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It’s hard not to ask what the best film of 2017 was, given that the 90th Academy Awards are less than a week away. But if you’re like me, it’s also surprisingly difficult to settle on a definitive answer. About a year ago, I reviewed “Moonlight” and called it the rare, transcendent cinematic experience that I’m lucky to have even once a year. “Moonlight,” to be clear, was precisely that film for 2016. Yet I had no such similar experience in 2017.
Although 2018 is just starting, there have already been many times this year that I’ve found myself wondering if I am living in a twisted dystopia. It seems that many have made the parallel between the harrowing state of affairs in George Orwell’s “1984” and the current state of politics. Since President Donald Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway used the politically charged words “alternative facts,” sales of the 20th-century novel spiked drastically. The term is eerily reminiscent of “newspeak,” a means by which the omnipotent Inner Party of Orwell’s novel prohibits unorthodox political thought. This fall, the Dartmouth theater department investigated the relevance of Orwell’s prophetic dystopia to today’s reality in the play “1984,” which opened on Feb. 16 and finished its run Sunday night.
If you’ve been out of the obscure and cultish garage punk loop, you have probably never heard of the indie rock band Superchunk. Formed in 1989 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Superchunk exploded onto the counterculture scene of the early ’90s, producing seven albums over the course of the decade. The group took a brief hiatus soon after the turn of the millennium, eventually producing only two albums between 2002 and 2014. After releasing its tenth album, “I Hate Music” in 2013, Superchunk returned last Friday with the politically charged and triumphantly subversive album “What a Time To Be Alive.” At a time when punk music seems to be increasingly dwarfed by the allure of hip-hop and electronic music, “What a Time to Be Alive” is a collection of catchy and energetic songs that simultaneously presents a commercially agreeable message and returns to the genre’s roots in counterculture. Moreover, it’s a visceral and sincere reaction to our country’s recent escapades.
Hannah Matheson ’18 is one of the few students who arrived at Dartmouth knowing already what she deeply cared about.
The Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble’s winter concert will be Saturday, Feb. 24at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center of the Arts. Director Taylor Ho Bynum invites eight jazz leaders to play alongside the student musicians: Ken Filiano (acoustic bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jim Hobbs (alto and soprano saxophone), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor saxophone), Bill Lowe (trombone and tuba), Tomeka Reid (cello), and Stomu Takeishi (electric bass guitar). The concert will feature an array of contemporary music, including Bynum’s own compositions.
Independent radio and podcast producer, Laura Sim ’16 majored in English at Dartmouth and completed a thesis on race in radio and podcasts. In 2016, her podcast “This Dartmouth Life” helped Sim receive the John D. Bryant award for Creative Production. After graduating, she worked at Slate, Gimlet Media, Radiotopia and now, the Wall Street Journal. Sim helped produce “The United States of Debt” at Slate and worked as an associate producer on Radiotopia’s “Millennial” and Gimlet Media’s “Crimetown,” a critically-acclaimed podcast about politics and organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island.
This Wednesday, students will take one of the stages at the Hopkins Center for the Arts to perform “The Vagina Monologues,” an evolution of theatrical activism. “The Vagina Monologues,” written by Eve Ensler, debuted in 1996 and created a national dialogue surrounding gender in America. Through a series of episodic monologues and speeches told by women of all races, ages and sexualities, Ensler’s original work brought attention to the issue of gender-based violence and healthy modern sexuality.
At the Hopkins Center for the Arts Garage this past Saturday, digital musics graduate student Andrew Maillet and filmmaker Zbigniew Bzymek gave two work-in-progress performances of their multimedia adaptation of Polish artist and philosopher Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s play “Pragmatists.”
There is an old truism that posits that the best superhero films are those that first and foremost aim to be different. For instance, it is often argued that a film like “The Dark Knight” is a cut above other Batman movies because it is constructed as a gritty crime drama, not a superhero adventure flick. While statements like this occasionally rankle die-hard comic book fans, I think it really just speaks to the utterly arbitrary nature of the superhero genre label. Consider that both “The Punisher” and “The Incredibles” are both typically classified as superhero films even though they have next to nothing in common.
“1984,” Dartmouth’s stage adaptation of Milton Wayne’s radio adaptation of George Orwell’s synonomously-named classic, gives a twist to the original setup of the novel to make it more relevant to the world today. Director and theater professor Peter Hackett adapted the script himself, incorporating multimedia components and excerpts from Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” that add a contemporary aspect to the production. “1984” opens tonight at Moore Theater in the Hopkins Center for the Arts.
Wander into the high-ceilinged quiet of Black Family Visual Arts Center this month and one will encounter SELF/PORTRAIT, an exhibition of photographs by students of Studio Art 29, “Photography I,” and other photography classes over the span of the past two years. Student Gallery Room 102 is washed grayscale, each of its walls displaying groups of three or four black and white film photographs. The common thread between the photos is portraiture — not every work has its artist as subject, but all concern a meditation on self. Curated by studio art professor Virginia Beahan and teaching assistant Josh Renaud ’17, the photographs come together as a cohesive response to the documentary “Faces Places,” a film screened at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on Jan. 12 and Jan. 19. “Faces Places” follows 89-year-old Agnès Varda, a creative force who spearheaded the French New Wave, and 33-year-old French photographer and muralist JR on their journey through the villages of France. JR and Varda interviewed and created portraits of locals; their resulting documentary is built on the humanity of these encounters and the friendship they build in their time with each other.
After performing German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” at its fall concert, the Dartmouth College Glee Club will continue the biblical hero theme in its winter concert Friday with Giacomo Carissimi’s oratorio “Jephte.” “Jephte” tells the story of Jephthah, an Old Testament judge who promises God that he will sacrifice the first person who comes out to greet him after battle in exchange for victory over a rival tribe. When that person turns out to be his only daughter, Jephthah has to suffer the consequences. While “Jephte” is traditionally presented with limited staging and visual elements, director Louis Burkot decided to incorporate mixed media into the concert by adding projections designed by graduate student Camilla Tassi.
This evening, contemporary jazz singer and songwriter Gregory Porter will bring his soulful, melodic style to audiences at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Porter, who has won two Grammy Awards, most recently in 2017 for his album “Take Me to the Alley,” had an unorthodox rise to fame. He initially worked as a chef in New York and sang in various bars and restaurants in his spare time. Heavily influenced by Nat King Cole through his mother, Porter became a recording artist at the age of 40 when his independently-released debut album “Water” gained attention from studios.
Last Friday, alternative rock band MGMT released “Little Dark Age,” its first album since 2013. With refreshingly catchy psychedelic-pop tracks reminiscent of the group’s first album, “Oracular Spectacular,” “Little Dark Age” also thematically reveals the band’s development. However, the presence of a few severely convoluted and borderline unpleasant tracks prevent the album from truly demonstrating the band’s potential.
As the 90th Academy Awards ceremony draws closer, it’s hard not to compare the various nominees, particularly those in the Best Picture category. After all, cinema does not exist in a vacuum. When one considers “Call Me By Your Name” from that perspective, it does have at least one noteworthy quality that, for better or for worse, distinguishes it from the pack: The film has the ability to haunt the viewer. One leaves the theater enveloped by the film’s narrative and everything it entails, both the good and the bad. “Call Me By Your Name” didn’t move me as much as “Lady Bird”did, nor did it elicit the same visceral bodily reactions as “Dunkirk.” It didn’t make me think as much as “Get Out,” and it wasn’t as beautiful or profoundly simple in its execution compared to Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.” But “Call Me By Your Name” stayed with me. In fact, it is still with me — even as I try to write this review, I occasionally find myself not being able to decide how to address my overall experience. For a film that tries so hard to be like a window into reality, it has a surprisingly hallucinatory power.
This article was featured in the 2018 Winter Carnival Issue.
Winter WhingDing is an annual a cappella show offered through the Hopkins Center of the Arts as a part of Winter Carnival programming. Each year, the concert is headlined by one of the various a cappella groups on campus. This year the Dartmouth Aires, Dartmouth’s oldest all male a cappella group, will be hosting the program.
To kick off Winter Carnival weekend, the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra will perform a new interpretation of one of the most popular pieces of baroque music, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” This Friday, guest artist Carlos Aonzo will play the traditional violin solo on the mandolin, giving “The Four Seasons” a new and exciting sound. The DSO will also play Tchaikovsky’s first symphony. This lesser-known piece also explores the theme of the seasons and is titled “Winter Daydreams.”
Northern Stage celebrated the fifth year of its New Works Now play festival in January. This year, the premiere of a piece by a current Dartmouth student opened the festival.
Last year, Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” premiered, but does anyone even remember the film? Neither do I, which is kind of astonishing given its recent release date. I mention this, not because this is a review of “Alien: Covenant,” but because the release of both “Alien: Covenant” and “All the Money in the World” in the same year illustrates the most fascinating and contradictory qualities associated with Scott’s skills and limitations as a filmmaker. “Alien: Covenant” was awful, easily one of the worst films in recent memory. In fact, it was so dreadful that I kyboshed my plans to review the film and instead implored my editors to let me do a retrospective on the revival of my favorite TV series, “Twin Peaks.” This was made all the worse because Scott had recently launched a successful career comeback with 2015’s crowd-pleasing “The Martian.” This all speaks to a long-standing truism about Scott — he is only as good as the script he’s working from. At this point in his career, no one would deny that he is a master of his craft; each of his films is, without fail, gorgeous and technically impeccable. Indeed, when he has a great script, like “Blade Runner,” he does a wonderful job at visually highlighting and complementing the complex themes and ideas that are often interwoven so beautifully into the story. The problem is that Scott seems utterly incapable of discerning between a great script and a terrible script. No director should be able to list “Thelma & Louise” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” on the same résumé.