by Truly Edison
As a queer person and a film major, I get this question constantly. And when I say constantly I mean CONSTANTLY, as in pretty much the second that someone finds out those two things. And even though I love talking about queer film and will do it pretty much any excuse I get, the more times I get asked this question the more I realize that I actually… kind of hate it. I almost never know what to say, and whatever answer I do come up with almost never feels genuine. I’m not lying, or at the very least not lying on purpose—for whatever reason, the question is a personal minefield I still don’t quite know how to navigate.
Part of it is because I often feel like the term itself, “queer film”, is sometimes so broad as to become nearly unusable. What even is queer film, anyway? Is it film centering romance between two characters of the same gender? If so, what do we make of a film like Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, which is undeniably queer but leaves the relation between its two leads strictly platonic? Is it less queer, or even queer-baiting? Does queer film just mean films with queer characters, then? Then we have to decide what makes a character queer; if that means a character needs to have a specific label they identify with, the scope of queer film diminishes dramatically and unfairly, excluding whole decades of queer-coded film made in an era where explicit representation was impossible. Even more recently, some creators opt to go for a more subdued approach; the criminally-underrated Where The Truth Lies never uses the word bisexual to describe one of its main characters, who sexually pursues both men and women over the course of the movie. How queer is that film? Some recent films have characters who are confirmed to be queer by directors in interviews, regardless of how much that ends up being expressed in the film itself; are those films queer? Then maybe a queer film just needs to have ‘queer themes’, however literally or not those themes are expressed. But in the muddy space between directorial intent and audience interpretation, themes become nebulous and hard to define with any objective certainty. I wholeheartedly believe that Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is rife with queer themes (no matter how much my family ribs me about it!); does that make it a queer film, even if the only people who think so are me and my gay friends? Can it work that way?
At the same time that ‘queer film’ is so difficult to get an exact grip on, I also often find it hyper-evaluated and scrutinized both within and outside of the LGBT community. The last couple of years have been an all-time-high for mainstream queer representation, which, don’t get me wrong, I think is an amazing thing; we’ve moved firmly out of the era of Cruising and Chasing Amy with a new cultural knowledge of how to portray queerness on screen without demonizing or alienating queer people in real life. At the same time, though, it runs the risk of producing in its wake a body of easily-marketable, unprovocative, ‘safe’ queer films that are stiflingly conscious of not treading on any toes still sore from decades of stereotypes and cliches. I’m happy that Love, Simon is able to exist, but as a film it did no more for me than any straight teen rom-com I’ve ever seen; it spoke to a sanitized, palatable experience that isn’t anything like how I felt in high school. Some part of me can’t help but yearn for the Pink Flamingos days of queer film. As far as we’ve gotten since the invention of film, homophobia isn’t over, not by any means; Love, Simon was banned in multiple countries upon release, and its spin-off TV series Love, Victor was removed from Disney+ due to ‘mature content’, which more often than not in these kinds of situations is code for ‘gay stuff’. Why should we have to flatten the nuances of our lives to create a cleaned-up, desperately inoffensive version of ourselves that mainstream culture and society still doesn’t even really want?
In addition to this, the more cultural nuance we gain on how to depict queer life on film, the more that older queer films will start to be reevaluated within the scope of that increased nuance. Revolutionary as Brokeback Mountain may have been fifteen years ago, today it risks ringing a little more uncomfortably as yet another gay tragedy. Every so often my social media feed is graced by the posts of some teenager discovering that But I’m A Cheerleader is a comedy about conversion therapy for the first time, and urging their followers not to watch it as a result. Not that I’m against this kind of reevaluation—I think that when done constructively it’s an incredibly valuable cultural tool, and allows us to have ongoing conversations about media of the past and its shifting roles in the present. But when someone asks me what my favorite queer film is, not only do I have to figure out what definition of queer film will translate from my brain to theirs, I also have to ask myself: is this film Good Representation? Which leads into yet another question on the definition of queer film, one with perhaps a little more bite to it than the others I’ve suggested so far: Do bad queer films count? And if they do, how do we reconcile that?
No one wants to commit the social faux pas of recommending a Problematic Film, and the stakes always somehow feel so much higher when I’m asked about queer film as a queer person myself—as though I’m offering up some observation not about my taste in movies but about my very identity. Am I a Bad Queer if I like a bad queer film? God knows I do—there are plenty of messy, ugly, or just embarrassingly outdated queer films that I’m absolutely obsessed with, much to the chagrin of my sorority’s Queer Movie Nights. And when I’m asked about the topic by someone who isn’t queer themselves, I feel the pressure that comes with being an unwitting cultural ambassador, fearing that I’ll end up giving someone the Lesbian Stamp Of Approval on a film that isn’t quite up to snuff. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to take any of this into consideration—in a more perfect world, I probably wouldn’t even be asked it that much at all, because queer film wouldn’t be so radically different from film in general that there was even a meaningful distinction to make.
I don’t really have any good answers for any of the questions I’ve put here—maybe it just has something to do with the intersection in my brain of being a pretentious film major and a chronic overthinker, or maybe I’m just bad at answering questions in general, haha. Since opportunities to meet new people have been few and far between recently, I haven’t been asked this question in a while, but I know it will come up again soon enough. Well, on the bright side, at least I have a whole lot of time in quarantine to come up with a good answer.
by Katherine Schloss
I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been dissociating lately. It’s not something that I do for fun, nor for attention, and it’s a step further than the daydreaming that I did as a kid. The isolation of this damn panorama (apologies, PANDEMIC… no actually, let’s stick with the memified equivalent because the Coronavirus doesn’t deserve a lick of respect from me or anyone else for that matter) has been tricking my brain, a brain that’s processing data from a screen for most of the day. Being a humanities student, my professors almost never used to let me take notes on a laptop. It was a thing that sometimes rested on the red couch of my apartment when I would frantically charge it last minute to turn in a paper @ 11:59 on the dot, but otherwise its existence was largely back-of-the-pack territory. I don’t have to remind you that literally everything exists on our screens right now. I was always someone that was trying to stay away from technology, not in an ignorant way but in the sense that my friends’ faces and stories fascinated me a whole lot more. Now, bored despite an endless list of things to get done, I’m taking binge watching to the next level. I would like to dedicate this blog post to all of the shows that have allowed me to escape from my own overloaded brain, even if just for a little while.
Towards the beginning of this whole thing, I finally got around to watching Sex and the City. I finally understood Carrie’s obsession with getting into all the hot new clubs and her attachment to shoes. I envied her ability to subsist off of writing one column entry a week, owning a gorgeous apartment in the city that I long to peruse, and getting invited to all of the functions. I started braiding my hair at night to achieve a semblance of her own curly mop, hair that I had once relished chopping off time and time again but which has now come to cascade far past my shoulders. I decided that I would never take brunch for granted, or strutting in a cute dress under the streetlights, collecting memories that I would quickly write down so as to never forget any of it. I began to analyze myself as Carrie, with her proclivity for repeating the same old bad patterns, and I wished to reinvent myself. I viewed everyday as a chance to start some new creative project, to put that crazy artistic drive that I’d been feeling to work.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit became very real. I now get startled when I turn corners to find one of my family members there, and have vivid dreams about terrifying situations that I’ve never been in and certainly hope to never experience. I also began to become very knowledgeable about things that I’ll never need to know, perhaps as a classic move to avoid my own reality? I have become an expert at the televised iteration of what it is to be a doctor, and do not envy any of my friends that have recently taken the MCAT. I’m also very aware that I get lost in period pieces, mulling over the silk that I’d choose for my own gowns and the delicious gossip that I would acquire. I brought back my letter writing. I became so-so at embroidery. Perhaps my own repulsion at the garish, gaudy, sour yellows and puke greens that Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton was subjected to wearing brought back a deep memory of The Yellow Wallpaper.
I spent a while trying to find my own copy to no avail. I remember reading the short tale in high school, about a woman dealing with her own mental health in a time when doctors thought that a trip to the countryside was the cure for any and everything. I’m not sure why this story stuck with me. Is it the way that I, too, used to search for shapes on the ceiling and creep myself out by imagining figures in the shadows? Is it the overly descriptive imagery- I do love to drool over some good old flowery language- as evidenced by: “The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering, unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.”
The woman in the story wishes for “more society and stimulus,” but her husband takes her to an ancestral hall to spend the summer away from those things. She doesn’t want to tempt fate and label it as a haunted house, but I can just imagine how haunted the shady garden and broken greenhouses would feel. Ultimately, though, the haunting happens within her own mind. She tries going on walks, but with little to do becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the room that her husband has forced her to stay in. She writes, “I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.” She begins to see things in the wallpaper, one being a woman that she wishes to help escape. Readers can of course assume that there’s a metaphor at work here. I think my point in bringing this story up is that, despite my own recently fairly sedentary state, my imagination has been running wild. I wish that I could escape to the countryside for a brief respite, but I know that what I’ll eventually desperately need is the bustle of the city. Undoubtedly, my own dreams are getting more and more absurd as the world itself seems to no longer present itself as capable of normalcy. I think that it’s comforting to know that others are going through the ebbs and flows as well, but sometimes I really do feel like I’m on my own, tearing away at a pesky wallpaper, trying to make sense of it all.
Does watching these shows bring me closer to realizing who I am? Will any of us be the same person after all of this is over? I hope not. I hope that the turbulence of the last year or so has taught us that it’s okay to not have it all figured out, but also that our society overall needs to reevaluate things from all angles. Regardless, I’m trying to be grateful for the time that I’ve been given to explore and allow for growth. Here’s to hoping I can at least write a book based on my insane dream journal and make something out of the horrors I often face at night. And please forgive me if I ever rig a Buzzfeed quiz so I can be a Carrie. Just let it happen.
by Elizabeth Saubestre
I’ve had an image that I have held in my mind for a while. I had imagined that I would be driving home from my first semester as a transfer student at a new college, listening to my Spotify Wrapped playlist as I am prone to doing in the latter half of December. I would be fresh off of finals week, exhausted, ready to see my dogs, feeling both nostalgic and driven. I would go to the third-annual Christmas party that my friends and I would’ve excitedly planned over the past month, and I would get to tell them about the ups and downs of college and try to reclaim the crown in Mario Party that my team had sadly lost the last year.
With the month of December being the same drudgery that the last nine of the pandemic provided, it feels fairly safe to say my imagined scenario won’t be the reality, and I’ve known that for a while. Of all the details I’ve had to mourn, however, my excitement for Spotify Wrapped wasn’t one of them. And yet, this year, it seems to represent something different. How do you even begin to quantify a year in a pandemic, and how do you look back on the songs you’ve listened to through one of the most disruptive times you’ve ever faced?
I certainly have some predictions for what the year “wrapped” will look like. Every year since I joined Spotify I made it my goal to listen to a bit more music, and I think it’s safe to say that I’ll have achieved as much (the long, lazy days of summer spent sitting on my bed and staring at the ceiling with different playlists playing gently in the background were productive in their own way). I’m sure that the Succession soundtrack will have earned its place as my new go-to study music, and I would be surprised to not see “betty” (or any folklore song) in one of the top spots. Other than that, though, it’s a bit of a guessing game.
Wrapped was always a fairly constant endeavor for me. It’s safe to say that I’m a creature of habit. You could say that I know what I like, or you could say that I’ve had the same musical sensibilities since high school. My Spotify is certainly no exception to that rule; it’s always been a relatively consistent mix, year after year. The songs have always fallen into a few set categories: songs to shout-sing with while I drive to work, songs to listen to when it’s nighttime and I’m feeling a bit too nostalgic given how young I am, guilty pleasure pop songs that I insist aren’t guilty pleasures, songs with weird titles that caught my eye on my Discover Weekly, whatever musicals I’m listening to that year to keep me in touch with my theatre kid past self.
Of all the things that the pandemic has changed, the way that I’ve listened to music is undoubtedly one of them. Music has always been a soundtrack to transit for me. When I need to walk between classes, I’ll listen to my playlist I’ve curated for that month. In the car? I’ll do the same thing. Grabbing food before a shift? You guessed it. That’s something I lost in the pandemic. It’s not just the act of going places that I lost with the social distancing advisory, it’s the way I interact with an art form that is incredibly important to me.
As previously stated, I didn’t lose the pure act of listening to music, but rather how I went about it. It’s always been a simple pleasure of mine to create monthly playlists that capture whatever vague vibe I’m feeling, but when months start blending together, making the mere aspect of time appear to not be changing much at all, suddenly even listening to music seems counterintuitive. I have one playlist dedicated to all of 2020. It’s eight hours and thirteen minutes and by no means short, but when I look at it, I’m unable to break up what songs I listened to during which months, it’s all just one long list of songs (most of which I barely know the lyrics to, which is greatly out of character for me).
It’s not news that the transcending qualities of music can be nothing short of magical. That’s part of the reason I love the Wrapped system. How beautiful and awful that I can listen to my 2016 playlist and remember high school, how cruel and wonderful to shuffle between Modern Baseball and Paramore and reflect on how far I’ve come. How bittersweet to remember 2019 days spent yelling Mitski’s “Townie” at the top of my lungs and listening to “Gotta Get Up” after a Russian Doll binge.
So what to make of a year where I don’t have these specific memories linked to sitting in my car, driving to work on a play or to a part-time job or to class? I’ve sat in my car, sure, but without any purpose to it, the random drives around town all just sort of mush together and the soundtrack to it is no exception. Maybe actually seeing the elusive Wrapped 2020 will change that for me. Maybe I’ll finally gain some clarity about these months that have happened around me since March. Maybe I’ll just be reminded of some really great tunes. Who knows?
2020 will not be the year I will want to look back on, it won’t be the thing that keeps me busy on a drive back home, but in its own way, it will be a collection of memories, dull or elusive though they may be. Though I may have lost many of the little moments I’m so accustomed to, there will be things that are special to look back on in their own way; painting my nails on the bathroom floor and listening to Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia,” released on my early days of quarantine birthday. Hanging up a call with my friends and listening to “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers and thinking about the future and how far away it seemed from that long before dawn in July listening to The Amazing Devil, as I sneakily dropped music recommendations in a BAMPFA blog post.
(As a quick author’s note, by the time this will be posted, Spotify Wrapped has, in fact, been released and foiled my hopes that it would wait until after this post was out into the world. The sentiment nonetheless remains.)
by Clara Sperow
the homemade house
The big bag of chocolate chips sits on top of the fridge. They reach tiny sticky hands inside.
It’s her turn to take out the compost.
Do you want to hold this chicken? Sometimes I flirt with boys because I feel sad for them.
Bedtime comes like a tidal wave. Will you read me another book? Will you read me Hope for the Flowers?
Do you know that you are still a caterpillar? Do I know? Does eating leaves and crawling feel like enough?
Homemade handmade wooden beds and kitchen table and bread. Pans hang from the ceiling. Dad’s newly printed photos on the wall in place of a TV.
Women in our family are hairy. That’s why there’s wax in the bathroom. Can we go to the library again?
We can walk there, if you want. But will you bring a jacket?
We drive half the way. Walk the rest.
This house used to be covered in Halloween decorations. But they weren’t scary. I wasn’t scared.
She runs fast down the sidewalk. Don’t go past the corner. I want to reach out and hold her hand when she crosses the street but I don’t want her to imagine fear.
This is her apartment. Are we early? What time is it? Okay, let’s go up the stairs.
Do you want to come in? My ceiling fell in last year. But look at the view. I talked to someone last week who said they only understand dogs, not people. I think I only understand children. I know the front of the building looks ugly but look at the view.
I look at the rooftops. The streets mirror the train table back in the living room.
I walk back to the car alone. Look both ways before crossing the street.
the magic box
I don’t want to be famous.
When I was her age, I did. Sometimes I think I still do.
How would you feel if it only rained raisins?
Okay, my turn. What would you do if you could only shower in yogurt?
She climbs onto the counter.
We might have to use our hands.
I watch her stick her fingers into the bowl of peanut butter and powdered sugar.
What do you do when you leave?
I finished my story. In it I find a magic box that lets you travel to whatever age and time you want. So I turn into a baby.
Sourdough starter starts to bubble in the glass bowl. Grandma’s kitchen and grandma’s starter. Family dinners covered in a thick layer of butter.
Kombucha brews next to futon. A piece of friend’s kitchen. Living things from the living that whisper you are loved.
Worms wiggle in backyard bin.
They just love the rotten sweet potato.
The spider stays in one place on the wall.
Maybe it died.
Standing up? Standing... horizontal?
Ants crawl across the floor.
Maybe they are cold. Maybe their homes are flooded.
Condensation coats insides of windows. Outsides of lace curtains.
The light forms and separates on the backs of my eyelids like oil and water.
The cat sticks her face in my mug of honey lavender kombucha.
I am handing out pieces of myself like pamphlets.
Here, let me read you Dandelion Wine. This chapter is about lime-vanilla ice and falling in love.
by Saffron Sener
Almost every time I have video called into school or extracurriculars from my bed, I am asked about the weird wall space above me. My bed is tucked into an alcove, six or so feet wide and three or so feet sunk in from the rest of the wall. When I am just a head in a Zoom square, the blank wall corners stretching above me look simultaneously like they’re dozens of feet tall and encapsulate me into an unusually small room.
I wonder, if to all these new faces I see in my classes, whether I am memorable as a person or as a video square. Do they associate me with my voice, face, movements, as we might in a normal semester? Am I a person? Or do they remember me by my background, my room, my head as a foregrounded, flat object laid across these things? The girl with the weird walls. Do they remember me at all? And I, to them - when I think of the new people I have met through my Zoom classes, I think of them as these faraway characters. People, yes, but people I don’t really know, no matter how many lectures we attend together-apart.
At the beginning of this semester, I told myself I wouldn’t write anything about COVID. Not even words like these which are not necessarily about it but rather existing during it. I just felt like writing words related to this pandemic would grant it a sort of finality I didn’t want to give up. It already chokes every conversation. It is on the tip of all our tongues, all the time. COVID must be talked about, yet we all want desperately for it to have never existed, never crossed our minds. Last Spring, I studied abroad in London. COVID shut the Italy exchange program down in late February. Since that moment, my time abroad felt like it was slipping from my hands; one after the next, programs got shut down. My program, UCEAP English Universities, was the last in Europe to get the “go home” email - mid-March, almost exactly nine months ago. I remember refreshing my Gmail app every thirty seconds, dreading the announcement but wishing it would just get to my inbox already, the stress of knowing what was to come, but still hoping maybe it wouldn’t weighing me down.
But, I can’t do it. I’m going to kind of write about COVID. It’s raining, and the internet in my neighborhood is completely out until several hours from now. I’m writing this on the Notes app. My life, at times like this, feels like it barely exists beyond the confines of my room. So precarious, wired carefully to the rest of the world by a finicky stable-unstable Wifi connection.
On my walls hang the art I have accumulated over the past few years. The walls are less cluttered than years past, because I figured when I moved into this room in August that a less overwhelming space may help yield a less overwhelmed brain for the upcoming online semester. Two prints from the East Bay Zine Fest, and two from the East Bay Print Sale, which typically would take place on the same day in December, resulting in me spending too much money as I rushed from West Berkeley to Oakland before the artists I loved had their tables cleared out of stock. A print from a zine fair in London, which I was too afraid to put on the corkboard of my dorm there but had to shove into my luggage when I moved out almost three months early. A tapestry of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights - it’s right by my desk, and I wonder if people can make out what it is when I talk to them on Zoom. A tapestry of cows that I got at a food market in London, behind my laptop. A risograph calendar from Wolfmann Books in Oakland, which I forget to turn at the beginning of each month.
One of my favorite parts of a semester is accumulating new things to adorn my walls. Prints, postcards, tapestries, post-it notes - anything I can make stick. But these things that are on my walls now feel wrong. They’re of a different world, one before nine months ago, one where I wasn’t confined to my room for 95% of the day. They are my things, but they feel old, outdated - foreign, in a way, like I found an old box in the attic and unloaded its content onto my walls. Bygone, perhaps. I love these things, but it is difficult to see them when they are all I have to see.
Like my walls’ decor, my classes feel strangely not-mine. The Zoom gallery squares are a collage of faces and names, people I won’t know beyond this screen and won’t know me either. The mysterious, seductive anonymity of unknown others in a lecture hall has been replaced by the ability to stare at myself for a whole lecture, or entirely erase my peers and pin my professor to my screen. An hour never feels like an hour, more like a day or a minute. I struggle to feel like a real student, or even person, and not just a collection of thoughts stuffed into a body.
I should go for a walk, but it’s still raining and oh - it gets dark at 5:00pm now.
by Dylan Murphy
Recreational thrift shopping is a hobby that has emerged among American adolescents within the past 10 years that marks a perceptible shift in the collective intuition of the American youth’s relationship to both fashion and materiality. Prior to this cultural reevaluation, the consumer demand for thrift shopping was tied to the entirely unglamorous realities of providing second-hand clothing at accessible prices for families and individuals who hadn’t the financial resources to purchase new, name-brand clothing. Recognizing that store-bought clothing is bereft of a certain auratic value, consumers have flocked en masse to thrift stores as a means to source clothing articles that serve to reflect a self-image that hopes to recapture the sentimentality of material objects.
To contextualize how thrift shopping is a component of this cultural shift is to first examine the peripheral changes in collective sentiments that fostered such a change in consumer habits to begin with. The financial strain that was brought on by the 2008 housing crisis impressed the fragile capriciousness of money upon the American psyche’s perception of wealth and how wealth is displayed in a socially sanctioned way. The stylistic excesses of the early 21st century (perpetuated by celebrity fashions of immodest and non-utilitarian styles of leather and velour as well as ostentatious jewelry and adornments) became both impractical and tactless in a time where the average American household was facing an inordinate amount of debt and long-term unemployment. This time of economic vulnerability was sobering for the American people, as it made strikingly clear the vast inequities present in the U.S. class system, and what followed was a consumer trend towards fashionable pragmatism.
The mythology of thrift shopping, however, is found in its transcendence from mere modesty into a cultural tentpole that hopes to reimbue materiality with a tonal sense of
uncommercialized rootsiness. The rapid growth of clothing brands and mass production of identical items of clothing has devalued or at the very least demystified clothing as purposefully made (and worn) garments that carry with them the artistic intent of their creator. This alienation from the intimacy that a person has with what they wear manifests itself in a wider social appetite for clothing that feels historied and well-worn. That appetite has produced a generation of adolescents that desire to physically express their appreciation for the deliberately retrograde and seek to vicariously enmesh themselves with the implied experience that the clothing is laden with.
The appropriation of thrift clothing from its necessitous origins to its bum-chic alt-fashion status also implies a cultural distortion that exploits the image of scarcity for the sake of a fashionability. The redefinition of the cultural value of thrifted wares as merely something to equip young adults with unconventional garb is irreverent to the unfortunate realities of the class inequity that still very much exists and requires many Americans to purchase second-hand clothing not for the sake of style but by the constraint of destitution. Furthermore, to canonize something into the stylistic repertoire requires the subject matter, in this case second-hand clothing, to enter a solely aesthetic scrutiny that further estranges and obscures the cultural object from its historical context and sociocultural realities. The consequence of this change is the obfuscation of the class inequities that the ontology of thrift stores had made so lucid and recognizable to the American populace.
This distortion of the nature of thrift stores supersedes (and thereby trivializes) the poignancy that should be innate in their cultural understanding with a perversion of reality that discounts the tact and mindfulness that defined thrift shopping’s existence to begin with.
by Beck Trebesch
Collage is a Bozeman-grown ski movie that aired in October 2020, boasts a 30-minute run time, and features local talent from the Gallatin Valley. The crew, Entourage, is spearheaded by Bozeman local Jack Price who is both featured and behind the camera. However, despite admirable attempts to convey skiing and snowboarding in the most fun and epic terms, the undeniable talent presented in Collage is bogged down by stylistic inconsistencies and unattentive editing practices.
The biggest error that pervades Collage is its lack of identity, fully exposed by the stylistic diversion in the third act. Entourage and more specifically filmer, editor, director extraordinaire Jack Price, were clearly attempting to evoke a range of moods and themes through the song choices and settings, characteristic of any ski movie. Broad appeal is always the goal in debuting a creative endeavor, so having a little something for each skier or snowboarder to emotionally attach to is a common narrative in ski movie production. However, I think this attempt to find common ground with a vast internet audience forced Jack’s hand in making some editorial compromises in the first two legs of the film.
Out of the gate, Jack and the rest of Entourage are fighting an uphill battle in terms of making an identifiable and exciting splash in the pond of internet ski films. The opening segment, which abruptly cuts off the introduction and feels like misplaced advertising space for the film sponsors, features the skiing talents of Noah Metzger, Sidney Simard, and Benjamin Janus. The song, “Catamaran” by the Allah Las, is a sour, breezy, reverb-soaked sterile alternative rock song that leaves absolutely no impression on the viewer. It’s the first sign of regrettable missed potential, as the skiing itself is pretty sick. I think Sidney, Noah, and Ben’s hard charging, confident freeride skiing is also undermined by the use of distant or misplaced camera angles. The drone shots? They’re too showy. The amount of cuts between angles on certain tricks? Too frequent. It’s attention dividing. The hapless filming in this first part is the initial marker of the inconsistent editorial and videographic choices made across the film, ultimately contributing to my sense that Collage is an extended edit (rather than a film) of good intentions and crude execution.
On the topic of identity, the evident novelty in Collage is the transition shots that isolate videos of the production crew in shapes that move, expand, and overlap one another on screen. I think in concept this would be really cool but in reality it feels like corporate, Google Slides-inspired artwork. It's flashy eye candy in the introductory segment but past that, I feel it only hinders the flow and feel of Collage. It would be different if the individual shots morphed and twisted into a greater whole, but they only pass through the negative space of black or white backgrounds, emblematic of what could’ve been. Furthermore, this editing trick (mis)informs the title of the film. I think in the common artistic imagination a collage is assembled through choosing symbolic or thematic motifs from one source (like a magazine) and translating them in a purposefully imperfect way into a greater schematic whole. It’s supposed to be literally rough around the edges so fitting videos to precise, isolated, and geometric forms that rarely add up to other shots does nothing to convey the cerebral, layered, and uncouth vibe of a collage. Look at the Meathead Films trailer for Work It Out (2010) to see this done well. Maybe, I care too much for etymology but I felt this connection was too significant to overlook.
It’s also notable that the collage trademark essentially disappears in the third act. According to my sources in and around the Entourage crew (👀), Grant Larson took over the editing job for the final 15ish minutes. Now, I don’t even know if someone had to tell me this because the tonal shift from Ethan Dyer’s segment to the first of the Beartooth (mountain range in Montana) segments is strikingly apparent. I think it's mostly distinguished by the changes in pacing (cuts between shots, shot length) and filtering (shot quality and coloration). Grant’s style, predicated on his experience with Missoula crew ‘Salt N’ Peppa’, is more meditative but noticeably rougher in presentation. I don’t think this works against this segment at all; I quite liked the dynamism of the skiing and the camaraderie as it worked with the music to achieve a more satisfactory set of shots. However, as a cohesive final product, these final segments speak to the haphazard and rushed nature of Collage.
My final gripes about this film lie in the technical details. Aspect ratios! I am under the opinion that they shouldn’t change throughout a film, or if they do, they should serve a narrative or aesthetic purpose. I can’t say that was true for Collage as each ratio change seemed random and due to a lack of foresight when changing cameras or lenses; either way, it was visually unpleasant every time. The overlay of “film” was also jarring as these shots felt like they were digital videos co-opted to a film filter for what fraudulent reason I do not know. There were also some mixing issues, especially in Ethan Dyer’s segment. Ultimately, Collage’s downfall is its inconsistency.
Otherwise, I can still commend the film for the effort and the sport. I have to applaud Jack, Ethan, Sidney, Max, Charley, and Tennessee for putting down a good number of shots that were absolutely psycho, namely Tennessee’s 360 to rockslide, his 270 boardslide to treebonk pretzel 270, Ethan’s frontflip tree splitter, Will Griffith’s rodeo 7 high safety to ride out, and Jack’s closer to his segment (just go watch it). I also want to give a nod to the telemark segment featuring Elijah Vargas and Thomas Gebhards. This was creative, original, and totally bonkers. Nollie (?) frontflip? Nollie/nose butter cork 7?? Fucking gnarly! At the end of the day, a lot of these dudes are my friends and I support what they do, regardless if I like it or not. This was also Jack’s first movie and he approached it with promising ambition and work ethic. In the future, I’d like to see Entourage hone their focus and take more time with the creative process to make a stronger statement in the increasingly saturated world of freeskiing.
Collage (2020) - 5/10
"Work it Out" trailer:
by Akshata Atre
I watch (probably) way too much TV. So much so that I’m not even going to try to pull together a list of my top TV shows of all time. Instead, as we head into what’s most likely going to be a pretty brutal winter, I’d like to share a few of the best shows I’ve binged in the hell that is 2020. These shows have brought me a lot of comfort this year, and hopefully they can do the same for you!
Yes, Community is on Netflix now and yes, I think it’s worth the hype. Frankly, there’s not much more I can say about how great this show is, but if you’re a fan of late 2000s comedies, this is a can’t-miss. The writing & main cast are both fantastic, the storylines are so wonderfully bizarre without being too over-the-top, and even the xany side characters add so much depth to the world of Greendale Community College. And if you’ve ever felt that the half-hour sitcom is hindered by its time constraint of 21.5 minutes, Community is here to prove you wrong. Just maybe skip season 4. After all, there was a gas leak.
Alias Grace (Netflix)
I’m a sucker for period dramas, and this is only the first one on this list. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel by the same name, Alias Grace is set in late nineteenth-century Canada and tells the pseudo-true story of convicted murderess Grace Marks. Overall, I thought the show held pretty true to Atwood’s novel, the few typical Hollywood changes aside. Sarah Gadon is fantastic in the role of Grace, her emotions perfectly calculated as she recounts her life story to Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), a psychiatrist tasked with proving her innocence. The cinematography is also stunning, and all the actors are wonderful-- I especially love Gadon’s Irish accent and Zachary Levi’s surprise appearance. Another bonus is how short the show is-- a mere six episodes, each one better than the next.
Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
Am I late to the party? 1000%. But what was extra fun about watching Peaky Blinders this summer was watching it with a friend over Zoom! Okay, maybe not that exciting, but this show definitely is. Another period drama-- set right after World War I-- Peaky Blinders follows the members of the Birmingham gang of the same name as they rebuild their underworld empire and rise to new heights of power and wealth. Gorgeous cinematography, gorgeous cast, amazing storylines, and also a very successful use of modern music to score a period drama. I seriously cannot recommend this show enough, but be warned: you will need subtitles, and also season 5 ends on a pretty big cliffhanger which, given the pandemic, will probably not be resolved until 2022. But there are always Reddit theories to tide you over until then.
The Inbetweeners (Netflix)
Every time I stumble on a UK TV show like the Inbetweeners, I wonder why we don’t have a good US equivalent, because I’m definitely missing like 50% of the culture-specific jokes in both The Inbetweeners and the similarly-styled Derry Girls. But regardless, this show is absolutely hilarious and provides such a great perspective on what it’s like to be the kind of teenager who’s not the focus of typical teen TV dramas. The show follows Will and his (forced) friends Simon, Neil, and Jay and their misadventures in English public school. The boys are all wonderfully idiotic and misguided in their outlook on life, and although their antics are cringy, the characters’ self awareness keeps the show from falling into “Scott’s Tots” territory. The show is also another quick watch, with just 18 20-ish minute episodes.
Upload (Amazon Prime)
If you love The Good Place and Black Mirror, Upload is like a perfect hybrid of the two. Created by Greg Daniels-- yes, that Greg Daniels, creator of the US The Office-- the show follows Nathan (Robbie Amell) through his death and subsequent “upload” to the digital afterlife of Lake View as he develops a friendship with his virtual “Angel” Nora and tries to figure out how he died. The best way I could describe this show is if you took “San Junipero” from Black Mirror, expanded it, made it funny, and added in an anti-capitalist subplot. Basically all the ingredients for an awesome sci-fi comedy.
Space Force (Netflix) Another one from Greg Daniels… AND Steve Carrell?! Space Force is about, well, just that: it’s a comedic interpretation of the United State’s newest military branch. Although you might expect a Netflix show chock-full of comedy heavy-hitters to be a disappointment like the trailer suggests, Space Force is actually well worth the watch. Steve Carrell and his co-star John Malkovich are fantastic, the writing is almost too on-the-nose, and Ben Schwartz plays a social media director. What more can I say? This is also another show that does a good job fleshing out its supporting cast, which I always think makes a show like ten times better. But also maybe wait until after the election to watch this one.
The IT Crowd (Netflix) Picking up on the theme of British TV yet? A widely-beloved classic, I have to admit I was initially turned off by the multi-cam plus laugh track set up of this show. But a couple of episodes in you quickly realize that the audience laughter is truly deserved, and the writing on this show is just fantastic. The daily lives of Roy, Moss, and Jen down in the basement IT Department of Reynholm Industries are so bizarre yet also true-to-life in an The Office-satire kind of way… this show is just plain great. I wish there were more episodes!! Also, the show has instilled in me an everlasting love for Richard Ayoade. And can you believe The IT Crowd was on the air at the same time as Community, The Inbetweeners, The Office, and Parks and Rec? I mean, come on.
The Babysitter’s Club (Netflix) This one’s for the nostalgia. I still remember checking out the Babysitter’s Club books from my elementary school library and reading them late into the night. While the show isn’t set in the 80s like the original novels were, it’s a very cute adaptation of the first few books in the series, and a very light watch-- I finished the whole show in a weekend. The cast is absolutely adorable, and I actually found the writing pretty funny. I think people who haven’t read the books would still like the show, but for fans of the original series (and maybe also the 1995 movie) it’s definitely a fun adaptation.
Happy viewing! :)
by Katherine Schloss
For me, 2020 has been an exploration of interiors. Of my mind, but also of the house that I lived in growing up. An analysis of what exists where and why. And how, returning “home,” you’ll find that the spaces you once knew so well have changed and rearranged without you.
Moving away for college, the interiors that I existed in morphed and shifted in so many ways. First a dingy dorm room with spaces that would never quite feel like mine. Then, an apartment where I manipulated my belongings into arrangements that fit a new room, with a new view and cream colored walls that I could cover with a collage of my existence. I fantasized about owning another place, a haven within a big city with furniture and pieces that I’d gathered over time, creating a physical representation of the chaos within me.
Recently, I’ve been revisiting spaces where I slowly mapped out my own intellectual interior, remembering things about myself that developed in the four walls of my childhood bedroom. Memories of long nights spent studying and contemplating are contained within the architecture. How strange that we’ve become so tied to these insides, these places of safety amidst a world that increasingly offers up dangers at every turn, when not long ago life was about getting OUT. I walk these hardwood floors trying to feel grounded, traveling the carpeted stairs again and again with each rotation of the earth, with the delineation of time based on each new news app notification on my phone.
This fall, the art curatorial committee has created “Five Tables of Floor Plan,”delving into how artists depict humans within these physical floor plans, and how these spaces and bodies and cultural factors play off of one another. I challenge you to see how these pieces reach across time and space to reflect the ever-changing significance that interiors hold.
The first piece that I focused on was Interior perspective of kitchen (House of the Century scrapbook), created by Ant Farm. I found this piece to be particularly fascinating, not only because it introduces conceptualizations of utopian living spaces but also because Ant Farm was a collective that was founded to explore alternative art in its many forms. How can we reimagine living spaces, in their design as well as their function? How does each space we enter inherently contain meanings, both for the people living in it as well as larger social implications? I wonder to what extent the floor plans of this 1970s House of the Century- which as of late is in a state of decay- can be compared to modern architecture today. It’s interesting to see a building and its interior spatial arrangements as a vision for the future or an indicator of the ways in which we exist in these spaces can change over time.
The second piece that I researched was Tetsuya Noda’s Diary: August 22, 1968. I’m currently in a Japanese History class, and have always been obsessed with woodblock prints, but I was drawn to this piece immediately because it’s so different from traditional Japanese woodcuts. Noda has amassed a great visual chronicle of his intimate life as well as the more public happenings that he has been witness to. This specific piece focuses on a family and its existence in a space, however my inclination when viewing it is to notice how people can be arranged in their own sort of floor plan. This picture can be seen as representing a sort of family hierarchy, with the oldest members having the privilege of gaining a seat on the couch, as well as a separation by traditional conceptions of gender for the younger generations. I’m intrigued by the way Noda’s color palette creates a meshing of their bodies, the background, and the objects which have been placed center stage, suggesting that their bodies are inextricably linked to the landscape of the photo. They become a unit in their arrangement, situated below the great expanse of white space hovering above their heads.
As you delve into the BAMPFA student committee’s recent iteration of “Five Tables,” look around yourself and think of the ways that you have shaped the interiors of your life and the spaces around you. How does your personality manifest itself on the walls? And how has being inside for quarantine changed the meaning of the floor plans that you know so well?
by Saprina Howard
MFKZ, short for motherfuckers, is a tasteless anime film written, produced, and directed by a slate of non-American men. It follows the life of an African American alien character named Angelino, who is “ just one of thousands of deadbeats living in Dark Meat City. ” (IMBD Synopsis)
Aside from the obvious ode to Los Angeles in the protagonist’s first name, this synopsis is LOADED with coded racial language like “deadbeats” and “Dark Meat City.”
The film may be fantasy, but it is clearly a portrayal of non-Hollywood Los Angeles.
One may argue that to critique a “fantasy” film on the terms of real life is unreasonable. Oftentimes where race is present in anime, a colorblind audience is quick to discredit any harmful meaning in the overtly offensive depiction of African American culture. However, to truly dissect a film we should put it into context-- into its place and time.
Whenever a hideously drawn Black character makes their way onto the screen, Black viewers cringe.
Too many times Black anime consumers must quell a sickening feeling as they watch caricatures perform violent, loud, or inhuman behaviors. Many of the Black characters in this film are racial caricatures lifted straight out of Jim Crow era Minstrel shows! They remarkably resemble a mix between a Pickaninny and a Buck.
Even in anime, known for its limitless potential and imagination, Black people are not imagined outside of the confines of reality’s burdensome stereotypes. The directors of this film and their internalized anti-Black ideas are to blame.
The professional team behind the creation of this film are from France and Japan; nations that refuse to acknowledge their Black population. Japan denies Japanese identity to half-Black citizens and France suffers so badly from colorblindness that it’s illegal to consider race!
Anti-Blackness is programmed into the citizens of both of these societies. With small Black communities unable to represent themselves in French and Japanese societies, both countries remain largely persuaded by negative portrayals of Blackness in the media.
If art is a reflection of one’s values, then this film reeks of the creators’ anti-Black sentiments. It is a highlight reel of every racist thing they have ever thought about Black people.
Let us focus on the depiction of one neighborhood from the film:
In the film a neighborhood named Palm Hill seems to be an interpretation of the Palmwood cul-de-sac and Baldwin Hills, both historically Black communities. MFKZ embraces the trope that Palmwood is violent, filthy, and that gun violence, drugs, and joblessness run rampant. In the movie the neighborhood is so chaotic that even people’s homes are falling apart.
These myths about Blackness and Black neighborhoods have been popular since the Transatlantic Slave Trade. After emancipation in 1863, codes and vagrancy laws criminalized Black people who were unable to find work and justified terrorizing free black folk for demonstrating their human right to freedom. Since then, vagrancy myths that conjure stereotypes of laziness, deviance, and aggression were popularized by the western world’s media and have remained the main examples of African American culture for some homogenous societies to this day.
The film's atrocious depiction of Black inner city life misses the mark, as well as an opportunity to creatively engage an anime version of the beauty that already exists in Baldwin Hills and the Palmwood neighborhood. Instead, the hideous Palmhill neighborhood in MFKZ serves as a cesspool of racial tropes and plotless violence.
Japanese anime creators endlessly reimagine medieval Europe. With eurocentricity and whiteness so romanticized as part of anime’s visual appeal, this is evidence that anime is not colorblind. Race and reality are augmented within anime worlds and if white culture earns reverence by anime creators, then they can certainly find it in themselves to revere Black culture too.
Black people are famously consumers and lovers of Japanese pop culture who deserve more respect than anime currently alots its Black audience. When anime creators finally appreciate the richness and nuance of Black culture instead of demonizing or bastardizing Blackness, maybe Black audiences can breathe a sigh of relief instead of holding their breath for not knowing which racist portrayal comes next.