Art

Soundtracks Make the Best Playlists

I am terrible at making playlists. I have weird (or nonexistent) taste in music, so it’s useless to craft anything more specific than the seven-hour “songs I like” playlist that is practically the only thing in my Spotify. Also, it’s boring to me to sort songs, which is why my sole playlist still contains songs I liked in 2015. And why I spend more time skipping songs than listening to them. Luckily, there is no need for me to force myself to be better at the fine art of playlist-making, because movie soundtracks exist.

Movie soundtracks make for a better-curated, more aesthetic-y, overall more fulfilling and inventive music listening experience than any playlist you could make yourself. To prove this point, I have collected here some of my absolute favorite movie soundtracks. Click the album art for a link to the music!

Continue reading “Soundtracks Make the Best Playlists”

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Art

The Roommate Movie Watch List

IMG_4229.jpgMy roommates and I are very different. We’re from different parts of the country; we have different majors; we’re different ages; we probably have different favorite colors and stuff. I’ll do a mini survey on that last one and get back to you.

The main things the three of us have in common are that we like movies, and we like each other. These may be so basic that they sound like what a sixth grader in beginner’s French would say in an oral exam: My name is Jacques. I like to watch movies and be with my friends. But still – they get the job done.

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City

Hidden Secrets of the BPL

Let’s face it: Emerson College’s Iwasaki library is not the quietest place to work. From archaic printers churning out hundred-page movie scripts, to students complaining that Emerson doesn’t have access to any source materials worth using for a thesis paper (the struggle is truly real), there’s really no place to procure some quiet time. Even if you don’t go to Emerson, I’m sure you can relate to the struggle of being unable to find a serene space on-campus.

Keep calm, fellow Emersonians! There’s a place close to campus where you can go and not only do your work but grab a bite to eat and get cultured as well: The Boston Public Library.

The BPL is on Boylston Street, and is just a fifteen-minute walk from Emerson’s campus (perhaps a bit longer for you poor souls who live in paramount). This means you can get in your exercise without having to go to the gym; yay physical activity! On the way to the BPL, there are also a surplus of places to eat, so if you get hungry on the way, you can always stop by Panera or Chipotle for a quick food break.

Continue reading “Hidden Secrets of the BPL”

Campus

Movie Websites for the Bored

Winter has officially hit Boston. With the cold spells in the city over the past couple of weeks, it has become harder to be outside than during the warmer months, which means staying inside for long periods of time. With this, figuring out what to do all day can be unbearable, especially if you have nothing to do.

However, there are some solutions. For all of my fellow movie lovers, in particular, there are many websites to get addicted to when trying to pass time. So, here are some different sites to check out this winter when we’re stuck inside all day.

Keep Track of the Movies You’ve Watched

Letterboxd

For those like me who like to rate movies and keep track of what you watched, Letterboxd is the best website for you. Unlike merely rating and writing a review on IMDb, this goes beyond that, as you can makes lists for yourself and the community, you can follow other reviewers, and it even tells you where the movies are available to watch. It’s an extremely helpful tool for those who care about knowing what they’ve watched in the past and, at least for me, it’s fun to look back at what I’ve seen.

Flickchart

While not as sleek a website as Letterboxd, this is a website for those who are completely bored. Flickchart is a film ranking website where two movies are put head-to-head and you have to choose which one you like better. In this way, it keeps track of what you’ve watched, and, overtime, it’ll tell you what movie you possibly like best, based on how many times you thought the movie was superior to its opponent. For some strange reason, it’s super addicting and lures you in as soon as you choose the first poster displayed on the site. When you eventually get out of the routine of ranking, looking at your own statistics makes it seem worth the trouble of spending time doing such a mindless act.

Figure Out What to Stream

JustWatch

Have you ever wanted to watch a movie, but it wasn’t on Netflix? Well, maybe it’s somewhere else that you didn’t think to look. But, instead of forcing yourself to go through each streaming service, JustWatch can tell you exactly where to find it. Just type in the movie and it will tell you exactly where you can stream, rent, and buy the movie. It’s extremely helpful and simple for those looking for something to stream and even does TV shows for those looking for something to binge.

What the Hell Should I Watch on Netflix?

I found this website years ago and whenever I use it, I’m not disappointed. All you have to do it indicate what genre you want to watch, and it will generate a movie for your viewing pleasure. You can also choose Random if you want a complete shot in the dark, but that’s up to you. While that does seem pretty risky to immediately go for the first movie it shows, it also allows you to choose a different random film it should generate. It mostly consists of fairly unknown films, so there’s a chance that you’ve either never seen it or even never heard of it. To fix that, they provide a trailer, brief summary to entice you, and even its Rotten Tomatoes score to prove that their recommendation has had some critical praise. It is, of course, not a perfect solution to the question “What the Hell Should I Watch on Netflix?” but it’s a good way to find out about new movies that were not quite as mainstream.

Before the Theater

RunPee

I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation: you’re sitting in the theater, having already finished the liter of water or soda, and you feel the sensation of having to go to the restroom. Unfortunately, though, the movie just started. So, the question becomes, “When should I go to the restroom?” RunPee gets information from people who have already seen the movie and tells you the best timeframe to go to the restroom. It’ll even give you alerts if you choose to tell you when a good scene to skip is coming up.

Does the Dog Die?

This a little sillier than the rest, but is nevertheless helpful, especially for those who don’t want to see a specific thing in a movie, TV show, or book. Though it started with just answering the question of whether the dog dies, it also has other categories like whether it has clowns or jump-scares or other possibly fear-inducing or triggering things. It’s always updated, so be sure to check this out before you watch the movie in the theater or at home.

While these websites are great to browse for when you’re bored during the winter days, they can also be helpful in keeping track of your watching habits and knowing what you’re about to watch. Hopefully, these websites will make your viewing experience just a little more fun.

Art

Halloweekend 2017: Celebrating the Best of Horror

Let’s face it. Horror movies have a bad reputation. Recently, the genre has consisted of either a remake, a sequel, or, just plainly, an unoriginal, uninspired horror flick. In that way, it’s easy to forget how impactful horror films really were to the industry. Horror filmmakers weren’t afraid to break barriers and cause controversy. Because of these achievements, they have inspired countless horror films to this day, but, at times, it’s hard to find those original ideas.

So, this Halloween, celebrate the old and the new. This year, since Halloween is on a Tuesday, the “Halloweekend” is October 28-30. Each day represents a different horror subgenre and brings two films: the horror movies that have influenced many, and the newer horror comedies that prove that horror can still be original.

Friday, October 28 – Slasher Film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

The slasher film is probably what most people think of when a horror movie comes to mind. With so many out there, there are many patterns that far and few have been able to break. However, all of those – now redundant – patterns can be traced back to one film: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Before even classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th, Texas Chain Saw Massacre was the film that shocked and scared audiences everywhere – and still to this day. Not only does the killer himself terrify, but also the ambiance of the film. The direction of each element made a perfect horror film and still holds validity today. Without this classic, the genre would be entirely different – maybe even unrecognizable. Until then, not many took the risk of adding the immense amount of gore and intensity that Texas Chain Saw Massacre possesses. It definitely didn’t hold back on its general grotesque nature. Its mark is definitely seen in a numerous amount of films, including the next pick: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. This movie, in a word, is absurd. There is no denying that this is a goofy, unpredictable, crazy film. Even the title is questionable. Nevertheless, the hilarity is undeniable. Each and every turn the movie takes is absolute insanity, but that’s what makes the film great. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a satire of the “cabin in the woods” slasher film but doesn’t rely on overused jokes that can be seen in any Scary Movie comedy. Though not the greatest in the world, it’s still a fun watch, especially after viewing a film so gory and menacing.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available on Amazon Prime and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is available on Hulu and Netflix.

Saturday, October 29 – Gothic Horror: Nosferatu (1922) and What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

The next day centers around a creature that has been, perhaps, over-utilized over the past ten years: the vampire. Though the Twilight and True Blood series have made the monster into a love story, there was a time when people thought the creature was utterly horrifying – that time, of course, being in the 1920s. Nevertheless, Nosferatu is nothing short of a groundbreaking horror film in the silent era. Though it may not be everybody’s first choice for being on a horror movie list, the film still has its qualities that can get under a person’s skin. The film has inspired not only horror films but the film industry in general. Its ability to still be recognizable today, despite being made nearly 100 years ago, shows just how iconic the film really is. There are even elements of it in the other pick of the day: What We Do in the Shadows. Not only is it hilarious, but it is, arguably, one of the most underrated horror comedy films in recent history. The New Zealand film is a mockumentary on three vampires and, though it’s set in the modern world, these vampires are still stuck in the past. While still being able to have its fair share of scares, What We Do in the Shadows uses its smart wit and charm to its advantage, creating a fantastic balance of horror and comedy that not many are able to achieve. These two vampire features break the mold of the now repetitive vampire film and instead allow more originality in the genre, both with a classic and a dark comedy from 2014.

Nosferatu and What We Do in the Shadows are both available on Amazon Prime.

Sunday, October 30 – Movie Monsters: Night of the Living Dead (1968) and An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Ending the weekend is a pair of cult classics that have made their marks in cinema history. Featuring iconic movie monsters, they both changed the genre and the icon of their respective creatures for years to come. To start, Night of the Living Dead revolutionized the horror genre with its gory spectacle and grisly depictions of the zombie. Similar to what Texas Chain Saw Massacre did to slasher films, Night of Living Dead not only rejuvenated and recreated the zombie creature but also made its mark on horror film history by influencing many horror films known and loved today. Though an independent film, it was able to reach to wider audiences and allowed a breakthrough for horror that continued for years to come. Director George A. Romero’s reimagination of the zombie is what the modern iteration is based on, proving his contribution to the creature as a whole. The second movie also benefited from the film in that filmmakers were no longer afraid to show the far darker and grislier side of horror. An American Werewolf in London epitomizes the horror comedy in that it perfectly blends the two completely different genres, but it is definitely creepier than what a conventional movie in the genre would look like. It’s dark and, at times, even a little uncomfortable to watch with its captivating creature designs. Being one of the few horror films to have won an Academy Award, this film is credited as being one of the biggest achievements in makeup in film. Headed by Rick Baker, it was the first film to receive the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar and was the makeup artist’s first of a record seven wins. The iconic transformation of the protagonist from man to werewolf is gruesome, yet utterly hypnotizing. It’s mind-boggling to think this was made 36 years ago with practical effects, making it, possibly, one of the best visual effects achievements of all time. The transformation scene alone makes it worth the watch, but the entire film deserves its spot because of its great impact on the horror comedy genre for years to come.

Night of the Living Dead is available on Amazon Prime and An American Werewolf in London is available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Though horror does have a stigma for being cheesy or rudimentary, there are still gems that prove that the genre can produce legitimate films for critics and for audiences. There is no denying that horror films are still a staple of the film industry and should be celebrated as such. Yes, there are many bad horror flicks to choose from and, ultimately, laugh at, but, this Halloween, celebrate the ones that were able to change how people thought of the genre.

Art, Opinion

The Power of Wonder Woman

I’ll be the first to say that I thought I was Wonder Woman when I was younger. In preschool I had a red velvet ribbon that I would wave around as my Lasso of Truth. Nowadays, anyone who knows me knows how big of a Marvel fangirl I am. However, if you asked me which superhero movie has had the biggest impact on me, the honor goes to DC’s latest Wonder Woman.

I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League Animated Series, so I’ve been waiting for a good adaptation for a while. Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman didn’t do it for me. My worst fear was that these same filmmakers would ruin my Wonder Woman as well. However, with female director Patty Jenkins, I instead found myself crying three separate times during the movie.

From the start, Diana is a girl who wants to kick ass and take names. She wants to be able to fight alongside her people and protect those she loves. As she grows, her goals never change. She changes, seeing what the outside world is like once she leaves her homeland, but always her mission has been peace and protecting humans. The opening scene she runs from the cozy plan laid out for her and heads to the training grounds to imitate the warrior women she looks up to. Watching young Diana throw punches at the air like she’s one of the great women of Themyscira made me tear up. I could see her drive and her desire to be just as strong as everyone else.

What I thought was the most telling about Diana and how inspirational she is had nothing to do with her badass fighting. The first time Diana is exposed to the bombs and bullets of our modern world, her first instinct isn’t to take up arms and fight. Instead she tries to stop Steve, Chris Pine’s character, and insist that she help every single person she passes. The crying civilians and wounded soldiers clearly affect her and inspire her to fight to protect them from any more pain. Gal Gadot really brings this empathy to life and convinces the viewer that Diana has an investment in the lives of others. It hurts her to see suffering and she’s willing to lay down her life and leave her comfortable homeland to save the world.

Diana is the hero I need, the one who doesn’t give up even when the world seems to be a terrible place. The DC Universe right now is too dark and hopeless about the state of the world. The Marvel Universe is a bit lighter but there aren’t any female characters I can really look up to and say “That’s who I want to be like” (sorry Black Widow). The first female led superhero movie in some time has given me a woman with emotional intelligence and physical prowess. Personally, I can’t wait to see how she takes the Justice League to new heights and saves the world yet again.

Opinion

Thoughts on “Ghostbusters,” the Loathed Remake

A scene from Ghostbusters (2016). Left to right: Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones.
A scene from Ghostbusters (2016). Left to right: Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones.

There is a moment in the new Ghostbusters movie where Kristen Wiig’s character, Erin, mistakenly reads aloud an online comment that says, “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.” It’s a funny line that is made poignant with added context. Since the film’s announcement, this remake, its cast members, and its director (Paul Feig) have all been under fire. Why? Well, because it’s a horrible thing to remake a film, but even more terrible to remake a film with an “unconventional” cast-list. Despite the original 1984 Ghostbusters film featuring the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, this 2016 remake instead features a female-led cast.

Continue reading “Thoughts on “Ghostbusters,” the Loathed Remake”

Art, Opinion

Summer Blockbuster Sequels and Why We Keep Seeing Them

The movie box offices are crowded with sequels and remakes this summer. If you make your way to a theater you’re likely to encounter a slew of unwieldy, colon-studded titles, including such films as Captain America: Civil War, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 both come out this weekend, and a quick count shows at least five more major film releases before August are sequels or remakes of previous movies.

It’s no mystery why the film industry keeps churning these out. Having a built-in audience gives studios a certain degree of security when deciding which films to give the green light. Four of the five top-grossing films of 2016, and nearly 40 of the 50 top-grossing films of all time are sequels. They clearly make money, but what is it about sequels that audiences continue to find so appealing?

One important component that the filmmakers bank on is familiarity. There’s less work to do, on a storytelling level, to introduce characters or premises that the audience has already accepted and enjoyed on screen before. In a way, a sequel is a movie’s chance to be a little bit like TV. The story has the opportunity to respond to audience reactions, it can develop characters and relationships over a longer arc than a standalone movie can, and can potentially build on an already established framework to create more complex plots. It’s a thin line to walk, however, staying true to the spirit of the previous film while still infusing the story with new innovations and putting something real and character-driven at stake.

The quality of sequels in Hollywood varies wildly, from established classics like The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back to poorly executed flops like Jurassic Park III. If a movie like Magic Mike: XXL, missing key original characters and with a significant tonal shift from its predecessor, can achieve that ultimate sequel film commendation of being “better than the original,” is there any rhyme or reason to which sequels will work and which won’t? Is it possible to isolate certain necessary components a sequel must have in order to be successful? I am tentative to list any absolutes here, but I believe there are a few important variables at work when determining whether a sequel can be considered a success:

Character Growth

Taking a character on a journey which causes them to grow and change in some way is an essential component of storytelling not only within the film medium, but across the creative spectrum. It’s a thornier stipulation for sequels however, because they don’t start with a blank slate. Their characters have already been on a journey, presumably, and that same familiarity with the character which urged audiences into the seats can also alienate them if they’re presented with a character they don’t recognize, who is in some way inauthentic or inconsistent with the original.

Spectacle as a Substitution for Story

This is a consistent problem with sequels and across Hollywood in general—explosions are easier to translate for foreign audiences than witty banter or philosophical contemplation, or maybe the art direction was stronger than the new screenplay. Either way sequel films, so often part of superhero franchises or other action-packed genres today, seem to suffer disproportionately from over- emphasis on CGI and action sequences rather than the story. I think of Alice Through the Looking Glass, released in theaters last month—it was a visually beautiful movie, with exciting sequences of Alice navigating torrid ocean waters and racing against a physical manifestation of time to save the Mad Hatter, but its prettiness failed to hold up a mostly bland and nonsensical time-travel plot.

It all comes back to story, I think. If there’s a compelling story to tell, one which is driven by character growth and internal conflict rather than relying on external trappings, then a sequel at least has a chance to stand on its own merits instead of clinging to the success of the original.

Art, Opinion

When Books Become Movies: Why Are the Original Covers Being Covered Up?

“I want the original cover! I don’t want to see Sam Claflin and Emilia Clark on the cover.”

I was in the book section of Target when I heard someone two aisles away complaining about how she couldn’t find the original version of Me Before You, a book by Jojo Moyes which has recently been turned into a major motion picture.

It wasn’t until I heard her ranting about this to her friend that I realized how common this was. As soon as a book is announced it’s going to be turned into a movie, the new covers with the actors faces grace all the shelves. It becomes increasingly harder to find a book with the original cover. I’ve noticed someone who wants to get an original cover of paying extra money for shipping. Some people might not mind, but it is a waste of a trip for someone who was hoping to pick up a book with its original cover only to find the ones released for the movies.

When I was reading The Fault in Our Stars and went to search for a copy of my own around the time the movie came out, if I went into a store like Target or Walmart, I had basically no chance of finding a cover without Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort plastered on it. Bookstores are a little better, but the best chance is usually online.

I understand that the hype paves the way for a lot of marketing opportunities. Now that the characters have actors, they become a brand for the movie. But it also brings up an issue that is not completely unlike the popular books into movies debate. Fans may be upset enough to see their favorite books being made into movies because they’re afraid the movies won’t live up to the what the books have given them.

I’ve always been a fan of books being made into movies. In fact, recently I prefer reading books that I know are going to be made into movies because I like reading the story for myself first and then seeing how the director, actors, writers and others who work on the movie interpret the text differently than I did. It’s taking the books you loved and giving them new life.

But limiting the selling of the original book covers is taking away from what the books used to be. While all the authors whose books are made into movies obviously support the decision for this to be done, I feel like only selling the movie covers is trying to erase where the book came from. The movie trailers always boast that the movie you’re about to see was a book first, so taking the original copies off the shelves seems contradictory to me. When fans read books they build up their own worlds in their heads. They have their own ideas of what the characters look like and what the setting is.

So I understand why a lot of fans wouldn’t want to see the books they’ve read become movies because then they’re losing the world they created. You can separate the books and the movies. You can choose not to see the movie or you can choose to treat it as an entirely separate interpretation, but as soon as the movie marketing starts infiltrating its way into the books, there’s no separation anymore. Those characters are only what they are on screen. You can open Twilight without seeing Robert Pattinson, The Hunger Games without Jennifer Lawrence, Divergent without Theo James.

When these new covers are released, they’re giving the books new life, and that’s certainly exciting too. A lot of people see Emma Watson as Hermoine or Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. I just think the old books should be kept around too, because without the original cover that first made that book chosen by curious readers who searched the shelves for a new book, there would be no movie in the first place.

Campus

Back to the Kid’s Table: Using Regression as a Stress Reliever

In colleges across America, the two first weeks of December are some of the most stressful days of the year. Final exams and projects are all crammed into this tiny time frame where a semester’s worth of knowledge is expected to be condensed into one effort. A popular way many college students deal with that stress is to regress. In the past few years, puppy petting sessions have been a hit on campuses with scientific evidence starting to back up why these are proven stress relievers. Here are four ways you can alleviate the anxiety brought on by finals by turning back the clock and not acting your age.

Use Coloring Books

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by Karen Mardahl, “228-365 Coloring book” under CC by SA 2.0

Being able to go from concentrating on everything to just your pen and your paper is relaxing. Coloring books are a creative way for destressing while also expressing yourself.  In the art therapy world, mandalas have long been considered a healthy way to cope with anxiety. I find this activity is most useful when done by yourself with some music playing in the background. A study published by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology shows that when people do creative activities away from work, they are more adept at handling stress and completing work. So in a way, coloring is helping you prepare for finals.

Watch Disney Anything

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By Danielle Elder, “Disney Movies” under CC by 2.0

Or Dreamworks, if you grew up in that kind of family. Watching classic childhood favorites is an easy way to cope with the uncertainty of the world by using the familiarity of nostalgia. You’re seeing something you know well and have formed your own attachment to. It’s probably the happiest form of escapism that exists; there’s no extremely crude jokes or dark subject matter, there’s catchy songs and happy endings. Personally, my favorite is Disney’s patriarchy pommeling feminist classic Mulan. Eddie Murphy’s Mushu provides the perfect amount of comedic relief and the plot is serious enough to make you reflect, but in the end everything is ok.  With its themes of adversity and empowerment, the movie leaves you with the feeling you can conquer anything (also the finale song features the ultimate collaboration of 98 Degrees and Stevie Wonder.) To make it an even better experience, find a group of people to watch the movie with you and let the reminiscing begin.

Braid Friendship Bracelets

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by Nina Helmer, “Bracelets” under CC by NC-ND 2.0

Go back to the summer camp days by braiding some friendship bracelets. All you need is thread, which can be found online or at your local craft store. My favorite design to make is a Chevron, but there are plenty of guides online that you can follow. No matter what pattern you do, when it comes down to it, all you’re doing is knotting knots. The repetition provides a calming sense of order and clarity. Unlike the other two activities, this one makes a great fashion accessory or simple Christmas gift.

Break out the Play-Doh

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by Dennis Brekke, “Play-Doh” under CC by 2.0

Finals bring a lot emotions: panic, dread, frustration, anger, despair. For some people, being able to squeeze, pound and break something without actually doing harm can be extremely cathartic. Play-Doh is like a moldable stress ball that is usually encouraged for little kids. Along with being therapeutic in a tactile sense, playing with Play-Doh is also an outlet for creative expression. Decompressing with a can of this stuff is an inexpensive alternative to smashing whatever fragile objects are in your dorm or going the teen angst route and screaming into your pillow.

Drinking Juicy Juice boxes during any of these activities is an unnecessary but nice nostalgic touch as well. Most importantly, remember to act your real age when doing the work for studying or completing final projects and not the one you’re regressing to.