Ruby-Sparks

GUEST ROOM | Farewell, My Sun

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.

COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.

Midnight Special is Sweet and Suspenseful Sci-Fi Fun

Contrary to its title, which sounds like a menu item from a 24-hour restaurant, Midnight Special has to do with aliens, supernatural powers and fatherly love rather than featured desserts or entrées. What should catch your eye about this baby is that it is directed by Jeff Nichols, the Arkansas-based filmmaker who is one of the foremost emerging voices in American independent cinema. In the past few years, he has directed Mud, Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories, quite an impressive roster. Midnight Special is his first studio film, and Nichols avoids the curse of the big budget by keeping his story firmly attuned to character, spending only peanuts where studio money is concerned ($18 million) and relying on his trusty Michael Shannon, a collaborator in all of his previous films. There’s a dramatic tendency for successful independent filmmakers to go SFX crazy when they have bigger tools in their toolbox, but Nichols proves that no matter how many toys he has at his disposal, his understanding of the fundamental principles of storytelling remains intact. This is demonstrated when Nichols opens the film in media res, a technique that may have some viewers running to catch up, but one that I greatly appreciate.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Everybody Wants Some a’ This Movie!!

Everybody Wants Some!!, the latest by Richard Linklater, that great subtle anthropologist of the mundane and the minute, concerns a bunch of douchebag jocks. The entire movie is a prolonged testosterone-driven hunt for T & A, with lots of beer and competitive ball-busting in between. Every character in the movie is a derelict, a meathead or a womanizer. I loved every single minute of it. The movie is a joyride, every bit as good as Linklater’s perennial high school classic Dazed and Confused, and is destined to become one of the great American collegiate slacker films, up there with Animal House.

COURTESY OF BROAD GREEN PICTURES

Cinema of Transcendence: Knight of Cups

“And in the luck of night, in secret places where no other spied, I went without my sight, without a light to guide, except the heart that lit me from inside.”

— St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

Cinema is a miracle. Franchises and multiplexes make us forget, but to watch cinema is to receive profound insight on the inner workings of life and to experience a meditation on the world from another’s point of view. Roger Ebert called the movies a machine for generating empathy. Ideally, you can feel your world growing when you watch a special movie.

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Reel Talk: A Conversation with Film Editor Rachel Reichman

After a screening of Hitchcock/Truffaut last week at Cornell Cinema, Sun Staff Writer Mark DiStefano ’16 was fortunate enough to speak with the film’s co-producer and editor, Rachel Reichman. The conversation encompassed favorite films, a liberal arts education, the process of film editing and the nature of art itself. The Sun: What do you see the essential job of an editor to be? Rachel Reichman: Well, for every film it’s different. In documentaries of course, the editor is a stronger participant in the storytelling than they are in narrative work.

Hitchcock/Truffaut at Cornell Cinema

If you are a film buff, a film major or a filmmaker, the work of Hitchcock should be running on a 24 hour loop inside your head. If you are any of the above and haven’t seen the man’s work, a self-respecting film buff would cry, “What the MacGuffin is wrong with you?” and prescribe you a steady diet of Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho and others. I’m afraid I am not one of said film buffs who would do such a thing. Yes, I am a PMA major and aspiring filmmaker, but I have never been overtly enamored with the classic films of the great director. Personally, I’m more partial to his earlier work — The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps — and I even wrote a paper in Global I about the perceived lapse in quality — apparently noticed only by myself and Pauline Kael — as Hitch entered Hollywood.

COURTESY OF GAELIC STORM

Irresistibly Upbeat: Gaelic Storm at the State Theatre

Remember a little movie from the late 90s called Titanic? Remember the dancing scene in third class with Jack and Rose spinning around the table? Ladies and gentlemen, last Saturday at the State Theater, that scene’s own traditional Celtic band: Gaelic Storm. The band’s most recent album, Matching Sweaters, is the their twelfth, released in July 2015; it peaked at 60 on Billboard 200 the following month. As a side note, Storm’s albums tend to have very playful, colorful titles: Chicken Boxer (2012), Cabbage (2010) and Herding Cats (1999), on which the famous track from Titanic appears.

The Witch Casts a Disturbing Spell

Until it goes off the rails in its third act, The Witch maintains an unnerving, tense aura of creepiness and dread. The dread comes not from gore or bloodshed, but from the overwhelming threat of violence that seems inevitable in a 1630s Puritan setting. That is Puritan, not puritanical. These folks in bonnets and heavy cloth seem like the real witches; they would be willing to sacrifice their children if commanded to do so. The Witch occurs in an environment where religious devotion and the desire to avoid the hot place approach insanity.

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Guest Room | Oscar Bait Doesn’t Stick

In 2006, a film called Crash took the Oscar for Best Picture home, prompting a surge of outrage. It is now best remembered as the punch line of jokes about unwarranted Oscar-winners and is perhaps more reviled than is necessary. Is it a bad film? No. But while it is only somewhat clunky and rough around the edges, it is not — in my humble opinion — superior to Capote, Brokeback Mountain, A History of Violence and even Cinderella Man.

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Arts Writers Feud Over Potential Oscar Winners

The only thing more divisive than religion and politics is opposing Oscars predictions. The Arts section has weighed in on their favorites; where do yours stack up? Best Picture
Will Win: The Revenant

As much as we would like to see something smart like Spotlight or funny like The Big Short take home the coveted award of Best Picture, we will probably see Alejandro Iñárritu walk out with a little golden man for the second year in a row.  The story of a frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) out to seek vengeance on the man who left him for dead (Tom Hardy) is a simple yet intense storyline.  It is beautifully shot — thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki —  with vast shots of nature and landscapes.