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WASHINGTON SQUARE NEWS THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2013 | Vol. 41, No. 104

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One of the biggest criticisms of James Cameron’s “Titanic” is that there’s just so much of it — nearly everything that could possibly happen to Jack and Rose happens.

In addition to being on a sinking ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is enough of a problem, the protagonists must endure being hit, slapped, shot at, locked behind a gate and chained to a pole. And they still find time to have sex in a car. Furthermore, Jack and Rose endure the entire tragic experience of the sinking ship. They’re on the boat when it hits the iceberg, and they’re still on the boat — holding on for dear life — as it makes its final plunge into the ocean. For many, “Titanic’s” extravagance is laughable, to the point where it doesn’t even feel like a representation of reality but rather a product of the Hollywood machine, matching the size of its director’s ego. They’re not wrong, but it doesn’t matter. Art should take a note from “Titanic” and be unafraid to think big.

R I’m not suggesting every film have the budget of “Titanic” — that would be impossi-


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TABLE OF CONTENTS ble. Instead, films, TV shows, books, music and theater should embrace the possibilities of excess. This lavishness can be accompanied by bold storytelling, characters, art design, marketing, costumes, makeup and performances — not just by financial backing. Extravagance allows artists to fully explore every facet of their creation, resulting in a final product as emotionally rewarding for the artist as it is for the audience.

FILM ENTERTAINMENT

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RS This year, art has truly embraced the opportunities extravagance affords, from the big screen to the small screen, from MP3s to YouTube and from the stage to the page. What we are seeing is work that’s more willing to take risks. The outrageousness of “Titanic” is what inspired this issue, because no matter how many times I watch it, it never fails to entertain me. The critics of “Titanic” can take comfort in knowing there will always be films that are reclusive, quiet and maybe a bit more grounded in reality. But there’s also going to be an audience next door enjoying a movie that’s louder, wilder and having a much better time.

Jeremy Grossman ARTS EDITOR

MUSIC

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BOOKS & THEATER

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‘Gravity’ puts WEIGHT on VISUAL effects

By B O B T E O H To truly experience the atmosphere of fear and despair that Alfonso Cuarón laboriously created in his science-fiction thriller “Gravity,” one must see the film in 3-D and in an Imax theater. The grand experience of the film demands to be seen in the most extravagant way possible. When Cuarón first pitched his film about a scientist separated from her ship in the dead quiet of space, it was so ambitious that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki said the technology to film an entire movie in zero-gravity simply did not exist. Fortunately, the project gained momentum in 2010 when Warner Bros. acquired the rights. With a budget of $100 million, a lot rested on Cuarón’s shoulders, but he refused to make any compromises and opted for his signature long, continuous shots. Although realistic space films like “Apollo 13”

By S U Z A N N E E G A N After an abundance of bombastic science-fiction movies has plagued recent summer seasons, ranging from the nostalgic “Super 8” to the insipid “Transformers” franchise, the last thing viewers should want is another movie about giant aliens or robots. But “Pacific Rim” includes both, imbuing the film with a

have previously been achieved through wires and blue screens, Cuarón’s style complicated this method. As a result, his team tapped into an innovative use of special effects. Cuarón flipped the script of similar films by shooting only the actors’ faces and creating everything else digitally, resulting in an almost completely computer-generated film. The arduous filming process paid off, however, making for a film so thrilling that its excess rarely feels self-indulgent. With the opening shot consisting of a single 17-minute take and only 156 shots in total, “Gravity” could have been a superior case of style over substance. But Cuarón’s style only assists the film’s already terrific pacing and performances, particularly by Sandra Bullock, who gives one of the most emotional acting of her career. “Gravity’s” extravagance demands to be seen in theaters for full effect, and in an age where theaters feel less and less prominent, “Gravity” makes an impact.

touch of sophistication and humility. “Rim” takes place in a not-to-distant future when monstrous aliens called Kaiju declare war on Earth. In response, the global military forces fight back with Jaegers — massive robots that require two mentally linked pilots to control the robot’s movements. The plot and dialogue are oversimplified, but the visuals offer the intelligence lacking in other areas. At first glance, the special ef-

‘Rim’ FOCUSES on SPECTACLE over plot

fects and bright colors are whimsical and appealing. Watching the film is similar to reading a beautifully designed comic book. “Rim” director Guillermo del Toro also makes grandiose references to Japanese culture. “Kaiju” is Japanese for strange beast, and the term originates from Japanese monster movies like “Godzilla.” The bulk of the film is set in Japan, and there are many visual references to World War II, with the

Jaegers painted like 1940s bomber planes. Even with these allusions, the film’s imagery remains light and unpretentious, delivering entertainment above anything else. Del Toro provides unexpected hints of depth, but the film’s playful spectacle defines his intentions. “Pacific Rim” finds the balance that many of its predecessors failed to achieve — excess with heart.


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‘Wolf of WALL STREET,’ Scorsese focus on real-life LAVISHNESS

Actors show ‘HUSTLE’ in performances By M A R I S S A ELLIOT LITTLE Backed by Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” the first trailer to “American Hustle” invites audiences to David O. Russell’s party, which appears to be a combination of “The Great Gatsby” and “Goodfellas.” Set in the glamorous, fictionalized world of the Abscam scandal of the 1970s and 1980s, Christian Bale’s elaborate headpiece is merely a festive tablecloth in Russell’s upcoming Oscar bid. While the loose, flashy atmosphere of the trailer may suggest “Hustle” marks Russell’s return to more lighthearted fare, drama and complicated characters lay buried beneath the sex, dancing and big hair. Russell’s status as one of the best active directors gives him access to all-star actors, who serve as his guests of

honor. Instead of bringing chips and soda, they offer rich, multilayered desserts, attacking their roles in ways they never have before. Bale’s relaxed confidence and wit are contrasted with Bradley Cooper’s performance as a corrupt FBI agent who remains cool and in control, whether underneath hair curlers or behind era-appropriate sunglasses. Cooper offers Bale a partnership after he discovers Bale’s fraudulent art dealing. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are sexy and sassy, yet both are poised to deliver career-best performances beneath heavy makeup and skimpy dresses. Reckless and unpredictable, Lawrence lays the chain-smoking housewife of Bale, whose heart is truly set on Adams, his partner and lover. But Adams is juggling two identities, as she works with Bale and Cooper to uncover the mafia’s influ-

By M O H A M E D H A S S A N

ence in New Jersey politics. Russell has abandoned the simplicity and genuineness of working-class protagonists overcoming obstacles — the typical plot in his previous, modestly-budgeted films “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” Instead, he replaces it with the extravagant lives of characters who eat at white tablecloth restaurants rather than their cozy homes — characters who are trying to hustle their way to power and wealth. Of course, there are risks that could bring this party to an abrupt and harsh end, but it will be enjoyable until the police arrive.

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In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” yachts, girls and Ferraris are abundant. Wall Street has always been home to excess, and director Martin Scorsese hones in on that extravagance, which looks to be the prime focus of his most recent film. If the power suit and tie and the beautifully positioned Jaguar in the opening scene of the trailer do not make it clear, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an important player on the Wall Street trading floor. “I was making so much money, I didn’t know what to do with it,” Belfort narrates in the trailer. From consuming $26,000 dinners to throwing $100 bills into a trash can, Belfort’s extravagance is unmatched. DiCaprio is known for immersing himself in the roles he plays. In every shot of “Wolf ’s” trailer, Scorsese showcases a manic DiCaprio, who fills the room with his energy. The degree to which he portrays Belfort’s cunning charm and conceited scumbag mentality seems to put him in good shape for an Oscar nomination.

Every exuberant lead must have a decent supporting cast, which is where Jonah Hill comes into play. Hill is hilarious and generates great chemistry with DiCaprio, complementing his exaggerated personality. Despite his comedic role in the film, Hill is able to morph into a serious moneydriven stockbroker who doesn’t shy away from the occasional designer sweater — a personality Hill has not played before. His performance could open many doors for his career. And for the brief moment the audience glimpses Matthew McConaughey, he seems to be successfully delving into the comedic mode. Scorsese emphasizes the level of luxury Belfort and his associates can afford with his use of designer suits, elaborate location shots and, of course, girls with money duct-taped to their bodies. As with any Scorsese film, one can expect unmotivated camera movement and fast cutting. With the “Wolf” trailer, Scorsese has already his used zooms and editing to show the escalation of lavishness in the fast-paced lifestyle shown in each frame.

Luhrmann’s ‘Gatsby’ glorifies gaudy, GRANDIOSE By L A U R A W O L F O R D

‘Breakers’ ROLLS experimental film with PARTY CULTURE By C H A R L I E S P E C T O R The gold-toothed and Southern-accented Alien (James Franco) epitomizes Harmony Korine’s uncompromisingly extravagant work, “Spring Breakers.” He’s gross, unrelentingly immoral and stupid. But there is something more to his character. To call “ Breakers” a simple morality tale would be a disservice to its more experimental qualities. Korine’s film is a blend of avant-garde flair, experimental tastes and mainstream desires, all rolled into a surprisingly subversive and bizarre coming-of-age story. As is expected from a movie about four girls who go to Florida for spring break, events quickly go awry. However, it’s done in such a fashion that makes it staggeringly surreal and nearly beautiful to watch. Cinematographer Benôit Debie tells Korine’s boozy, nasty story through excessive neon-colored images. Debie’s scenes are filled with bursts of neon greens, oranges, blues and pinks. The colors pulsate and throb in a fashion that is almost as sensual and madness-inducing as South Florida on the cusp of summer. Throughout his film, Korine proposes this is what happens when people take modern extravagance, as portrayed by society’s increasingly apparent cultural appropriation — Korine’s looking at you, Miley Cyrus — and push it to its most violent extremes. The oversexed girls’ interest in excessive drug use and gangster culture says a lot about how society feeds extravagance, and it shows how that culture encourages the girls’ behavior.

Perhaps no film in the last 10 years proved more ornate than Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” One would expect no less from Luhrmann, the king of extravagance. For any of his films, he demands a grand narrative, lavish sets, and ridiculous yet appropriate music, intense character development. It’s almost surprising Luhrmann did not adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale of the Roaring ’20s sooner. The film expertly portrays the decadence of life for wealthy socialites in the ’20s, it plays with themes of excess, idealism and social classes to demonstrate the culture of these booming times in America. Visually, through a jewel box of colors, textures, shapes and movements, the film expertly portrays the lifestyles of the time. Each costume and set is crafted with care to accurately capture ’20s glamour. And each scene, especially the big party scene at Gatsby’s home, is articulated with such exuberance and style that the film encourages its viewers to overindulge their senses. As if the

computer-generated visual grandeur was not enough, the film’s 3-D release added an extra layer to the explosive aesthetics of every scene. To top off Luhrmann’s grand and self-indulgent vision, the soundtrack includes top-100 artists such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Florence and the Machine, whose musical styles match the lavishness of the ’20s. The title track, “Young and Beautiful,” sung with a smoky and hypnotic voice from Lana Del Rey, radi-

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ates this carefree behavior as well. Lana Del Rey’s song becomes emblematic of the film. Its swelling strings are just as excessive as any of the visuals. But like the characters, there’s a surprising depth to the song. This is exactly what Luhrmann intended to do with his rendition of “The Great Gatsby.” On the surface the film has plenty to process, but there is even more meaning underneath it all.


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YOUTUBE

excess creates unique form of CELEBRITY

1:20 / 5:13 By V A L E R I E N E L S O N In 2008, Shane Dawson began posting videos on YouTube. His video blogs or “vlogs” consisted of him speaking straight to the camera, with nothing more than interesting stories and a sharp sense of humor. Dawson was only one of many people who began uploading personal videos after YouTube’s debut in the late 2000s. Some users covered popular songs or made howto guides. But each video had a simplicity that made gave viewers entertaining, short glimpses into others’ lives. Now, in 2013, “YouTube celeb-

rity” is a term with some weight attached to it. The video-hosting site has evolved into its own world — a Hollywood imitation with feuds and jealousy, marketing and gimmicks. Dawson now has over 4 million subscribers to his Youtube channel, ShaneDawsonTV. His “vlogs” have become elaborately produced sketches. Even when they’re personal, the videos are hyped on Twitter and Facebook to the point where Dawson is no longer someone sharing his life with the Internet. Instead, he is a character. YouTube has made an incredible transformation. Its first video,

posted by the website’s co-founder Jawed Karim in 2005, was called “Me at the Zoo.” The 20-second clip consists of Karim talking about elephants while standing in front of an exhibit. Eight years later, about 100 hours of video are uploaded every hour. Gatherings such as VidCon, which hosted over 12,000 attendees in 2013, display the extent to which YouTube’s influence has risen. Sitting in front of your laptop’s built-in webcam and discussing your life, debating topics in the news or clumsily playing a song on the piano is no longer the type of video users view. Channels with the most subscribers

have elaborate gimmicks. Some play through video games while offering entertaining commentary. Others, like comedy website Smosh, have become legitimate brands. Other YouTube successes are full-fledged series, like “Epic Rap Battles of History” and “The Annoying Orange.” Although its evolution into something associated with celebrity has made it more intimidating and less accessible to the average person looking to upload content, YouTube has revolutionized the way we consume media and is continuing to make a social impact. Sometimes, being over the top simply works.

TV matches film in EXPENSIVE BUDGETS, production By B O B T E O H In the past, there was a clear distinction between the small screen and the big screen. Industry personnel knew if they wanted to truly gain recognition, they should go straight for the movies and avoid working for TV shows. However, with the second coming of the Golden Age, the line has blurred, as television shows become more daring. Shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Person of Interest” boast high production values, while “Breaking Bad” indulged in exceptional cinematography and incredible writing leading up to its finale. As the entertainment landscape continues to move in this direction, critical attention has returned to television as an artistic medium. With television shows becoming

increasingly cinematic and a new generation of viewers demanding greater production values, show runners are no longer squeamish about ridiculously high budgets. “Game of Thrones,” for example, spent a record-breaking budget of $10 million on its pilot. To create the world of Westeros from scratch, the series had to be shot on location in Malta, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Along with special effects, costumes and a vast quantity of extras on set, it is no wonder HBO spent so much money on the pilot. The pilot of J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe” also cost its studio over $10 million. The two-hour episode featured a plane crash and extremely expensive computer-generated imagery to create effects for a skin disease and a dream sequence. Similarly, although it is shot primarily in New York, “Person of In-

terest” is known for its high-octane action sequences. The pilot alone, includes gunfights, car explosions and a rocket launcher. As a result of this second Golden Age, many established film directors and actors are rediscovering television as a medium. Production companies, thus, do not shy away from signing the biggest stars around to generate buzz for their shows. A huge part of “Game of Thrones’” production cost was used to hire fantasy star Sean Bean. A-list producer J.J. Abrams returned to television with “Almost Human.” “Boardwalk Empire” hired movie star Steve Buscemi as the lead and Martin Scorsese as the director for the pilot. Established writer and producer Jonathan Nolan broke into television for the first time with “Person of Interest.”

Television viewers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. If the current trend continues, TV pilots will continue to outdo each other by constantly raising the stakes financially. With shows becoming flashier and more complex, small screen series are moving away from the realm of “TV good” into “movie good.”


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‘Scandal’ cast, plot stretch BOUNDARIES of network TV

‘Glee’s’ EXCESS falls flat with AGE By I S A B E L J O N E S Five years ago, “Glee” entered the world with a campy, musical touch on a heartwarming and hilariously self-aware tale of high school. America’s jaws — and those of McKinley High students and staff — hit the floor when New Directions performed an overly sexual rendition of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It.” The success of this outrageous musical show shocked everyone even more. But “Glee’s” no-holds-barred beginning and unabashed extravagance served it well. The show embraced its limited satirical and emotional boundaries to discuss pressing matters among today’s youth. However, after each teenage stereotype was liberated and every Madonna hit sung, “Glee” began to run out of steam. The irony that carried the first few seasons faded and storylines like “Why won’t my girlfriend let me under her bra?” became prominent concerns. This season, the tragedy of Cory Monteith’s passing forced the show to take a hiatus. The long-awaited tribute episode, “The Quarterback,” was flawlessly executed, and stands as one of the most heartbreaking episodes in television history. The boundary between character and actor blurred, and the authentic emotion was incredibly touching. But the authenticity was fleeting, and “Glee” soon returned to its extravagant roots. The next episode focused on channeling one’s inner Katy Perry or Lady Gaga — a leap that served to highlight how “Glee” is struggling to find its way post-Finn (Monteith). The sentiment of

By M A R C U S J O N E S

“The Quarterback” feels like an isolated fever dream within “Glee’s” current season. The following episodes neglect the intense emotional height of the tribute episode, and the journey of the characters and audience. The series is simply floundering with the loss of a major character, ignoring the repercussions that come with attempting to revert to the way original style. This involuntary shift could have been a chance for “Glee” to mature. After “The Quarterback,” New Directions’ plight to learn to twerk before Sectionals feels trivial. The series could have toned down its lavish nature, stripped away from camp and focused on the sincerity that often drives its most effective episodes.

DETAILS turn ‘Walking’ into RUNAWAY success By L A U R A W O L F O R D Blood, guts, gore and violence are the norm on a show like “The Walking Dead,” as characters fight for their lives in a world where the zombie apocalypse has arrived. Despite the show’s emphasis on zombies, there is rarely any backlash from the audience concerning the show’s ability to convince them of this reality. The “Walking Dead” crew puts a great deal of effort into making their world, plot scenarios and characters authentic and realistic. To keep viewers engaged and make the apocalyptic world believable, the special effects require an extreme amount of imagination — for the audience and the creators. The most obvious special effect is the appearance of zombies roaming the land. The makeup is the key, and because there are at least 100 zombies per episode, a different look is required for each zombie. The makeup must be flexible to endure the constant activity of the zombies. This intensive process makes “Walking Dead” suc-

cess because each zombie is a different individual. Although they all crave human flesh, each zombie used to be a living, breathing, unique human being. This season even introduced a walker — the show’s name for zombies — bleeding from his eyes, a distinguishing special effect that almost humanizes the zombie. The show also does not shy away from the extravagance of its zombie brawls. The gory fights are loaded with small details that are not overtly apparent when initially watching, but that make all the difference to the aesthetic of the scenes. For example, the burst of spilled guts frequently makes scenes become all the more effective. Because of the production crew’s attention to detail, “The Walking Dead” does not look as ridiculous as many zombie-related stories often appear. The crew makes a seemingly minute detail — the placement of a scar on a zombie’s face or a zombie’s weight — and gives it meaning and relatability, allowing viewers to easily place themselves into this unbelievable word.

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Fans of “Scandal” know the show puts the camp in Camp David. With the first half of its third season wrapping up in December, the show has already touched on nearly every easily conceivable political controversy, from assassination attempts to adultery to rigged elections. “Scandal’s” drama prives so excessive, one would think show runner Shonda Rhimes employs a machine in the writer’s room that spits out forgotten soap opera plot lines. But to call “Scandal” a soap opera would be a disservice. “Scandal” is a fun, thrilling, emotional roller coaster ride of a television series. While each episode has capitalized on its live-Tweet capabilities, it is entirely refreshing to see a show grounded in its madness. “Scandal” may be the first network show where no one plays the good guy. None of the characters pretend to be free of any sins. Instead, they thrive on their wrongdoings and cheer each other on for every murder they mask, every af-

fair they hide and every secret they keep. It makes complete sense to call the characters gladiators because, as they step on every opponent’s throat to rise to political dominance, viewers also cheer them on. Olivia Pope and her gladiators tame political animals, all while fighting their major personal demons. Only a show with this much drama could make old social issues seem matter of fact. “Scandal” does not make an issue out of a black woman dating a white man. What is more important to Rhimes and her writers is that the man in question is the President of the United States and she is not his first lady. And who cares if the chief of staff is a married gay man? The more significant issue is that he ordered a hit man to kill his husband. “Scandal’s” extravagance goes where no network show has gone before, but the cast’s performances, led by the flawless Kerry Washington, make even the most outrageous story lines seem terrifyingly plausible and keep audiences consistently glued to their seats.

‘Horror’ indulges in SHOCK to entice viewers

By I F E O L U J O B I There’s nothing on television quite like “American Horror Story.” From creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (“Nip/Tuck,” “Glee”), this strange cocktail of violence, gore, sex, witchcraft, insanity and camp has boggled America’s mind for two seasons and is currently in the middle of its third. “American Horror Story” is an empire built on shock value — a dangerous trade. You can only use the same gags so many times before people become desensitized to them, and “American Horror Story” knows this well. Murphy, Falchuk and their repertoire of actors, including the often lauded Jessica Lange, have increased the incredulity every season, with season three’s “Coven” culminating in inhumane slave treatment, gang rape and bloody minotaur sex.

At the rate it’s going, the anthology will only continue to be more bombastic and ridiculous to keep topping itself and striving for the unexpected. The styles may vary within each self-contained season, but Murphy often uses that abrasive style to emphasize and provide unique commentary on larger cultural trends, hot-button issues and collective fears like racism, sexism, sexual abuse, mental illness, deadly stalking, unknown magical forces and more. But with the latest season featuring some of the most sexual, grotesque, offensive and bloody content viewers have ever seen, many are left feeling emotionally and intellectually wanting after all the debauchery is over. Do Murphy and Falchuk have anything left to challenge our minds and not just our gag reflexes? Some may say no, but the

whole concept of “American Horror Story” is to scare, disgust and horrify its audience. Even if the show delves further into just being a series of disturbing scenes and imagery, the audience’s reactions are reason enough for the show to continue. For anyone who watches the show, it is always an exciting and fruitful conversation topic, and there is certainly something to be said for a show that can portray characters of all different races, persuasions, occupations and time periods and still draw on fears relevant to a modern audience in unexpected ways. In an age where anyone can turn on a television and see acts of graphic violence on the news every day, think of “American Horror Story” as a litmus test for our threshold of sanity — or as one of the reasons it keeps increasing.


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M ERN A SO LAS IC LOR

‘Sleepy Hollow’ EMBRACES absurdity, ENTERTAINS all By J E R E M Y G R O S S M A N

“GRIMM” (2011-PRESENT) NBC found great success on its Friday night schedule with this unique blend of Grimms’ Fairy Tales and the classic procedural format in a modern-day setting. “REIGN” (2013-PRESENT) Although this fantasy series about the teenage years of Mary, Queen of Scots has not been a ratings smash, The CW has shown it support with a full season pick-up. “ONCE UPON A TIME” (2011-PRESENT) ABC’s series about a world of fairy-tale characters transported to the real world was a surprise hit, even inspiring its own spinoff this season, “Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.” “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” (2012) Rather than the dainty Disney princess we’re accustomed to, this adaptation introduced viewers to a warrior Snow. Surrounded by a visually arresting world, Snow’s interactions with the titular huntsman and the seven dwarves looked unlike anything the story had ever previously delivered. “EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY” (1998) Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston starred in this more realistic approach to “Cinderella,” focusing on the romantic aspects of the classic story rather than the fantasy.

Some shows take a while before they start having fun. “Sleepy Hollow” started having fun on day one. In the pilot episode of FOX’s surprise hit, the show immediately throws its viewer a jumble of supernatural elements — time travel, ghosts, demons, witches and of course, the legendary Headless Horseman. With a nearly overwhelming amount of fantastic elements to absorb, it seemed impossible that audiences would warm to a show that so fully embraced absurdity. But “Sleepy Hollow” defied all odds, coming out as one of the biggest successes on a TV network home to more flops than hits. The reason why many new shows have failed or disappointed — ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” or The CW’s “The Tomorrow People” — is that they have held back, whereas “Sleepy Hollow” explores outlandish options. Audiences don’t have the patience for a show that doesn’t come roaring from the get-go because the attention spans of most viewers are at an all-time low. The fast pace and supernatural stories do not make “Sleepy Hollow” such a ratings smash — it’s creators Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove and Len Wiseman taking their show seriously and having a good time. Any show that stars a time-traveling Ichabod Crane is going to be a bit goofy. Rather than letting their show become trash, as it easily could, the creators have developed an intricate mythology that is wellplanned and well-executed. The mythology isn’t so convoluted that it ruins viewers’ ability to watch the show. If you’re paying close attention to each episode, you’ll enjoy “Sleepy Hollow” to its full extent. But even if you’re a casual viewer and aren’t fully aware of why

your protagonist is a time-traveling Revolutionary War soldier, you will still find the show enjoyable. The performances and excellent spooky visual effects are enough to keep all viewers entertained. These are two major areas where “Sleepy Hollow” stands out. The show’s lead, Tom Mison, has loads of fun playing Ichabod, who travels from the past and is baffled by the oddities of the 21st century — a shtick that could quickly grow tiresome, but doesn’t. Mison’s chemistry with co-star Nicole Beharie, who plays Lt. Abbie Mills, is a knockout, and their characters have quickly and smoothly evolved from a mismatched pair to a legitimate dynamic duo. As for visual effects, “Sleepy

Hollow” matches the scariest of what TV has to offer, especially for network television. The show does not hold back on its imagery. In the first episode, a goatlike, devilish creature called Moloch snaps the neck of one of his minions — anyone who sees this scene won’t soon forget it. Two episodes later, Moloch is one-upped by The Sandman, an evil spirit with no eyes and no mouth, who murders his victims in a horrific Dream World. Yes, “Sleepy Hollow” is insane, and yes, sometimes it feels like it bites off more than it can chew. But unlike most other shows of the fall season, at least this one will not make you want to sleep.

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CREATORS make ‘Sleepy Hollow’ laughable, ANNOYING By C L I O M C C O N N E L L “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving’s 1820 short story, has been adapted numerous times. Tim Burton’s film is probably the most famous, but many minds have taken advantage of the spooky decapitated specter. FOX’s new version of the myth, Monday night’s “Sleepy Hollow,” has taken the story to new heights of outrageousness. In this incarnation, Ichabod Crane is a redcoat-turned-rebel spy from the American Revolution. He was cursed during the war when he beheaded a Hessian soldier, who then became the legendary Headless Horseman. During this altercation, Ichabod was also slain and the two victims’ blood mingled, linking them even in death. Ichabod’s wife (Katia Winter) also was a witch who put an enchantment on her husband, allowing him to reawaken in modern-day Sleepy

Hollow — almost 250 years later. To add to the program’s ridiculous agenda, the creators added a Biblical twist. Not only is the Horseman a creature of the undead, but he is also the animated incarnation of Death and one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The reborn Crane must team up with local police Lt. Abbie Mills to stop supernatural forces from destroying Sleepy Hollow. As viewers learn in the first few episodes, Crane and Mills are the two witnesses of the Apocalypse mentioned in the Book of Revelations. The protagonists, or “chosen ones,” spend each weekly installment fighting supernatural evils — including witches and demons — and tracking American Revolution-era clues, helped along by Crane’s all-too-convenient photographic memory. Their almost laughable goal is to prevent the arrival of Doomsday. Every episode of “Sleepy Hollow” feels like a melodramatic Halloween episode. The extravagant premise of the show becomes exhausting after only a short while. Frustratingly, the only problems

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THE GENTLEMEN, “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” One of “Buffy’s” most iconic monsters, The Gentlemen can only be killed by the sound of the human voice, which is why they steal the voices of everyone in Sunndale before committing their gruesome murders.

RUBBER MAN, “AMERICAN HORROR STORY” Although his identity was eventually revealed, Rubber Man haunted audiences throughout Season 1 as a mysterious creature made of black latex that raped Connie Britton’s character and impregnated her with a demonic seed.

that occur in this small New England town are related to magic and time travel, which leaves the police clueless, and only Mills and Crane to save the day. There are persistent references to “averting the Apocalypse,” which constantly reminds viewers the fate of the world is in the hands of this absurdly mismatched pair. “Sleepy Hollow’s” writers attempt to lighten the mood with a constant stream of historical jokes and comments about the absurdity of the situation. However, the show’s selfawareness can be more annoying than it is endearing — by poking fun at itself, the show acts as a reminder of how much the audience suspended disbelief to even consider watching the show. When the main character is not only a literary myth, but also a character from the Bible, and each episode includes monsters from a variety of eras, it is safe to say the show’s creators have gone a bit overboard. Rather than cultivating an atmosphere of campy fun, “Sleepy Hollow” takes many of its elements to an excessive point that might make viewers feel exasperated.

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ZEEBO THE CLOWN, “ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?” Despite being a children’s series, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” had a number of impressively horrific villains. Most notable among them was the nightmare-inducing Zeebo, who appeared in multiple episodes.

TE S

ANTHONY FREMONT, “THE TWILIGHT ZONE” With universe-bending powers, six-year-old Anthony torments his small farming community in Ohio, creating a hellish society in which the townspeople are not even safe in their own thoughts.

HO LO

MARYANN FORRESTER, “TRUE BLOOD” Maryann has something that most monsters lack — sex appeal. A maenad from Greek mythology, she is a goddess who worships Dionysus and uses her powers to trap the people of Bon Temps in a deadly illusion of pleasure.


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Lady Gaga loses SIGHT of SECRETS to success By A LY S S A B U F F E N S T E I N When she debuted, Lady Gaga proclaimed she was in it for the fame. Five years later, she lives for the applause. Plenty has changed in between. Now, the star wears couture rather than hot-glued crafts, she dates an actor-model rather than a bar owner, and, despite hoards of superfans, her popularity is beginning to decline. 2013’s “ARTPOP” disappointed in sales compared to previous successes “Born This Way,” “The Fame Monster” and “The Fame.” Boasting early hits and some potential, “ARTPOP” lacks the unity and staying power of Gaga’s earlier efforts. Her image is waning, too — the queen of avant-garde’s sporadic jumps from identity to identity have become underwhelming. While 2008’s “The Fame” was a promising start to Gaga’s career, 2009’s “The Fame Monster” EP was Gaga’s magnum opus. The period of touring and public appearances between its release and “Born This Way” is something the singer has since struggled to top. On the Monster Ball tour, the world tour supporting her EP, Gaga showed audiences her performing prowess with colorful ’80s imagery and a “Wizard of Oz”-style narrative. With a big budget and a bigger voice, she concocted just the right formula of kitsch, inspirational speaking and experimental performance. The Monster Ball also saw the coinage of the term “little monsters” for the star’s devoted fans, and their custom of camping out for weeks preshow to secure front-row spots. With that kind of hype, Gaga reasonably felt pressure to outdo herself on her next album-tour combo. 2011’s “Born This Way” was the next step, and by obsessing over her extravagance, Gaga began to lose the interest of new and casual fans. She even burned herself out, cancelling the majority of American shows due to a hip injury. After a period of recuperation, she returned strong with “ A p p l a u s e . ” “ARTPOP” as an album, however, failed to meet the bar set by the first single. Had Gaga never put out “The Fame Monster,” her subsequent release might not seem so disappointing. She has the pipes, the creativity and the drive but she seems overwhelmed by the pressure to outdo herself — her popularity has suffered as a result. As for the future, Gaga is planning something literally otherworldly, slated to be the first artist to sing in space. Ground control to major Gaga — maybe something more downto-earth would be a better next step.

Arcade Fire LIVENS up music scene with antics

By C H A R L O T T E G R A H A M Miley Cyrus’ much discussed VMA performance will soon be remembered as an event on par with other infamous pop music moments. It was rude, crude and not exactly deep. But one thing is for sure — it has cemented an iconic image of Cyrus in our minds, for better or for worse. The previously generic long brown hair and forgettable outfits of last year’s Cyrus have been replaced by the gyrating, latex bikini-clad platinum blonde pixie cut in platform sneakers. This signature outfit will be mocked for years, worn as a Halloween costume and inexorably linked with Cyrus — and that’s exactly how Cyrus has cracked the code of the pop music game. Although some would mourn the current state of the music business, it is an inarguable fact that in the pop genre today, selling music equates to selling shock value. It doesn’t matter that Cyrus was off-key and danced poorly. What matters is that Cyrus generated a conversation that lasted weeks. Now, Cyrus has a “look” that can only be imitated, never shared. Any teenage girl can have long brown hair, but now only Cyrus walks on stage with a perpetually stuck-out tongue and a teddyprinted one-piece. Since the rise of the music video, mainstream music has become as much about what the audience sees as what the audience hears. Madonna was the first chameleon-like performer to master the visual shock-value strategy that has kept her relevant despite her albums’ few hits. Rihanna has imitated this strategy — first separating herself from her R&B peers with a sleek bob haircut in the “Umbrella” era, and continually changing her hair and look in the years since. This pop diva caricature is not as simple as a string of evolving haircuts, however — Lady Gaga’s name conjures up images of surreal meat outfits and performance art ensembles. Katy Perry brings to mind candy-colored cupcake bikinis. Ke$ha is perpetually clad in tornapart shorts and golden glitter. These artists each have their own devoted fan bases and carefully cultivated unique images to go along with them. In a pop music era in which the visual matters as much as the songs do, Cyrus is well on her way to carving out her own image for her loyal “Smilers” fan base, whether the rest of the music world likes it or not.

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Pop DIVAS create personas with STYLE, MUSICAL talents

By K I M H A R T When Montreal-based indie rock band Arcade Fire took home the Album of the Year award at the 2011 Grammy Awards for their record “The Suburbs,” an internet-wide period of questioning followed. Twitter was abuzz with people asking “Who are The Suburbs?” because they had never heard of Arcade Fire and mistook the album name for the band name. Since their humble beginnings, the group has stood out in the music world for their elaborate sound and matching stage presence. In 2004, Arcade Fire released their first full-length album, “Funeral.” On it, the band proved to be a rising star, and the album included beautiful, empowering music that received nearly unanimous praise from professional critics. Arcade Fire took a turn for the

macabre with 2006’s “Neon Bible,” which featured an experimentation of instruments such as the hurdy gurdy, the mandolin and the pipe organ. This record also marked the beginning of the band’s penchant for strange marketing campaigns, as they released the album’s first single, “Neon Bible,” through a telephone number. The award-winning “Suburbs” offered a commentary on adolescence and suburban life. The disco-infused “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains” stuck out the most, with layers of synthesizers and vibrant vocals marking another change of pace for the band. This year’s “Reflektor” is Arcade Fire’s most striking record to date. Its worldwide, graffiti-filled promotion preceded an album that is a far cry from the band’s earlier days, but is still no less enjoyable or magnificent. Listeners just appreciate it

in a different way. “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” is one of the record’s highlights, featuring infectious guitar melodies and vocal harmonies. Another standout,“Here Comes the Night Time,” takes a reggae-inspired sound and effortlessly shifts from riotous beats to a groovy flow. In retrospect, the through line for Arcade Fire’s diverse catalogue is their heavy layering and decadent instrumentation — two things that have brought them success and a loyal following. For their upcoming Reflektor Tour, the band asked attendees to dress formally or in costume. When this annoyed some, who considered the request unnecessary, Arcade Fire responded that the dress code is “not mandatory,” and its sole purpose is to create a “fun carnival” atmosphere. It is evident that even now, the grandiose six-piece group has no interest in taking themselves too seriously — they’re just in it for the fun.


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Musicians adorn themselves with ART history By A L E X G R E E N B E R G E R

Last year, Kanye West showed up to a concert wearing a hoodie with Caravaggio’s Baroque painting “Entombment of Christ” on it, and nobody thought twice about it. Looking back on that sweatshirt, it seems more like a prophetic footnote in music history than just another fashionable outfit selection choice. This July became one of the biggest months for art history. First, there was Jay-Z’s now-famous “Picasso Baby” performance at Pace Gallery. For the six-hour long performance, Jay-Z danced with the art world’s hottest insiders — from performance artist Marina Abramovic, to beloved art critic Jerry Saltz, to “Girls” star Jemima Kirke — and even threw in a lyric about the “Mona Lisa.” No less than three days later, Lady Gaga announced her own venture into the art world with “ARTPOP,” an album intended to “reverse Warholian odyssey.” The album includes collaborations with art star and provocateur Jeff Koons and, of course, Abramovic. The art and music worlds have always been in dialogue with each other, but art has never been used

like this before. Now, pop stars are using art to be extravagant. In other words, art is the new bling for pop stars. It’s a means of promoting self-expression, but it’s also a way of showing wealth and status. Using art as bling is not necessarily intended to be negative. Having dancers parade as Koons’ “Gazing Balls” during Lady Gaga’s VMAs performance is not meant to insult

society. Instead, pop stars are interested in art in the same way film directors are interested in having musicians act in their movies — they like art for the artists’ talent, and they like the spectacle of big art. So until Miley Cyrus starts twerking on an Andy Warhol silkscreen and calls it performance art, art historians and music critics have nothing to worry about.

Stans take DEDICATION to extreme heights online, in REAL LIFE By J A K E F O L S O M You may have noticed them on Twitter. Many people accidentally follow them, mistaking accounts like @DailyGagaTweets for the real stars. These

false accounts are what are known as “stan” accounts. There’s a point when fandom gives way to something else — something over-the-top. Stan is the term adopted by the Internet for obsessive fans. A

portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan,” the term is derived from the Eminem song of the same name. It’s a phrase that often appears online — it’s seen across Twitter or gossipy corners of the Internet, such as on the popular LiveJournal community “Oh No They Didn’t!” Stans go by many names, but what they all share is a devotion to a specific popstar — Katy Perry has KatyCats, Justin Bieber has Beliebers, Beyoncé has the Beyhive and Lady Gaga has the Little Monsters. These Twitter users are infamous for their extreme dedication to their chosen pop stars, often attacking strangers who post tweets and articles critical of their favorite artist’s music. This vitriol often takes the form of spam and flames on Twitter. The term stan war has even been adopted to describe the occurrence of rival stans squaring

off against each other to debate which artist is better. Because of this, stans have attracted controversy for their dogma. Many consider them Internet trolls in the vein of YouTube spammers. Some stans even take the stalker etymology from a tongue-in-cheek to an extreme level. Incidents have occurred with stans showing up to pop stars’ private residences, as has happened with Madonna, Taylor Swift and others. Such stalking has occurred for years, but with the concept of stans, the Internet has altered fandom. Before social media, superfans had to seek out one another in real life to connect. Now, they are able to bond with the click of a button or the insertion of a hashtag. For better or worse, stan culture is going strong and not showing signs of slowing down.


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YOUNG adult AUTHORS devalue genre purpose By V A L E R I E N E L S O N One of the most anticipated films of this year was “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and it opened to amazing numbers — one of the biggest box office openings of all time. But it’s important to remember this success came from a young adult novel by Suzanne Collins. In the past few years, young adult fiction has assumed a monstrous life of its own. It previously existed in the form of light romances, through authors like Sarah Dessen. Now, stories about high school crushes aren’t enough. Some young adult authors on the shelves include names like Hilary Duff and Tyra Banks. Books like the “Hunger Games” trilogy, the “Divergent” series and “The Mortal Instruments” franchise are firmly set in extravagant fantasy worlds. The genre’s sudden popularity has led to numerous film ad-

aptations, as well as an obnoxious amount of marketing. “Harry Potter” was perhaps the first series to experience this type of phenomenon. However, “Harry Potter” had such a positive cultural influence on young readers that it’s unfair to blame author J.K. Rowling for the current oversaturation of the young adult genre. Instead, the incredibly popular “Twilight” series is most likely the culprit. Stephenie Meyer’s series about a plain girl named Bella who falls in love with a vampire has spawned an unbelievable cultural trend — Teen Paranormal Romance is now a labeled section in bookstores. Despite its reputation as a poorly written novel, the “Twilight” series has brought young adult fiction into the spotlight, arguably for the worse. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, which released the same year as “Twilight,” has become

a quintessential young adult fiction book. Authors are indulging in the romance aspect of classic young adult stories, like those by Judy Blume, while also introducing a complex sense of sentimentality. Green’s most recent book, “The Fault in Our Stars,” garnered near-“Twilight” levels of fan buzz when it released last year. Now, a film adaptation starring Shailene Woodley is in production. Novel adaptations have been made since the early days of film, but something about Green’s book becoming a blockbuster seems to cheapen the original work. The pressure placed on young adult authors to create a story that makes the novel seem like something more devalues the genre itself. Every novel must be a money-making franchise, and this type of extravagant mentality distorts the young adult genre from being what it should — a story catering to youths.

‘PHANTOM,’ ‘Rent’ show stark CONTRASTS By D Y L A N J A R R E T T Extravagance on the Broadway stage can be summed up in just one image — the enormous gilt chandelier that hangs over the audience’s heads every night at the Majestic Theatre as the Phantom of the Opera sings to his angel of music. And every night for the past 25 years, it falls and crashes on the stage. The first time this happened in 1988, it was a revelation. The entire production was seen as the epitome of theater, heralded as breathtaking and groundbreaking. It was melodrama at its absolute best. For audiences of the time, there could be noth-

ing better than watching the Phantom — or his two body doubles — lure Christine to his dimly lit lair while accompanied by an orchestra of synthesizers. But, in 2013, those synthesizers are outdated, along with the rest of the show. While tourists and die-hard Andrew Lloyd Webber fans will still fill the Majestic, it is not uncommon to see people roll their eyes when “Phantom” is mentioned — and it makes sense. This type of extravagance characterized the Broadway of the ’80s and early ’90s — think of the helicopter in “Miss Saigon.” “Rent” ushered in a new form of extravagance in the world of musical the-

ater and was a show most current-generation college students knew about while growing up. Unlike “Phantom,” there was no chandelier, pyrotechnics nor beautiful costumes. This was a musical that was unrestrained in its lack of opulence. Its subject matter, the AIDS crisis, was gritty. The costumes looked like street clothes and the set was almost spartan in its barrenness. The music itself was extravagant, although in a different manner than Webber’s. While Christine was hitting high Cs, Rentheads were memorizing the complex rhythms and list-like lyrics of composer Jonathan Larson’s music. In short, “Rent” was edgy, cool

and understated — everything “Phantom” was not. These two shows are arguably the most popular musicals of the past 30 years and their influence is nearly immeasurable. But their success and their differences, in terms of extravagance, have created a strict dichotomy since their premieres. Now on Broadway, shows either go over the top, such as “Kinky Boots,” or deliberately scale back, like “Spring Awakening.” It seems plays are all-ornothing in terms of extravagance. We either see jeans, a bare stage and LED lights or opera masks, fog machines and chandeliers. Take your pick.

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‘Night Film’ plays with VIVID STORYTELLING

Stories ADAPT into MAGICAL musicals By B A I L E Y AY E R S

Extravagance is not something new to the Broadway stage, but it has experienced a resurgence over the past few years. Productions like “Big Fish” and “Matilda” are replete with amazing sets, gorgeous costumes and incredible props. However, what most of the elaborate musicals have in common is how they are all adaptations. With adaptations of movies and books taking over the industry, musicals have been forced to keep up with the special effects of the film industry by presenting a more faithful version of the story. Additionally, the lavish elements presented

onstage can help achieve the magical feeling in the theater. In “Big Fish,” for example, the use of extravagance helps the audience differentiate the reality from the fantasy in the stories that the main character tells. The actors are dressed in outrageous costumes that lend a fairy-tale vibe to the stories, making “Big Fish” all the more magical. The set allows for the show to flow effortlessly between reality and fantasy by making everything over the top. The production cab thus achieve a dreamlike state when appropriate. “Matilda” also has a fantastical element to it, shown through breathtakingly imagined scenes. The

beloved children’s book comes to life on stage in the same way it did on screen in 1996. The extravagant set design and props convey the wonderment of Matilda’s powers. She is essentially a young witch, after all, and the audience needs a demonstration of what she is able to accomplish with her powers — a demonstration best shown through extraordinary features. Magic-filled musicals such as these should be expected to have an extravagant air. Fantasy is a popular genre for books and movies, and it only makes sense that it will transition to the stage. When it does, the opulence of magic and storytelling creates a wonderful spectacle of theater.

By A L E X G R E E N B E R G E R Marisha Pessl’s “Night Film” has not one, but two prologues. The first is what might be expected from a fiction novel — a brief scene that sets the tone for the rest of the book. The second is so extraordinary that it might not be considered writing in a traditional sense. The 20 pages after the first prologue are an elaborately faked article from Time Magazine’s website about Stanislas Cordova, a mysterious and twisted film director who then becomes the subject of the book. Pessl’s faux listicle is one of the many parts of “Night Film” that has unnumbered pages and looks strikingly similar to real screenshots of websites. It makes sense that “Night Film” relies so heavily on interludes which come in the form of Internet screenshots, diary entries and emails. For a book about a journalist who decides to investigate

the strange and sudden suicide of Cordova’s daughter, it only feels right that Pessl bombards her readers with visual evidence to mimic the act of investigation. What makes “Night Film” a fascinating novel is not its unsettling tone, vivid prose or odd blend of noir and horror — characteristics that seem worthy of a David Fincher film adaptation — but because of its interactive visual sections. “Night Film” manages to scare, repulse and mystify because it has such an emphasis on interactivity — something Fincher could not do if he were to adapt it to a film. Whether Pessl makes readers feel as if they are mousing through a dangerous part of the Internet or doing archival work in a library, the visual elements of the novel engage readers and make them feel like journalists. It’s a uniquely extravagant form of storytelling that makes the words leap off the page and into the real world.

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The Arts Issue  

Washington Square News The Arts Issue – Fall 2013

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