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Issue 17, 2016

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News

  • Clubs admin out of touch with students

  • The VUWSA Executive Report Cards 2016 Part 1

  • Bargain town dresses no more

  • The revolution will not be posterized

  • Anyone got a spare five mil?

  • University of Otago job cuts imminent

  • Fun News

  • Foundation studies staff still fighting

  • UoA needs some strobe lighting asap

  • The cost of sanitary products is a bloody pain

  • Features

  • laura

    Where are you from?

    But where are you from from? The answer people look for varies, depending on whether they want to know where my accent is from, or where I lived before moving to Wellington, or if they’re a Samoan asking what villages my parents are from. Geographically, here’s a quick overview: I was born in Samoa and […]

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  • nina

    Somewhere Else

    dream It begins with a soft rattling sound, like tree branches hitting the window or wind shaking the glass against the frame. I am inside the room looking out. It’s dusk, or maybe dawn, because the sky is blue but the stars are just showing above the hills. The fact that there are stars and […]

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  • my-house-my-castle

    My House, My Castle

    Huia Residence, Auckland ★★ 321 bedroom, 24 bathroom, ? flatmates. Choosing between the University of Auckland’s four student halls was easy. I left it too late, and by the time I got around to enrolling this hostel was the only one that had any space left. There was, I discovered, a reason for this. In […]

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  • laura

    Where are you from?

    But where are you from from? The answer people look for varies, depending on whether they want to know where my accent is from, or where I lived before moving to Wellington, or if they’re a Samoan asking what villages my parents are from. Geographically, here’s a quick overview: I was born in Samoa and […]

    by

  • nina

    Somewhere Else

    dream It begins with a soft rattling sound, like tree branches hitting the window or wind shaking the glass against the frame. I am inside the room looking out. It’s dusk, or maybe dawn, because the sky is blue but the stars are just showing above the hills. The fact that there are stars and […]

    by

  • my-house-my-castle

    My House, My Castle

    Huia Residence, Auckland ★★ 321 bedroom, 24 bathroom, ? flatmates. Choosing between the University of Auckland’s four student halls was easy. I left it too late, and by the time I got around to enrolling this hostel was the only one that had any space left. There was, I discovered, a reason for this. In […]

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  • Arts and Science

  • A partial interview

    Dilohana Lekamge is a performance-based artist living in Wellington. Her practice explores notions of diaspora and the emotional distance from female issues in Sri Lanka where she was born. Louise Rutledge chatted briefly with Dilohana about her work ahead of her solo show at Enjoy, which opens 5.30pm Wednesday, August 24.

     

    Louise: Within your latest work you have been revisiting the sites of your childhood in Newlands, filming near the homes your family occupied in the years following their migration to New Zealand from Sri Lanka. Why is it important for you to now revisit these sites and engage with them through your work?

    Dilohana: I have always felt disconnected from my heritage since all of my memories have been of New Zealand, as when my family moved here I was only three. Neither the issues in Sri Lanka nor the reasons why we moved here were ever discussed.

    I have recently been looking at the work of Zarina Bhimji, an artist who creates video works made up of documentary-style footage filmed in Uganda, where she was born, and India, where her family is from. Bhimji spent most of her life in England and currently practices there. I found the visual exploration of her personal experience of diaspora intriguing as she gave it specificity by geographically locating it. Since it is currently logistically impossible for me to visit Sri Lanka, I thought I would go as far back as I could to revisit my heritage. In Newlands we stayed in four houses / flats in the two years that we lived there and these were the places where I had my first memories—many of which weren’t physically suitable for our family of five. I remember feeling uncomfortable there. All of my family members had mixed emotions about our new home in New Zealand and by revisiting our first physical homes here I am aiming to gain a better understanding of our first experience of diaspora and multiculturalism.

    Louise: The moments you have filmed render the homes both incredibly specific and entirely ambiguous, through closely cropped frames and fleeting imagery—approaching them from a distance that is both physical and temporal. You frame your body in a similar way, focusing on specific actions and singular body parts, complicating assumed notions of the home—ideas of stability, singularity, and return—and your place within it. Can you touch on the relationship between representations of your body within the site?

    Dilohana: I always introduce my practice as performance-based, as performance as a medium strongly suggests that it is the artist’s own body that is performing. The audience knows that this body is the artist’s, however abstracted their body may be in the work. The performance elements show the ways I attempt to revisit my origin independently. In contrast, without verbal language those houses cannot be specifically identified unless someone may know those houses themselves. By trying to be more ambiguous with my approach to that imagery I felt like it was genuine to my less concrete knowledge of those places. My Dad took me around Newlands to each place and told me about what it was like when we first moved here. Seeing and presenting those places is an exercise of revisiting through nostalgia and hazy memory.

    Louise: There seems to be a current trend in photography where ideas of vulnerability are brought to the home through the infantilization of the subject, relying on a fetishised, dewy skinned, youth that romanticises bedrooms in particular as sites of innocence. It’s imagery that, for all its nostalgia, can further isolate women whose experiences don’t align with such limited representations. Your work, in contrast, revisits vulnerability as a consequence of social and political conditions, in relation to both individual and collective memories.

    Dilohana: Images like those are so rife in the current post-internet era and it is something that I have tried to stay away from. The themes that are associated with that kind of content do not have any relevance to the way in which I examine and attempt to present domestic space.

    My approach is largely rooted in the desire to present an example of a New Zealand multicultural home, however abstracted I may show that. I am interested in how the families who inhabit these spaces adapt to the eurocentricity of this country and whether or not it is at the expense of losing their cultural origin, especially as generations continue.

    Visiting these places was as close as I could get to revisiting my place of origin. This is where I was taught the values that I thought were Sri Lankan, where we kept the things we brought over from there, where we made and ate Sri Lankan food, where we spoke to our extended family that were still there, and where we were able to speak our language and be understood. Though it was not an ideal safe space, it was a space where I felt less alien because everyone who inhabited it not only sounded and looked like me, but shared the same experience of not feeling entirely welcome when we left that space—even if that was a discussion that was only had in the years that followed.

     

    Read more at www.enjoy.org.nz/upcoming.

     

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  • Are You The One?

    ★★★★

    MTV’s Are You The One? (AYTO) is the perfect combination of psychological experiment and drunken messy fuckfest. In the briefest possible summary I can manage, a bunch of greasy heterosexuals are thrown into a mansion in Hawaii and not allowed to leave, unless they find true love and then they are trapped in a house next door. Using a combination of extensive pre-show interviews and match-making ‘science’, twenty men and women are paired off into ten perfect matches based on their compatibility as couples, but these matches are unknown to them and the only way for everyone to win the million dollar prize is if they are ten for ten by the end of the show. However the only clues they get towards these matches are a once per episode opportunity to enter one potential couple into a shack full of lasers, called the “Truth Booth,” where they can find out definitively if said couple is a perfect match or not, followed by a “Match-Up Ceremony” at the end of each episode where beams of light denote the number of matches they have come up with but not who those specific matches are. Sounds confusing? It is. I’ve been watching this show for four seasons and I still have no idea how to adequately explain it. Sometimes I just say, “it’s cooked.”

    Where AYTO’s brilliance lies is that as a viewer you can deduce who the matches are from home, based on the statistics from each Truth Booth and Match-Up Ceremony. If you draw up a chart with squares for each possible couple and cross-check it as the show progresses, you can often figure out exactly who goes with who before the final episode airs—something the contestants would be capable of too if a) all writing tools weren’t banned from the house and b) they weren’t so fucking drunk the whole time. Unlike most reality shows where contestants are eliminated weekly, no-one is allowed to leave the AYTO house unless they have their perfect match confirmed in the Truth Booth, upon which they are moved to “The Honeymoon Suite” because their lives are now over / have meaning or whatever. This means that every drunken fight and one-night stand has inescapable consequences that continue to escalate until everyone is screaming and some dude always ends up punching a wall. Because the matches are a little harder to figure out than “I know I want to have sex with that person,” everyone is encouraged to pursue multiple people (this is referred to as “following your heart”), usually resulting in the women crying hysterically by the pool while the men run at each other, beating their chests like gorillas to display ownership. Everything is orchestrated to hinder the teamwork that could make this show easier for everyone involved; even when complex strategies are conceived of to procure more information from the match-up ceremonies, these almost always go out the window as soon as someone fucks someone else before the ceremony even begins. It is truly magical to watch.

    Despite all the frustration, alcohol, crying, yelling, and night-vision footage from the “Boom Boom Room,” each season’s group of idiots has somehow won the money. Last season I genuinely could not believe it and found myself screaming at the television at these assholes. But hey, those are my assholes. At the end of each series we’ve all seen some things, most of them unforgivable. But this is romance in the year 2016. Who are we to scoff at this unique blend of binge-drinking, cabin fever, and statistical analysis? Isn’t that kind of what Tinder is?

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  • Poetry in Motion

    I think I’ve found my new favourite hobby in Wellington. I attended a slam poetry event in the low-key, dusky vibes of San Francisco Bathhouse. Having a keen interest in poetry, I decided to take a break from religiously attending theatre, and instead I shook it up with a night of hearty, local poetry. I actually found theatre and slam poetry weren’t too dissimilar. Both involve skilled and generous performers, a stage, interactive audiences, beer, friends, and a gathering of artistic sorts!

    The night of passionate conversations, unleashed inspiration, and diverse talent left me with a lasting impression. This kinaesthetic buzz that bounced around the room stayed with me, and I couldn’t help wonder how many didn’t know that this gig exists, right in the heart of Wellington?

    Originating in 1984, Chi-town (Chicago), slam poetry gained heat when a construction worker, Marc Kelly Smith aka Slampapi, kick-started an open-mic poetry reading at the Get Me High Lounge, in which budding poets took to the stage to build an audience. Slampapi once said, “the very word ‘poetry’ repels people. Why is that? Because of what schools have done to it. The slam gives it back to the people… we need people to talk poetry to each other. That’s how we communicate our values, our hearts, the things that we’ve learned that make us who we are.” Marc Smith considers himself a socialist, and founded the first-ever National Poetry Slam in 1990. That annual competition still runs today.

    Poetry in Motion Wellington is hosted and organised by Travis and Liv, and it celebrates a diverse range of talents, intellects, and subjects. From a fiery fuck-you slam about Brexit by a woman called Kate who wore red fingerless gloves and kindly gave me a poem about the sexual politics of pubic hair, to the humble words of a lanky shy boy’s self-proclaimed soppy love poetry (which actually tugged on multiple heart strings around the room), to the classic British, grey-haired, cynic who took the piss out of rhyme and stood audaciously with his arms behind his back. This daring, enrapturing, poetry evoked all kinds of feels.

    The culture of clicking is something that really hooked me. This is the way it works. If you appreciate or respect a certain line in the poem and want to give them praise for it you click your fingers repetitively, and a whole chorus of clicks may grow around you. It’s well fitted considering the rhythmic, tactile feel of slam poetry and the clicking never detracts from the poet’s performance. Part of the attraction is the interactive and intimate relationship that grows between poets and spectators around the room. At the beginning of each slam poetry event, the hosts hand around placards with numbers on them to several different tables. These people are chosen at random and asked if they’d like to score each poem. The scoring system and delegation of judges are a relatively new addition to the culture of slam.

    Here are a few of my favourite lines from the evening:

    “Brexit” by Kate

    “Politicians thinking resigning is the key, / or not resigning / and outright refusing / to diffuse the ticking time bomb of party political implosion.”

    “A love poem to Melbourne” by Duncan

    “If Wellington played never have I ever with other cities, she would lose—I need to move.”

    “A funny massage job interview” by April

    “The world is just a sleazy stranger.”

    These slam poetry events are a great hub for creativity, meeting friendly faces, getting issues or ideas off your chest, or simply listening to some beautifully insightful and vivid perceptions of the world. Plus, anyone can sign up to read their work! Whether you’ve been storing some kick-ass lines and are keen to give them a dust-off in front of a crowd, or you’re relatively new to the game, you’re welcome to join. There’s a whole crowd of willing clickers there for moral support! Poetry in Motion events take place at Meow on the first Wednesday of every month.

    If you want to get in on slam poetry, check out the Poetry in Motion Facebook page. Or get along to How We Survive: A Feminist Poetry Show at The Cavern Club on Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14 at 7pm. Go to Eventfinda for more details.

     

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  • Lawrence Arabia—Absolute Truth

    ★★★

    New Zealand’s James Milne, aka Lawrence Arabia, released his fourth album last week. I was pretty excited for this album as a follow up from 2012’s The Sparrow and it’s hard not to be, given his résumé of a Silver Scroll, a Taite music prize, and a VNZMA. In fact I’d consider him one of the most consistent musicians we’ve got here. The thing that’s so great about Lawrence’s music is that his albums are a real mixed bag of playful pop songs scattered with ballads that swell and change and beg you to hum along. Catchy and cheerful melodies, yet wistful lyrics.

    However upon listening to his newest album, it felt like something was missing. There’s a definite lack of playfulness and fun that made his last two albums so charming. This isn’t to say it’s not an enjoyable record, because there are a handful of great songs on here. Earworm tracks like “Sweet Dissatisfaction” will still get you tapping your foot and the nostalgia of “O Heathcote” will have you thinking of your formative years, but perhaps it’s that disconnect of styles that dampens their impact. In fact it feels like more of a collection of songs from across his music career, taking elements of each release with them, rather than a well-honed album with a consistent mood or theme from start to finish. If you like his last two albums, give it a listen. If this is your first taste of Lawrence Arabia, you might find it hard to get fully involved.

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  • Lawrence Arabia—Interview

    Fourth release (Absolute Truth) and four years since The Sparrow (2012). What have you been up to?

    Living in New York and touring Europe. During that time my girlfriend was pregnant so I was bringing up a newborn for a while. I started recording the new album in the aftermath of that, had it mastered by 2015. I’ve been waiting for it to come out.

    You recorded in the Hutt Valley with Mike Fabulous with whom you released Unlimited Buffet (2011). How was it pairing up with him again?

    When I was writing the record, I wasn’t struggling to write it but normally I would have a clear idea around the arrangements. I had such little time and no studio space so I was ducking away while my daughter was having a nap to record on Garageband. Everything about the conditions for demoing was really uninspiring.

    I liked the songs but they didn’t feel particularly exciting so I was happy to hand over some responsibility to Mike ‘cause I really trust his aesthetic. He’s obsessed with groove and the shapes of rhythm so his fingerprints are all over it.

    Absolute Truth (2016) feels like revisiting the same song writing style used in your first album—self-contained and easily played by a single person. Was this intentional or did it kind of come around naturally?

    The album was just Mike and I, kind of like a solo album. He was engineering and I was playing most of the parts but essentially it was a bedroom recording but in a studio. Which is quite different to The Sparrow, which is essentially a live album.

    I think your music speaks to the 20-something melancholic middle-class kiwi dude, especially so on the last song on the album “What Became Of That Angry Young Man.” Is that an echo of your younger days?

    Yeah. Not that I was ever angry, just sloppy—I still am. It’s nostalgic in some regards, but casting a less idealized view on youth. When I was writing The Sparrow I was 29 and questioning what I had done with my 20s, and it is a lament of what I was about to lose. I’m more comfortable about getting older now and I’m not so romantic of youthfulness. They say life doesn’t start till your 30s right? Yeah I dunno, just more grumpy.

    You did a show with Connan Mockasin and Liam Finn at the Crystal Palace. Mick Fleetwood played a couple songs too, how did that come about?

    Connan was in NZ making a soundtrack for The Rehearsal, the film based on an Eleanor Catton novel, and we ran into the people taking over the re-launch of the venue so we pitched an idea and the timing worked out.

    Neil Finn asked him (Mick Fleetwood) to play on a record that he and Liam were making so he was in NZ for a month recording. Liam pitched the idea of playing “I Need Your Love So Bad” on the day of the gig. We’d been rehearsing anyway in the eventuality that he might accept but he was really keen.

    Were you a fan of Fleetwood Mac?

    I love them now. I thought they were a lame band that my parents liked but as I’ve gotten older I think they’re great. It was pretty surreal, he’s a lovely guy so it wasn’t so daunting.

    Who were some of your musical influences when you were starting off?

    Outsider ‘mentally damaged’ artists for want of a better description. People like Daniel Johnston or Syd Barrett. People who had odd views of the world that skewed things for me and made me digest it in a different way. Also The Kinks were a big thing that helped me find my point of difference that took me into a new world of songwriting.

    I’ve read a couple reviews of your work and they seem to start off with stating that you’re a “classic songwriter.” What do you think they mean by that?

    Anachronistic. Someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of modern music, but that’s just my diet of what I listen to. The new music I gravitate to just sounds like old music, it’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s who I am.

    It’s been a great year for both music and death, what with Bowie’s Blackstar, Radiohead, and The Avalanches. What new music have you been excited about?

    Let me check Spotify… Michael Nau’s Mowing. I don’t know much about him but everything I’ve heard of his has been you know… my ears have enjoyed it. I really like the Julia Holter record Have You My Wilderness, it’s really fantastic.

    People denounce Spotify but I find it a useful way of finding new bands that are ‘good’.

    Bands like Radiohead and Taylor Swift swore off it…

    I can see why once you have millions of fans. I don’t have that luxury, so the chance to expand my audience is important. If you’re big you don’t need people to discover you, you’ve just got people you want to sell to.

    I love Bandcamp, it’s easy to use as an artist and it’s certainly part of the proliferation of easy distribution, and also the devaluation of music just by the abundance of supply. It’s so easy to release music now cause there’s no barrier any more, however because of that it’s harder for people to push through the noise.

    People who might not have been able to gain traction by being unsigned are now able to.

    Yeah, simultaneously easier and harder for people to break through into a level of success nowadays. When I was starting the formula was essentially “get signed” and there was this separation between “signed” and “unsigned.”

    Essentially that doesn’t exist anymore which means it’s not reliant on multi-nationals to decide whether or not you’re good enough to have a music career. We’re on the same level now and it’s a struggle for everyone with only a few being super-rich.

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  • E-sports Are Here to Stay, Whether You Like It or Not

    Just a few weeks ago, the finals of the Street Fighter V tournament at the Evolution Championship Series (Evo) were broadcast live on ESPN2. I cannot possibly describe how big of a deal this is. Evo is the world’s largest e-sports event for fighting games and those who make it to the finals are, without a doubt, some of the most skilled players in the world. There’s no button mashing at the elite level, every action is carefully calculated and mistakes are punished heavily. The top players have huge sponsorships and there is a ton of prize money at stake. Having the finals shown around the world on a major television network is just the icing on the cake.

    And yet, not everyone is happy.

    “Why the fuck is ESPN showing video games?” / “It’s not a sport!” / “These guys are just pressing buttons, there’s no athleticism involved!” / “What a bunch of dorks, they need to get outside and play a REAL sport, like FOOTBALL!” / “These dickweeds need girlfriends.”

    These kinds of comments seem to come out of the woodwork when e-sports is shown on television, and I’m quite frankly sick of them.

    The question of whether e-sports should be considered a sport at all, and thus apparently deserving of TV coverage, is one that does not necessarily have an easy answer. Competition has been a part of video games essentially since the beginning of the medium, with high scores being a near-universal concept in the arcades: The King of Kong is an excellent documentary about the attempts to set a world record in Donkey Kong. Going head-to-head to decide a winner is not only fun for the player, but entertaining to watch. Sure, maybe they are just pressing buttons, but knowing when to press the buttons and in the right combinations takes a lot of dexterity and mental skill, something which can only be gained through practice.

    If we apply this same logic to ‘proper’ sports, then rugby is “just running and throwing a ball around,” but, instead of being shunned, the guys who throw a ball around the best become national heroes! What sense does that make?

    I watch e-sports for the same reasons I watch rugby: to see people that are skilled at something compete against each other. When I think of places to go to watch people compete against each other, I think ESPN. The ‘E’ stands for ‘entertainment’ by the way, and e-sports are entertaining to me and to millions of people worldwide. The people running ESPN aren’t idiots, they recognise that this is a market still largely untapped and is something that could potentially bring young people back to the network after years of dwindling subscriptions. To say that ESPN shouldn’t show e-sports because they are supposedly “not real sport” is just plain wrong. This is a network that, once upon a time, showed Magic: The Gathering tournaments and continues to air live poker and competitive eating to this day. Are those also not real sports?

    The kinds of idiot jocks that mock e-sports in this way are likely one of two things: ignorant about what it actually is, or jealous that something they don’t like is encroaching on their domain. Having e-sports on ESPN allows for greater exposure than streaming on Twitch, and is a great introduction to the games being played and the scenes surrounding them. Who knows, maybe some kid will see the Evo finals and decide he wants to play Street Fighter V competitively too? If it gets more people playing games, then it’s all good.

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  • Beware: The Slenderman

    ★★★★

    Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky

     

    The documentary Beware: The Slenderman is an evocative entry to this year’s ‘incredibly strange’ section of the New Zealand International Film Festival, it offers a telling journey of the danger of the web, mental illness, and murder.

    Using a style similar to that of The Blair Witch Project, director Irene Taylor Brodsky introduces us to the coveted internet meme the Slenderman in a chilling and chaotic chase through the woods. There is a pervading sense that we are being watched. Cutting to news footage from May 31, 2014, we learn that that two pre-teen girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, are found guilty of stabbing their ‘best friend’ in these woods in an attempt to “please the Slenderman.”

    If you’re not already familiar with the Slenderman meme, it depicts a tall, faceless, and scary as sh*t figure who is believed to hide in shadows and prey on young children. Originating from the horror story sharing webpage Creepypasta Wiki, the Slenderman meme emerged as a result of a photoshopping competition in which competitors had to make the unimaginable look ‘real’. Add this to the instantaneous information sharing capabilities of the web and you’ve got yourself one epic internet generated version of Chinese Whispers. The foundation for a series of distorted, creepy, and sometimes-dangerous stories that sadly led to the stabbing of a 12-year-old girl.    

    The documentary follows the Geyser and Weier families in the aftermath of this horrifying event, whilst tastefully weaving in the Slenderman’s origins (interestingly from the folklore tale of the Pied Piper), the families’ histories with mental illnesses, and the ubiquitousness and power of the internet. Although I didn’t find this a gripping watch, I thought it addressed some of the negative aspects of the digital age in an unsettling and thoughtful way. I expect the Creepypasta Wiki page will gain a few more hits from this.  

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  • Green Room

    ★★★★½

    Director: Jeremy Saulnier

     

    It’s hard to tell if the horror genre is finally setting into its renaissance period. Sure, there are still dozens of terrible horror films pumped out every year on what seems like an assembly line of recycled ideas and terrible clichés, but the resurgence of critically acclaimed horror films is hard to ignore. Skillfully crafted films like Cabin in The Woods, The Babadook, and It Follows are evidence of this, and even the latest Child’s Play sequel gave Chucky fans reason to rejoice. The point is that this new era of horror doesn’t show signs of stopping and from what I can tell Jeremy Saulnier, director of Blue Ruin, has carved out a nice little place in the new era of horror with his latest film Green Room.

    The film’s set­up is terrifying in its own right; a desperate and down on their luck punk band (featuring the likes of Alia Shawkat and the late Anton Yelchin, in one of his final roles) agree to take a gig at a white supremacist bar in the middle of the woods. While the neo-­Nazi club­goers may not enjoy their first cover “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, the rest of the set goes off without a hitch and all seems well. It’s not until one of the band members witnesses the aftermath of a girl’s murder that all hell breaks loose. As the band barricade themselves in the titular green room with the dead girl’s friend Amber (Imogen Poots), the gang goes off to retrieve their leader Darcy (played to perfection by Patrick Stewart), who quickly devises a plan to kill the band members and make it seem like an accident.

    Throughout Green Room, Saulnier proves himself to be a master of atmosphere. He uses tight spaces, angular shots, and a cool color pallet to give the setting a distinct cold emptiness while maintaining a claustrophobic atmosphere.

    Where Saulnier truly rises above the terrible horror films is in the attention he pays to his characters. Unlike popular horror movie slaughter, the band members actually have lives and personalities, even if they don’t get much screen time. You are interested in the characters and Saulnier’s skilled use of practical effects not only makes the movie all the more gruesome but gives the various deaths emotional weight.

    As with many films, Green Room is elevated by the work of its cast. While they all deliver top notch performances, Poots and Stewart stand out among the rest. Poots is amazing as the silent but deadly Amber, bringing restraint to her character but never at the expense of emotion, as well as delivering on one of the most striking images in the film as she emerges from under couch cushions with a box cutter and violent intent. Stewart, seemingly relishing his out of character villainous role, brings a quiet and calculated presence. It’s a shame that the film’s isolated and claustrophobic feeling limited what could be done with Stewart’s character, resulting in little screen time (we can never have too much Patrick Stewart).

    In the end, Jeremy Saulnier proves that the atmosphere and slow­ building intensity of Blue Ruin were no accident as he takes the direct to DVD horror concept of Punks vs Nazis and turns it into an exercise in violent intensity, crafting one of the best and bloodiest films of the year.

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  • Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

    ★★★★

    Director: Thorsten Schütte

     

    Frank Zappa was a prolific musician and composer from the early 1960s until he died of prostate cancer in 1993.

    Unlike the more “traditional” music documentary style where the filmmaker interviews distant friends and family who often barely knew them (see every Kurt Cobain, Elliot Smith, and Nick Drake documentary ever), this film contains no direct narrative or structure other than the chronological layout of the archival footage of Zappa being interviewed by various broadcast journalists throughout his career. This style works well as the viewer feels as if they’re watching the history of a man’s life through a journalistic lens, successfully illuminating the culture and society that shaped Zappa as an artist at that time. The threat of government censorship was a constant risk for musicians of his era and Zappa was one of the stronger opposing voices, putting capitalism, the excess of power, and American values at the true heart of discussion.

    His dry-witted responses to broadcaster’s depthless questions had the entire cinema chuckling. The story on the crass song “Bobby Brown” (even by today’s standards; it is a satirical view of jock culture which features the line “got a cute cheerleader gonna help me with my paper, I’ll make her do all the work and maybe later I’ll rape her”) becoming a slow-dance hit in Norwegian school socials due to a language barrier had the audience heaving with laughter.

    The idea of this feature is to place emphasis on Zappa as a pop culture personality and show his portrayal in the media during his time in the lime-light. For a Zappa connoisseur, this film doesn’t scratch the surface of a career spanning over 60 albums and two feature-length films, however it’s still heartily enjoyable—even to those unfamiliar with his music.  

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  • What Belongs to You

    ★★★★

    Author: Garth Greenwell

    Publisher: Picador

     

    On paper, this novel isn’t one that I usually would have picked up of my own volition. It centres on a gay American man residing in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, who seeks sex and connection in a public bathroom and gets a whole lot more than he bargained for. But this debut novel from Garth Greenwell succeeded in hooking me in, and left me impressed by the author’s skill and style.

    The protagonist (who remains nameless throughout the story) meets a young, beguiling man by the name of Mitko in the bathrooms of the National Palace of Culture, a common meeting place for gay men in Sofia. Although their encounters are purely physical and transactional, the protagonist is drawn to Mitko in a way that he cannot explain to himself. As their relationship develops Mitko’s character is slowly revealed to us, and a sinister undertone creeps to the surface.

    Told in three parts, the middle portion deals with the protagonist’s sexual awakening as a teenager and the fraught past he has left behind in Kentucky. All of the threads common to stories like this are here—shame, secrecy, desire—and we find out why he has ended up on another continent, estranged from everything familiar.

    The story slides along at a slow pace, building tension and unease, and it examines the ways in which we all try to connect to others. This is definitely ‘literary fiction’ but I found it to be captivating and readable in a way that other examples of this type of novel aren’t. One particular segment, in which the protagonist watches a housefly trapped in the bus he is riding on, is unexpectedly beautiful and moving. With his clean and compelling prose, Greenwell seems poised for literary fame.  

    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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    Editor's Pick

    I, Daniel Blake and the Welfare State

    : Recently at the NZIFF I was fortunate enough to see Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, this year’s winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. By the end of the film nearly everybody seemed to be in mourning and most of the people seated around me were sniffling and wiping their eyes. I,

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