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At the beginning of this term, I noticed just how much stuff I had accumulated after several years of dorm life in a boarding school. I have used all of my closets and other storage spaces to the fullest, yet, I still have many books, jackets, random electronic devices and documents on the floor. Sometimes, I struggle to dig out the t-shirt I want to wear because my closet is literally full of clothes; other times I am tripped by the Amazon boxes on the ground or I cannot find the right cable among millions of cables all of which have become so intertwined that they may never be separated from each other. This is what a pair of filmmakers called the “Minimalists” refer to as “clutter.”
Reaching its 40th anniversary this year, “Alien,” directed by Ridley Scott, is widely regarded as one of the most influential sci-fi/fantasy films of all times. The film’s symbolism, grand setting, relatable extraterrestrial horror and the metaphysical questions it raises all contribute to a complex and thrilling viewing experience. Forty years since its release, the movie’s profound message still echoes with human identity and remains relevant today. As a devout “Alien” fan, I will review “Alien,” the first movie of the namesake series, but I will also provide a brief guide on the correct sequential order in which to watch the iconic movie franchise.
“Avengers: Endgame” is one of those odd films that everyone wants to talk about, but, in a sense, no one does. Fans fear that critics will spoil the experience for them, and critics fear the wrath of these fans, resulting in a cycle that does its very best to curtail any actual conversation about the film or its content. Thus, while I will certainly strive to avoid spoilers throughout this review, I always want to talk about some of the thematic and narrative implications of the film. To paraphrase video essayist Dan Olson, if you don’t want spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame,” don’t go see “Avengers: Endgame” because it is wall to wall with spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.”
The CW Network’s show, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has been my favorite TV show since I binged the first three seasons of it last term, which is also when I learned that the next season to my newfound favorite would be its last. My experiences with last seasons for personal favorites in television have not been great, so I was nervous and disappointed about the end to a TV gem that I had just discovered. Luckily, the fourth season of the show was yet another strong addition of a chapter in the protagonist’s journey of self-acceptance and learning to navigate personal relationships, while also fulfilling its role as a final season well by tying the story together in a satisfying conclusion.
Before winter break, I had never seen a single episode of “Game of Thrones,” let alone read one of George R.R. Martin’s novels. By the time break ended, I had seen almost the entire HBO fantasy series, not just because I was enrolled in the winter class, ENGL 53.6, “Game of Thrones: Reimagining Medieval History as an Allegory of the Present” with English and creative writing professor James Dobson, but because it’s the type of show that once you start, it’s near impossible to stop. Once I finished season one, I started season two. Before I knew it, I was one of the many eager fans anticipating the release of season eight.
This past January, Toro y Moi (also known as Chaz Bear) released his sixth album, “Outer Peace.” Inspired by the electronic dance music of Daft Punk and Wally Badarou’s synthpop, “Outer Peace” is a breezy 10 tracks, spanning just over 30 minutes. As a whole, the album is very easy to listen to — the tracks are generally composed of low-fi, low energy, yet upbeat beats and melodies — and none of them are longer than four minutes. On the surface, Toro y Moi has produced a fun, and at times quirky, album full of hits that can be played at a wide range of events, whether it be at a party that’s about to hit its peak or at a study table that needs a pick-me-up. A deeper dive into the album with closer listening, though, reveals that Toro y Moi has also subtly inputted his own little touches of tongue-in-cheek ironic flair and his sense of pessimistic disillusionment to which millennials and Gen Zers can definitely relate.
In his essay “What is Digital Cinema?” media theorist Lev Manovich notes that cinema ultimately began with animation. Magic lanterns, phenakistoscopes, zootropes. They all relied, in a sense, on a form of hand-drawn animation. Whereas many of his fellow theorists posit that cinema is the “art of the index,” defined by its ability to record reality, Manovich contends that its very origins position cinema as “the art of motion.” Thus, for Manovich, the dominance of computer-generated imagery animation in “live-action” films in recent years is not some existential threat to the very essence of film but rather the medium returning to its roots.
It’s midterms week, I’m currently in season for my sport and I don’t have enough pairs of shorts for the good weather that’s finally arrived. Needless to say, I am stressed. To remedy this, I decided to do what any good student does and procrastinate by going to see a movie to take my mind off my work for a few hours. Fortunately for me, the Nugget was screening “Shazam!,” which proved to be the perfect two-hour distraction I was looking for.
The Fab Five, the beloved group of queer men on the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” are back for their third season in Kansas City, MO — more sparkly and delightful than ever. After two seasons of makeovers in Atlanta, GA, the group hones in on the Heartland of America. Filled with stunning transformations, heartwarming moments and plenty of “yaass girl”s, the third season entertains with its bright, feel-good plot and humor.
“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders is a luminary novel depicting a single night of grief. Set in a graveyard where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, is buried, the story follows Lincoln’s visits to the tomb where several ghosts discuss their lives and their deaths. The novel is narrated by these ghosts who all occupy a purgatory-like existence called, after the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, “the bardo.” The ghosts in the bardo have all decided to stay between the living and the dead for a host of reasons. For instance, one of them, a preacher, knows he will go to hell if he leaves the bardo. The most common reason for staying, however, is that most of the ghosts are convinced that they are simply “sick” and set to eventually return to the realm of the living. For Willie, the choice between leaving for heaven or staying in the bardo is only complicated by his father’s return to his tomb. While the other ghosts try to convince Willie to leave — for the bardo is a complicated place where the young often go crazy — he desires nothing more than to stay with his father.
In my review for HBO’s “The Inventor,” I wrote about the varying necessities of documentary art, focusing on the balance between pure recording and critical analysis. I acknowledged that some documentaries only require the deft eye of observance, while others, such as “The Inventor,” need an extra layer of insight and analysis to fully succeed. Todd Douglas Miller’s extraordinary new documentary “Apollo 11” succeeds with such simplicity as a documentary entirely composed of recorded moments and devoid of any analytical imposition. As such a work of art, it is a marvelous testament to the sheer power of observance, carried not by narrative or analysis but rather by the awe and wonder of what it captures on camera.
HBO’s new documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” chronicles the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose company, Theranos, claimed to revolutionize the world of blood testing. Spurred by an intense desire for wealth and fame, Holmes devised a way to carry out complex blood tests — the sorts that usually require an uncomfortable venous draw — with only a drop of blood obtained through a finger prick. The problem she and her company encountered, though, was that they simply couldn’t get the process to work. Terrified of failure and obsessed with her own legend, Holmes lied and connived to keep Theranos afloat, deliberately misrepresenting the abilities of her company. “The Inventor” dutifully tracks these events with straightforward documentary reporting, but it fails to fully delve into the fascinating character of Elizabeth Holmes or her web of deceit, resulting in a film that lacks intrigue and coherence.
“The Umbrella Academy” is probably one of the most off-putting shows on Netflix. It opens with a scene at a pool in Russia, in which a teenager spontaneously gives birth in the pool after giving a potential suitor a peck on the cheek, setting the stage for the chaos that ensues.
It’s been a while since I’ve been as excited to see a movie as I was to see “Us,” the new film directed, written and produced by Jordan Peele. Like millions of people, I was blown away by how unexpectedly good Peele’s 2017 film “Get Out” was, so I came in to “Us” with high expectations, looking for something just as thought-provoking and well-constructed. While I don’t think that “Us” has “Get Out” beat, I still think it’s a fantastic, smart film that should be watched by everyone looking to walk out of a movie theater all giddy — like you used to before everything became a reboot or a third sequel in a franchise. I enjoyed it so much that I gladly paid to see it twice this past weekend.
“Triple Frontier” dropped on Netflix earlier this month with little advertisement but has since exploded into an online sensation. However, I think that the film’s high ratings can be attributed to the hype from its attractive, star-studded cast rather than the quality of the film itself.
At this point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has garnered a reputation for tenacity when it comes to selecting unique directors whose prior work doesn’t always make them obvious candidates for mega-budget superhero extravaganzas. This strategy is noteworthy because it has paid off time and time again; the fact that Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler have recently managed to reinvigorate the franchise with “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther,” respectively, suggests that this strategy is extremely viable.
Gary Clark Jr. seems to be in the midst of an identity crisis. After bursting out of the Austin music scene as an heir to greats like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, he settled into a comfortable role as a jam-and-solo blues guitarist.Yet somewhere along the line grew tired of the redundancy. Starting with his 2015 album “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim,” Clark began experimenting with sounds that veered into R&B and funk, and his latest release, “This Land,” is even more of a departure from the traditional blues image he once presented. I would even go so far as to say that “This Land” is not a blues album at all. Rather, it is a sampler of Clark’s genre-bending experimentations, which hover somewhere between rock, R&B and hip hop. Unfortunately, the result is a messy record that has intriguing moments but lacks a coherent identity, sounding like the product of an artist who is still unsure of his own place in the world of modern music.
This past Friday, Hozier’s second studio album was released, closing a five year gap between his debut album from 2014 and his latest. Given the massive success of the Irish singer’s first album, “Hozier” and five years’ worth of expectation, Hozier’s second album was released upon high anticipation. So does ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ rise to the challenge?
“Alita: Battle Angel” is the latest in the line of big budget, young adult sci-fi films to not do well critically or commercially. Following in the footsteps of the “Divergent” and “Maze Runner” trilogies, I felt like “Alita” tried too hard to recreate the success of “The Hunger Games.” While it might have worked in 2012, I think that today’s audiences are bored of the generic “chosen one” teenaged protagonist who must fight to overthrow a dystopian government, all while having to deal with a ham-fisted romantic subplot that does nothing but drag the plot down. That being said, I did enjoy this movie.