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Issue 11, 2016

Music

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News

  • WCC put in naughty corner by central government

  • The sickest new dean

  • Students strike sky-high rent

  • More tax cuts for rich people

  • Fire alarms Castle Street

  • Everybody Poops

  • Major protests in PNG

  • Victoria hero graduates

  • Govt says mental health services are fine

  • Cash Ruins Everything About Migration (IRD get da money)

  • Not the most uplifting experience

  • Lester is More for Students

  • Gowning around

  • Fossil fuel divestment protest

  • Let them lean in!

  • Fun News

  • Features

  • charlotte

    TO SPEND MORE TIME LOOKING AT THE GROUND THAN AT THE SKY

    A conversation with Claire Duncan aka i.e. crazy   To speak with Claire of music, or experience, or life at surface-value alone would be to ignore the rich and endlessly layered way in which she gets lost in the world around her. There is a sense of marvel in the most mundane: the sound of […]

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  • rhys

    Is Underground Music Journalism Relevant?

    Rhys Stannard has been in various bands over the last few years, and is an active member of the Wellington music scene. He is currently a member of the band Kobra Club. If you’re reading this and are unaware of local underground music or haven’t been to a local music show yet, then I encourage […]

    by

  • lemonade

    Got lemonade?

    When Beyoncé’s Lemonade dropped a couple of weeks ago, white girls the world over fizzed their Elle Macpherson panties. Finally, their political ‘wokeness’ was legitimised by the Queen herself. Beyoncé has become the conduit between the politically charged African-American artists, whose work could be deemed by the mainstream as ‘polarising’ (such as Killer Mike), and […]

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  • blues

    Soul, Freedom, and Bluesfest

    The idea of throwing a massive birthday party is my worst nightmare. So it should come as no surprise that when the time came for me to plan my 21st birthday, I avoided giving anyone who asked a straight answer. Mum wanted a party, I wanted out. I wanted to run away. I was enrolled […]

    by

  • charlotte

    TO SPEND MORE TIME LOOKING AT THE GROUND THAN AT THE SKY

    A conversation with Claire Duncan aka i.e. crazy   To speak with Claire of music, or experience, or life at surface-value alone would be to ignore the rich and endlessly layered way in which she gets lost in the world around her. There is a sense of marvel in the most mundane: the sound of […]

    by

  • rhys

    Is Underground Music Journalism Relevant?

    Rhys Stannard has been in various bands over the last few years, and is an active member of the Wellington music scene. He is currently a member of the band Kobra Club. If you’re reading this and are unaware of local underground music or haven’t been to a local music show yet, then I encourage […]

    by

  • lemonade

    Got lemonade?

    When Beyoncé’s Lemonade dropped a couple of weeks ago, white girls the world over fizzed their Elle Macpherson panties. Finally, their political ‘wokeness’ was legitimised by the Queen herself. Beyoncé has become the conduit between the politically charged African-American artists, whose work could be deemed by the mainstream as ‘polarising’ (such as Killer Mike), and […]

    by

  • blues

    Soul, Freedom, and Bluesfest

    The idea of throwing a massive birthday party is my worst nightmare. So it should come as no surprise that when the time came for me to plan my 21st birthday, I avoided giving anyone who asked a straight answer. Mum wanted a party, I wanted out. I wanted to run away. I was enrolled […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Set my breath free

    I had been anticipating this moment for a long time. Ever since I saw the unopened box in her bedroom—I could not contain my excitement. I knew what was inside, but I had to wait two weeks until I could see it.

    It was the opening night of freunde sind künstler, a group show of ten Berlin-based artists. It was held in a studio above Pyramid Club, and looked after and curated by my friend and artist—Jordana Bragg.

    Following a long, pale blue corridor, the sound of murmuring voices led me towards a narrow staircase. Entering the room, the space was filled with hot bodies. Everyone had their eyes on everyone. I saw familiar faces and smiled at a few.

    I noticed how my body felt in the space. The low ceiling brought my attention to the ground. Two upturned analogue television sets, one resting on a blue milk crate, first caught my eye. Brushing shoulders with many, I eagerly leant over and watched water turn and unfold. I spent a while there, mesmerized by the waves and motions. The water soon turned into ice, puffy white clouds billowing in and out.

    As I stepped away I needed some room to breathe, even if that was to go to the bathroom or have a cigarette downstairs—I knew I’d be here for a while.

    The space was confined, but only because it had been divided into two rooms. A hanging cage-like fence separated a quarter of the room from the collective shared space. This structure was also used as a mechanism to display series of photographs. The studio itself was large, with a collection of accidental assemblages such as broom on ohp, plywood rests on paint buckets, and trash behind glass wall. The carpet too was an interesting feature. Its outdated beige and green repetitive triangular pattern consumed the floor. I was kind of into it.

    There was an industrial lift that provided another entrance to the studio for the artists. It was open so I wandered in. On the floor, in the right hand corner, was the box. The lid was open and a white balloon rested comfortably in bubble wrap.

    BEING EVERYWHERE (2007) is a utopian space project by Stefan Riebel, which involves filling a white balloon with his breath and sending it to people around the world. When one receives the balloon, they are asked to destroy it in a place and in a way they choose. Riebel’s breath is released into the chosen surroundings and he will become present in that space; his breath will be set free.

    All these works travelled from Berlin to New Zealand, sent digitally or via mail. The lift is a feature that references travel and how the exchange of art, ideas, conversations, and even breath, can manifest a connection beyond a physical platform.

    Post-opening the balloon was set free. It playfully bounced around the studio and at this moment I began to fear for it. I observed my surroundings. I had my eye on the balloon, on other people, and on objects and potential hazards. I cared for the balloon like a dear friend. It was vulnerable as it floated, bouncing off people’s heads and being caught by others. Be careful please! Why did I feel like I needed to protect the balloon? The whole idea is to destroy it, to release the breath that is kept inside. By nature we know it will eventually deflate, yet at any unexpected moment the balloon might pop—with or without intention.

    Are we ready for this?

     

    Order your balloon from here: beingeverywhere.net

     

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  • Hannibal

    ★★★★½

    I’ll be honest, I would eat a person. Before you start sub-tweeting me, I mean if the opportunity presented itself as some kind of culinary event—like the year Hokitika Wild Foods Festival really ups its game, or when I am a member of the A-list cultural elite and at some $250,000 a head restaurant with Richard Branson and Soulja Boi. In 2012 Japanese artist Mao Sugiyama had his genitals surgically removed and then cooked, and served them to a select group of paying guests. Cannibalism is not a crime under Japanese law. It is where murderer and cannibal Issei Sagawa lives, having managed to escape life imprisonment through a series of loopholes in the law, serving only two years for murdering and eating a young French woman in 1981. He has since gone on to write several books and even make films about his crime, because ultimately there is a huge fascination around cannibalism—one of civilized society’s ultimate taboos.

    Dr Hannibal Lecter is one of pop culture’s iconic villains. A charming and cultured cannibalistic serial killer, created by Thomas Harris in his 1981 novel Red Dragon. Famously played by Anthony Hopkins in the film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), NBC’s 2013 series Hannibal brings a faithful but deliciously fresh interpretation of the character. Written as a prequel to Red Dragon, Hannibal is a forensic psychiatrist assigned to supervise Will Graham, a genius FBI profiler with the ability to empathise with psychopaths but with a psyche as fragile as those he investigates. Will is tracking a man known as the Chesapeake Ripper—a serial killer with a penchant for the theatrical who contorts his mutilated victims into pieces of art—unaware his psychiatrist is the very killer he is looking for. Fascinated by Will’s ability to understand who he truly is, Hannibal pursues Will’s friendship while working from within the FBI to ensure his longevity as a killer, and deal with any loose ends that may arise and lead to his capture.

    Not one to waste, Hannibal keeps trophies from each of his murders in the form of organs and cuts of meat, which he then serves to his unaware guests. The best part of each episode is these dinner parties, and you can’t help but smile with Hannibal as he listens to his diners wax lyrical about his cooking. The show employs a “culinary consultant” to advise on the proper preparation of these meals. The beautiful and mouthwatering montages of Hannibal’s creations convey the twisted respect the doctor has for his victims, giving them beauty and purpose in their gruesome demise. Hannibal’s success is in the elegance it brings to its brutal content, where a television adaptation of the source material could so easily have the taste of a Saw sequel. Madds Mikkelson is incredible as the titular antagonist, basing his characterization on Lucifer, stuck amongst the living and manipulating them into being their darkest selves. You root for him constantly, even when he’s cutting off ears and stretching corpses into nightmarish angels. However this is almost at a fault to the show as it becomes difficult to sympathize with or support any of the other characters, especially Will—who is given six dogs in a desperate attempt to make him likeable at all.

    Running for three seasons, Hannibal was met with critical acclaim but fell victim to poor ratings due to viewers primarily downloading and streaming it instead of tuning in each week to watch. While it’s not an end to Lecter’s story, it’s disappointing that it wasn’t allowed to truly flourish. It remains a brilliant and devilishly intelligent show that doesn’t just blow other thriller television shows out the water, it murders them. Watch with snacks.

     

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  • Theatre Virgin

    It’s a blustery Tuesday night on Courtenay Place as my boyfriend and I walk hand in hand towards BATS Theatre. Actually it’s more like I’m dragging him along with me. He’s reluctantly agreed to watch a stand-up comedy show with me, and I am hoping to convert him into a theatre fanatic. As we enter BATS I am warmed with the familiarity of this space that I know and love, but my attention shifts to my partner’s  apprehensive gaze and I realise how intimidating it can feel in here. By the time we reach the bar, I have already pointed out three theatre lecturers, two tutors, and a woman I saw in a show on Saturday night. He is bewildered by this society of people that he never knew existed and feeling both nervous and excited to experience theatre for the first time.

    Once inside the Dome I flick through the promotional material for Pressure Makes Diamonds: Laura Daniels and we sit right near the front. As the lights dim, he whispers to me that he hopes he won’t be picked for audience interaction and I assure him that he’ll be fine. This turned out to be an incredible lie. Murphy’s law insists that Laura’s first gag is to demand to know exactly who he is. He tentatively replies with “Mitchell” and she proceeds to drag him on to stage and force him to tell a “dick joke.” The awkwardness of the situation is palpable and I resist the urge to run on to stage and answer for him. But he was completely okay, of course. Perhaps even thrilled with the rush of being on stage. The first time is always strange and awkward, but just like sex it gets better every time you try it.  

    It’s difficult to believe that in ancient Greek times, the amphitheatre was a hive of social activity not dissimilar to celebrated rugby games here in New Zealand. Every kind of person could be found at the theatre, not just practitioners and experts, (except I think that women weren’t allowed to go!) and this is all apart of what made it such a fun and inclusive environment. After the show Mitchell is talking about the performance, what he liked/disliked and how he would have reacted differently if he was called up on stage again. Laura’s self-deprecating humour was endearing. She wasn’t afraid to make fun of her flaws such as her inability to pronounce the Welsh place name “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” and her drunken attempt to memorise this word on a long-haul flight was hilarious. Being involved with theatre needn’t be as difficult as pronouncing this word, it should be a conversation that everybody can speak to and not this inaccessible “high-art” that it often times becomes.

    Moral of the story: take people to the theatre and make theatre that is inclusive of everybody.

     

    MY SHOUT: Another Round at the Thistle Inn

    InSite invites you to celebrate 176 years of community and change at Wellington’s oldest pub, the Thistle Inn.

    MY SHOUT is a site-specific production, where performance, song, and interaction are generated from the history and atmosphere of the Thistle Inn. Director Kerryn Palmer describes site-specific performance as a way of allowing the past to resonate with the present. “Through using a site we awaken memories that have stepped into the walls of a site over the years. We also add to those memories by creating our own.”

    Through ensemble, improvisation and song, InSite presents a dynamic piece of theatre that captures the essence of Wellington’s first pub.

    Journey with us through the different rooms of the Thistle Inn, for an immersive exploration of Wellington’s social history. Meet iconic characters such as Katherine Mansfield and Te Rauparaha, and drink in the singing, laughter, and entertainment as we pay tribute to this unique site.

     

    What: MY SHOUT: Another Round at the Thistle Inn

    When: May 29–31, 2.00pm and 7.00pm on Sunday, 7.00pm on Monday and Tuesday.

    Where: The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St., Thorndon, Wellington.

    Tickets: $18.00 (*one drink of choice included*).

    To book: email theatre@vuw.ac.nz.

     

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  • Is there a Future for the Major Label?

    When you gamble, your prerogative is to win. When you bet on a horse, you base your decision on history. If ‘The Schlong Machine’ has won every race for the last three years (without injury) that’s where you put your money. The music industry works the same way.

    At its core the music industry is just that, an industry. Music industry businesses exist, just like every other business, to make money. Like betting on a horse, a label’s prerogatives are profit and longevity; commercial worth over musical worth. Labels put their money on the front-runner to minimise risk and maximise profit. As ruthless as that may sound, the sheer vastness of available talent makes this possible. If you were tasked with discovering and developing a potentially Justin Bieber-esque artist, wouldn’t you choose the most commercially viable option?

    In many cases, artists hoping to be signed to a label must prove they have an established fan base, live presence, or existing base of commercially viable music. The businesses are less concerned with talent, as they are with one’s ability to successfully market talent. Resources are also given in accordance with a musician’s ability to sell content. It’s for this reason that Kanye is given lenient due dates for his finished solo efforts, access to vast ranges of resources, and support from scores of talented personnel. After all, he can hit number one and earn it all back. It’s unlikely less popular acts would receive such favourable treatment.

    This business strategy is present in other industries too. Its why Fast & Furious keeps getting shitty sequels and Deadpool took over a decade to make—film studios are also more concerned with generating profit with market tested releases. Still Mission Impossible 45 may provide the resources needed to fund an innovative new film project with an unproven target market. These ‘bread and butter’ films have their uses, they allow budgeting of riskier films. Films like the original Star Wars: a low budget gamble which evolved into the rampant success it is today. The same goes for the music industry. It’s a ruthless ecosystem, but it’s one that has worked for decades.

     

    The Record Deal

    It then begs the question, why pursue a deal at all? If you’ve already established a fanbase, a live presence, and recorded a selection of quality music, what can a major label possibly offer you? We have a culture in Western music of associating signage with success—look no further than hip-hop culture to see this. Bobby Shmurda, the mastermind behind “Hot N***a,” had racked up over two million hits on YouTube, started the Schmoney dance trend, and began work with hit-smith DJ Mustard all before signing with Epic Records in July 2014. In other words, Shmurda had essentially cracked the mainstream before he was signed. He celebrated on Instragram all the same: “deal is done @bobby_shmurda #EPIC no one does the underdogs better than me. Brooklyn this 1 is for you!”

    It makes sense in some respects. Signage entails a sense of entitlement; someone with experience in funding successes is telling you they think you’ll succeed. One can only imagine that feels pretty great. Plus the label will take care of the administration and provide you with the resources to make your music! You can outsource the tricky jobs to experienced parties. Parties that merely require you split most of your earnings between themselves and distributors. Shockingly the Recording Industry Association of America puts the average label artist’s earning at $23.40 out of every $1000 of music sold. You may also hand over the ability to veto your album structure and content to the label; they want to ensure its commercially viable—artistry is secondary. Not so fun now, is it?

     

    The Indie Artist

    It’s unsurprising that many an artist chooses the independent path. The term indie describes a party which has achieved moderate success without a label, or a party which has left a label to pursue music alone. This option is becoming more popular, look no further than the general population of Bandcamp to find thousands of indie rock artists. Chance the Rapper is a prime example of a mainstream, celebrated artist who has remained independent throughout his career.

    Chance has never sold an album. That didn’t stop 2015’s Surf from being downloaded 618,000 times in its first week. He’s never been signed. That didn’t stop him providing a feature for “All My Friends”—one of the songs of summer 2016. He’s never been artistically restricted and he’s never had to share his profits with a business. He’s able to make a comfortable living on merchandise and ticket sales alone.

    Perhaps most important of all, he appears infinitely more genuine for it. Chance’s marketing is grassroots (though now on a worldwide scale). To the average fan, he releases music because he wants others to share in his experience of the world. He releases it because he loves it, and he does nothing more than market it and hope we love it too. This implies, in turn, that label content is somehow less genuine, more commercial. While this isn’t a blanket rule, this prejudice is certainly present when any hipster discusses pop music.

     

    The Future?

    It’s this fanbase cultivation and management that marks successful acts in the 21st century. The introduction of the internet and more advanced production technology allows anyone with a computer, an internet connection, and a roof over their head to absorb, create, and share music. Piracy and bedroom producers are common—sales are beginning to matter less and less, and live shows and merchandise more and more. Is it very surprising, therefore, that Chance chooses to release music for free? He bypasses piracy and sales, while spending his resources on acquiring a fan-base willing to purchase his tickets and merchandise.

    Fan-base management is thus the future. Again this begs a further question: why remain signed at all? Take Drake’s most recent album, VIEWS. Selling 600,000 in a single night, it’s not unimaginable that the Canadian rapper could have achieved just as much without the support of a label. He certainly has the resources, influence, and talent to do so. By releasing through a label, he diminishes his profit. While the label provides many benefits, it’s just as easy to outsource these functions to less restrictive parties, with greater gain and freedom on Drake’s part.

    It seems the independent artist is the Uber to the major label’s taxi. While it may take some time for the behemoth industry to be fully disrupted, there is certainly a future in which labels are no longer the preferred option for artists. Convincing arguments can be made for artists, both established or up and coming, to stay or become independent. Despite the possible benefits, if you can earn greater profit, retain artistic freedom, and maintain genuine relationships with fans, why would you not?

    The future of commercial success lies in managing and taking advantage of diverse fan-bases and creating personal relationships with fans. Simply, a wall of business is not personal.

     

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  • Transistor: Soundtrack Review

    ★★★★★

    “I’m so sorry, Red. They took your voice. I couldn’t stop them.”

     

    Step into the shoes of Red, a displaced chanteuse from Cloudbank—the iridescent cyberpunk metropolis in which Transistor takes place. The city is beautifully reminiscent of an art deco space station, a blue-green paradise that glows primarily with accents of white, red, and orange. But despite its magnificence, there is darkness at work in Cloudbank. Something is happening to its citizens, and something terrible has already happened to Red. Her voice has been taken, but she is determined to get to the bottom of things. Thankfully, she has Transistor, the massive glowing sword she carries and uses to fight enemies. Transistor’s soothing voice talks the voiceless Red through the game, helping to piece together the overall narrative. The game would most certainly be lacking without him, particularly given his relationship with the protagonist. He has a technical and sentimental role in the construction of the narrative, and so his presence is integral.

    However the game would also be lacking if not for the music and the role it plays in the structure of the narrative. Like Transistor, music’s thematic role becomes a technical one in developing the mood of the game and in helping to construct the mystery of Cloudbank. The soundtrack consists of 23 tracks of instrumental and vocal works, though some songs are also wordless. These last are haunting, featuring only five vocals in various formats. The singer (presumably Red) hums and calls these wordless melodies alongside lightly cyber-fied electronic scores. The wordlessness is symbolic of recent events, while the tonality seems to articulate Red’s fall from grace and her desolation in the face of tyranny. Despite this, the vocals retain a certain power that emphasizes Red’s determination and inner strength.

    The moods of tracks are eclectic, combining both low and high-fi processes throughout the composition of layers which include electronically-generated and recorded material. There are elements of light and dark in every song, so that one gets a sense of Red’s current predicament in contrast to her previous role. In instrumental songs, elements are intensified either one way or another, giving a track a whimsical edge in relation to the past, or darkening the composition to signify the danger at hand. In songs where Red does sing with lyrics, music’s role as a vehicle for emotion is again revealed. The bonus track “She Shines” personifies Cloudbank, painting the city as a beautiful but watchful maiden and hinting at the control she has over her own residents. Conversely, Red illustrates the genesis of her disillusionment through the cool and fluid structure of “The Spine,” singing, “Just skin and bones, nothing inside… I see the spine of the world.” In “Paper Boats”, Red illustrates her determination by masking it in terms of a love song: “I will always find you, like it’s written in the stars… you can run but you can’t hide. Try.”

    It is evident that Red’s power remains despite her inability to speak, and that the Transistor soundtrack has been designed specifically to illustrate this fact. Music serves its purpose eclectically and beautifully, emphasizing emotion inherent in the overall narrative and making the play-experience even more worthwhile. It is certain that Transistor would not be the same without the work of Darren Korb and the vocals of Ashley Barrett. The soundtrack is available to purchase in full on Steam, Supergiant Games, and Bandcamp.

     

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  • The Cabin in The Woods (2012)

    ★★★★½

    Director: Drew Goddard

     

    Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a group of college kids decide to go on a fun getaway to a cabin in the woods except horrific, violent, and fatal events ensue. Of course the answer is yes, because it’s a premise that has been done a million times and something writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard are painfully aware of. While it isn’t a new idea to poke fun at horror convention (if you haven’t seen Wes Craven’s Scream please do), Cabin in The Woods takes it a step further, not only by laughing at these conventions but by playing straight into their hands and embracing them as part of the narrative.

    The most blatant and obvious example of this comes from our five central characters, with each of them fitting into a specific horror film character stereotype. As part of the film’s narrative, the characters must die in a ritual that is very reminiscent of a basic horror film plot. The ritual must begin with the death of the whore, followed by in no particular order the jock, the fool, and the scholar; and, in the end, the last character, the virgin, may live or die. The virgin obviously represents the famous final girl of the horror genre.

    The film’s narrative is pushed along by two “game-controllers” in an underground facility. While simultaneously controlling the events as they occur these characters are enthralled, entertained and at times titillated by said events.

    While these are only a few examples of the great meta-­commentary in the film, The Cabin in The Woods stands out as an amazing horror film. It comments on the horror convention, and deconstructs itself in an entertaining and satisfying way.

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  • Mulholland Dr. (2001)

    ★★★★★

    Director: David Lynch

     

    If Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Interstellar, and The Shining all went to a pre-school together, Mulholland Dr. would steal all their crayons and send the lot home in tears.

    Some may label it as crazy, while others regard it as one of Lynch’s finest works, but it is undeniable that Mulholland Dr. is an intoxicating liberation from sense, with little narrative order and several instances of temporal disruption. The film is about the nature of the studio system and the sycophantic fantasies of Hollywood, veiled in the story of one young actor (Naomi Watts) and their brush with fame and doused in suspense, psychological horror, mystery, and eroticism. You’d be forgiven for not realising this after your first viewing. After escaping a planned car crash on Mulholland Drive, Rita seeks refuge in a vacated apartment nearby. Betty (Watts), a hopeful young actress finds Rita shocked, confused, and carrying an unusually large sum of money. The two set off to find out more about Rita’s lost identity, becoming tangled in a interweaving web of character developments that eventually connect in various ways.

    To navigate through Lynch’s complex storyline, he breaks the film into three sections. The first section—“Part One: She found herself the perfect mystery”—parodies Hollywood cinema style by way of grossly lit scenes and cringe-inducing dialogue. “Part Two: A sad illusion” builds on this further, introducing the protagonists realisations and continuing the film’s comment on Hollywood cinematic style. “Part Three: Love” is where the plot’s accelerating spiral of insanity hits fifth gear.

    Upon exiting Mulholland Dr. one can only know that they have witnessed something disturbing, yet special. It’s the kind of film you watch and realise you will never be done pondering its mysteries. Alas, maybe the best way to sum this film up is to refer to the last sentence of its blurb: “No-one comes out with their soul intact.”

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  • Hail, Caesar! (2016)

    ★★

    Directors: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

     

    I am a big fan of the Coen brothers. I’m also both a dude and kind of lazy, so maybe that isn’t too surprising, but I think that somewhere between the stoned giggles of The Big Lebowski, the dark wit of Fargo, and the sombre violence of No Country For Old Men, the brothers have tapped into a vein of cinema-awesome that everyone can enjoy.

    So when I saw the trailer for Hail, Caesar! a few months back I was duly excited. It promised me an incredible ensemble cast, embroiled in a bizarre plot to keep hostage the star of a 1950s Hollywood production. It looked fast-paced, beautifully shot, and as a Hollywood film about Hollywood I figured maybe there would be some clever meta commentary too.

    After watching the full film I realised these impressions weren’t wrong, but it was so disappointing.

    The story delves into the scandalous lives and dramas of Hollywood actors, beginning with Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin)—the head of production at Capital Pictures and a PR figure who tries desperately to keep the lives of the actors out of the press. However, his job is not an easy one. After discovering unmarried synchronized swimming actress Dee-Anna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) has fallen pregnant and big shot actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has been drugged and abducted on set, Mannix’s dilemmas become increasingly complicated.

    Meanwhile, singing Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is cast in a period drama that is quite out of his comfort zone in an attempt to broaden his appeal. After discovering that he is indeed hopelessly incompetent, Doyle tries to break free from the role but finds he is locked in by a non-negotiable contract.

    Hail, Caesar! has at least five great films going on inside it and you don’t get to see any of them. Take Frances McDormand’s (a film editor for Capital Pictures) role for example, I don’t want to spoil anything, but she’s great. Her character is idiosyncratic and fascinating to watch, and her scene had everyone in the showing I was at in stitches. But that’s all she has, one scene. She’s there, she has her shtick and then she’s never heard from again. What the Coen brothers have against Frances McDormand I don’t know, because clearly there was a whole story there that I never got to understand. All the subplots in the film feel this way. Underdeveloped, inconclusive, and unfair on the actors who so masterfully bring them to life.

    Don’t get me wrong, the film is funny. But it is incredibly hard to make a film that goes nowhere feel satisfying. Maybe that could be forgiven if there was some perceptive or topical commentary on the film industry going on below the surface, but honestly, the brothers haven’t given us that either. Maybe the point they were trying to make with characters like McDormand’s is that films are made by hundreds of individuals, many of whom go unrecognised in the finished product? Maybe they were just trying to show us how complicated movie-making is without boring us with the technical bits? Maybe they just wanted to teach us a little bit about the history of Hollywood à la Trumbo? But I can’t say if any of those are the point because none of those are really pursued in the film.

    The road to nowhere is a fun one, but Hail Caesar! is too loose and unfocused. For those of us waiting for the next Coen brother’s masterpiece, well, we’ll just have to abide a little longer.

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  • Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam: And Other Stories

    ★★★★

    Author: Simon Hanselmann

    Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

     

    Most of you will remember the picture book adventures of Meg and Mog from childhood—a witch and her cat, along with their friend Owl, getting up to weird, brightly coloured shenanigans. Well, Australian cartoonist Simon Hanselmann has taken those classic characters we know from our most innocent years and created the debauched stoner adventures of Megg, a drug-addicted, depressed witch, and her sidekick/lover Mogg (yes, a cat).

    Hanselmann, who comes from Tasmania, was raised by his solo mum, who had a drug problem throughout his childhood. He found solace from the chaos in comics, self-publishing his own from when he was eight years old. Years later in the UK, he first drew Megg & Mogg as a humorous reprieve while working on another comic. It ended up snowballing into a larger project, eventually being published online and gaining a cult following.

    This is Hanselmann’s second published Megg & Mogg collection, after 2014’s Megahex, and there are just as many drugs and bad decisions. Megg & Mogg live with their neurotic, more sensible friend Owl, sleeping all day, taking drugs all night, and generally living a really filthy lifestyle. Along with the incessant drug taking, there’s nudity, sex, violence—basically everything inappropriate for kids, and definitely some stuff that’s pretty shocking to an adult (Megg giving Mogg a rim job springs to mind).

    Hanselmann has taken the classic stoner comic and pushed the boundaries even further—the result is lewd, absurd, depressing, and usually hilarious. The humour here won’t be for everyone, but some of it is truly inspired: in the eponymous episode, Megg & Mogg go to Amsterdam for some “couples time,” forgetting their antidepressants and ending up paranoid and miserable, forgoing the Anne Frank House for the Red Light District.

    Whatever your reaction to the edgy, often disturbing antics of Megg and Mogg, you won’t forget these comics any time soon (cat rim job). Share it with your friends, stoners or not, but maybe not your little cousin.

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  • What Happened, Miss Simone?

    ★★★★★

    “Music is a gift and a burden I’ve had since I can remember who I was.”

     

    Author: Alan Light

    Publisher: Canongate

     

    Inspired by the Netflix documentary of the same name, this biography charts the tempestuous life of musical prodigy and civil rights activist Nina Simone.

    Simone was born Eunice Waymon, in North Carolina, 1933. From a young age she was drawn to classical piano, with Bach a particular favourite, and formed her talent by playing in the Methodist church where her mother was a preacher. But growing up poor, and black, meant her opportunities were limited, until two women from the community saw her play and decided to take her under their wing. She began formal lessons, and later a Eunice Waymon Fund was set up to further her playing.

    While her path to greatness may have seemed destined as a young girl, entering into the wider world had plenty of challenges. Simone was bitter at being denied entry to a prestigious Philadelphia music school, and in a way this shaped her whole musical career: struggling against the status quo, struggling for recognition, in a world that she deemed would not accept her for her blackness or her womanhood. She became involved in the civil rights movement, writing and performing protest songs, but despaired that no progress would ever be made. She spent several years in an abusive marriage with a man who was also her manager.

    Simone is simultaneously classed as a genius and a difficult person, a diva who would often stop in the middle of playing if she felt that the audience wasn’t being respectful. Perhaps shedding some light on this, in the 1980s she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This is a woman who came up in an era when, as Malcolm X said, “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” And yet, she gave so much to the world through music.

    This book uses many of the same sources as the documentary, but is still worth the read if you’ve already seen it. Light has painted a full picture of Simone as a brilliant, frenetic, impassioned musician who has left behind a true legacy.

    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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