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May 9, 2016

GUEST ROOM | Farewell, My Sun

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It’s been a journey. There’ve been ups and downs and many exciting moments for me as a staff writer in the Arts & Entertainment section of The Sun — ranked #1 among college papers by Princeton Review — and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my thoughts and opinions on my favorite art form in the world, cinema, with a community of intelligent, media-savvy people who actually enjoy art. There’s no finer school in which to have a dialogue about artwork with your fellow writers, professors and peers. I made some of my best friends while covering the movie beat (still trying to match you for prolificness, Zach Zahos ’15, and you for enthusiasm, Sean Doolittle ’16) and got to participate in something very special.

Some highlights for me include my interviews with Paul Verhoeven during my sophomore year, with several employees of Pixar Animation Studios who are alums and with Rachel Reichman, the editor of Hitchcock/Truffaut, this March. Even though the arts section is not without its problems (we gotta work on beefing up our top ten lists, guys) I nevertheless enjoyed selecting ten gems in each category at the end of every year. It’s an efficient way to canonize and quantify what your favorite artistic experiences of the year were, when of course such a task is impossible. My biggest WTF moment came last November when Neill Blomkamp, director of District 9, sent an email to me asking for clarification due to the dip in quality I had perceived in his work of late. I was enthralled and flabbergasted at the same time — who knew an Academy Award-winning director reads this shit?

That’s a little lesson to bear in mind, my fellow Sunnies: you never know who’s reading. I believe my opinions on Mr. Blomkamp’s work were valid, but always make sure you mean what you write and think carefully, particularly when covering people. It’s a lot easier when you are talking about their work rather than them, but it can be a slippery slope.

I joined the arts section during the spring of my freshman year, buoyed by the excitement of getting to share my passion for movies with the Cornell population. I remember reading the review of Silver Linings Playbook and putting in a call to the section to see if I could join in. It was one of the best decisions I made in my Cornell career. This has been an integral part of my college life, it has improved my writing dramatically — if you wanna get better grades on essays, my friends, writing dozens of articles for a highly respected public forum is the best way to do it.

The last thing I’ll ask you to think about is to not undermine the importance of keeping the arts alive and well here on campus. In a school where indeed every study is available in the highest possible fashion, and everywhere you turn you meet a different major, discussion topics are nonetheless dominated by the hard sciences: biology, engineering, animal science, physics, chemistry. It’s our responsibility as arts writers to keep the humanities alive and well here, and I have no doubt that as long as there is a campus up here in Ithaca there will be a strong verve for the humanities, but it only exists as long as the enthusiasm does, too.

There was a very good article published around the end of last semester encouraging all students to make time in their lives for the humanities, and I couldn’t agree more. During your busy week of studying and library hours, find time to visit the Johnson Museum. Please, for the love of God, go to Cornell Cinema and appreciate the wonderful film archive we have available here — it is as good as a national treasure — run by a bunch of talented, devoted students who volunteer their time so that we can have a rich cinematic experience. Visit Cinemapolis too, a brilliant little independent theater we are lucky to have in town, and then go to the multiplex to catch the latest blockbuster. Spend less time twittering and tweeting and on Facebook and Instagram. Go see a production or two or three at the Schwartz instead. Let the folks there know that the theater department is a strong and important feather in our cap. You won’t have as much fun being home on your laptop. A real sense of community happens in our public consumption and discussion of art and culture. And that community is what life in college is all about.

Mark DiStefano is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at mdistefano@cornellsun.com. Guest Room appears alternate Tuesdays this semester. 

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