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Issue 21, 2017

Issue 21

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News

  • Marshall Islands deliberate whether to ban nuclear weapons

  • Her Legacy

  • A rare sighting of good news: Snow leopards no longer endangered

  • Local Artists Complain of Late Payments and Poor Communication

  • Policy to Improve Renting Conditions

  • Porirua Rally against Poverty

  • Electoral Commission Misinforms Māori Voters

  • Features

  • jack

    The Trauma of the Non-Voter

    – SPONSORED – Voter turnout has been declining steadily in Aotearoa since the mid-1950s. Turnout spiked in 1984; this was to be the high-water mark for voter participation, with 93.7 per cent of those enrolled to vote turning out at the polls. The 2011 and 2014 elections saw official turnout — the per cent of […]

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  • dan

    The Fury of [our] own Momentum: Twin Peaks, Protest, and the Bomb

    – SPONSORED – “Hope was for me the belief in the unknowability of the future, the sense that its outcome was not fixed (and that we might intervene in it)… an argument for the wildness of the world, for its unpredictability.” — Rebecca Solnit   Third picture of a series of the Licorne thermonuclear test […]

    by

  • liam

    What’s so Special about Special Housing Areas?

    – SPONSORED – Cities are ripe with the promise of equality and inclusion. As the postcolonial theorist Paul Gilroy puts it, they have the potential to become places “in which cultures, histories, and structures of feeling previously separated by enormous distances could be found in the same place, the same time: school, bus, café, cell, […]

    by

  • “It was dope, and I killed it”: Six months of the VUWSA Executive

    – SPONSORED – Each of the ten executive members (including nine people who aren’t Rory) wrote about their first six months on the job, and we present but a snapshot of them. We received their mid-year reports late, then it was the mid-trimester holidays, and then there was Te Ao Mārama and a general election, […]

    by

  • brigid

    I’m Not Sure How I Feel: Disillusionment With Elections

    – SPONSORED – This post-election sentiment was written prior to the election, due to both the limitations of print and the pervasiveness of this disillusionment beyond the election’s outcome. If there was a revolution over the weekend, some of these thoughts can be disregarded.   I am a Young Person¹ and, like many other Young […]

    by

  • jack

    The Trauma of the Non-Voter

    – SPONSORED – Voter turnout has been declining steadily in Aotearoa since the mid-1950s. Turnout spiked in 1984; this was to be the high-water mark for voter participation, with 93.7 per cent of those enrolled to vote turning out at the polls. The 2011 and 2014 elections saw official turnout — the per cent of […]

    by

  • dan

    The Fury of [our] own Momentum: Twin Peaks, Protest, and the Bomb

    – SPONSORED – “Hope was for me the belief in the unknowability of the future, the sense that its outcome was not fixed (and that we might intervene in it)… an argument for the wildness of the world, for its unpredictability.” — Rebecca Solnit   Third picture of a series of the Licorne thermonuclear test […]

    by

  • liam

    What’s so Special about Special Housing Areas?

    – SPONSORED – Cities are ripe with the promise of equality and inclusion. As the postcolonial theorist Paul Gilroy puts it, they have the potential to become places “in which cultures, histories, and structures of feeling previously separated by enormous distances could be found in the same place, the same time: school, bus, café, cell, […]

    by

  • “It was dope, and I killed it”: Six months of the VUWSA Executive

    – SPONSORED – Each of the ten executive members (including nine people who aren’t Rory) wrote about their first six months on the job, and we present but a snapshot of them. We received their mid-year reports late, then it was the mid-trimester holidays, and then there was Te Ao Mārama and a general election, […]

    by

  • brigid

    I’m Not Sure How I Feel: Disillusionment With Elections

    – SPONSORED – This post-election sentiment was written prior to the election, due to both the limitations of print and the pervasiveness of this disillusionment beyond the election’s outcome. If there was a revolution over the weekend, some of these thoughts can be disregarded.   I am a Young Person¹ and, like many other Young […]

    by

  • Arts and Science

  • Vanity Fair — W. M. Thackeray

    I’m actually not all the way through this novel. It’s bloody long. But I’m a nerd for the 19th century, so here we are.

    Vanity is a tricky criticism to throw at someone. It seems straight forward — stop being so up yourself. It’s a Kiwi classic. But it’s not something we really believe in most of the time, I think. We applaud the grandstander, the confident, the slayer, the money-maker. Then we work to one day stand in their shoes and be applauded ourselves.

    Rebecca Sharp, the centre around which the chaos of Vanity Fair spins, epitomises everything we aspire to be. She’s got an answer for every question. She’s got everyone tied around her little finger. She plays the game, and she usually lands on her feet. She starts off with nothing and dedicates her life to amending this problem. What I mean is, she’s “winning”.

    How is this vanity? Aren’t we supposed to dream big? What’s the harm in getting what we want?

    Thackeray seems to think there’s a lot wrong with this argument. He’s a satirist at his core, and what he does best is poking at the splendour and the recklessness and the self-obsession of his characters until all the air comes out and we see them for the hollow costumes that they are. Becky Sharp is adept at getting what she wants, by pretending at friendship, and even love, and when Thackeray shows her off as so immensely talented, we can suddenly see how gross it all is. When George Osborne, the young, dashing love interest of Becky’s “best friend” Amelia, marries to rebel against his dad, spends all their money to impress their posh social circle, and flirts his way through the London theatres while his wife is at home, suddenly good looks, wealth, and charm don’t seem so obviously important anymore.

    It’s easy today (and forgive me for all this unnecessary social commentary) to think that vanity is an outdated concept. It’s easy to think that it’s just another word to condemn people who are only trying to be themselves. And tall poppy syndrome has had some pretty awful side effects. But it’s also risky to think that just because New Zealanders are supposed to be humble, we actually are.

    Vanity Fair will bring all these thoughts to the surface. I know this because I read the first chapter, and I was like, damn, I’m vain as hell. I saw myself in all the desperate characters Thackeray created. I spend more money on M&Ms than on services for helping homeless people in Wellington figure out a better way forward, because I’m self-obsessed as heck. Sometimes I read classical novels because I don’t want other people to think I’m not classy, even though the truth is I’m from Palmerston North.

    But I’m not trying to extol the virtues of self-flagellation. I just want to say that there’s a lot to be learned from a book like this, written over a hundred years ago, that is directly applicable to us now, because human beings don’t change. We were hilariously dumb then, and we’re hilariously dumb now.

    So, even though it really is super long, consider reading this book. Read it if you want to be enraged by the 1%. (Remember that phrase? Do people use that anymore?) Read if you don’t really “get” satire, and just like period pieces with horses and carriages and dramatic romance. Or read it if you thought you were too insecure to be vain — it’s a shock to the system, I can tell you.

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  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

    Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Milan

    Publisher: Ubisoft

    Platform: Nintendo Switch

    Review copy supplied by publisher

     

    Nintendo must be absolutely insane, right? I’ve mentioned their shitty business practices plenty of times before (and I probably will keep doing so, since I don’t want them to keep getting away with it), but now they’ve done the unthinkable in licensing their most beloved and well-known franchise out to a company with an even worse reputation! They even let it become a crossover with that company’s equivalent of Minions! It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

    What makes it even weirder is that the result is bloody fantastic.

    When the idea of the crossover was leaked in the months before the Switch’s release, I was sceptical that it could work — the Rabbids are just too obnoxious to be compatible with Mario, I initially thought. Yet the proof is in the pudding: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is not only a faithful interpretation of the Mushroom Kingdom, with the perfect amount of Rabbids-inspired insanity, but also a damn fine turn-based tactics game that feels right at home on the Switch.

    The story is simple enough: the Rabbids discover a helmet which can merge objects in the basement of an inventor who happens to be a massive Mario fan. They manage to create an interdimensional vortex which transports them to the Mushroom Kingdom, causing all sorts of chaos. Playing as Mario along with Luigi, Princess Peach, and Yoshi, as well as four Rabbids dressed as them, it’s up to you to fix everything and save the kingdom. It’s typical Mario fare, being light in character moments, but it is competently told with plenty of decent jokes at the expense of the Rabbids.

    But the gameplay is really what makes this project stand out. Progression requires going through a series of battles, either solo or in co-op, that can perhaps be best described as a kid-friendly XCOM: manoeuvring a squad of three around a battlefield in a turn-based fashion, looking for cover and openings to fire at enemies, while desperately hoping that the RNG works in your favour. The system is simplified compared to XCOM, with the chances of hitting an enemy entirely dependent on your positioning, but the movement system makes up for this by allowing you to use your teammates to jump across the battlefield. Each character has their own unique weapons and abilities, making squad composition a crucial factor in your success.

    I love how intuitive the battle system is, as it cuts the bullshit and allows you to focus on completing the goal while maintaining a sense of tension. With each of the four worlds divided into nine battles, each lasting between five and fifteen minutes, the game is well suited for portable play, as it should be on the Switch. Exploration and puzzle-solving between levels gives the game some variety while offering plenty of collectibles to find and coins to pick up and spend on new weapons. There are also numerous secrets to be found in each world, including special battles which will push your tactical nous to the limit. You’re likely to get at least twenty hours’ worth of gameplay from the main storyline.

    In addition, the game’s environments look absolutely gorgeous, maintaining the classic Mario style with some incredibly creative structures and backgrounds, complete with Rabbids running around everywhere. The soundtrack is composed by the legendary Grant Kirkhope, and is a wonderful variation on classic Mario motifs that is an absolute joy to listen to.

    I am in disbelief about how good Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle turned out. It has no right to be as fun and exciting as it is based on the concept alone, but they actually did it, the madmen. Frankly, I think Nintendo should do stuff like this more often!

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  • Interview with k2k

    k2k is an Auckland-based electronic musician making marvelous melodic house tunes and bestowing bangin’ DJ sets on the New Zealand public left, right, and centre. Salient sat down with her recently to discuss her music-making methods, elitism, and womanhood in a dudey industry.

    *

    Your new EP Sugar just dropped and it’s full of stone-cold bangers; I’ve been particularly enjoying bumping along to “Malibu” on the bus and in my car! What kind of approach do you take to creating a new track? Is there a certain element that tends to come first, i.e. a sample or a melodic line?

    Often I’ll start humming some sort of melody and record it on my phone. When it comes time to make a track I’ll start with one of those melodies and start playing around with an acapella on top of it, layering it with delays, reverb etc. Sometimes I set out by trying to make a track that captures a certain vibe — with “Malibu” I was trying to make a house track that could fit into one of my DJ sets. 

     

    What kind of musical influences have you experienced throughout your life that you feel really have an imprint on the music you currently make?

    Growing up I listened to a lot of ’90s pop and RnB. I remember listening to the local polytech radio station in Nelson and making mix tapes, and ordering in lots of tunes I’d hear on it to my local record store. I definitely think pop sensibilities have made their impact on my tunes — I love sentimental melodies and great vocal hooks. Most of the samples I use are from ’90s RnB tracks — Aaliyah, Ashanti, Brandy, Mariah. Probably gonna get sued one day for sampling so much but every time I try to record my own vocals they sound so terrible in comparison that I just end up going with what sounds best!

     

    What kind of hardware setup do you have when you play live sets?

    I don’t play live sets, I do DJ sets. My tracks are generally made over a month or so in front of a laptop and that doesn’t translate super well into a live set. I could split a track into 20 stems and trigger each stem at the appropriate time to attempt to get it sounding like the final MP3, but that doesn’t seem like too much fun to watch or play. I think at some point I’ll try to get something together, potentially singing or playing live keys, but at the moment I’m really loving DJing. I love being able to pick tracks from the last 50 years, from many genres, and mixing them together in ways that can create different feelings on the dance floor. There doesn’t seem to be a huge DJ culture here — and the one that exists is mainly DnB/EDM — but over the last few years I’ve seen the house/techno/boogie DJ scene growing quite a lot and it feels really exciting to be a part of it.

     

    What has your experience been working with Margins, a very grassroots and locally focused label?

    I’m friends with the guys who run it, Kelvin and Joe, and when we were on tour last year I told Kelvin that the only way to get me to make music was by giving me a deadline. So he gave me a deadline! And I drew it out by months and months, but it culminated in this release. They’re both lovely guys and I think what they’re trying to do with Margins is vital for NZ electronic music right now, so was stoked to release with them. 

     

    I’ve found that often, as a woman, you’re sort of assumed to be somewhat incompetent by many people (often men) and then met with surprise when you can actually do your job well, although this is definitely improving as more talented women keep emerging. Has this been similar to your experience in quite a masculine industry? Or is gender something you’re not particularly aware of?

    I’m definitely aware of it as 90% of the time I’m the only female on a lineup. Promoters are increasingly aware that diversity isn’t just “nice to have”; in 2017, it’s crucial. I think I’ve benefitted from that, show-wise, and I’m definitely going to take advantage of it as long as I can. Visibility is key, and if I’d seen more female DJs and producers growing up I think I would have started making music way earlier. There’s always the occasional shitty experience — being asking if I’m waitressing when I’m literally behind the DJ decks for example — but overall all the guys that I’ve worked with have been really welcoming and haven’t doubted that I know what I’m doing. 

     

    What kind of issues do you think affect the electronic music scene in New Zealand at large at the moment?

    As mentioned before, definitely diversity. A huge percentage of the electronic music scene are white guys, and that’s not always a super welcoming environment for people who don’t fit that mould. There’s also a financial barrier to entry — I’ve seen DJs being super elitist towards people using DJ controllers over CDJs when you’re looking at a $500 vs $3000 cost. If the whole scene was a bit more open and inclusive I think it’d benefit hugely, in the way that the indie rock/noise/shoegaze scene has flourished in NZ over the last 20 years.

     

    What kind of non-musical aspects of your life serve as inspiration for you music (e.g. visual art, friends)?

    Honestly I think all my inspiration for my music comes from music related things! I’m influenced by my emotions to make certain sounds, and sometimes influenced by people, but mainly it’s hearing friends make amazing tracks and dancing all night to my favourite DJs that inspires me. I’d love to make more nature-influenced ambient songs, and have used samples of NZ birds and oceans in my tracks, but that’s probably the extent of it.

     

    Are there any artists that are particularly exciting to you at the moment?

    Yeah definitely, Peggy Gou is an incredible Korean producer and DJ that’s blowing up at the moment and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Same with so many amazing women who are getting a lot of hype — Octo Octa, Powder, Jayda G, all of the Discwomen crew. I think the push for diversity is shining a lot of light on people who might not have been given the same platform, and the music and DJing coming from that is super inspiring and exciting to me.

     

    What is the future looking like for k2k?

    Hopefully releasing another EP soon and attempting to put out tracks more regularly. I’m also planning to start a radio show on BFM sometime soon, so that’ll be a good chance to get more radio experience. And it’s not really under my k2k project but I’m starting a record label and party series with a few of my close pals who I ran Inky Waves with. We’re having our launch party on October 6 with Chaos in the CBD and are gonna release our first record in early 2018. 

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  • Occulture: The Dark Arts

    “Art and the occult draw powers, rituals, and symbols from one another to re-enchant the world and refine human experience,” explains the City Gallery Wellington in introduction to the exhibition Occulture: The Dark Arts. Although the gallery does not explicitly explain what the occult might be in this instance, the works offer clues: the occult is in conversation with nature in a way contemporary society is not; the occult mixes potions from plants, consults astrological charts, embraces the night. Speculative philosophies of intersubjectivity and animacy have, as exhibited, a rich tradition in the West. They also have an often unacknowledged debt to indigenous thinkers for, as Zoe Todd writes, “their millennia of engagement with sentient environments, with cosmologies that enmesh people into complex relationships between themselves and all relations, and with climates and atmospheres as important points of organisation and action.”

    The occult, in the vaguest sense, refers to a power that is not necessarily our own but might be harnessed. Whatever power is present at Occulture, it keeps to its own company; anything prepossessing of influence clings to it tightly. What service can the gallery do magic, beyond canonise it’s aesthetic? “Without access to power’s hidden manifestations, visibility is tantamount to reality, a possible explanation for the authenticity of images,” writes Lynne Tillman, speaking to the difficulty I feel trying to explain how the white walls of the gallery have a tendency to dehistoricise anything they swallow. The light that envelops the works seems pertinent in an exhibition that beckons someplace darker. In Occulture, whiteness is allowed to slip from the norm only to a place with slightly more shadowy corners; which is not to say whiteness per se has ever been defined by anything but what it isn’t. I’m not speaking for the all the works — some, Fiona Pardington’s, Lorene Taurerewa’s, Yin-Ju Chen’s, speak to histories that are not strictly of a Victorian Gothic strain — but rather the vague notion of the occult, defined principally by the more historical works, which is presented as a particularly Pākehā mysticism.

    The Tohunga Suppression Act was passed by the New Zealand legislature in 1907. It declared that:

    “2. (1.) Every person who gathers Maoris around him by practising on their superstition or credulity, or who misleads or attempts to mislead any Maori by professing or pretending to profess supernatural powers in the treatment of cure of any disease, or in the foretelling of future events, or otherwise, is liable on summary conviction before a Magistrate to a fine not exceeding twenty­five pounds or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months in the case of a second or any subsequent offence against this Act.”

    Mamari Stephens suggests that the Act was passed less out of genuine concern for Māori health and more as a means of asserting certainty and dominance during an anxious and confusing period in our history. The stigmatisation of tohunga it encouraged remains: in 2003 Heather Roy, an ACT Member of Parliament, asked the Minister of Health in the House whether there was “any clinical evidence that such healing is effective; or is this funding just political correctness gone mad?”

    Occulture engages more with a mysticism that insists, as Alistair Crowley did, that “To practice black magic you have to violate every principle of science, decency, and intelligence. You must be obsessed with an insane idea of the importance of the petty object of your wretched and selfish desires,” than it does with the holism that is engaged with the history and suppression of “superstition” here and in the wider Pacific. The distinctions between what is “magic”, what is “superstition”, what is “holistic”, what is “occulture”, and so on, are interesting for their malleability — as often tied to slippery legacies of cultural dominance and subordination as any basis of fact.

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  • My Favourite Murder Live Show @ the Bruce Mason Centre

    One of the most popular podcasts on the planet, My Favourite Murder, came to Auckland on September 6 for a one-night only live show, and two of my gal pals and I took a mid-week trip to attend.

    My Favourite Murder is hosted by comedian Karen Kilgariff and TV star Georgia Hardstark, and it is a fabulous hybrid of comedy and true crime. Each week, both hosts tell each other their “favourite” murder cases from all over the world, but also often share listener stories of hometown murders, paranormal experiences, and first responders.

    The three of us were in a great mood after eating a shit-ton of delicious pasta and drinking a few glasses of Pinot Gris, and joined a crowd of around 300 dedicated “murderinos” from all over the country in the Takapuna venue.

    At the live shows, Karen and Georgia share their favourite murders from the place they are in, and everyone was buzzing with excitement trying to guess what the cases were going to be.

    Georgia’s favourite murder was one of New Zealand’s classic “whodunits”, the Mark Lundy case, and found it hilarious that the “Lundy 500” race had been created (and then cancelled) because of the case. Karen’s favourite murder was an unexpected surprise, telling the story of Nancy Wake, a bad-bitch spy during WWII whose only murder was one Nazi, which got a massive cheer from the crowd. Seriously, look her up; she is so badass!

    After the hosts had shared, two audience members were selected from the crowd to tell their hometown murders — one was a local Wellington story about a murder at Red Rocks beach, and the other was from New York City.

    The best two moments of the night were when the show’s producer and fan-favourite, Steven, appeared on stage and talked about his time studying at VUW on a university exchange, and when a journalist who attended the Lundy trial was pulled out of the audience and recounted her experience covering the case.

    The show was hilarious from start to finish, and it was absolutely worth the trip. Although it is probably going to be a rare occurrence that a big podcast show like My Favourite Murder will come back to New Zealand for a live show, the big crowd made up of people from all over the country suggests that the love of podcasts is huge, and that podcasts are definitely part of the future of comedy.

    Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered everyone!

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  • American Horror Story: Cult

    It’s American Horror Story time again! The most wonderful time of the year, or in the words of George Michael Bluth, “It’s a great day! For being sad.” I’ve started to thrive on the disappointment, like a Mariah Carey fan. This year’s theme is Cult and it’s about the 2016 American election, which seems a bit Banksy-ish but we’ll run with it. As a preface: if you are scared of clowns (coulrophobia), many tiny holes (trypophobia), or Donald Trump (normal), maybe sit this one out.

    Sarah Paulson’s Ally lives with her soft2 butch wife Ivy (Alison Pill) and their young and inquisitive son, Ozzy. Donald Trump’s win sends Ally’s anxiety into overdrive and her intense phobia of clowns begins to manifest into horrific real-life nightmares — in the first episode she is chased around an abandoned supermarket by maniacal clowns in a scene that evokes a Marilyn Manson music video — and after barricading herself indoors she begins to develop symptoms of agoraphobia. I’m excited about this representation for something I suffer from, which will no doubt be an extremely tasteful and accurate portrayal in a Ryan Murphy show; I, too, dare not to tread outside lest I encounter the masturbating clowns. When they look for a nanny to watch Ozzy while Ally and Ivy run their boutique butchery, they meet Winter (Billie Lourd), a hip liberal feminist who dropped out of college to work on the Clinton ’16 campaign, and hire her instantly. Unfortunately, Winter spends her time nannying showing Ozzy videos of brutal murders, and when he starts to see evil clowns she convinces his parents he’s just been reading too many comic books.

    Upsettingly, Evan Peters is not just evil but racist and homophobic this year, which makes his attractiveness even more problematic than before. Peters’ Kai Anderson is a Trump-voting MRA narcissist who may or may not be leading a cult of clowns, intent on provoking America into such a state of fear and frenzy that they are desperate to be led by someone willing to “fix” it. Kai is a cross between Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannopoulos, and everyone on Reddit’s r/theredpill — when Trump is announced as president, Kai makes a face mask out of blended Cheetos and dry humps his television. Over the season Peters is set to play different cult leaders throughout history, including Charles Manson, David Koresh, and even Andy Warhol — with the latter’s would-be assassin Valerie Solanas to be played by Lena Dunham in a later episode (ugh, there’s that disappointment again).

    Now I get to talk about Billy Eichner! Yes, after shitting on AHS and Ryan Murphy no less than three times in Difficult People, Billy Eichner is in Cult and has been heavily hyping it over the last few months. Eichner plays Harrison Wilton, a homosexual beekeeper married to his heterosexual best friend, Meadow (did the writers use a young adult fantasy novel name generator for this show?), with whom he shares the co-presidency of the Michigan chapter of the Official Nicole Kidman Fan Club. They move into the house opposite Ally and Ivy, after the former couple living there are, yes, murdered by clowns. Meadow is played by the critically underused Leslie Grossman, who you might recognise as queen bee Mary Cherry from another Murphy show, 1999’s Popular. I’m absolutely thrilled with this duo. I’m sure Cult will end in chaos, but the real world’s looking pretty chaotic right now too; which scares you the most?

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  • IT — Andy Muschietti

    This year has been somewhat drier for horror films, with my last genuine thrill coming back in May with Get Out. Thankfully, IT scratched the itch. An adaption of Stephen King’s famous novel, all most people will want to hear is that IT lives up to every expectation. If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know what the opening scene is, but seeing it in its entirety in the theatre is an unforgettable experience that sets the precedent for what follows. You’ll know what I’m talking about, trust me.

    I was caught off guard (probably because I’m used to sub-par horror movies) by how much of a character driven film it is, with each and every one of the Losers’ Club given fair amounts of screen time both individually, and as a collective. The chemistry between the young characters, which is thankfully very R-rated, is suitably realistic. While their comradery is a force to be reckoned with, there is a force that seeks to divide them, and then sequentially devour them. I refer of course to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Now, I am not afraid of clowns, but I am afraid of this clown. He drools, his eyes misalign, and every practical and digital effect merges seamlessly with Skarsgård’s unhinged performance. What’s funny about the performance is that he is actually playing a clown to the literal point of being funny. He’s basically entertaining himself, and what’s entertaining for Pennywise is certifiably terrifying for the audience. With his character, and basically every element in the rest of the film, the filmmakers don’t hold back, and create some truly demented and jaw-dropping sequences, while working constantly with the beautiful traditions of horror.

    It’s almost sad that this film is R16 (though I fully endorse its content) because this is a coming of age story that a younger version of me would have taken real joy from. The film treats its audience respectfully, and the kids act like you’d expect them to. Members of the Losers’ Club repeatedly whine that it’s summer, and that they’ve got better and safer things to do than hunt a murderous clown, but on they go on with comradery, curiosity, and even duty. It may not be The Shining or Stand By Me, but I’m very glad to add IT to the category of King’s adaptations* that live up to the source material’s legacy.

     

    * There have been 65 films based on his written works, of which I can recommend seven: Carrie (1976), The Shining (1980), Stand By Me (1986), Misery (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), and 1408 (2007).

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  • mother! — Darren Aronofsky

    “I want to suck Aronofsky’s dick after that.”

    — Anonymous companion of critic.

     

    Aronofsky’s new film mother! is the most boundary pushing, experimental, intense film I’ve seen all year. It’s also the only film I’ve been to in a very, very long time where people walked out. As an allegory it is uncompromising, as a drama it is riveting, and it’s wonderful to see a director who is so in command of film language that they can bend the rules and play well beyond the bounds that most mainstream audiences would expect.

    Jennifer Lawrence plays mother (lowercase, critically) and Javier Bardem plays Him (uppercase, critically). They live a quiet life in a beautiful house that mother has been restoring to create the perfect environment for Him to write and get over his creative block, and things are peaceful. Until, of course, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer arrive as a husband and wife who overstay their welcome. Then their children arrive, and then their extended family. The two plots at play at the film’s core are a home invasion thriller and a psychological drama focused on Him and mother’s relationship.

    I don’t want to spoil anything, and I won’t even delve into the multitude of ways to interpret the film, but I will say that its breadth and depth of content make it enigmatic and irresistible. We live in a complex world with a severe weight upon our culture and history, and as such, a film that tackles existence and creation head on is a wonderful thrill. As David Lynch says: life is confusing, so films should reflect this.

    Although my response to the film was ecstatic, I won’t pretend the actual experience was entirely joyous. The film is intense, and at times disturbing. The vast majority of the shots centre on Lawrence, with the camera work tightening and tightening and getting shakier and shakier, Aronofsky twisting the claustrophobia knob ’til it breaks. The sound design is also magnificent, with sound and image misaligning in moments of hallucination — emptiness somehow being amplified uncomfortably. While mother and Him are alone in the house, every acoustic footfall reverberates, making the otherwise idyllic uneasy and empty.

    I was thinking recently about the underperformance and underappreciation of complex and challenging films in recent years, and I honestly think it echoes the political landscape, but this film is worth your time and money even if it disturbs and confuses you. The ideas and the presentation of them are timely and exceptional, Lawrence and Bardem are constantly fantastic, and the film’s uniqueness is something to be celebrated.

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  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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    Editor's Pick

    In Which a Boy Leaves

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