ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
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“Parasite” paints an anti-utopian world
“The Slow Rush” feels a bit… slow
“Contagion” hits frighteningly close to reality (no spoilers)
HSMTMTS provides former “High School Musical” fans with a more realistic view of high school
Emancipation with Harley Quinn is a thrilling adventure
“PARASITE” PAINTS AN ANTI-UTOPIAN WORLD
By: Andrea Zhang
(From left to right) Da-song Park, Yeon-gyo Choi, Dong-ik Park, Ki-woo Kim and Ki-taek Kim standing in Park’s courtyard with black bars or white bars covering their eyes like they’re all suspects of the crisis. Photo Credits to mymordernmet.com
One might be scared after watching “Parasite.” One might be sad. What do you think when you enter Bong Joon-ho’s anti-utopian world?
“Parasite,” a Korean black comedy thriller movie directed by Joon-ho, is a story about how a poor family gradually takes over positions in a wealthy family and shows the class division in South Korea.
“Parasite” won four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. It’s the first South Korean film to receive Academy Awards, as well as the first film in a foreign language to win Best Picture.
“Parasite” has a brilliant screenplay which is extremely unique. In most movies, characters are divided into two categories: heroes and villains, but it’s really hard to tell which family in “Parasite” is the hero and which is the villain. [There are spoilers from here on]. The poor family lies about the fact that they’re from the same family and frame the chauffeur and housekeeper so that they can take over their positions; all just to survive in society. They live in a small semi-basement apartment and have jobs as pizza box folders for which they receive low wages. They desperately need money to pay for rent, for college, and for their daily necessities. At the same time, the wealthy family comments about how Ki-taek Kim, the father of the poor family, smells bad, calling their stench the “smell of the poor.”
None of them are really heroes, none of them are really villains. Instead they all expose the bad side of humanity.
“Parasite” shows how the poor are “parasitic.” In the movie, the poor family lives in a wealthy family’s house, eats their food and takes money from them. They’re like parasites, and parasites are unwanted by everyone. But .5they have already got “the mark of the poor”– the smell. The smell is something we cannot touch and cannot see, but it’s always there, similar to the condition of poverty.
(From upper left to right) Yeon-gy Choi, Dong-ik Park, Da-hye Park and Da-song Park walking upstairs with the background of their house. (From lower left to right) Ki-woo Kim, Ki-jung Kim, Chung-soo Park and Ki-taek Kim also walking upstairs with the background of their house. This poster uses stairs to show the class division.
At the end of the movie, Ki-woo Kim, the son in the poor family, vows that he will one day earn enough money to purchase the wealthy family’s house. However the gap between him and the house is huge. The gap between poor and rich is huge.
The cinematography also contributes to the script, helping to paint the anti-utopian world. The whole movie has a dark tone which helps lead the audience into the depressing mood. In addition, the amount of sunshine in each house is also used to emphasize the difference between rich and poor.
I believe, besides the script and cinematography, a good movie can let every audience member find part of themselves in it. Anyone might do something wrong in their life just to survive. Anyone might have been selfish or may have discriminated against others in their lives. These are things that everyone tries to hide, but you can find these in “Parasite.”
All this is what makes “Parasite” a good movie that leads the audience to rethink the world we live in.
“THE SLOW RUSH” FEELS A BIT… SLOW
By: Valentin Wanderkauven
Tame Impala performing in New York’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. Photo Courtesy of Kennysun via Wikimedia Commons
Tame Impala is one of the most prominent indie artists of our generation. The Australian born Kevin Parker began his career in the late 2000’s before releasing his debut album, ‘Innerspeaker.’ It wasn’t until ‘Lonerism’ that Parker earned wide amounts of respect from the music community. Following ‘Lonerism’ was his critically acclaimed ‘Currents.’ A chart topping album that, although not as raw and beautiful as Lonerism, blew everyone’s mind and cemented Tame Impala as an indie rock music icon. Now, it’s 5 years later. ‘Currents’ is still popular, and Tame Impala released ‘The Slow Rush.’ (needs work)
From the perspective of sound, this album upholds Parker’s reputation. As is normal for an indie artist, Parker wastes no time with using synthesizers. He Elaborately places them across his musical compositions while weaving in a fantastic selection of beats that helps set the tone of the song regardless of the theme. What I’ve noticed is that Parker also tries to apply more jazz and R&B elements in his instrumentals throughout the album. This helps Parker push even more into the mainstream with a more “dancehall” approach to his philosophy on producing music. Although interesting, it did tire me out at points due to the upbeat style hardly giving the listener any downtime.
The album begins with what Parker refers to as the “Gregorian Robot Choir.” Now I’m not saying that the choir’s lyrics are unimaginative and forgettable, but they leave no mark on the song. If you expect Parker’s lyrics on this song to be of value then you will surely be mistaken. There are no complexities within the lyricism which causes there to be nothing beyond the face value of the words. Although some might say that this isn’t the worst thing possible, I do feel that it causes the listener to ignore the meaning of the song and to only appreciate the instrumental aspects which is only one part of the album.
Along with that, the amount of cliches about love, a distant father, and being young are just mind-numbing after the first five songs. I found myself listening to mostly the production after a while. Songs like “Breathe Deeper” are so vague that they linger on the edge of being either sexual or about panic attacks. Despite how distant those topics are from one another, the connection can be made to both. I’m left disappointed with the simple mistakes that taint most of these amazing productions.
Essentially, this isn’t Parker’s best work. It feels to be his most boring. It has bright moments littered throughout the album, but I’ve found it difficult to listen through the entire 57 minute run time. Many aspects just don’t seem to click. I can’t find a lyrical composition that matches the actual production value and, to me, there’s very little to applaud in the lyrics. Perhaps it was the cliches that Parker introduces throughout the album that taint the songs or maybe I just don’t understand some of these feelings.
Whatever the reason is, I don’t feel the connection and that leads me to be uninterested by many parts of this album. Had it not been for the production value, this album would’ve been a laughable bore. With ridiculously cliche lyrics, but a strong sonic production, there’s not much reason to listen to the album in its entirety, but I wouldn’t advise against it. Perhaps Parker intended on making more of a “dancehall” style album, or maybe he’s lost some of his touch that helped cement him as an icon of the indie scene. There are some gems strung along the runtime and those somewhat make up for some of the weaker songs that might not have belonged.
“CONTAGION HITS FRIGHTENINGLY CLOSE TO REALITY (NO SPOILERS)
By: Yvonne Qiu
The nine epicenters of the MEV-1 viral outbreak spells out the name of the film: “Contagion.” Photo courtesy of Flickr Images.
When the film “Contagion” was released in 2011, it quickly gained popularity for its realistic portrayal of a pandemic. Now, in the midst of a period of uncertainty, the film is gaining popularity again for the eerie resemblances it has to the worldwide pandemic caused by COVID-19. Although “Contagion” contains an extremely predictable plot with mediocre soundtracks, it’s a good movie to watch if you are bored at home with nothing else to do.
First off, the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes the disease, COVID-19, is not a biological weapon inspired by “Contagion,” although some online conspirators say otherwise. Even though the movie is incredibly similar to our current pandemic, director Steven Soderbergh emphasized the fact that “Contagion” merely is a work of fiction. The film stars Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff, Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff, and Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Cheever.
“Contagion” uses an abundance of computer-generated imagery (CGI) to follow a novel virus as it spreads around the world at an astonishing speed. The CGI in this film was impressive, considering that it was produced in 2011. The futuristic fonts and the portrayal of the path of infection helped define the film as science fiction.
The movie starts with the words “Day 2” and a woman coughing at the Hong Kong International Airport as she prepares to board a flight to Chicago. She doesn’t know that she has been infected with a novel virus, so she mistakes her fatigue and cough for jet lag and a small cold.
This is where the first eerie resemblance comes in. The virus, MEV-1, causes respiratory failure, just like SARS-CoV-2. The symptoms are similar too: high fever, shortness of breath, and lung disease. However, the mortality rate in the film was much higher, with a mortality rate of about 15 percent, while COVID-19 has a mortality rate of less than two percent.
Another eerie resemblance the film contains is the response that American citizens had after the disease was declared a pandemic. In “Contagion,” grocery stores, pharmacies, and food banks were stormed and raided as people hoarded supplies. This is happening on a smaller scale in the United States, as videos of individuals buying excessive amounts of supplies are spreading like wildfire on social media.
There are other eerie resemblances in “Contagion,” but sharing them would spoil the entire film. Aside from the resemblances to the current situation, the film had no other attractive elements, in my opinion.
The background music was too repetitive, with the use of the same electric beats occurring throughout the course of the film. The music only alternated between electric beats to convey distress and orchestral elements to show melancholy and hope. At first, the music succeeded in giving me a sense of fear, distress, and panic, but after 20 minutes, the music was downright boring. Maybe if the producers switched the key and tempo of the music once in a while, it would have a much better effect.
My favorite part of the movie was the last five minutes where they finally explained the origin of the virus and how it began to spread. It was one of those ‘oh my gosh’ moments where everything that previously happened in the film finally makes sense, and also explains why the movie starts with “Day 2” and not “Day 1.”
Overall, it wasn’t one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely worth watching, especially because we're living through an actual pandemic. One of the most iconic lines in “Contagion” is “no one is immune to fear.” However, if we continue sheltering in place and supporting the medical staff and first responders working tirelessly at the front lines, we can reduce fear to a minimum. By working together, we can overcome this pandemic, just like how they did in “Contagion.”
HSMTMTS PROVIDES FORMER “HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL” FANS WITH A MORE REALISTIC VIEW OF HIGH SCHOOL
By: Gordon Liang
Disney portrays that even those who seem to be at the acme of high school have their struggles. Photo Courtesy of Disney
14 years ago, “High School Musical” premiered on Disney Channel. From there, the franchise soared and flew itself into a trilogy and made its mark as a Disney Channel classic. For a while, the High School Musical (HSM) franchise remained silent as other movies like “Descendants” and “Zombies” made their way up. Fans believed that the HSM franchise was over and it was time for the next generation of classics. As a result, when Disney announced the Disney+ original show, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” (HSMTMTS) fans weren’t as enthusiastic as expected.
Unsurprisingly, Disney was able to work their magic and eventually HSMTMTS became a reason for Disney fans to look forward to Fridays. HSMTMTS is a binge-worthy show for high schoolers because it deals with a more realistic perception of high school.
The first way Disney made HSMTMTS more realistic was the addition of LGBT characters. One may notice the dearth in LGBT representation in many Disney productions. HSMTMTS takes care of this. One of the show’s main characters, Nina Salazar, has two mothers though they don’t have big roles in the show. Audiences also get to see a relationship build up between Carlos and Seb as the show plays out.
Love is complex. As opposed to the perfect relationship displayed in the original trilogy between Troy and Gabriella, the relationship between main characters Nina and Ricky goes through a series of obstacles. In the pilot episode, Nina is dating EJ who is supposedly the good-looking and popular kid in school. Ricky works his way to gain Nina’s heart back by joining the play to spend time with her.
We often think of the popular kids as invincible. We believe that everything goes their way. HSMTMTS showed that even those with the highest statures have vulnerable facets. After Nina breaks up with EJ, he goes on a spree of confessions and as a result, he begins losing followers and receiving hurtful comments. While the scene was a short one and held no weight to the plot, many viewers could resonate with it and understand that everyone, in their own way, is vulnerable.
This new pragmatic approach to representing life puts HSMTMTS at its place as a top-tier show. The soundtrack was nothing short of incredible as highlight songs “All I Want,” “Wondering,” and “Just for a Moment” all went viral on TikTok with many users lip syncing to the songs and using the songs to tell personal anecdotes.
EMANCIPATION WITH HARLEY QUINN IS A THRILLING ADVENTURE
By: Sage Leverman
Harley Quinn gets ready to fight some good guys and villains as the ethical villain of “Birds of Prey.” Photo Courtesy of @BirdsOfPrey on Instagram
You can knock Harley Quinn down, but she will come back stronger and harder. “Birds Of Prey: Harley Quinn” is D.C’s second major release where the villain is the protagonist, with “Suicide Squad” being the first bad guys go good movie. Originally, “Birds Of Prey And The Fabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn” was the set title, but D.C wanted to emphasize Harley Quinn.
This movie, directed by Cathy Yan, shows grief, teamwork, and the overall message that life will go on no matter how hard a break up can be, and an emancipation to a toxic partner. I love this movie because it accurately represents how break ups and abusive relationships affect people and how hard moving on becomes; however, once Harley moves on, it’s satisfying seeing her become the true true anti hero she is.
We start the movie with Margot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn, whom she played in “Suicide Squad” (2016), which follows a squad of villains meticulously selected to save the world. At the end of “Suicide Squad”, Joker (Jared Leto) breaks Harley out of prison.
Harley explains her backstory. Her partner in crime, Joker, dumped her in the beginning of” Birds Of Prey”, and she struggles finding her own identity because she went from being a wicked sidekick to a solo villain.
Harley begins moving on from her loss in her relationship that she let define her by the best form of coping: drinking every single night, and she slowly starts telling her friends she’s single. They all mock her behind her back saying she’ll go back to him or patronize her by saying she and Joker will be back together soon. She’s tired of being labeled as needy so she decides to go public with the news that she and Joker are over.
Harley realizes that most of the world defines her as “Joker’s girlfriend” or a “Sidekick,” but she is done with the labels, and begins her emancipation by going public.
She destroys “Ace Chemical Factory,” the building where she and Joker notoriously had their first date. This tells everyone that Harley and Joker are no more. By destroying the factory, everyone figures out Harley did this to go public about the break up. The visual is unique with a chromatic and brilliant explosion.
Harley then realizes that without Joker her immunity’s gone. She’s the most searched for villain in both the crime and legal world. Everyone is out to get her. However, Harley makes her mark as a strong leader.
What makes “Birds Of Prey: Harley Quinn” stand out from other comic book movies is how fun, feminine, and action packed it is without the sexualization of the actresses.
Margot said in a Vogue interview, “Yeah, it’s definitely less male gaze-y.” This is true; all the costumes are super feminine without making the main focus of the villains their body.
Comparing Harley’s costumes in “Suicide Squad” to “Birds Of Prey:Harley Quinn”, we see how vibrant and more Harley’s style they are. What’s also unique is how the movie is narrated from Harley's perspective. She describes the whole story with fun. Even in the most violent scenes the action is lively.
For example, in one scene where she’s being beaten by The Black Mask (Ewan Mcgregor,) we get a visual of what’s going on inside her head. Director Yan, pays homage to Marilyn Monroe by recreating her act in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Except there’s no Marilyn; it’s Harley dancing. From an outsider's perspective this scene might look out of place, but it’s in here for many reasons.
This represents how even in a dark situation Harley will survive because she always has a way to cope; her “crazy” side is explored because she's being beaten, but she’s daydreaming in her head. Also, the costume is an elegant pant suit with a skirt, which is refreshing because we get to see Harley's unique style with more outfits, instead of the same costume she wears for most of the movie.
Most people will agree Harley is a very unique, interesting character. Seeing her on the big screen is an adventure. She’s described as a naughty villain who's heartless, by the world, but from her perspective she’s not at all heartless; she’s human, and she cares; she’s empathetic.
“Birds Of Prey:Harley Quinn” shows how Harley was only a monster because of Joker. She desired love so much she was willing to stay in her abusive relationship. Many people can relate to this, not the violence, but the desire to be loved, doing questionable things. Now that she’s a villain she chooses to stay as a villain, but it’s refreshing seeing her reclaim her life.
“Birds Of Prey: Harley Quinn” is a fantastic movie, and I highly recommend it. You see how witty someone can be regardless of how damaged they are. She’s a fun character. I would recommend this movie to anyone who's having a bad break up, bad day, or someone who's bored. And it’s definitely a 9/10.