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Issue 22, 2015

Utopia

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News

  • Taking refuge in the capital

  • Sy-STEM-ic Sexism?

  • Hair today, gone tomorrow

  • Another year, another forum

  • Stuck in the middle with Q(S)

  • How You Like Dem Apples?

  • VUWSA election’s got #twittergame

  • Industry complains that complaints are too expensive

  • Features

  • Kowloon

    In the Shadow of the Kowloon Walled City

    At its peak, the Kowloon Walled City was home to 33,000 people in just two hectares of land—a hastily put together conglomerate of tiny apartments, one of top of the other, caged balconies slapped onto the sides and connected through a labyrinth of damp, dark corridors.

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  • candidates

    VUWSA Candidates 2015

    – SPONSORED – Voting for the 2016 VUWSA Executive and Student Media Committee is open online from9am Tuesday 22 September to 5pm Thursday 24 September. There will also be polling booths on campus at the following times: Kelburn: Tuesday 22 September, 10am-2pm, The Hub Pipitea: Wednesday 23 September, 10am-2pm, Ground Floor Rutherford House Te Aro: Thursday 24 […]

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  • calafou

    The Day the Internet Died

    On 4 February, 1993, the US government announced its support for the “Clipper Chip”.

    by

  • flying car

    A Twentieth-Century MacGuffin

    Where the hell are our flying cars?

    by

  • presidents

    Liam and Jono Talk About Stuff!

    – SPONSORED – Your two candidates for VUWSA President this year are Liam Gallagher (no, not that one), and Jono Gee. To try and win you over, they came to the Salient office to talk about stuff. The conversation began with some awkward chat about socks—Jono had some snazzy Barkers numbers on, and revealed that […]

    by

  • Kowloon

    In the Shadow of the Kowloon Walled City

    At its peak, the Kowloon Walled City was home to 33,000 people in just two hectares of land—a hastily put together conglomerate of tiny apartments, one of top of the other, caged balconies slapped onto the sides and connected through a labyrinth of damp, dark corridors.

    by

  • candidates

    VUWSA Candidates 2015

    – SPONSORED – Voting for the 2016 VUWSA Executive and Student Media Committee is open online from9am Tuesday 22 September to 5pm Thursday 24 September. There will also be polling booths on campus at the following times: Kelburn: Tuesday 22 September, 10am-2pm, The Hub Pipitea: Wednesday 23 September, 10am-2pm, Ground Floor Rutherford House Te Aro: Thursday 24 […]

    by

  • calafou

    The Day the Internet Died

    On 4 February, 1993, the US government announced its support for the “Clipper Chip”.

    by

  • flying car

    A Twentieth-Century MacGuffin

    Where the hell are our flying cars?

    by

  • presidents

    Liam and Jono Talk About Stuff!

    – SPONSORED – Your two candidates for VUWSA President this year are Liam Gallagher (no, not that one), and Jono Gee. To try and win you over, they came to the Salient office to talk about stuff. The conversation began with some awkward chat about socks—Jono had some snazzy Barkers numbers on, and revealed that […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Silicon—Personal Computer

    ★★★★

    Silicon is the brainchild of Kody Nielson, and is a world away from his previous musical endeavors under the Opossom pseudonym and as the eclectic lead singer of The Mint Chicks—who double as my all-time favourite New Zealand group. Personal Computer is not a world away, however, from the recent work of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the project of Kody’s brother and former Mint Chicks guitarist Ruban Neilson, whose album Multi-Love has been one of the standout releases of the year to date.

    Like Multi-Love, Personal Computer follows a simple theme and devoutly references synth-pop and disco influences, which seem like a total 180 from the post-punk the Nielson’s produced in their Mint Chicks days. Personal Computer’s central theme revolves around technology engrossing society and becoming an overbearing presence in everyone’s life. The title track, which opens the album, begins with a computer-generated spoken-word segment—“Never be lonely. Personal computer… someone that’s listening…” The funky instrumental follows and the lyric appropriately supports the computer-based theme.

    The more immediate tracks, coincidentally the two singles, are the undisputed highlights of the album. “God Emoji” is a quirky upbeat synth-pop track, which like the aforementioned title track is based around a computer/technological theme. This track is also superbly catchy and makes clever use of dynamics towards the end of a line or a verse, making for a captivating pop song.

    My favourite track on Personal Computer, “Burning Sugar”, is funky as hell. This track features a sharp and angular guitar riff coupled with gentle falsetto and a pulsing bassline, before the angularity recedes in favour of a smooth, synthesised chorus. “Burning Sugar” could very easily be an Unknown Mortal Orchestra song, such is the similarities in style—cleverly employed synths, catchy hooks, and even the way the drums sound and where they are in the mix.

    Personal Computer is a promising start for Silicon, and, as a debut record, it manages to fit right into the niche falsetto synth-pop market that appears to be the popular sound in the independent world at this point. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Silicon develops and branches out from this style (like Tame Impala did on Currents), and to see if they have the diversity in their sound to stamp their mark on the indie music world—both in New Zealand and abroad.

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  • What’s Up With That Horribly Blue Column Topped With A Golden Turd Being Stabbed By Flaming Torches?

    By now you have probably seen the latest of Wellington’s public sculptures, in all its blue-column-gold-turd glory. Standing unashamedly on Lower Cuba Street, the sculpture is named The Philanthropist’s Stone and designed by the Dunedin-based Scott Eady, and has nothing at all to do with Harry Potter. Instead it is a homage to Thomas George Macarthy (1833–1912) who donated more than $61 million to local charities.

    Of course, no one walking down Cuba Street knows that and at most one will ogle at the sparkly turd for a few seconds before returning to thoughts of reality television and overdue library books. For a peek into popular opinion I asked my four friends, three of them disliked it, with comments such as “even uglier than you” and “oh God I hate it”. My fourth friend has yet to reply.

    Personally, the first time I saw the sculpture I loved it—but this was before it was painted that terrible, terrible blue. Blue is a great colour—the sky is blue, cute little penguins are blue, the best Weezer album is blue—but Philanthropist Stone blue seems to have been dredged from the seeping hot slime from the pools of Tacky Lake, Tacky Town, the Tacky States of Tackymerica.

    Perhaps what is most insane about the sculpture is how it seemed to appear from nowhere. As a general member of the public who walks up and down Cuba Street basically every day (and as Salient’s visual arts editor of course), you would think that I would be, at the very least, given prior warning to the landing of golden turds.

    But maybe this is the beauty of modern art—anything goes. And tomorrow when you step outside, there may be shiny turds on top of all the lamp posts—let’s hope it costs less than $168,000 this time.

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  • Pre-ordering video games is bullshit

    Just over ten years ago, when I was just a precocious preteen who adored his PS2, those five words in the title would have been almost unheard of. We still overwhelmingly bought games from brick-and-mortar gaming and electronic shops, even on PC, and downloading whole games was still something of a novelty, if not entirely impossible given NZ’s shitty internet. Pre-ordering meant you were guaranteed a copy at launch without having to wait in lines or for new stock, and you were pretty much assured that the game would at least be playable since patching was still fairly new, especially on consoles.

    Funny how things change in such a relatively short time. Since then, we’ve seen two whole console generations, with a massive array of innovations and evolutions in both hardware and software. Internet connectivity, once an optional extra, is now an absolute must to get the most out of gaming experiences. You can now buy and download whole triple-A titles without a disc to be found, as well as little extras as DLC. Patching is done all the time.

    And yet, we still pre-order video games. To the detriment of everyone involved.

    The absolutely appalling states of some of the largest triple-A launches over the past few years has proved that the industry is willing to sell us unfinished products. Developers are becoming more complacent with regards to bugs; the assumption that “we can just patch it up later” is all too prevalent, and it is to the detriment of the final product.

    To pre-order now is to buy something where you don’t even know if it will be any good, or even playable. No other sector of the entertainment industry has shown itself to be so arrogant that it will sell us something that they haven’t finished producing yet. You wouldn’t see a blatant animation error in a film as it would have been spotted in post-production, so why should we allow game-crashing bugs to stay behind in a major release just because it can be fixed later? It’s simple—we shouldn’t. If developers can’t guarantee that their games will work at launch anymore, then everyone who pre-orders will just be throwing their money away.

    But this is nothing compared to probably the most blatantly anti-consumer practice the industry is engaging in right now: pre-order bonuses. The name is a bit of a misnomer since what they are really doing is taking parts of the game that were made during the main development time and making them available only to a small subset of the player base. In the most egregious cases this includes game-altering objects such as weapons, extra in-game currency for multiplayer, and even entire sections of the story. Some games have even advertised their pre-order bonuses before a trailer or screenshots were available, most infamously Evolve, a game that turned out to be a platform for DLC and nothing else. Remember that game? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else, considering it was released in February.

    The game that finally convinced me to never pre-order a game is one that’s still in development, but has already produced the worst pre-order scheme imaginable. Square Enix has put together a program called “Augment your Pre-order” for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It lets you choose the digital pre-order bonuses you want to get for your Day One edition of the game, selected from five different tiers that unlock progressively based on the publisher’s (unknown) pre-order goals for the game.

    The first tier, the only one unlocked so far, allows you to choose between a skin pack and a special weapons loadout. Tiers 2 and 4 have somewhat optional yet still substantial things: choose between a sample of the soundtrack and a digital artbook at 2, and between a comic book and a novella at 4. At tier 3, an extra mission is unlocked. At the highest tier, the whole game unlocks four days early. These will only happen if enough people pre-order.

    Let me repeat that: these will only happen if enough people pre-order.

    I nearly lost my lunch when I saw this. This is a sales manager’s fucked-up wet dream come to life. You cannot put content behind a wall like this; we don’t even know how many pre-orders there have to be to unlock the higher tiers. It’s marketing an illusion of choice, yet there is no choice at all. Hell, we still don’t know if the game will be any good, and this scheme is all they’ve been pushing.

    This is what is wrong with pre-ordering, and why it needs to stop right now. For the love of the gaming gods, please vote with your wallet and do not pre-order games anymore. It will make the industry better, I promise.

    by

  • Starling

    Starling is New Zealand’s newest literary journal, focusing on fresh young voices. Poet and current Burns Fellow Louise Wallace is the person behind this initiative. I talked to her to find out more about the journal. With their first issue looming, she wants submissions—that poem, essay, or short fiction piece you’ve worked on might be just the thing she’s looking for.

    What was the inspiration for this journal?

    I was always interested in English at school, but I didn’t necessarily know how to direct that enthusiasm myself. When I started university I began to get into poetry. I was really learning how to write as I went, but I was very hungry for opportunitiessubmitting my work to competitions and journals. So the creation of Starling has really come out of my own personal experience, which I imagine is pretty similar to lots of young writers—they just want opportunities to showcase and advance their work. Starling will help move both their writing and career forward. Selected writers will instantly see their writing network growbeing placed alongside other emerging talent, but also established practitioners. And of course, publication looks great on your writing CV.

    There is a strong emphasis on high schools being involved—what has driven that for you?

    A big priority for me is making sure we get the word out about Starling, but also that news of this opportunity reaches a wide range of writers, including ones not necessarily at university or in main centres. So high schools are a great place to do that, because at that stage a lot of people are still in one place! And teachers are also looking for opportunities to help their students, so they may be able to pass along the message for us.

    I think there’s a lot of amazing talent out there, so by operating a journal where these writers only have to compete for publication space against people within a fairly close age range, the chance to see some of this great work in a public forum increases.

    How did you decide the cut off should be 25?

    Thinking of my own personal experience, 25 seemed to be the age where I became aware of what my voice was consistently sounding like. I know it’s different for everyone, and you can be an emerging writer at any age for sure, but I think in your early 20s you have so many other things going on at the same time to deal with, you might need a little extra support and direction. Australia has a similar print publicationVoiceworkswith the same age restriction, and they’ve just published their 100th issue!

    How has Starling been funded?

    So far, entirely out of my own pocket! This journal has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but just have never had the time to dedicate to establishing it. This year I am on the Robert Burns Fellowship, and creating Starling was actually part of my proposal. I knew the website would be fairly affordable to create and maintain, and I want to get people’s attention by publishing really modern, vibrant work. If we can build that reputation through the issues we produce, I think we’ll be in a position to approach supporters for funding for future endeavourswe have all sorts of ideas: print editions, workshops, competitions. But for now, I have to have blinkers on and make the journal something incredible to start with. We want to ensure longevity and we’ll do that by building a great foundation.

    What sort of things will you be looking for as “best” or “good”? What speaks loudest?

    I define “best” and “good” as something I really want to keep reading! We’ll be looking for things that surprise and excite usthat can involve engaging content, a unique perspective, innovative style, an unmistakeable voiceit’s up to you! We’re open to any genreshort fiction, poetry, personal essays, creative non-fiction, plays… The key is to show us something fresh; something we haven’t seen before.

    How will diversity be accommodated and fostered in this magazine?

    As I say, the reason it’s so important to us to spread the word is because we want submissions from a really diverse set of contributorsto showcase quality work, but also the immense range of writing voices in New Zealand. Each issue opens with new writing from a well-established New Zealand writer, and will close with an interview with someone of note from our literary industry (authors, editors, booksellers, scriptwriters…). These guest spots will also help ensure that we are able to include a range of viewpoints outside our ownwe definitely want every reader to hear at least one voice they can connect to. There’s also the opportunity to look at arranging guest editors further down the track.

    Submissions for the first issue close on 20 October. For more on how to submit, check out Starling’s website at www.starlingmag.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

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  • Troy Sivan—WILD

    ★★★★

    Troye Sivan is a gay internet personality and actor from Australia who has recently been making his mark in the pop music scene. He is the type of person who calls flowers “flowies” and freaks out when pop sensations Lorde and Taylor Swift interact with him on Twitter. His first major label EP TRXYE was released last year, with lead single “Happy Little Pill” being critically acclaimed.

    After months upon months of hinting about working on new music in studios via social media, Sivan is back. His new mini-album WILD acts as an introduction to his first full-length album, rumoured to be released later this year (yes, “mini-album” is what he’s calling it). WILD sees Troye hone his skills as a vocalist, lyricist, and visionary. It’s a burst of dream pop accompanied by deeply melancholy lyrics.

    The title track opens the mini-album, welcoming listeners to the music experience with a backing choir and floaty synths over danceable percussion. Cutesy lyrics about a crush cement the song with a feel good flair. Upon first listen it gives a promising open to the album and is a song that’s easily listened to on repeat during a twenty-minute bus ride.

    WILD features two collaborations, some of Troye’s first (his collaboration “Papercut” with Russian-German producer Zedd from earlier in the year is a worthwhile listen). The first is with Broods, a sibling duo from Nelson, on the track “EASE”. Troye and Georgia’s vocals sync together oh-so-sweetly over loud percussion laced with lighter synth. The sole production credits go to Caleb, the other half of Broods, creating a magical feel good vibe.

    Tkay Maidza features on the second collaboration, “DKLA”, presumably standing for “don’t keep love anymore”, which Troye croons constantly throughout the song. Zimbabwean-born Tkay’s verse is the focal point of the song, adding a hint of speed and a dash of softness to a slow and blunt song. It’s a refreshing addition to a track that lurks in a world of harsh beauty.

    WILD is consistent, with sombre, romantic lyrics, and building synth layered with captivating percussion. Troye’s musical style has undoubtedly matured from his previous release. Knowing that this is not his final release of the year is incredibly exciting. WILD is definitely the taste tester that convinces you to buy the end product. I for one can easily say that I am very gay for Troye Sivan.

    by

  • Halsey—BADLANDS (DELUXE)

    ★★★★

    BADLANDS is the debut release from Halsey, and this better not be her only album because man oh man is it good. Her stage name is drawn from an anagram of her given name, Ashley—and if you consider the idea of changing something around so that you can experience it in a different way, this is exactly how BADLANDS delivers in terms of pop music.

    It’s a big, bold, unapologetically pop album that doesn’t fit into the teeny bopper category. This is in part because of the lyrics, which indicate that Halsey is either a bloody good story teller, or her lyrics are powerfully drawn from real life experience. BADLANDS is supposedly structured around a fictional world, allowing her videos and songs to tell the stories of those places. This adds a nice gloss and theme to the album, but really the songs are so good in their own right that they transcend any need for a grander theme.

    “Castle” is the opening track, and whilst it is a solid song and intro, it is pretty basic in comparison to the rest of the album. “Hold Me Down”, “Gasoline”, and “Hurricane” are all a tonne better and give a good showcase of Halsey’s talents. They all feature honest lyrics that are open to interpretation, and they all confront the debate as to whether the version of yourself that society cannot seem to accept is okay, great, or awesome.

    “New Americana” is probably the stand out single on the album. It’s a sort of typical coming-of-age generation song, but minus the usual glamour and celebration. The song isn’t simple or straight-forward, and is purposefully cynical and dark. The pop overtones and catchy chorus will hook you, and the line “raised on Biggie and Nirvana” is an instant t-shirt.

    “Drive”, “Roman Holiday”, and “Haunting” are all worth a listen as well. All have their own unique tone and each present a pop song that tells a story and is engaging to listen to for the entire duration. “Colours” also delivers on the storytelling front, and it contains the hands down best lyric of the album—“I was red, and you were blue. You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky, and you decided purple just wasn’t for you.”

    I would guess that if you are a closet T-Swift fan who is too proud to admit it, but you love that pop genius, then Halsey would be for you. BADLANDS is a great pop album with its own flavour provided by alternative and grunge overtones.

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  • A field guide to bro archetypes

    Spending my formative first year suffering vitamin D deficiency within the depths of the third floor “dungeon” of Te Puni not only enabled prime observation of White Sandal syndrome, but also resulted in mass exposure to Dudebro culture. Despite the subsequent emotional trauma, residual inability to drink at a remotely responsible pace in any social context whatsoever, and blatant refusal to ever live in Kelburn again*, this experience has refined my abilities to discern the subtle variations between various bro archetypes. As far as life skills go, this is one which proves to be largely inapplicable outside of Tinder, but if it prevents having to endure even a sole instance of some gym brah mansplaining his workout regime and/or budding DJ career at you, it almost compensates for the psychologically scarring immersive experience.

    Subtype #1: The Standard “Fuccboi”

    Decked out in nothing but box logos, the fuccboi would undoubtedly have had a top knot when it was a thing (if you hadn’t gotten the memo, this is it). Bucket hats and Nike slides are heavily featured, I assume with the intention of irony, but unfortunately coming across more along the “tourist wearing velcro sandals with socks, a bumbag and sunglasses on a string” vibe.

    Subtype #2: Ralph Lauren junkie

    A popular divergent species of the standard “I did law last trimester but didn’t like it (drank on weeknights and failed) so now I major in accounting” dudebro is the Ralph Lauren polo-wearer. Often paired with a cringingly matchy-matchy Ralph Lauren cap and boat shoes, the dress code is essentially “upper-middle class suburban dad whose weekends are spent playing tennis and attending brunch on the viaduct, where his obnoxiously large boat is moored.” Those shirts scream “mummy chose this for me.” Also “mummy paid for the hole I punched in the wall”, “haha send me a pic ;)” and “I drink Purple Goannas because Cindys are no longer in production.”

    Subtype #3: I Love Ugly enthusiast

    Similarly clean-cut as the Ralph Lauren fanboys, the crucial point of difference is the ILU enthused further foray into the realms of lad culture. These are your shirtless gym-selfie-taking, five-panel sporting guys whose Tinder profile consists of five club photos of them and “the boys”, providing a quick oversight of every single print ILU has released this season, just in case you couldn’t be bothered flipping through the Lookbook.

    Disclaimer: This isn’t intended as a critique, it is mere observation of my own social reality.

    *Every time you complain about scaling the hill up to Kelburn, I invite you to imagine doing so in six-inch heels. Welcome to my life.

    by

  • Banksy Does New York

    ★★★

    In October 2013, the renowned street artist Banksy began a month long residency in New York, where he created graffiti, installations and performance artworks in the city. Chris Moukarbel’s HBO documentary charts the interaction between the artist’s residency and the immense public reaction it garnered. Each day, Banksy would post a photo of a finished work online, without listing the location. This led New Yorkers on a fevered hunt, it became a triumph to successfully find a work untouched, photograph it, and gloat your way across the internet. Banksy fanhood evolved into frenzy, as the rapidity of technological response heightened the ephemerality of the works. Regardless of their location, in unassuming doorways or vacant lots, they would soon be interfered with, the works inevitably painted over or removed.

    In some ways, the spectacle becomes more important than the art itself, and this is central to Moukarbel’s documentary. In the film, most fans rarely look at the art; instead they capture a shot, and wait for the next chase. In one ironic spectacle, Banksy creates a diorama in a truck of a lush garden, claiming it will bring calm to the city. Once found, the installation is swarming with people crammed up against it, arms outstretched with iPhones. Director Moukarbel utilises a vast array of sources for the film, much of it user-generated footage of “Banksy hunters” themselves. In traditional documentary style, he intersperses this with commentary from art and culture critics.

    The varied response of the city dwellers interests Moukarbel—some are enthralled by Banksy, others see it as an opportunity for profit. Building owners promptly remove their doorways and walls with Banksy’s art in order to sell it, making considerable money in the process. The arbitrariness of “artistic value” is everywhere. In one bizarre scene, Banksy’s sphinx sculpture made of foam and cement blocks is removed from a deserted lot and transported to the elite Keszler Gallery, where it is valued at $350,000. Meanwhile, iconic sites of graffiti and street art are disappearing across the city due to the development of sleek high rises. Public art is privatised, or demolished. Because the documentary charts each day of the residency, it is a little repetitive in its concentration on the Banksy hype—the frenzy has a crushing nausea to it. But the film is interesting at its edges, when it explores the vibrant, sometimes fraught, tensions between artistic expression and the city.

    by

  • Southpaw

    ★★½

    This movie is serviceable, but it ends up feeling like a less satisfying version of Rocky. It charts the decline and eventual rise (again) of bruising boxing champion Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose affinity for finishing every fight in an increasingly physically damaged state worries his wife (Rachel McAdams), who would be content with him retiring to their (his) rich lifestyle. However, personal tragedy and financial loss results in the loss of both Hope’s daughter (to social services) and his wealth, leaving him with the option of working in a rundown gym and changing his previously blunt, violent outlook on life in general.

    Gyllenhaal and particularly Forest Whitaker as his new trainer provide good performances, but the movie feels clichéd and very familiar with its execution. It is particularly frustrating to see a movie showing the separation of family members by court appointment, as it has to manufacture emotional investment for the audience. The movie also doesn’t really know if it has a stance on the nature of sport and the media, as the cold professionalism of 50 Cent’s character as Hope’s-once manager is brought up, but never really addressed again. The film doesn’t know whether to embrace the excess of advertising and deals in the professional boxing circle, or slam it for the pragmatism of higher-level individuals because of where the largest dollar bill is currently attached.

    On the other hand, the main fights in the film, for what little screen time they occupy, are visually appealing. The choreography is at least comprehensible, but the occasional cuts to POV shots feel a bit out of place in the sequence and, with a few sound effect changes and removal of blood, may just resemble something out of Wii Sports instead. This movie isn’t about left-handed people either; listening closely to Gyllenhaal’s mumbling proved that.

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  • A Most Violent Year

    ★★★★

    Amidst the glut of contemporary Hollywood films employing excess and stylishness to produce spectacle—and, all importantly, box office dollars—lies J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, a thoughtful return to simple storytelling and minimalist aesthetic. It’s slick and stylised, with a muted colour palette and precise clean cinematography, and comes off as a carefully considered piece that could be construed as a revisionist noir. The film places protagonists Abel and Anna Morales (Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain) within 1981, the eponymous most violent year in New York City’s history, and also within a city whose underbelly is much more liminal and sparse than our usual on-screen NYC.

    This strangely other-worldly city setting is, in some ways, the key to the film’s tone. There is little sense of historicity or the outside world, aside from a few lines of dialogue—the film is very much absorbed in its own characters and the complex power love and money plays circulating within their universe. It’s an absorption that pays off, as viewers learn to co-exist within this sphere; it’s also a nice change from films like American Hustle or Inherent Vice that flaunt their historicity or overtly plasticise their worlds.  

    There is a languorous flow to this film, as if the director wants to pace it particularly eloquently. He overplays his hand slightly in parts, and there are some lapses in the narrative, requiring the viewer to actively agree with the film on its slow pace. A Most Violent Year never really lays itself or its characters bare, but this renders the small moments of revelation along the way as welcome as the forgotten coins at the bottom of one’s handbag. Chandor sees the film as one about “escalation”—he captures this superbly, and somehow manages to effectively balance it with the film’s trademark restraint.

    Oscar Isaac plays on this slow revelation of character well to produce a compelling Abel. Chandor was perhaps more concerned with Anna, expressing a hope that “she’s not a caricature”: he need not have worried, with Jessica Chastain (who is perfection at the worst of times) giving perhaps her strongest performance yet. This is a film less about creating a narrative than about letting the characters, setting and tone shine through. Still undated for New Zealand release (which, viewer beware, could mean anything from not-coming-at-all to see-you-in-six-weeks), it was a welcome addition to this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival programme.

    by

  • The Wolfpack

    ★★★

    In 2010, director Crystal Moselle was walking down First Avenue, Manhattan, when a young boy with long black hair ran past her, followed by his five, near identical brothers. In what she claims to be a moment of pure instinct, Moselle ran after them, subsequently discovering their remarkable tale. The brothers had grown up cloistered in their New York family apartment, schooled at home and controlled by an authoritarian father. Some years they would go outside, maybe, nine times. One year they weren’t allowed outside at all. Their coping mechanism for this sheltered existence was movies—watching and re-creating them.  

    I am a big fan of people creating art in a low-fi, DIY kind of way. Zines, tumblr, Instagram—these are all very democratic mediums reflecting 20th-century artist Joseph Beuy’s assertion that “everyone is an artist”. Similarly, the boys’ attraction to movies as a means of accessing alternate realities is very relatable. Given this, one of the best parts of The Wolfpack was being able to see scenes of the boys re-creating films like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight, all of which were genuinely funny and/or scary, and certainly impressive. But the effect of movies on their lives was ultimately much more pervasive than this. As they emerge into the outside world, their method of dealing with this is through experiencing reality as a movie. Their style and mannerisms echo that of the films they’ve seen. They are constantly quoting and referencing films, and the way they speak to the camera is to some extent affected, as though they are acting—so conscious are they of the fact of being filmed and the implications of that gaze.

    And yet, much of the film leaves you feeling strangely untouched and distant from the reality of their life and the abuse their father inflicted upon them—even where they are discussing the fact that they could never forgive him, even when they are close to tears. Perhaps this is because of the filmic way in which they approach the interviews, or the fact that the film does not explain how it came into being. But either way, this aspect of The Wolfpack is ultimately its weakest point. Their experience somehow doesn’t feel real, Moselle assuming our empathy, rather than facilitating it through her craft.

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  • 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.

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    6. Political Round Up
    7. A Town Like Alice — Nevil Shute
    8. Presidential Address
    9. Do You Ever Feel Like a Plastic Bag?
    10. Sport
    1

    Editor's Pick

    In Which a Boy Leaves

    : - SPONSORED - I’ve always been a fairly lucky kid. I essentially lucked out at birth, being born white, male, heterosexual, to a well off family. My life was never going to be particularly hard. And so my tale begins, with another stroke of sheer luck. After my girlfriend sugge