What do 12-step programs and Jesus Christ’s foreskin have to do with each other? Victor Mancini, apparently. In Choke, Mancini, played by Sam Rockwell, is a (barely) recovering sex addict who works as a tour guide for a re-enactment of colonial America. His mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston) is rapidly deteriorating within a mental hospital and, in order to pay for her care, Victor grifts patrons at restaurants by pretending to choke on his food. He defends his actions by claiming to inject a sense of purpose into the patrons’ otherwise empty lives — he turns ordinary people into saviors and heroes.
When I learned about David Sedaris’s newest book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I cringed in the midst of my excitement. Although I enjoyed his previous work, I wondered if there was any way for him to surpass himself with his latest work. Many of his books are based on his life (an author’s note in his newest release states that the events described are “realish”), and often the more an author writes about his or her own life, the harder it is to keep the subject matter from going stale.
This past weekend, animator Brent Green showcased his short films at Cornell Cinema. As a sort of experimental vaudeville, he narrated his films live with accompaniment from four indie musicians: Brendan Canty (Fugazi), Jim Becker (Califone), Alan Scalpone (The Bitter Tears) and Rodney McLaughlin. Before the event, The Sun sat down with Brent and Brendan, to get a sense of the men behind the music (so to speak).
The Sun: How do you feel that animation and music enhance each other?
Brendan Canty: Watching a film with pre-recorded narration is vastly different from watching one where the narration is improvised. There’s a degree of temporality within improvisation.
Sun: What makes temporality important?
B.C.: I think that shared experience is the crux.
Since the end of the 20th century, the definition of animation has shifted from referring to the hand-drawn cels seen in The Little Mermaid to computer animated graphics produced by studios like Pixar. As a result, the world of animation has become largely homogenized and has lost the majority of its charm. There is, however, a handful of artists and animators who stray from the CGI path to create something that harkens back to animation’s celluloid past while presenting work that is defiant, bold and courageously innovative. Brent Green is one such animator.
Since the Crimean War, there have been photographers documenting and crafting iconic images to present to the public, as representations of war, its consequences and its horrors. Sometimes, photographers veered away from strict documentary photography in favor of a more artistic slant, as in the case of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. In some of his photographs of dead soldiers on battlefields, the photographer moved the bodies into more favorable compositions and had some of his friends and colleagues pose amongst the corpses so as to make the battlefield appear more populated.
“Sometimes something can be so bad, it becomes good again.”
Ideally, this quotation could be applied to Hamlet 2 but, unfortunately, the film failed to land many of the lofty punches it threw. Its frequent parody of cinematic and theatrical tropes often kept it closely bound to the films it was trying to lampoon rather than elevating it above them. I frequently found myself questioning what the film was trying to accomplish and — considering the frequency with which the dialogue turned on its head a culture steeped in political correctness — this is dangerous territory for a film to attempt to navigate. Without its fleeting satiric triumphs, Hamlet 2 would have been indistinguishable from many of Hollywood’s recent comedies.
“I would like, if I may (You may NOT), to take you (Take me! Take me!) on a strange journey … ”
The film seemed ordinary enough when it was released in 1975; it was a musical that paid tongue-in-cheek homage to sci-fi b-movies from the 1950s. There was, however, something about this movie that left a very different taste in the audience’s mouths. It was more risqué than audiences were accustomed to and it made blatant and irreverent reference to taboo sexual subjects. Few people, if any, watched the movie during its original run in theatres, and it quietly sank into obscurity, if only temporarily.
Stephen Colbert performed in Barton Hall on Friday evening and one thing is certain: he did not come to Cornell to make friends. His usual gift for satire fell flat on Friday evening. It seemed as if any sarcastic remark that Colbert directed towards the audience was eclipsed by their dog-like admiration for the comedian.
Before the performance began, I noticed that the stage in Barton Hall was flanked, as usual by two large screens. The screens consisted of large projections of Colbert’s trademark — the letter C with the eagle and American flag — emblazoned on it. At this point, I was not quite sure what to expect from the performance I was about to see.
In 2005, a music video entitled “Trapped in the Closet” made its debut on MTV and BET. R. Kelly used it to tell the simple cautionary tale of the consequences of going home with a “hot shorty” after a night of club-hopping. It begins when Sylvester, the narrator, finds himself in a strange bed, wondering what he is doing there. Moments later, Sylvester’s shorty from the night before enters the bedroom and Sylvester informs her that he needs to return to his wife and home. Unfortunately for Sylvester, the shorty hears her husband coming home, thus barring Sylvester from making a quick escape from her house.
And so, a question is posed: “What’s a thug to do?”
The only reasonable answer? Hide in the closet.
Bestselling author/comedian sells out State Theatre
David Sedaris wishes the truth were prettier. Really, he does. He wishes that “the truth were always pretty, without blood bubbles or little hairs in it.” Well, that’s what he said Sunday night when the Ithaca State Theatre held its fifth sold out show of the season, hosting “An Evening With David Sedaris.”