Olympic Delights

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a beautiful mountainous region one-and-a-half-hours by train from Munich. It’s a well-known (think Olympics) ski resort in winter and a simply lovely walking/hiking area in summer. My husband and I dashed around Munich recently from one train station to another trying to figure out the German-encrypted directions on our maps before making it (correctly) to Munchen Hauptbahnhof in a sweltering heap. The overground train return trip was very pricy (65 Euro each) but took us through soft-green countryside, dotted with curious wooden huts and giant versions of my cuckoo clock at home. When we reached Garmisch we travelled 10 minutes on another train to the foot of the Alpspitz where we bought a cable car return journey up the mountain.

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Looking across the Garmisch valley from Alpspitz. Photo: Brenda Daniels.

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An unfriendly cow on Alpspitz. Photo: Brenda Daniels.

Some handsome German men joined our cable car ride bearing staggeringly huge backpacks, which, it turned out, were paragliders. At the top we got to see the pair lift off with ease and glide with their colourful chutes down the curving valley. We followed some way on foot enjoying the striated rocks, meandering hikers, and bell-clunking cows. Well, not the mildly aggressive beast that charged us at any rate. After a delicious apfelstrudel mit vanillesauce (apple strudel and custard) we decided to skip the train back to Garmisch and walk instead. The 10-minute train ride was an hour by foot and by the end I was quite jealous of the cyclists that sailed past us at frequent intervals. We arrived back in Munich tired but happily marked with a German sunglasses tan.

My brief encounter with Garmisch-Partenkirchen was fortunately not at an end. On the aeroplane back to South Africa next evening I chose to watch the film Eddie the Eagle before going to sleep. Eddie the Eagle is the true story about the very likeable Eddie Edwards (imagine calling your child that?) who, through sheer determination, became the first Briton to do ski-jumping at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. And where did he first practice this thrilling sport? In Garmisch-Partenkirschen! Against the wintry landscape in the film the ski jump looked normal. Against the velvet-green hills we had just seen the ski jump looked like a giant bleached waterworld slide. Eddie the Eagle stars Taron Egerton as Eddie and Hugh Jackman as his grudging coach, Bronson Peary. It is a delightful movie. Watch it while the 2016 Rio Olympics are on. You’ll love it.

Two films that made me think

Two film reviews by Brenda Daniels

That Sugar Film

Do you remember Super Size Me, the 2004 film that featured Morgan Spurlock eating only McDonald’s food for a month? In that documentary-style movie the vices of fat, particularly trans-fats in food, are exposed. Spurlock experiences weight-gain, liver problems, lethargy and nausea. That Sugar Film, released in South Africa on 31 July 2015, follows the same format, with a similar outcome for experimenter Damon Gameau, only this time it’s sugar that is the enemy. And the low-fat diet.

The low-fat diet, promoted for decades as the healthy way to eat, is responsible for added sugar in processed food, the film contends. This is because food still needs to taste good. In order to keep the food tasting good once the fat is removed, sugar is added. That Sugar Film’s proposed solution is that we go back to fat and cut out the sugar. Tim Noakes of Banting fame will be pleased.

I rushed home after seeing this film and read the ingredient lists on my cereals and instant meals. I was horrified to see how much sugar was in them. But I was also left feeling confused. Is fat in or out? Is sugar really all that bad?

I’m no nutritionist so feel unqualified to say for certain. But, whilst I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and vilify sugar, I think the sensible thing to do is cut out processed foods as far as possible and cook from scratch. That way I can control the amount of sugar and fat I add.

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold is another interesting film released in South Africa on 31 July 2015. It features the true story of Maria Altmann, a Jewish victim of World War II’s Nazi Germany. Before Maria and her husband escaped the regime for America, the Altmann family’s wealth in the form of jewellery, ornaments and artworks were confiscated.

Woman in Gold, by artist Gustav Klimt, was among them. After the war the painting became famous Austrian property and grew to be synonymous with that country’s national identity. More than 50 years after the war reparations to war victims were initiated in Europe. This is where the Woman in Gold story begins. Maria (Helen Mirren) enlists the help of a friend’s lawyer son, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), and the pair pursue the return of Woman in Gold to its rightful owner.

There were some elements of this film I did not like. Its Hollywood flavour, its intimation that justice can be found only in the USA, the unbelievable passion displayed by the lawyer, and the indisputable monetary attraction of the value the painting: several hundred million dollars.

What did give me food for thought, however, was the parallels Maria’s story draws with reparations to victims of apartheid in South Africa. At one point in the film, Randy asks why Maria is concerned about something that happened so long ago. Her response: “And you think 50 years is a long time?” Likewise, 50 years is not a long time for casualties of apartheid, real people who lost possessions, land and homes.

That Sugar Film and Woman in Gold are on at Cinema Nouveau countrywide.

New X-Men, with an opening scene best left in the past

A review by Brenda Daniels

Mutants attack earth relentlessly in the opening scenes of this new X-Men movie. Despite their best efforts at retaliation, the X-Men clearly are not powerful enough to fight off their attackers and things look desperately grim.

The scene is accompanied by the voice of a narrator who asks a question worded something like this: Do we have to accept our fate or can we change what happens?

This question forms the basis for X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest installment in the X-Men movie series. After the opening scene ends (which it did much to my relief), the story begins in earnest with the X-Men discussing how to solve the mutant problem that is decimating earth.

Their solution is to send one of their members back into the past in order to intercept Raven’s (Jennifer Lawrence) actions at a particular point, actions that had set the mutants in motion. Whilst Charles Xavier is the best choice to convince Raven, he isn’t physically capable of making the time-travel journey, bound as he is to a wheelchair.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), with his twitching muscles and visible veins, is therefore chosen to go instead. Wolverine makes the journey successfully and meets up with a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). A very different Xavier  then, he at first resists Wolverine’s efforts at persuasion before giving in and helping to contact Raven. The action then proceeds along these lines.

Apart from Erik’s (Michael Fassbender) metal-bending antics, I quite enjoyed the story. Peter Dinklage as the evil Dr Trask makes an interesting enemy and there is a good amount of depth displayed within and between the characters. The film ends with just a hint that it’s not all over yet… So fans can probably look forward to more…

X-Men: Days of Future Past opens at Nu Metro cinemas in South Africa in 2D and 3D on Friday 23 May.

Soon to be released in South Africa - X-men: Days of Future Past

Soon to be released in South Africa – X-men: Days of Future Past

Ian McKellen (Magneto) at the San Diego Comic Con International

Ian McKellen (Magneto) at the San Diego Comic Con International