A Night with The Stars: Going to the movies – a good night out?
Does success at the Oscars® influence your choice of film?…………….

Sunday 5 March: The eyes of the world focused on Hollywood as the annual Academy Awards® ceremony got under way.  Does this event encourage us to go to the movies or is going to the cinema, in Switzerland, a bit of a culture shock for Xpats?

As heavy snow fell and settled throughout most of Switzerland, the sun shone down on a 500metre red carpet that led to the Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, California.  The theatre is next to a shopping mall - Hollywood & Highland Center(Centre).  In preparation for the Academy Awards® ceremony the whole area is given a makeover.

Some say the red carpet is an industry of it’s own.  The real competition heats up on the red carpet and the contest starts there.  The media machine powered up and started to produce images to a global audience eagerly waiting to hear the answer to the most repeated question, “Who are you wearing?”

The theme of Oscar ® night was, return to glamour - an art-deco theme.  Some of the “A” list celebrities did match the expectations.  The Oscars® helps to promote the fashion industry.  Has this event changed from rewarding artistic talent to a celebrity fashion catwalk?  Or has there always been an interest in celebrity fashion?  Maybe, not on such an intensive level.  Fans rip the page out of glamour magazines; go to the mall and say, “I want clothes like this.”  For some of these vulnerable shoppers, it is a concern what they hope to achieve because they may be yearning to “look like this.”  The celebrities we see on the red carpets, typically, have a team of stylists, hairdressers, make up artists, fitness trainers etc.. to produce and direct that polished look.

If Aliens landed in Hollywood, one wonders what they would think of this parade. 

Armed with their Jimmy Choo shoes, haute couture dresses, bling and designer clutch bags, the battle began to win the Style Star challenge.  The E television channel referred to the red carpet as, “the glamour vortex of the world.”  Details can be seen on www.eonline.com
The 20 year old British actress, Keira Knightley, is taking Hollywood by storm.  She did not win an Oscar® but was praised by many for her style star.  The only criticism was in respect of her oversized vintage Bulgari necklace in a year where the fashion was allegedly, a long dress, large earrings & bracelet but no necklace.

Amongst all the hype it was refreshing to hear that there is a charity that auctions some of the celebrity attire worn at the ceremony.  Proceeds are donated to children’s charities.  Details can be seen on www.clothesoffourback.org.

Some of the celebrities and presenters arrived in environmentally friendly hybrid cars and not in the usual limousine that guzzles petrol.  This promotes the “green” cause which was reinforced by President Bush’s remark, “America is addicted to oil”, during the State of the Union Address (January 2006)

The 78th Annual Academy Awards® ceremony was hosted by Jon Stewart, the star of The Daily Show, a satirical television show that at times questions the motives and actions taken by the government in the U.S.A. Jon Stewart is not a diva and allegedly made one reference to the unfortunate Dick Cheney shooting accident.

The most publicised awards went to: -

Best Film :                              Crash
Best Director :                        Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Best Actress :                         Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Best Actor :                            Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Capote)
Best Supporting Actress:          Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Best Supporting Actor:             George Clooney (Syriana)

Details of all the awards can be seen on

It was the year of the issue and films with a political edge.  A message being sent out to state the Oscars® are much more than just glamour, glitz and gossip.  Recognition of racial tension within the U.S.A which has the potential to divide a nation, especially after the shocking scenes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Crash), same sex relationships (Brokeback Mountain), drug addiction (Walk the Line), corruption in the oil business (Syriana), corporate company corruption (The Constant Gardener), a flamboyantly gay character dealing with his own demons and those of a man facing the death penalty (Capote). 

Lord Puttnam, during his acceptance speech at the 2006 BAFTAs in London, paid tribute to George Clooney’s work.  Popularly referred to as “Gorgeous George,” Mr Clooney has recently been referred to as the most controversial filmmaker in Hollywood.  The films, Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana do throw a harsh political punch.  Films potentially can be an incredibly powerful medium.  It opens windows for people, changes people, and influences many.  Lord Puttnam acknowledged that many poor quality films have been made but his faith in the film world has been restored recently.  The acceptance speech given by Rachel Weisz, who is seven months pregnant, was applauded in many ways.  She paid tribute to the thousands of humanitarian workers who endure tirelessly with their mission and for all those who fight against corruption as highlighted in the John Le Carré (nom de plume of David John Moore Cornwell) novel, The Constant Gardener.  I saw the film on 26 December 2005 at the Academy cinema, Hirschenplatz, Zürich, and found it to be an emotional, powerful, and frightening story.  It is great that films like this are made; it is not just entertainment but education. I left the cinema with a sense of sadness, because the reality is most likely, far worse than can be shown in a film.

British eccentricity was rewarded when Nick Park and Steve Box received the Oscar ® for the best animated feature film of the year “Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”  This was the fourth Oscar ® they received.  The Wallace & Gromit films include the clever mix that appeals to both children and adults. For all those who may struggle to appreciate these films, the attention to detail normally shown in the background of scenes or on newspapers (for example), is worth the effort.  Nick Park and Steve Box wore oversized striped bow ties and imaginatively brought with them matching smaller bow ties for their Oscar ® statuettes.

My first trip to a cinema in Switzerland was in March 2001 when one of my ex-work colleagues invited me to go to see Hannibal with her.  I welcomed the new experience and we made our way to Capitol beim Central ( Zürich).
Details of the films showing at Capitol and other cinemas in Zürich, Bern, and Basel can be seen on www.kitag.com

Hannibal lived up to its reputation as a scary film but it was a culture shock when the film stopped half way through. Was there a technical problem in the projection room, maybe an incident had happened that would result in us having to leave the cinema?  No, it was Die Pause (break).  People happily made their way to the foyer to buy ice cream and take the opportunity to have a cigarette.  (In 2006 some cinemas ban smoking totally within the building).  But I was just getting into the film.  It provided the opportunity to discuss the plot so far and for my colleague to warn me that there were more shocking scenes to come in the film, as she had read the book.
To divert from the point for a moment, just to clarify, Sir Anthony Hopkins who plays the character Dr Hannibal Lecter is Welsh.  It was put to me that the reason I am a fan of this actor is because he is English.

Is it possible to pre-book tickets for some cinemas in Switzerland?
Yes and it is possible to select the seats of your choice which is good.

The Ciné-Card allows holders to book tickets in advance via the Internet or telephone.  Reserved tickets are kept up to 20 minutes prior to the movie screening.  Combined with the card is a free ‘Priority Club’ membership.  The benefits include a complimentary copy of Switzerland’s monthly movie magazine, ‘Close-Up.’  Details of this magazine can be seen on www.close-up.ch
Sometimes there are special premiere evenings that are only open to Ciné-Card holders.  The Ciné-Card can be purchased as a gift, which may be appreciated by an avid moviegoer.  More details of the Ciné-Card are on www.kitag.com

It is important for Xpats to be aware of which language the film is in.  The ‘sprache’ (language) symbol is typically shown as E/d/f.  In this example the capital letter E indicates that the film is in English with subtitles in German and French.  During those films that were not enthralling, I found myself looking at the German subtitles in an attempt to expand my vocabulary.  The subtitles can prove distracting at times if one is not used to them. Please be aware that not all films are shown in English e.g.
Grounding – Die Letzen Tage der Swissair.  The language symbol is shown as
CH-D (Swiss German) and there are no subtitles.  The film shows the demise of the airline Swissair in October 2001, which had an harsh impact on Switzerland’s economy and morale.  Some films targeted for the younger audience are in German (D) especially the afternoon performances.


Die Alterskategorien (the age category) for films are normally shown as follows: -

E                             From 16 years. 
                               Not to be confused with the capital letter E to indicate the
                               language of the film.

J/12   J/14               Suitable for the age group from 12-14 years.
                               After 21:00, admittance will only be granted with
                               parents or guardians.

K/6 K/8  K/10          (Kinder) Children from the ages of 6 – 10 years.
                               Adults recommended to accompany the children.

SB                           Suitable for children from 4 years old.  Adults must accompany
                               children under 6 years old.

The most unusual cinema experience I had was on 18 May 2005.  I went to see Star Wars- Episode III : Revenge of the Sith in Zürich Hauptbahnof.  Credit Suisse sponsored this special screening and we were fortunate to have lounge seats, which were extremely comfortable.  At the entrance, we were met by Darth Vader and some storm troopers, which was a pleasant surprise.  Star Wars enthusiasts were out in force and I stopped for a moment to remember when the original Star Wars film (Episode IV) was released in 1977.  My school friend asked me to go to the cinema with her but I said that I was not interested.  I would have never guessed that some 28 years later I would be watching a Star Wars film in a train station.  The evening was well organised but I was a little distracted by the train announcements in the background.  I am conscious and respect that some people take the Star Wars films very seriously so will not provide any feedback on the film itself.

Open Air Cinemas are another option in Switzerland and imagine this would be pleasant experience during those long summer evenings.  Information can be found on www.open-air-kino.ch

For almost two weeks every August the lakeside town of Locarno in canton Ticino is transformed into a busy film festival.  It has become one of Switzerland’s best-known highlights.  Many films are shown in the Piazza Grande.  Details can be seen on the website: www.pardo.ch

According to the website www.swissinfo.org ticket sales for cinemas in Switzerland dropped by more than 10 per cent during 2005.  The film Madagascar topped the poll in the 2005 top ten box office hits.  The Swiss-German comedy, Mein name ist Eugen (My name is Eugen) was the third most popular film.

When video players were introduced there was speculation that attendance at the cinema would fall dramatically.  There may have been a temporary blip but thankfully the experience of going to the cinema is still popular.  The large volume of DVDs sold also posed a formidable threat to the cinema.  I enjoy watching the bonus material on DVDs e.g. the making of the film and am aware that young children can watch certain films repeatedly e.g. Shrek, which may prove a vital rest bite for overstretched parents/guardians. 

It is fun to go the cinema with a group of Xpats.  Some films provide food for thought, topics to prompt discussion and pure escapism.

Music can play an important part of the cinema experience and has the potential to trigger certain emotions that the script alone cannot achieve.  Who can forget the fear and anticipation that John Williams’ musical score for Jaws instilled in the audience.  I recall going to the Plaza cinema in Lower Regent Street, London, U.K. to see Jaws, in 1976.  The audience actually cheered and clapped when the shark was blown up, as we were so relieved it was over.  The incredible musical talent of John Williams brought a further powerful force to such films as Star Wars and E.T.  The German born composer, Hans Zimmer has worked on high profile films such as Mission Impossible 2, Shark Tale, and Gladiator but the music produced for the film Hannibal is the most haunting I have ever heard.

Dolly Parton performed her nominated song, Travelin Thru, on Oscar ® night and although it did not win an award it has a poignant message matching the theme of the film it was written for: Transamerica.  In an interview, Dolly Parton said that we have a right to be who we are and we are all passing through this life on our journey to find out who we are.

As the ‘A’ list celebrities attended the Governors Ball and Vanity Fair after show parties, the media were left to analyse those who won awards and those who did not.  From the filmmakers prospective the evening hopefully promoted the quality of the films being made and will enthuse the general public to go to the cinema more regularly.

More information regarding cinemas throughout Switzerland can be found on: -

© Theresa Avery : March 2006

posted: 14.03.06


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