For years now, YouTube has been flooded with a very specific meme. The cinematic riff has many incarnations, but the basic foundation is a scene from a German drama outfitted with hilarious new subtitles. The scene depicts a distraught Adolf Hitler being given an obvious piece of bad news, dismissing most of the people in the room, and then launching into an epic tirade. The inserted subtitles tend to deal with a changing cavalcade of petty, topical irritations—everything from cancelled XBOX Live accounts to the collapse of HD-DVD. No doubt you have seen this meme, but what about the movie from whence it came?
That film is 2004’s Downfall and we strongly suggest you consider adding this newly streaming Netflix title to your queue.
Who Made It: Given that this is a foreign film, the names of those involved aren’t likely to grab you or present a convincing argument for its viewing. However, director Oliver Hirschbiegel is one of Germany’s most acclaimed filmmakers. He has been nominated for, and won, several awards for his various films. Downfall was actually nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 2005. In addition to his numerous German films, Hirschbiegel also directed Invasion, Warner Brothers’ 2007 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Who’s In It: German actor Bruno Ganz plays the role of Adolf Hitler in Downfall. Ganz may not be a household name stateside, but he’s been in plenty of recognizable films both foreign and domestic. He starred in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire, the film that would later be remade as City of Angels starring Nicolas Cage. He has also appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, the Oscar-winning Kate Winslet film The Reader, and the Liam Neeson actioner Unknown.
What’s It About: Downfall charts the last days of the Third Reich. The film opens in May of 1945 as Russian forces are bombing and invading Berlin. Defeat looming, Adolf Hitler wrestles with the collapse of his empire. A young woman, just hired as Hitler’s secretary, serves as the threadline of the plot and it’s through her eyes that we view the story.
Why You Should Watch It: Downfall is a powerful historical drama filled with passionate performances and stunning cinematography. The film utilizes an interesting mixture of universal sentiments and juxtaposes them against purely humanistic storytelling. Sure, Hitler is a loathsome example of humanity and has earned every one of the bilious connotations his name conjures. But this is a story about the collapse of an empire the scale of which had not been seen since ancient Rome, and Hitler is the malevolent, overly ambitious emperor watching his kingdom crash down around him. It takes historical context and transforms it into Greek tragedy.
And while yes, there is a certain amount of disconnect created in the fact that we are not saddened by the fall of the Nazi party, it in no way deludes the drama. This film is really about a woman who, against her better judgment, took a prestige job working for a man who, to many Germans at the time, was something akin to a demigod. She has no ambition to dominate the world or hatred toward any race of people. We witness these events objectively through her eyes and the film becomes more about the affective response of an entire nation during one of its greatest upheavals. A scene where Mrs. Goebbels is poisoning her children as they sleep because she can’t bear the thought of any of them living with the disgrace of defeat is like something out of Shakespeare. The film doesn’t attempt to absolve anyone, and in fact is bookended with footage of Hitler’s actual secretary who claims her naivety does not excuse her sin of collusion.
Bruno Ganz’s performance as Adolf Hitler is absolutely unbelievable. He occupies so many distinctive personalities within one human being to communicate the madness of the dictator’s final days. He switches between unflappable faith in Germany’s ability to win the war to morose resignation to his ultimate failure so abruptly and frequently, and without any hint of recognition that he has done so, that you get the sense that the man no longer has even a tenuous grasp on reality. That scene, which has now become Internet parody lore, is actually simultaneously horrifying and crushing. We are horrified to contemplate the outcome of this tirade, but as we pan across the reactions of the staff, we see in their eyes the agonizing realization that the war is lost and their country is doomed.
It’s far from lighthearted and, at over two and a half hours, requires no small commitment from the viewer, but Downfall is one of the best WWII films ever crafted. Catch it on Netflix.
Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are planning to move to Berlin, Germany, so they can bring up their children out of the limelight.
According to reports, Pitt is growing concerned about the health of his partner, who has been photographed looking unwell and underweight.
He also wants their children--Maddox, 5, Pax, 3, Zahara, 2, and baby Shiloh--to grow up in Europe.
Britain's Daily Mirror claims Pitt told a friend, "I want Angelina to settle down somewhere out of the limelight. She's lost a lot of weight recently and our plans are strictly to do with our move to Berlin.
"She wants to leave acting and support me with this. We also don't want our kids to go to school in Hollywood--it will be best if they can go to school in Berlin. We love the city.
"Berlin is so quiet and balanced, away from paparazzi."
Pitt already has one home in the city and is planning a second, which he is designing with his architect friends Thomas Willemeit, Lars Krueckeberg, and Wolfram Putz--who renovated his Los Angeles home.
Pitt says, "Design and architecture has always been my dream. I very much see my future in this, not the film industry.
"We bought one beautiful house in Berlin, and another one I am trying to design myself close to Potsdam.
"I have signed the contracts with two of my German partners and the contract starts in September 2008. I cannot wait."
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
February 06, 2003 9:02am EST
Following Saturday's space shuttle Columbia disaster, Paramount Pictures has decided to pull its trailer for its sci-fi thriller The Core because it shows the space shuttle in jeopardy, Variety reports. The studio is keeping its March 28 release date for the pic, but is reviewing its advertising to make certain the campaign is sensitive to the tragedy. The studio also said it is too soon to decide whether to alter or cut out shuttle sequences from the film. The Core, directed by Jon Amiel, revolves around a group of NASA "terranauts" who must travel deep underground after the Earth's inner core stops rotating, creating a host of natural disasters. It was originally slated for release last November but Paramount delayed the release in order to complete more f/x shots.
Superior Court Judge Bernard Kamins has eased terms of probation for comedian Paula Poundstone. Her psychological counseling sessions have now been reduced from four to two a month and her Alcoholics Anonymous meetings from three to two a week, Reuters reports. In December, Poundstone, 43, regained full custody of three adopted children she lost after pleading no contest to child endangerment, which involved driving drunk with children in her car.
Sotheby's auction house has filed a lawsuit against pop recluse Michael Jackson, saying he placed bids on two paintings then refused to pay, Reuters reports. The auction house is seeking $1.6 million in damages--$1,324,247 for the paintings plus at least $60,733 in late fees. According to court papers, Jackson submitted a $1.3 million bid on Oct. 29 for two 19th century paintings by William Adolphe Bougereau. But Sotheby's claims Jackson changed his mind about the paintings after concluding they didn't fit into his collection.
Director Fernando Leon de Aranoa's Mondays in the Sun won all the major Spanish Goya film awards this weekend in Madrid, The Associated Press reports. The film won five awards out of eight nominations, including best film and best director. The film is Spain's candidate for an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film. Meanwhile, Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her--nominated for seven awards--only managed to take the best original score prize. Talk to Her won the Golden Globe for best foreign film last month.
Danny DeVito's Jersey Films will dissolve when its deal with Universal Pictures expires at the end of 2003, Variety reports. The production company was behind hits including Erin Brockovich, Get Shorty, Pulp Fiction and Out of Sight. Sources said there was no hint of conflict between DeVito and his partners, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, but after 12 years, the principals found their interests going in different directions.
Beatrice Welles, the daughter of Orson Welles, filed a lawsuit Friday claiming she is the owner of the rights to film classic Citizen Kane, Variety reports. The suit alleges that Orson Welles entered into a 1939 contract to write, produce and star in Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons but that contract was voided by a later agreement between Welles and RKO Pictures in 1944 that restored the films' copyrights to Welles. The suit contends that even if the 1939 agreement is in effect, Welles' heirs still own the rights to the two films and are contractually entitled to 20 percent of the profits from them.
But wait, there's more on Jacko. In his documentary Living with Michael Jackson, Martin Bashir describes the 44-year-old singer as the Peter Pan of pop who is obsessed by the idea of childhood being frozen in time, Reuters reports. The British documentary will air Feb. 6 on ABC as a two-hour edition of news magazine 20/20. Bashir told Britain's Sunday Times he arrived at Jackson's Berlin hotel last November just 30 minutes after he had dangled his youngest child from the balcony to show fans below. "Not one of his entourage was prepared to tell him that what he had done was ludicrous and dangerous," he said.
It's the end of the road for Dawson, Joey, Jen, Jack and Pacey. The WB network will air a two-hour Dawson's Creek's series finale May 14, Variety reports. The show debuted to the WB's highest-ever ratings in January 1998 and immediately became the network's No. 1 show in key demos. "We will always carry an emotional attachment to Dawson's Creek, for without it the WB would not exist," WB entertainment president Jordan Levin said. "The show defined who we are and reflected the aspirational voice of the next generation of television viewers. The WB has grown up alongside the cast and in the process the series became a defining and life-altering experience for all involved."
Clint Eastwood and Oscar-winning writer Brian Helgeland will team up on an adaptation of the best-selling novel, Mystic River, for Warner Bros.
The novel, now in its ninth week on the top 10 New York Times bestseller list, follows three childhood friends whose relationship breaks apart after a tragic incident. They are brought back together 25 years later when they are all linked to a murder investigation.
Eastwood and Helgeland also are collaborating on another Warner Bros. project, the mystery/thriller Blood Work, an adaptation of a novel by Michael Connelly. Eastwood is set to produce, star and direct from Helgeland's screenplay.
Academy Award-winning scribe Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) wrote and directed the upcoming A Knight's Tale with Heath Ledger. Eastwood directed last year's hit Space Cowboys.
Tatum O'Neal is a "Scoundrel"
Making a comeback after more than a 10-year absence, Oscar-winning actress Tatum O'Neal (Paper Moon) will star opposite Tim Curry (Charlie's Angels), Julian Sands and Lacey Chabert (Party of Five) in The Scoundrel's Wife, an independent project.
Set in Louisiana in 1942, a young widow (O'Neal) is suspected of helping the Germans in a small bayou town, after the German U-boats have sunk American ships.
O'Neal, divorced from ex-husband John McEnroe, returns after spending the last decade raising their children.
Hoop dreams for Lil' Bow Wow
Fourteen-year-old double platinum rap singer Lil' Bow Wow will get his feature film debut in Like Mike for 20th Century Fox.
Lil' Bow Wow will play a kid who finds a pair of magical sneakers worn by basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Suddenly, the teen is transformed into a NBA hero.
Written by Michael Elliot, the story was inspired by Lil' Bow Wow, whom Elliot met on the set of MTV's seriesHip Hopera.
"He loves basketball, loves Michael Jordan, and he's an exceptional basketball player" Elliot told Variety.
"It's every kid's dream to play in the NBA, and it's not like Big, where he becomes a man. In this case, it's more fun if he stays a kid."
Lowe gets "Framed"
Rob Lowe, hot off his acclaimed role as deputy communications director in the hit NBC drama series The West Wing, will star in the TNT original movie Framed, based on a BBC miniseries of the same name.
Lowe will play a New York detective who takes a key member of a money-laundering scheme into custody and prepares him to testify in court. Things gets complicated as the detective's strong ethical code is placed in jeopardy when the witness offers him millions of dollars to help him escape.
The film will be directed by Daniel Petrie Jr. (Toy Soldiers) and executive produced by David Brown (Along Came a Spider) and Kit Golden (Chocolat).
Foley is a "Fuddy" Duddy
NewsRadio star Dave Foley has signed to star in Fox's comedy pilot, What's Up, Peter Fuddy?, with David Steinberg set to direct and co-written by Emmy winner Jay Kogen (Frasier).
The show's premise is Truman Show-esque: a Nightline-style news show follows the daily activities of an insurance adjuster Fuddy (Foley), who is forced to appear on the show to defend his actions.
Foley re-teams with Steinberg and Kogen after working together on the comedy The Wrong Guy. The feature was never released but it won the best screenplay award at the 1999 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
The pilot also stars Jamie Denbo (Lost Souls), as Fuddy's wife, and Craig Anton (The Army Show), as Fuddy's next-door neighbor.
"MiB2"'s villainous Janssen
The X-Men's heroine Famke Janssen is in negotiations to play the villainous vamp in Columbia Pictures' Men In Black 2 for director Barry Sonnenfeld.
Production is scheduled to start in June. Although the plot is under wraps, most of the original film's stars will be in the sequel, including Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as agents J and K, respectively. Janssen will play bad bombshell Serleena and Johnny Knoxville (MTV's Jackass) will be featured as a two-headed alien. The cast also includes Rosario Dawson (Josie and the Pussycats) as Smith's love interest.
"Annie" and Reba: together again
Country superstar Reba McEntire will reprise her role as Annie Oakley in a CBS-TV movie version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun.
Currently starring in the Broadway smash hit, McEntire is a perfect choice to play Annie for the CBS movie, producer Howard Braunstein told Variety. She also will executive produce the film.
Currently in development, the movie could air by the February sweeps, depending on the potential strikes. McEntire will continue with the Broadway production through May 27. She's concurrently starring in an untitled comedy pilot for the WB Network.
"Crouching Tiger" creates Chinese boom
Hot off the tremendous success of Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, co-production partner Columbia Pictures Film Production (an offshoot of Sony Pictures Entertainment) has announced plans for four pictures to go into production in 2001.
First up is Big Shot's Funeral, a comical film about a world-famous director who comes to China to make an epic about the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (can anyone say The Last Emperor?). It will star Donald Sutherland, Ge You and Rosamund Kwan and directed by Feng Xiaogang. It will be shot in English and Chinese.
Next is another Chinese/English film, a mystery, called Double Vision starring Tony Leung, Ka Fai and David Morse (The Green Mile). The film followed the hunt for a serial killer by a determined Taiwanese police detective and an American FBI expert.
Third is an untitled action flick directed by Corey Yuen, who choreographed The X-Men and Romeo Must Die. The film will kicked it up with technological wizardry while centering on family bonds. Finally, set for production later this year is Heroes of Heaven and Earth, a Chinese-language adventure epic to be directed by He Ping and starring Jiang Wen.
Miramax wants in the "Know"
Miramax Films is negotiating to handle the North American distributions rights for Al Pacino's next film, People I Know.
The film, already in production and co-starring Kim Basinger, Tea Leoni and Ryan O'Neal, is about a New York press agent who gets into the corrupt world of politics, celebrity and illegal drugs. O'Neal plays a client, a famous actor, who is embroiled in a scandal that hurts his plans to become a senator.
Pesci as The Bull
Mafia hitman Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, to be exact.
Oscar-winner Joe Pesci is in negotiations to play the mobster for New Regency Productions. Gravano left the federal witness protection plan to go into partnership with a band of wealthy suburban kids selling ecstasy.
The film, tentatively titled Sammy the Bull, will only have Pesci's involvement if it is released as a feature film. Originally, New Regency was developing the project as a television movie.
"Bridget Jones" part II
Working Title Films, producer of the recent box office hit Bridget Jones's Diary, is already considering a sequel.
Based on Helen Fielding popular novel series, Working Title has optioned her second book Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and is negotiating with her for the screenplay.
The producers of other hits, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, have never previously made a sequel, "but when you get numbers like this, you've got to think about it," Working Title co-chairman Eric Fellner told Variety.
It is still undetermined whether Renee Zellweger will reprise her role, as well as Hugh Grant, whose smarmy character is not in the second novel.
Documentary profiles the return of fifty surviving pupils from Grosse Hamburgerstrasse School, the last Jewish school in Berlin to be closed down by the Gestapo in April 1942. Fifty years later these students from all over the world gather at a reunion at the school which has been recently reopened. Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation collected video testimonies from the attending survivors as they recall their lives and discuss the circumstances surrounding the closing of the school.