Viewport width =

Issue 12, 2015

Salient Reviews Stuff!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter


  • University earns Master’s in Haste

  • Wellingtonians feeling the strain

  • More like a Bad-get!

  • Council-tation

  • Eye on Exec

  • Students stuck in the suburbs

  • Gu-rude advice shocks Massey students

  • How to Lose a Council in 10 Days

  • Scarfies still an easy target

  • Features

  • grad

    I Went to Graduation and All I Got Was This Lousy Degree

    For students all across the world, years of study culminate in a perfunctory ritual known as “graduation”. After three years of napping at Victoria’s Te Aro campus, it was my turn to partake in the tradition.


  • poo

    The Poo Review

    The best places to take a dump on campus We begin the spans of our lives as helpless, yowling, crying, shitting menaces. We don’t really evolve from this stage of infancy so much as learn to hide our true selves better. So, as appallingly biological as it is, even as “mature” “adults” we still shit, […]


  • tinder

    Tinder Typicals

    After a long-term relationship, going into summer as a single pringle gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the secret underworld of Tinder. Armed with wine, pent-up sexual frustration, and apparently low standards, I was “lucky” enough to meet a plethora of your Tinder Typicals. The Campsite Booty Call Family Christmas is often paired with […]


  • uni students

    The definitive ranking of (some) students from (some) NZ tertiary institutions

    The AUT Children of Privilege These characters can be spotted from a mile away, more often than not sporting black skinnies, a fluffy jumper, Roshes, and dripping in Karen Walker jewellery. They still live at home with Mummy and Daddy on the Shore and have enough Instagram followers to make you wonder what you’re doing […]


  • grad

    I Went to Graduation and All I Got Was This Lousy Degree

    For students all across the world, years of study culminate in a perfunctory ritual known as “graduation”. After three years of napping at Victoria’s Te Aro campus, it was my turn to partake in the tradition.


  • poo

    The Poo Review

    The best places to take a dump on campus We begin the spans of our lives as helpless, yowling, crying, shitting menaces. We don’t really evolve from this stage of infancy so much as learn to hide our true selves better. So, as appallingly biological as it is, even as “mature” “adults” we still shit, […]


  • tinder

    Tinder Typicals

    After a long-term relationship, going into summer as a single pringle gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the secret underworld of Tinder. Armed with wine, pent-up sexual frustration, and apparently low standards, I was “lucky” enough to meet a plethora of your Tinder Typicals. The Campsite Booty Call Family Christmas is often paired with […]


  • uni students

    The definitive ranking of (some) students from (some) NZ tertiary institutions

    The AUT Children of Privilege These characters can be spotted from a mile away, more often than not sporting black skinnies, a fluffy jumper, Roshes, and dripping in Karen Walker jewellery. They still live at home with Mummy and Daddy on the Shore and have enough Instagram followers to make you wonder what you’re doing […]


  • Arts and Science

  • Auckland Writers Festival

    In terms of a linear narrative I can only offer you this: on Saturday, I had acquired enough of a quiet accord with David Mitchell (either “Not that David Mitchell!” or “Yes, that David Mitchell!” depending on how you prefer to spend your free time) that he offered me a “sup” nod of recognition when we passed each other, post-Murakami. The next day, we had clearly developed enough of an affinity for him to feel comfortable offering me personal advice. He put it delicately and kindly: “You smoke!? You bloody idiot. The tobacco industry are laughing while you pay them money to kill you. Hear that ‘ha ha ha’? That’s the tobacco industry scoffing. ‘This rube is paying us money to kill him,’ they’re saying. Listen!” I can only assume that tomorrow, we will have reached a level of intimacy that will put me on the Christmas card list.

    I feel like any attempt to chronologise the events of the Auckland Writers Festival, or to tidily amputate the events into sections to be analysed in atomised parts, would do my whirlwind of an experience a great injustice. Suffice to say no-one asked any academic or narratological questions. This being a writer’s festival, invoking “The Death of the Author” publically would have been akin to asking an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for tips on single-malts. Each time the floor was opened to the audience it was relinquished with a tacit understanding: “whatever you do, don’t mention post-structuralism”.

    Despite this absence, the festival proved illuminating and invigorating as attendees were offered different—sometimes antithetical—approaches towards writing, and were told of the strenuous negotiations, revisions, experiments and research that were required to complete a novel (this even before finding a willing publisher). Those who attended more than one event could be forgiven for leaving the festival a little confused:

    David Mitchell—“I hate it when people say ‘my character made me do this’, or ‘I just followed my character’.”

    Haruki Murakami—“Originally, Colourless Tsuruku was a short story… and then his girlfriend told him to track down his old friends, and I wanted to know what happened. So I wrote the novel.”

    Emily St. John Mendel—“With my second novel, I started off with just a seed of an idea, really—one day, a husband leaves his wife on their honeymoon… and I thought, ‘why’? And in answering that, fleshing the details out, I wrote a novel.”

    At one stage, I queued behind poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, waiting for coffee. She ordered a piccolo. As someone learning the art of espresso, it marked the first time she made me shed a tear that weekend. The second was during a recitation of her poem “Premonitions”, an elegiac ode-cum-love-letter to the poet’s late mother. She enunciated “there you were / a glass of lemony wine in each hand / walking towards me always… / How you talked! And how / I listened”. I turned to my companion and saw that both of our eyes were wet.

    That entire session was brilliant, with John Campbell excelling as an interlocutor. Initial worries about Campbell’s nervous freneticism clashing with Duffy’s calm, stately, vaguely disapproving demeanour were quickly abated. Something that can only be described as a rapport emerged between the two, Campbell’s enthusiasm the perfect foil to Duffy’s deadpan restraint, though Campbell did tone himself down and make some perceptive queries. When Carol Ann Duffy tells you you’ve asked “a very good question”, you’ve asked a very good question. Not even he could outshine the lady of the hour, however, holding her audience in a rapturous spell, eliciting the biggest laugh of the festival in Mrs. Tiresias, about the long-suffering wife of an Oracle new to the ins-and-outs of a vagina.

    This quality of moderation did not persist throughout the festival. Poor David Mitchell drew two short straws, with moderators making the easy but ruinous mistake of talking too much and not allowing the author time to breath or even reflect—forget pauses, the moderators interrupted during sentences. In his second event the poor beleaguered moderator—a stand-in, I believe—even received heckles. Other problems arose when the chairs were too star-struck, too effusive. Metro editor Simon Wilson giddily compared Zia Haider Rahman—author of the astounding In The Light of What We Know—to, amongst others, “Dickens”, “Waugh”, “Fitzgerald”, “Naipaul”, “Kafka”, “Le Carre”, “Ludlum”(???)—invoking everything except for Austerlitz, which the novel most clearly structurally resembles and a quote from which appears in In The Light‘s epigraph. I would have been perfectly happy to have the novel discussed on its own uncompromising terms, of course, but the Austerlitz angle would have been a fruitful line of enquiry, especially because of the core difference between the two novels: while Austerlitz focalises the past through the present, In The Light of What We Know focalises the present through the past.

    Festival drawcard Murakami appeared on the stage in a “keep calm and read Murakami” t-shirt, embellished with a cat, which tells you all you need to know—it’s impossible to tell exactly how much he’s taking the piss. His answers to the questions put to him were delightfully, fittingly cryptic and (if you took the time to parse his metaphors) informative, though he couldn’t resist a couple of Nabokovian jabs (“what do the cats mean? A cat is just a cat”). However, I especially liked him when he answered his questions earnestly. Why do certain motifs—cats, music—recur in his novels? “I was an only child, I lived with my parents and my cat only… my parents didn’t understand me at all. My cat was my only friend in the house. I love my my books, I love my music—I love my cat.” His assertion that he writes “to become somebody else, to know somebody else” was poignant and powerful. “I am not a twenty-year old lesbian, I know nothing about being a twenty-year old lesbian, but when I write I see through [their eyes].”

    When asked about returning to Tokyo after the twin crises of the Earthquake and Sarin Gas attacks, Murakami elucidated upon a change that occurred in his fiction that I’d detected but couldn’t quite define: “I did not return for my country. I returned for my people.” While writing Underground, a series of interviews surrounding the Sarin Gas attacks that is amongst his best, most empathetic works and his only non-fiction book available in English (yet he tantalisingly dangled the prospect of a book on jazz being translated), he had an epiphany: “I realised that these people… they were my people.” This contextualises the shift in his work. The novels up to and including The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles broached urban ennui, alienation and atomisation and, well, loneliness and the difficulty of interpersonal connection. His later works are more warm and humanistic. Having this piece of the puzzle slotted into place before my very taringas was special.

    If I might pay the favour forward, I have good news for Murakami acolytes with less than $80 worth of library fines. Many believe that Murakami’s first two novels—Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973—are unavailable in English. For those people, I offer an early Christmas present. They were both published in 1987, albeit in small runs, with Hear The Wing Sing getting a slightly larger re-printing as part of a series of accessible novels encouraging Japanese speakers with upper-intermediate level English to hone their skills. In the Victoria University Library lies the proof for completists such as myself.

    One misconception—that Murakami himself corrected during the talk—was that he abandoned Japan after the response to Norwegian Wood. While technically true, this oft-repeated claim disingenuously omits Murakami’s life-long love/hate relationship with his home country and belies the fact that Norwegian Wood was written in the context of a trial separation. That novel, as well as Dance Dance Dance (a sequel of sorts to Hear The Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973 and A Wild Sheep Chase, termed “the Rat trilogy” by devotees), was conceived of and written during a tenure in Italy. It may not, however, be entirely coincidental that those two novels are the ones Murakami “had the most fun writing”.

    Finally, the talk made me remember why I fell in love with Murakami’s works in the first place. When discussing romantic relationships, Murakami corrected himself for using heteronormative pronouns after inadvertently alluding to a relationship between a hypothetical she and hypothetical he. “He or she,” he said, almost imperceptibly, and I remembered that Kafka on the Shore was the first novel I read that passed the Russo test, wherein a Queer character—in this case an FTM trans man—is not “solely or predominantly defined by their gender identity” and who is significant to the plot. There’s something special about encountering art from someone who is not only a great artist, but whom you suspect is a good person, regardless of the “basements underneath the basements” that they journey to for their art.

    The morning after the Murakami Talk, Emily St. John Mendel offered refreshingly practical and clear advice to those wishing to write a novel. “Re-write each chapter out a second time,” she advised, “and you’ll notice the clumsy sentences or bits that don’t work… I usually take about two and a half years to finish a novel, with some decompression time and coming back to it… Remember that each character is human, has their own motivations that, to them, are self-justified.”

    Other events offered something less like literary advice than spiritual guidance. Tim Winton doesn’t look like the shaman that you’d see atop the mount, adorned as he is with long hair and that archetypical rugged Australian visage and body shape, but nevertheless sounded practically holy when he claimed “I think that optimism, hope, hope is something we learn… but it’s also something we need.” Less surprising was Ben Okri’s mysticism: “I truly believe we have more senses than the ones we use.”

    The British-Nigerian novelist spoke with gravitas and endless compassion, choosing his words carefully. In terms of comparisons, imagine Mr. Eko on Lost as an author in lieu of a priest. Though all the events I saw were pretty accessible, his was the most unpretentious. It was also the only one possibly sponsored by Coca-Cola—a bottle of the stuff was, unfathomably, on the table the entire time, with chair Paula Morris occasionally bringing it into conversation: “I could really use some of that Coke!” she gushed at one stage. The bottle mysteriously made its way, unopened, to Okri’s signing table. Follow the money.

    But I digress: Okri’s event was provocative. He quickly shirked the magical realist label his output is often given, making it clear that, to him, “magic” is woven, compenetrated, into the fabric of the “real”; the real itself being utterly subjective. “Reality,” he said, “seems to conform to our perception of it.” Whether it be the coincidence of being placed in the same hotel room number throughout a month-long trip (“one day I said ‘enough of this’ and asked for another room… I saw the number, and guess what the numbers added up to?”) or “bumping into an old friend in a strange city” or seeing a ghost (“have you seen a ghost?” “oh yes. I have”), to Okri these events are not happenstance or even synchronicity: they’re magical. His books, then, are meant to be conducive to “meditation and deep thought” and “read slowly… I want you to read my books slowly.”

    Although Orki spoke in quotes I’m certain he’s used before, I was swept up enough in the authority and magic to sigh along with crowd. “Sometimes,” he said, “we are greater than ourselves when we write.” I believe him.

    Not all the events were formal. One of my favourites was the event for Tangata Whenua, a book released last year that charts Māori history from its origins to the contemporary day. The event took the tone of a korero, the ambience of the room the event was allocated perfect to an intimate and respectful communion. The sound of skateboards rattling and loud excited shouts from outside seeped into the space. Some of the audience were distracted, but writer and historian Aroha Harris was chuffed—“this is their land too”, after all. It only added to the informality of the event. The book was seven years in the making: how did the writers first meet? “We should’ve met in the pub!” quipped Atholl Anderson. Convener Ngarimu Blair was pleasantly candid: “you two, and the late Judith Binney, have written a really accessible book eh… just when I feel like I’m about to fall asleep and drop it on my face there’s something there that hooks my interest”, to peals of commiseratory audience laughter. “Even my son, he’ll come up behind me and say ‘what’s that papa? Mea e tupu?’.” We learn that this is why there is a focus on Māori art and photography in the book. “We wanted the book to work on more than one level,” Harris explains. “Science, archaeology, sociology, art… you name it!”

    When Harris went on to say that New Zealand history isn’t taught enough in the curriculum—“most of our year 13s know more about the Tudors than the Treaty”—the room—composed, as far as I could tell, mostly of middle-late aged Pakeha—murmured in agreement, with a couple of “hear hear”s. More serious was an anecdote Harris told about the problems of focus on profit: “my tuahine, sister, runs our whanau’s farm up north… eeling. And it’s not considered economically productive by the Government. It has nothing to do with that! She has enough to pay the electricity bill! She’s happy.” “She has enough to pay the electricity bill?” asked Blair. “Doing better than my whanau then!” Cue sober laughter.

    Though the book does not directly address this incompatibility between taonga and capitalist machinations—“we didn’t want it to be that kind of book”—it provides enough of a background for everyone (“especially Pakeha,” noted Blair) to understand the fundamentals of tikanga Māori. “This is a book every New Zealander should own,” Blair claimed, to murmurs of assent.

    This raises a difficult question: with so many stories and novels and essays out there, how do you create a hierarchy of importance? On what criterion do we judge importance, unique to our individual experience and context? As New Zealanders, are we obliged—should we feel obliged—to read Frame before Woolf, Tuwhare before Tennyson? Indeed, if the Writers Festival did anything it suggested the wealth of narratives out there, waiting to be encountered, mined, digested. One of the motifs of the festival, too, was the claim that important stories exist outside the context of the novel or the book or the treatise. “I think stories are all around us,” said Rahman at one point. “We need journalists because there are so many fucking great stories out there that need to be told or can be told… if you know where to look,” claimed John Freeman. David Mitchell imparted this advice to me, privately, when I complained about feeling derivative (hope I’m not betraying ur trust Dave xoxo): “At your age you should be emulating writers you like. Keep doing it. Be a flapper of literature; have torrid affairs with all sorts of different novels. Read voraciously. Finding your own style will come later.”

    I think Okri put it best, and most formidably. “I came to New Zealand wanting to hear the ‘myths’ (air quote supplied by the reverent tone in which he uses the word). I wanted to hear your myths, the stories of your land, and so I asked. They responded: ‘how much time do you have?’.”


  • The Story So Far—The Story So Far


    California-based pop punk legends The Story So Far have just released their third studio album. The band dropped their self-titled LP via Pure Noise Records on May 19, but uploaded it for streaming a full week beforehand, after leaking singles and other teasers for the last few months (and after the whole album was leaked online). Most notably, the band leaked their single “Nerve” by handing out 50 demo copies at a Title Fight show in San Francisco, claiming it was from a fictional band called “The Skateboarders”. Is there a more punk way to release a single? I think not.

    “Nerve” is great, like most of the album, and it’s exactly what you would expect from The Story So Far. They’ve got pop punk down to a fine art, and they do it well, but fans looking to see musical progression after Under Soil and Dirt and What You Don’t See might be a little bit disappointed.

    The Story So Far opens with “Smile”, a song clearly dedicated to a lost love. It’s a familiar sound, and shows the band still very much wearing their hearts on their sleeves, especially in the chorus: “Are you blocking all the things / That have to do with me? / Is it easier now? / Do you feel any release? / Tell me how you fit in / And where do you begin? / Do you toast when they toast? / Do you sin when they sin?”.

    The next track, “Heavy Gloom”, is one of my favourites from the album. This one leans heavily on bassist Kelen Capener and is one of the grittier tracks on the LP. It’s lyrically great too and though vocalist Parker Cannon makes heavy use of rhyme, he kills the chorus: “It cuts so much deeper / Why would I wanna see her? / Only had one beer / And I don’t wanna sleep here / And I know you don’t care / You’ve made it so clear / Swore I had no fear / Not until you came near”.

    “Solo” changes the tone a little bit, it’s a little more low-key but still suitably pop punk. This track introduces the lyrical theme of “feeling indigo”, which is repeated throughout the album in various places, an almost-subtle undercurrent that draws it all together pretty nicely. It’s definitely not one of my favourite tracks, but I hear that it grows on you, so I’m still waiting to be sold on this one.

    “Mock” is another great track, the best part being Cannon’s vocals in “Make things worse / I always seem to make things worse / ‘cos I can’t seem to shake this curse / I can’t seem to put you first”. “Phantom” starts out with guitar feedback like “Smile”, and is the most somber track on the record. The lyrics aren’t too varied and at only two and a half minutes long, it definitely could have done more. I respect the attempt to change up the sound a little bit, but for me it didn’t work. This one is easily the most disappointing track on the record, but you might enjoy it if you liked their acoustic EP Songs Of.

    Cannon is good at what he does, but he knows it and doesn’t stray too far from what he does best. His vocals are as crisp and clean as ever, but it would be cool to see him mix these up a bit, as it definitely brings a sense of sameness to the album—like you’ve heard all these tracks before.

    Ultimately, The Story So Far is a great album, albeit a little bit disappointing. It definitely feels like it could have benefited from a little more risk, but as “Phantom” makes clear, risks don’t always pay off. If your favourite songs from Under Soil and Dirt are tracks like “Mt. Diablo” and “Daughters”, or “Right Here” and “All Wrong” from What You Don’t See, then you’ll probably dig the new album. If you’re a fan of their faster, more hardcore sound, then you’ll probably be disappointed by this latest release.


  • Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen: A Konami Retrospective

    Well, Konami has certainly put on a clinic in how not to run a video game company. They have pretty much alienated their consumer base by making one big blunder after another—blacklisting and censoring critics, cancelling their biggest and most expensive projects, holding insane and nonsensical press conferences. I’m willing to bet no sane developer will even consider working for them now; the new Metal Gear Solid game is just a few months away from release, and it’s almost guaranteed to be the last one, at least with Hideo Kojima at the helm. Don’t worry, he’ll be free from their corporate clutches by Christmas.

    All of this is a shame, Konami was once synonymous with challenge, high quality and innovation going all the way back to the 8-bit era. I’m not really one to dwell too much on what went wrong; I like to remember the high points, the moments we were on top of the world. That’s exactly what I’m doing with Konami—without further ado, let’s look at some of their greatest successes.



    The run-and gun platformer—nothing else even comes close. Released in the arcades in 1987 and on the NES a year later, Contra is probably the original friendship destroyer, being one of the first titles to use simultaneous two-player co-op. You’ll need someone to help you along no matter what—a combination of one-hit kills and high enemy numbers make this one of the most unforgiving games ever made. Also introduced that bloody up up down down left right left right B A START cheat code that people reference to sound nerdy, when in reality they wouldn’t know a graphics card from a Yu-Gi-Oh card.


    Ever wanted to kill Dracula? Well, you can do that in Castlevania—just grab your whip and take care of the many zombies, floating Medusa heads and dodgy jumping mechanics that will get in your way first. (Especially the Medusa heads. Those things will fuck up your day). Another challenging platformer from the NES era, but it’s had instalments on most major consoles over the years. My personal recommendation is Super Castlevania 4 for the Super Nintendo—the controls in that game are much better than the others, making for a more enjoyable game and fewer broken controllers.


    Hideo Kojima, to the gaming masses, is practically a god amongst men. He has done things to piss people off (mostly harmless trolling), but he has always made great games, and the entire Metal Gear series is his masterpiece. I’m still amazed every time I sneak my way through Metal Gear Solid and, with the benefit of hindsight, can recognise how influential it has been, especially in terms of narrative. Pretty much every AAA blockbuster these days owes a great debt to Kojima and his willingness to blend cinematic storytelling with unique stealth mechanics—don’t tell me you didn’t piss yourself the first time you heard that alert, or complain during a really long cutscene. Also indirectly gave us Metal Gear Awesome, which put a certain young animator named Egoraptor on the map.


    I refuse to play any and all horror games, Silent Hill included. Horror and mental illness are a dangerous mix. Sorry. Also, now that Silent Hills has been canned, there’s probably no way another one will be made anyway.


    I can’t dance. I have no rhythm. I’m not a fan of upbeat pop music. Most of these are probably true for a lot of people. Yet, DDR is still shit-tons of fun, especially when inhibitions have been lowered in one way or another. Blame this for why rhythm games are/were so popular.


    So there you go: Konami’s greatest hits. Not a bad line-up in the end. And yet, the company now wants to piss it all away for bloody freemium mobile games. They’ve started chasing the money rather than the art. The dollar signs in their eyes have blinded them to the fact that they’re sitting on a gold mine of great games from their past—they should probably take some inspiration from these and apply it to their business today. Besides, I’d rather cut my own toes off before I play a Metal Gear game with microtransactions.


  • Taking My Mother Along To See Pinky Fang

    The past week I had the strained pleasure of having my mother in Wellington. Part of the week included exploring the arty side of the city, including an exhibit at Thistle Hall Community Gallery, which she has kindly helped to review.

    Thistle Hall recently played host to Pinky Fang’s first solo show, entitled FANG SOLO, which was in equal parts colourful and humorous. To those new to Pinky Fang, her work stretches across many mediums, (textile, installation, ceramics, accessories, drawings, to name a few) and has garnered a significant audience through both previous group exhibits in Wellington and online. Her work references pop culture, kitsch and cats in a way that is unpretentious and idiosyncratic.

    For me, seeing her solo exhibit was nice as I recognised the style and various pieces from around town at some point, so it was great to finally put a face and name to the collection. While I recognised the style, the majority of the work was still new to me and notable pieces included a ceramic sculpture fittingly titled “Trout Tits”, a doge plate, cementing everyone’s favourite meme into dinnerware (and what’s a meal with a meme?), another plate that saw a dairy pun on Wu-Tan—“cheese rules everything around me”—and a series of singing bill bass fish impressively belting Notorious B.I.G.

    While these playful takes on pop culture are a strength of Pinky Fang’s work, I wondered how someone who was completely removed from such references would find the exhibit. After we left the gallery, I debriefed with my mother, and translated her response:

    “I was surprised when we got to the ‘gallery’, it looked very small and more like an empty shop to me. I guess it was, since the art was for sale, but so expensive! Triple digits for a plate, and it wasn’t even Wedgwood. I liked the plate with the cheese though, it would make a nice cheese plate for us. The art was really quite silly, I didn’t know you could have a show like that, Sharon even you could do an art show since everything you do is silly. But even though it was silly and expensive, I think I liked it. My favourite pieces were the cloth pieces, cloth is a nice material for art I think, and I haven’t seen much of that before. The singing fish were quite scary, I’m not sure I’d like that in my house, but I guess some people would. The ceramics were very different, I was interested in how they were made but not really what they looked like. They were all quite ugly but I think that all modern art is meant to be ugly, isn’t that right? I think actually that’s how I felt about most of the work—how she got her art printed on the cloth, for example, I want to do that too. That was the good part of everything—she seemed like a nice lady who does what she wants and what she likes, and by sharing that maybe other people will want to do the same.”

    Thistle Hall used to be part of my daily commute, and I will admit that if not on yours, its exhibits are not always worth making it a destination in itself. This week, however, it was, and I encourage you all to take your mother along to art galleries for a different viewpoint and also for her to shout coffee and cake afterwards.

    For more of Pinky Fang’s work, visit


  • Pitch Perfect 2


    If you have a thick skin and a taste for the crass and politically incorrect, this film will be your baby.

    As is the age old trend with unplanned blockbuster sequels, the film takes the same characters and plotline and creates a slight remix that never quite lives up to the beat of the original. Our attention is split between the painfully embarrassing (you can’t watch but you can’t not watch) romance between Fat Amy and Bumper (who seems to cling tenuously to the edge of this film for the purposes of providing a pathetic stab at a love interest to rake in the viewers) and the journey of over-excited starlet Emily, the Bellas’ new legacy. The Bellas compete with a German a capella group to win worlds after an unfortunate mishap that causes their national tour to be cancelled.

    Perhaps I’m simply a relentless cynic, sitting behind my desk clutching a cup of tea and appraising the performance of the clearly talented, gazelle-like Hailee Steinford, but I can’t help but feel that she has been injected into the film the same way that adrenaline is jabbed into the heart—as a last ditch attempt to resuscitate a lifeless and lost plot. She is the spice in the pie, the fresh-faced, quirky, off-beat lovable character whom we fail to love simply because she is not one of the original Bellas from the film which (only) some of us have grown so emotionally attached to. We can also sense a shift in focus from the preppy freshmen motif of the first movie to the post-adolescent, entering-the-real-world anxiety of the senior Bellas. This in itself feels like a resignation, like a sign from the producers that they have squeezed as much juice as they can from this particular lemon, and it’s time to graduate the Bellas and shut up shop.

    Easily the most excruciating, screwing-up-facial-features, clutching-head-in-hands, hysterically unfunny aspect of the movie is the banter between commentators John and Gail. Perhaps there are viewers out there—and I apologise profusely if there are—who have a Swiftian nose for satire and can sweep aside any reservations they may have about mocking the treatment of almost every social minority group in the Western world, but I’m not one of them. Watching these two characters is how I imagine a cat feels when you slyly change the direction of your hand as you’re rubbing it along its back, so that its fur sticks up in grumpy disarray. The one meagre crumb of positivity to be mustered from this is continuity between the two films—granted, they were infinitesimally funnier in the first film, but my guess is that if you loved the first film, you will love the second too.

    The film’s redeeming humour lies in the hands of Fat Amy (why does it still feel so politically incorrect every time I type that name? For those who haven’t seen the film, this is a self-proclaimed title). Her awkward relatable humour and brazenness characterises the film and brings out the sweetly nostalgic tenor of togetherness that saves the it from its atrocious plotline. This, coupled with the sensational choreography and soundtrack, gives the film a kind of aesthetic and audio quality which has an entertainment value unto itself. The movie retains the essence of the original just enough to justify watching it in order to enter this musical paradise one last time and suck on the bones to get a little taste of the original, but it is by no means an original or amusing sequel.


  • It Follows


    With its masterful combination of genres—teen coming of age, Romero zombie, 80s slasher and Japanese horror—all mashed into a simple concept, It Follows is an impressive new entry into the canon of scary stories. The story follows nineteen-year-old Jay, played by brilliant Maika Monroe, who sleeps with a guy she is dating and is given a sexually transmitted ghost/zombie/monster. The rules of this mystical entity are that only people who have been infected can see it. It is always changing appearance—sometimes it might look like a friend, and other times barely human. It moves by walking slowly, but always toward whoever is currently infected. You can pass it on by sleeping with someone else, but if it catches up to him or her, it will kill them, then start walking to toward you again. Once Jay figures all this out, she and her group of friends try to work out what to do next.

    Director David Robert Mitchell uses this premise to full effect. Every extra in the background becomes a potential monster, while at any moment that Jay takes to relax she becomes intensely vulnerable. One of the film’s many strengths is its setting in Detroit. Large parts of the city have become run down ghost towns, perfect for a modern urban horror story. Also, the fact that the main characters are poor teenagers with family responsibilities in an economically depressed city limits their options. A wealthy person could avoid this slow-moving ghost with very little effort, whereas these poor kids can’t just jump on an airplane to the other side of the world. This is a horror about poverty and being trapped in a declining city as much as it is about being chased by a ghost.

    Stylistically, this film is a wonder to behold. The soundtrack, a 80s style booming, creepy electronic masterpiece, is very much a lynchpin of what makes this film work. It does much of the heavy lifting of setting the tone. The music gives even the most benign shots a sense of unease. Then, when the film is at its most terrifying, the score becomes a sonic wave of tension. Relying so heavily on music cues is usually a sign of laziness or a filmmaker’s lack of confidence in their ability to convey emotion. However, in It Follows, the score is so perfectly in sync with the visuals it comes across as nothing but well-crafted. The visuals themselves are all very impressive. Slow pans and deeply out of focus backgrounds make it feel like the ghost could appear at any moment. When it actually does, it is usually framed in the centre of the shot, looking right at the camera. As anyone who is familiar with films like Ringu and Ju-on knows, if you have the creepy slow moving monster, this filming technique will massively increase the impending horror vibe. However, the film’s biggest weakness is that despite the ghost looking pretty disturbing when it is slowly walking, it loses that sense whenever it does anything more.

    It is only natural to wonder what this film is trying to say with its sexually-transmitted ghost. Horror stories have often been thinly veiled metaphors for actual social anxieties. At various points in history, vampires have represented disease or fears of sexual desire, while zombies have become an articulation of the worries of the mind-numbing effect of consumer society on the population. Scary stories let us engage with our very real fears in a safe and controlled situation. The premise of It Follows could easily be used to tell a very moralistic anti-sex story. However, there is no trace of that type of conservatism at all. The sex is portrayed as simply a normal thing that people engage in. The moral of this story is that sex is, in one way or another, something we all have to navigate and there can be all sorts of consequences from it. Some of those consequences can be pretty scary for many different reasons and they can feel like there will follow you around for the rest of your life. It Follows is a powerful analogy that will keep you thinking long after it has finished. More importantly, the film doesn’t lose any of its fear-inducing creepiness for being an analogy. It is often said the best way to destroy our monsters is to deconstruct them. However, the complex themes around teenage sexual awakening combined with terrifying imagery make It Follows an instant classic.


  • Empire

    Or, why am I not watching Poldark which is significantly better and you goons should watch it

    I’m not going to lie. I don’t really watch television, except for Poldark, that ridiculously over the top and clichéd, yet also absolutely riveting period drama currently screening on Prime. Go watch it, or you won’t learn about the semi-interesting politics of love affairs and copper mines in Cornwall. But when I do watch other shows, it’s usually reluctantly or at the behest of friends, family, and everybody that’s outside my bedroom. That’s how I watched House of Cards, and that’s how I unfortunately watched Empire.

    I went up to Woodville for a weekend recently. Woodville is a quiet town in between Palmerston North and what lies ahead north of it. My dad recently moved up there to get away from the rat race, and hence I go up to Woodville every now and again. When I went there on my most recent excursion, Dad said he had a TV show episode he had to review, and he asked/demanded if I wanted to/that we were going to watch it. So thus we sat down and watched the first episode of Empire.

    And it was actually puerile. If you haven’t been paying attention to ad breaks, Empire is a show about an African American recording artist named Lucious Lyon who heads a company named Empire. He forged Empire using drug money from marijuana sold by his wife, who takes the rap and goes to jail. Cookie, the wife, comes back from jail, and makes fairly reasonable demands, considering she just spent 17 years in jail for this guy. He denies all of her demands, until she threatens him with her going public about the drug money, effectively ending Empire and its chances at becoming a publicly traded company.

    But here is where I stopped enjoying the show. I pieced two and two together, a fantastic achievement for an arts student, and realised that the whole show relied on two things. One: African American stereotypes. Two: incredibly flat characters who are absolutely impossible to attach to. Every single person in this show that isn’t white or another ethnicity is steeped heavily in African American stereotypes. Lucious is an ex-gangster who viciously abused his homosexual son. Cookie is abusive towards her sons, resorting to whipping them with brooms. The three sons themselves are not perfect either. The eldest is a whitewashed businessman with no personality of his own. The middle child, the aforementioned LGBT son, is a copycat Pharrell Williams in voice, while the youngest makes me feel like I’m watching Lil Wayne. And I don’t intend to be racist, not at all. These characters literally are this way. And it’s a disgusting reliance on stereotypes that condemns this show. That and the awfully flat characters, who are so cold and morally apathetic you want to kick them down a stairwell.

    Rating: 0/10

    A poor showing by Lee Daniels. Avoid this show if possible.


  • Chocolate Milk

    I couldn’t pay my grocery bill yesterday
    but you bought $7 chocolate milk.
    I put back the bulk tub of margarine
    but you bought $7 chocolate milk.
    I even had to return the cereal, on special for ‘$2.99’,
    but you bought $7 chocolate milk.
    I had only enough to pay for white bread and precooked sausages,
    but you bought $7 chocolate milk.
    By the time I’d finished, the checkout chick was examining the intricacies of her cuticles while the people in line behind me huffed and sighed, itching to beep through their organic dairy products and whole grain loaves.
    Cast disapproving looks at my kid’s bare feet,
    and buy $7 chocolate milk.

    Do you know how much bread I can get for $7?
    I can get 7 loaves for that.
    And Lord knows I’m not Jesus,
    maybe I need more than 5 loaves to perform minor domestic miracles,
    and the only fish my kids have ever eaten has been battered or out of a can, so don’t tell me shit about essential fish oils when all I have is the bare essentials.
    I struggle to feed two, fuck 5000.
    Do you know how much margarine I can get for $7?
    Two 1kg tubs.
    Do you know how much milk I can buy for $7?
    Two 2 litre bottles, if I shop around.
    And for $7, you bought 750mls of chocolate milk.
    And for $7, anything I can afford will never fully satisfy two hungry stomachs,
    or fill the foreseen holes in their future caused by what they didn’t have.
    What I couldn’t give them when they were young, what I had to turn a blind eye to;
    stolen lunches, shoes, sweatshirts and toys, because each minor offence was a reminder of what I could not give them.

    Fill up on cornflakes. I don’t have $7 so for another week we’ll have to struggle to make do with what we don’t have.
    Once again, all I have is too little for two little ones.


  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

    Comments are closed.

    Recent posts

    1. Misc
    2. On Optimism
    3. Speak for yourself
    4. JonBenét
    5. Ten things I wish my friends knew about being Māori
    6. 2016 Statistics
    7. I Wrote for Salient for Four Years for Dick and Free Speech
    8. Stop Liking and Commenting on Your Mates’ New Facebook Friendships
    9. Victoria Takes Learning Global
    10. Tragedy strikes UC hall

    Editor's Pick

    Ten things I wish my friends knew about being Māori

    : 1). I wish my friends knew that when they ask me what “percentage” of Māori I am—half, quarter, or eighth—they make me feel like a human pie chart. I don’t know how people can ask this so nonchalantly, but they do. So I want to let you know: this is a very threatening