Archive for the ‘Arts/Music/Film’ Category

Entertainment Recap: The Best (So Far) of 2014

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Here’s a recap of everything you’ve been missing in the entertainment-sphere if you’ve been hiding under a rock-no judgment here.

Downton Abbey’s U.S. premiere of season 4 just wrapped.  The furtive, longing glances were just as good as ever.  I won’t reveal any spoilers but the important thing is that Mary has 50 suitors (just a bunch, no big deal) and poor Edith is still alone.  #feelinlikeedith

This awards season is truly exciting, with fantastic, dynamic performances from the ones in 12 Years a Slave to American HustleJennifer Lawrence is still supremely charming and my vote for girl crush-if only she actually ate as much as she professes to, then she would be perfect.  Lupita Nyong’o is the most beautiful being that has ever appeared on this earth, on point with all her fashion choices.  If they don’t make a Barbie or some sort of doll-replica of her soon I’ll be shocked.  Matthew McConaughey’s random speeches add to the fun although they are slightly grating (here’s to hoping Leo takes the Oscar).  “Alriiiiight, alriiiiight, alriiiiiiight.”

One award that Matthew McConaughey should win for his immense comeback?  An Emmy.  He is brilliant in HBO’s True Detective, a show with as intense and dark an ambiance as McConaughey’s character himself.  Seriously, though, that Quaaludes scene alone makes Leonardo DiCaprio deserve the Oscar.  His extreme difficulty going down the stairs reminded me a bit too much of myself after midterms.  Can’t. Make. It. To. Dorm. Too. Defeated.  If Pink does some of the acrobatic wonders she did at the Grammys I am going to cry tears of wonder and jealousy.  As long as it’s not like that year Beyonce sang every single nominated song.  I’m not sure Ellen DeGeneres (host this year of the Oscars) will push the envelope as much as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though.  Must I remind you of the now-classic lines: “’Gravity’ is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.” And, of course: “”Like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s all give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio.”

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After the sad excuse for an Olympics I’m looking forward to the return of new episodes.  Then I’ll finally be able to stop hating myself for watching The Bachelor’s Juan Pablo.  Don’t judge man, it was between that and curling.

Like air hockey, but sadder?

An exciting book-to-film is coming out this summer!  No, not Fifty Shades of Grey, I do have some dignity…it’s The Fault in Our Stars!  Shailene Woodley plays Hazel (or as Augustus lovingly calls her, Hazel Grace)-proving that one can star in an incredibly banal show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and still be a good actress.

Speaking of ABC Family shows, there is no shame here when I recap the latest on Pretty Little Liars.  It’s the most tweeted about show, I’ll have you know.  Basically, Ezra, the high school teacher, turns out to be just a regular creepster, not an evil genius creepster, which was incredibly disappointing and infuriating.  He did provide possibly the best excuse of all time though (which I will be using as I write my final papers): “I was writing a true crime novel.”  KThx.

Aria finds out what a bad writer Ezra really is.

If you’re actually looking for a smart show, may I recommend The Good Wife?  With its spitfire writing, power-house acting, and complex turns it may be the smartest show on right now.  That’s saying a lot, as TV is more like a stimulating lube tube right now for the mind, with provocative shows like Girls, Breaking Bad, and Homeland, than its previously condescending title.

If you’re looking for some cute/smart fun Parks and Recreation is still the most underrated quirk of a comedy gem The Mindy Project is also back with a vengeance this season, funnier than ever with absurd shenanigans-including a sexting fiasco gone wrong.

So true, so true.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention a couple of things that are guaranteed to brighten up any winter blues.  I mean guaranteed.  First off is The Lego Movie-one of the most clever and genuinely funny animated films in a long time.  Second, I have two words for you:  Broad City.  My sister turned me on to this new show, full of the most awkward hilarity, basically an unpolished Girls.  Perhaps the best episode so far is “Working Girls” when Abbi, one of the main characters, goes to retrieve a package for her apartment crush.  The lengths that must be traveled-man we feel you (fake cough Student Services, just saying).

Alas, we come to the end…of my procrastination.  Enjoy the Oscars tonight!

Current Films Not to be Missed!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Three films that are worth seeing all deal with survival in environments and times that are most trying.  It is in these instances, it seems, that we discover who we truly are and what we are willing to fight for.

Prisoners is the story of two young girls who are kidnapped and how their families crumble after the tragedy.  Hugh Jackman is brilliant as one of the grief-stricken, tortured fathers.  His physicality drives his performance to another level.  Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances ever as the detective who is trying his best to solve what seems like an unsolvable crime.  The film’s intensity leads to further discussion and reflection on what right and wrong means and how far are we willing to go in order to save those we love?

Gravity has been well-received by critics almost across the board.  And it does not disappoint.  Alfonso Cuaron, an incredibly talented director (Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban and Children of Men), directs a stunning, breath-taking piece of art that overtly illustrates how beautiful life is.  Sandra Bullock delivers the most nuanced, dynamic performance of her career, full of vulnerability and strength.  She plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a Mission Specialist, who finds herself in a life-or-death situation and must use all of her faculties in order to survive.  The religious overtones are not subtle but the themes of loneliness, damage, and loss are so sincere that it is easy to overlook this.  The score is haunting and the effects are nothing short of spectacular.

Captain Phillips seemed a little underwhelming if you were to judge it solely by its trailers.  However, the trailers are to its detriment as it is a solid film and should not be counted out.  Tom Hanks gives a strong performance, one that is finally fitting of his talent, unlike the ones he has been given in recent years (let’s all try to forget Larry Crowne and never speak of it again).  Tom Hanks drives the film the way he commanded Cast Away, making it into an intense, thrilling story.  He plays the title character whose ship is hijacked by Somali pirates (based on the 2009 true events).  Look out for Barkhad Abdi, who takes a great turn as Muse, the leader of the pirates. 

12 Years a Slave and Catching Fire reviews to come soon!

The Red Couch Project: A Student-Run Production Collective for Independent Artists

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
The Red Couch

The Red Couch

Being an independent artist (read: not affiliated with a department) isn’t easy on this campus. Space and resources are  slim pickins, and even if you manage to know the right people to book a venue and get the right gear, it’s tough to get students to commit to come out. We’re all spread a little too thin, and sometimes you even have miss your best friend’s performance.

This is where the Red Couch Project (RCP) comes in. RCP is a student-run production collective that will handle this whole mess. Can’t find a venue to perform at? We’ll find it for you or we’ll work with you to create one (i.e. impromptu outdoor session – Stanford is a beautiful campus). Worried people won’t be able to make it? We’ll record it for you and spread the word online. We’ve been capturing performances of independent musicians for almost three years now, and we’ve accumulated more than 65 videos of Stanford-affiliated musicians performing their work. Check out our videos.

So where does the ‘Red Couch‘ component come from? To us in RCP, it’s an icon that symbolizes how performances should always feel – intimate, personal, informal – like you’re sitting in your dorm room playing for your friends. In the past, we’ve had artists perform on the Red Couch because of the symbolism and, well….because it’s kind of just hilarious. Currently, the Red Couch lives in a little venue called Do.Art Galleria in the Mission in San Francisco. We moved the couch to provide Stanford artists with an opportunity to meet and perform with city artists who are doing art (in various forms) full-time.

And in case you’re easily bored by the constraints of furniture, we’ve started new “Off The Couch” sessions. In these sessions, we hop off the couch and explore some unique and unusual collaborations rather than capturing live concerts. You can check out the latest one below – it involves a dancer improving to the music of a cellist and guitarist in an empty yoga studio. 

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As we all know (but apparently the rest of the world doesn’t), Stanford is not just a tech-startup incubator with a football team. There are a ton of passionate and talented artists of all kinds on this campus, and RCP is here to support them in ways that the university currently isn’t.

Red Couch Project on Facebook

Wanna get involved with RCP? Contact Danny Smith at

Less than Masterful: Paul Thomas Anderson Fails to Recruit Us Into His Vision

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I should’ve known I wasn’t going to like The Master.  I cannot say I have loved all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, including There Will Be Blood.  Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent at yet another incredibly unlikable, unhinged character.

On the topic of unhinged and unlikable, enter The Master.  Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a troubled, destructive man dealing with the aftermath of returning after fighting in WWII.  Quell is also fighting against his own personal demons.  He is self-prescribing by drinking horrific alcoholic concoctions (paint-thinner in one).  All in all he’s in a bad place when he comes across Lancaster Dodd (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), aka the “Master” of, let’s call it what it is, a cult.

It becomes hard to know what is real and what is not as Freddie imagines things that have not happened.  As there is no character evolution it is painful to watch Freddie and Dodd’s destructive behavior.  There is no one to root for.

Sure, there are complex questions about man and sexuality, and man versus animal.  Quell and Dodd seem to be two halves of a whole as Dodd recognizes in Quell.  It’s easy to wonder, is man truly that base?  It is interesting that Dodd claims that humans are not part of the animal kingdom yet he insists on there being a leader of men (in this case himself as the Master).

The performances are excellent and may even be recognized come awards season.  There was a definite void when Joaquin Phoenix was pretending he would never act again.  His intensity is finely matched by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (who plays in my opinion the real Master here, Dodd’s quietly domineering wife).  Hoffman has mastered, no pun intended, this type of slick character who is not what he seems (expertly done in Doubt and even The Ides of March).  Adams is a fierce force onscreen.  Her sweet, doe-eyed look is a stark contrast to the strength and steel she brings to her characters.

I couldn’t help but want The Master to end.  After it all was done I couldn’t believe that was what we were left with, no redemption just a bunch of questions, confusion, and a headache.



The Sweetest Venue You’ve Never Visited: Sweetwater Music Hall

Monday, January 21st, 2013

On Saturday night, Deadheads descended upon Mill Valley to see Furthur at Sweetwater Music Hall, an intimate venue that opened in January 2012.

Cardinal fans, a new music venue merits your attention.

On Saturday night, I headed up to Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley to catch a concert with Furthur, the Grateful Dead spinoff band led by Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. I have been to several Furthur shows, and this was by far the best, rivaled only by Phil Lesh’s 70th birthday party a few years ago at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

If you could combine the intimacy of the CoHo, the coolness of Frost, and the food of The Mayfield Bakery, you would have something close to the Sweetwater experience. Then add a top-notch sound system and a beautiful setting at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, and include some of the friendliest staff I have ever encountered at a Bay Area concert venue, and you have more than enough reasons to make the hour and fifteen minute trip from Palo Alto.

Sweetwater has a capacity crowd of about 300 people, so no matter where you stand or sit, you have great sight-lines of the stage. The main bar is located at the back, preventing drink-seekers from getting in everyone else’s way. There is a cafe with delicious NorCal fare off to the side, and you don’t have to worry about the hassle of a coat-check…self-serve hangers do the trick.


Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Ah, summer. One minute you’re shotgunning a beer celebrating with friends after your last final, the next, you’re waking up and rolling over to find that two months of beaching, traveling, summer-schooling, tanning, grilling, working, and/or your resume-building b****work meaningful internship experience have flown by and it’s already August. Which means it’s time to maybe, possibly, conceivably consider what you’ll be studying in the fall. Even at Stanford, summer doesn’t last forever, and eventually we’ve got to come to grips with  all of our first-world problems – namely, enrolling in classes at the happiest place university on earth. But, fear not – I have spent the last fortnight scouring every course in every department this school has to offer (upon reading this line, my proofreader claims that I “need to get laid a life”), with the hope of delivering the BEST list of classes to get you STOKED to come back to campus. It combines all the things I love most in life: cool classes that don’t physically drive me to tears (yes, I’m talking to YOU, “Inventing Classics“), excessive linkage, personality stereotypes, semi-snarky commentary, giant over-generalizations and massive assumptions, and most importantly: THE MUPPETS.  In any case, I hope the article piques your interest in something you might have otherwise overlooked, missed, or been to lazy to go look up.  And if not, all I can say is that I hope it makes you laugh (if only in pity). Other than that, here’s to the remaining MONTH of summer (suck it, Cal) and the boredom and restlessness that will inevitably accompany it. Cheers.


Autumn 2012 classes for…

the wise-guy

Old Guys Rule.

AMSTUD 140: Stand Up Comedy and the “Great American Joke” Since 1945

I took this class last fall. Actual (read: more or less deeply paraphrased) quote from the prof: “Hey, Hennessey – I’ve got an idea for a class. It will involve abundant sexism, racism, elitism, lewd and scatalogical references, innappropriate behvaior, excessive profanity, and – above all – some of the most brilliant and observative writers, performers, and anthropologists of our time.  What’s this class called, you ask? Well, it’s Stand Up Comedy and the Great American Joke”. Take this class. It’s awesome.

MUSIC 36N: Humor in Music

My visions of this class involve Steel Panther, Weird Al, and Parry Gripp.

Thank God I’m not teaching it.


the romantic

Living up to his name like an absolute champ

HISTORY 33A: Blood and Roses: The Age of the Tudors
Mystery, murder, sex, and scheming? And you thought your family was dramatic.

ATHLETIC 39: Fencing: Beginning
So you can do THIS.

ENGLISH 154: Mapping the Romantic Imagination
The map of MY romantic imagination involves horseback trips through the Florin countryside with Wesley, a sunset on the bow of the (intact) Titanic with Jack, the California coastline in Benjamin Bradford’s convertible, getting stuck on an island in the Caribbean with Cap’n Jack Sparrow, Patrick Verona’s paintball park, and wherever Ryan Gosling is currently located (though, preferably here). To my great disappointment, however, I believe this class refers a bit more to the English romantic poets and novelists and the sublime countrysides they envisioned. Then again, is anything quite as lovely and romanticized as curling up with a little Keats and Byron?


the hipster

This muppet is actually called Harry the Hipster. You've probably never heard of him.

ENGLISH 121A: Tattoos, Scars, Marks and American Cultures of Inscription

I feel bad for the poor sucker of a TA who has to read 60+ papers on “Why the dolphin/butterfly/Chinese symbol for “peace”/shooting star/infinity sign/angel wings/song lyrics/Bible verse on my ankle/lower back/shoulder blade/neck/wrist/sideboob/part of my hip that totally gets gets covered by a bikini is a unique artistic expression of my inner self”.

ARTSTUDI 131: Sound Art I 
Because taking just “music” was too mainstream.

FILMSTUD 301: Fundamentals of Cinematic Analysis 
Take this class so that the next time you’re giving your pretentious opinion about the latest film showing at INSERT NAME OF UNKNOWN THEATER HERE, you’ll be able to reference a little-known technique/genre/style/paradigm/buzzword that your professor mentioned once in class.

COMM 182: Virtual Communities and Social Media
This should prepare you well for your vague “job” in the vague cross section between “media” and “social networking” at that start-up no one has ever heard of.


the history buff

I want that blazer.

HISTORY 95C: Modern Japanese History: From Samurai to Pokemon
Samurai…. Pokemon. SAMURAI… POKEMON. I’m not quite  sure what’s between these two poles (the history of sushi?!?!) but it’s guaranteed to be awesome.

COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
I don’t know enough about journalism or, frankly, television to confidently explain why “The Newsroom” sucks and “The Wire” is the bestest thing ever since Ike’s Menais a Trois. Admittedly, I should probably take this class and many others on this list. In any case, if you believe the slow death of the newspaper is a genuine travesty or that Cronkite and Murrow could give Colbert and Stewart a run for their money, then this might be the class for you.

HISTORY 103F: Introduction to Military History
It’s like the Military Channel… sans couch.

HISTORY 243G: Tobacco and Health in World History
Not to get all Nick Naylor on you guys, but I’m genuinely curious how one-sided this class is.

HISTORY 59S: The Digital Historian’s Toolkit: Studying the West in an Age of Big Data
From my quick read of the course-description,  it seems like this class involves old documents, scanners, and many a rubber glove. That said, if you like seeing history immortalized and like to wonder “what did they think back then?” and “how did that really happen?” then this is the class for you.

EDUC 116N: Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ and the Quest for Historical Truth
If you’re reading this section, theres a decent chance that you identify yourself as a history buff. Howard Zinn was the guru/godfather/mack-daddy of all American history buffs. Student, meet the ultimate teacher.

HISTORY 308D: Pre-Modern Warfare
I’m not exactly sure at what point/what contraptions fall under the heading of “Modern Warfare”, but if you’re telling me that I get to take a class on how to use the history of ninja stars, crossbows, catapults, and broadswords, then SIGN. ME. UP.

CLASSGEN 103: The Greek Invention of Mathematics
My sole incentive for taking this class would be figuring out exactly which Greek mathematician to fantasize about brutally torturing  whilst in the middle of my Math 52 midterm.


the patriot

Coming Soon: Muppets take 'Merica.

CSRE 51K: Election 2012

I should really, REALLY take this class. Seriously, because – besides Obama – I’m not really sure who’s actually still in the race.

COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media, and Elections 
See above comment.

COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 
I’d like to think that, to the individuals who plan to lead my country and allegedly have my best interest at heart, I am more than just a number and that my opinions and behaviors are more than just statistics.

ECON 18: The Washington Debate About American Competitiveness
If I take this class, will I get a job?

PUBLPOL 170: Political Corruption
It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California
Let’s hope that by the time this class is over, Michael Tubbs will have a place in its curriculum.

ECON 25N: Public Policy and Personal Finance
Something about tax-brackets… maybe. I expect to see a lot of pitchforks and raised fists.

HUMBIO 120: Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy
Obamacare. And other stuff. Probably.


“The Dark Knight Rises” Tries too hard, fails

Monday, July 30th, 2012
Bane choking Batman

Like the Lebron of old, Christopher Nolan choked this summer. Here, Bane does some choking of his own.

With The Dark Knight having been as awesome as it was, I went into The Dark Knight Rises with very high expectations. The former had managed to find the fine line between drama and comic book movie (a line which I didn’t know existed, mind you) and one could only imagine that Christopher Nolan would create something even more magical, having found this cinematic sweet spot. Unfortunately, Nolan, being aware of how great The Dark Knight was, decided to make its successor essentially a clone of itself on steroids, weakly building on its strengths while exaggerating its weaknesses. TDKR tried to capture the subtle brilliance of TDK’s lengthy dialogues, the eerie believability of its action scenes, and the sensitivity of its more delicate moments, yet managed to be somewhat cheesy in its rendition of all three. It felt somewhat synthetic, as if the strengths of a great movie were being bulked up for a box office-smashing sequel. It’s sort of like the Mitt Romney of this summer’s movies; from afar, it seems to walk the walk but is much more staged and awkward at closer examination.

Don’t get me wrong – this was still close to as good as a comic book movie can get. The sheer awesomeness of the first two in this series makes us forget that we are still dealing a film in the same franchise as Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and a few other disasters. Having not seen the first two Batman films, I would maybe even have clapped at the end of this movie as 200 people at the premier I went to felt compelled to do. However, knowing the ability Christopher Nolan possesses to create a film which is both visually and intellectually thrilling for the entirety of its runtime, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed overall and even slightly cheated at times. Please excuse a quick caps lock moment – ****SPOILER ALERT**** – alright, presuming I’ve scared away those who haven’t seen it yet, let me more specifically discuss what I mean:

Simply put, the movie was too long. Action movies need not (should not?) be 2 hours 45 minutes. I don’t think the adrenal gland – action movies’ best friend – is designed to keep grooving for that long. It felt as if Christopher Nolan had set a hard goal on this number, because I feel a lot of the movies’ problems could have been solved by cutting down some of the more mundane parts. There were dialogues and sequences in the middle of the movie that felt excessive and superfluous, and plot twists which featured the unfortunate double-whammy of being both difficult to follow and difficult to stay awake for.

I wanted to appreciate the heartfelt monologues doled out by Alfred numerous times in the movie, but found my more perverse Batman-fan side yearning to see stuff get blown up. I wanted to understand what the deal with the prison-well thing was, but couldn’t figure out for the life of me why every single person wasn’t escaping from the prison if you just needed to jump. (You’d think they’d be doing squats in their free time) I tried to calculate how long it would take the Federal government to do something about Bane in the absence of any law and order in Gotham, and decided it would have been much shorter than the months it seemed that a crew of rebels and deadbeats had the city on lockdown. I even wanted to believe that Bruce Wayne appearing at the very end after seemingly sacrificing himself, the ultimate okey-doke in feel-good action movies, wasn’t just Christopher Nolan securing future revenue streams with a disappointing and sickeningly predictable plot twist.

Instead of shooting each other with their assault rifles, the Good Guys and Bad Guys ran at each other all Lord-of-the-Rings-like. Bizarre.

Even the allusions to the struggle of the rich vs. poor felt half-hearted. While Catwoman’s various comments throughout the movie are clearly a parallel to the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’d prefer it was either discussed in more detail or not mentioned altogether rather than such a nuanced and controversial topic be glanced over as carelessly as it was.

Again, all of these are examples of things The Dark Knight did well. TDK managed to combine well-written and well-executed dialogues, a plodding narrative which took the perfect amount of time to develop, bits of social commentary that felt honest and genuine, and non-stop action which made the hair on your neck stand up, due to both how breathtaking it was and how real it seemed. The newest version tried to one-up itself on all of those measures, leaving much to be desired and a sense of Christopher Nolan having missed his chance to think outside the box.

In fairness Catwoman was cool, but ends up playing an awkward part-time role in the film, sort of like a summer intern at a big company. It’s a shame, because I would have really liked to see her and Bruce Wayne/Batman get weird. Just saying.

You Know You’re in Turkey When…

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

(An American of Turkish heritage in Turkey)

By: Peri Unver

*These observations are not generalizations but merely my own personal ones that I have made this summer.

1.  You take your life into your hands whenever you’re in a car as drivers think the middle of the
road is the way to go.  Also, it’s not a complete day until you’ve been honked at least forty times.

2.  You are greeted first by a hello, how are you, kiss on both cheeks, and a comment on how much
weight you’ve gained.

3.  You can fist-pump to the break-up songs.  At first, it’s hard to tell that the song is telling someone off and it’s unsettling to then hear “Shake your booty on the floor now” (inevitably in the remix).

4.  People on the street are gladly willing to help direct you someplace or help you get out of a
sticky parking situation.  However, smiling (especially in the grocery store) is seen as a sign of weakness.

5.  The food is mouth-watering good everywhere and hole-in-the-wall, home-food places are best
(as in New York).  Places to eat are so clean that even in the food court in the mall there are fresh, open salad bars and buffets.

6.  The color of the ocean simply cannot be replicated and it is easy to see why the name is
turquoise, or “Turkish blue.”  It is easy to scoff (especially when you’re from California) at those with surf boards asthere are no waves in Turkey.

7.  The understanding of making a line at a bank or another established location is a circle.

8.  The price of everything, from clothing to food, is negotiable.

9.  It is a prerequisite that you must be able to sing and dance in order to become a Turkish
citizen.  You must also know the lyrics to Turkish songs as questions about that are always asked on game shows.

10.  In almost anyTurkish home you enter someone will be able to read your fortune from Turkish
coffee grinds (“fal”).

11.  The concept of personal space is a foreign one in Turkey. Wherever you are, someone might be virtually sitting in your lap and not even notice it.

12.  When you are going to watch a show at night settle in because you’ll be there for the long
haul, at least three to four hours.  When asked if the show is still on the answer will always be yes.  (It’s no wonder when on the Turkish version of Wheel of Fortune one of the slots is “tell a secret” and song and dance breaks are taken frequently.)  Also, during commercial breaks, you can indeed make a sandwich, take a shower, visit a neighbor, and still be in time for the next portion of the show.

13.  The relatively new law (2005) requiring accessibility for people with disabilities unfortunately falls short, as I personally witnessed this summer as I used a wheelchair.  Almost everywhere is not
accessible and the ramps are of varying widths and scarily, angles.  (Places from the movie theater and even an orthopedist’s office have a hill of steps and no lifts, ramps, or even handrails.)

Even with all of its quirks, it is a beautiful country to visit with much history, nice people, and amazing food.  So hos geldiniz (welcome) to Turkiye!

Summer Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman Lacks Heart

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

In the Disney version of Snow White, the title princess is a bit, well, boring.  Or is tame a better
word?  This summer’s Snow White and the Huntsman throws all of that sweetness out the door and exchanges it for a fierce, feministic tale.

Snow White and the Huntsman is as grim as the brothers’ tales themselves.  The story is the same,
young girl’s mother dies and father is taken in by beauty of a mysterious woman.

The twist is that Charlize Theron plays one of the most evil queens possibly ever to grace cinematic history.  Sadly, Ravenna has a tragic past, and a few good points too, about how men in that time used women and disposed of them without a second thought.  The problem?  Ravenna and her creepy, equally evil brother have one too many screws missing.

Theron takes her role seriously, too seriously perhaps, as she channels Ravenna’s pain through her tortured stare and her rage as well.  Theron is an exceptional actress, and this film no doubt belongs to her and Kristen Stewart (who plays Snow White), but it seems as though she is in a different movie as her performance is over-the-top.

Stewart is one of the most underestimated actresses of her era but she is given little to do in terms of dialogue.  The saving grace to the unevenness in performances and film itself is Chris Hemsworth, otherwise known as the Huntsman.  Hemsworth brings a necessary humanity and warmth that is otherwise lacking as both the lead actresses are a bit cold.

The special effects in Snow White and the Huntsman are excellent, as are the costumes.  Theron
is stunning in articles like elaborate headpieces and even a long, black, feathered “crow” coat.  These two aspects of the movie are worth seeing even though the film itself is far from perfect.

There are two last notes that are worth mentioning about the movie.  First, the prince (or William,
the Duke’s son here) would have been better left out as he does not even garner a part of the movie poster.  Rightfully so it turns out, as his role and consequence to the storyline are severely
limited.  The love triangle in this way is lopsided.  Second, the battle scenes could have lasted longer especially towards the end of the film (for example, galloping down a beach does not a fine battle make).

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman takes on far more than many summer blockbusters as it shows the remnants of a war-torn land and gives us a fierce look at how strong princesses and queens can be.  Sequel anyone (as it looks like there may be one)?



Resonance: More Than Just Background Noise?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Stanford's next Pandora?

Chances are if you’ve been listening to music online lately your browser has been stuck on Resonance. Created by current Stanford seniors Chris Seewald, Zach Weiner, Matthew Crowley, and Michael White, Resonance is as if Pandora and Youtube had an child that was raised by Spotify. Originally intended to reduce the time that it takes to find good music, Resonance allows users, focused around geographical areas, to add music to an online queue. Listeners can then rate the music their peers have uploaded and are provided with a stream of continuous songs that play alongside their respective YouTube video.

Co-Founder Chris Seewald claims that since their recent inception at Stanford they’ve had “several thousand visits from a couple thousand users.” More impressive however, is how much those users have taken to the site, as “users have added more than one thousand of their favorite songs.” In response to the positive feedback they’ve received from the Stanford campus they’ve decided to expand geographically, moving into Austin and Boulder due to the large student populations there and personal connections. While for the time being they’ll staying on college campuses, in the future they plan to expand into cities as well, with San Francisco and New York in their sights. Seewald is also excited for the potential of different playlists throughout the nation and thinks that there’ll  be “unique music taste differences across different regions,” which is a pretty cool concept when thinking about how say, Kansas City might compare to Seattle.

I will say that for my particular tastes the Stanford Resonance channel seems a bit too random at times, jumping from Bob Dylan to Skrillex. Also, a friend of mine who originally introduced me to the site said she liked the recommended songs more before Resonance started gaining popularity, claiming that the site took much more of a “dance-party” type of feel as more people started contributing. That being said, while listening to the site while typing this article I didn’t skip the majority of songs that came up.

There’s no doubt that Resonance is entering an extremely crowded market, but given this all-star team of co-founders (with full-time offers (correction: Chris’ offer from BCG is for a summer internship) from Apple, Square, and BCG) and their already growing base of users, they might just be on to something here. What do you guys think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Art After Dark: When the Sun Goes Down, the Art Comes Up!

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The Art After Dark festival starts tonight!

Starting tonight, Stanford will kick off Art After Dark, its second annual festival celebrating student creativity and sustainability. Featuring more than 250 pieces of student-produced art, drama, spoken word, dance, design, and music, the festival will take over Old Union courtyard and the lower half of White Plaza for the next three days. Several student artists are returning, including Ethan Estess, whose pelican sculpture was one of last year’s most popular featured pieces.

Although the festival features a jam-packed performance schedule, student art will be on display for all three days, and you can check out the pieces at your leisure. Tomorrow will be particularly busy. From 12-2pm, student drama groups will perform and be followed by a Sustainable Fashion Show. If you pass by in the afternoon, you might catch an impromptu jam session. The day’s events will culminate with performances from student artists featured on “Shadows,” the 2012 Stanford Soundtrack, which includes bands like The Sea People. Saturday’s performances, from 8pm to midnight, will feature student films, DJs, and music from The Irregulars and The Dot Dot Dots.

Combined with Frost Revival, Art After Dark promises to make this weekend thearts weekend of the spring. Don’t miss out!

The Art After Dark Schedule.

The Art of Coachillin’

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The Coachella polo grounds on a spotless Saturday afternoon.

85,000 people. Spotty cell phone coverage. Three straight days of music. Snow-capped mountains by day, and spotlights flashing across the sky by night. These were the circumstances under which one of the world’s largest annual music festivals, Coachella, took place this year. It was a spectacle to remember, when memory was possible.

I attended Weekend 1, April 13-15, and it was my first time in Indio. Although I have gone to a number of concerts and festivals, this experience was without precedent. At any given time, you could choose between five different bands/DJs of wildly different styles, from indie to hip-hop to dub-step. There were beer gardens and pizza joints galore, all with prices that would melt your eyes faster than a churro melts in your mouth ($5 per churro, by the way). An illuminated ferris wheel towered over the expansive grounds. You could hold mile-long strings of balloons that lit up the night like Christmas lights. Art exhibits and spontaneous kickball games rounded out the repertoire of activities.

Swedish House Mafia's performance offered one of the best light shows of the festival.

For $285 a ticket, one might expect nothing less. That said, for all of the logistical challenges that I encountered, I was very impressed by how smoothly everything worked. Yes, it took 45 minutes to get through two security checkpoints, since I was taking a shuttle. Yes, during those checkpoints, I got a pat-down search that in any other scenario would have been grounds for sexual harassment. And yes, there were lines and large distances for almost every occasion, from bathrooms to water fountains to merchandise shops. However, I have been to much smaller affairs that were far more inefficient and stressful. With a few exceptions, I got to see all of the artists for which I had come, as well as several gems that I had never encountered before. (more…)

Leave “The Hunger Games” Fully Satisfied

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

There has been a lot of speculation, expectation, and hype for the long-awaited The Hunger Games movie premiere.  Some critics have celebrated the film and others have been quick to point out the film’s flaws.  With all of the excitement it is almost impossible to leave The Hunger Games fully satisfied, but Hollywood gives it a valiant effort.

After several threats from my older sister, I finally read all three books of the Suzanne Collins’s trilogy, making sure to finish well ahead of the movie release.  I am glad I did, because it seems as though some of the critics have not read the books.  In this movie’s case, knowing the material ahead of time provides a richer experience.

Set in a dystopian, apocalyptic future where North America no longer is North America but instead Panem, a collection of districts ruled by the cruel hand of the dictatorial Capitol.  Every year the apathetic Capitol commands one girl and one boy from each district to compete in what is called the hunger games, a fight to the death where only one child will survive.  Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself for her younger sister when Prim is selected as one of the competitors. What is striking about these novels is the author’s fearlessness and ambition, as she captures a wide foray of human themes, from betrayal to resilience with a heroine that is both vulnerable and fierce.  Humanity drives The Hunger Games, an anti-war novel, from start to finish.

That said, The Hunger Games is a big load to carry.  Subtlety seems to be director Gary Ross’s forte.  That is both a positive and negative for the film.  With a PG-13 rating and a tricky subject matter, being subtle is a good choice in the scenes of the games.  However, Ross’s filmmaking style detracted when it is flitting back and forth to different places and is literally shaky.  Ross seems to be going for grit, but The Hunger Games could actually use more punch.

Some parts of the film are too subdued.  Avid fans will be upset that some details are changed, including who gives Katniss the mockingjay pin.  The garish Capitol is not so garish in the film.  It is understandable that the designers of the film did not want to go too over-the-top with the costumes but Katniss is supposed to be “on fire” after all.  In addition, the special effects are also not impressive.

The Hunger Games has an outstanding cast.  Jennifer Lawrence is strong as the lead.  Lawrence has quite a lot to take on as such a beloved heroine.  She captures the fierceness (as she did in Winter’s Bone wonderfully) but perhaps is a bit too stoic.  Maybe Lawrence could have used a little more vulnerability to let us know what Katniss is thinking, as we are unable to look into her mind as we are in the first-person novel.  Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, Katniss’s mentor in the games, and Lenny Kravitz brings gravity to the film as Cinna, a supporter of Katniss.  Rue is beautifully played by the young Amandla Stenberg.  In fact, the reaping and the scenes with Rue are the most touching of the entire film.

Elizabeth Banks plays the funny, silly Effie perfectly and Stanley Tucci is also great as the amusing Caesar Flickerman.  Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale (both in love with Katniss) are also very good.  A weak link unfortunately is Donald Sutherland as who should be the evil, snake-like President Snow.  Sutherland comes off neither sinister nor frightening.  He is not able to capture what Ralph Fiennes was able to when he played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.

Overall, The Hunger Games is done well and tries to stay as true to the book as it can.  Hopefully, the second installment will be even better as the filmmakers learn what worked and what did not.  Perhaps with the second installment they can capture and stress more the urgency of the work’s main theme, that against all odds we must never lose sight of our humanity.

(The soundtrack that has been released is sadly and surprisingly not used in the film.  “Safe and Sound” could have worked well.  Here it is, Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift Feat. The Civil Wars.)

“The Vow,” “This Means War” and “The Grey”: Spring Misses

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Valentine’s Day and post-award season consideration means a mess of spring movies.  These end of winter into spring films are neither here nor there.  They are not in the realm of being nominated for anything and they are also not summer blockbusters.  Consequently, the movies end up being forgettable, in the grey area of film.  This means they are not horrible (sometimes) but are not really any good either.

Most of these types of movies make pulling out money for a movie ticket hard and yet when you want to go to the theater there is nothing else to see.  So, it becomes a decision of what will be the least painful.  Another way to think about these movies is to think that it will be an escape, just some mindless fun.  Otherwise it is best to wait for DVD since they will be out soon enough anyway.

This devoted moviegoer went to see three of these kind of films recently, sadly.  It was hard to stay away from the movie theater for too long and that is the truth of the matter.  “The Vow” was the first up.  Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams play a young couple, Leo and Paige, madly in love.  After a car accident Paige loses her memory of Leo and all their time together (interestingly she only forgets her husband).  Of course, she remembers her old life and that she is engaged to another man. (more…)

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method”: Moviegoers Feel the Chill and Are Left Out in the Cold

Monday, February 27th, 2012

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method” are two of this year’s indie films with specific niches that garnered no big awards.  These two movies prove the unfortunate perception that smaller films are not always better and that sometimes not waiting for DVD is a mistake.  This is sad because many a time it is the small films that are undiscovered gems; they can surprise us, teach us, and open our eyes the most.

At first before I saw both of these films I wondered why they had not been nominated, especially for the Oscars.  Keira Knightley was applauded by her peers for what they called a fearless performance and Ralph Fiennes had directed a modern take on Shakespeare (usually an Oscar favorite). (more…)