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Issue 25, 2015

Wellington

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News

  • “Bet the next Salient is going to milk this dry”

  • We’re really sorry that the last week of news is so depressing

  • Deregulation derailed

  • Grade changes: They weren’t A-mazing

  • Victoria: Guaranteeing 90% satisfaction since 1897

  • “No evidence” that a university degree is actually helpful

  • Features

  • love

    How to Find Love in Wellington

    Many find it difficult to know where to begin searching for love, especially now that Hope Bros is gone.

    by

  • violence

    On Violence

    For too long New Zealand has ignored the fact domestic violence is the most pernicious symptom of a wider social disease: male privilege and its proprietary right over women and children.

    by

  • nzer

    Salient’s New Zealander of the Year

    The New Zealander of the Year Awards have been an annual fixture in Salient since just now. Who will win this most prestigious of gongs? (Lima Sopoaga.) Does anybody even care? (Probably not.) Why is this even here? (We had three pages to fill.) Read on to find out! ____________________ Evil Corporation of the Year […]

    by

  • mcleavey

    The Jet Plane, the Typewriter and the Art Dealer

    Above the highly convenient liquor store on Cuba Street sits one of the oldest and most influential art dealer galleries in New Zealand.

    by

  • grant rob

    We Drank With Grant Robertson So You Wouldn’t Have To

    In July, as your resident political-orientated alcohol-enthusiasts, we sat down with MP for Wellington Central, Labour’s Grant Robertson, for a chat about power, politics, and piss. Over some Wellington craft beer, we got the goss on the politics of booze and the booze in politics.   Lydia and Mitch: Is craft beer all it’s cracked […]

    by

  • coffee

    Wellington’s Coffee Scene: Low Budgement Day

    I’ve been on the lookout for the b-grade thrillers of Wellington’s coffee scene, a sweded version if you will. These are my findings. The free Nescafé machine at the hospital There is nothing I love more than to sit next to my aunt who just had a colostomy and sip on a good old fashioned […]

    by

  • cocktail

    The Cocktail Diaries

    Since becoming employed as a cocktail bartender, I spend a truly alarming amount of time in cocktail bars. If I Instagrammed every pretty drink in a pretty glass I consumed, I would be accused of rampant alcoholism, then pelted with AA brochures, bibles and juice detox manuals. So I decided to enlighten Salient‘s readers with […]

    by

  • love

    How to Find Love in Wellington

    Many find it difficult to know where to begin searching for love, especially now that Hope Bros is gone.

    by

  • violence

    On Violence

    For too long New Zealand has ignored the fact domestic violence is the most pernicious symptom of a wider social disease: male privilege and its proprietary right over women and children.

    by

  • nzer

    Salient’s New Zealander of the Year

    The New Zealander of the Year Awards have been an annual fixture in Salient since just now. Who will win this most prestigious of gongs? (Lima Sopoaga.) Does anybody even care? (Probably not.) Why is this even here? (We had three pages to fill.) Read on to find out! ____________________ Evil Corporation of the Year […]

    by

  • mcleavey

    The Jet Plane, the Typewriter and the Art Dealer

    Above the highly convenient liquor store on Cuba Street sits one of the oldest and most influential art dealer galleries in New Zealand.

    by

  • grant rob

    We Drank With Grant Robertson So You Wouldn’t Have To

    In July, as your resident political-orientated alcohol-enthusiasts, we sat down with MP for Wellington Central, Labour’s Grant Robertson, for a chat about power, politics, and piss. Over some Wellington craft beer, we got the goss on the politics of booze and the booze in politics.   Lydia and Mitch: Is craft beer all it’s cracked […]

    by

  • coffee

    Wellington’s Coffee Scene: Low Budgement Day

    I’ve been on the lookout for the b-grade thrillers of Wellington’s coffee scene, a sweded version if you will. These are my findings. The free Nescafé machine at the hospital There is nothing I love more than to sit next to my aunt who just had a colostomy and sip on a good old fashioned […]

    by

  • cocktail

    The Cocktail Diaries

    Since becoming employed as a cocktail bartender, I spend a truly alarming amount of time in cocktail bars. If I Instagrammed every pretty drink in a pretty glass I consumed, I would be accused of rampant alcoholism, then pelted with AA brochures, bibles and juice detox manuals. So I decided to enlighten Salient‘s readers with […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Tragic Trends of 2015—a year in retrospect

    Visual crimes I witnessed this year but ran out of Salient issues to individually dissect so had to compact into a single slander-fest:

    Activewear in non-active contexts/“doing literally nothing in my activewear” (I hope you all get the reference)

    Leggings as pants are horrendous enough, let alone leggings specifically designed to be worn during exercise and thus made of that horrible spandex stuff as pants. It feels almost comparable to wearing pyjamas in public? There is a time and a place for everything (except perhaps shirts with memes on them) and activewear outside of the gym is simply not acceptable.

    You truly do not have to wander about looking like a soccer mom, complete with visor, puffer vest and a soy cappuccino for everyone to know you shop at lululemon, you could just Instagram your #fitspo #lululemon #summerbod gym expedition like a normal person.

    *Disclaimer: I am possibly not an expert on exercise attire as I have never in my life owned any form of activewear. My parents have had a gym in their house for the past 12 years and I have used it once. If I were to want to do physical activity, it would have to be in 5 inch platform sneakers.

    Puffer vests

    Possibly worse than puffer jackets, because your arms are still exposed, defeating the purpose of looking like a human marshmallow because you aren’t even being kept that toasty (I am hilarious).

    Nike sneakers

    I realise that this is a rampantly unpopular opinion but why are shoes which really should be banished exclusively to the realms of sporting attire being worn on a casual basis (says the girl wearing 6 inch heels on a casual basis)??? #1 way to ruin a cute outfit is to pair it with an ugly as fuck pair of chunky white sneakers?? Nike Huaraches are quite literally the most hideous shoes I have ever seen in my entire life, with the exception of Crocs. Why do you hate yourselves?

    The death of the septum

    Something that used to be super edgy and subversive which has been dragged into the mainstream and utterly slandered. Even last year, if one had a septum piercing, they used to be able to wear absolutely anything, even pyjama pants and flip flops, and still look really ridiculously cool, but now every fifteen year old with a passable feigned parental consent note has one. Next thing you know Equip will be stocking them and my gran will be calling me to ask how they work and if she is too old for one (I wish I was joking—she has already done so concerning metallic temporary tattoos and ear cuffs). Septum piercings have grown so overdone and tired that they’ve become almost totally devoid of their initial cool—they are the new pink hair. I literally know a couple who just got his-and-hers septum piercings; if that doesn’t demarcate the loss of hipster cred, I don’t know what does.

    *Disclaimer—I may be the tiniest bit salty that they look totally ridiculous on me and that I will never be able to truly reach my art hoe potential.

    T-shirt dresses/shift dresses

    They are literally shapeless sack-like rectangles with arm holes.

    Massively overdrawn lips/attempts to emulate Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic surgery with lip liner

    I am 180% for the power of makeup but if you have to draw on a facial feature, you probably weren’t supposed to have aforementioned facial feature.

    “Basic” uniform

    The ubiquitous striped shirt, leather-look jeans and Nike Roshe combination (see prior rant) which clearly communicates to onlookers that you have absolutely no sense of individuality, especially when you travel in a posse wearing identical outfits (acceptable only if you are in a girl band).

    Karen Walker Super Fine rings

    The KW Super Fine series is so exquisitely, painfully passé. If you are able to play Karen Walker bingo with your best friend, flatmates, ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend and five other girls in your tutorial because you’re all wearing the same five rings, you may be doing something wrong. Meadowlark, Stolen Girlfriends Club, Zoe & Morgan and Nick Von K all have similar sized/style rings, branch out! Explore the outer limits of your own individual identity, dare to wear jewellery that hasn’t been validated by the fact that 100,000 other people own the same piece.

    Top knots/man buns

    Unless you have the chiselled jawline of a Greek god, this is an absolutely terrible look. Also the fact that one can purchase a clip-on hair extension man bun from ASOS suggests that they have well and truly been and gone.

    Flares

    WHY ARE THESE COMING BACK?! Kindly remain in the seventies, where you belong, to serve as a reminder of the negative repercussion of taking excessive quantities of hallucinogenic substances then dressing yourself.

    Five panels

    *insert drawn-out non-verbal expression of distaste*

    White jeans

    As soon as I wrote a column on these, I started noticing them everywhere. How does one even keep these clean? Would you have to carry household bleach in a spray bottle to ensure you didn’t tarnish the pristine white-ness every time you sat down?

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  • Hype Sequence Initiated: Looking ahead to gaming in 2016

    Holy shit, it’s the last gaming page for the year? We’ve had three different section editors, a lot of mostly meaningless opinions, and a whole bunch of games that probably should have been reviewed but weren’t. Since we still filled a page pretty much every week, I think we can call that a success.

    There has been a lot of stuff that has gone down in the gaming scene this year so far, but it’s fair to say it was nowhere near as controversial (and therefore interesting) as 2014 was. Some games were good, some games were shit, and everyone got angry at least once. Mostly at Konami, because Konami is a terrible company.

    2015 is not over, however, and there’s still a lot of shit to come. Since I’m not one for dwelling on the mistakes of the past, let’s instead look forward to the next year of tasty digital morsels, because the hype trains will only keep going faster.

    • Virtual Reality is set to be the biggest technological innovation to sweep the gaming world. Mind you, they said that about motion controls, and they’ve mostly fallen flat. Still, we’ve actually seen that the tech works and how fun it can be, with the Oculus Rift consumer model being set to release in the first quarter of 2016. Valve’s collaboration with HTC for SteamVR may prove to be fruitful as well, since Valve don’t do things by halves (except maybe customer service). Even console peasants can get in on the VR action, with PlayStation VR (formerly Project Morpheus) set for a release sometime next year. New tech is always exciting, and I certainly hope virtual reality will be a game-changer.
    • There are still a few big games set to come out in the next two months, just in time for Christmas. Undoubtedly the biggest has to be Fallout 4, the long-awaited next instalment in the legendary series of action RPGs. Embarrassingly, I haven’t had the pleasure of playing other Fallout games, but I’m excited by the prospect of exploring the wasteland as much as any fanboy. Star Wars Battlefront looks pretty awesome as well, though considering how badly DICE screwed up the launch of Battlefield 4, I’m not getting my hopes up too high. There’s also the open-world insanity of Just Cause 3, which should be nothing but pure joy from the looks of the footage we’ve seen so far. Xbox owners can also look forward to Halo 5: Guardians, while I sit here and grumble over how there hasn’t been a main-series Halo game on PC in years.
    • Beyond the dawn of the New Year, there’s still a lot of anticipating to do. Four triple-A series will have new instalments launch within mere weeks of each other during February and March—Deus Ex, Hitman, Mirror’s Edge and Uncharted. That’s a lot of money right there. There are still plenty of games we don’t even know the release dates of yet, but are sure to be exciting nonetheless. The procedurally-generated space exploration game No Man’s Sky has been endlessly hyped up since its announcement at E3 2014, and it will be an accomplishment if it is even half as good as the hype suggests. In addition, there’s going to be a new Dark Souls, a new Street Fighter, a new Ratchet and Clank, a new Tomb Raider, and HOLY SHIT DOOM 4. ACTIVATE HYPE THRUSTERS, THIS IS GONNA BE GOOD! Well, as long as they’re actually finished and not broken pieces of shit…

    So, um, yeah, I’m pretty excited for the year coming up. I look at the list of upcoming releases, and all I see is the potential for the next period of gaming’s history to be pretty damn great. It’s easy for a lot of people to write gamers off as a bunch of whiny children who complain about every tiny detail when they’re not insulting one another, but that’s because we just want to enjoy our hobby and have fun.

    As important as I think games can be as an artistic medium, much of the industry is just that: an industry, looking to make money from us, the consumers. If business matters and executive decisions get in the way of our enjoyment of a game, then we’re not going to be too happy. All you really have to do to let the industry know you won’t stand for bullshit is vote with your wallet, and while it can be hard to do in the face of incredible hype, it can be done. Support the good, reject the crap, and have fun while doing it.

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  • The sound of 2015 (so far)

    If Christmas can commence three months early then so to can an annual music wrap-up. Kate Robertson and Josh Ellery bring you the finest stand-alone tracks and LPs of the year so far.

    The songs your playlist needs

    “Trap Queen”—Fetty Wap
    1738! Although Fetty’s “Trap Queen” technically came out in 2014, it rose to popularity this year. Fetty Wap is an interesting vocalist in that he’s not quite a rapper or a singer, but some sort of weird trap-inflected hybrid of the two. “Trap Queen” is an absolute monster of a track with a killer hook. Give the album a spin if you haven’t already.JE

    “The Hills”—The Weeknd
    The harsh honesty with which the lyrics are told will enrage you, but you’ll keep listening because you’re hooked. Laced with screams and straight out of a slasher film, the slow, brooding track chills you to the bone and seems to epitomise the album’s namesakeBeauty Behind the Madness.KR

    “King Kunta”—Kendrick Lamar
    Way cool to see Kendrick crack the mainstream with “King Kunta”. One of my initial thoughts of To Pimp A Butterfly was that there was no real stand-out radio single on the album, but “King Kunta” has proven to be a huge party anthem. Definitely my favourite rap track of the year.JE

    “Multi-Love”—Unknown Mortal Orchestra
    Winner of the nation’s highest songwriting accoladethe APRA Silver Scrollit would be rude to let “Multi-Love” slide by unnoticed. Ironically upbeat keys and percussion juxtapose incredibly raw lyrics that give the song a real air of confusion that culminates in this perfect piece of music.KR

    “Cool It”—She’s So Rad
    Another track that technically came out in 2014, but rose to prominence on this year’s Tango. In my opinion, “Cool It” is among the best songs to come out of New Zealand in recent yearsit’s lush, it has a stellar vocal, and successfully utilizes a glam-rock style guitar solo in a non-ironic way. An absolutely stunning song from a stunning album.JE

    “Norf Norf”—Vince Staples
    One of rap music’s hottest acts right now, 2015 has been career-defining for the 22-year old Cali native. Where a lot of young rappers can sound painfully similar, Staples separates himself with clean lines and a strong narrative. “Norf Norf” is catchy, but by no means weak. A definite summer staple if you’re yet to indulge in it.KR

    “Pedestrian at Best”—Courtney Barnett
    A classic Courtney Barnett track from an album that proved solid. “Pedestrian At Best” features typically snarky and witty Barnett poetry, the major draw-card of her music. She snarls over a much more rock-inflected backing than we’re used to hearing, and it works. Good shit, Courtney.JE

    “What Went Down”—Foals
    At risk of releasing another album that sounded just like all their others, Foals grabbed everyone’s attention when they released one of the most powerful rock songs of 2015. A slow burner that grows and grows, I would seriously consider sacrificing a limb to hear this absolute beast of a song played to a sold out arena.KR

    “Omen”—Disclosure & Sam Smith
    The dream-team from “Latch” reunited for “Omen”, and I love it. I’m biased towards Sam Smith—I can’t get enough of his voicebut the track itself is worthy of critical acclaim. “Omen”, despite Caracal’s other tracks, builds on the 90s house and electronic influences deployed by Disclosure on Settle. “Omen” is a brilliant electronic pop jam.JE

    Song of the year

    “Where Are Ü Now?”—Jack Ü feat. Justin Bieber
    Certified pop gold, this bop takes the title uncontested. Released in March, the magic of this song was the fact that no one was expecting it. Right out of left field Jack Ü (aka Skrillex and Diplo) re-launched Bieber’s career and solidified their superstar producer status. In an environment where three years later we’re still being bombarded with electro-pop Lorde wannabes, this track redirects and instead roots itself in an unusual yet perfect R&B/mixed pop parallel universe. You can fight it all you want, but Bieber has hit new highs and this song for him has proven career defining.KR

    ***

    The albums your collection needs

    The Top 40 Pick

    How Big, How Blue, How BeautifulFlorence + the Machine
    You love them, your Mum loves them, and your super alty flatmate probably loves them too (even if they won’t admit it). I don’t have many words to work with so I’ll sum it up like thisanthems upon anthems upon anthems. Get it in you.KR

    Rap Album of the Year

    To Pimp A ButterflyKendrick Lamar
    Probably the best rap album of the decade so far, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is an absolute monster. It’s impossible to understate its importance, both thematically and sonically, and subsequently this album has been met with appropriate adoration from critics and fans alike. A modern classic.JE

    Most Overrated

    CaracalDisclosure
    There can be no denying that Disclosure are a well-oiled machine, but in this case their obsession with perfection has let them down. High-profile guest vocalists feel exhausting and the songs where Guy and Howard’s vocals stand-alone are ironically the strongest. It’s a catchy album, but not really worthy of the hype we’re giving it.KR

    Comeback of the Year

    ComptonDr. Dre
    After 16 years without a major solo release, Dr. Dre came back with a vengeance this year, and the world is a better place for it. Not only was Compton a dope record, but it also added a sense of finality and closure to a near-perfect trio of albums from Dre.JE

    Alternative Album of the Year

    Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just SitCourtney Barnett
    For us plebs, it’s hard to figure out how Barnett managed to write an entire album about seemingly ordinary moments, but she did, and it’s goddamn brilliant. It’s rough around the edges and has a grungey alt-rock feel about it that separates her from her current industry counterparts. Hey Courts, pls write another album soon.KR

    Most Underrated

    TangoShe’s So Rad
    Criminally underrated in a global sense, She’s So Rad’s sophomore effort Tango is one of my favorites of the year. The lush, shoegaze-inflected arrangements on Tango are as exciting and urgent sounding as any band in the world. If you haven’t heard Tango, stop mucking round and crack into it, you’ll love it.JE

    Rock Album of the Year

    Viet CongViet Cong
    Well-penned lyrics and a creative manipulation of sound make these guys the definite dark horse of 2015. From the second the first song starts, it boomsthere’s no better adjective to describe it. The closing track “Death” comes in at a whopping 11 minutes and will shake you to the bone. Start to finish this album delivers and will please hipsters and bogans alike.—KR

    New Zealand Album of the Year

    Multi-LoveUnknown Mortal Orchestra
    Multi-Love is the sort of album that shows New Zealanders are truly in the upper echelons of the independent music world. All 9 tracks on Multi-Love are perfectly well-rounded alternative pop songsparticularly the Silver Scroll winning title track. This is the most exciting New Zealand album I’ve heard in a while and I can’t wait to see what Unknown Mortal Orchestra do next.—JE

    EP of the Year

    M3LL155XFKA Twigs
    This EP is sex. If you can’t (consensually) seduce someone with this playing in the background then I’m sorry but all hope is lost. R&B melodies layered with electronic distortions and glassy vocals, M3LL155X delves into the world of submission, dominance and sexual agency, and culminates in a true whimsical masterpiece if ever I heard one.KR

    Album of the Year

    In ColourJamie xx
    This was our undisputed favourite of the year. In Colour is a gem because it has something for everyone. For the critics, it is a startlingly creative piece of work, featuring quirky choices of instrumentation and sampling. For the easy-going listener, this is a cohesive album of 11 outstandingly solid tracks, and for people our age that’s more or less an ideal album. While Jamie xx does utilise some left-field choices for collaborators, the execution is flawless (shout-out to Young Thug). I love In Colour, and although it seemed like an agonising wait for a Jamie xx solo album, it definitely lived up to the hype.JE

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  • Books!

    I had planned to write on Patti Smith’s new book, M Train, this week. I had schmoozed a rep at Allen & Unwin to convince her I should get an advance copy. Days later it arrived, and I began.

    I had a list of books to read; I had a planned schedule, and M Train was on its way to being the finale. I boasted to my die-hard Patti Smith-fan friend, flippantly proclaimed “I don’t think it’s as good as Just Kids”, was met with shock, and immediately regretted my snap judgement.

    Embarrassed, I focused on the book, eschewed any Just Kids comparisons that drifted distractingly, and let it become what it became. Tales of her adventures, her coffee drinking; privy to her memories, I was getting sucked in. Until I lost it.

    Literally lost it. I can’t find it. I never lose things, let alone a book. And there’s not that many locations I either visit or take books to.

    Since losing M Train, I’ve been completely distracted from reading; I haven’t read in weeks. I start books and don’t pay attention to what I’m reading, close them and feel uninspired to continue. It’s a post misplaced M Train malaise.

    Over the weekend I was listening to James Wood (New Yorker writer, eminent literary critic and novelist) talk to Kim Hill about his memoir(ish) book, among other things. Many things they talked about resounded with me greatly. He confessed to being the type of person who puts a book down 100 pages in and often does not look back. I am guilty of the same thing; I read so many books at anyone time and rarely finish all of them. Woods laments the dying breed of slow readers, whose slower pace allows them to properly pay attention. I am an unfortunately slow reader; I take a while to make my way through books.

    But our eagerness to digest things rapidly is seeing a trend away from people reading in general. There’s so much else we can do to entertain ourselves. He observes that newer generations of students coming through his classes aren’t as well-read as he once was. Despite my slight aversion to the term “well-read” and the snobbery that it emanates, I see his point. I really do. I am a shining example of this. I missed a whole bunch of the classics. I have a hugely lacking back catalogue of books, especially for an English Literature student.

    Pharrell Williams is turning his song Happy into a children’s book—I don’t really get what it will end up like or how it will be translated to book form. But in the trailer (again, huh?) for the book, he asks a kid why she likes reading. “Because I get to explore and see what I can find in books and learn something from it,” she says. Too bloody profound.

    So this summer—after the exams have wound up, you’ve drunk your sorrows away, and started your mindless summer job—find time for reading. And pay attention to it. Take the ideas of James Wood, and Pharrell Williams, and try to pay attention to books, because the worlds you explore might teach you things you didn’t know that you didn’t know.

    Here is what I will be reading this summer:

    1. Men Explain Things To Me—Rebecca Solnit

    Rebecca Solnit is one of the strongest current nonfiction writers; she finds a balance of poeticism and honesty. The namesake essay based on “mansplaining” impacted 2014 in a big way. Here the essay that even Beyoncé was influenced by is alongside her other essays that deal with contemporary feminism.

    2. The Secret History—Donna Tartt

    I have been told and told again to read this book. It so happens that feeling completely lost and uninspired by your current reading enterprises is the perfect moment to start (in my case at least). It’s already hooked me, with a strange elitist air, a mystery, and a fantastic style of writing.

    3. The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags—Daphne Merkin.

    The opening essay, which I have read, looks at Marilyn Monroe’s desperation. This is an excellent book to keep on your bedside table, to dip in and out of, and consider the world of celebrities in a new way.

    4. JunkyWilliam Burroughs

    I heard a radio show where Iggy Pop hosted several authors and scholars alike discussing burroughs on his, like maybe, 100th birthday? It was fantastic, and I needed to read Burroughs. I had never known his story, or how he fit. To followThe Naked Lunch.

    5. The Alchemist Paulo Coelho

    This book is meant to, literally, change your life. It’s also one of the best selling books of all timeso I don’t know how I didn’t catch this earlier. 

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  • I don’t get it

    For the final issue of the year, now is probably a good time to admit something—I don’t get it. Modern art, the local art “scene”, the lengthy convoluted descriptions and reviews—I don’t get any of it. I’ve really only been pretending to be interested in art for the free wine and cheese at openings. All the “profound” experiences of art I’ve had? Probably just indigestion.

    The assemblage of the gallery experience—the high ceilings, its financial foundation and white walls make it far too easy to be fooled into thinking something should be revered because someone else has paid for it to be placed there. And yet people love being complicit in this charade—populous are the art reviews and artist statements praising something for its [insert four syllable word here] use of [another four syllable word] in a manner not dissimilar to [name drop here]. Gallery goers read these wanky drivels and feel obliged to nod, go “hmm, yes”, “I see it now”.

    I urge you to not do this. The pretentious complicity of “creatives” is so boring and so excluding; do not feed into it. Ask yourself: do these two neon tubes actually stand for anything? Is this black-and-white photograph of a woman’s neck actually cool? Does this pile of dirt really stand as a metaphor for the human condition? Take a step back and ask, so what? A good piece of art feeds into you some sort of sensation because something about it is relevant—it is somehow significant, triggers something of the experience of being a modern human, whether political or emotional. It is important to admit that most pieces of art that we see aren’t able to do this!

    Art should be able to make you smile, cry, puke, faint, laugh or scream without having to consult someone’s interpretation with a dictionary in hand. It doesn’t matter what someone wrote about it, it doesn’t matter if it was done by some apparently esteemed artist you’ve never heard of, and it doesn’t matter if it’s all about what it represents. If it makes you furrow your eyebrows, sigh, or look around the room to see how other people are reacting to it, accept that it’s just not very good before you pretend that you also “get it”.

    There is good art out there, and it can enrich your life. But not all the art out there is good. Networking, money, privilege and a whole bunch of other non-artistic conditions have played a part of the piece’s journey to the gallery. Unfortunately there is no prerequisite for all paintings to be able to make someone cry before they can be displayed.

    So from one confused art viewer to another, please question everything, do not fall victim to structural wankiness, and please be absolutely shameless in making the most of free food and alcohol at openings.

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  • The best, so far

    Imagine a “Best Movies of 2015” list, conceived before half of the best movies of the year have even hit the big screen. Yup, here it is!

    1. Mad Max: Fury Road

    In a year dominated by a resurgence in movie franchises, the Mad Max revival came out on top. It’s an atypical masterpiece: the eccentricities in characters, unremitting action sequences, and dystopian setting went through the blender and poured out unique cinema that puts a woman in the driver’s seat of a movie named after its male lead, and delivers lunacy that has a serious medical impact on the viewer’s testosterone levels.

    1. Ex Machina

    A Frankenstein-esque story superbly written for the age of artificial intelligence. Its small budget gave more heartbeats per dollar than any of its big budget co-movies this year.

    1. Selma

    Based on the Selma to Montgomery voting right marches of 1965, Selma showcases A+ acting in a political story that never feels prescriptive. It’s suspenseful, rhetorical, and epic.

    1. The Martian

    Similar to Gravity in its out-in-space exposition, dedication to scientific accuracy, and constant gravitational pull to the edge of your seat. Not similar to Gravity in its greater use of Matt Damon, greater use of comedy, and more satisfying narrative.

    1. Straight Outta Compton

    No-one expected this enthralling biopic to mimic the underground success story of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E in their undertaking to become some of the most influential artists in hip-hop. It captured the most interesting fraction of their lives and the best part is that you don’t have to like hip-hop to like this movie.

    1. Jurassic World

    The highest grossing movie so far. Jurassic World distracted us from a dead plot with sublime CGI dinos and references to the original that made us feel nostalgic and warm inside, which was all we cared about.

    1. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

    The fifth instalment in 20 years and easily the best one for its irony-laden old-school action sequences, plot twists and motifs. It would be better if the film series just matured and stopped calling Tom Cruise “Ethan Hunt”, which confuses us into thinking that Cruise doesn’t commit eccentric, nonsensical stunts on a day-to-scientologist-day basis in his personal life, but, other than that, no complaints about this film.

    Worst movies: Tomorrowland, Minions, Pitch Perfect 2, 50 Shades of Grey, and Jupiter Ascending.

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  • Sicario

    ★★★★★

    Since being nominated for an Oscar for his disturbing historical melodrama Incendies, Denis Villeneuve has become the go-to director for disconcerting, dark and complex films. Sicario builds on his psychological thrillers Prisoners and Enemy, but takes take the same level of unnerving stories and artfully mixes it into the American war on drugs.

    The film follows Kate, an FBI agent (Emily Blunt), who is recruited in a murky government anti-drug task force headed by a CIA operative (Josh Brolin) and his mysterious right hand man (Benicio Del Toro). As the task force engages in militarised actions and tortures prisoners, Kate finds it difficult to justify its activities both legally and ethically.

    The story is kept very basic, but despite this, it is incredibly tense and engaging. This really is a filmmaker’s film, in that it is all about the craft. The acting from the three leads is outstanding, with Blunt and Del Toro now leading Oscar contenders. As a director, Villeneuve is simply brilliant at creating set pieces and action scenes.  He builds up the suspense slowly, letting the audience see all the pieces come together, then he hits you with sudden bursts of violence. All this is perfectly set to an incredibly unique and evocative film score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. To say the score is moody, dark and filled with tension would be a massive understatement. However, the real star of Sicario is veteran cinematography Roger Deakins. The use of aerial shots to create awe-inspiring action scenes, filming in the most stunningly gorgeous night-vision ever put to film, and capturing the most impressive sunset in a movie since Kurosawa’s Kagemusha makes Sicario a visual feast.

    This is a bold and confident film about how the American foreign policy that we have all become so familiarly with in the Middle East is also applied to Mexican drug cartels with similar results. Sicario is not without its faults. It portrayal of the Mexican city of Juárez makes it look like a war-ridden hellscape, despite the reality that its murder rate is actually lower than many American cities. However, the film’s general message that the War On Drugs has long since failed, and its more specific message that the cartels and people connected to the American militarily are benefiting from it, is not lost. More importantly, these messages are covered in one of the most beautiful and thrilling films of the year.

    by

  • Amy

    ★★★★

     

    Amy may initially seem unappealing. Another exposé of a star’s demise, another adventure into the dark, grimy tabloids. But this documentary of Amy Winehouse, directed by Asif Kapadia, is not so simple. Like Kapadia’s previous work, Senna, the film is interested in a talented, intriguing character, but seeks to recover the person who lay behind the blaring paparazzi onslaught, the artist who disappeared into the lights. It creates a more complete picture of an artist, and so it is more complicated and painful. From the beginning, Kapadia uses a huge amount of home video footage from family, friends and colleagues, and interviews them extensively. But the interviewees remain behind the images, creating an uninterrupted intimacy with Amy. You can’t help but warm to her brightness and humour, and the certain shyness and charisma which can often coincide in an artist. The film is particularly good at showing Amy’s early performances in small clubs, where there’s warmth and joy in her musicality, an emotional force in the voice linked to a deep affinity of jazz. There, in her demeanour, you can see what her pianist recountsthat she had a pure relationship to music, an emotional relationship, that she needed it like it was a person.

    It seems as if there are two halves of the film, lightness preceding a descent. Though there are signs of depression and escapism early on, Amy’s spark is still there. But as the film continues, it becomes very dark. When Back to Black explodes, cocaine and heroin addiction take over and the fame machine gets so loud it drowns out the music. Simultaneously, there is the enveloping but destructive love between Amy and her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Kapadia provides real footage of the paparazzi hunt; the constant burst of jarring lights is overwhelming. It’s a strange and unnerving reality, and the audience feels involved in the madness. Painfully, Amy becomes physically smaller in front of us. The film brings you close to the sadness, the addiction, the unwanted fame of her later yearsa chaotic, relentless spiral that turned itself over and over again until it just couldn’t turn anymore.

    Regardless of whether you are a fan of Amy Winehouse or not, Amy a humane, sorrowful portrait. Kapadia is interested in knowing his subject in the most authentic way and revealing her to his audience. In this way the film grasps you, and shocks you, making you feel keenly for someone you never knew.

    by

  • The Intern

    ★★★★½

    This isn’t a review: I’m too emotionally involved. Here’s the thing about this film. I thought it was going to be a safe watch. I mean, Nancy Meyers, right? She wrote The Holiday, which I unashamedly pronounce my all-time favourite good-bad Christmas film. It started with a male voice-over, and that’s what I was expecting from the whole thing. It was going to be a nice fluffy film with too much about the boring old guy and some hyper-stereotypical power woman. It’s not. And maybe don’t go, if that’s what you’re expecting.

    I thought Anne Hathaway was the wrong pick for the savvy CEO role, but it turns out she’s perfect, because Jules is smart, driven, vulnerable and struggling. She’s trying to be the perfect 21st-century woman, and Meyers wants to push a conversation about what that looks like: how do you have a job and a husband and daughter? How do you be all things to all people all the time? It’s pretty heavy-handed, but surprisingly heartfelt.

    There’s a scene in the film where de Niro’s character, Ben, and Jules are sitting in a hotel room, and Jules breaks down over her family life. “You know me, Ben,” she sobs, “I’m not easy.” No, that doesn’t mean what you’re thinking. She’s talking about being someone who’s hard to deal with: the classic “high maintenance” woman. This is, of course, where your humble reviewer had to hold off the tears (in the name of professionalism) and make her way to the bathroom not-too-quickly after the film ended in order to start sobbing.

    Because here’s the thing: Meyers presents us with a real woman here, something all too rare. And sure, the character still plays into certain tropes, and there’s weird mental illness jokes, and the soundtrack is hideous, but at the end of the day, there’s something that hits home about this film. So here’s to you, Nancy Meyers. Here’s to usthe women who aren’t easy. But especially the women who write characters like us, because in today’s Hollywood, that sure as hell can’t be fun either.

    by

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    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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