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.
by Truly Edison
image via mentalfloss
Remember all those Daniel Craig Bond movies? No Time To Die is apparently still coming out...eventually. Evidently, not on any streaming platforms, according to the most recent news from producers. I myself am violently neutral on this newest Bond reboot (if maybe still a little annoyed from having to hear “Skyfall” on the radio ten times a day back in 2012). I could never put my finger on exactly why I didn’t find them particularly compelling; something about them just didn’t click for me, some unidentifiable but obvious element. But recently I came across an article from earlier this year that started putting the picture together for me just a little bit more—it proposed the idea that this newest reboot of the series struggles because it finds itself living in the shadow of parodies and other campy iterations of its genre. Namely, the Austin Powers films.
Now, for the sake of putting any and all biases on the table from the get-go, I am an AVID fan of Austin Powers. The first film is easily one of my favorite movies of all time, and that’s movies, not comedies. My high school girlfriend almost broke up with me junior year because I got so obsessed that I started reflexively talking...Like That (groovy, baby ☹️).
I read Surrey’s article first because of the selfish fan Schadenfreude that came from the idea that these stupid movies I love were tangibly screwing up a multi-billion-dollar cinematic universe (as well as the obvious dirty joke in Craig’s lament that ‘Austin Powers fucked James Bond’). What I got out of it was a perspective on the whole phenomenon I had never considered before. These modern Bond movies have undertaken an uphill battle: the quest of becoming the ‘serious’ Bond films. They wanted to create a Bond who was nuanced, who had more weight to him than previous incarnations of the globetrotting, womanizing spy. They feared letting the lingering silliness of the character—of the concept—seep too much into their new films. And they definitely didn’t want to get too close to the cultural legacy of Austin Powers.
But where I personally think Surrey struggles a little is in his lukewarm expression of just how integral this campy approach is to Bond films—to spy films in general, to be honest. He’s willing to admit that camp might have been “occasionally the intention”, skirting around it in reference to the older films like it’s a bad word or something. I want to take it a step further. In my opinion, these movies HAVE to be campy to work at all; trying to overcome the inherent ridiculousness of the premise is a burden that not only can’t really be shed but shouldn’t be.
Like, I can’t be the only person who finds something about all those classic Bond films kind of hilarious, right? I can’t even pinpoint exactly one thing; perhaps some part of it is looking at them in retrospect. After all, in a post-Bond world, they can have a tendency to run like parodies of themselves. Those over-the-top opening credits, all those tropes and cliches we know and love presented as-is in their original context with no self-consciousness or pretense of satire...poorly aged as they are, there’s an undeniable sort of charm there. Even if we go off the assumption Surrey makes that the humor here is incidental, you can’t name a character Dr. Goodhead on accident. I mean for fuck’s sake, one of those films is called Octopussy! That’s the title of a real Bond movie! It’s not a porn parody! Spy movies in the style of James Bond are dumb as hell, and I say this as the most sincere of compliments. If you’re still not convinced, just try and listen to the opening theme for 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun with a straight face.
And taking something like Austin Powers into account, parody is the most natural cultural response to films like these. There’s just so much perfect raw material! Nothing new even really has to be added—all Austin Powers does is crank existing tropes up to eleven and put them in a ‘real world’ to highlight the absurdity. Honestly, I feel like with less time travel and genre consciousness Austin Powers could have run as a fairly-straight series of spy films (and 16 year old me probably would have been just as obsessed with it).
Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate what I’m trying to get at here is to pull an example from a more immediately obvious failure: the mid 2010s attempts to revive Superman, particularly 2016’s catastrophic Batman vs. Superman. If you're making a theoretical ‘gritty’, ‘updated’ Superman movie, you’re going to run into one major problem: Superman is, innately, a guy in a blue spandex suit who shoots lasers out of his eyes and dies if he touches a certain kind of rock. And that’s hilarious! If you lean too much into preserving these inherent qualities of Superman, you’ll wreck the intended tone of your film—but if you stay away from them, you won’t end up with a Superman movie at all, just the awkward and over-compensating shell of one. Spy movies, particularly Bond movies, work the same way to me. It’s the parts that are cheesy and dumb that are essential.
So in these recent Bond movies, you end up with this almost Freudian return of the repressed as they work so, so hard to hold back the nature of their own existence. It’s how you get cultural oddities like Casino Royale (2006)’s infamous cock-and-ball torture scene (click at your own risk!). As the first of the modern, newly ‘serious’ Bond films, it had the most daunting challenge to overcome—the need to completely define out of the genre the very things that made it. The scene is off-puttingly, and yet hilariously brutal and unnecessary. You can just feel some poor writers going See? See? Bond movies are tough and gritty now. Please don’t laugh at us. Granted, some of that humor comes from the consciously written dialogue, but a hefty portion of it is completely situational. You want to laugh not just at Bond’s shrewd wise cracks but at the whole thing, while at the same time kind of knowing you aren’t supposed to. The need to differentiate inevitably cycles back into absurdity. The harder you work to hold that essential nature of the Bond movie back, the harder it’ll pop up to bite you in the ass for trying to ditch it. It’s inescapable.
And why should we try to escape it? Why should we be afraid of a little camp now and again? It’s not a crime to make a stupid movie. If anything, we could use more stupid movies. I get so tired out by the same old cement-gray oh-so-serious vibe of (cue bitter old man voice) Movies Today™. Sure, movies today are ‘good’—but are they fun? That’s a bit of a trick question there; in my opinion, at least, a movie that’s fun is good, even if the movie is bad. And I’d rather have a fun ‘bad’ movie than a boring ‘good’ movie any day of the week.
There’s this poor guy in the comments section of that Man With The Golden Gun clip who says “I have no idea why people think this movie is ridiculous. It's one of my favorites.” Take it from your local Austin Powers enthusiast: there’s no reason those things can’t both be true. In the case of Bond films, maybe they even both should be true.
by Khaled Alqahtani
It’s the 10th week of the semester, and I’m thrilled to announce that I haven’t had a breakdown (yet). Although I’ve been on the verge of many, taking the semester back home and being closer to everything I’m familiar and intimate with has managed to bring me comfort every single time. And I’ve been recently just observing and documenting them in an attempt to immortalize them, or at least fully appreciate and celebrate them as I'm constantly haunted by the idea of losing them.
Expressions of intimacy, both physical and verbal, have always been explicit around me: kisses, hugs, and all. But it took me too long to recognize and decode the implicit ones. My inability to recognize them was a result of me speaking only my love language, which I used with others without considering if it was enough for them or not. I didn't even slightly try to understand it because I thought my language was the only way to do it. I'm currently learning how to speak their languages and understand their definitions of love and intimacy, and how they like and feel comfortable to express them.
My mother asks me every evening to share a cup of mint-tea with her. My dad touches my head and whispers a prayer every time he passes by me. My siblings share their favorite Sheeren's songs with me. I can list at least one sign every person I know uses to show their closeness to me and other people around them.
Being homesick while in Berkeley was my only personality trait at one point: "home" and everything this term entailed was everything I talked about and yearned for. And it was these small moments that I always longed for while being away, and they're the ones that always kept making go back when I knew that home didn't always love me back.
I'm facing the same issue of longing for people and Berkeley right now while I'm back home. Yet I'm instead trying to just appreciate them and bask in what I have now instead of constantly yearning for what I don't have between my hands.
by Katherine Schloss
First of all, Lulu Wang- the director of The Farewell- is life partners with Barry Jenkins (who directed Moonlight) and I just think that that’s so special. Also, this is a PSA: Kanopy is amazing and I wish that I’d known about the free access that Berkeley students have to so many amazingly artsy and touching films earlier on in my college career!!
I watched The Farewell (on Kanopy) for the first time a few weeks ago. Ingesting a film that is inherently centered around death seemed like an odd choice at the time- especially because my viewings up to that date had been about the escapism that comes with rewatching comedies that are dear to me, such as New Girl (a show that truly never disappoints and makes me feel fine about my own quirks), or about diving headfirst into trashy reality television dating shows. After watching The Farewell, I felt reawakened and safe in caring about the drama that is whipped up in the squeaky halls of Grey’s Anatomy- despite the fact that the show has a death:episode ratio of about 1:1 (and that’s ignoring the episodes with the big, all-encompassing traumatic events).
My time during this god-awful pandemic has been largely defined by questioning how I view big life events as they are slowly reduced to their barest bones. Holidays become an excuse to dress up, and birthdays an excuse to stuff my face with cake. In the film, Billi (Awkwafina) travels from New York back home to Changchun in northern China to attend her cousin’s wedding- which is a ruse to get the whole family together before they lose their beloved matriarch. Her grandmother is dying, and she can’t tell her. As the film explains, this is not looked down upon in Chinese culture, where the family members are seen as being responsible for taking on the burden of death. The supposedly joyous wedding ceremony takes on a whole new meaning and purpose, becoming cloaked in death.
Death is treated as a taboo subject in the film, and yet it’s all that any of the characters can think about. Death has really been ever-present lately. The decaying of democracy. The death of plans. The death of certainty. And, more seriously, the threat of real, bodily death as we all face the virus that none of us can truly stop thinking about.
Billi is a young artistically-minded gal who is struggling to find herself in New York- a mindset that I’m currently inhabiting despite my noted physical absence from that city that I want to eventually find myself in. She finds herself confronted with her own individualistic existence in the face of the impending death of her grandmother. I felt Billi’s crisis. I understood her willingness to pick up her life and avoid it all by moving to another country, far away from all of her own problems and ready to care for someone else. I know that I’d do the same for my own grandma. But surprisingly, I felt that Lulu Wang wanted audiences to focus on the family dynamics at play rather than to zone in on Billi’s identity crisis. As I’ve found to be characteristic of A24 movies, The Farewell is beautifully staged with its soft colors- but I was surprised at just how mellow and subdued the film felt despite its exploration of complex topics such as what it really means to pursue the American dream, what it feels like to return home, and how to keep a lie for the good of someone you love.
Billi learns that, when entangled in a family, there are some things that you can’t plan, some things that you need to let slip into the hands of others despite a desperate need to have some semblance of control over your own life. She navigates her own role in a family that feels so unlike her in both action and attitude, finding that her own identity will always be an amalgamation of what she knows herself to be and what her family sees in her.
Without revealing too much, when Billi finally walked down the streets of New York and suddenly broke into dancing and screaming, it felt like an embodiment of what goes through my head as I put my airpods in and drown out the world. And I was here for it. All of it.