Category Archives: music

Timecode: A Short Film Review

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“Actions speak louder than words.”

That’s a difficult motto to live by on a blog, but a crucial one in regards to short films given their limited run time. Considering the fact that you could fit the dialogue in Juanjo Giménez’s Timecode on a single sheet of paper only elevates its importance.

With a handful of award-winning short films [including Rodilla and Maximum Penalty]
already to his name the Spanish director’s latest features two security guards who work in an underground parking garage, one taking the day shift and the other the night. Playing Luna and Diego are Lali Ayguadé and Nicolas Ricchini, respectively, and although their shared acting experience is limited there’s no question of their being talented performers.

Both Ayguadé and Ricchini have impressive careers as dancers and choreographers, and their remarkable control over their bodies causes them to imbue every movement with purpose, whether it’s stiffly brushing past each other or jogging back up a hallway to clock-in to work. This even extends to the corner of a mouth being raised ever so slightly. This largely wordless short film might collapse in on itself with different talent, but the duo make it look effortless. Continue reading

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“Hymn for the Weekend”: Appreciation, Appropriation, and the Exotic Black Woman

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop listening to “Hymn for the Weekend” on repeat.

However, before I had even listened to Chris Martin and Queen Bey meld their voices in a divine mesh of harmonies, I was reading about it on Tumblr.

Cultural Appreciation vs. Appropriation

The first thing I heard about the video was that it had some pretty rampant cultural appropriation. Since there have been a number of music videos and performances accused of cultural appropriation over the last few years, I wasn’t too surprised to hear about “Hymn for the Weekend” being added to the list.

The video quickly split viewers into two groups, those who considered it cultural appropriation, and those who appreciated the video’s focus on Indian culture. The clip below highlights a few of the key elements that have been discussed and criticized.

This discussion is tricky for a variety of reasons. For example, there is a time and place when a white person can wear Indian clothing and accessories without coming off as disrespectful. In some cases, it’s actually much more respectful to embrace local dress customs than to ignore them.

There are even music videos where diverse customs and styles have been featured without any backlash about appropriation.

This debate can also seem confusing when Indian fans, or fans with Indian heritage, don’t seem to be bothered by the video’s representation of their culture.

anigif_optimized-20745-1454418987-1 Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S5E9 “And the Sax Problem”: A TV Review

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Let me start by saying that it’s about time. I’m not sure how many 2 Broke Girls viewers realize this, but Garrett Morris was an original SNL cast member. With that in mind it’s almost shocking how little the show has decided to do with Earl. On a typical episode I can count all of his lines on one hand, and by the time the twenty-something minutes are up I still have a few fingers left over.

“The Sax Problem” that’s of concern this week is strictly Earl’s, and in much the same way Sophie and Oleg got the most character development in “And the Basketball Jones” last Wednesday he takes centre stage [no pun intended]. Given how often Morris has been relegated to the sidelines I was actually apprehensive about how he would do being given so much heavy lifting, but I never should have doubted him. Continue reading

Celebrity Mortality and Actual Emotion

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New Avengers #1 (Vol. 5). Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Steve Epting.

Yesterday morning it was announced that British actor Alan Rickman had passed away from cancer. At the very beginning of this week it was revealed that musician David Bowie has suffered the same fate. As social media was filled with mournful statuses and 140 character eulogies I couldn’t help but be drawn back to a post I wrote almost three and a half years ago called “Celebrity Mortality and Actual Loss”.

In it I drew a comparison between Michael Clarke Duncan, and other such famous people who had died within the past month or so, and my grandmother, who breathed her last in the ICU of a Toronto hospital just the day before. When rereading it in preparation for this post it was impossible to ignore the bitterness that lay right beneath the surface, the pain still so fresh from the loss I had just experienced.

It’s been a while since then, long enough for the years to dull the hurt and extinguish any anger I might have once felt towards a world that appeared to haphazardly allocate its sorrow. Now, years later, my Facebook feed filled with dozens of Ground Controls hailing Major Tom, I find myself on the opposite side of the spectrum, feet terrifyingly close to being planted firmly in indifference.

Which, understandably, makes it look like I’m not doing so hot on the scale of emotional maturity. Continue reading

A Very Special CWR Chistmas

Well readers, it’s that time of year again. Mildewed jack-o’-lanterns are being unceremoniously swept away from doorsteps as families hang lights and holly around their homes. Carols are beginning to play in stores across the nation and cheery folks, bundled up in their coats, are already beginning to make their lists. The elves and reindeer aren’t waiting for December and so, readers, neither shall I. And let me kick off the holidays here at Culture War Reporters by declaring this:

I hate Christmas.

Generally speaking, I always have.

And my family did celebrate the holidays, with my parents (who make Buddy the Elf look like Ebenezer Scrooge) even making a few luckless attempts at getting me to celebrate advent as well.

I’d say that my mom isn’t as bad, but her holiday tradition is- I make no exaggeration- screaming “IT’S # DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS!” at the top of her lungs.

But for all the zeal my parents had I was generally free from the hustle and bustle of the season. One of the benefits of growing up in the middle of a primarily Muslim country is that one isn’t generally blasted with “Carol of the Bells” until one is prepared to put a drill to one’s head.

Coming to America, that was something I had difficulty adjusting to, to put things mildly. But that’s not the issue I have- not entirely anyways.

It was the expectation. Continue reading

Straight Outta Compton: A Film Review

It can’t be easy making a biopic.

Err to much on the side of leniency and you get a sappy, self-congratulatory, and ultimately meaningless popcorn flick. Err to much on the side of harsh truth and you’ll often get a vicious hatchet job.

Now try doing that while the main character’s still alive.

Suddenly there’s the additional burden of being honest and fair and avoiding litigation at the hands of the offended and his or her legions of lawyers.

Now try doing that with eleven characters at once.

Against all odds, Straight Outta Compton does just that.

Continue reading

Language as a Product of Cultural Evolution [Or Why Chimpanzees Can’t Talk and We Can]

thedomesticationoflanguagecoverThis week I finished The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal, a book whose subject matter should be self-evident. Shortly afterwards I was given the opportunity to talk to Daniel Cloud, the author of said work and professor of philosophy at Princeton University.

To summarize it very briefly the book is a thorough and eye-opening examination of language as a piece of culture that has been grown and thus evolved due to choices and actions we’ve made as human beings. While our discussion of his work was incredibly thorough and actually exceeded an hour I’ve managed to cut it down to something that closely approximates a conversation, and one that I hope will convince you to pick up a copy for yourselves.

Evan: Now I will of course be putting together some form of introduction to preface this interview, but I thought it would be good for our readers to hear you describe yourself in your own words-

Cloud: I would say that I am an American philosopher carrying on the American philosophical tradition. I worked in science for a while in Russia and China which gave me some some experience with socioeconomic change; I was in those places during a period of upheaval. Research as a philosopher most interested me when I decided to quit and go back to school. Biology and evolution in particular stood out as I already knew a lot about the social sciences.

Evan: As far as The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal is concerned I would describe your primary goal as breaking down the origin of human language. Would you agree with that?

Cloud: My goal was and is to explain where language comes from, yes, but specifically the theory of cultural evolution and if it works relative to language. Language is one type of culture, and the specific type of culture I chose to focus on in this book was words as they’re discrete identities that are easy to identify and track throughout history.

The larger project is actually to track humans as being distinct from other types of living things. To return to language I present it as a tool for exploring the way cultural evolution works. It’s the application of the word “domestication” as seen in the title, the theory that just like animals and plants what we have in the present day is very different from how it began. Words are only the first thing I’ve tried to identify in this way. I could just as easily have turned to fashion or clothes or any other kind of culture. Continue reading