One of the largest comics publishers has reached a milestone anniversary this year. Image Comics, now in its 25th year, also happens to be experiencing of its most successful years ever. Initially a major driver of the speculation boom in the early ‘90s comics market, Image has recently reached the pop culture zeitgeist again with numerous bestselling titles which put most of Marvel and DC’s output outside the box office to shame. Image has represented very polarizing ideals in the comics scene over the years, a seeming contradiction in the direct market paradigm. On one hand, they have represented the utter absence of artistry in the mainstream, the muscle-bound inanity and collector’s items of the late nineties boom and bust at their most abject.
On Sunday Night, Casey Affleck stood on the stage of the Oscars wearing a very nice suit with and a very nice beard and a very nice ACLU ribbon on his jacket, and accepted the Academy Award for Best Actor. A great number of journalists have written detailed accounts of Affleck’s sex crimes of intimidation, harassment and physical assault against Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka on the set of his 2012, I’m Still Here. You can read the entirety of Gorka’s lawsuit here, and an excellent analysis of the controversy here. Whether or not you knew that Casey Affleck was a sexual predator, the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences assuredly did, and still decided that his profoundly ok performance as a very sad janitor was worth more than women’s dignity. Personally, I am still waiting to see a film so good that it is worth legitimizing sexual violence in order to reward it; a movie more compelling than my own humanity.
All your favorite artists are problematic. It’s an obvious statement, but one that resurfaces on social media in the wake of most every celebrity scandal, from Kanye’s vocal support of Donald Trump to Azaelia Banks’ apparent Twitter crusade against any and all forms of human decency. Of course, with other artists the crimes prove more unforgivable, inviting armchair critics everywhere to try and reconcile good art’s occasional tendency to come from bad people. Skillful deflections and self-justifications on this topic range from “Only a troubled mind could have made this!” to the more nihilistic “Everything is terrible; we might as well enjoy the music”. It’s an exhausting debate, and one that seems to affirm the sad truth that people will always do what they can to avoid feeling guilty in their indulgences.
On June 15, 2012, I remember watching the premiere for a new Disney cartoon titled Gravity Falls. It was pretty wacky and funny, and had a twist that actually made me raise my eyebrows. But again, it was a Disney cartoon, and after a few episodes I shrugged it off. It was definitely better than anything else on Disney Channel at that time, yet it wasn’t anything special, right? On February 15, 2016, I remember watching the finale for Gravity Falls.
As an arts writer, they tell you not to beat dead horses. We are told, when we get the keys to a one-bedroom flat of internet article space to dispose of our thoughts in, not to belabor on topics where debate is no longer generative; where a cultural consensus has been reached, or all viable arguments have been made. When Kim comes out with receipts incriminating Taylor for using Guys-Kanye-Called-Me-A-Bitch-Troops-Assemble feminism for personal gain, we are not supposed to shout into the crowded internet void about it, because the internet is a highly effective instrument that responds at hyper-speed to such events — and there are literally offices full of 20-something bloggers in every major city paid to sit around and wait for stuff like that to happen, and produce appropriately snarky takes on it. So, if you’re not one of those people paid to stare out at the internet and write that first “Taylor Lied and Here’s Why She’s The Whitest and Lamest Feminist Who Ever Lived, Who Gives Me Existential Doubt and Acid Reflux About The State of Feminism” article — don’t. I’ve shouted a lot about indie rock in the past few days.
Last week, I attended the Cornell Cinema screening of Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro. I went for one of my film classes, intending to observe its cinematography and formal construction. I did a quick read up on the film before entering the theatre, understanding that it was crafted around the words of the late James Baldwin, but I had no sense of how pertinent and striking the documentary would be. I Am Not Your Negro surprised me in more ways than one and made me truly reconsider my own complacency in our racially divided society. In this film, Raoul Peck captures Baldwin’s writings and taped speeches with absolute mastery.
This article is dedicated to Alex Lugo, a good friend and Viper superfan. While the official lineup of musical acts for this year’s Slope Day have not yet been confirmed, the names currently under consideration are available, and they are all to a man mediocre. This is not shocking — an institutionally sanctioned college party isn’t usually going to feature boundary-pushing artists. However, one Facebook page sees an alternative. Labelled “community,” Viper for Slope Day 2017 argues that the eponymous rapper-cum-meme should headline the spring event.
“In reality, I actually wanted to participate in honoring Prince on the show, but then I figured my best tribute to that man’s legacy would be to continue to be myself out here and to be successful.” That’s Frank Ocean, speaking out in an epic, all-caps Tumblr post against Ken Ehrlich, the Grammys’ producer who condescendingly dismissed the singer’s decision to skip this year’s awards ceremony. He goes on, “Winning a TV award doesn’t christen me successful… I am young, black, gifted and independent. That’s my tribute.” The tirade had the world of music blogs questioning whether Frank had legitimately cursed this year’s Grammys, a thesis easily supported by the content of the show itself. If nothing else, 2016 proved to be a revitalizing year for pop music, generating more great albums than the Sun’s Arts staff could possibly hope to cover. One might have wistfully dreamt, then, that an ounce of that ingenuity would find itself reflected in the bloated, corporate pageantry of the music industry’s “big night.” Instead, we got James Corden falling down a flight of stairs, James Corden pretending to rap (I blame Hamilton for that one), James Corden sheepishly promoting Carpool Karaoke and Beyoncé mercifully upstaging all of those things.
From ages 11-15 my outfit of choice amounted to a t-shirt of my favorite metal band, my pale-ass shaved head, and a pair of khaki shorts to beat the heat. The band on the shirts varied. The trend began with messy Slipknot and Tool and System of a Down shirts (metal snobs feel free to roll your eyes) and ended with the designs of Mastodon’s Blood Mountain plastered across my torso. I wore them for a lot of reasons, some of which had to do with how much I enjoyed sneering at the cute little middle schoolers who got weirded out by my fashion taste. But first and foremost I came to school in these morbid cotton nightmares because I thought the music was rad as hell.
In general, I try not to learn too much about new movies before I see them; I like to protect the unpredictability and promise one feels in the dark theater just before the movie begins. The only thing I knew about Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight coming in, besides that it had been widely acclaimed, was that it had a chopped and screwed version of Jidenna’s 2015 club hit “Classic Man” in it, which had been showcased in a trailer I hadn’t actually seen but had heard about. This song provided a barometer of the age and perspective of the people I saw the movie with. I saw Moonlight first with my parents, and tried to talk to them about why the inclusion of an altered version of the song was an interesting choice; they didn’t know the original song and didn’t have much interest in why a remix of it was in the movie. When I saw the film again a few weeks later with two high school friends, about three seconds into the scene in which the song comes blaring out of the car speakers, my friend leaned over and whispered, “Ayyy, chopped and screwed!”
The “chopped and screwed” style of remixing hip-hop originated in Houston in the ‘90s, although it’s found a second life in online file-sharing sites like DatPiff, where amateur DJs can upload their own mixes of hit songs and albums. The sound comes from two processes: “chopping” — cutting up sections of the song or vocals and making them repeat as if a DJ scratch – and “screwing,” slowing the tempo down so that the pitch of the instruments and vocals falls as well (the name for this comes from DJ Screw, who is credited with the creation of the style).