Category Archives: Entertainment

Watch if you need a chuckle: the best comedy skits of all time

-Emily Fraysse

Growing up watching Saturday Night Live (when it was actually broadcasted live) and Mad TV with my father, I was introduced to the world of short, hilariously creative skits. Day and nighttime television shows like Ellen, Jay Leno and, Jimmy Kimmel have joined in on making funny shorts. Here are my top eight favorite skits of all eternity (not in any certain order):

#1 “Hot tub! Hot tub!….. too hot!”
Saturday Night Live’s James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub Party with Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy may not be the best actor of all time, but jeez, this skit is good.  What gets me is how simple it is, but when performed, it’s incredibly funny. My father showed me this and I was in hysterics. We still quote it together to this day.

#2 SNL Jeopardy with Sean Connery, Minnie Driver, Jeff Goldblum, and Will Farrell

This combination of actors should make more skits together because of their combined brilliance. Will Farrell plays Alex Trebek, the host of the television show Jeopardy! and the others actors play the wacky contestants.

#3 “Dennis Quaid is here!”
Dennnis Quaid on the Ellen Show

The first time I watched this, I was on the floor crying. With Ellen DeGeneres telling actor Dennis Quaid what to say out loud to the employees at local coffee shop, Dennis parodies the egos that many celebrities tend to have.

#4 “Did I feel a thumb? No thumb. No thumb.”
David Beckham gets a massage on the Ellen Show

This is another one of Ellen’s clever “Hidden Camera Fun” pranks, where David Beckham does everything Ellen DeGeneres tells him to do. The woman who is giving the massage has no clue that this is happening as she complies with Beckham’s extreme and silly requests.

#5 “Remember when you were with the Beatles?”
Chris Farley interviews Paul McCartney on SNL

Anytime a video or a movie has Chris Farley in it, I have to watch it. In this skit, he is interviewing music legend Paul McCartney with basic, obvious questions that also make me laugh, even years after I’ve seen it.

#6 “That’s something else…Hey!”
Harry Caray Show with Jeff Goldblum and Will Farrell

Farrell plays Harry Caray, a crazy Chicago Cubs Broadcaster with a constant head nod who has a show called “Space the Infinite Frontier.” He asks Dr. Ken Wallen (Goldblum) ridiculous questions like, “Would you eat the moon if it was made of ribs?”  The responses from both actors are priceless.

#7 “Wow! A battery and an onion!”
Worst Christmas Gift montage from the Jimmy Kimmel Show

This brilliantly done segment started when Kimmel challenge parents to give their child an awful present and then film them opening it. The kids’ reactions are legendary.

#8 Great Day with Andy Samberg
“My heart is racing bum-bum-bum-bum-buuuummmmm!”

My friend showed me this a few weeks ago, and knowing how funny Andy Samberg, I knew I was in for a treat. Samberg sings in this SNL Digital Short about his great day, which is pretty dang great.

Popcorned: Coming this summer, it’s the End of the World!

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-Casey Klekas

Why is “the end of the world” the lowest common denominator of Hollywood’s latest blockbusters? Probably because we have a healthy obsession with art’s apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian genre. This is not because we live in a so-called “culture of fear,” but because this genre allows us to view our society through retrospective lenses and, in so doing, we gain a unique understanding of the problems at present, illuminated by existential threats to humanity, or the eventual consequences of current practices. They offer a glimpse down the road which might prompt us to ask Siri to plot us a new destination.

After Earth is a film about a father and son (Will and Jaden Smith, no kidding) who crash land on a future, inhospitable mother Earth. For a while, I got this confused with Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, which is also about the return to a has-been home for humans. Not to be mistaken for Elysium, where a super wealthy minority prospers in a remote community (a wheel-like space habitat known as a Stanford Torus, also known to many from the video game HALO) while the earth is overpopulated with poverty and crime.

Apocalypse movies, such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Terminator 3, and War of the Worlds all show the recognizable world coming to an end, either through natural (possibly human-induced) disaster, nuclear holocaust, the take over of machines, and/or alien invasion. This group actually shows the end of the world, even if humans eventually adapt and prevail. Two upcoming films that focus on Judgment Day are This is the End, starring comedy’s front men Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera; the other is Pacific Rim about an alien invasion via a wormhole beneath the Pacific Ocean.

Post-apocalypse movies, on the other hand, may show some of the initial disaster, but are mostly focused on what comes after, how societies rebuild, adapt, or struggle to survive. Some are focused on the handful of isolated survivors, like I am Legend, The Postman, and The Road.  Others might show a revived humanity that has endured disasters and taken to rebuilding civilization or else has fled from the surface of the Earth completely (some go below, like the Eloi in The Time Machine, others take to the sky, like in WALL-E, After Earth, Oblivion, and Elysium).

A further category is the dystopian, where society undergoes a profound and often final transformation that we as viewers find morally repugnant. These “end of history” scenarios may come about by natural human progression, or are brought on by devastating wars or as the result of a novel political movement. Normally, some kind of resistance movement develops which we see quashed or succeed. I’d mention the Hunger Games, but I’ve neither seen the movie nor read the books. I should, I know.

So, why do we like this genre so much? Because it tells us about our own time much better than we often can see. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, don’t they say? Most dystopian/apocalypse/post-apocalypse movies, books, and TV shows mythologize the past (our present). They either show a lost paradise, or a reckless people who brought about the world’s end, or something of a combination.

At a very base level, this genre challenges our infinitude. Many suggest that humans cannot be stamped out, that we will evolve whatever the circumstances, such as Kevin “Gills” Costner in Waterworld. Others show simply that the future is up for grabs. You might be more persuaded by Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future, a world full of self-gratification and devoid of meaning. Or you could stick with Orwell and worry that humanity might end up enslaving itself, that “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face—forever.”

Here’s a list of major films that have, are, or will soon hit the theaters: Oblivion, released April 19; The Colony, April 26; M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, on May 31; Some levity on June 12 with This is the End; On June 21, Brad Pitt fights zombies in World War Z; Find out what lies beneath the pacific on July 12 with Pacific Rim; Watch the undead be bloody bludgeoned by the incomprehensible west Londoners in Cockney’s vs. Zombies; on August 9 see Matt Damon take on the world’s super rich (including Jodie Foster) in their secluded, serene spacewheel in Elysium, directed by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp; and, on August 23, finish this summer with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as they push through zombies on the way to the pub in The World’s End. (This is the same duo that gave us Shaun of the Dead, quite easily my favorite zombie film, and certainly the best comedy on the undead).

Image from http://www.oblivionmovie2013.com/

On Trend: "The Great Gatsby" Revives the Roaring ‘20s

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-Rache’ll Brown

Drop-waists, berry lips, and embellished accessories; if only kitten heels were in fashion too. But it’s official—the ‘20s are back. With the recent release of The Great Gatsby, the beauty and fashion world has embraced all aspects of the generation, and this year’s trends reflect the recent fascination for the decade. From ‘20s haircuts to flapper fashion, Gatsby-inspired looks can be seen on both the runway and in stores. From red carpet to campus, these pieces can be used to create a classic look with a glamorous twist.

Shoppers can find ‘20s inspired items in almost any store catering young females this season. Drop-waist dresses, silk tops, and beaded details are all very popular. To avoid vintage over-kill, skip piling on multiple pieces that embody the trend all at once. The goal is to put together a fashionable outfit, not a costume. Instead, my advice is to choose one piece as a focal point and then to either pair it with basic pieces in neutral colors or pair with modern accessories to bring the past into the present.

As for makeup, there are a lot of ways to bring the ‘20s into everyday wear. Like clothing, I’m not a fan of all of the staples together at one time; I wouldn’t wear dark eyes with dark lips, nor is the popular thin, drawn-on eyebrows of the decade a look I would ever sport. Pairing something like MAC’s Lush Life with a more natural eye (matte, neutral eyes shadows with thin eyeliner and tons of mascara) would be a dramatic and appropriate interpretation of the time. A dark, smoldering eye with a nude lip is also another great alternative to ‘20s inspired beauty because kohl rimmed eyes were all the rage. Feeling more adventurous? Try out some hairstyles inspired by the decade! Short cuts, glamorous headbands, and most importantly finger waves, were a must. This post gives a good explanation of how to encompass the look.

It doesn’t matter if a girl identifies as a “Daisy” or a “Jordan,” bringing small touches from the past back into the present instantly revamps a girl’s style with a vintage twist. So embrace the 1920s and incorporate some old-fashioned glam into everyday wear–it is perfectly on-trend.

Follow Rache’ll on Twitter!

Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org.

Popcorned: Arrested Development Season 4 – Watch it again, and again…

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-Casey Klekas

I’m in the awkward position of wanting to write about Arrested Development without spoiling it for everyone, including my editors who have yet to finish all fifteen episodes. I, on the other hand, watched six episodes starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, May 26. I fell asleep for a few hours then watched nine more. At times, I wished I hadn’t binged my way through the whole season, but at other times I was happy to power through. If I can make a recommendation, I would suggest not watching them straight through, which if you haven’t started already you probably won’t at all. You’re probably pacing yourself. Good thinking. I will use my best judgment to avoid spoiling anything for anyone. I’ll say as much as I can for those of you who are still in the process.

We should bear a few things in mind when enjoying the new Arrested Development episodes. First, they are longer than the old ones by upwards of ten minutes. More can be done in this time, but it also gives the characters a bit of breathing room rather than sketch on top of cousin on top of Ann. The extra time gives a new feeling to the show and more gags make it into the final cut as opposed to the ruthless editing we see in the old seasons.

The season evolves around a few central events, which, through each episode, we see through the eyes of a different family member. (Actually, Michael has two episodes, as does George Sr., Lindsay, Tobias, GOB, and George-Michael. Maeby, Lucille, and Buster only have one.) This makes some scenes in the initial episodes a bit hard to understand, but the jokes pay off in later episodes.

The season is indeed a puzzle with more pieces falling into place as every episode goes by. Some are not very uplifting, as the family has fallen on hard times (Oh, prison, shoddy land deals, and bankruptcy. So I guess kind of like the first three season). And yes, there are characters I wanted to see more of in the first few episodes, like Buster and GOB and George Michael. But as it turns out, they appear more in the second half of the season, so power through.

I was happy to see so many great themes come back. Ann as plant, Ann as egg, GOB’s panicked stuttering, Bees!, the comical miss-readings (mostly Tobias’), finishing each other’s sandwiches, sisters who “whore it up,” banners, getting blue/blown, hop-ons, and some pretty hot ham-water.

While they could have just run off the fumes of the old episodes–which maybe is what some of you had hoped for–I was actually happy to see the introduction of so many new running jokes like the “Showstealer Pro Trial Version” watermark over clips from old seasons. (I won’t spoil all of them.)

But seriously, whatever doubts you might have about the new season will be erased the more episodes you watch and the more times you watch them. Just like the old seasons, and Jessica Walter, the show gets better with age.

Image by Chris Favero.

Popcorned: Gatsby on the big screen

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-Casey Klekas

When I walked out of The Great Gatsby, feeling a little drunk from all of Leo’s deliberately lavish soirées, I was like Nick Carraway when he finally left the East, wanting “no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” Director Baz Luhrmann did a fine job making me sympathize with the narrator in his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “great American novel” of the same name. This is a film that was surrounded by controversy well before its release on May 10. The soundtrack was filled with modern artists like Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Jack White, and I would have the choice of viewing the film in 3-D. I was not excited by these facts, but was still anxious to see the latest variation of one of the few books I actually read, let alone enjoyed, in high school.

The reviews have been mixed. Indeed, I saw the film as part of a book-savvy foursome and we were evenly split on the way back to the car. But, I was full of things to discuss with my companions whose patience would be strained in the next few hours. I wanted someone to convince me that Luhrmann’s adaptation merited more than a “meh.” Since then, I re-read the book (how cool am I?), and more and more I find myself defending the film from its critics (which I smugly find to be in an earlier stage of my own rational evolution toward appreciating Luhrmann’s Gatsby).

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “boring, artificial and god-awful.” His criticism, if we can call it that, is superficial and empty, if that’s not a tautology. He was angry at being given an option to watch the film in 3-D and did not have much patience for the soundtrack.

All I can say is, that movie was made for 3-D. It would be lame and cartoony if it weren’t viewed that way, because let’s not forget that this is all a memory of the narrator, so things are always a little larger-than-life. The orgiastic excesses really only come at you when you’ve got those cheap glasses on.

Regarding the soundtrack, I think it would have been weird to hear scratchy ‘20s jazz in the foreground of Luhrmann’s picture. Considering how desensitized our ears have become, I found the music fitting. I still say it was gimmicky at times—like when Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” plays over Nick’s glimpse into a convertible full of dancing and champagne. I LOLed pretty GDL, right there.

This scene gets me into something that has been missing from other discussions surrounding the film. The question of Luhrmann’s faithfulness to the novel has been covered by Slate’s David Haglund where he points to missing characters such as Nick’s Finnish maid. This is what distracted me from being able to passively enjoy the movie instead of constantly thinking, “I don’t remember that in the book!”

In the book, the narrator marvels at a group of wealthy black people in a limousine, driven by a white chauffeur. He says, “I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.” His other description of the group we might consider (borderline) racist.  In the film, these lines are omitted, and Luhrmann puts Jay-Z over a scene we might describe as progressive. This makes Nick’s next line something we can admire rather than wince at: “‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all…’”

Again, when we meet Gatsby’s business associate, Meyer Wolfsheim, based off Arnold Rothstein, who is beautifully played by Michael Stuhlberg on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Wolfsheim is supposedly some kind of gambler. “Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.’” In the novel, it is hard to read Carraway’s (or, really, Fitzgerald’s) description of Wolfsheim as anything other than mildly anti-Semitic. Was director Luhrmann to be faithful to this part of the novel? How would that add to the story? In the book we can at least read past these lines and shrug off the ignorance from an earlier time. For example, Luhrmann gave us a Wolfsheim played by Amitabh Bachchan, an Indian actor, rather than the actual ethnicity Nick describes in the novel. As Slate’s Haglund pointed out, “Faithfulness in this case probably would have meant anti-Semitism.”

Even though I crossed my arms well before entering the theater to see Gatsby, I didn’t really give it a fair chance when I saw it. But, maybe that is an inevitable problem for any director who tries to adapt a classic piece of literature for the big screen (especially for viewers who are used to 3-D and grind-worthy music). It is practically impossible to separate this film from its literary inspiration, so, for that reason, I don’t think it is possible to give this film or any other like it above a B+, no matter how I feel about it this week.

My grade: B+

Image from http://thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com/

Popcorned: The Submarine On The Big Screen

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-Casey Klekas

Last time, I discussed a brief episode I had inside an old Soviet submarine that was docked as a tourist trap in Hamburg, Germany. While my experience taught me the meaning of the term claustrophobic, it has not quelled my thirst for submarine movies. In fact, it has given me a new love and understanding of the entire genre. These films combine all the best elements of war movies, spy movies, and apocalypse movies. As a bonus, at least one side of the match is normally the Soviets or the Nazis.

Submarine movies are choc full of mutinies. Take Crimson Tide: this time a mutiny takes place aboard a nuclear submarine. Its star-studded cast includes Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and even the film debut of Ryan Phillippe. The crew of the USS Alabama are put on high alert as a band of old Stalinist rebels have taken hold of a nuclear missile silo in Russia, as well as a few attack submarines, and then threaten a missile launch at the United States. Harvard grad and closet pacifist, First Officer (Washington) takes on old-timey captain of the boat (Hackman) in a duel that holds the fate of the world in its hands (when the order comes in authorizing the release of nuclear weapons).

We see another mutinous plot combined with the threat of apocalypse in K-19: The Widowmaker, which is inspired by the true story of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear powered submarine. In this film directed by Kathryn Bigalow (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), fatal accidents and mechanical failures plague a hastily built boat and a worrying crew. The nuclear reactor has a malfunction, and unless the crew can fix the coolant leak, the crippled ship will become an atom bomb. This will destroy a NATO base and US destroyer nearby, which, as it’s set in 1961, would be the only light needed to send the very hot Cold War into a nuclear holocaust. The ship was never fitted with radiation suits, meaning those sent into the reactor room die horribly from radiation sickness. In fact, the entire ship is irradiated. Yet Captain Harrison Ford will not submit to First Officer Liam Neeson’s request of scuttling the ship or requesting help from the Americans. Mutiny and apocalypse! The true story of the submarine K-19, kept secret until Glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union, records that all eight sailors sent in to fix the reactor room died of radiation poisoning within a few days. Within the next two years, fourteen more would follow. The other 117 onboard would be plagued with illness for the rest of their lives due to exposure to high levels of radiation. My only real complaint about the movie is that the actors all speak English with a Russian accent, which makes absolutely no sense.

Other great submarine movies include U-571, starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and Harvey Keitel. This film follows the quest to turn the tide of the WWII in favor of the allies by capturing the famous Enigma typewriter, a codifying keyboard used by the Nazis to encrypt messages.

Speaking of Germans, how can we forget the 1981 classic, Das Boot. Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, Das Boot follows shows WWII from the perspective of a German periscope. The famous German U-boats, or Unterseeboot (literally “undersea boat”), dogged English and American ships in the Atlantic, and in this film (the theatrical cut is 149 minutes, but other cuts are close to five hours long) we follow one crew through the thunderous silence of avoiding detection and depth charges, the explosive barrels sent to the deep from the Allied ships above.

But, my favorite submarine movie is The Hunt For Red October, a story based on the Tom Clancy novel of the same name about a new Soviet submarine that with a new, ultra quiet propulsion system could sneak into the Hudson River and destroy America with no warning or chance at retaliation—a “first strike weapon.” Sean Connery plays Captain Marko Ramius who attempts to turn the Red October, the new submarine, over to the Americans. Alec Baldwin plays Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who makes contact with the Russian captain against the efforts of his skeptical superiors. The script is a masterpiece and the acting is superb. By a wide margin, I can safely say that I have seen The Hunt for Red October more times than any other film of any genre.

Jeffrey Jones (you know him as Principal Edward Rooney) plays Skip Tyler, a retired sub captain turned shipbuilder who advises Jack Ryan on smuggled pictures of the Red October. Speaking on the nature of ballistic submarines he says, “When I was twelve, I helped my Daddy build a bomb shelter in our basement, because some damn fool parked a dozen warheads ninety miles off the coast of Florida. This thing [the Red October] could park a coupla’ hundred warheads off Washington or New York and no one would know anything about it until it was all over.” I think this is what I find so gosh darn alluring about submarines and their Hollywood imitations. Of course, a submarine movie need not be so grave (see Down Periscope), but generally their drama comes from the fact that their setting and content is so deadly serious.

I remember in seventh grade, my science teacher was telling the class about nuclear weapons and she mentioned the US submarine fleet having the capacity of destroying most of the world’s major cities. We have eighteen Ohio-class submarines and each carries twenty-four nuclear warheads (432 total, if my math and sources are correct). One of my classmates had a panic attack and her mother was called in to feed her some sedatives.

Of all the films I’ve mentioned, Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October should be on everyone’s Instant Queue, although only the latter is currently available on Netflix. I can’t really square my healthy obsession with these films with the fact that I couldn’t muster five minutes in even a museumed version of one of these boats. But, I recommend you try all of the above and see if you don’t sink to the hull crushing depths of my sub-mania.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Obsessed Culture

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-Emily Fraysse

I play “Magic: The Gathering,” have a collection of all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings DVDs, display a Where the Wild Things Are poster, read graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, and watch anime films like Spirited Away.

I believe that we are not only the “lost culture” in the ways of being glued to our cell phones and iPods, but that we are “lost” in the realm of these make-believe lands, characters, and stories. I find that today more people are open to reading graphic novels and comics, and are obsessed with pop culture, horror, sci-fi, anime, gaming, film, and fantasy in general. While the range of fantasy literature is vast, it usually involves a type of magic in an imaginary world and plays out stereotypes like clever thieves, wizards, dangerous monsters, and dark threats. The gaming industry has contributed to pop culture as well as advancing videogame technology. This has had a sociological, psychological, and cultural impact on the individuals who play, as well as the rest of civilization.

Men and women alike gather at Comic Cons around the world, dressed to the nines in homemade or store-bought costumes of sci-fi or fantasy characters. For that day, they get to look and live like their obsession or merely a favored individual.  Just as Michelangelo sculpted his iconic, muscular statue of David, many of the characters seen in these genres epitomize what the male and female bodies are supposed to look like. The men tend to look built, fit, and agile, while the women tend to look beautiful, thin, and wear revealing clothing.

Much of fantasy-themed literature and gaming emphasizes the male ideals of heroism, responsibility, and power. In the popular game Skyrim, the hero spends his or her time running around a vast world, going on daunting quests, collecting weapons, improving skills, and battling demonic animals in order to protect the relatively peaceful community that they live in. The same ideals are seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of the Ring or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The lands are spectacular, imaginative works of splendid beauty like ancient forests, forgotten caves, and little villages. Usually, years of thought and grueling work goes into them, as seen in the film The Indie Game, which highlights the history of gaming, the tedious process that gaming developers go through, and the effect that it has on consumers.

“It’s not just a game,” Phil Fish, creator of the game Fez, said in the film. “I’m so closely attached to it. This is my identity.” His game sold 20,000 units the first day it debuted and a year later hit the 200,000 mark.

In a society that constantly seems to be dealing with an overwhelming amount of unsolved problems and issues, gaming allows the user an escape to become a part of a different world. Despite the ideals of grandeur that the quirky tales and characters play out, the underlying grand themes are displayed in a sort of juvenile and child-like tenor. It is almost like regular gamers should be diagnosed with the Peter Pan effect—they reach out to these games to enter another world, where making a potion or combat have no serious consequence other than having the potion go wrong or losing a leg during the battle and grudgingly having to restart the game. But it also goes deeper than that. It is a way of communication, a relation with a character. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, said his game was “making it was about ‘let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game.’” And that was exactly what he did.

Image by Andy Simmons.

Flux Playlist: A Disney Disco

What do we want to be when we grow up? Obviously, we want to be college students who still listen to Disney songs. And, hey, we’ve achieved our dream!

This playlist was difficult to make: how on Earth are we supposed to pick just three Disney songs each to represent the bulk of our childhood? How can such a tiny number of songs properly convey the memories these lyrical tunes inspire in each of us? From The Little Mermaid to Ducktales to Bambi, we hope our choices are able to bring you back to a simpler time, a time of mom cutting your spaghetti and tee-ball practice. A time of Disney.

Sam

A Whole New World – Aladdin
My Lullaby – The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride
Part of Your World – The Little Mermaid

Rache’ll

Colors of the Wind – Pocahontas
Kiss The Girl – The Little Mermaid
Almost There – Princess and the Frog

Sarah

I’ll Make a Man out of You – Mulan
Hakuna Matata – The Lion King
Go the Distance – Hercules

Emily

Little April Shower – Bambi
So This Is Love – Cinderella

Marissa

Everybody Wants To Be A Cat – The Aristocats
The Circle Of Life – The Lion King
When You Wish Upon A Star – Pinocchio

Casey

Rescue Aid Society – The Rescuers
Stand Out + Eye to Eye – A Goofy Movie
Duck Tales Theme Song – Ducktales

Great Expectations Fulfilled: Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” Soundtrack

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-Emily Fraysse

Director Baz Luhrmann has become infamous in the cinematic world for reworking, rejuvenating, and remixing old songs into a refreshing rendition. His latest film, The Great Gatsby, is no exception.

On May 2, the entire album was leaked to the public for listening-only. Combining an all-star collection of artists like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, The xx, and Fergie, the album captures the fame and glory of the main character, Jay Gatsby, and the over-the-top ragers he throws at his mansion in New York City during the roaring ’20s. The book, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, states that, “the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached hysteria.” The soundtrack reflects this imagery.

Luhrmann’s post-modernistic style leaves the soundtrack with a juxtaposition of classic jazz and current styles of rap, pop, and hip-hop. NPR explains that by, “distilling the essence of the Jazz Age though never completely reflecting it, this soundtrack is as much an event as is the film that inspired it.”

This left many people in the NPR community and beyond disappointed because of the lack of the traditional Jazz music that was the epitome of that era. So, why did Luhrmann stray away from period music? Don’t get me wrong—there’s a bit of the ’20s sprinkled through a few of the songs. In the text, Fitzgerald makes references to jazz-influenced pop songs that capture the amplification of the parties Gatsby throws and the lusciousness of his filthy-rich lifestyle. The soundtrack portrays the period of music that we are in right now—the “hip-hop age.” The mixture of talented artists, ranging from rap to alternative, exemplify how hip-hop is deeply embedded in rock and dance music. With the juxtaposition of the roaring twenties period shown on the screen, the viewers get to feel the impact of modern-day music, just as Fitzgerald did for the readers of his novel when it was published in 1925.

The question is: will the work of a variety of artists reflect the work of this brilliant writer, or will it take away from the film? I guess we’ll have to wait and see when the film opens May 10.

Grade: A-

Image from http://last.fm.

Translating the (Ridiculous) Language of Redbox

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-Reed Nelson

Take a trip to your local Redbox. With you, take a pad of paper, preferably pocket-sized, and a writing utensil, preferably not a fountain pen. Write down the movies you see.

Go ahead, I’ll wait. You can find more of them in this town than street signs in the University District.

But if you don’t want to scroll through such memorable titles as Stitches, Skew, Pawn, and Expiration, here is what you missed: an electronic box featuring a mystically infinite selection of films with titles like Stitches, Skew, Pawn, and Expiration.

Sure, Academy Award winning films can be found at most locations (Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, and Django Unchained to name a few), but why would anyone rent something that pretentious when K-11, the story of Raymond Saxx—two x’s, in case the first one got lost in plot detail—is available. According to the informational screen, it’s about a businessman who gets sent to the LGBT wing of the Los Angeles County Jail where he then gets Nasty-Nated by “Mousey, a malicious transgendered inmate.”

Redbox, you have my attention. Especially when the opening line of plot info on Life of Pi reads, “A Montreal writer in search of his next project happens across the incredible story of Piscine Militor Patel.” Boring.

Why would I want a title longer than ten characters, anyway? 140 is so 2010. If I’m renting a movie, I’m renting Jacob, a movie that most definitely stars the Baby Sinclair puppet from Dinosaurs, but all grown up.

Or maybe I’ll just go with The Wicked or The Collection or The Bay. Or another one that starts with “the.”

Lord knows I’m not making that intrepid journey up to the last remaining Blockbuster in South Eugene. So what if I wanted to rent Annie Hall or The Squid and the Whale? I came home just as happy with The Marine 3: Homefront and Ghost Storm, the latter of which is a movie about two heroes saving the wonderful folks “on a small island from a strange electrical storm which is led by angry souls looking for revenge.”

(Again, their words, not mine. But, information authors at Redbox, that whole leaving-out-the-name-of-the-island move? Well played. I need to know. Like, right now.)

But Redbox is like Steve Jobs: I don’t know I want it until Redbox gives it to me. Vengeful Ghost Storms? Yup. I’m in. I already have so many questions. Like, is this based on a true story? How many ghosts does it take to make a Ghost Storm? Are there Ghost Drizzles? How about Ghost Hurricanes? Or do supernatural atmospheric occurrences peter out around Ghost Nor’easters? Are the individual ghosts visible during one of these storms? Or is it just like a collective energy kind of thing? Why is there no mention of Ghost Cellars? If this is a remote island, shouldn’t they have severe storm precautions? How does a Ghost Storm differ from, say, a Mount Olympus-inspired Midwestern thunder-and-lightening throw-down? Could those two types of storms duke it out in the sequel? Can you start a Kickstarter for the sequel involving warring storms?

See. Redbox was right. Ghost Storms are infinitely more interesting than stories of human behavior, test of will, and interpersonal relationships.

That’s why I don’t go to Blockbuster anymore. And it’s the same reason I traded in my working automobile for a Segway. Gas-mileage, baby, I’m progressive.

Blockbuster, after all, is so expensive. three dollars for a movie? Rather have a Red Bull Special Edition Blueberry, thank you very much. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen all the award winners at Redbox, I’ll pay a dollar to see them again.

(I will then let them sit on my kitchen counter for the next six days, allowing them to become, individually, six dollar movies instead of one dollar movies, thus defeating the entire purpose. But, in the immortal words of Icona Pop: I crashed my car into a bridge. Wait that wasn’t right, I was looking for: I don’t care, I love it. That’s right, I love holding onto movies that I’m not all that into for an extended period of time, bleeding my bank account like some mini-Office Space siphon job.)

So, next time you want to rent a movie that you haven’t seen in a while, or maybe you just want to finally watch Shawshank Redemption for the first time, go instead to Redbox, and grab yourself a copy of So Undercover, starring Miley Cyrus. It’s totally the same thing, I swear.

Image by Valerie Everett.