By Alan Mattli
If, for whatever reason, you have managed to elude the pop-cultural phenomenon known as The Room, here is the short version: in 2003, Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious and inexplicably rich eccentric of possibly Eastern European descent, poured millions of dollars into the making of a romantic drama film called The Room. Written, directed, and produced by, and starring Wiseau, it made less than $2,000 during its two-week run but later gained an international cult following for being hilariously awful in every respect.
Naturally, such an artefact, whose release and subsequent rise in popularity coincided with the dawn of Web 2.0, is ripe for mythologizing. People wondered how such an atrocity could ever get made. Continue reading
By Alan Mattli
The year is over – time for the best-of lists to pour in; time for me to throw my own picks for the best films of the year into the mix. It may be excruciating to choose favourites – arguably even “anti-art”, as New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum puts it – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to the process every single year, again and again. In 2017, I didn’t even struggle to find a clear film of the year, which, as regular readers of my lists will know, has become something of a rarity recently.
All in all, 18 films made it into the circle of year-end favourites, some of them being holdovers from the 2016-17 Oscar race. As always, my list doesn’t abound with current critical darlings because works like Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, The Post, or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri have yet to open theatrically in Switzerland. Eight honourable mentions (highlighted in bold) will set the scene before I present you with my choices for the top ten films of 2017.
By Alan Mattli
There is a moment in the climactic sequence of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ new film where the cinema audience is presented with a series of shots showing the people lining the stands of the Houston Astrodome, come to see the much-publicised “Battle of the Sexes” – the 1973 tennis match between feminist ace Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and senior pro and self-proclaimed “male chauvinist” Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).
Women and men with bellbottom jeans and patterned vests hold up signs in support of “BJK”, older couples carry placards adorned with Riggs’ garish colours of choice – red and yellow –, young men wear t-shirts on which they proudly claim the title of “chauvinist pig”. In keeping with the staging of the whole sequence, which mimics the well-established format of televised tennis in all its static glory, it is both unclear and wholly beside the point whether Faris and Dayton, best known for directing the Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine (2006), used actors or stock footage to create these establishing shots. What matters is that the scene credibly reflects the social reaction to the titular battle.
By Alan Mattli
If, by any chance, you have been occasionally checking in on my film writing over the past few years, you might have noticed that I have a weakness for lists. Every year, I look forward to December, when the time once again comes to go through what I’ve seen throughout the year and to then choose my top ten movies of that period (while we’re on the subject: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).
So it might not come as a surprise that there is a special place in my mind for the year 2019 – the year in which, hopefully, I will get to pen two lists; my take on the best of 2019 and my round-up of the decade’s standout works. Fully aware that this is not the most reasonable or urgent preoccupation to entertain in the early days of 2017, I nevertheless compiled a longlist of potential contenders for the latter collection as well as a year-by-year rundown of what I have to catch up on recently. In other words, I’m always on the lookout for list material these days.
Now, the other day, I watched two movies I hadn’t seen in years. Continue reading
This post is part of a series of posts in which students of the English Seminar present their favourite books they have read in 2016. The lists are not restricted to books that were published this year. If you want to participate as well, send your list to email@example.com.
Today’s list comes to you from Aisling Ehrismann.
To be honest, I have no idea how many books I’ve actually read this year. I’m not the type to strategically analyse how many books, pages or words I read, and I don’t set myself a particular goal to achieve – especially when my reading has to compete with my series watching. So for me, it’s not the number that counts but the quality of books read. With some captivating and beguiling works, here are my top five of 2016.
By Gabriel Renggli
The number one priority, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) explains, is learning why they are here. The problem with that, linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) explains, is knowing whether we are capable of asking the question, whether they are capable of understanding it, and whether we are capable of processing a potential answer.
In linguistics, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that how you see the world depends on the language you use. I’m not a linguist myself (my speciality is literature), but I’m an intuitive believer in at least a weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I know from experience that I think and act differently in English than in my native language. By the end, Arrival will have asked you to accept a very strong version indeed of this idea: our physical reality itself is structured by how we speak.
The reason this rather large claim does not fall flat on its face is that Arrival is so well made. This is captivating film-making, employing a simple three-act structure to stunning effect. The first act is more or less taken up by establishing the stakes, and they are high. Aliens land on earth, twelve crafts scattered over the globe in no discernible pattern. What follows is, in a way, pretty formulaic. Yes, we focus largely on the American landing site; yes, the military rushes in to cordon off the ship; yes, they soon helicopter in a number of experts. Godzilla films use that structure. But director Denis Villeneuve’s film-making is delicate, alert to the significance of the events.
By Alan Mattli
Outside of the world of cinema, the past twelve months have been eventful, to say the least. So compiling a list of my favourite Swiss cinema releases of 2016 felt ever so slightly more significant and tied to real-life goings-on than it did in the past. But maybe that’s just another way of trying to put my opinions into a somewhat more “meaningful” context than would otherwise be the case. Ultimately, everybody can judge for themselves, which is why I will stop hedging now and, after pointing out that Oscar hopefuls like La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, and Jackie (which already makes a strong case for being my Film of the Year 2017) are not in the running here because of their January and February Swiss release dates, get started.