Film Review: La La Land

La La Land

La La Land written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures, PG-13, 128 min) Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Make Hollywood Great Again We live in an era of nostalgia. The largest television phenomenon of 2016 focused on 1980s synths, hairstyles, and sci-fi horror. Beyond cultural nostalgia, we saw an election where a clear motivation at the polls focused on policies pushing America toward the past, toward a time where the nation was considered “great,” at least for a certain kind of American. Trends ebb and flow. Beliefs move in and out of season as if they are fashion chic. While many rightly criticize much of the policies bringing fear to certain groups of… Read More →

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (New York: Doubleday, 2016. 320 pp) Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 and raised in Manhattan. He attended Harvard College and afterward he began working as a reviewer for The Village Voice. Out of the gate, Whitehead’s fiction gained acclaim when his first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. His work has earned him the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Also, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Victors Write History History: Written by the Victors. We discuss such a phrase most often around our… Read More →

Television Show Review: Games of Thrones: Season 6

Game of Thrones Season 6

Game of Thrones: Season 6 created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO, Television 360, Grok!) Starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Iain Glen, John Bradley, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Alfie Allen, Aidan Gillen, Conleth Hill, Jerome Flynn, Gwendoline Christie, Ian McElhinney, Stephen Dillane, Natalie Dormer, Carice van Houten, and Iwan Rheon. *SPOILER ALERT FOR PREVIOUS SEASONS* Lapping the Source Material We live in spectacular times. For the first time in the history of storytelling, an adapted story laps its source. When Game of Thrones began its reign at HBO, George R.R. Martin provided his showrunners with years of material. His Song of Ice and Fire began in the mid-nineties and the successive books, tomes… Read More →

Film Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World

Jurassic World written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and directed by Colin Trevorrow (Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures, PG-13, 124 min) Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, and Nick Robinson. On Nostalgia Nostalgia can be a dangerous influence on art. Let me unpack that. Our Google overlords define nostalgia as, “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” Running with this definition, nostalgia predisposes the average person toward something; it causes us to think fondly of what came before and create positive associations with the thing that creates the connection. So nostalgia is dangerous for art because it can exist as… Read More →

Television Show Review: Silicon Valley: Season 2

Silicon Valley Season 2

Silicon Valley: Season 2 created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky (HBO, 3 Arts Entertainment, Judgemental Films Inc.) Starring Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, and Matt Ross. *Spoilers for previous seasons… You’ve been warned!* 30 Minutes of Funny When we collectively think comedy, the 30-minute sitcom immediately emerges from the simmering sea of consciousness. Thumb through the channels on any given night and you’ll find comedy, whether new programming or syndication. No matter the show, the average viewer can board and depart the comedy train at any point. The average episode of comedy blends three plots—1 major and 2 supporting—into something funny and enjoyable. Certain narrative structures exist from… Read More →

Book Review: Ghosts

Ghosts by Cesar Aira

Ghosts by César Aira; translated by Chris Andrews (New York: New Directions, 2009; originally published in 1990. 144 pp) Born in 1949 in Coronel Pringles, a town on the southern edge of the Argentine Pampas, César Aira is a novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He settled in Buenos Aires in 1967 and has earned a living through teaching and translating from French and English. He has published more than eighty novels. Chris Andrews has won the TLS Valle Inclán Prize and the PEN Translation Prize for his New Directions translations of Roberto Bolaño. A poet who lives and teaches in Australia, he has translated eight Bolaño books and three novels by César Aira for New Directions. Going Latin There’s… Read More →

Book Review: What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read: A Phenomenology with Illustrations by Peter Mendelsund (New York: Vintage Books, 2014. 448 pp) Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf, the art director of Pantheon Books, and a recovering classical pianist. His designs have been described by The Wall Street Journal as being “the most instantly recognizable and iconic book covers in contemporary fiction.” He lives in New York. Why Read? Why read? In an age of mass media, doesn’t it seem a touch quaint? Our iPhones can keep us entertained indefinitely with the amount of apps available, not mention the Internet sitting in your pocket. We live in the Golden Age of television; high quality shows illuminate the… Read More →

Film Review: Rush

Rush

Rush written by Peter Morgan, directed by Ron Howard (Exclusive Media Group, Cross Creek Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, R, 123 min) Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brūhl, Olivia Wilde, and Alexandra Maria Lara. A Good Sports Film Is Hard to Find A quality sports movie is hard to find. Sporting events, in fact, seem to be the only thing in the world that’s rating-proof. Each game has a sense of drama. The viewers don’t know the result and the potential narratives seem endless. These facts could contribute to the difficulty of creating that iconic sports movie. Scripting a story—whether fact or fiction—feels false compared to the narratives we all can watch on a daily basis. Actually, I would argue this reality functions… Read More →

Television Show Review: Boardwalk Empire: Season 4

Boardwalk Empire Season 4

Boardwalk Empire: Season 4 created by Terence Winter (Home Box Office, Leverage Management, Closest to the Hole Productions) Starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Kenneth Williams, Shea Whigham, Stephen Graham, Michael Shannon, Jack Huston, Jeffrey Wright, Gretchen Mol, Brian Geraghty, Margot Binham, and Ben Rosenfield. *Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons in Effect* “A” “B” “C” “H” I’ve never seen so many stories at once in serialized television. The standard sitcom includes “A,” “B,” and “C” stories. And most often, three stories can be too much. But this season of Boardwalk Empire finds a way to execute not only “A”, “B,” and “C” stories, but also the show finds a way to an “H” story. Despite the complexity, Boardwalk Empire still creates riveting… Read More →

Book Review: The Emperor of all Maladies

The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (London: Fourth Estate, 2011. 608 pp) Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. Mukherjee is a Rhodes Scholar and he graduated from Stanford University, the University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. His book, The Emperor of all Maladies won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. Flunking Pre-Med Since the day I learned about cancer—I mean really learned about cancer—I’ve never been the same. It was an introductory class into physiology as an undergrad. I signed up for classes late and wasn’t able to enroll in… Read More →