Category: Arts & Features

Marshall on Cinema

 

ben wheatley grayscaleDirector’s Profile: Ben Wheatley

Though it may be true that, now more than ever, filmmakers are intrigued by the prospect of pastiche, it ultimately requires a singular vision to transcend imitation alone. In this regard, English writer/director/editor Ben Wheatley, born in 1972 in Essex, certainly has that ever-elusive magic touch that many of his contemporaries lack, in the sense that he decidedly wears his influences on his sleeve and yet his work retains a sort of strangely distinctive quality, as if the artist is conjuring visions of old to go with the new.

Wheatley began his career in animation and short films before 2009’s small-town crime drama “Down Terrace” marked his feature debut. If this wasn’t quite enough of a success overseas to guarantee the director’s household-name status, 2011’s “Kill List” certainly did the trick, combining kitchen-sink realism and gritty gangster-movie tropes with “Wicker Man”-style occultism.

2012 proved to be a busy year for the multitalented Englishman, as he directed a segment for the infamous “ABCs of Death” anthology as well as his third feature, the pitch-black romantic comedy “Sightseers.” 2013 brought the exceedingly trippy black-and-white phantasmagoria of “A Field in England,” thus signifying new horizons — ones which Wheatley would explore further with the brilliantly bat-shit “High Rise” (2015), a ‘70s-infused dystopian nightmare which was easily his most ambitious production yet.

Most recently, Wheatley directed the witty and ultra-violent “Free Fire,” which feels like an appropriate culmination of the filmmaker’s aesthetic obsessions even when it doesn’t aim as high, thematically speaking, as some of his earlier work. Even still, these films share common attributes; they are (almost) equal measures maddening and misanthropic, and totally committed to the chaos.

There’s something genuinely fresh in Wheatley’s evocation of mania, and one gets the sense that he’s always chasing after his own definition of excess; his films aren’t exorcisms so much as they are representations of what it looks and feels like to release what’s been fermenting for so long — and then bottle it all up again for observation.

Freefiregrayscale

Film Review: ‘Free Fire’

From wherever his ever-growing stateside audience stands, the bearded Englishman by the name of Ben Wheatley seems to be one of the busiest and most consistent minds working in the industry today, having sent no less than one feature film overseas per year since his debut in 2009.

If anything has changed since then — and plenty has — it’s the director’s unabashed penchant for pastiche; with the previous year’s “High Rise,” and now the similarly fleeting “Free Fire,” Wheatley no longer appears to be interested in entertaining subtlety where his influences are concerned.

Just as he conquered ‘70s occultism and dystopia prior, here we have Wheatley taking on the single-location action-thriller that’s become all the rage as of late. An arms deal gone wrong in a warehouse somewhere in Boston, men (and a woman) shooting off at one another according to no plan, you get the picture. A sort of misanthropic streak runs throughout and once the show’s on the road, it rarely stops for even a quick breather.

In the interest of maintaining its modest 90-minute run-time, this is perhaps the wittiest of Wheatley’s output thus far (once again, the director co-wrote the script with his wife Amy Jump), and it’s genuinely remarkable how even the most repugnant involved in the ordeal are able to elicit honest chuckles. This is as strong an argument as ever for stricter gun-control laws, and in that sense it’s unexpectedly timely, but first and foremost it’s a spectacle of stupidity where banter is as frequently hysterical as a bullet to the leg.

It’s all fun and games when someone is getting hurt, but Wheatley remembers to allow for the moment of the kill to be flawlessly articulated so that the impact can be felt amidst the immaculate absurdity. There’s no good guys here, just the bad — Ord (Armie Hammer), Justine (Brie Larson), Chris (Cillian Murphy), Frank (Michael Smiley), Vernon (Sharlto Copley) — and the ugly, the latter of which includes the likes of the spectacularly sleazy Stevo (Sam Riley), Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), and Harry (Jack Reynor), but the cast achieves such harmony that one hardly minds the commitment to the dark heart at the core of the affair.

Mileage will surely vary as to how the viewer receives the over-the-top violence and slick cynicism inherent in the film’s worldview, and it could easily have more of an agenda at the end of the day, but surely the film’s technical merits should not be overlooked. Reuniting with D.O.P. Laurie Rose for another crack at colorful claustrophobia, Wheatley (whose editing remains as sharp as ever) crafts a clever, condensed slice of psychedelic madness, albeit this time it’s notably more grounded than certain earlier endeavors, but that’s not to say that it’s any less delectable as a result.

In fact, more than anything, it seems to suggest a smoother path for the director moving forward. He thankfully has yet to lose even a sliver of the flair that marks his strongest work, and while this is hardly an abstraction à la “A Field in England,” it’s still well within Wheatley’s wheelhouse. The obsessive, snarky, bloodthirsty spirit remains intact, providing a much-needed pick-me-up for the wicked — simplicity as a sly cinematic illusion. As deadly as it is positively delightful.

Ryan Marshall is a Communications & New Media major focusing on cinematic journalism. You can also read his writing at http://www.podcastingthemsoftly.com

Portable CD Player or Smartphone?

 

By Jessica Spoto

Many people listen to music on their smartphone because, well, it’s very convenient — and who doesn’t have their smartphone on them? Now, before we jump in here too soon about listening to music on your smartphone versus a portable CD player, you should know a little history about the smartphone.

Amazingly enough, the first smartphone came out in 1994, and it cost only $900. (That was a lot to many people back in the ‘90s.) The IBM Simon, it didn’t do much; it featured apps like solitaire. This smartphone only worked in the United States, and only in 15 states. The practicality of it outweighed the hefty price tag for most people. Because of the price of the first smartphones, and many after that, the popularity of the smartphone didn’t pick up until 2007. In 2007 the cost of a smartphone was a lot cheaper and more accessible.

There must have been a time in your life when you didn’t have a smartphone. Anyone remember? You may have been in middle school, even elementary school. You may remember the flip phones — you know, phones like Blackberrys? Many flip phones did not offer an option to play music.

If any of you remember the portable CD player, it was commonly equipped with features like these: options to turn up the bass, skip through songs and plug into speakers. You may be thinking, what’s so great about that? Well, think about it: How many times a day do you use your phone? On average, a typical smartphone dies within five hours (depending on how much you use your phone). A portable CD player usually takes two double-A batteries and lasts on average about 22 hours and 15 minutes.

If you do not use your phone and use a portable CD, then you can conserve your battery life throughout the day. That way you can leave your phone for those much-needed cat videos and important chats from random people on your Facebook friends list. Well, in all seriousness, you can absolutely save battery on your phone, meaning you won’t have to have the irritation of having it die or having to charge it every five hours.

So strongly consider using a CD player for music — not only for saving money and battery, but also for your enjoyment. So, go back to the early 2000s and crack out your portable CD player!

Kafkaesque Bukowski

By Oğuzhan Özkan

Kafka and Bukowski may seem miles apart from each other by plain logic: they lived in different eras; they had different personalities; Kafka’s poetic skills are not what he is famous for; Bukowski was an alcoholic and a drug addict; Kafka saw himself as sexually inadequate while Bukowski used sexuality as a cure for his problems. Their differences look vast, but they shared one thing in common: they had a same feeling of repulsion for society. They directed their criticisms not only to society, but also to what they had become in the process of being a part of society, what they ended up being as a result.

Bukowski’s poems are intense. He uses intensity as a tool to shock the reader. “A Smile to Remember” is an example. He lets us hate his father and highlights her mother as the only beautiful thing in his childhood — the only person who tries to stay positive despite everything. In his poems, there are immoral people, prostitutes, alcoholic and wife-beating men, villains, drug addicts and so on, but on the other hand, in the middle of all the mess, there is his mother. She is a blooming flower and he remembers her with a heavy heart.

The very same symbolism is apparent in “The Metamorphosis.” In the middle of the same chaos, but this time arising from the burden of being a responsible man for others, Kafka symbolizes Gregor Samsa’s sister, Grete, as the blooming flower. She is seemingly his only friend. She feeds him and treats him better than their parents. Samsa sees her as the only good in the world; she weeps for him. But Samsa feels bad for her, because he’s no more able to support her future career as a violinist. This is as little Henry feels bad for his mother; they both feel sorry for the ones they love, even if the time is rough and the situation is unclear.

Kafka is a man of solitude. His character, Samsa, turns into a cockroach. This is his way of loathing the society that he has to be a part of in order to earn a living. His soul shrinks and his personality diminishes as he serves the needs of people, so much so that he finally becomes a cockroach, a symbol of human disgust. He hates himself and what he does so much to a degree that he himself is no more a human, but an insect. He is better off as a cockroach rather than being a human, but also he feels that he deserves to be a cockroach. This sickening urge for human race and his abhorring for what he has become complete each other. He welcomes his transformation as a long lost friend, of course he finds it odd at first but he gets to see it very mundane within the process. Bukowski, even though not as much as Samsa does, hates himself and society as well. He asks the girl ‘’where were you when I was living on one candy bar a day and sending short stories to the Atlantic monthly?’’ and he never gets even with the society. To become accepted by it, he thinks that you, first, have to lose your soul and mind. Samsa lost his soul and mind, and he had a good job with a good salary, well enough to feed his family. He and Bukowski react differently, but they get to the same place eventually: the point of no return. The moment Bukowski understands the terror that the society causes and the moment Samsa begins to detest himself intersect. They come to hate themselves neither more nor less they hate people. The idea of being one of them seems inescapable and they already are, knowing that they hate to be so makes everything more complicated. Bukowski seeks comfort in addiction to whatever he can get, alcohol, women and drugs to have a serene mind, but he fails. His poetry gives us the hints of a disturbed man, a man who flunks every single time he attempts to try. We already begin to witness the final chapter of Samsa’s life and there is no doubt that they come each way in different directions; Bukowski despises and Samsa dreads.

There is no happy ending for their stories. Samsa dies as something he yearns and hates to be at the same time, Bukowski’s blooming flowers wither in the end with their bitter smiles. The certainty is they feel the absence of peace, it is not that they lack the perseverance that is necessary to achieve, they just appercieve the longevity of happiness lies within lies and self-deception. Most people build fortresses around to keep themselves from heart breaking brutal facts, but not Samsa and Bukowski. They complete and hail each other from different worlds, inexplicably and surprisingly.

Poetic License

By Jessica Spoto 

The last poem for this year’s Poetic License comes to The Beacon from Rebecca Dow. Last week Rebecca read her piece to me while we shared a few moments together in a somewhat subdued Oceanview Dining Hall. We all suffer from spacing out, consciously avoiding, delaying the inevitable, deferring, postponing, dallying, taking the obligatory raincheck, even maybe dragging your feet, while always knowing…

I Ought to Stop 

Procrastinating

By Rebecca Dow

Cluttered mind,

Sleepless,

A cup of coffee

Sours my mouth

Through the hours.

A mountain of

responsibilities

Crumble in the wake of a

Rectangular projection,

Illuminated on my black,

Wadded bedsheets.

Who will build it back up?

Stone by stone, my focus

Looks to the sky.

When the clouds fall,

Kissing the grass

and soil,

Then I shall see with

Clarity.

Sleepless;

By rising higher

It becomes harder to view

a Cloudless summit.

My hope, nonetheless,

Is to shed my skin

And emerge a wisp

Of crisp, clear air.

Above my mountain

There exists an

Unattainable mind –

Where stones are merely

Pleasant smells,

And dreams lay waste

To solid things.

For now, my feet

expect the Ground.

So, I’ll build with

gritted teeth,

Climbing as my

breath grows

Cooler;

Until stones and haze,

And coffee staved

Rest

Collect like dew in the

Valley,

Below me.

Vintage Era

By Jessica Spoto

Ever go into those vintage clothing stores in downtown Portland, but you just never seem to know what era the clothes you are buying are from? Well, there are specific details you need to look for when identifying a piece of  vintage clothing from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

First, start by looking at the tag. The tag says everything about the piece. Clothing tags from the 1960s are usually small, slim and rectangular. Usually the print on the tag is in cursive, and it will also commonly say “Made in Korea.” Tags from the 1970s are slightly bigger than tags from the 1960s. The tag’s writing may still be in cursive, but have a more bubble-style font. 1980s tags are much, much bigger than 1970s tags. They are way more colorful and use a lot more geometric shapes than previous tags.

After you can identify the tag, feel the fabric and look at its pattern. 1960s fabric is stiff, but has a slight give to it. The pattern usually consists of trippy floral print, weird animals such as frogs, tigers and snakes, and also, bright and vibrant colors. 1970s fabric is of course made of itchy polyester. Pantsuits were a trend in the 1970s. Pantsuit patterns often used plaid and solid colors, with white as an accent.

1980s fashion is far removed from any of the other eras. The 1980s look consisted of very colorful clothing and geometric shapes, and also used color blocking. Color blocking is when each piece of clothing and accessory is a different color, with no pattern, and they all seamlessly go together in a funky, dysfunctional way.

So, that’s basically all you need to know to identify women’s clothing, era by era! If you want to look for vintage clothing, the best places to go are thrift stores. There are so many thrift stores in Portland!

On Display in the Learning Commons

Art_Show_02

 

By Paul Moosmann

Painting has been part of the human experience since the ancient days of the cavemen. While we may have moved from pigment on rock to pigment on paper and canvas, the core desire to create has never changed. Students of John Knight’s Painting II class joined together with SMCC’s Art Club on April 28 in the second-floor lounge of the South Portland Campus’s Learning Commons to celebrate human creativity with the public.

The Painting II class featured students’ takes on full-body portraits. The works ranged from realistic to abstract, each capturing something about the human form in their own way. Works from the Art Club featured paintings on panels that ranged from pure abstraction to landscape, and more experimental artwork. The show will remain in the Campus Center through the end of the semester.

The Learning Commons will host a show of select Beacon front pages. The show is scheduled to be installed in the summer.