April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
Photos by Stephan Hernandez, Guest Photographer, www.shvisuals.com/blog.
April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
On Wednesday April 20th, our friends over at the Sandbox are hosting a listening party in The Collegium of Biola University. It’s free, it’s at 7.30p.m., and there’s going to be lots of food (the cheese club is catering).
More information below.
Be sure to check it out.
April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
From a child’s perspective, the characters of Prada’s Women’s Spring 2011 RTW preview may well have marched out of Willy Wonka’s factory, or rather its psychiatric ward, such was the pairing of baroque sunglasses with constrained, scrub-like suits featuring dysmorphic shoulders. The models tripped down the runway in South American espadrilles and Daddy’s brogues mounted on woven wedges dangling bananas from their ears and dragging those distinct, bushy stoles that have been slung over so many arms lately. Cotton sundresses flaunted narrowed cuts with a tango flare and bold stripes silhouetted by gilded, aesthetic print. Occasionally, a sombrero with vortex stripes towed behind, tethered to the neck by bonnet ribbons.
Reading playfulness into Miuccia Prada’s cosmopolitan creations is in no way a misjudgment of her intentions, as she deviated from the elegance and sobriety of her past year’s collections towards this amalgam of flippancy and composure. Certainly, she nods to the workingwoman as carved out by fashion with the emergence of minimalist tailoring, but she also clarifies to her audience through her brazen patterns that in all this self-reliance, humor remains imperative. Perhaps this is best recapitulated in the vigorous ad campaign behind show’s signature eyewear. These illustrations exploited her synthesis of the irrational and exotic with baroque sophistication, adorning smug illustrations of a woman’s frame in repose with the head of an animal.
By Alyson Luthi, staff fashion writer.
April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
Elizabeth Taylor, one of Hollywood’s greatest stars and one of the most famous film actresses to have ever lived, passed away March 23rd. The first person to receive $1 million for a film role (for the title character in Cleopatra), she created an image that most celebrities mirror today, infamous for her glamorous lifestyle and her many turbulent loves. So it is surprising that for what is arguably her most important role in the grand scope of film history she gained thirty pounds and played a coarse, frumpy character twenty years older than herself. That character was Martha in the 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, one of the most important American films ever made.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was written by absurdist playwright Edward Albee and appeared on Broadway in 1962, unsettling audiences but achieving success. The play’s themes of women’s rights and the modern irrelevance of marriage resonated with the post-WWII, postmodern theater audience. The play’s obscene language and pervasive sexuality were unheard and unseen on Broadway before that time, but culture was beginning to fundamentally change in urbane circles, and the theater audience accepted it with curiosity. But no one expected Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to be made into a film. It was too progressive, and the Production Code, a set of strict censorship laws created during Hollywood’s Golden Age, was still enforced at the time.
But the film was made. During the screening of a rough cut, a Warner Brothers studio executive was quoted as saying, “My God! We’ve got a seven million dollar dirty movie on our hands!” The scandal improved press, as it often does, and the film went on to make many times its budget in the box office. It is still the only film to have been nominated for every eligible category at the Academy Awards, and it won five. It turned out to be exactly the kind of progressive play that works as a film, because it spoke to its time in a way that could be appreciated, if not fully understood, by a wide audience. The emptiness of the ideal of the 50’s—safety, quiet luxury, and suburban contentedness—was becoming quickly apparent under the fear of nuclear war in the 60’s. People began to realize that just because they acted like everything was alright didn’t mean everything was alright. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? snarled this in the audience’s faces. The vicious language of a deteriorating marriage is set against the backdrop of a middle-class house in a quiet suburban town, revealing some of the deep problems plaguing modern American life.
The screenplay kept virtually identical dialogue from the stage play, a rare occurrence in film adaptation. This kept the integrity of Albee’s original intentions for the play’s message. Too often adapted screenplays alter and dilute original sources, and this is particularly dangerous when the original source is ‘edgy’ or ‘shocking’; if Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? hadn’t been treated correctly, it actually would have ended up simply a “dirty movie” instead of a powerful, serious social critique, and it would not be a great film. Director Mike Nichols, an extremely talented stage director who would go on to direct such films as The Graduate, Wit, and Closer, brought the play to life on film. An experienced stage director was necessary because theater focuses more on actors’ performances than technical aspects, as many films tend to; and, after the screenplay, acting is the most important factor in the film. There are only four characters, and each actor is a powerhouse of talent. Each brings a tidal wave of emotions, and the waves all collide with each other at different times and in different ways—belligerence with exasperation, vicious sarcasm with humiliation, flirtation with shame, grief with spite. Every new interaction is captivating like a car crash, and each flows into the next poetically and unexpectedly.
Although technical aspects of the film are not the main focus, these are still masterfully executed. The set is a full-scale house, with complete realistic detail. This realism adds to the effect of the film, the mundane details contrasting with the bizarre and chaotic altercations of the characters. Every room is explored. The house becomes the habitat for the characters’ animalistic degeneration. The film was shot in stark black-and-white, adding a sense of age and setting the tense, sterile atmosphere; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was the last film to win Best Black-and-White Cinematography at the Academy Awards. Most of the shots are static, emphasizing the failure of the characters to make positive progress, but other expressionistic techniques are used. In a moment of rage near the climax of the film, an extreme close-up handheld technique is used, suddenly throwing the audience into that emotion. Because the technique is used so sparingly, it stands out and is able to make a stronger emotional impact. In another scene, after a time-lapse blackout following an intense drunken argument, Martha is seen stumbling around the yard talking to herself, apparently thinking that everyone is hiding from her. The shot is taken from a very high angle, possibly from the roof of the house, and Martha’s hopeless alienation is emphasized in the image. When she stops talking, only the ice in her glass is heard clinking around in the dead night, a perfect sound design choice. The final shot of the film, as George and Martha finally come to peace with each other, is a decidedly long zoom that starts with the two of them in full frame, moves into an extreme close-up on their clasped hands, and finally focuses on a building behind trees far off in the distance outside the window. “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” George asks. Martha answers, “I am, George, I am.”
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is undoubtedly a great film. It is likely, though, that many in its early audiences were attracted to it because they wanted to see a “dirty movie,” without appreciating the important social statement it intended to make. As Edward Albee put it, “Writing should be useful. If it can’t instruct people a little bit more about the responsibilities of consciousness there’s no point in doing it.” But people can’t be instructed if they don’t open their minds to instruction. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? played a role in bringing down the Production Code, which allowed many great films to be made in the way their creators wanted, but also allowed many more crude, tasteless films to be made, which would saturate the cultural consciousness and make it less receptive to quality in the art it consumes. Perhaps the good that came out of it was worth the bad, but there are always negative consequences to major cultural change. Elizabeth Taylor’s glamour and turbulence may make her image romantic and her legacy great, but thousands of celebrities following in her path make our popular culture depraved.
By Aaron Young Smith, staff film writer.
April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
Lykke Li is many things—songstress, singer, dancer—but what is so captivating about her is the paradoxical nature of those traits she posesses. She is both fierce and delicate, fragile and dark. It is this juxtaposition of affect in her music that is so beautiful. There is a danger, though, in settling for the undisruptive middle ground between the opposing sides of the spectrum, neither abandoning both sides nor fully embracing them. Such was the case in Li’s debut album, Youth Novels. It was safe and inexperienced; the structure was too straightforward and the layers too thin. But there was something substantial at the heart of each song that drove the album forward and seemed to signal that something bigger was coming. That something was Wounded Rhymes.
It has been a long three years since her first release, and it is clear that a lot has occurred during that time, including Li’s relocation from Brooklyn to Echo Park in Los Angeles. She said in an interview with Pitchfork Media earlier this year that she has “been exposed to many things during these last few years; all the baby fat is gone. I dove into the craziness.” And it shows. Everything about Wounded Rhymes is more intense than could have been anticipated, as if she is screaming now what she had only whispered before. The largeness of the album is due in large part to her powerful voice, which is now robust and certain, illuminating melodies with confidence and vitality over layers that are significantly thicker than before. On the other hand, the album bares her vulnerability for the first time, as in the sparse ballad, “I Know Places.” The track is reminiscent of Radiohead or early Dylan, its loneliness upheld by Li’s characteristic determination to survive in the darkness.
Perhaps the biggest change is seen in the form of each song, and the form of the album as a whole. Whereas Youth Novels was held together by the similarity of its tracks—lullaby-like songs that flowed from one to another with very little distinction, each song on Wounded Rhymes is more a journey than a statement, a total exploration of the ideas that were only suggested in her previous work. The result is graceful but strong, and finally presents us with a wide-open door into her world.
Watch the short film Solarium starring Lykke Li:
By Kelsey Upward, Staff Music Writer.
April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
One of the sucky things about growing up is seeing your favorite bands continue to produce music well past their expiration date. Plenty of musicians seem to be content to drag out their careers as long as humanly possible. So it’s always refreshing to see an artist finding the exact right moment to call it quits, when they are at the peak of their game. Still, it was bittersweet when James Murphy announced the end of LCD Soundsystem, marked with a final show at Madison Square Garden on April 2nd.
I was lucky enough to score a very last minute pit ticket (and no, it wasn’t from a scalper) to the show Muprhy dubbed “The Long Goodbye”. The show itself had been heavily hyped as a three hour set and promised special guests. Even with a few Terminal 5 shows added to accommodate fans, everyone knew the MSG show was the true final statement by Murphy. Just how would he close out the incredible ten year run of LCD Soundsystem?
Saturday night, the energy inside MSG was spilling over. By the time LCD hit that amazing first crescendo in the opener “Dance Yrself Clean,” the crowd was ready to tear the roof off. Murphy was obviously the focus of the show, but his backups were as tight and precise as ever, with staples Pat Manhoney and Nancy Whang joined by transplants Tyler Pope (!!!), Al Doyle (Hot Chip), and Gavin Russom. LCD’s constantly rotating backing band actually became a theme of the night, as Murphy brought out former members to play on older songs.
Along with the usual standards of any LCD show, the MSG set threw in some curveballs for the devoted fans. It was great to hear the rarely (or never) played songs such as “Too Much Love”, “Tired”, and “Sound Of Silver” along with covers of “Jump Into The Fire” and “Bye Bye Bayou”.
The second half of the show started with chopped up, extended jam on Murphy’s workout mix “45:33”, and featured DFA labelmates Shit Robot, a brass band, choir, as well as comedien Reggie Watts dueting with Murphy. Aziz Ansari made a guest appearance in a comedy video played during one of the brief intermissions. And of course, the biggest, most joyous surprise of the night was the Arcade Fire providing the backup vocals for an amped up rendition of “North American Scum”.
By the time the show was diving into its third hour, with the iconic “Yeah” punctuating a long string of hits, there was never a sense of sadness from Murphy, or even the inkling that this was really their final show. During “Losing My Edge”, the band kicked into a mini-cover of “Da Funk” after the infamous “Daft Punk to rock kids” line.
When Murphy announced it would be their last song, and the crowd moaned in sadness. In the way only James Murphy could do, mixing humor, cynicism, and joy, he told the crowd to cheer for the closing number. The crowd erupted into the biggest applause of the night. And then they played a perfect version of “New York I Love You,” as white balloons fell over the thousands of fans during the final reprise. A single balloon swam up on stage. Murphy picked it up, smiled, threw it back into the crowd, and walked off stage.
And that was the end of LCD Soundsystem.
By Wes Lagattolla, guest writer
April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Submarine is a coming of age story revolving around Oliver Tate, a knowledgeable yet socially awkward schoolboy who desires to fix his broken family and lose his virginity before his sixteenth birthday. Set to a pulsating score by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, the film, which debuted at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival and the 27th Sundance Film Festival, is a comedic portrait of adolescence and its respective idiosyncrasies. Be sure to catch it in limited release when it hits theaters June 3rd.
Loner. Rebel. Anarchist. Hesher tells the story of a tormented adolescent, and his strange, but life changing relationship with an unlikely mentor. The film made waves at last years Sundance Film Festival, and is currently set for U.S. release this spring.
Natural Selection – Clip
Making his feature film debut, Writer/Director Robbie Pickering brings us the story of Linda, a Christian housewife who meets her 25 year old son for the first time after discovering her husband has secretly been donating his sperm. The two of them embark on an odd yet momentous journey of self-discovery, forcing Linda to confront the demons of her past. The quirky dramedy starring Rachael Harris, Jon Gries, and Matt O’Leary, premiered at South by Southwest, and is still awaiting a date for wide-release.
As cryptic as the trailer is, Perfect Sense is the story of two people who fall in love as the world quickly descends into chaos. Starring Eva Green (Casino Royale) and Ewan McGregor (Big Fish), the film revolves around Susan and Michael, two people who develop a burgeoning relationship in the wake of an epidemic. The film, which premiered at Sundance, has yet to find a release date.
The fourth feature film from acclaimed director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Miral takes place in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war, where Miral, a naive seventeen-year-old girl is forced to choose between her passion for education, or the allegiance of her people. The film is currently in theaters, playing in limited release.
Sympathy for Delicious
Making his directorial debut, actor Mark Ruffalo leads a cast that includes Orlando Bloom, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, and relative unknown Christopher Thornton. The film revolves around a newly paralyzed D.J. who discovers the gift of healing and affects the lives of those around him. Sympathy for Delicious was a sleeper hit, winning the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and scoring a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. It has yet to find a release date in the U.S.
By Zack Campbell, staff film writer.