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Issue 8, 2016

Pain

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News

  • Wellington City Council are telling fibs

  • Boring report proves mildly interesting

  • Otago Uni are desperate

  • Lol, no one was going to vote anyway

  • We are not so bad at sport after all

  • V-ISA speak out against outsourcing

  • Kelburn residents angry about non-existent building

  • Mum and Dad fighting over tertiary education, again

  • Cable car going into hibernation

  • Iconic trolley buses on track for electric charge

  • VUW continues to build and name things

  • Karori campus feeling used and abused

  • Fun News

  • Features

  • maddy

    The three lives of pain

    Madeleine shares her story of experiencing and enduring extreme bodily pain. The piece describes the details of a car crash which may be triggering to some people.   On the 18th of December I was in a high-speed car accident at the T intersection where state highway four meets state highway three near Te Kuiti. […]

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  • ovaries

    CHOCOLATE CYSTS AND STRINGS OF PEARLS

    Three women share their story of living with endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.   For all the strides that medicine has taken, the patriarchal bend has led to an absence of studies on women’s bodies. This has resulted in a lack of understanding for many conditions and diseases that women suffer. Endometriosis (endo) and polycystic […]

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  • anywhere but here 1

    Anywhere but Here

    Pain isn’t always visible, it’s often a deep, invisible sensation. In this piece Tim shares his experience of depression, his story is one that is individual and also universal, and he shares an honest portrayal of his experience. The piece includes several graphic descriptions which may be triggering to some people, and discussion of suicide. […]

    by

  • maddy

    The three lives of pain

    Madeleine shares her story of experiencing and enduring extreme bodily pain. The piece describes the details of a car crash which may be triggering to some people.   On the 18th of December I was in a high-speed car accident at the T intersection where state highway four meets state highway three near Te Kuiti. […]

    by

  • ovaries

    CHOCOLATE CYSTS AND STRINGS OF PEARLS

    Three women share their story of living with endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.   For all the strides that medicine has taken, the patriarchal bend has led to an absence of studies on women’s bodies. This has resulted in a lack of understanding for many conditions and diseases that women suffer. Endometriosis (endo) and polycystic […]

    by

  • anywhere but here 1

    Anywhere but Here

    Pain isn’t always visible, it’s often a deep, invisible sensation. In this piece Tim shares his experience of depression, his story is one that is individual and also universal, and he shares an honest portrayal of his experience. The piece includes several graphic descriptions which may be triggering to some people, and discussion of suicide. […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • CROSS-BORDER: Video works by contemporary artists from the Southern Mediterranean

    Pātaka Art Museum

    Now showing until May 15

     

    After a while, motion sickness sets in. The horizon dips and tilts, the image tumbles and jumps, obstacles—pedestrians, military tanks, men with guns—are navigated around. Emily Jacir’s Crossing Surda (a record of going to and from work) documents a mundane task: a daily walk from Ramallah to Birzeit University (both in Palestine). What we see is a second attempt, filmed through a hole cut into the artist’s bag. The first attempt, shot by a camera held in Jacir’s hands, was confiscated by a member Israeli Defence Force. Under occupation, the mundane is complicated by detours, checkpoints, the closure of transit routes (seemingly at a whim), and protocols around what can and cannot be seen.

    Borders are vague and unstable. They are walls, blockades, or checkpoints; heavily policed areas of land where movement is restricted to a select few; lines that when crossed turn people from citizens of a particular place into something else. In Cross-border, on show at Pataka Art Museum until May 15, borders can mean very different things depending on where you look. They appear often as sites of transgression—spaces of reimagined political possibilities—than they do as national boundaries.

    Since its initial staging at ZKM in Germany in 2013, Cross-border has spent three years travelling the globe. The original description of the exhibition suggests one impetus for the selection of this particular group of artists (all of whom are based in, or originally come from, the southern Mediterranean region) is the Arab Spring; which, according to the ZKM’s promotional material, Europe witnessed with “hope and skepticism.” It seems belated to speak of the Arab Spring as a contemporary event, but the potency of this arrangement of works is due to their ability to complicate questions of political agency, migration, and sovereignty.

    Often, works’ gestures are simple. Amal Kenawy’s Silence of Sheep begins with a group of underpaid labourers, led by the artist, crawling through a busy Cairo suburb on their hands and knees. They stop traffic and interrupt the flow of pedestrians, most of whom seem bemused but not otherwise affected. The majority of the eight minute film, however, documents a confrontation between the artist and a group of angry men. It’s difficult to discern the source of their objection. Whether it’s compelled by misogyny, or differing opinions regarding what art is and should be and where it should take place, or whether the men are outraged at the degradation of the performers. As a gesture of solidarity with an exploited underclass, the performance seems kind of clumsy. Far more interesting is the way the performance’s political utility comes under scrutiny, the way the confrontation spills out, repeats itself. Kenawy is steadfast. She eloquently and repeatedly explains the intention of the piece to men who interrupt her. The implications of performance outlast the image. The footage stops suddenly, and the words “Fight No. 3, Continued till early morning (No more documents [were] collected)” appear against a black background before disappearing, leaving the video to begin again.

    In Katia Kameli’s Untitled, a woman crawls out of a cardboard structure, hastily assembles a blank placard and begins marching. Slowly, she’s joined by other women, all marching silently, all holding blank placards. This video was produced in Algeria in 2011, following months of mass protests in Algeria and in neighbouring countries. Kameli’s marchers speak to the difficulty of ambivalence during times of political uprisings. Their silence, their blank placards, act less as a refusal of a position than a rejection of the simplicity of a position that could easily be transcribed upon a piece of card.

    Borders mean something very specific now. Probably something different to what the word meant in 2013. We’re an island nation, and relatively isolated from political upheavals happening elsewhere, but we’re by no means immune from the discourses being produced by these upheavals. Conversations about borders seem to happen either at the level of humanitarianism, or around the ability of national economies to absorb an influx of people, or, quite often, they manifest themselves as unapologetic racism. These conversations never seem able to contain the conditions that led us to the present, nor the voices of those caught up in these conditions. The works in Cross-border refuse presupposition, and they refuse to address the political using the language of policy. These artists scrutinise the ordinary, they scrutinise what political agents look like, how political change comes to take place, the capacity of the image to transmit nuance or ambivalence. Things are complicated repeatedly, relentlessly, restlessly.

     

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  • Broad City, Season Three

    ★★½

    When the first season of Broad City came out in 2014 I was ecstatic. Finally a show about some real-life, real-ass ladies; not the bougie unattainable thirty-somethings of Sex and the City, not the painfully quirky and kinda racist millennials of Two Broke Girls, and definitely not the pretentious and completely awful people in Girls. Broad City had characters that I could actually truly relate to. Abbi and Ilana were girls who were best friends without an agenda, girls who just wanted to fuck without looking for a prince, girls without a lot of money but who still managed to smoke weed every day. In two words: YAASSS QWEEEN. I don’t think there was a single person I didn’t recommend this show to when it first aired. I was so militant about it that I was that guy making you watch the thing while I watch you watch the thing, who turns to you after every punchline saying “HAHA, RIGHT?” It was a great first season of television, pretty much consistently laugh out loud and relatable, and the second series was pretty damn incredible too.

    Upon first airing, Broad City was given the follow up slot to Workaholics in America. It made a lot of sense, and the former soon eclipsed the latter—I like Workaholics a lot, but I hate how immature it can be and I especially loathe whenever they throw in some cheap casual misogyny. Broad City was all the best parts of Workaholics, but with cute cool young women I could totally see myself and my friends hanging out with, and instead of sexist unfunny quips they had super funny jokes about how stupid sexism is. I liked that how, even though they were women in a male dominated television genre (remember, women can’t be funny), Abbi and Ilana never compromised their intelligence or their morals.  They weren’t always right, but they were never mean spirited.

    Slowly but surely everything began to unravel. I don’t know if there was something wrong with the ratings. I don’t know if the writing staff changed or maybe the show was meant to evolve like this from the beginning, but by season three my smart and sassy heroines seem to have become dumb, childish, and kinda bitchy. Several of the episodes open with gross-out body humour skits, and the “one of the boys” kind of attitude that I never wanted to leak into my perfect show. The girls got mean. Ilana especially became quite one-dimensional, reduced to a sexually aggressive narcissist who fetishizes almost everything about black culture. The refreshing intersectionality of the show’s feminism dried up to become extremely white and insular, going so far as to feature a cameo by Hillary fucking Clinton (serving Terminator realness). I used to treasure Broad City for being one of the only shows where I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t “woke” and ignore all my politics, but now it’s even worse because I find myself getting angry at these women for letting us down. We really need these strong, smart, and independent female characters, especially in sitcoms, and I feel a little betrayed to have that opportunity wasted by people who should know better. And where the fuck is Hannibal Burress?

    I’ll continue to watch it though. The show’s still funny and I do still laugh, but there’s some sadness. I miss when Broad City didn’t seem afraid to tear into the male world we live in, and when their representation of being human and flawed didn’t mean being selfish and ignorant. I guess I’m not angry, just disappointed.

     

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  • The Power of Women

    Auckland theatre company, The Town Center has blasted into BATS and rocked our theatre world. With subversive performance tactics, explosive and transformative set design, celebratory spectacle and strong, electric conversation, TITLED and If There’s No Dancing At The Revolution I’m Not Coming have pushed the boundaries of theatre and creativity.

    In BATS’ foyer, the audience of TITLED fill out forms indicating personal details, from religious beliefs to their perceived astrological alignment. The detail was extensive, we were bewildered yet intrigued for the immersive performance to begin. The crowd of people were ushered into the theatre, though it was not the Propellor Stage you might expect. The entrance led into a glowing green tunnel, filled with pumped air and ambient sound that hummed and beckoned.

    The audience met Nisha Madhan, TITLED’s creator, in the small backstage space. Aided by sticky tape, post-it-notes, and a vivid marker, Nisha drew words “ME,” “HERE,” and “HUMAN,” sticking them playfully on audience members huddled around her. Finally, she wrote “READY?” And we were. The doors flung open and the Propellor Stage was transformed yet again. Centre stage was a spotlight revealing a bowl of water, Nisha emerged in a sparkly black leotard, dipped her hair in the water and let it trickle patterns around the stage. As the water lubricated Nisha’s body and the ground beneath her, she rolled in a rhythmic pattern, becoming one with the water and captivating the audience with this cleansing ritual.

    The final act involved direct audience participation. One by one, each audience member was asked to stand opposite Nisha and echo her: “I am here. You are there. This is the moment we are together.” The oath was consecrated by drinking red wine, and the shredding of each person’s written form, which fell from the ceiling onto its respective audience member.

    Although, for the most part, the audience was left waiting for something to happen, Madhan successfully disrupted conventional theatre tactics and took ownership of her space by transporting the audience to a new dimension. TITLED is a wondrous experience, it evoked a strong urge to unify the audience with performer as a community.

    In If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, we were invited into the Propellor stage with the coy grin of Julia Croft—the dexterous performance artist and show’s creator. She was clad in a garish pink ball dress and Disney’s theme tune blared through the speakers around her.

    Croft presented herself frankly, the sounds of a megaphone told us that her body parts “are good, important and valuable.” It is the manipulation of this valuable body that drives ugly notions of objectification, complacency, and unconsented ownership. She outlined her body in white chalk on the walls and suddenly she was dead on the floor, in a brilliant red dress. She explored this body with a camera, the video images projected on the wall behind her—the audience was invited into a fleeting and visceral romance with Croft’s body. We watched stunned as she smeared lipstick in circles around her face like a target, rubbed onions repeatedly into her eyes, and pulled a BK burger from her underwear.

    Croft’s bulging clothing revealed that she was wearing every single costume-change at once. With the stripping of a layer, we were given a new narrative of female representation. A pink satin night-gown becomes Titanic’s Rose, a sexy Halloween-esque outfit offered a cheeky cocktail waitress, and later a liberating and glittery leotard completed with a huge confetti-bursting vagina traversed the vast scales of female exemplification.

    Finally, when all the costumes lay scattered onstage, the lights dim and the audience became deathly silent, Croft emerges from the backspace naked and faceless—a precarious pile of costumes hang heavily on her head. She stood, wordless, allowing the audience to observe her. Taking a vivid, she circled her breasts, vagina, and buttocks. Even in nakedness, we could visualise the effects of a media that commodifies and poisons discourse surrounding female body-parts.

    It is a euphoric and empowering moment to be a woman in the audience that night. Madhan and Croft approached important, pressing dialogue on the issue of gender and performance; deconstructing themes of female subordinance and the all-too-often sharp division between performer and audience member.

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  • Going Underground with 121

    If you have found yourself loitering in the city recently, you’re sure to have seen the many rad posters containing the three numbers: 121, followed by a bold UNDERGROUND RAVE title. If you saw all of this and you were looking for a good time, you would’ve found yourself in the large basement under Ivy Bar last Saturday dancing up a storm to some local DJ’s, surrounded by the sick work of local artists. So how the hell did a rave end up in Wellington?

    You can put that down to 19-year-old, Olly De Salis. A young guy bringing his friends and other local creatives together, expressing new sides of Wellington culture, and also just “giving the people something to fucking do.” From house gigs to skate comps, he’s done a lot of cool shit and no doubt there’s more coming soon. All I know is that you should definitely be keeping your eye out for those three numbers.

    Oddly enough, this all began when Olly was kneed in the face during a rugby game.  Olly was left with a shattered cheek that required facial reconstruction surgery and five metal plates in his face. During this time he had many weeks off from university where he’d been studying fine arts. He was now stuck in bed, taking medication to numb the pain, and was feeling as though he had hit rock bottom. But, Olly claims this was the best thing that ever happened to him.

    “It made me realize how short time was. Literally I can put everything I’ve done now down to breaking my face.” One night after his recovery, Olly went out to a friend’s EP release party which was held in someone’s house rather than an established venue. Feeling ready to build himself back up after his time in hospital, he felt inspired to give house gigs a go. “When my parents went away I realized [his house] was a perfect set up… the kitchen bench, that’s a stage right here. We’ve got the dance floor and the smoking area too, so fuck yeah, I’m going to buy a PA and do it. I realized I was never gonna get this opportunity ever again in my life.”

    From there started the house parties. What was once a regular, suburban family home became a blank canvas for something new, and inspired a collage of bright murals and messages across the walls from the young, the creative, and the intoxicated. Friends, and fellow Wellington people expressed themselves with their own sounds. This was an active place, a place of collaboration, expression, and acceptance. This was 121.

    By hosting these gigs, where he could get his friends and other local creatives involved, Olly was able to provide a platform that gave them exposure within the wider community. This is so important because many creatives often don’t have any outlet for their work if they don’t already fit in with niche collectives or established events.

    “One of the main motivations behind starting 121 is Max Wollerman, he’s a talented musician but he had nowhere to play. So I was like fuck it, I’ll give him a physical platform to be able to do it. And then that expanded to photographers and artists so they actually had a 300-person crowd. Maybe people didn’t see the painting maybe they did, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the opportunity to try.”

    Then in March came the boat party, held at the Boat Café, with musicians such as LMC and Name UL to keep the vibes up. This was the first gig Olly had held at a proper venue, which gave him the opportunity to bring in larger crowds with people outside his usual social circles. The success of the boat party let him fund the next day’s skate jam out at Newtown’s ‘tree tops’ basketball court. Unlike his other events, this was a chill time that brought skate culture into focus. With Five Boroughs on food, free iced tea from Lipton, and great New Zealand acts such as Totems and ROIDZ, the summer day provided a sober yet equally sociable and creative event.

    Then Olly got ambitious. A rave? In Wellington? It’s definitely not your usual night out in the windy capital, or anywhere in New Zealand for that matter. It definitely posed a new challenge, but with a range of awesome posters designed by local artists to bring in attention, and a well-established social media from previous events, Olly ended up with a hyped crowd of over 1000 people.

    This brought a mix of not just young, banger-loving hooligans, but also reached the older generation and foreigners who were ecstatic to find a space that played music they had gone without for so long. The place was filled with amazing UV art installations and talented DJs such as K2K, Max Worth, and Borrowed CS (just to name a few). To go from gigs out of his parent’s house to a packed, underground rave is a pretty awesome feat, and it will only continue to expand from here.

    So what’s the secret behind the success for Olly and his friends at 121? Well I think it’s because Wellington really needed something like this. First off, we have a bunch of youth that are sick of heading to Courtney Place on a night out, with the same old bars and the same old drunk people you can’t relate to. Beforehand you might have gone to a decent house party, but it’s always your same group of friends and the same trap bangers. There is nothing interesting or creative about it, and it leaves us as consumers of other cultures rather than as people actively creating our own.

    121 offers events that are new, interesting, and open to everyone, creating a culture that we all participate in and contribute to. During my discussions with Olly, he has constantly reiterated the importance of a “point of difference.” 121 is an ambiguous title that could represent many things. Who knows what we’ll see next.

    These events are super important because they’re helping to showcase and define the Wellington scene. By hosting gigs that celebrate not just the local musician but the photographer, the painter, the skater, the designer, and anyone who just wants to create something cool, 121 is able to bring in a diverse audience that isn’t exclusive to a specific archetype.

    Olly sums it up when he says, “I feel with music comes fashion comes art comes skateboarding. 121 has a lot of potential to grow because it isn’t just music specific, or just a single artist.”

    When I looked back at the photos taken from one of the first 121 parties, it felt oddly like looking at cultural archives of movements of the past. By bringing all the creatives together, you could see the related values and ideas that make up our community. By continuing to bring like-minded individuals together, friendships will form, collaborations will be made, and culture will continue be built.

    “A lot of people have been like ‘it’s like a movement starting’ and it’s cool, I want to see a bunch of other shit sparking off… a whole lot of things are happening now which is fucking awesome. I wasn’t anticipating that. I’m happy things are happening now.”

    What’s next for the collective? According to Olly, absolutely everything he can. “Obviously more gigs. But we can also expand bigger than that with gallery shows and listening parties and markets and festivals and just expanding because there are opportunities to do it.”

    That’s the honest truth, THERE IS SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE STUFF HAPPEN HERE. I can’t stress that enough. We’re a young country; we still have so much blank canvas to define a new generation of sounds and aesthetics. How about we be the ones to do that?

    As Olly says, “why don’t we try put wellington and New Zealand on the map? Why don’t we get people wanting to come here for the culture?” That’s what 121 is trying to do. Get on board and don’t forget those three numbers any time soon.

     

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  • Is the PlayStation 4 NEO really necessary?

    As much as I have harped on about the issue of preferred systems, I can’t help but admit that I’m a sucker for pretty much anything PlayStation related. Having owned many of the systems produced by the brand, little can make my gaming experiences feel more comforting than when I sit back with a DualShock in my hands. It was like that when I first played Crash Bandicoot fifteen years ago, and it was like that when I played Bloodborne yesterday.

    However, as much as the PlayStation brand holds a place in my heart, I refuse to be a fanboy, one who will defend Sony’s decision-making regarding the console no matter how indefensible those decisions may be. If those decisions are blatantly anti-consumer, you can bet on me calling the bastards out. Thankfully such things are few and far between, but sometimes even the seemingly banal decisions are a bit baffling.

    So with that in mind, it appears that recent rumours of a revised PS4 are indeed true. While mid-generation hardware revisions are nothing new for PlayStation (my ownership of a slim PS2 being testament to that), the changes slated for the new PS4 (internally dubbed Project NEO) are focussed on improving graphical output across the board. The new model boasts improvements to the CPU (overclocking the eight Jaguar cores to 2.1GHz from 1.6GHz); memory (8GB GDDR5 at 218GB/s, up from 176GB/s currently); and the GPU (36 “improved” GCN compute units at 911MHz, an improvement of 2.3x in FLOPs). In layman’s terms, this just means more power so your games will look better on your massive TV.

    The end goal for the NEO model appears to be not just higher, more stable framerates at a minimum of 1080p resolution (which will certainly assist PlayStation VR), but the potential for 4K output in the near future. The current hardware is just barely capable of 1080p output as it is, and a number of recent releases have really pushed it to its limits—playing the recent Doom open beta made my PS4 sound like a jet airliner taking off. If the current hardware is struggling to keep up with the demands placed on it, then surely a hardware revision will do the trick?

    The issue with this is that almost no other mid-generation revisions have had this much of a focus on improving the graphics. There is already an established consumer base of 37 million units, and such radical changes risk splitting them into ‘old PS4’ and ‘new PS4’ camps, with one missing out on the benefits of the other unless they upgrade. Not everyone will be able to afford purchasing a whole new unit just to make their games look a little bit better, myself included—I had to dip into my overdraft to purchase my PS4 so I could better establish myself into this role as games editor, and I doubt I’ll be allowed to do that again.

    Sony have, however, established several guidelines for developers about what they can and cannot do with the NEO, which shows they are aware of the potential for a split to happen and want to prevent it. There won’t be any games that are exclusive to the NEO, for example. The real test will come though when the new units are released to developers, where we will have to wait and see whether they will focus their attention on the new hardware or the original.

    Maybe Sony realised that the PS4 simply couldn’t keep up with other hardware, but is this something that PlayStation fans even want? This situation is indeed baffling.

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  • Mr. Right

    ★★★★

    Director: Paco Cabezas

     

    On paper, Mr. Right shouldn’t work. The romance, devised by film writer Max Landis (Chronicle (2012)), is at the best of times lunacy, and the characters that fuel the narrative are illogical and out of their minds. Yet despite this all of this, the story keeps moving from beat to beat in a quick paced and extremely fun way.

    Martha (Anna Kendrick) is a mess following a nasty break­up with her boyfriend, and finds happiness with a quirky guy (Sam Rockwell) who tells stories about killing people—the audience is encouraged to believe he is a hitman. The beautiful thing about Landis’ script is the way these characters defy basic logic, and yet do so in a completely acceptable way. If a guy doesn’t want to tell you his name you stop dating him right? Apparently not. This gives Martha only a slight pause, which in most films could be seen as stupid characters being stupid, but in the world of Mr. Right it is easy to believe these decisions and continue to enjoy the story.

    The glue that holds together this insane story is made up of the lead actors. Rockwell is charming (in the wierdest way) as the dancing, name­hating, happy hitman Francis; and Kendrick shines as the flamboyant and self­-destructive Martha. Although both hold their own in scenes, the film is infinitely better in when they are together. They have fantastic chemistry and comedic timing, and they are just so damn adorable, especially when walking side by side in matching Thing One and Thing Two shirts. Unfortunately, some of the secondary cast are left underused, particularly Tim Roth, whose evil hitman character could really have used more time and expansion.

    In the end watching Landis’s script unfold on screen is extremely fun, and the great actors play interesting characters in a completely illogical world—it offers quite the experience.

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  • The Huntsman: Winter’s War

    ★★½

    Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

     

    Remember that fantasy smash-hit Snow White and The Huntsman? No? Well apparently some people went and saw it, because now there’s a sequel. Well, prequel/continuation/spin-off is more like it. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the latest in the slate of gritty Disney re-imaginings to make its way on screen, and so far these outings hath not fared well.

    Based around jealousies between sisters Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and Freya (Emily Blunt), the film kicks off with an instance of family betrayal and descends into a spiral of ensuing chaos for their kingdom. Freya, once sweet and noble, banishes herself to an icy solitary (reminiscent of Frozen), and becomes hardened and cruel. Sometime later, Eric (the huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth) is reluctantly sent on a hero-like quest to recover a magic mirror, defeat the evil Queen, and restore balance to the kingdom.

    Surprisingly, where I expected garbage, I was greeted with a watchable film. Good? No, but watchable. The cast for one thing can do little wrong, and though the dialogue is somewhat flat and the plot thin, they manage to actually notch up the drama and even inject some chemistry into the otherwise bland material. But, for every likeable star there is a dwarf counterpart, and this film has four annoying dwarfs too many (sorry Nick Frost).

    For fantasy you could do better, but you could also do a lot worse, and I guess The Huntsman can sit snugly in the middle of the road until something better knocks it out of the way (no pressure Warcraft).

    SIDENOTE: What on earth is Emily Blunt riding in this film? A polar bear-tiger? A polar-tiger? I want answers!

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  • The Lady in the Van

    ★★★★

    Director: Nicholas Hytner

     

    The Lady in the Van is based off of the book of the same name which was released in 1989, by the English author and playwright, Alan Bennett. Like many of Bennett’s works, The Lady in the Van is centred on his own life, and his attempts to find humour in the mundane. Usually his works focus upon his relationship with his mother, however in this instance, it is his relationship with Miss Shepherd (played by the ever brilliant Maggie Smith): a difficult, hilarious, and at times belligerent, old lady living in her van.

    Miss Shepherd’s arrival in Camden Town is met with a mixture of amusement and displeasure, with the locals not wanting her to sully the reputable image of the upmarket suburb of London. Despite this, she quickly cements herself as ‘here to stay’ after successfully bullying her way in by parking her van on Bennett’s drive (as Bennett put it “until you get yourself sorted out”)—and she proceeds to stay for the next 15 years.  

    Bennett’s character (played by Alex Jennings) is split into two narratives (there are two Bennetts), and they argue with each other over whether they should live as the “self who does the living” or the “self that does the writing.” It all seems slightly contrived, and things are even stranger in the final scene in which the real Alan Bennett makes an appearance.

    In any case, it is Maggie Smith’s performance, as is the case in many of her films, that steals the show. She plays the role exceptionally well, injecting humour and delivering lines in a way only she can. Smith demands the audience’s attention, forcing us to like her character with her brash and often outrageous behavior—described by Bennett as “bigoted, rank, and rude.” Yet, she also shows subtle hints of the frailty and plight of an elderly homeless lady living in her van on someone’s driveway for 15 years.

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  • Zootopia

    ★★★★★

    Directors: Byron Howard & Rich Moore

     

    Disney’s 55th animated epic follows the exploits of police officer Judy Hopps, the first bunny officer of the Zootopia Police department. It is an artfully animated and beautifully performed adventure. Taking full advantage of its premise, Zootopia explores some remarkable themes and ideas.

    Both Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman shine in their respective roles as Judy and misunderstood fox Nick Wilde. Both bring childish charm to their roles. That said, the film is infinitely better with the help of its star­-studded supporting cast including JK Simmons and Jenny Slate. The real highlight comes courtesy of Idris Elba as buffalo police chief, Chief Bogo.

    While the voice-acting and animation may be the most interesting part of the film, there is also an expertly crafted story. Throughout Zootopia, the filmmakers do a remarkable job of examining very grounded and serious themes from discrimination and stereotypes, to police bias, and they do so without ever coming across as preachy or heavy ­handed. From small remarks ­like “only bunnies can call other bunnies cute, when others do it…” ­to the wider narrative being a metaphor for the cultural and political climate of the US, the film remains grounded and insightful. While some of the metaphors (and a great Breaking Bad reference) may be lost on younger children, the film is certain not to leave them behind, and they should still easily pick up on the message of being yourself and treating everyone with kindness.

    Despite all of this deep thought, the film never ceases to be unbridled fun and visually stunning. The film makes great use of its world dominated by animals. The pressure is on for Disney’s 56th animated picture to be every bit as creative, fun, and impactful as Zootopia.

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  • The Bricks that Built the Houses

    ★★★★

    Author: Kate Tempest

    Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

     

    Many of you reading this will have come across Kate Tempest’s name before in some form. Hailing from London, she’s a poet, a playwright, a rapper, and now a novelist. Her most notable achievements to date include winning the Ted Hughes Award for her modern-day epic poem Brand New Ancients, and garnering a Mercury Prize nomination for her 2014 debut album Everybody Down. Okay, I’m suitably impressed.

    The Bricks that Built the Houses serves as a companion to Everybody Down, with each chapter mirroring a track on the album, or vice vera. It’s a story of gritty South London, where Tempest grew up, and the people who live there. The novel opens with Leon, Becky, and Harry in a car, leaving town, accompanied by a suitcase full of money. We don’t know what has proceeded this flight, but we do know that all three are anxious and tightly-wound, running from something. Tempest then takes us back a year, delving into their lives and those of the people around them. It’s a white-knuckle read in which we know the destination, but not the journey.

    Tempest is a skilled lyricist, deftly capturing moments and emotions, and this carries over to her prose. I found myself catching on certain sentences, compelled to read them again: “Her mouth is the funnel of a gramophone, her chest a spinning vinyl. The words are slow; they come out steeped in mud.” I wondered, however, if at times the writing was too metaphor-laden, preoccupied with drawing poetic comparisons rather than with the story itself. Despite this, it was a gripping read, transporting me right into the inner lives of the characters and their predicaments. I found myself not wanting to be let go. For a first novel this feels like a great achievement. Tempest is now firmly placed as a literary force and she appears to only be gaining momentum.

    by

  • Beside Herself

    ★★★★★

    Author: Chris Price

    Publisher: Auckland University Press

     

    The cover of Chris Price’s new collection of poetry, Beside Herself, features an illustration of a mask by Leo Bensemann, frowning slightly in its disembodied state, floating alone on the page. The poems in this collection can be read as a series of masks, and in them Price inhabits many voices and personas: from a man on the wrong side of a paternity test, to a medieval man called Churl, to Hamlet. She suggests in a teasing, conversational series of epigraphs, “oh to be someone else for once,” (Georg Buchner: Leonce and Lena), which is answered by Frederick Seidel’s, “but we are someone else. We’re born that way.” Or to phrase it in Price’s words, at the end of her poem “Abandoned Hamlet”: “I am every character. Every every character.”

    The voices in this book are strikingly varied, but they all ring with Price’s dark humour, and are executed with care and gravity. The title suggests a multiplicity of selves, with Price acting as both speaker and onlooker, or perhaps a ventriloquist of sorts. You never see her lips move, but the book speaks. The poems in this collection feel alive—swinging between comedy and tragedy. The word black recurs so often in this collection, Price said she was considering naming it The Black Book: but, comedy is tinged with unease, and grief has a punchline.

    Beside Herself is vital and surprising, and at times alarming. There is a wonderful sense of recklessness, but Price is a writer at the height of her craft, and her poetry carries no excess baggage. As she says in “Wrecker’s Song”: “All of my best lines are accidents / you cannot generate an accident. / You can only put yourself / in harm’s way.”

    by

  • 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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    Editor's Pick

    Ten things I wish my friends knew about being Māori

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