TheOceanAtTheEnd

Sometimes a memory is just beyond us, a heartbeat away but impossible to touch. A smell or a taste or a sound reminds us that there is something lost from the careful histories we construct of our lives. But after a moment, a hand on the shoulder, a voice, pulls us back into the shades of reality that surround us.

English author Neil Gaiman captures the essence of a once forgotten memory in his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was published in 2013. Intertwining elements of fantasy and reality, Gaiman reminds us how the memories and people that we think we lose can come to shape our lives.

“Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet,” Gaiman wrote in the The Ocean. “But they are never lost for good.”

When the narrator, an artist, returns to the rural landscape of his childhood home in Sussex, England, to attend a funeral, the once-lost memories from his seven-year-old life begin to pull him back under their absorbing power. The narrator wanders down the half-remembered paths of his childhood to the old farm house where his only friend, Lettie Hempstock, lived with her mother and grandmother. As he looks beyond the farmhouse to the small duck pond that Lettie believed to be an ocean, he remembers “everything” of the harrowing events that created an enduring “hole in [his] heart.”

And just as the narrator quickly becomes submerged in the frightening stories of his memories, readers will likewise sink easily into the engrossing depths of Gaiman’s eerie story about friendship and loss.

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either,” Gaiman writes. “Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

With a simple eloquence, The Ocean at the End of the Lane carries us back to the sense of powerlessness belonging only to children. The narrator’s resurfacing memories remind us of the childhood terrors from which parents prove to be no source of protection.

Set against a fantastical landscape populated with birds that consume reality and monsters that try to give people what they want in harmful ways, the friendship between the narrator and Lettie remains one of the most compelling aspects of the story. While in his memory, the narrator is a lonely, solitary child who thinks that “books are safer than other people anyways,” Lettie is a powerful 11-year-old girl who says she came across the duck pond’s ocean from another world, “the old country.”

When the narrator makes the mistake of letting go of Lettie’s hand after she tells him that he must not, a chain of consequences occurs that comes to influence the courses of both of their lives.

In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman artfully threads together elements of fantasy and reality to explore the layers of experience and memory that make up who we are.

In heartbreaking simplicity, Gaiman asks if the events of our past, even if we forget them, can impact the rest of our lives.

Gaiman writes, “That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.”

Yet he then asks, if memories fade, do they still matter? Can they still define us? If something is gone from our memories, is it ever truly gone from our lives?

In depicting a small duck pond that holds the magic of an ocean, Gaiman illustrates how something big can be hidden inside something small, and how a seemingly forgettable childhood experience can hide a frightening and heartbreaking power.

And in this small book, readers will find an absorbing ocean of story.

By Amy Krivoshik

Choreographer Bebe Miller (center) visited Emory this weekend to help with the Emory Dance Company’s reconstruction of her work, “Prey.” She also appeared at a Creativity Conversation on Friday afternoon, in conversation with Anna Leo (left) and Bridget Roosa (right). | Courtesy of Lori Teague

Choreographer Bebe Miller (center) visited Emory this weekend to help with the Emory Dance Company’s reconstruction of her work,
“Prey.” She also appeared at a Creativity Conversation on Friday afternoon, in conversation with Anna Leo (left) and Bridget Roosa (right). | Courtesy of Lori Teague

In the midst of a conversation with the Emory community last Friday, choreographer Bebe Miller stood up and threw her arms up in the air — waving them in a way that defied traditional technique and imitating a movement that she had once observed in a dance performance. She explained, “They just kind of were doing this. So I stole it.”

Miller is just one of several distinguished guests who have been introduced to the Emory community through the Center for Creativity and Arts’ Creativity Conversations. Emory students and faculty members are provided the opportunity to gain insight into many artistic processes through Creativity Conversations, which begins with a discussion guided by the respective department’s faculty and concludes with an open question-and-answer session.

Creativity Conversation guests have all learned from borrowing from and sharing with other artists, a practice well-exemplified through Miller’s simultaneously sarcastic and dead serious “so I stole it” remark. Friday’s conversation opened as Emory Dance Professor Anna Leo introduced Miller, followed by Miller’s own modest introduction of herself.

Leo, who previously danced with the Bebe Miller Company, spoke about Miller’s four New York Dance Performance Awards (“Bessies”) and multitude of grants and fellowships. She also reminded the audience that one of Miller’s pieces, “Prey,” is being reconstructed and set on a combined group of student dancers from Emory and Agnes Scott College this semester.

Meanwhile, while the audience finished applauding her many accomplishments, Miller humbly tapped into childhood memories of improvisation and early choreography exploration. Her favorite recollection pertaining to dance involved improvising while thinking of “clouds, trees and chocolate bars,” a typical start to a professional dance career.

Miller is undoubtedly one for generous collaboration; she claimed during the Creativity Conversation that her choreographed pieces belong to her dancers as much as they belong to herself. Perhaps, she admits, this generosity is only due to her aging, but when asked if she prefers solo or group work, Bebe responded with the latter, because the environment allows for more valuable, shared observation — and “more jokes.”

Miller has traveled near and far to work with the world’s most unique, creative dancers. In 1999, she spent three weeks in northeastern Africa; struggling with disputes over the Ethiopian border, many people in the surrounding regions felt lost and leaderless. A small group of dancers from northeastern Africa, however, joined in on one of Miller’s choreographic projects.

The dancers seemed altogether happy and grateful to be dancing in a supportive group environment, and as Miller noted, “they were all in a circle around me, doing what I was doing.”

The floors in the African dance studio were made of marble, and the dancers’ contemporary technique was limited. Nevertheless, Miller recalls that the dancers always carried positive attitudes. They always waited in a straight line shoulder-to-shoulder, suggesting that they all concurrently wanted to dance first when moving across the floor, and why not? As Miller asked, “Who wants to be second?”

Miller’s experience in Africa has likely played a part in her inspiration for “Prey,” the piece to be presented this November during the Emory Dance Company performance. The choreography of this reconstruction will be notated using Labanotation, a movement recording technique used to preserve choreography.

Miller and her notator Rochelle agreed that choreography can oftentimes become distorted when recorded on film or through other forms of modern media. Someone could easily trip in a performance that is recorded on video; when future generations watch the video in order to study the dance, they may assume that the original choreography called for a tombé (fall) and perform the dance as they had seen it.

Meanwhile, the fall was really an unintended dancer error and portrays inaccurately the original choreographic intentions. The utilization of Labanotation will thus make it possible for “Prey” choreography to be forever available in its original form, hopefully free of accidental falls.

Additionally this semester, in order for the Emory and Agnes Scott student dancers to truly convey Miller’s original ideas, the dancers have been provided “Bebe Notes.” Miller has her own company in Columbus, Ohio and therefore cannot spend the bulk of her time communicating her ideas directly to the “Prey” dancers. But these notes will prove useful in her place, as they not only bring Miller’s motives into the rehearsal space but also help the dancers to discover their own individual purposes in the piece.

Although she is not currently in the midst of a new choreographic project, Miller has announced that she does have plans to start one. She announced at the Creativity Conversation that also in the near future she will be performing a solo of her own, choreographed by Leo.

Regardless of whether or not she is currently working on a project, Miller will share and steal for as long as possible. She plans to continue exploring human nature and to continue exploring through improvisation marked by “clouds, trees and chocolate bars.”

—By Emily Sullivan

legend of korra

The third season of “The Legend of Korra” premiered this summer and featured its fair share of airbenders, villains and changes to the Avatar universe. Season four will premiere this Friday, Oct. 3 on Nick.com. | Courtesy of Nickelodeon

News recently broke that the premiere of the final season of “The Legend of Korra” will be released on Oct. 3. Naturally, this news delighted the show’s legions of fans, especially considering the success of the show’s third season, which debuted over the summer.

Similar to the majority of season three, season four will be streaming on Nick.com. However, releasing this on Nick.com rather than on television is doing a disservice to the series’ viewership and social awareness — because season three of “The Legend of Korra” is one of the best seasons of animation that Nickelodeon has ever produced.

Maybe I’m overpraising season three, but after the lackluster quality that this “Avatar: The Last Airbender” spinoff/sequel has had over its first two seasons, I have to admit that fans needed a breath of fresh air. The audience needed to see the full potential of the show, and “Season 3: Change” answered their call.

To give some background information, “The Legend of Korra” is set in a world where people are able to “bend” or control the elements of water, earth, fire and air. Avatar Korra, the guardian of both the physical and spiritual worlds, can bend all four elements. The main conflict appears when a new group of benders, who go by the name the Red Lotus, break out of prison and attempt to kidnap Korra in order to overthrow world governments and grant the people “true freedom,” a plan which involves killing the Avatar and descending into anarchy.

One of the most striking traits of this season is how much darker the show was willing to go. This season marks the first time it showed an on-screen death of a character by asphyxiation, and the finale involves Korra chained up after the Red Lotus has threatened mass murder. The following sequence had Korra wriggling in pure agony as the Red Lotus poisoned her, suffering hallucinations of her inner demons and past enemies. In fact, there were many times while I was watching where I wondered whether this was indeed a children’s show.

To say “The Legend of Korra” is simply a cartoon is vastly underselling it; it has deep philosophical viewpoints and political conflicts that resonate with our own world today. Issues on freedom versus security come into play, and the doubt created from questionable decisions that leaders make today connect with our own society.

But the main reason why the direction of the content worked was because of the focus on the characters, especially on the main antagonist and the supporting cast. “The Legend of Korra” has had a penchant of unimpressive villains ever since the first series. That’s not to say they weren’t formidable, but rather that their plans always seemed typical and unfulfilling, or their final downfall always ended anticlimactically.

To give an example, the finale of the second season involved the main antagonist becoming a giant Godzilla-sized spirit trying to destroy the physical world. In the end, it was resolved through a deus ex machina occurrence that can only be halfheartedly explained by: “magic?” But season three dug a little deeper.

The season’s main antagonist Zaheer had clear, direct, compelling goals, and he didn’t mess around; he made sure that no one, including Korra, got in the way of the Red Lotus. Zaheer’s arguments demonstrated a powerful statement on his view towards freedom. And what’s more important, he had the means and ways to accomplish his goal, similar to villains of our world. His backstory and relationship with his teammates made him seem human and relatable, despite his extreme vision. Zaheer made an excellent villain, and his team of benders matched Korra’s friends in duels with fantastic action that had me grinning in appreciation throughout the fights.

Supporting characters from previous seasons also had their chance to shine. A young airbender named Jinora went through a character arc where she sought to prove her worth as an airbending master. Her growth was shown through the progression of a father-daughter dynamic where her father was not ready to let go of her yet. Jinora is similar to Korra in a lot of ways, and in the end, seeing her take charge of teaching others airbending showed her development.

Another character explored was the police commissioner Lin Beifong. Lin is a character that we’ve seen many times throughout the series, yet this was the first season that fully disclosed her backstory. Lin’s flashbacks revealed her struggling relationships with her sister and mother. By illustrating her lack of personal relationships and strict adherence to the law, the show examined what made Lin so bitter and uncompromising. Although her character arc finished quite soon, I appreciated it nonetheless.

In terms of this season’s weaknesses, they were minimal. One of the weaknesses can be seen in the last episode of the season. Simply put, I thought it was extremely well executed, but similar to previous season finales, Red Lotus members also suffered various degrees of villain decay. They were taken out too easily by newly found power-ups and methods of the protagonists. In the finale, Korra and Zaheer participated in one of the greatest fights the series has ever seen, but Zaheer’s ultimate downfall was way too plot-convenient. Even the way Korra survived the poison seemed too dubious, as Zaheer seemed too intelligent of a person to ignore the obvious flaws in his plan.

Still, focusing on the supporting cast detracted from the powerful roles of the main characters. Korra went through her fair share of development this season, yet her sidekicks Mako and Bolin didn’t change their stagnant, trite personalities. Mako was still a brooding downer, while Bolin was a lovable, yet sometimes exasperating goofball. Although these characters had their own subplots, there was no “change,” which was frustrating because viewers wanted these characters to be distinguishable from the typical supporting roles seen in other television shows. However, I was willing to overlook this flaw since there was only so much “The Legend of Korra” could do in its limited number of episodes.

Furthermore, the season ended on a bittersweet, if somewhat grim, note. Even though Jinora became a master, Korra is thoroughly traumatized and incapacitated, showing the severity of what she experienced and emphasizing the stakes of what happened. This will be an interesting character arc that will doubtlessly be explored further in the final season of “Korra,” as viewers see the once brash, reckless Avatar changed into a weary, wounded warrior. We can only imagine what will come out of this character arc in “Korra’s” final season.​

In the end, the third season of “The Legend of Korra” is no doubt the best season of the series, and one of the best seasons of animation I have ever seen. In a span of 13 episodes, the pacing is just right for a tightly-knit storyline. I highly recommend giving it a watch and diving into this universe with colorful characters, amazing action and an engaging storyline. 4.5 stars out of 5.

— By Jake Choi, Contributing Writer

fetching cody take 2

Jay Baruchel and Sarah Lind star in David Ray’s 2005 Sundance-meets-sci-fi film “Fetching Cody,” a story about love, homelessness and time travel. The film is available for instant viewing in the vaults of Netflix. | Courtesy of Cheap and Dirty Productions

Canadians have a reputation for being sweet, friendly folks. That’s probably why they weren’t able to break the truth to us about drug addiction and homelessness in David Ray’s “Fetching Cody,” an independent drama/sci-fi film from none other than our neighbors up north.

Jay Baruchel (“This is the End”) plays Art, the boyfriend of Cody (Sarah Lind). Art and Cody try to navigate life in the streets, which sometimes involves Art selling drugs or Cody working as a prostitute. Their relationship (which, aside from the crime and addiction, is just swell) is threatened when Cody enters a coma from a heroin overdose. Art uses a time machine (no DeLorean here — just a recliner with some Christmas lights) found by his homeless friend, Harvey (Jim Byrnes), to change Cody’s fate and save her life.

The film needed a bit of a character rewrite, considering that the time machine was the most believable thing there. For example, for having a relationship that involves drugs, hustling and desperation, Art and Cody sure find a lot of time to do twee things like chasing a balloon around the city and then playing soccer with it. Not that I want them begging for alms with sad piano music plaguing their every step, but their destitute life situation did not seem to bother them all that much.

Another issue is that Baruchel is not horribly convincing in his role as a street hustler. I can’t even make junior varsity tennis, and I’m convinced that I could mug him. As for Harvey, he exists simply to guide Art with his offbeat fortune cookie wisdom. You know when your parents give you age-old advice that will never help you, excusing them from accountability if you screw up? That’s Harvey’s dialogue. This movie, for the most part, treats drug addiction and homelessness like personality quirks instead of actual problems.

Continuing on that point, the dialogue is nothing special. There’s no memorable quote, nothing funny or profound, but the script is trying to give us these things. In the more intense moments of the movie, you can easily guess what the next character is going to say. The film desperately wants to shake a laugh or a tear out of the audience but can’t manage this with lackluster dialogue. I won’t divulge too much, but an exchange about pants from the future is the most quotable scene in the movie. The script is nothing horrendous, but you’ve heard it all before. It’s just bland and safe.

However, given the problems with the way these characters are written, the acting is pretty good. Baruchel and Lind are a believable couple and have nice chemistry. Although, on his own, Baruchel gives a shakier performance … mostly because he can’t manage to sit still. When he’s not rapidly blinking, he’s nodding. When he’s not nodding, he’s shaking his head in disbelief (I recommend that he find a different gesture for disbelief before he suffers from whiplash). Lind had less screen time than Baruchel, but her performance was more solid than his overall — and yes, I am referring to the parts where she’s not in a coma, smart alecks. In general, the actors did pretty well with their roles, despite not being given the best characters, even Baruchel the Bobblehead.

The story itself is actually interesting and fun to watch, despite all the issues the other aspects of the film present. Art trying to resolve the issues in Cody’s past to save her life draws the viewer in, and watching how each event shifts the future keeps you invested. On the whole, the film does a good job of progressing the story in both the past and the present timelines.

The only complaint I have in the story department is that it felt too short. There should have been more time spent focusing on Art and Cody’s relationship, because while Baruchel and Lind have good chemistry, that doesn’t change the fact that we don’t know much about the nature of their relationship altogether. Like an off-duty ice cream truck in the middle of summer, the story flies by unfairly quickly, but it manages to keep your interest for the time that it’s there.

In terms of technical aspects, the cinematography and sound have the feel of a standard studio film. There’s nothing stunning to be found, but it definitely accomplished the Sundance-meets-sci-fi feel that Ray was aiming for.

All in all, “Fetching Cody” is a fun watch with a myriad of flaws. It may not be the most incredible thing you see all year, but it’s worth a viewing if you’re looking for a cool time-traveling movie. Three stars.

— By Erin Penney

 

EllaEyre_If_I_Go_New4aIf you’re like me, you don’t listen to the radio anymore — it feels like the same six songs are playing every day for months on end. As much as I love repeatedly hearing Magic! plead to his girlfriend’s dad about marrying her, it might be time for a change of pace. There are a lot of talented musical artists vying for the spotlight, and a good number of them are women.

With Beyoncé’s surprise album release last year still in conversation and Nicki Minaj’s overwhelming list of recent accomplishments, women in the music industry are topping the charts. There are plenty of other quality artists out there, and most of them aren’t well-known at all.

Many of these women are slowly building themselves a fanbase, though, and if you want to stay ahead of the game, you should be keeping an eye on them.

Ella Eyre is a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from London. She began making waves thanks to her collaborations with Rudimental in “Waiting All Night” and with Naughty Boy and Wiz Khalifa in “Think About It.” Ever since then, she’s been steadily cranking out songs in the pop, R&B and soul genres. Her songs tend to start out slow and muted, which attracts your attention and makes you listen to what she’s saying. The songs then build into the verses and suddenly explode when the chorus comes on, and before you know it, you have a crazy urge to jump up and dance. This happens in her most recent track, “If I Go,” which has garnered nearly 4.5 million listens on Spotify.

Make sure to also keep your eye on FKA twigs (nicknamed Twigs), a 26-year-old from Gloucestershire, England.

Like Eyre, Twigs began to sing professionally in 2012, but she has a very different style of music. Specializing in PBR&B, trip hop and electronic, her tracks have a strange, ethereal feel to them. Her most popular song, “Two Weeks,” has a slow, steady beat throughout, and her voice overlaid onto the number of background add-ins gives the song the smoky atmosphere of a trance track. Twigs already has a lot of performing experience under her belt; she paved her way by appearing as a dancer in videos for Ed Sheeran, Jessie J and Taio Cruz. She’s definitely someone to watch out for on the charts this fall.

Finally, SZA is a 23-year-old American-born singer-songwriter who set out on her musical career in 2011, focusing on the styles of PBR&B and neo-soul. SZA’s music has a dreamy feel that puts you in a bit of a daze, and her voice alternates between an appealing rasp and clear, steady notes.

Her popular releases feature a variety of famous names including Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Isaiah Rashad, a track record that has given her a lot of exposure over the years. SZA’s name is getting bigger and bigger, and fans are waiting to see what she releases next.

With names like Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj at the top of the charts, these women have a lot to compete with. But give their music a try, let their songs take you to another world and soon they’ll be sure to make it to the top.

— By Kelsey Klosterman, Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

You haven’t seen dysfunctional until you’ve met the Altmans. Specifically, the Altmans’ sitting Shiva.

When their family patriarch dies, the Altmans gather for a reluctant family reunion, featuring four adult siblings, their significant others and children and their overly candid mother. Put these characters under one roof for seven days, and antics ensue.

Based on Jonathan Tropper’s bestselling novel of the same name, “This Is Where I Leave You” approaches death humorously and poignantly, with no shortage of bizarre antics throughout the journey. Amid an all-star cast of accomplished actors including Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne and Corey Stoll, there is no lack of rich character development.

The beginning of the movie trudges along at a regrettably slow pace, establishing the underlying discontentment of not only the recently divorced and unemployed Judd Altman (Bateman), but also the unhappiness every adult seems to be experiencing in one form or another.

However, the pace of the movie picks up as soon as the Altmans are reunited at the funeral of their father, Mort (pun intended). From then on, there is no shortage of dramatic plot twists and the comically awkward events characteristic of dysfunctional family movies. That being said, director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum,” “The Internship”) does his best to navigate away from your run-of-the-mill plot of a broken family emotionally reconciling past differences with comedy sprinkled in.

In an era of entertainment where dysfunctional families and general quirkiness are in vogue — one needn’t look further than “Modern Family,” and its extensive list of accolades to confirm this trend. “This Is Where I Leave You” approaches the popular theme with a refreshing nuance. A dizzying number of relationships — both familial and romantic — ultimately result in a complex puzzle that does its best not to fit the stereotypical plotline of the unconventional family reconnecting. For example, loose ends that the audience expects to be neatly tied up in the final minutes of the movie are simply left alone. To stay true to the title, there is a fair amount of uncertainty about the futures of the individual members of the family by the time the credits roll.

More than 10 romantic relationships are covered, so pregnancies, divorces and affairs eventually lose their shock value when there’s an excess of storylines jostling for screen time in only one hour and 43 minutes. That being said, it’s refreshing to see a talented cast successfully step up to the challenge of meaningfully adapting the drama of the book while also interjecting its fair share of comedic relief.

Nonetheless, with the sheer amount of dramatic and comedic material jammed into the movie, “This Is Where I Leave You” would be far more suited to a television sitcom of at least two seasons. With such a loaded cast, the movie possesses a colorful array of talent that seems wasted in a short time frame. Following the rather slow start, the movie races ahead in full speed and one almost needs a map to effectively navigate an involved maze of relationships — a journey that would be preferably traveled over a 12-episode television season.

What fundamentally sets “This Is Where I Leave You” apart from other cinematic takes on flawed families is the spectacular chemistry of the cast. Bateman and Fey are predictably excellent with Bateman’s deadpan humor complementing Fey’s signature quick wit. In a departure from his “House of Cards” character, Stoll convincingly plays the “unfun” sibling, while Fonda and Driver are in a league of their own, frequently stealing scenes with their larger-than-life personalities. Engaging and heartfelt, the ensemble synchronizes perfectly while walking the fine line between comedy and drama, therefore balancing their talents between the two.

With an all-star cast, clever comedic timing and a nuanced take on the common but lovable dysfunctional family story, “This Is Where I Leave You” is worth the movie ticket. It’s a movie that leaves you, well, wanting more.

— By Megan Waples, Contributing Writer

Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Just like a villain that you love to hate, “The Maze Runner” leaves you angry, sad, confused and wanting more.

The story, though not fully explained until the end of the film, follows a group of boys who wake up in a giant maze with no memory of their previous lives.

The boys must work together to find every shred of evidence to figure out where they are, who put them there, why they were put there and how they can get out.

“The Maze Runner,” which is based off the popular book series by James Dashner, opens this Friday.

The film begins with a boy, dazed, confused and breathing heavily, trapped in a creaking elevator that is rapidly heading to an unknown destination.

Due to the fact that the movie starts with no background information, it was difficult to piece together the plotline as the film progressed.

Though the plot was hard to discern, the cast, which is full of familiar faces, delivers a moving performance. Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf”) who plays Thomas, Will Poulter (“We’re the Millers”) who plays Gally and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (“Love Actually”) who plays Newt were especially noteworthy.

If one buys into the post-apocalyptic idea and trusts the confusing and limited amount of information provided, it is easy to understand and feel the pain and suffering of the characters due to the incredible acting.

O’Brien delivered a phenomenal performance as Thomas.

His performance started out a little too forced and dramatic, but the more comfortable Thomas became in the abnormal society, the more natural O’Brien became.

Thomas quickly assumed the position of an outgoing leader in the group and O’Brien had the heart and soul to back this leader up.

Poulter’s performance was a stark contrast to his comedic role as an awkward adolescent boy in “We’re the Millers.” In “The Maze Runner,” Poulter showed a much more mature and serious side.

One of the best performances, second only to lead O’Brien’s, was that of Brodie-Sangster.

Many will recognize this baby-faced actor from his role as the endearing and love-struck boy in “Love Actually.”

Though his role in “The Maze Runner” is entirely different, Brodie-Sangster still manages to bring some of the same clear-headed and mitigating qualities to his character.

Brodie-Sangster’s character Newt is a level-headed and mature leader, qualities that do not match his appearance. For this reason, his performance was both surprising and refreshing.

Though the gripping cast was able to create a relatable tale that tugs at the viewer’s heartstrings, the plot itself was hard to follow.

As a result of the characters themselves not knowing where they were or what their purpose was, movie-goers were left dazed and confused as well.

I left the theater feeling simultaneously emotionally drained and on an adrenaline high which left me confused and not knowing what to think.

Not a movie for the faint of heart, “The Maze Runner” is filled with fast-paced, shocking action sequences that at times make you want to close your eyes and curl up in the fetal position out of fear.

Nonetheless, the movie is an entertaining watch if you can get past all the sci-fi action.

The movie may not be as confusing for those who have read and are fans of the book series.

However, as with many movie adaptations of books, the film leaves something to be desired. 

For example, additional character and plot development could have made the film much more engaging and gripping.

Though the characters and the story could have been more developed, the camaraderie and chemistry among the boys sends a clear message about determination and working together to overcome adversity.

The film has a clear metaphor that relates this post-apocalyptic world to today’s society.

Brodie-Sangster’s character, Newt, says it best: “What matters is who we are now and what we do now.”

The film itself is a gentle reminder to go out and shape your own life instead of waiting for your life to shape you.

— By Annie McNutt, Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of Lori Teague

Emory Dance professor Gregory Catellier and guest professor Kristin O’Neal perform in Catellier Dance Projects’ “Corpus Mysteriis.” / Photo Courtesy of Lori Teague

There are four main elements of dance: body, energy, space and time. Emory Dance Professor Gregory Catellier has spent the past three years exploring each of these qualities in depth, and this weekend, he unveiled the last installment of the series: a show dedicated entirely to the body.

“Corpus Mysteriis,” which ran from Sept. 18 – 20 in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts’ Dance Studio, was a testament to the multitude of ways that dancers, movers and people in general interact with their bodies. And though a vital part of our everyday existence, this may well have been the vaguest topic that Catellier had to explore.

He previously investigated time in 2011’s “Tempo,” took the audience on a trip to space in “The Final Frontier” and addressed every kind of energy imaginable in last year’s “E.” But body is so inherent in dance of any sort that it seemed Catellier had saved the most challenging topic for last.

So instead of trying to make the show a tribute to the body, Catellier delved into what happens when the body breaks down.

And what was most refreshing about Catellier’s choreography in that topic was that he never took anything too seriously. He made fun of himself, of his dancers and of dance in general, which was a great and lighthearted change of pace from the traditional concert dance experience.

In one moment, a dancer broke down on the floor, complaining that she had hurt her knee. Catellier came over to her and placed his hands on her knee, before she reminded him that it was the other knee that had been injured.

“I know,” Catellier assured her. “See, it’s all connected.”

“Corpus Mysteriis” kicked off with a section entitled “Corpus Fracta,” entirely dedicated to injuries and the ways that the body can turn against its owner. There was hardly any traditional dancing in the section, but the stories that the performers told were so entertaining that no one seemed to mind much.

The most conventionally “dance” section followed, entitled “Cepi Corpus Cepi Choros.” The performance featured a total of six dancers, but it was most intriguing in the hands of Catellier and Emory dance instructor Kristin O’Neal. The pair is truly superb together, as it’s clear that they’re extremely comfortable dancing with one another. Whether they were watching over the other dancers like proud parents or rolling over each other’s backs, it was genuinely hypnotic to witness.

When all the dancers performed together, though, “Corpus Mysteriis” seemed to shift from the experience of the individual to a more universal mindset. The six performers assisted, rejected, supported, pushed and cradled one another — never establishing a clear relationship, but rather expressing all the different concepts that one body can convey.

In one particularly memorable moment, dancer Corian Ellisor laid on the floor motionless, seemingly dead.

The other dancers surrounded him, but the audience couldn’t quite tell if they were protecting him or mourning him. And in an instant, Ellisor shot up to sitting, gasping for air. The scenario playing out was as uncertain as it was transpiring, but in the aftermath, it seemed that his friends had been healing him.

It was moments like that which gave “Corpus Mysteriis” its humanity.

The performance alternated between that kind of tenderness and a lighthearted absurdity, which Catellier somehow fit together in a way that seemed balanced, but never disjointed.

He managed to explore the many connotations of the “body,” including aspects that were good, bad, awkward, graceful, funny and blurry.

Leaving the show, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I felt satisfied with all these different explorations or confused at what they had meant.

But for a show all about the body, it should have been obvious: it wasn’t about what it had meant. It was just about experiencing a feeling. It can be hard to turn off the search for meaning and just feel, but that appeared to have been the whole point of the show.

And on that front, Catellier definitely succeeded.

— By Emelia Fredlick, Arts and Entertainment Editor

College senior Julia Ingram and College junior Gabrielle Bloch lead ChaiTunes in performing a mash-up of "Landslide" and "If I Die Young" at the year's inaugural First Friday. / Photo By Julia Munslow, Staff Writer

College senior Julia Ingram and College junior Gabrielle Bloch lead ChaiTunes in performing a mash-up of “Landslide” and “If I Die Young” at the year’s inaugural First Friday. / Photo By Julia Munslow, Staff Writer

 

Students rushing off to Music Midtown this weekend stumbled upon a musical performance on Emory’s campus highlighting some of our finest singers — sans musical instruments.

Last Friday, The Dobbs University Center (DUC) Terraces hosted the first First Friday show of the year, featuring Emory a cappella groups AHANA A Cappella, Aural Pleasure, ChaiTunes, Dooley Noted, The Gathering and No Strings Attached. The show displayed Emory students’ musical talents, and the feeling of community was obvious in the crowd’s anticipation, even before the start of the program.

The crowd of students and faculty eagerly awaited the start of the performance, filling the Terraces as well as the stairs behind the performers.

The groups performed a diverse array of songs in multiple genres and styles, from current hits such as The Gathering’s upbeat rendition of Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” to classics such as No Strings Attached’s smooth arrangement of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Highlights included Aural Pleasure’s execution of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” and Dooley Noted’s interpretation of Andy Grammar’s “Keep Your Head Up.” The Aural Pleasure soloists, B-school senior Sami El-Kebbi and College freshman James Kennedy, had the audience swooning and laughing within the span of a single song, while Dooley Noted’s performance featuring College sophomore Henry Hays got everyone clapping along.

This was the first time that the 2014-2015 members of each group performed together. Leaders proudly introduced the new members, whose nerves and elation were clear during the performances.

While the musical prowess of the groups is evident, it is clear that there is more to value at the First Friday shows. Since its inception in the early 2000s, First Friday has brought the Emory community together.

“First Friday was started as multiple a cappella groups began to pop up on campus and the leaders of [No Strings Attached] felt it would be great to bring them all together for a showcase on the first Friday of every month,” No Strings Attached President and B-school senior Jason Charles told the Wheel in an e-mail. “It became a tradition and crowds grew to the hundreds fast. First Friday gives a cappella groups a chance to show off new songs, perform crowd favorites and promote their concerts and various events too.”

The entire show had the audience smiling and supporting the musicians, shouting encouragement to friends and cheering for the groups.

For ChaiTunes President and College senior Katy Heath, her first First Friday helped her find a place at Emory four years ago.

“[It was] the first time I really felt like I fit in somewhere at Emory, the first time I felt that these are my group of people,” Heath reminisced. “It’s become my Emory family.”

Although some claim that Emory lacks school spirit, Aural Pleasure President and College senior Tom Cassaro quickly pointed out evidence to the contrary at First Friday.

“We definitely have [school] spirit,” Cassaro said. “[It’s] just in quirky traditions like Wonderful Wednesday and First Friday.”

The pride in Emory University and in the arts shined in the six groups’ enthusiasm and passion.

College freshman Geoffrey Solomon, new to Dooley Noted, fulfilled a nearly lifelong dream by performing in his first First Friday. Since the third grade, he has wanted to be a part of the a cappella magic.

“I was a little nervous,” Solomon admitted about his First Friday experience. “[But] as soon as I got on stage and saw smiling faces, I was able to let [the nerves] go.”

Solomon cited the “warm, fuzzy feeling” that he experienced performing as proof of the friendship and communal feeling at Emory.

“The Emory community is very accepting,” he shared excitedly. “It’s great to feel onstage, as well as just walking around campus.”

Not only do the singers feel the welcoming environment, but the audience feels it as well.

“On the whole, all of the groups were amazing, and the whole atmosphere was [amazing] too,” College freshman Avani Jalan said.

To sum up First Friday in a word?

“Community,” Heath decided.

This year’s first First Friday performance shows promise for all the a cappella groups, as both new and old members demonstrated their excitement and willingness to grow. Filled with passion, musicality and community, First Friday is an hour of a cappella that you don’t want to miss.

— By Julia Munslow, Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of OK Go

Photo Courtesy of OK Go

 

Formed in Chicago in 1998 and now based in Los Angeles, OK Go — consisting of vocalist Damian Kulash, drummer Dan Konopka, bassist Tim Nordwind and guitarist Andy Ross — continues to break creative boundaries with a never-ending stream of visual and audio experimentation.

Adding to a repertoire that already includes a Rube Goldberg machine that operates in time to music, animations on 2,430 pieces of toast, dancing with dogs and leaping across treadmills, the band has now released their newest music video: a journey through a series of perspective illusions.

OK Go’s latest music video for “The Writing’s On the Wall” — which was released in June this year and already has more than 10.7 million views on YouTube — was shot in one long take and features more than 20 illusions. Every illusion in the music video is meticulously constructed and magically executed.

The OK Go logo sculpture that appears in the beginning of the music video was designed in CG and then printed in 3D; the detailed areas of the red square are filled with Twizzlers and gumballs and the mirror illusion required the use of mirrors crafted to fit Kulash’s and Ross’ forms perfectly.

The camera rig used to show Nordwind’s mouth is described by the band as a “20 foot tall giraffe made of plywood and garage door springs.” The koala pole illusion is a “classic sidewalk chalk illusion” that required Konopka to sprint 70 yards from the paint rig where he was splashed by gravity-defying pink paint. Finally, to put the “The Writing’s On the Wall” painting seen at the conclusion of the music video into perspective, it covered 20,000 square feet of floor and 1,000 windowpanes.

While there is no question that OK Go has the ability to engage and entertain audiences through their visual mastery, the captivating audio and mesmerizing sound of their creations continue to fascinate even more. The band released their latest EP Upside Out in May this year, which includes not only “The Writing’s On the Wall,” but “Turn Up the Radio,” “I Won’t Let You Down” and “The One Moment.”

“The Writing’s On the Wall” combines a sprinkle of melancholy with a hint of joy, as it tells the story about the inevitable end to a relationship, and “Turn Up the Radio” incorporates a simple chorus with a funky beat. “I Won’t Let You Down” does not disappoint with its disco-esque vibe, while “The One Moment” closes Upside Out with an explosive chorus and commanding riffs.

Upside Out is only a brief preview of the band’s latest work and is sure to leave listeners hungry for more. The band will be performing in Atlanta on Sept. 26, while OK Go’s fourth full-length studio album, Hungry Ghosts, is set to release later this year on Oct. 14.

OK Go bassist Tim Nordwind spoke with me via phone to share stories about everything from his childhood bohemian summer camp art teacher and the most fun songs to make from Hungry Ghosts, to what word he would use to describe each member of the band.

Benazir Wehelie: What is the meaning behind the band’s name, OK Go?
Tim Nordwind: The name, OK Go, is sort of like a long time inside joke between Damian, who’s a singer in the band, and I. We met at summer camp when we were 11; it was an arts summer camp in northern Michigan. We had an art teacher who was sort of like the bohemian art teacher who was always stoned, basically. He would always come up to us while we were drawing and he would say the following, which was really weird: If I was drawing a tree he’d be like, “OK now, feel the tree,” so you’d have to go feel the tree, and then he’d be like “Now, feel the paper,” then you’d have to feel the paper. And he’d be like, “Now, draw the difference.” Then, he’d kind of hover over you for 10 minutes and then he’d be like, “OK, OK, OK, OK go.” You know he’d say that even though we’d been drawing for 10 minutes. He was like too stoned to notice. He did this to everyone and Damian and I were just comparing notes after art class one day and just thought that was the funniest thing in the world. So, we would say goodbye to each other and say, “OK, OK, OK, OK go.” Damian and I have been making projects together, whether it’s music or art or videos, since we were 11. When it was time to name the band, it just seemed like an obvious choice for us.

BW: When did you start playing the bass and what do you love most about it?
TN: I started playing the bass I guess when I was 18. I had moved to Chicago for college and started a band with Andy Duncan, who’s the original guitarist in OK Go, and Dan Konopka, who’s the drummer in OK Go. The three of us had started a band. Andy Duncan was a very good guitar player and Dan was a great drummer. So, really all that was left for me was bass. I kind of just started playing it because no one else would. For several years I played it a lot like a guitar because I had learned to play guitar first and so, I played bass like a rock guitar. I think somewhere around the age of 24 I started to take bass a little bit more seriously and took lessons from a woman named Carol Kaye who is like a legend, especially in Los Angeles. She gave studio sessions in the 60s and 70s and played on like 85 percent of every pop hit from the 50s and 60s. I took lessons from her at 24 and she really kind of opened my mind up to what a rhythmic and spacious instrument the bass can be, and how it can also be melodic at times. She sort of taught me that playing bass was as much about the notes that you don’t play than it is about the notes that you do play. She taught me a lot more about theory and all of that. My philosophy on bass changed then and I started playing more with what she taught me in mind ever since.

BW: Are there any other musicians or films, or even artworks that have influenced the band and inspired your own creativity?
TN: We’re always inspired by the things that we see in art and in culture and things like that. We grew up listening to a lot of music that has certainly influenced us. The band the Pixies was a huge influence, Prince was huge influence, and we really love the band INXS, they were huge. What I love about music is its immediacy to convey emotions and its immediacy to help you feel. When you listen to a song you love, you feel it immediately and that’s a really awesome feeling. There’s a lot of things in the world that inspire me to want to create the same feeling that a film makes me feel to something like that. Whether it’s a movie like “Star Wars,” which I absolutely love or if it’s something like [Alejandro] Jodorowsky’s “The Holy Mountain” or something like that, which is a lot more psychedelic and obscure and crazy. All the things that those films make me feel, though, I oftentimes want to convey in a song. On top of that, people, just people, human relationships, oftentimes inspire us to want to create. I’m not sure there’s anything more powerful than a friendship or something like that. Oftentimes the people or the things that people do that I observe really inspire me to want to make a song that will hopefully make people think and feel the same way I did when I heard something funny or saw something touching.

BW: For your upcoming album, Hungry Ghosts, is there a specific song that you really love, and overall, how do you want the sound of the album to make people feel when they listen to it?
TN: I like all the songs on the record. There’s a couple that were very fun and interesting to make for us. There’s one song called “Another Set of Issues,” which is a story about a character who is about to perform a bank robbery and all the crazy thoughts that go through his head before and while that’s happening. Creating the music for that story was an interesting process because the music came in as just a bassline and a beat that seemed kind of magical. It just had a certain something to it, it had a really nice groove to it that we all paid attention to. We took that bassline and that beat and while we were in the studio we built the whole song up. It was a fun process to just work on that song while we were in the studio. There’s another song called “Obsession,” which is sort of like a dark pop song, it’s very groovy and very minimal. It has no real bass in it, it’s just some bass and two guitars and a beat. But, it’s a pretty heavy groove and it was a fun one to make. Those two stand out in my mind as being fun to do in the studio.

BW: You’re also known for having very entertaining and engaging viral music videos. For your latest one, “The Writing’s On the Wall,” what was the creative process behind it? Do you try and match the emotions of the song when you make music videos or is it more about exploring creativity?
TN: When we’re working on music usually we’re solely focused on music. When we’re coming up with ideas for videos, we’re pretty solely interested in a concept that seems like it’s going to be interesting or fun to watch. Usually, one of the later steps is marrying the image to the music. We obviously need to know what song we’re doing before we make the video, but usually don’t have a song in mind when we’re thinking about the video. “The Writing’s On the Wall,” I will say, to go against what I just said, it was a nice coincidence that the conceptual idea for the video was that we wanted to make something about perspective using anamorphic images and illusions and weird tricks and things like that. An interesting thing about perspective is if you look at it from exactly the right spot, it looks like an image. As soon as you start moving away from it, it all of a sudden doesn’t look like the thing you just saw. “The Writing’s On the Wall,” the song, is very much about a relationship that’s ending because two people can’t see eye-to-eye. When they look at their relationship, they see it in two different ways. But, at one point they saw it as the same thing. Thematically, I think the video worked really well with the song in that sense.

BW: Outside of music, what does the band enjoy doing?
TN: We all like to do a lot of different things. I grew up doing a lot of theater, like playwriting and acting. When there’s time, I like to make little projects that are more based in film and theater. I also started another band two years ago, called Pyramids. Even when I’m not doing music, I still like doing music. Dan, our drummer, is really into production, which I know is still based around music, but he’s into a lot of electronic production and does a lot of remixes. Our guitarist Andy has his own app-making company, so he makes apps. He’s a programmer. Damian produced a record for our friend, Becky [Stark], last year for her band Lavender Diamond. He writes op-ed pieces and he enjoys photography and things like that. There’s still a lot of other things we enjoy doing. We’re all interested in technology and we’re kind of like science nerds and all that, so we’re always reading about that stuff.

BW: What is one word you would use to describe each member of the band?
TN: For Andy, I would describe him as stoic. I think for Dan, I would describe him as the lion from “The Wizard of Oz.” Damian, I would describe as very smart. And I would describe me as maternal.

BW: You’ll be in Atlanta on Sept. 26. What can audiences look forward to most from your live show?
TN: We put together a whole new live show, which is incredibly interactive. It’s based around a lot of multimedia. There’s a lot of synchronized video, a lot of us interacting with the crowd. There’s a ton of confetti. We make a song sampling the audience and using those samples to make a song. There’s a big film and video component to what we’re doing. It’s a big party, basically, with an emotional arch to it.​

— By Benazir Wehelie, Copy Chief

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