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“Aquaman” is the sixth film in the DC Extended Universe, following on the heels of four films that range from mediocre to atrocious (“Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” “Justice League”) and one of the best superhero films not just of the last decade but of all time (“Wonder Woman”). Unsurprisingly, the overall abysmal quality of the franchise has led countless think pieces to ponder how it might be fixed. While I profess to be no authority, I’ve always found that solutions demanding the original director’s cut of “Justice League” or advocating for an alternate-universe reboot both miss precisely what made Wonder Woman” exceptional.
Here’s a disclaimer: the first season of “True Detective” is my favorite season of television ever made. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the first eight-episode iteration of HBO’s crime anthology series is a near-perfect evaluation of human character in the face of death, evil and chaos. Though the writing is at times heavy-handed and the subtle undercurrent of complicated mysticism never really comes to fruition, that first season is still an engrossing masterwork of intrigue and filmmaking. McConaughey and Harrelson give career-best performances, Nic Pizzolatto’s writing takes brilliant, unexpected turns, and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s sumptuous filmmaking pulls viewers into the Louisiana bayou and doesn’t let them go. After the first season’s final episode left me clutching my head in awed disbelief, I eagerly awaited the show’s second season, only to be left in utter disappointment.
When I returned home for the winter holidays this past November, my parents announced on the drive back from the airport that we were moving out of the home we had lived in for the last 14 years. I reacted as anyone might after an abrupt announcement that they were losing their childhood home: nervous laughter, and then an incredulous “What?”
There’s an image in Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning” that I still see when I close my eyes at night: a little boy approaches a burning greenhouse. He is inexplicably dripping wet — with water? with gasoline? — and he stares at the flames in a trance.
For a movie about drugs and cartels that was inspired by a New York Times article by Nick Schenk, Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” is surprisingly dull, revealing nothing new with surface-level characters far below the capability of their actors.. Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a down-on-his luck former daylily horticulturist who becomes a drug runner, or mule, for a cartel in Illinois. Bradley Cooper plays Colin Bates, the FBI agent tasked with tracking the massive shipments of drugs into Chicago. Taissa Farminga plays Stone’s granddaughter, Ginny. Farminga’s portrayal is sophomoric, and her emotional scenes are unconvincing. When she calls Stone to tell him that his ex-wife is dying, Farmings uses acting class-techniques to touch her face and exasperatedly say, “I can’t believe this.”
On paper, Colton Underwood was the obvious choice for the 23rd Bachelor. He fits the mold of the generic pretty boy, was a former professional football player and runs a non-profit for kids with cystic fibrosis. Oh wait, and he’s a virgin too. For the first time in bachelor history, reality TV’s knight in shining armor has more than just his dignity to lose. On the season premiere which aired last Monday, the 30 women vying for Underwood’s heart were just so baffled by how someone who looks “sooo good” could possibly be a 26-year-old virgin. Quite frankly, no one really cares why Underwood is a virgin or not, because no one knows who he even is. The only interesting thing about Underwood is his virginity, and the producers of “The Bachelor” clearly know it.
In my review for the second season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” I commented that the Netflix adaptation for the beloved, darkly comic 13-book children’s series by Lemony Snicket (pen name for Daniel Handler), was unique for its remarkable consistency if nothing else. While it might be true that each season is an improvement from the last, the margins of quality difference are slim throughout. As a show, it began excellently and has yet to falter. As an adaptation, director Barry Sonnenfeld and his team of writers and co-directors have managed to not merely be faithful but also complementary to their source material. To paraphrase Mikey Neumann from his video “The Story of Harry Potter Part 3," the books make the [show] better and the [show] make[s] the books better.
Choreographer Pam Tanowitz and pianist Simone Dinnerstein tackle Bach’s equally canonical and intricate “Goldberg Variations” in a collaborative piece entitled “New Work for Goldberg Variations.” Tanowitz’s company performed the new piece this past weekend at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. The performance proved to be a testament to the value of contemporary re-invention of an age-old piece.
Katie Wee ’19 is about as liberal arts as it gets: as a music major as well as a premed student, Wee’s experience at Dartmouth has crossed over disciplinary lines.
Adam McKay seems to have something of an obsession with the American culture of corruption and excess. After his masterfully quirky 2015 film “The Big Short” about the 2008 financial collapse, the writer and director has now turned his sharp, sardonic eye toward former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney. The aptly titled “Vice” is something of an exposé on the infamously secretive Cheney, revealing how president George W. Bush’s VP connived his way into becoming one of the most powerful vice-presidents in American history. While the film doesn’t quite match the sheer brilliance and impact of “The Big Short,” “Vice” is still an impressive piece of filmmaking that displays McKay’s distinctively strange and sarcastic style of writing and directing.
Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s operatic Neapolitan Quartet, a series that spans four volumes and six decades of friendship, traces the intertwined lives of characters Lila and Lenù. The series begins with Lenù and Lila’s childhood as they grow up in a poor Neapolitan neighborhood and traces their subsequent lives as wives, mothers and ultimately lonely old women. The quartet is a series of cyclical events encapsulated in a larger cyclical narrative structure. The first book of the series, entitled “My Brilliant Friend,” opens at the fourth book’s close. Rino, Lila’s son, telephones Lenù to tell her that his mother has gone missing. At the end of the final book, entitled “The Story of a Lost Child,” there is no answer as to where Lila has disappeared. However, Ferrante writes such a thorough description of Lila’s character and psyche throughout the series that, in the final book, it makes sense as to why she erased herself. It seems not to matter where she’s gone. Lila is mean, whip-smart and down-trodden — how could she not want to disappear, how could she not want to melt into what she calls the “dissolving boundaries” of her complicated world?
Last June, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby released her Netflix stand-up special “Nanette.” The show received critical acclaim and an entire literature of think-pieces, not because it was especially funny or because the jokes were radical (although they were), but because Gadsby used her special to question what it means to use self-deprecating comedy as a woman, a queer individual and as an “other” who exists in the margins.
In his video “Ludonarrative Dissonance,” film essayist Dan Olson advocates the use of the term “Cinemanarrative Dissonance.” The term describes when an aspect of a film flounders because two or more creative departments did competent work that was nevertheless contradictory due to the lack of a strong, unified vision for the overall product. “Mary Queen of Scots” is full of competent, occasionally even inspired, moments that nonetheless collapse because the film is the new poster child for cinemanarrative dissonance. The film is never truly terrible because everyone in front of and behind the camera is trying; they just never seem to be on the same page.
I’ll be the first to admit it — I am not a gamer. I don’t know much about any specific kind of game, about the world of gaming or of gamers in general. In my rather narrowly-construed mind, video games have been limited to the chaotic fantasy reality of multiplayer games such as “World of Warcraft,” or the brutally one-note first person shooting games à la “Call of Duty.”
Two years ago, I was in the minority when I declared “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” to be less than the sum of its parts. Eddie Redmayne was genuinely fantastic as the unassuming, socially awkward protagonist Newt Scamander, and he continues to shine in the sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Moreover, when the first film embraces the whimsical tone inherent to Scamander’s story, it works. Just as often, though, it gets buried in what I described in an old The Dartmouth review as “dour subplots,” most of them revolving around the terrorist reign of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp. As the title of the sequel might suggest, the film goes full dark, ditching any possible whimsy as fast as possible. It also ditches compelling character motivation, flowing plot structure and just about everything else that once made the “Harry Potter” stories and their subsequent adaptations and spin-offs so beloved.
This coming interim period, the play “Coriolanus” will be performed in the Hopkins Center for the Arts by the acclaimed Stratford Theatre Company, based in Stratford, Ontario. Students from the film, theatrer and English departments will collaborate with the Hopkins Center in order to bring this event to campus and integrate the arts more deeply with student life at the College. Throughout the month of November, a myriad of events related with “Coriolanus” will take place, which will often be directed and conducted by the renowned actors from the company. With this opportunity, students and members of the greater Hanover community will be able to enjoy activities and performances that will stand out from the other events that the Hopkins Center has sponsored in the past due to high cast engagement.
In Yosemite Valley, a massive rock formation looms over the sweeping vistas of picturesque splendor. Known as El Capitan, it towers 3000 feet high and commands the attention of all who pass by. For years, one member of that rapt audience has looked at El Capitan with a particularly audacious intent: to climb the sheer granite wall with no ropes, gear or safety equipment.