We often neglect to appreciate what is right under our noses. This thought entered my head as soon as I stepped through the doors to The Katzen Art Museum this past Tuesday. I had previously thought that even in the artistic hub that is Washington D.C. that I had to travel (at least a few metro stops) to find great art. Yet, here it was mere feet from my dorm room.
In wake of a tragic mass shooting on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland students banded together to create a movement advocating for gun-control legislation. The March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018 was the culmination of these efforts, drawing thousands of protesters in Washington D.C. alone. Below is a video by blogger Lindsay Russell capturing the march through protest signs.
On Monday, February 12th, the official portraits of the 44th President and First Lady of The United States were revealed to the public in the National Portrait Gallery. Their unconventional use of posture, color, and texture, caused a bit of a stir in terms of the dis-similarity to prior presidential renderings. Discussing works of art and debating their value is a worthwhile endeavor, but many across the country are using this innocuous public celebration of Obama’s presidency, as a point of political outrage. With so many upheavals in this country and the world at large, it seems almost silly to get upset over the artistic styles of the chosen portraitists.
“Weirdly intimate”, would be how I describe Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, his first attempt at a full-length novel. Weird, mostly because of the structure of the novel, a unique blend between play, collage, and, of course, novel. Lincoln in the Bardo is delivered through points of views of a group of deceased buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown, manifesting somewhat magically in the bardo, which is a Tibetan concept of limbo between life and death. It centers around the voices of three characters: Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins III, and the reverend Everly Thomas, each who has his reason for staying in the bardo. The events of the living, centering around the death of Willie Lincoln, the third son of President Abraham Lincoln, is told through a series of collages, some of which are excerpts from real documents, others are made up. To Saunders’s credit, his weird structure is not meant to confuse the readers: indeed, he spends a good chunk of the pages at the beginning to familiarize readers with his style so that they will not be confused when a barrage of new characters showing up later in the story. The unusual structure also raises many questions: why does Saunders give us the stream of consciousness of the dead but not the living? What does it mean that many times the perspectives of the dead are interchangeable? There are potentially many other questions that make the style interesting.
This past Sunday, I attended AU’’s first ever ZineFest, which was co-hosted by AmLit in collaboration with Homie House Press. The event – Spills: A ZineFest – was an interactive and charming opportunity for creatives from around D.C and across the east coast to showcase their work and engage with intrigued students and patrons.
After the smash success of John Green’s previous book and later movie adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, I was apprehensive as to what to expect of his latest novel: Turtles All The Way Down. However, my uneasiness proved to be futile, as John Green did not disappoint. In fact, by the end of the novel, I found myself forgetting the popularity of Paper Towns and others that had come before, floored by the honesty and raw emotional expression of this new work. Set in Indianapolis, Turtles All The Way Down centers around 16-year-old Aza Holmes who struggles with severe O.C.D and anxiety that impairs her everyday interactions. Her thoughts of bacteria and being unclean torment her and manifest in reopening, sterilizing, and bandaging a cut on her finger, profusely sweating, fighting the urge to swallow hand sanitizer, and constant hypochondria about contracting the rare clostridium difficile infection. Readers follow Aza and her best friend Daisy, as they investigate the whereabouts of missing billionaire Russell Pickett (who is also the father of Aza'a childhood friend Davis) in hopes of securing the $100,000 reward for his capture. However, what results is much more than a missing person mystery. The novel captures the intricacies of teenage emotion and mental illness as Aza battles to cope with her spiraling thoughts, all the while navigating tumultuous friend/familial relationships and the complex dynamics of her first love. What impacted me most about the novel was the writing style itself. Through the use of repetition to mirror Aza’s incessant thoughts and the visceral anxiety analogies like the “thought spiral,” we as readers are immediately placed into Aza’s brain, allowing us to empathize with her. Green manages to convey Aza’s emotions to the point of producing physical discomfort in readers (I felt it) — a true feat. He also succeeds in giving voice to mental health conditions that have huge prevalence in our society today, in a way that feels honest and accurate, rather than stereotyped, one dimensional, or false. Perhaps this is due to Green’s personal struggles with anxiety and O.C.D, bringing an element of autobiography to Aza’s struggles. Engaging to the very end and a welcome diversion from Green’s usual comic relief amidst seriousness, Turtles All The Way Down will leave readers uncomfortable, allowing valuable space for thoughtful discussions about mental health.
Being an art lover, I was quick to jump at the opportunity to see the Renoir exhibit at The Phillips Collection as soon as it opened. The exhibition, Renoir and Friends, examines his famous work Luncheon at the Boating Party, the people within his paintings that crossed over from his real life, and the piece’s layered creation process. It struck me as a fresh lens for viewing a painter who has been commented on and critiqued often. To provide some background for those who are not familiar with Renoir’s work, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French painter associated with the Impressionist style of painting- a 19th century art movement characterized by small but visible brushstrokes and an emphasis on light and movement. He gained relative popularity during his lifetime creating portraits for the wealthy. Renoir’s work often focused on happy scenes with pleasant subject matter and youthful subjects, as he believed art should be beautiful and capture the highlights of life, rather than serious or dark moments.
The stage is set, literally; it is Friday night in the Katzen Studio Theater and I am sitting in the third row. The black box stage is sparse except for scattered music stands and the musicians tuning their instruments. The audience is gathered to see We Are Here, Jarrett Murray’s senior recital, a musical on homeless LGBTQ youth. The cast is small, only four AU student actors: Whitney Chante'l (Chay), James Mernin (Jonathan), Alice Bershtein (Corey), Megan Ann Robbins (Angelica), and the director: Sam Baum. The instrumentalists include: Austin Jaffe (Piano), Jess Bauer (Violin), Alain Xiong-Calmes (Cello), Andrew Samson (Clarinet), Griffin Tanner (Guitar), John Salzillo (Bass), Nate Gibson (Drums), and Jarrett himself (Conductor).
Blogger Brandon Latham ventured to the Georgetown Waterfront to scope out the Sunset Cinema Series. Here are his thoughts on the summer lineup of films inspired by or filmed in the oldest neighborhood in Washington.
One of the directors of Best of Enemies, Morgan Neville, calls his film "both thrilling drama and absurdist comedy." And he’s right. This documentary is edge-of-your-seat thrilling and knee-slappingly funny. It is also informative, critical, biographical and inspirational. Best of Enemies balances the roles of documentary, namely to educate and entertain, in a masterful way that makes it a truly fantastic film.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has the look and feel of a movie that was made with the conscious effort to be unlike any other movie out there, and it works, and it is one of the truly great viewing experiences I have ever had.
REACT to Film AU featured a film screening of award-winning documentary Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine on April 8, followed by comments made by director Michelle Josue. Inspiring, tragic, and profound, the documentary is an artistic homage not only to Shepard's short life, but to the rising community of anti-sex hatred activists that are emerging out of the LGBT community.
As Kindles and iPads gradually (and tragically) phase out paper, some historic bookstores continue to cling to life by offering a unique experience. Capitol Hill Books, nestled in the historic Eastern Market, remains as one of Washington’s hidden gems as it rebels against the Digital Age.
In 1995, Cheryl Strayed took off on an eleven-hundred-mile trek to put aside the pain of grieving her mother's death and save herself from her own destructive behavior. When her memoir became a bestseller in 2012, Reese Witherspoon grabbed onto it with the aim to make it through her own production company, Pacific Standard, and starring herself as the independent, troubled young woman. Wild is her movie (with credit due to photographer Yves Bélanger, screenwriter Nick Horby and director Jean-Marc Vallée).
The cinema in the 1960s was an arena for Czechoslovakian political dissent, where film directors enjoyed a state-supported film industry and increased creative license. Among these visionaries was Vaclav Havel, a gifted playwright who later became the first president of the democratic Czech Republic. The 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and Havel’s presidency coincides with this year’s Czech film series titled The Play’s the Thing, brought to the Malsi Doyle Theatre by the Embassy of the Czech Republic, the National Gallery of Art, and the AU School of Communication.
Nightcrawler is a modern take on a cautionary tale as old as television itself, one that cinema most famously already told in Network (1976). In that oscar-winning film, an ensemble of cable newsmakers destroy their own and one another’s lives — through suicide attempts, assassinations, infidelity and prostitution — in order to boost ratings at the expense of their friendships.
Some books, like Marvels, have deconstructed the notion of the helpless citizen constantly relying on the superhero to save them. Taking this even farther, other books have even gone so far as depicting the depressed superhero hoping for forgiveness for a mistake in his or her past (Kingdom Come shows white-bearded Superman in such a state: retired in self-imposed exile). Yet, no graphic novel has gone to the lengths Penance: Relentless does to defile the superhero genre hope motif, one that Superman is the prime example of.