A beautiful blonde woman takes a relaxing shower, somebody enters the room, positions himself behind the shower curtain, then there’s a knife and shrieking violins. Does that ring a bell?
To this day, Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, and his masterpiece, Psycho (1960), has become part of our collective memory. Especially the shower scene is often described as the most powerful and haunting scene in film history. Since the release of Psycho, not a single year has gone by in which the movie – and especially its one-of-a-kind three-minute shower sequence – has not been referenced, imitated, or parodied in popular culture. What is it about that scene that causes people to look three ways before taking a shower? Well, for one the bathroom – normally associated with privacy and safety – turns into an anxiety-inducing place where danger lurks behind the shower curtain. Anything could happen here – and apparently sometimes does.
The title font, reminiscent of 1980s horror-thriller novels, buzzes over the flat screen TV or laptop monitor to the eerily pulsating beat of electronic music. We could pause and quickly answer a WhatsApp message before the episode starts. After all, this is 2018, and we’re streaming via Netflix. But wait, is it really 2018? I’m not so sure anymore. Put your smartphone away, it might as well be…
1983 in a normal American small town called Hawkins. On the way home from a nicely nerdy night of playing Dungeons and Dragons in a cozy basement with his three best friends, twelve-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) encounters a strange thing and disappears without a trace. Will’s worried single mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) turns to local Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) – a guy whose morning grooming ritual includes beer and cigarettes and who at first doesn’t take the case seriously. But Will’s friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) take matters like these seriously and into their own young hands. While searching for their missing friend, they encounter Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a mysterious girl with a shaved head and the number 11 tattooed on her arm. The trio will soon find out that these features are not the strangest things about the girl. This American small town with a secretive research lab nearby may not be so normal after all, and even a reluctant Chief Hopper comes to realizes that stranger things of a paranormal nature are afoot in Hawkins. Read more »
“If you’re a star, they’ll let you do it,” Donald Trump explained in his boastful account of casual assault on women. This rant, known as the Access Hollywood tape, was released years after he said it, during his presidential campaign. It did not, however, keep him from becoming President. He was right about the privilege of stardom. We are a country that protects power, whether it’s the star, the producer, the tycoon, or the supervisor in the department store in Topeka, Kansas. Women learn early: disrespect power at your own risk.
As many of you might know, Hidden Figures (2016) is a biopic directed by Theodore Melfi based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s popular history book and New York Times Bestseller, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (2016). The film about the NASA’s black female computing group at Langley’s Research Center during the Space Race was nominated for three Oscars and has reaped high praise from movie critics the world over. I was among the droves of people who rushed to the theater to see the movie when I read that Hidden Figures is an inspirational film that makes little known achievements of intelligent, determined women visible. I also appreciated the fact that this ‘feel good’ Christmas film might encourage girls to seek Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers. The plot also avoided all too familiar themes in black films, such as brutal beatings and rape of black women, which were taken to an extreme in Precious and 12 Year’s a Slave. It seemed like a win-win situation for all and the perfect story of triumph in dark times. And to be honest, that is exactly how I experienced the film. Well, at first. Then I read the book.
During the spring of 1971, 19-year-old American table tennis player, Glenn Cowan, wrapped up his training session in Nagoya (Japan) in order to prepare for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship about to take place later that week. He had been concentrating on perfecting his game for hours before he left the building. To his great surprise, Cowan encountered an almost empty parking lot. His team bus had left without him. But when the Chinese players, who were about to leave as well, saw a young American who looked lost, they motioned to him to hop on their team bus. During the short bus ride, Glenn was approached by the Chinese star player Zhuang Zedong. Against instructions to not seek contact with the American players, Zhuang introduced himself to Cowan and presented him with a gift – a silk-screen portrait of a Chinese mountain range. The next day, this friendly gesture was repaid in kind when Glenn gave Zhuang one of his personal t-shirts which had a peace symbol and the Beatles’ lyrics for “Let It Be” on it. These small, spontaneous acts of human kindness triggered a series of events with great political consequences. Read more »
For most students, exposure to the English language is largely restricted to the chalky classroom and – outside the classroom – to watching movies or series in English. Yet there’s so much more to work with – just think of the digital world and its potential. Have you heard of the rather political “Pod Save America” or “S-Town” with its Southern Gothic story? The list of podcasts is sheer endless. So why not jump on the podcast train and use it for didactic purposes? You wonder how? Alright, let me give you an idea: