg at the Kunstsaele Berlin—an art gallery currently housed in what appeared to be a former apartment building, and what is now turned for the most part into offices.The space was quite large for a typical gallery space, with three separate screening rooms and one main exhibition room. However, despite the luxury of space, one could see from a central position in the main exhibition room up to five different screens at one time.

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