Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Watching Team America in a German movie theater

When Team America played here in Germany, the only theater nearby that played it, was showing it at an ungodly hour: 11PM…(Yes, I am getting old). But there is a theater nearby that shows movies a few months later, for a fraction of the original ticket price. So, everything comes to she who waits: last night I went to watch Team America, for 2,75 Euros…at a less ungodly hour (shortly before 10PM).

German humor is quite different from American humor, as is German taste in films.

For example, I can remember going to see Little Nicky here. That is the Adam Sandler film, where he plays one of the devil’s sons. Anyways, there is a scene in the movie, where Hitler is portrayed, in a ballet tutu with Mickey Mouse ears, and the devil has a pineapple in his hand, and is asking Hitler to bend over. Then you see Hitler’s face contort, and you imagine the pineapple is being shoved up his a**. This is typical Adam Sandler slap-stick…Well, I am the only one in the whole theater who laughed. Hitler is just a concept for us Americans. A concept of evil…for Germans, Hitler is a real part of their past. Hitler is not allowed to be used for something funny in Germany. There is no such thing as Nazi humor (i.e. don’t even think of making Seinfeld soup-Nazi jokes).

Also, another enlightening experience to the differences in German and America movie expectations came during an ancient history seminar. One day there was a class discussion about war movies…and we talked about Saving Private Ryan (don’t ask how the discussion veered into contemporary history). And there was a voice from the back of the class, which declared that the ending was too American. (You know who you are.)

Huh? I thought American was an adjective referring to someone or something’s nationality…I didn’t know that you could express degrees of that adjective. It seemed to me that it was like being pregnant…no such thing as a little pregnant or too pregnant.

However, I was to learn a new lesson. It was possible to be too American.

No one in the class knew that I was American, and at the time I didn’t have a great handle on the German language, so I didn’t pipe up…but now I certainly would. But I did remember the offending student, who explained that the reason SPR was too American was because that it was so well tied up at the end: of course the guy that Tom Hanks’ character lets go in mercy would later turn around and kill him. It was cut and dry American cause and effect reasoning…blah blah blah…well, I gave him the evil eye.

I can remember another time when I was renting a Band of Brothers DVD from the video store, that the guy behind the counter made a commentary regarding my choice saying: “yeah, that was a good American production…not like a lot of those other American war films which are just full of them saluting the American flag.” I must have looked pretty baffled, so he furthered with: “well, no one willingly throws themselves in front of bullets.” Oh, there was so much I could have said at that moment, but didn’t. I could have said, well, a lot of people do willingly throw themselves in front of bullets. In fact a lot of people willingly fly planes into towers, or blow themselves up in public. If he could understand the justification behind terrorists’ actions, why couldn’t he believe that many (US soldiers) willingly risk their lives too?

So, I digress. Last night as I sat down to watch Team America with a friend, we were joined by about 10 others. I was interested to see what their reception of the movie was going to be. I mean, did they realize that they were going to watch a movie, which is actually practically overt conservative propaganda? (By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, go see The Incredibles also…and take your kids too…turn them into little capitalist neo-cons!) Well, the movie, despite it being dubbed in German for most parts (except the singing scenes), was fabulous! It’s a mixture between laughing at what is actually happening in the storyline…and laughing at the puppets used in the film and the self-deprecating humor. (I couldn’t figure out if they were real puppets, or if the film was animation made to look like puppets).

And of course, the best part of the film is the speech at the end. If George Bush wanted to cut the crap, he would get Trey Parker and Matt Stone to write some of his speeches. It’s too bad that he tries to put eloquently, what Gary Johnston can sum up so crudely.

Bottom line: For about an hour and a half, Team America united me and 10-15 other Germans. It seemed like no one in the audience was disappointed. No one complained about it being too American. Everyone laughed when Hans Blix said that if Kim Jong Il had to comply: “Or else we will be very angry with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are.” They laughed every time Matt Damon said: “Matt Damon.” They laughed when Gary Johnston puked…and puked….and puked. (That scene was so childish, but I could see it over and over and over again). Oh, and of course, we can’t forget the puppet-sex scenes. *Blush*

Go, Team America! (I would quote the film's song, but there would be too much editing of swear words).

Update: Sarah at Trying To Grok has a great post about American movie endings being the stuff that inspires us to try to reach the stars, instead of just accepting the sometimes mundane and depressing status quo like some European movies.


Blogger Sarah said...

But I know I've had the exact opposite feeling at the end of several European movies. The "huh?" that comes when the storyline doesn't wrap up. One Swedish movie comes to mind where the bad guys get away with rape and murder in the end...and not in a rooting-for-the-naughty-guys type of way like in Ocean's 11. This was an appalling ending where nothing was wrapped up and I left the movie feeling sick. We like closure and we like justice.

We had some friends over to watch the highest grossing South Korean movie of all time (Shiri), and one European denounced it as "too American." But that's why it made so much money. People like explosions, tight storylines, and justice in the end.

Reminds me of the Eddie Izzard joke: "We've gotten known in Britain for making the smaller films...you know, 'Room With a View With a Staircase and a Pond'-type movies. ... Whereas if the film did any little bit of business in America, if the film did some decent bit of business, then Hollywood would take it, and they'd remake it, and they'd up the budget by 50 million and it'd be called, “The Room With A View of Hell!: Staircase of Satan! Pond of Death!"

P.S. Team America rules.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hey ValleyGirl,

I've been away working again. I've had no free time to blog.

I haven't seen Team America yet. Plus, I haven't seen The Incredibles either. I haven't had time for movies in a really long time. After your rave reviews I will rent both this week.

I completely understand when you describe the differences between American movies and, well, the rest of the world actually. People can say what they want about America, our politics, our school systems and our people, but our movies and music rule the world.

I can recall about a thousand different debates while traveling I've had with foreigners about American culture. Yet, over the last five years the debates seem to be all sounding the same- other people, or other countries appear to define their culture, their country, by how it differs from America, rather than what it actually consists of.

To me it's odd to hear a Frenchman define his country by how different it is from America. And just recently I had that happen.

I always like to read your American insight from a foreign land. Yesterday I had to give a lecture at a university and I used your "Strange Things About Germany" to make a point. So, I have to give you credit for that. Thanks.

Also, I am starting a new blog with a different format. When you get some time, check it out: http://politicalnotio.blogspot.com

It's not finished yet, but I'm getting it going. If you want your blogname changed on the links section to something else let me know.

See ya.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wonder where the tickets came from

7:51 PM  

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