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Blood, Sweat, and Tears as the American Way: Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know”, the American Dream, and Lynn Nottage’s Sweat

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02sweat1-facebookjumboThere is a jukebox in the back of the bar where much of the action takes place in Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage’s incendiary new play Sweat, running in Studio 54. It’s dusty and old and you can’t quite tell if it plays CDs or something else.   Taking place primarily over the course of a several months in 2000, Nottage implements a mixtape of early aught, late nineties tracks, songs that played on the airwaves too late before the club iteration of Studio 54 could blast them over a crowd of dancers in the city, dressed flamboyantly, swaying without  care in the world. Instead, the music plays in a bar the reeks of as much history as the jukebox itself, the TV occasionally on with the faces of politicians vying for the White House, including George W. Bush; a couple tables where the regulars from the textile factory sit or tumble over; and a tap that spits out weak, watered down beer, the same beer every day, in spite of the hopes of young Chris’s, a factory worker and with college on the horizon. The song that is the most striking in Nottage’s playlist, the one that bookends the show, is Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know”, off his eponymous studio album from 1999. For a story about a bunch of working class people in Pennsylvania whose relationship with their jobs, with each other, and with capitalism itself becomes a dangerous pas de deux (or better yet, tango), Anthony’s Latin infused track is recontextualized within the play’s ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

Children Will Listen: 100 Favorite Songs

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Photo of Amy WINEHOUSEAmongst my worst qualities as a human being are my aggressive need to be right about the James Bond movies, my habit of impulsively buying food, and my disinclination to listen to complete albums. It’s not to say I haven’t done it (LEMONADE y’all!), it’s just that my taste in music, unlike my taste in people with whom I sleep and subsequently kick out of my room, is very high and finnicky. So, most of the music I listen to I’ve heard in commercials, trailers, movies, commercials and trailers for movies, the radio, and once in a while, recommendations from friends, enemies, and former lovers’ sister’s best friends. In honor and celebration of nothing in particular, here’s a list of 100 favorite songs that I originally intended on posting last year, but due to laziness and a bout of post-Mad Men depression, I never got to.  Read the rest of this entry »

BØRNS This Way: BØRNS’ “Dopamine”

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cover1400x1400That guy – the one whose hairs cascades down his back like a nymph, straddling a line between art school sexy and Bushwick eye-roll worthy; the one who waxes poetically about peace, love, understanding, the latest Gibraltar coffee ad; the one that casually quotes Descartes and whose very nonchalance about the name dropping makes him all the more intriguing – has an album out, and it is both very good and also kind of silly. That guy is BØRNS and that album is Dopamine. Read the rest of this entry »

Wish I Were Special: Gay Panic, Masculinity, and the Queer Other in “Creep” and “The Gift”

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(Author’s Note: Hey, look, it’s the paper I presented at the Visions Film Festival and Conference in April!)

This evening, I’m here to talk about masculinity, and clearly, as you can see that I’m the bastion of heteromasculinity, I am the right person to do such a thing. I would like to talk about two films: Creep, the found footage horror film, and The Gift, the suspense drama, and how one operates to stigmatize the queer other and how one comments on the very framework of toxic masculinity that engenders that discourse of stigma. I’ll be exploring concepts of masculinity, gay panic, and queerness and the ways in which they are utilized as generic tropes within these films, framing the entire works as either satire and critique or perpetuation of oppression. Read the rest of this entry »

Ellen on Earth: Gender, Religion, and Ellen Ripley in David Fincher’s Alien3

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(Author’s Note: This was originally written for my horror cinema class.)

Not unlike its HR Geiger designed monster, saliva cascading from its bladed fangs, the Alien franchise has morphed generically with each film, these alterations and manipulations contingent on the director’s generic and stylistic proclivities. With Ridley Scott’s original entry in 1979, Alien was created as a film that exists within a haunted house context, traipsing through tropes with a sci-fi bent; James Cameron’s 1986 follow up Aliens recontextulized that universe as a militaristic allegory about the state and the body; David Fincher’s Alien 3 (1992) sought a vision of spiritual, metaphysical horror; and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection (1997) dressed dressed the franchise entry up in the garb of a goofy sci-fi action film. But it is Fincher’s entry which is the most striking and the least understood, the product of studio interference, script rewrites, and the struggle to achieve an Alien film that both resembled its classical originator as well as diverged from it drastically to mine in the conventions of the art house. Read the rest of this entry »

All That Glisters is Not…: Criterion’s Underrepresentation of Female Filmmakers and What That Means for Film Discourse

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With a number printed on each release’s spine as if to represent the growing number of essential cinematic works like an encyclopedia, the Criterion Collection – the  boutique label that releases art house, indie, and classic films on DVD and Blu-ray –  is the essential brand  for cinephiles: bourgeoning, devoted, or anywhere in between. It has rightfully earned its place as a go-to brand for those seeking Important Cinema, previously feted or newly ripe for discovery. Their library bursts at the seams with names like Kurosawa, Altman, Godard, Truffaut, Bay, Ozu, Wenders, Ray, Rohmer, Tati, Demy, Bergman, and von Trier.

Regardless of how impressive and reputable the list of names above is or is not, there is certainly something missing: female directors. Critic, filmmaker, and author of Political Animals: New Feminist Cinema Sophie Mayer took a look through Criterion’s library and concluded that of the 798 films that the label has released, films directed or co-directed by women made up 2.6%, a sum total of 21 films. Read the rest of this entry »

The Devil’s Work: Faith, Humanity, and Hope(lessness) in The Exorcist and The Exorcist III

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(Author’s Note: I wrote this for my Horror Cinema class. It was fun.)

Max von Sydow battled an ideological “monster” before he encountered the Devil. Perhaps “monster” may or may not be a stretch, but the objective of his opponent was not dissimilar. While he, wearing chainmail and a sword on his side sat to sit opposite his opponent, Death (Bengt Ekerot), donned a black cloak and a white face, ready to reduce humanity’s greatest battle into a gamely metaphor. Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) would force von Sydow to reconcile with a system of belief, and, as with any of Bergman’s film, he landed with a kind of ambivalence about the place that theologically based ideology would have in his life. Perhaps somewhat ironically, it would not be the Bergman film that would make this reconciliation with faith and ideological perspectives visceral, but a horror film fourteen years later, and a sequel of that film nearly twenty years later. Read the rest of this entry »