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The Reviews Are In: Babylon Berlin Sets the Scene for Unusually Visionary Television, Intercontinentally

By Hannah Quinque

CC BY-SA 4.0, Lear 21

Granted, Babylon Berlin has at its disposition all the means necessary to become a true blockbuster. But it isn’t every day the viewer gets to experience just how phenomenally a big budget can be spent on a TV series – without compromises between bombastic montages and cinematography for lovers, between fast-paced story development and credibly complex characters, that is.

For Babylon Berlin, produced in Germany by German production companies, the commitment to an unflinching and unreserved depiction of a nation on the verge of fascism pays off. As a bit of an inside tip, the show’s spectacular efforts are appreciated far beyond its country of origin, as demonstrated by almost exclusively glowing U.S. reviews.

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A Human or Non-Human Companion? The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

By Maria Moss

Every so often, a book comes around by an author you’ve never heard about – although you pride yourself on always following new, enticing, and award-winning publications from the U.S. Well, The Friend is a novel (the sixth!) by a woman whose name I’d never encountered before: Sigrid Nunez. Not George Saunders or Colson Whitehead, not Joan Didion or Louise Erdrich, but Sigrid Nunez. And when I saw a Harlequin Great Dane on the cover, I knew I needed to read it.  

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Loving pro Virginia: A Films’ Powerfully Poignant Depiction of a Family’s Longing for Home

By Hannah Quinque

“I wanna move ’em back to the country.

I don’t care what they do to us.

I won’t raise my family here.”

The 2016 arthouse film Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols, has already run one hour and nine minutes before Mildred Loving expresses her unwillingness to comply with the court sentence that forbids the family to reside in their home state of Virginia. Her decision sets them on a path of no return. The route takes their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Loving v. Virginia will pave the way toward freely marrying, living, and loving for interracial couples in the United States (for couples, which fit hetero- and cisnormative standards, that is.) At first glance, the desire to return to Virginia might appear at odds with the violently hateful treatment Mildred and Richard Loving experienced at the hands of Virginian authorities amidst betrayal by one of their neighbors. At second glance, however, the film shows that the Lovings’ love for their home and home state is as much a driving force behind the struggle for equal rights as is their love for each other.

Mildred’s final decision to return to Virginia follows after their child Don is hit by a car in the busy Washington neighborhood. One of the most action-driven scenes in the otherwise strikingly calm and quiet movie, Don’s accident serves as the final tipping point, initiating the long journey of the Loving v. Virginia court case.

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505 Hours and 45 Minutes of Comfort in Times of Uncertainty

By Caroline Densch

“Make Em Laugh : Sitcoms” by Austin Kleon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

505 hours and 45 minutes – that’s how long it takes to watch all of my favorite TV shows. Ever since the first nationwide lockdown began in Germany last March, I’ve been doing some serious re-watching. Among the shows I’ve been binging is the entire season of Friends (10), Parks and Recreation (7), The Office (9), Modern Family (10), How I Met Your Mother (9), New Girl (7), and Brooklyn 99 (8) – and some more than once.

According to The Huffington Post, watching something familiar triggers a feeling of nostalgia, which has a positive effect on your mental health. For instance, your mind may reconnect with the setting, the people you were with, or the feelings you had when you initially watched a certain episode. In my case, re-watching TV shows transports me back to the time before the pandemic.

I’ve always been someone to watch a good TV show multiple times or read a good book more than once. At this point, however, the rate at which I re-watch a film or show has reached a new height. Why is that? And what do all those TV shows have in common, apart from being successful American sitcoms?

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More than Just a Novel: Nic Stone’s Dear Martin

By Sabrina Völz

It’s been nearly 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Without a doubt, he continues to inspire new generations and serve as a role model for non-violent protest and change. In honor of Black History Month in February, I’d like to review a young adult novel that brings the conversation on racism and growing up Black in the United States to a new level. It investigates whether King’s teachings are still relevant today and whether they can help Jystice, a 17-year-old, promising high school student. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intoxicated ex-girlfriend get home safely one night. In a confrontation with two police officers, Jystice ends up on the ground in handcuffs – an all-too-familiar sight. The problem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jystice will never be the person he once was.

Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin (2017), interweaves the topics of racial profiling, police brutality, blackface, colorblind racism, micro-aggressions, and acting ‘White’ with questions of identity, friendship, and interracial relationships. With that list, you might just ask yourself how the author still manages to tell a good story without getting too distracted and preachy. Well, she does. But before exploring the topic further, I’ll let Nic Stone introduce the book in her own words.

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Storytelling: Of Geniuses and Maps

By Kai-Arne Zimny

What makes a piece of fiction successful, apart from a good portion of luck? Well, some writers deem the craft of ‘plotting’ essential for creating fiction that goes somewhere, while others prefer to write from the seat of their pants and are likely to dread the prospect of their art being anything less than inspiration, talent, and vision.

Let me introduce you to two writing guides that might offer some perspective on the initial question. First, let’s visit someone who claims that both ‘pantsers’ and plotters are on the wrong track because …

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