The University’s Film, Television and Interactive Media Program hosted a screening in Wasserman Cinematheque of Paul Weitz’s “Bel Canto,” a film adaptation of its 2001 namesake thriller by Ann Patchett, on the eve of the movie’s release on Amazon Prime. Based on a real 1996-97 hostage crisis in Lima, Peru, the film takes place in a Vice-Presidential manor that is overrun by Latin American freedom fighters. The wealthy dinner guests are trapped by hostile guerilla fighters in a house with little to do. With their lives left in the hands of a Red Cross negotiator, sparks fly, relationships are formed and secrets are revealed. The screening was made possible due to producer and Brandeis alumna Caroline Baron ’83.
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This was a year of box office records. “Black Panther” became the ninth-highest grossing film of all time with a $1.3 billion take; “Incredibles 2” became the highest non-PG-13 grosser of all time besides a list of box office records in the animation genre; “Avengers: Infinity War” conquered theaters worldwide with a claim on the $2 billion milestone. Additionally, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the deep dive into the life of beloved children’s entertainer Fred Rogers, became the top-grossing biographical documentary of all time at $20 million. Average per-screen grosses were also very impressive with the releases of “Eighth Grade,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “BlacKkKlansman,” and the 50th anniversary re-release of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Critic loves this season's films Kent Dinlenc While the past few months have been devoid of the indie films I was anticipating, I was pleasantly surprised by what has been released. I have spouted enough praise for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and thoroughly reviewed 2017 as a whole, so I’ve decided to solely cover the films that came out during the spring semester.
Ridgewood A was packed with great performances from groups of various branches of the arts. However, my favorite would have to be the Music and Dance Band. Their renditions of pop favorites across decades energized the room. Director Steven Tarr ’19 arranged “Jet,” as played by Maynard Ferguson, “Baba Yetu” by Christopher Tin, “Temple of Boom” by Lucky Chops, “Africa” by Toto and “The Saints Go Marching In.” Tarr, his co-director Matthew Kowalyk ’18 and their 10 or so players put its audience in a mood that made you forget about the gloomy weather outside. Despite the fact that “Africa” has had a recent resurgence in popularity, you could hear the audience singing along to the primarily brass band performed their best during “Temple of Boom,” creating an apt atmosphere for the Ridgewood A Commons with strong trombone and tenor sax solos. The hallmark of a great performance is when the performers are having just as much fun as the audience, and you could clearly observe the group’s passion and dedication to their music. Catch them at the Midnight Buffet if you haven’t heard them yet.
Children dancing. Students dancing. Adults dancing. Grandparents dancing. This was the effect Kotoko Brass had on its audience in the tent on the Great Lawn last Sunday. The group performed blends of West African, Japanese and American styles of music with a saxophone player, a trombone player, a keyboard player, a drummer on a traditional drum set and two men playing various types of African drums. The atmosphere was electric. My fingers were moving to the beat of the drums as I typed away messages dragging people into the tent. The music boomed across the Great Lawn through the drizzle. The musicians went on 5-minute-long solos over steady drumming beats, but the fun really started when the drummers themselves began their solos. There was not a frown in the tent. Everyone enjoyed themselves and had a great time dancing and tapping their feet during what I feel was the best performance of the festival that I attended last week.
Shakespeare. Rowling. Tolkien. King. Seuss. What do all of these writers have in common? They are all eclipsed by the iconic Agatha Christie in estimated book sales, who herself is only outsold by the Bible. Christie’s renowned standalone whodunits, as well as her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series, have shaped the mystery genre since she began writing in 1920. Her novels have been adapted countless times into acclaimed TV series, feature films and stage plays. On April 14, the Undergraduate Theater Collective put on a production of “And Then There Were None,” one of her most famous novels, which she later adapted for the stage. It is currently the best-selling crime novel of all time. The production was directed by Merrick Mendenhall ’20.
This weekend, Brandeis’ Undergraduate Theater Collective presented the classic Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast,” directed by Maia Cataldo ’20. The show was a faithful production of the Alan Menken musical adapted from the 1991 animated film of the same name. The fantasy romance is based on the French fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont and tells the story of Belle, a girl who is ostracized for her academic inclinations. She runs off into the woods to look for her father, who is imprisoned in a cursed castle. All of the castle’s inhabitants have been turned into household objects, unable to assume their human forms until their master, who has been transformed into a beast, finds true love.
On March 12, the American Studies program hosted a film screening of the 1985 Hector Babenco film “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” The program borrowed the 35-mm film from the Library of Congress and was brought to us by its Academy Award-nominated producer, David Weisman, and his brother, Sam Weisman. It was screened for Planet Hollywood: American Cinema in Global Perspective, taught by Prof. Thomas Doherty (AMST), but was open to all students.
The Brandeis Shakespeare Society, also known as Hold Thy Peace, put on an adaptation of playwright Ellen McLaughlin’s “Iphigenia and Other Daughters” this past weekend in the Shapiro Campus Center. The story revolves around a family of women in ancient Greece who are left behind by the men in their lives who have traditionally defined them, focusing on the lives that are swept to the sides of history to make way for the men. McLaughlin’s take on the aftermath of Iphigenia’s sacrifice to the gods delves deep into the thoughts of Iphigenia, her mother and two sisters.
The Center for German and European Studies hosted a film night at the Wasserman Cinematheque on Feb. 28. The department screened “Fukushima Mon Amour,” a film following a 20-something German woman travelling to the site of the 2011 nuclear meltdown caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. She goes to an adjacent temporary residence to entertain the remaining citizens who insisted on staying in their hometown. When she is tricked into bringing an old geisha back to her destroyed home a few kilometers away, the two rebuild the house in an attempt to escape their past mistakes.
Theaters these days are full of fast-paced movies with modern filmmaking techniques and complex story structures, but sometimes one needs to step on the brakes and go back almost a century to the films that introduced these practices we now take for granted. One must return to the golden age of cinema, to the Hollywood of the late 1920s to early 1960s. So, amid the oncoming onslaught of summer blockbusters which seems to come to theaters earlier and earlier every year (I’m looking at you “Black Panther,” “Tomb Raider” and “Pacific Rim: Uprising”), it seemed just to attend an on-campus screening of a Buster Keaton film.
I think Stephen Colbert said it best on The Late Show on Jan. 23, the night after the 90th annual Oscar nominations were announced: “There are no controversies over lack of diversity. …With no big Oscar snubs, who are we mad at?” While I don’t believe diversity is an indicator of quality, there are very few exceptions to this year’s nominees that I take issue with. It happens to be that the Oscars got most everything right this year. This growing inclusion is more a commentary on the industry than on the quality of the films released in 2017.
REVIEW — There seems to be a resurgence of good Westerns lately, supported by the fresh release, “Hostiles.” After recent triumphs like “Wind River,” “Hell or High Water,” “The Hateful Eight” and “The Revenant,” I might want to re-watch some of the classics, ,from John Ford’s “The Searchers” to any selection out of Sergio Leone’s oeuvre. The modern moviegoer wants more tales of frontier justice, taking place in the fabled territory west of the Mississippi.
Review — January is that time of the year when we reflect on the good that has happened in the past 12 months and anticipate the good that is on the horizon. Sure, this is a healthy attitude to approach in terms of life choices, but I’m here in the Arts section to talk about movies. So, as I always do, I’ve completed my top 10 list of 2017. All of the featured films are arranged based on five criteria: the cinematic experience, its re-watchability, its impact to the genre, the overall filmmaking quality and the presence of a unique perspective. All of these are graded as at least an A-. Before we begin, here are some honorable mentions: “Okja,” “The Big Sick,” “Norman,” “I, Tonya” and “Molly’s Game.”
Review — If you walked in to Hold Thy Peace’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” expecting a somewhat-faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic playthis weekend, you were definitely disappointed. I try my best to walk into Shakespeare productions with an open mind because the director will always have a unique vision or interpretation. However, I was still skeptical going forward. The play was staged in the Shapiro Campus Center’s multi-purpose room, which, beforehand, had not seemed like an optimal location for the play. I had also heard beforehand that the adaptation of the typically two-to-two-and-a-half-hour play was shortened to roughly 70 minutes.
Review — It’s quite hard for me to find a show that makes me laugh. I consider myself to be a very tough audience member to please. I rarely laugh out loud, and my taste in comedy is quite distinct, being much darker than most. One group, however, has consistently made me laugh in the past: Boris’ Kitchen.
Critics are nobody’s favorite people in the arts community. Artists work hard for months or even years at a time only to be criticized in a few hundred words written by a third-party audience member with their own subjective preferences and interpretations. This, however, is what makes the critic’s circle so diverse. It’s not made up of generous opinions. We are all a part of a varied community. We muddle each others’ voices, thinking ours is more important and correct than our friends’. We are all alike in this way. This is the nature of criticism. Positive criticism prompts thought-provoking discussion and enjoyment. Negative criticism is fun to read and discuss because we all have a little schadenfreude in us. It is all an inescapable part of life.
Review — Sterile. Raw. Complex. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is not unlike heart surgery. It’s slow. It’s careful. It’s layered. Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film takes a deep look into the peaceful home life of a heart surgeon (Colin Farrell) and his ophthalmologist wife (Nicole Kidman) together with their older daughter and younger son. However, their peace is disrupted when a neighborhood boy (Barry Keoghan) begins tormenting them for an undisclosed reason, shaking up their mild and dull lives in the upper class. What proceeds is a tense drama and a countdown of unknown terrors the father must prevent.
Review — This weekend I paid a visit to the Shapiro Campus Center theater to watch “The Sparrow,” the latest production by the Undergraduate Theater Collective. The play, written in 2007 by Chris Matthews, Nathan Allen and Jake Minton, revolves around a girl named Emily (Maia Cataldo ’20) returning to her hometown after being the sole survivor of a fatal accident with her second-grade class ten years prior, an accident that leaves her with survivor’s guilt. As she tries with some difficulty to assimilate into the junior class, she befriends her counselor and biology teacher, Mr. Christopher (Rodrigo Alfaro Garcia Granados ’18), and a cheerleader, Jenny (Caitlin Crane-Moscowitz ’20). A few weeks later, when one of Jenny’s cheerleading stunts goes awry, Emily saves her while simultaneously exposing her telekinetic ability. She becomes popular for a while until she witnesses a disheveled Jenny, who has lost her place, kissing Mr. Christopher, who is reminded of his dead wife when caring for her. Emily’s life unravels and reveals to all that she caused the incident all those years ago by using her abilities.