The Brian Friel season Creating new narratives The revivial of vinyl Disney renaissance
Friday February 21 2014
short fuse. comments and rants on entertainment news.
College Dropout Kanye is long gone
veryone has a favourite Kanye West anecdote. For many nothing has ever topped the sheer bewilderment on the face of his co-presenter Mike Myers, as he struggled to maintain his professionalism in the wake of the infamous “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” incident in 2005. This was later described by Dubya as the worst moment of his presidency – which either says something about the power of Kanye or the sheer lack of selfawareness of the former president. It’s now 10 years since Yeezy released his celebrated debut album The College Dropout, and it feels like he’s rarely been absent from
the headlines since. A self-enforced exile following the 2009 VMAs debacle (so notorious it has its own section on Wikipedia) was followed by his fifth universally acknowledged, ludicrously maximalist My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010, which vaulted him back to the forefront of popular culture. But, there is the realisation that he’s probably never going to be the same chart conquering force that gave us ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Stronger’ again (with the exception of a certain, erm, “provocative” single, ‘Paris’, from Watch the Throne). Kanye has realised his wackier ideas more fully. ‘Black Skinhead’, the closest thing last year’s Yeezus
had to a lead single, sounded like a gnarled Marilyn Manson cover, complete with lyrics berating Middle America’s reaction to mixed race relationships – not exactly something you could imagine JayZ, or even spiritual successor Drake coming out with. The Kanye that released The College Dropout is all but gone. The steady flow of bizarre outbursts don’t look like they’re going to be stopping any time soon, but the artist behind them is now more daring, angry and fascinating. Just don’t ask him about Taylor Swift. Charlie Mayer
B. Goode to us: don’t go through with a Back to the Future musical
he original director, Robert Zemeckis, will co-author the musical adaptation of the classic 1985 film, Back to the Future, to set a landmark for the film’s 30th Anniversary in 2015. As someone who does not enjoy the larger-than-life style that so often renders musicals somewhat gauche, I am a difficult person to be persuaded by one. Musicals do, however, have their place and can be an enjoyable and beneficial use of time. For instance, the brooding attraction of Sweeny Todd, the thigh-slapping Grease, the glorious musical re-work of The Producers and the sex appeal of all three makes for quite respectable entertainment. Back to the Future has a story with plenty of charm and any young adult can relate to it, so I can see why the story itself may warrant the opinion that it would make a worthy musical performance. But, I fear that because the film already has
a tongue-in-cheek cheesiness, the musical will take this too far, turning an iconic film into a farce, where emotion is forced by haphazardly placed outbursts of song, like so many other musicals. On the other hand, composers Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri promise to keep rock ‘n’ roll classics ‘The Power of Love’ and ‘Johnny B. Goode’, which could promise impressive listening, although I doubt it. Personally, I dread the moment when a friend surprises me with two tickets to attend a musical Back to the Future. I’ll leave you with the words from Director Jamie Lloyd, who insists the production will be “witty, infectious and heartfelt”; you can take from that what you will.
appy new semester, and welcome to a new year of Fuse. We’ve had a stressful January and are glad to be back in the normal swing of things, assessment and exam-free - for now, at least! It’s that typically glum time of year, it’s not Christmas anymore, deadlines nearly killed us and we’re all knackered. We feel it, too. We also know a few things that can help: ordering pizza, buying Easterthemed chocolate (because chocolate is great anyway, but now it’s shaped like a bunny!) and spending all of your spare time asleep. You’re welcome. We’d like to welcome our new Arts editor, Camille, to the team. The former news editor has officially come to the dark side (where she belongs) and we hope you’ll be extra nice to her. Have a great fortnight! Kaz Scattergood Amelia Heathman
Freddie Lomas Thanks to Pippa Hurling for our gorgeous Spring cover! Want your art to be our next cover? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thurs Feb 27 6pm-8pm Activities & Sports Zone, £3
Game over for Crappy Bird
he game Flappy Bird has taken the world by storm. We’ve all seen various people pop up on our Facebook newsfeeds telling us just how good they are at flying a pixelated bird between pipes via the art of rhythmic tap. However, it appears as if, rather ironically, the game itself has hit one of its very own irritating obstacles. Flappy Bird’s Vietnamese creator Dong Nguyan has pulled the game from Apple App Store and Google Play, preventing even more people to become flappy addicts. Although, is the inability to be-
come a ‘flappy addict’ such a bad thing? Let’s be honest, all Flappy Bird did was give us all an excuse to put off work until we’d finally reached a level worthy of a shiny medal. Albeit a brilliant achievement, and one that would be shared with everyone it was humanly possible to tell, was it really as good as everyone made it out to be? The news that iPhones and tablets containing the game were hitting Ebay for upwards of £1,000, and in some cases up to the price of a two-bedroom house in Crookes, is nothing but shocking. One man in America is even renting out his
iPhone for $1 a minute of playing time on Flappy Bird. Surely the emergence of ‘flappy addicts’ hasn’t done the world much good. Even though the game hooked many of us, it was inevitable that it would fall from favour one way or another. On the other side of the pipe, none of us expected the creator themselves to be the one making the game fall. Ngyuan has put down his phone and stopped tapping the screen, will you? Joscelin Woodend
n this brew-tastic tea workshop, you’ll have the opportunity to sample different teas from all over the world. You’ll be able to judge flavours and appearances and spend a wonderful evening just learning about tea and getting to
expand your knowledge of the nation’s favourite beverage. Take a break from the demands your degree expects and chill out with a cuppa and some pals. You will not need a bottle of water.
Friday February 21 2014
What’s it all about, Georgie?
use’s Jess Dawson got the chance to catch up with George Ezra, one of 2014’s hottest artists, to chat about Live Lounge covers, First Great Western trains and what makes a song sound ‘festival-y’. Jess: So recently there’s a lot of hype surrounding you: you were a MTV Brand New artist for 2014, one of the Virgin Tips for 2014, one of the Launched C4 artists and more 2014 hot lists. You’ve supported Tom Odell on tour, you’ve just done a BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. How is it all going? George: Performing in the Live Lounge was really nerve-wracking. I played my own song first and that was all well and good. But the idea of killing someone else’s song on the radio, I wasn’t a fan. It was also scary having Fearne Cotton watching, she was my childhood crush. She did Top of the Pops at just the right time. Jess: There’s so many people supporting you and backing you, does that make you nervous or spur you on? George: Neither. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve always done. When it was all starting, there was a lot of talk like, ‘who do you want to beat? Who’s the competition?’ So I wasn’t a massive fan of the whole process but I do appreciate it massively. Jess: When did you know that music was a career you wanted to pursue? George: Do you know what, I was having this conversation recently with a friend of mine, and I’m still not aware that it is. It still feels like luck that I get to do it every day. But I did leave school at 16 to study music so I must have always wanted to do it but the fact that I’m doing it at the moment doesn’t feel like I’m owed it or anything like that. I feel lucky.
Jess: So the debut album is coming out soon, summertime, how is it going? What sort of stage is it at?
George: Done! Well, the recording parts are done. But we’ve recorded 19 songs so now we’ve got to sort of hack at it to cut it down. It’s a good position to be in, to have more songs: it would be shit if I was sitting round needing a new song. Jess: It must be so hard, for all these songs that’s you’ve produced, to suddenly be like, ‘Nah, can’t have that’. George: Yeah, but you can kind of rest easy that nowadays that so many bonus albums get released. You need b-sides, you need content all the time, so they’ll all be heard and they’ll all see the light of day, it’s just that you kind of want them all to be at home together. Jess: What’s the theme that ties all the songs and album together? George: I think the travelling that I’ve been doing. Whether it was around England, gig to gig, or when I went travelling around Europe for a bit on my own and all of it was done on trains. Now, I’ve got a tour manager but the last two years I’ve spent sat on First Great Western trains – so I guess travelling. Not about First Great Western though! Jess: Yeah, it’s all just to promote a train company! Are you feeling excited for it to be nearly finished so you can give it to the fans or are you feeling anxious with so many people supporting you?
and build it, and then the day it’s released, you’re kind of giving it to somebody. It’s no longer mine, in the sense that it’s as much everybody else’s if they’re interested in listening to it, whether they like it or not, and that’s quite a strange thing to get my head around.
Jess: I guess it’s going to be weird for it to be out and people finally know exactly what you’re about. George: I know, and you only release your first album once. No matter what I do, the first album I’ll ever release will always be this one. Thing is, though, sods law, in a few years’ time I’ll look back at it and be like, ‘well that was a bit crap’. I’m going to, aren’t I?
and all the venues get involved, and I think there’ll be a lot of them. I’m looking forward to it though, I’m looking forward to it being really busy and festival-y. Jess: Yeah, because your songs themselves are really festival-y. George: They are, aren’t they. When we recorded the album, we’d sit back and listen to bits and I kept saying, ‘imagine this at a festival!’ Especially once I’ve got a band. There are a lot that I hope will stand out at festivals.
Jess: You’re releasing the album in festival season – what festivals are you planning on playing at? George: I don’t know yet. Thing is I’m in a bit of a sticky situation because I don’t know what’s been announced and what hasn’t. So I’ll say… all the festivals. No, hopefully it looks like I’m going to be playing most summer festivals whether that’s in Europe or England. And also, festivals are a broad term now, because there’s cities that have festivals that last all day
George: No, I don’t feel anxious. I guess the only thing that is almost a bit upsetting about it is that you look after this thing for however long, and build it
George Ezra: Robert Blackburn
Available from the SU box office
Bugsy Malone: Fri Feb 28 19:30
Frozen: Sat March 1 19:30
20 Feet From Stardom: Sun March 2 19:30
Friday February 21 2014
The Brian Friel Season
Sheffield Theatres celebrates the work of the Irish dramatist by dedicating this season to three of his most influential plays
Wonderful Tennessee February 27 - March 8
February 13 -- March 8
February 6 - March 1
very year Sheffield Theatres produces a season that solely focuses on the work of one writer. This season features three plays by one of the greatest living English language dramatists, Brian Friel. The 2014 Stage Awards named Sheffield Theatres the best regional theatre organisation for the second year running. The Crucible and the Lyceum venues make up this award-winning branch of Sheffield’s culture scene and act as a second home for any Friel fans this month. The previous two author-focused seasons have been dedicated to the English writers Michael Frayn and Sir David Hare, but this year the theatres are offering a very different voice from across the Irish Sea. One of the most distinguished Irish dramatists, Friel is a widely respected author, director, and theatrical visionary. Celebrating his 85th birthday earlier this year, Friel was born in Omagh, County Tyrone. Due to the trickery and confusion present in many of his plays, it is no surprise that even this writer’s birthday isn’t simple. As he tells us in his attempt at an autobiography in 1972, the man has two birth certificates, one for both January 9 and January 10. This muddling of identity is interesting in relation to the muddling of fact and fiction and misunderstandings in many of his plays. Northern Ireland at the time Friel began writing was also in a state of confusion. The battle between the nationalists and the unionists made the political realm more easily avoided than confronted. Friel’s short stories and plays acted as a subtle way to share
his political and social ideas. Arguably the most famous of Friel’s plays is Translations, which you might recognise from being on the school curriculum. In the play Friel uses the language barrier between the Irish and the English in the 19th century to represent this turbulent time in Irish history. This Sheffield Theatre’s production of Translations excellently conveys the troubling sense of confusion felt during these times of cultural imperialism. Friel manages to create a story in which half of the characters speak Irish and the other half English, often misunderstanding each other, yet all the actors speak in English for the benefit of the audience. This production conveys this innovative use of language with wit and charm. The theatre-in-the-round surrounds the audience with the gorgeous Irish accents of the cast, and in true Irish spirit many members of the audience sipped away at a pint of Guinness throughout the show. Before Translations came to the Crucible, another of Friel’s excellent works started at the Studio Theatre. The concept behind Afterplay is as fascinating, if not a little more geared towards drama students and literature fanatics. Friel takes one character from Uncle Vanya and one from Three Sisters, two plays by Anton Chekhov, and puts them together twenty years later, in a café in Moscow, in a play of his own. Chekhov’s two characters, Sonya Serebriakova (Niamh Cusack) and Andrey Prozorov (Sean Gallagher) , meet one lonely night and end up confiding in one another about their family problems and personal lives, their pasts and presents. Sonya is a single woman with a failing farming estate, who has been
desperately in love with a married man for over 20 years. The effervescent Andrey invents a life for himself as a professional musician in order to hide the reality of his broken life as a busker. This production of Afterplay is made up of only one scene and the two characters interact for 50 minutes without an interval. The Crucible Studio Theatre acts as the perfect venue for the intimacy of the simple set and style of performance. Cusack and Gallagher excellently portray both the awkwardness of conversing with a stranger and the intensity of confiding in an old friend. Their ability to create a balance between the light and endearing elements of the characters, and the harsh reality and doom and gloom of their lives outside of the café, is impeccable. The lesser known Wonderful Tennessee will be on at the Lyceum to conclude the season. It is about a trio of married couples who plan to take a ferry to ‘Oilean Draiochta’, ‘the Island of Otherness’, and gradually the characters become increasingly touched by the sacred and the spiritual realm. The production intends to show the possibility of escape from the consumerism of the modern age. In light of the two previous productions of the season, Wonderful Tennessee promises to be another exceptional piece of theatre. As well as this trio of productions, the theatres are offering talkbacks after certain productions, as well as free readings of other Friel plays to pop into on your lunch break. Brian Friel is truly one of the greatest dramatists around, his works are equally as accessible as they are innovative and are definitely worth a watch this season. Lizzie Hyland
Image credited to Sheffield Theatres
Friday February 21 2014
A look into the rebirth of one of cinema’s greatest studios
he 1990s were a great decade to grow up in. Art Attack was on telly, Blur and Oasis were in the charts and – most importantly – something magical was happening in the cinemas. After a string of disappointments and outright failures in the 70s and 80s, Disney pulled hit after hit seemingly out of nowhere. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast; these films not only received critical acclaim (Beauty and the Beast also became the first animated film in history to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar), they would also go on to define the childhoods of millions of people all over the world. Admit it; even now you’re humming one of the songs, aren’t you? This period of animation greatness became known among cinephiles as the Disney Renaissance, and unfortunately it didn’t last after the year 2000. The studio’s efforts declined in popularity with audiences and critics alike, as the once great animation giant was overtaken by the likes of DreamWorks and Pixar. There were still some good Disney movies being produced, like Lilo and Stitch or the criminally underrated Treasure Planet, but none with quite the same impact. Recently, however, something’s begun to change. The studio’s latest film Frozen – a musical retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen – has been a huge hit, prompting many to wonder whether Disney is capable of another Renaissance like the one 20 years ago. Personally, though, I’d say we’re already there. In fact, if you look at the direction Disney has taken in the past decade, a lot of the same factors that made
the studio dominate the animation landscape in the 1990s are starting to creep back in. Firstly, look at what Disney’s most recent films have been about; of the studio’s last five movies, three – Frozen, Tangled, and The Princess and the Frog – were all based on fairy tales. In other words, the Disney Princess has made a comeback. Sure, there were princesses before the Renaissance of the 90s: in fact, the studio started with a princess by the name of Snow White. But it wasn’t until the likes of Belle, Ariel and Mulan that ‘The Disney Princess’ became the cultural (and, let’s face it, economic) phenomenon we know today. While it may seem like a cynical move to go back to a formula that makes a lot of money, in a way it makes a lot of sense because focusing on fairy tales was what made Disney unique. Once DreamWorks soared into popularity with gagfests like Shrek and Over the Hedge, Disney started playing the catch-up game, resorting to overly juvenile fare like the forgettable Home on the Range or the godawful Chicken Little. But a classic Disney movie would be nothing without one simple yet essential ingredient: the songs. And thankfully, it seems like songs are starting to become cool again in a big way. Remember Randy ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ Newman’s brilliantly jazzy score for The Princess and the Frog, or Alan ‘Pretty Much Every Disney Movie Since the 90s’ Menken’s beautiful songs in Tangled? They’re unbelievably catchy and completely timeless – just as truly great Disney songs should be. The studio has also proved it isn’t afraid to take creative risks.
Words: Phil Bayles Artwork: Manuel Fuentes
Avenue Q songwriter Robert Lopez – whose previous efforts include a song entitled ‘The Internet is for Porn’ – hardly seems like a fitting choice to make a family movie. But his work on Frozen with partner Kristen Anderson-Lopez has just been nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song. In fact, in a way, Newman Menken and the Lopezes represent another of the fundamentally important parts of the new Disney Renaissance: talent. The studio has surrounded itself with extremely gifted filmmakers, and the rise in quality of the studio’s output is so significant as a result. So where did this new pool of talent come from? Emeryville, California. Or, more specifically, it came from the offices of Pixar Animation Studios. When Disney bought Pixar in 2006, they didn’t just buy the name; they also bought a whole team of animators led by the brilliant John Lassiter, who quickly put his team to work at the House of Mouse with spectacular results. And when you consider that some of the bigger names at Pixar started off as writers and animators in places like the glory days of The Simpsons, that’s one hell of a pedigree.
Nevertheless, sticking to the tried, the tested and the oldfashioned will only get you so far. “Renaissance” means “rebirth”, after all, and in one respect Disney is doing things very, very differently: namely its representations of women. Tiana, the protagonist of The Princess and the Frog, made history in 2009 by becoming Disney’s first black princess; filling a sorely-needed gap and providing a concrete role model for hundreds of thousands of young girls all over the world. Wreck-It Ralph’s Sergeant Calhoun (expertly voiced by Jane Lynch) became a better-developed female videogame protagonist than even Lara Croft. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, Jennifer Lee – co-writer of Wreck-It Ralph – became the first female director of a Disney movie when she took the helm of Frozen. These are significant steps forward in themselves, but what’s happening at the House of Mouse has deeper implications; the studio is starting to poke fun at itself. Gone are the bland but beautiful princesses and the flawlessly perfect princes of yesteryear. The
princesses of the 21st century are becoming strong, independent women, who go completely against the ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ attitude that Disney itself created so many years ago. One day, perhaps soon, the prince might not have to show up at all. It might even be another princess. And wouldn’t that be a great thing for us to take our young children to see a few years down the line? Nobody talks about film studios anymore; nobody says they’re going to see the new Paramount film, or the new Universal movie. The only exception is Disney. It’s become something special; a cultural behemoth, far bigger and more influential than even Walt himself could have imagined. And that’s why this Second Disney Renaissance is worth watching out for; it’s a welcome return to the old, but this time with a brand new twist. It’s proof that, after nearly 80 years of making movies, the folks at Disney still have some magic in them.
Friday February 21 2014
Alice Burrow discusses the future of vinyl, the music format whose popularity has come full circle
Friday February 21 2014
VINYL REVIVAL D
o you get a thrill from buying your favourite band’s CD on Amazon or throwing the latest ill-fated reality show winner’s album into your basket at the supermarket? Is there an excitement in the search, in the weaving in and out of shops, and the feelng of satisfaction when you’ve finally found that elusive and rare LP? This is the kind of satisfaction that record collecting brings. In the late eighties the rise of the mighty Compact Disc sounded the death knell for tapes and cumbersome old vinyl. For decades, independent record stores were a firm fixture of high streets across the country, but as the demand for records declined, they started closing in huge numbers and we lost a substantial part of the rich music culture that these shops generated. This new miniature and seemingly unbreakable format was quick to eclipse the huge, heavy, difficult to carry and delicate vinyl record. The CD revolutionised the way we listened to, and bought, music. Although in the early years CDs were far more expensive than vinyl, this was soon reversed as CDs entered markets outside of independent record stores. The introduction of CDs to supermarkets took valuable business away from independent music shops that simply could not compete with their low prices.
The late eighties Compact Disc sounded the death knell for tapes and cumbersome vinyl Later, the rise of digital music and revolutionary MP3 players came to have a detrimental impact upon physical formats like the CD and vinyl as the music industry went online. However, vinyl never completely faded away and in recent years has been making a gradual reappearance, signalling a promising future. Amidst the frenzy of downloads and a growing digital music empire, vinyl experienced a surprising revival in recent years fuelled by a young generation discovering their favourite bands on this interesting and seemingly forgotten format. My own relationship with vinyl started when I received a copy of Arctic Monkey’s Live in Texas LP (a vinyl I would
later scratch through my ignorance of how to properly use a record player) for my 18th birthday, along with a rather questionable all-in-one portable record player. This was a very tinny sounding turntable that would vibrate so horribly that you’d have to blast up the volume to cover it. I didn’t care though; I was hooked. As the years went by I slowly built up my record collection, thankfully discovering that there was a world outside of early mainstream noughties British indie. In second year I decided it was time to splash out on a serious business set-up and I haven’t looked back since, slowly expanding my collection, sometimes at the expense of necessities like food. Of course, many around me are quick to dismiss record players as the preserve of hipsters, but as fellow record collectors will understand, records are an absolute pleasure to own and collect. Vinyl is a completely different listening experience. You cannot flick endlessly between various songs from different artists on a whim. Albums have to be listened to in full, from the very start to the very end and are heard as an entity rather than individual songs. Obviously, vinyl is not portable and no one is dismissing the merits of iPods and MP3 players for music on the go. They are to be listened to at leisure with friends or chilling in your room, not providing a soundtrack to your workout of death at the gym or to irritate fellow students within the library through headphones. Unlike CDs, your vinyl won’t end up forgotten and trodden on in your car or carelessly thrown in a charity bag; these are items to be cherished. A CD and its contents could never compare to the large aesthetically pleasing format of vinyl. It is not just the music that is contained within, it’s the whole physical entity that is a pleasure to own. Due to its size, amongst other factors, brand new records aren’t cheap. You can expect to pay around £15 - £20, or even more if they’re highly limited in number. However, charity shops are gems for old vinyl, which are usually on the cheaper side. Most new vinyl releases these days also come with free MP3 download codes so the double cost of vinyl and downloads are no longer such an issue. Aiding vinyl’s successful re-emergence is Record Store Day. This yearly event, started in 2007, aims to support
ailing independent record shops and champion vinyl records. On this one day, the third Saturday of April, various bands and musicians come together to release one-off records, highly limited in number and exclusive to participating record shops. These are certainly not things to be found on the shelves of Tesco or Sainsburys.
Vinyl won’t end up trodden on in your car; these are items to be cherished Many who are familiar with Record Store Day will have spent many cold hours queued outside their favourite record shop in the hope that they can get their hands on that elusive limited release. Thankfully, these long queues are usually fruitful and are a testament to the anticipation and excitement of record collecting. Vinyl still has a long way to go until it catches up with digital formats but in Sheffield we are lucky to be home to a thriving community of vinyl fans. Budding enthusiasts should be sure to pay a visit to Broomhill’s legendary Record Collector, as well as the treasure trove contained within Vinyl Demand down at Charter Square, or even call in at the charity shops along Bromhill and Eccesall Road. Record Collector also hosts bands and artists promoting their new material- ambitous for such a small store, but appreciated by the public who get an exclusive listen before they decide to buy. Recently, Blessa, Franc Cinelli and Nadine Shah took to the store’s makeshift stage. Last Shop Standing, a documentary based on Graham Jones’ book of the same name, examined the fall of vinyl and the struggle of independent record stores. However, despite its often sombre and depressing tone, it made the future of vinyl look promising. We have fallen back in love with this terrific format and it is now thankfully growing from strength to strength with new independent record stores opening and old favourites securing their well deserved place on the high street.
Artwork: Samantha Fielding
Friday 21 February 2014
How do video games Kaz Scattergood explores the way gaming plays with story, having the ability to create something unique
ou’ve probably read the debate before: are video games art? Or even, are video games literature? Attempting to define a medium so diverse into a subjective category might not be the best way to give it some credit. Video games ultimately do something different, they create new opportunities, and they tell stories in different ways. Whether those ways are considered artistic or literary needn’t matter: what matters is how they tell those stories, and why they’re unique. Narrative is considered by many to be structurally sound. We have expectations of narrative, particularly within literature. We expect a beginning, a middle, an end. We expect characters, setting, and plot progression. We expect rising and falling action, we expect a problem to be resolved. Games often do all of these things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them literature. It also doesn’t mean games need to have these things to have a great narrative. If you’ve played Thatgamecompany’s Journey - you might understand the feeling of having a narrative experience through gameplay which doesn’t really feel like a traditional, complete narrative. As a figure drifting through the desert towards a mountain, you’re not really given much by way of character, plot, setting, and beyond the puzzle-based gameplay,
not a lot really happens. You’d struggle to transfer Journey to novel form. But, does that mean it lacks narrative, or simply that Journey delivers its narrative in a different way? It’s a narrative experience, an atypical one, but there’s certainly a narrative there. The main thing that makes gaming so different from traditional forms of narrative is obvious: gameplay. The main reason we play games is because we want to experience a game - we want to get involved, we want something interactive. While this is a valuable experience in itself - we’ve all had fun playing PacMan, this also creates opportunity to do unique things with narrative and tell a story in a more dynamic way than could ever be done with older storytelling mediums. Jonathon Blow, creator of Braid, points out the fundamental mistake the gaming industry is making, which seems to be holding it back. Games are trying to recreate experiences we’ve already had. They’re trying to be comparable to something, to ‘art’, to ‘literature’, to ‘film’. They’re striving towards mediums that already have high cultural relevance. What they should be doing is creating something different. It’s fine trying to create an intricate storyline comparable to that of a novel, but a game needs to do more. It doesn’t take a genius to realise the opportunities that gaming creates - the ability to interact with a medium,
to become involved in a fantasy world, to have a multimodal platform which combines words, music, imagery, even body movements - gaming creates vast opportunities for totally different experiences. So maybe that’s what it’s all about, creating something different which is valuable in its own right. This might be why games like Call of Duty don’t gain as much respect amongst the gaming community beyond their loyal fans. Many games use narrative as a framing device, something to justify the action. You’re shooting enemies and progressing forwards, but there’s some narrative there too. This makes the narrative of the games easy to separate from gameplay, an experience that isn’t necessarily driven by narrative. Movie-like cutscenes are there to give structure, but don’t necessarily intertwine with the gameplay. They’re skippable, and the gaming experience can still be enjoyed for gameplay alone. The same can be said for games like The Last of Us or Mass Effect: games with rich, meaningful plots, and with powerful cutscenes and strong voice acting making them comparable to movies. These games create powerful, great experiences. However, they’re not breaking any barriers. They’re not really doing much that a film couldn’t do. They’re not utilising the opportunities that gaming provides to create an experi-
Friday 21 February 2014
create new narratives? ence, particularly with narrative, like nothing else. The interactive element of gaming provides the opportunity for games to be exploratory. In some cases, players can take as much or as little of the narrative as they like. This is particularly interesting in games which have optional story information delivered through environmental clues, which the player can seek and pursue if they choose. Consider Portal, a game with no cutscenes, and all narrative delivered through dialogue as part of gameplay. Everything is fairly seamless. However, players get more out of the story if they want to. It’s a game which is very much built by its environmental clues, and the player can take in those clues and seek further ones in order to build their knowledge of Portal’s fascinatingly dark, comic, dystopian context. This optional element sets (some) gaming apart from the printed medium of literature, as depth can be a choice. On a more abstract level, gaming creates an embodied experience which involves you physically and can evoke feelings that aren’t necessarily driven by narrative. Blow struggles with the notion of explaining his games, and putting the meaning behind his games into words. This, he says, is because the whole point of the experience is that it’s something different, it’s difficult to verbalise because you got
it non-verbally. It isn’t something that you just read or heard in a cutscene, it’s something you felt, experienced, or achieved through gameplay. Trying to tag a concrete meaning onto a game like Braid is futile when the themes were never intended to have a black and white meaning - it’s a narrative which is experiential, and can be interpreted in many different ways. And that’s the whole point, gaming can give you a unique experience, and can provoke thoughts and feelings that you may struggle to put into words. That’s what makes gaming so valuable, so unique. It doesn’t have to try and recreate what we get out of movies, or create the abstraction of art. It creates a way to interact with your experience, and to appreciate narrative in a much less straightforward way. It’s an experience that can’t be created with anything else.
Artwork: Philippa Spottiswoode X
Friday February 21 2014
Fuse. games reus PC 7/10
eus is a world-building simulation style game, where your God-like interaction with the world is done by way of four giant monoliths with magical powers. You and your four vast minions will help grow small settlements of nomads into bustling village-sized cities, providing the citizens with enough resources to survive, expand and thrive. At first glance Reus seems like a fairly small and simple God game which has been done a thousand times before but upon further inspection the game reveals a huge level of complexity that is both shocking and deep. Reus serves up a generous dose of replayability with a staggering 120 levels. This replayability is thanks in no small part to the
curious way in which you are controlling the lives of your nomads. The mysterious planet is an artistic 2D slice of barren rock onto which the environments, plants, animals and minerals are spawned from your giant helpers, and the lack of space means efficiency is key to success. Enter symbiosis, the mechanic where every object your giants summon has the potential to interact with every other in the game and every base object has many different ways to evolve. While Reus is a very pretty game to play, major weakness is the lack of art assets borne from its small development roots. When every blueberry bush and snake den has the same image, a row of the same resource breaks the immersion of world-building somewhat. Reus also suffers from poor user interface. The graphics options allow users to change the resolution to the lowest settings but even
when all the icons and fonts are as large as possible the tutorial text is still approximately font size six. That said, once the game gets going, Reus has a huge amount to offer to keep the player engaged. All of the player’s efforts are focused on pleasing the tiny humans who settle in your lovingly planned environments and the games all depends on what sort of God you want to be. Weaknesses aside, Reus is a new twist on a god game with at least 30 hours of entertaining gameplay. Will White
serena PC 7/10
erena is about a man in a log cabin. Dust coats everything in the cabin. He’s sitting at a table. In front of him is a photo of a couple. It’s of you and a woman - Serena. You remember her name but you can’t see her face. Not even in the photo. Where is she? It’s up to you to find out. Serena is billed as an indie point-and-click adventure game but don’t expect to be climbing every hill and forging every river. You are confined to the log cabin you call home which gives the game a slightly claustrophobic feel that adds to the story. Don’t
CULT CORNER grim fandango PC
anny Calavera is a typical low-level bureaucrat, dealing with the financial matters of unfortunate souls in the sprawling city of El Marrow. The difference is that he is dead. A Reaper for the Department of Death, Manny’s job is to collect the recently deceased from their mortal coil, evaluate their deeds and misdeeds during life and assign them the transport their irreducible goodness has earned. Unfortunately for him, far too many of his clients have found themselves walking recently. Over the four-year course of
Grim Fandango, Manny travels the Land of the Dead with his oversized demon pal Glottis, hoping that maybe - just maybe - he can right the wrongs perpetrated against those damned souls struggling toward the Land of Eternal Rest. Along the way, he encounters flaming beavers, fog-covered mob towns and the literal End of the World.
“Inventive puzzles and wonderful writing”
Grim Fandango’s appeal is partially one of pedigree. The game is the brainchild of veteran designer Tim Schafer, the Lucasarts luminary responsible for Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle.
assume that there is nothing to explore however; the cabin is full with little stories. Everything can be clicked on and you will begin to reminisce about your life with Serena, bringing back the memories of your relationship and bringing colour back to the photo on the table. If there is something to criticise, it is the restrictive movement. You can’t move freely, rather you have to click to move to certain areas but your feet will always remained anchored to one particular spot. Then again, it lends itself to the feeling of restriction that is crucial for the lingering sense of something being not quite right. Serena relies on repetition, somewhat reminiscent of The Stanley Parable - though with-
His ability to squeeze humour out of every scene shines, and the dark material with which he works produces comic genius that also tells a thrilling tale. The game was one of Lucasarts’ two ventures into 3D adventure games, and features wonderfully detailed pre-rendered backgrounds that never fail to create the right atmosphere - whether it’s in Manny’s tiny office, the headquarters of an armed rebellion or an underground café full of beatniks. Topping off the experience is the flawless score from Peter McConnell, whose latin and jazz tunes round out the game in a way no others could have. Accompanying his music is the unbeatable voice work of Tony Plana as Manny, Maria Canals- Barrera as Meché Colomar and Patrick Dollaghan as the villainous Domino
out the dry wit or multiple endings. Repetition in this game by checking the photo and looking at the items in the cabin again and again, bring you through the astutely narrated memories of the husband, as well as little bits of Serena’s voice filling in the memories. You travel through the early whimsical days of their romance to the troubled, spiteful, darker days that appear inevitable to arrive. While this game ends in a somewhat predictable manner, it somehow doesn’t matter. It leaves you with a short vignette of a life lived within the confines of not only the wall of the log cabin but also within the mind of the husband, forever denying redemption, a chance to es-
Hurley. Grim Fandango is rather hard to find and requires some work to run properly on modern machines, but for those who make the effort the rewards more than make up for it. Featuring inventive puzzles and wonderful writing, it is a must play for lovers of story, atmosphere and character. Robin Wilde
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cape, in a manner quite Faustian. For a game that was made by fans of adventure games, this free game is better than the usual dross floating around Steam nowadays. It allows itself to be a pleasant - if somewhat twisted - surprise. Serena won’t win any awards and may only garner a small fan base but its refreshingly simple and fastpaced storyline, tense atmosphere and feeling of confinement with a sense of horror hidden in the background, allows this game to be enjoyable for the time you play it for. Kieran Dean
Friday February 21 2014
University Drama Studio 9/10
f you go into That Face to escape the miserable weather and raise your spirits, you will be disappointed. The 2007 play by Polly Stenham is unremittingly bleak. This misery is communicated excellently through all aspects of the show, which sets a high standard for the rest of the year. At the heart of the play is Martha (Bethan Ratcliffe), a middle-aged drug addict. Her issues and the prolonged absence of her estranged husband Hugh (Richard Agar) create a perfect storm of emotional destruction for their teenage children Henry (Jonathan England) and Mia (Matilda Reith). The first thing that stands out about this production is the set by Bronwen Davies. The use of omnipresent, white palisades, in conjunction with intense lines of darkness evoke a supreme feeling of en-
trapment throughout the show. This effectively reflects Martha’s own emotional state in addition to Henry and Mia’s situation, as a result of their parents’ flaws. Jonathan England is astounding as Henry. His performance is scary to watch, as Henry always appears to be on the verge of a breakdown. Ratcliffe is a confident Martha; normally a character like hers would steal every scene, but it is a testament to the other performers that she does not do so in this production. The characters engage in sparse moments of comedy, but it is darker than the shadows at the fringes of the stage. For instance, in one scene the audience are invited to laugh with charismatic Izzy (Lydia Chantier-Hicks); this wouldn’t be so problematic except it is at the expense of hospitalised Alice (Immie Davies), who fell victim to Mia and Izzy’s hazing. The 13-year-old Alice quickly disappears from the narrative, but her fleeting presence is crucial to
the play’s success. Davies delivers a wordless performance and serves as an on-stage example of the cyclical nature of emotional abuse. In case you haven’t been convinced of it yet, let it be reiterated: That Face is not a fun experience. In fact, at times it can be incredibly painful. The lack of an interval makes the suffering of the characters even more tortuous. The discomfort of the experience forces the audience to experience the immense pain of the characters and that is the greatest strength of this production. This is student drama of the highest calibre. Joe Brennan
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Paper Houses Michele Roberts 8/10
Printing Sheffield Millennium Gallery 8/10
rinting Sheffield allows the talent of the artists within it to shine. There are some fantastic pieces on display and it is definitely not an exhibition to miss. With art on display from Kid Acne, Phlegm and Jo Peel, expectations of the Millennium Gallery’s exhibition were high. Luckily, they were met. Kid Acne’s unique illustrations held their ground well amongst all the other pieces. They were strong and bold, especially his piece ‘Shewolf’. Phlegm’s prints were incredibly detailed, with ‘Civilisation’ showcasing both the artist’s flawless technical drawing skills and ability to craft beautiful pieces. Jo Peel’s screen prints displayed a wonderfully fresh take on various well known areas of Sheffield. In particular, her take on ‘Parkhill Flats’ not only looked fantastic
but also demonstrated her skills as a contemporary artist. ‘Hendersons Relish’ and ‘Hungry Wolf’ more than delivered. Within the rest of the exhibition, there were a huge variety of styles, interpretations and mediums used. The artists have used everything from basic canvases, to fabrics and pottery. Whether you’re interested in incredibly detailed pieces or a more contemporary and unusual style, there is always a point of interest. Sarah Burgess’ work, namely ‘Memory Note 3’ and ‘Travelling Note 3’, may have been small in comparison to other work around them, however they really packed a punch. Burgess used a successful and colourful combination of various fabrics and shapes to create representations of the landscape of Sheffield. Her work easily draws you in and was a pleasure to view. Another artist who stood out was Jane Elliott, whose work displayed a distinctive oriental feel.
Her take on print was individual and stood out amongst the other pieces on show. ‘Prunus Avium’ and ‘Prunus Sylvestris’ really showcased her talent as an artist, combining calm colours and detailed illustrations. Kate Thornton’s ‘Kingfisher’ also deserves a special mention. Her ingenious combination of bold coloured silhouettes filled in with maps of Sheffield fulfilled the expectations of the exhibition, looking beautiful and crisp. It was the piece that left me wanting to return. The exhibition is definitely worth a visit. It showcases both impressive artwork and talented artists. Printing Sheffield goes beyond expectations and deserves more visits and much more appreciation. Joscelin Woodend
aper Houses is the elegantly written memoir of author Michele Roberts’ life upon graduation from the University of Oxford, detailing her experiences of 70s feminism, lesbian relationships, socialism and her disassociation from her Catholic upbringing. At the heart of these stirring memoirs is an intelligent young woman’s determination to pursue her passion for writing, despite the internal and external conflicts she faces with Catholicism and her middle class childhood. Whilst the world of bohemian London during the 70s may not be one that is familiar to readers, Paper Houses details a rootless graduate’s journey through life, resulting in her accomplishment as a critically acclaimed author and professor of
creative writing. The extraordinary experiences she has in various communes and squats across London make inspirational reading for any young person. The honesty with which she refers to her Catholic upbringing and resultant ‘semi-incestuous’ feelings for her father reminds readers of the importance of questioning authority, whilst her all-embracing relationships and reliance upon friends of both genders provide a warm and rousing story of human connectivity. As is expected of a critically acclaimed novelist, the autobiography is beautifully written, with a mixture of humour and lavish description which bring the bohemian world that Roberts describes alive for readers. Her vivid descriptions of market stalls and second hand bookshops are complemented with one liners such as ‘Goodness: I’d become a lesbian’, combining to make a thoroughly enjoyable read. Although Roberts’ erratic and bohemian lifestyle may be hard to follow, the autobiography ultimately details the inspirational story of a radical and talented writer who successfully pursues her ambition in life. As a student, the honest account of a graduate’s pursuit and nurture of her talents makes both a pleasant and enthusing read. Ruth Smart
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Friday February 21 2014
Fuse. music WHAT’S ON YOUR PLAYLIST?
Sam Lee-Potter Chinese Studies and Spanish Favourite artist: Ray Charles Favourite track: ‘Tin Solider’ Small Faces
BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB So Long, See You Tomorrow 8/10
t is tragic that Bombay Bicycle Club are still remembered for one song and one riff they did five years ago. It doesn’t help that their name is a hangover from the mid-2000s, when every dull guitar band had to be a club, but rarely are such a successful band so underestimated creatively. From the evidence of new album So Long, See You Tomorrow, Jack Steadman and his cohort are actually well ahead of the curve. With a masterful understanding of what gets people moving, they have decided to use their considerable experience as electronic producers to open their grooves, hooks and aesthetics to the world of synths and samples. The result is rich, colourful
and difficult to define. Even in the old days the Londoners loved a good loop, but what was previously background hum now mutates and invades every track. ‘Carry Me’ is aggressively eccentric, pitting ideas against one another and gleefully splicing them together. At times it is like hearing a club anthem through the wall, but the samples are so unashamedly weird that curiosity keeps it together. It is something of an open secret that one or two in the Bombay ranks want to try hip-hop as solo artists. They needn’t be afraid; this vein of influence bulges wonderfully on ‘Home By Now’, as drum machines and chopped piano samples go half way to rap instrumental, before the band’s delicate vocals pull it back into the realms of believability. It is simultaneously the most progressive and most immediately
accessible song on the album. But there is more that they could have done. Blackpool’s Rae Morris shows some of her considerable vocal talent as she replaces the starbound Lucy Rose, but it is only on the boldly melodious ‘Luna’ that she is foil to Steadman’s lead, rather than decoration. The new ingredients only go halfway to changing the meal. Some of that will have to wait for another day. So Long… is still forward-thinking and infectious, a difficult balance for any artist. We should count our blessings, because having artists like this at the top of our charts, artists who refuse to be pigeonholed, is good for everybody, except the blob of lazy and unimaginative guitar bands who follow behind. Duncan Geddes
Anna Bedford Education, Culture and Childhood Favourite band: City and Colour Favourite track: ‘Fever to the Form’ - Nick Mulvey
YOU ME AT SIX Cavalier Youth 9/10
ou Me At Six, a rock band from Surrey, have released their fourth album, the most anticipated album of this year. Fans took to Twitter to vent their excitement, especially as we
drew nearer to the album release and the band were posting lyrics from their new record before the unveiling in January 2014. The British rockers have soared to the number one spot in the UK albums charts. Their third album Sinners Never Sleep in 2011, achieved the number three spot, which shows how big the band has grown. Cavalier Youth opens with the track ‘Too Young to Feel This Old’, instantly proving that Josh Franceschi is still a lyrical genius with his talent developing with each album release. The fourth instalment includes the two singles ‘Fresh Start Fever’ and ‘Lived a Lie’, teasers before You Me At Six fans (“Sixers”) could get their hands on the full record. As always, there is some diversity in this album, with the heavy guitar rhythms in ‘Win Some, Lose Some’ suggesting undertones of Sinners Never Sleep. Then, in contrast, we are met with a one minute
interlude of acoustic guitars and soft vocals in ‘Be Who You Are’. The lyrics of ‘Wild Ones’ without a doubt will be echoed throughout concert venues around the world with its peaceful drumming and striking guitar work. Granted Cavalier Youth doesn’t quite eminate the sound of teen angst like in Take Off Your Colours, their debut album. However, we can’t stay teenagers forever. The band have matured and so has their music. Evie Shaw
Burn Your Fire For No Witness 8/10
n front of a backdrop of alcohol-soaked country and intimate folk, Angel Olsen develops on traditions and draws from a long history to make a statement of her own. While her debut Half Way Home was resolutely steeped in the morosefolk-singer-with-guitar genre, the successor Burn Your Fire For No Witness fleshes out the instrumental palette with a full-band setup. These stylistic and thematic jumps are put to good use too, as Olsen juxtaposes bold, contradictory statements to sketch out her stories with deft ambiguity. In the sparse opener ‘Unfucktheworld’, she detachedly recounts a failed love in heartbreaking brevity, just before in the scorched ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ her declarations of love are complicated by the need for forgiveness. All the while, she manages to encapsulate the ambiguous messages in lines that are as sincere as they are playful, like in the buoyant ‘Hi-Five’, where she wryly comments on her begging for company: “Are you lonely too? / High five, so am I”. In all of these, the lush Americana instrumentation
embellishes and enriches the melancholia, recalling the desperation of those misery kings, while establishing herself as a very personal singer-songwriter in the vein of Sharon Van Etten and St. Vincent. But Olsen never copies these artists’ sound directly, and instead follows their spirit of situating themselves within a recognisable lineage of genre. Many songs on the album could be named standout examples for this, but closing track ‘Windows’ perhaps does it best: warm, understated, and oh so sad. Sure, the album is not with-
out its flaws: though the band breathe much life into the songs, the instrumentation does little to stand out as inventive. The songs themselves are generally witty and observant, but sometimes lack the maturity needed to fully explore and subvert the generic vocabulary they deal in. But for all this album occasionally lacks in sophistication, it still manages to feel immediate and real. Martin Bottomley
UPCOMING: WILD BEASTS:PRESENT TENSE/LINDA PERHACS:THE SOUL OF ALL NATURAL THINGS/BECK:MORNING PHASE X
Friday February 21 2014
Fuse. music LONDON GRAMMAr
it: the crowd are transfixed in their wraith of intoxicating fumes, bobbing their heads in invisible synchronicity. Perhaps it was the way Dot (keyboards, percussion) shyly tucked his hair out of his eyes at every given break, the way Dan (guitars) got embarrassed when Hannah asks him to tell a story to the crowd, or perhaps the way Hannah wore minimal make-up and a jersey top with jeans, but London Grammar are overwhelmingly, well, normal. And it’s great. Nothing works the crowd into more of a hypnotised frenzy than ‘Wasting my Young Years’, ‘Nightcall’ and ‘Strong’: songs that absolutely exceeded the sound of their recorded material. Somehow, the trio perform live music better than any edited, tweaked, or improved song on their album. It’s emblazoned with a kind of bittersweet glory with the power to, just for a moment, make you forget everything else.
Saturday February 8 02 Academy
ondon Grammar had a great 2013, and their good fortune is only getting better. So good, in fact, that the Nottingham University graduates have recently been nominated for a Brit Award, casually posed in US Vogue and were asked to appear on the Jimmy Fallon Show the same night as Bruce Springsteen. A deeper shade of pop, punctuated with electronic sounds and embellished with soulful vocals forms the unique amalgamation that makes London Grammar so different – and so promising. Just past nine, London Grammar discreetly walk onto the stage, refusing to lap up their crowd’s praise. You wouldn’t quite believe it that the band, only four days before the gig, had to cancel their show in London due to illness. When Hannah sings unaccompanied by instruments, she is flawless. Diving into melancholic depths and spiralling up to haunting heights, that is
Jess Dawson London Grammar: Jess Dawson
Thursday February 13 The Leadmill
Tom Odell: Katherine Hodgson
Saturday February 15 The Leadmill
f you follow George Ezra on Twitter, you will have figured out by now that he’s quite the comedian. And on a Saturday night in Leadmill, he provided the crowd with anecdotal humour about his life and music in between songs. So if music doesn’t work out, he definitely has other options. But that’s not what this sold out crowd came to see. Anyone who’s heard his music will know of his distinct quality of tone far more mature than his age. You can try and describe Ezra as a folk or blues singer, but he has the type of voice no one could place in one category. That’s what makes his music so
interesting. There’s a real sincerity in the song lyrics that comes from real life experience; Ezra told the audience he’d spent time last year travelling Europe. It’s no wonder this star is on the ascent this year, placing in fifth place in the BBC Sound of 2014 poll and earning a huge radio fan base which he calls ‘Petan’. The highlight of his set was its simplicity. Tonight he strips back his performance, shying away from any big production in favour of two very good looking guitars. When you compare his live vocals to his songs on his EP, in particular ‘Budapest’, and ‘Did You Hear the Rain’ the live performances were so much more powerful. Other highlights of the night were his new song ‘Cassy O’ (expect to see a music video soon)
isappointment ensued back in October when illness meant a last-minute postponement of tonight’s gig. In the time between the original and rescheduled dates, Tom Odell has performed across Europe and after a three and a half month wait, finally returns to Sheffield having completely sold out. Odell, clad in a simple white shirt, is met with the screams of a packed crowd as he walks unobtrusively on stage, settling himself at his beloved piano. He opens with title track, ‘Long Way Down’, launching into ‘Hold Me’ immediately afterwards. He pours out his soul with the incredible honestly of his lyrics, not once losing control of his voice despite the immense power and intensity with which he plays and sings. An apology for October’s cancellation is swiftly accepted. Undeterred by NME’s harsh 0/10
rating of his debut album, Long Way Down, which claimed his sound to be “offensively dull piano pop destined for Brits ubiquity”, Odell performs his lyrics with conviction and raw emotion, coming across as fragile yet powerful, unassuming yet confident. He is a rare case in that his live performance certainly outdoes his studio sound. Crowned Brits Critics’ Choice in 2013, the 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Chichester follows in the footsteps of artists such as Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sandé and Adele, all finding incredible success following their awards. Odell has risen quickly from being relatively unknown and with such success already at just 23, he looks to be on the path of a glistening career. Katherine Hodgson
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and ‘Leaving It up To You’. Although he couldn’t tell us when we’d expect to hear an album, everyone left the Leadmill eagerly anticipating more. George told the audience he’ll pay Sheffield another visit soon. Let’s hope he does, and with more jokes to share. Toby Varian Check out our interview with George on page 3 More reviews online Read more reviews online at Forge Today
George Ezra: Phil Carpenter
UPCOMING: THE TWANG : LEADMILL FEB 28 / NICK MULVEY : HARLEY MARCH 4 / POLKADODGE : PLUG MARCH 8
Friday February 21 2014
Dir: Spike Jonze 8/10
et in the future, Her tells the story of a writer who falls in love with his artificially intelligent operating system named Samantha. The advertisement for the operating system claims: “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness”. Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is able to feel and has individual thoughts, giving her a unique personality as though she was a real person, and this is what attracts main character Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) to her. Having directed films such as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation it comes as no surprise that Spike Jonze creates such a bizarre narrative as this. The film follows a lonely, somewhat introverted writer Theodore, as he goes through divorce. Her notably sets itself apart from other films by creating such an in-depth account of an individual’s way of life. It is as though the film allows audience members to become a part of Theodore’s world, gaining insight into his secluded life. Part of what makes the story feel so realistic is Phoenix’s ability to pull off a unique character type, not often explored through the medium of cinema. The film is visually stunning and
RuPaul’s drag race Dir: Ian Stevenson
ince its first season back in 2008, RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a phenomenon. Some might call it an ‘eleganza extravaganza’, or, dare I say it, one ‘fierce queen’ of a show. Those who haven’t heard of it may ask at this point - sorry, what? Let me break it down for you: think America’s Next Top Model, minus Tyra Banks and the biological female competitors. Then add in the ever-so-fierce pop star, drag queen and ‘supermodel of the world’ RuPaul, and a group of drag artists competing to be America’s next drag superstar. As a reality show it does have trashy elements, like surprise twists, celebrity judges and more than a
the accompanying soundtrack fits perfectly. The cinematography is also particularly impressive, exhibiting alluring camera work to create a romanticised environment. Her features picturesque scenery, highlighting the beauty in both the depths of the city and in natural landscape. Jonze employs the frequent use of natural lighting and close up shots, creating images which are simple yet bring a certain charm and delicacy to the film. The soundtrack features Karen O and Arcade Fire, and consists of enchanting instrumentals, producing a peaceful ambience which runs throughout the film. The only thing that makes it clearly set in the future is the story’s advancement in technology, and it’s quite refreshing to watch a perspective of the future that doesn’t appear bleak. Jonze enables Theodore’s experiences to become utterly relatable through his realist style. Even though the idea of having a relationship with an operating system seems completely strange, the concept is presented so that it appears as completely ordinary. The film places a unique twist on the romance genre, whereby we only truly connect with Theodore’s side of the relationship. Aesthetically pleasing and beautifully real, Her is definitely a work of genius. Lucy Amos
few on-camera arguments, but offers so much more. It explores the prejudices and hardships contestants have experienced, from bullying to living with HIV, and promotes gay and transgender rights by opening up the world of drag to a wider audience. The show’s playful and selfconscious subversion of TV tropes - and the female beauty competition - places Drag Race in the cult classic canon. The stream of pop culture references, the drag community lingo, the quotable catchphrases like ‘you better work’, ‘she is serving up fish’ (femininity), and ‘start your engines...’ (trust me, you’ll know the ending to that after a few episodes) gives each series a style that no other can claim. In the style of drag itself, almost nothing is done subtly; even the American show’s emphasis on advertising is warmly made fun
Dir: Josè Padilha 4/10
h look, a reboot of Robocop. Yet another example of Hollywood trying to revive a dead franchise in the hope of hoovering up some more nostalgia dollars from hapless audiences. First of all, it can barely be called a remake of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven classic. Yes, good cop Alex Murphy is killed by gangsters, only to be resurrected as a cyborg by a shady corporation, but that is where the similarities end. This Robocop is faster, leaner and far more boring. Many of the complaints about this new outing centre on its 12A rating compared to the gorier original. In the fight scenes this doesn’t matter so much, but the destruction of Murphy’s organic body in the beginning needs to be seen in graphic detail for his transformation to have emotional weight. The studios were too squeamish for this because, hey, they need the money from the under-15 demographic. The film is equally squeamish about showing any real poverty, despite being set in Detroit. For a film that is partially about crime and corruption, this is a missed opportunity and probably the film’s greatest sin. Director Josè Padilha could have made a film relevant to the real suffering of Americans in this bankrupt city, but no, that would be too edgy for Robocop, apparently. The Verhoeven film injected satirical humour and a healthy dose of cheese to highlight themes of corporate greed and consumerism. It was that distinctive style which made it such a memorable film. No such luck for this new incarnation. Just as Murphy’s emotions are subdued by computer programming, any possibility for humour or emotion is neutered.
of whenever RuPaul promotes a new single from her albums, or the queens drink cocktails made with a certain gay-friendly vodka brand. The competitors’ ability to ‘read’ (playfully insult) each other is also done in a friendly way, though their jibes may seem completely rude at first, their ability to say things face to face shows the close camaraderie of the queens. Drag Race offers a different experience by showing the unique subculture of drag - though of course, the contestants’ fashion and creativity is of central importance. ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’ is a catchphrase that captures the message of the show: to have confidence in yourself, mentally and physically, no matter what other people think. Camille Brouard
It is sad that the film is such a failure, because it is admirable that the plot departs so far from the original and explores new territory, even though it ends up with a clichéd save-the-family climax. There are interesting ideas that are gently bubbling on the fringes, such as the affect of cyberisation on mental health and the political ramifications of robotics. These ideas never amount to anything though, because it boils down to Murphy needing to save his wife and son. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing except the CG robots have more personality than Mrs. Murphy and Murphy Jnr. The film begins and ends with scenes that show how robots have been used to enforce American dominance abroad. It’s a great angle for the film… that gets completely ignored. Joel Kinnaman is decent as Murphy, but the rest of the cast are about as memorable as the perfunctory action scenes. Even Gary Oldman fails to register in any meaningful way. Overall, Robocop deserves praise for trying to be its own creature. However, the looming shadow of the original and its overall blandness makes the film a failure. Joe Brennan
Friday February 21 2014
Dallas Buyers Club Dir: Jean-Marc Vallée 8/10
t is not an exaggeration to say that the HIV/AIDS epidemic that emerged in the 1980s devastated the gay community on a global scale. But as far reaching as its effects have been, the fear and panic that was widespread throughout many countries, especially an increasingly conservative America, seems to have been forgotten; perhaps because many of us have not lived through it, it is simply beyond our comprehension. Dallas Buyers Club is important precisely for that reason. It tells the
story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a homophobic, sexist, drug-using, promiscuous wannabe cowboy, who discovers that he is HIV positive and has 30 days to live. He deals with this fact terribly, not least because he considers the disease to conform to social boundaries and he’s not gay. But, the fact that he’s dying soon becomes unavoidable and he makes it his task to live and to find a way of doing so, whether through bribery, drug smuggling or sheer will. Though Woodroof is the unlikely hero of this tale, it’s his circumstance that makes the film so poignant to watch. In 80s America, when HIV/AIDS cases were increasing
steadily, the government was doing next to nothing about it. This is the situation Woodroof finds himself in, stigmatized because of a disease that is tainted by confusion (and the spread of misinformation) and the drugs the government are apathetically pushing don’t even work. Woodroof starts a Buyers Club, giving AIDS sufferers the opportunity to buy medication from him – medication that actually helps. The American authorities pose problems when they continually try to shut the operation down, giving little regard to the deteriorating health of the people they’re supposed to protect. One particular scene where Woodroof fights a hospital doctor is genuinely cathartic, because
many filmgoers’ heads will be shaking at the inadequate antics of the American government and its affiliated institutions. It’s enough to make anyone angry. In the run up to the Oscars, it is hardly surprising that the performances in this film are nothing short of stellar. Jared Leto shines in a role that has garnered a lot of controversial attention, playing Woodroof’s business partner, Rayon, a transgender woman who Woodroof grows to care for over the course of the film. Rayon is the film’s emotional heart and although Leto plays it well, with understatement and wit, many believe that the role should have gone to a transgender actor so as not to perpetuate the popular
Hollywood myth that transgender women equal men in drag. McConaughey, himself, demonstrates acting chops that one might have doubted he had in his early career, playing Woodroof with an intensity that befits a character whose central attribute is the refusal to back down. In a film that treads the line of “heterosexual white hero saving homosexual individuals” but succeeds in never crossing it, McConaughey makes us care about this man’s journey as he somewhat grudgingly helps those who he had previously deplored, slowly learning that life is, frankly, more important.
trading packages with a Russian, it’s revealed that there is more to this one dimensional man than we’re lead to believe. It is this revelation that leads Rear Admiral John Godfrey to offer him a job as his assistant in British intelligence. Cooper excels for the most part in his role as a charming womaniser, who can talk his way into and out of anything. Although there are times when his performance feels a little uninspiring, he treads the line between Fleming and Bond impeccably. Lara Pulver, after her immaculate performance in Sherlock, once again takes centre stage as enigmatic love interest Ann, who we know from the opening scene will later become Fleming’s wife. Aside from the show feeling a tad too modern for its wartime setting, and every character’s need to prove his or her British mettle by saying ‘bloody well’ every few
sentences, the first episode is rather good. The pacing of the plot is never too slow, and each character is given defining memorable traits. The script does suffer from a few tedious sections, and the overall tone could benefit from a few more humorous moments, but the flashback after the opening scenes makes up for this. The audience are drawn in by the thirteen year jump, curiosity piqued: we want to know how Fleming goes from young, failing stock broker, to inspired author, and perhaps even more importantly, how he ends up with Ann when she was already married. Despite its downfalls, the speedy development in plot and character indicate that this series may provide an enjoyable cocktail of drama and romance. Shaken, of course, not stirred.
at heart too, and not just as a commercial nostalgia kick. There’s a strong comparison that can be drawn between The Lego Movie and Toy Story, as both are films that don’t just tug on your heart strings but espouse real meaning too. The story does just this by encouraging the thrill of childish imagination, yet this message is incorporated with the need to work as a team. The movie makes you laugh, learn, and fall in love with Lego all over again, if for some unknown reason you ever stopped loving it. The music is catchy, the dialogue witty and the visuals impressive; the film
and characters draw even the most hard-hearted into cracking a smile. The Lego Movie isn’t just a prolonged advert filled with product placement, although it may cause you to go home and order copious amounts of Lego. It’s a joy-filled cinematic indulgence, and a reminder that in this fast paced world the simplicity and joy of creating should never be lost.
Dir: Mat Whitecross 6/10
he new four part mini-series, from director Mat Whitecross, dramatises the story of writer Ian Fleming, before he wrote the James Bond stories. The episode opens with Fleming (Dominic Cooper) completing his manuscript for the first 007 novel Casino Royale while on his honeymoon in Jamaica with new wife Ann (Lara Pulver). We are then taken back thirteen years in a flashback that lasts the entire episode (and most likely the next three), and shown Fleming as a younger man whose job as a stock broker is going disastrously. However, when Fleming is caught
The LEGO Movie
Dir(s): Chris Miller, Phil Lord 9/10
o describe The Lego Movie succinctly, it’s best to borrow the words of its memorable song “everything is awesome”. The movie revolves around the unremarkable character Emmet (Chris Pratt), a construction worker in a city run by President Business (Will
Ferrell), who keeps everyone organised and under his control by employing popular culture and instruction. One day Emmet finds the fabled piece of resistance and must go on the run after being investigated by Lord Business’s police henchman, Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). The film not only has an enthralling plot and laughs for children, but also appeals to the young
FORGE’S DESERT ISLAND Every fortnight, we ask a couple of our editors to pick their Fuseesque desert island necessities. This issue we ask our features editors which items they couldn’t live without.
MUSIC: Queen of Noise The Runaway s GAMES: Guita r Hero
ARTS: The Perks of B eing Elsa Vulliamy
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MUSIC: rades a h C : GAMES all Island m S a m o r tes F ARTS: NoBill Bryson -
Girl w e N : N E E SCR anélaité: Mar tina Deditor Features
MUSIC: Bon Iver - Bon Iver GAMES: Jun gle Speed
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ARTS: Norwegian W Murakami ood - Haruki SCREEN: Girls