Amazon Show Hunters Receives Mixed Feedback
Critics Worry about Historical Accuracy of the Portrayal
by: Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
One of Amazon Prime Video’s newest original shows Hunters has been the source of much debate since its release on Feb. 21. Associated with big names such as Al Pacino and Logan Lerman and backed by Jordan Peele’s production company, the series has been advertised heavily leading up to its debut and even secured coveted commercial time during the Super Bowl. So far, however, the show’s reception has been greatly mixed.
Hunters follows a group of Nazi hunters tasked with searching for war criminals who intend to establish a Fourth Reich in the United States in 1977. Taking place in New York City, the show’s young protagonist, Jonah Heidelbaum, quickly learns that there are Nazis living in the country.
There are also extended references to comic books throughout the show. On multiple occasions, Lerman’s character is compared to Batman. Such a parallel is intended to signify that he is destined to be a part of this Nazi-hunting group rather than simply sit on the sidelines.
Throughout the series, the tone gravitates back and forth between heavy, emotional anecdotes of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and the violent capture of Nazis thereafter. Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone asserts that the show “can be sober and thoughtful in one moment, gleefully trashy in the very next. At times, the energy of its grindhouse pastiche can feel addictive; at others, it just seems like the work of someone who’s sat through Tarantino movies too often.”
While countless reviews of Hunters have praised Al Pacino’s performance and other elements of the show’s plot, the series has also faced backlash for its lack of historical accuracy. Specifically, The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum has argued that the show should not use realistic concentration camps to create false narratives of what actually went on there, arguing that doing so disrespects the memory of the camp’s real-life victims. This criticism specifically refers to a segment of the show in which prisoners were forced to participate in a human chess match.
The show’s creator, David Weil, has made it clear that it was not his intention to create any sort of controversy. In fact, his grandmother, to whom he has dedicated the show, was a survivor of the Holocaust. “The history is frustrating in that so many war criminals that were brought to trial, were never jailed or executed. It was a system stacked against Jewish people seeking justice. So, this is a show that, because of those modes of government, many of whom were complicit in bringing the Nazis into America, itself, seeks a different path and a different end result,” Weil explained in an interview about Hunters.
Given the sensitivity of the subject matter and the intense historical premise of the show, the criticism with which the show has been met thus far is understandable. As for the viewership of Hunters, the show has been doing exceptionally well since its release several weeks ago, and Weil has hinted at the potential for more seasons to come.
Tame Impala Releases The Slow Rush
Fourth Studio Album Comes after a Five-Year Wait
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
After a five-year hiatus since their last release, Australian Kevin Parker’s musical project, Tame Impala, debuted their fourth studio album, The Slow Rush, on Feb. 14. The record, coupled with the resurgence of popularity of the 2015 hit “The Less I Know the Better,” as well as previously released singles such as “Borderline,” has been met with much anticipation. The Slow Rush contains 12 songs, with several tracks running for over five minutes.
Despite the fact that The Slow Rush is their first album release since 2015, Tame Impala has still been wildly active in the music industry. Their main focus recently has been performing at music festivals. These efforts culminated with an appearance at the coveted Coachella Music Festival, where Tame Impala performed as a headlining act last April.
As for the new album, time is one of the main themes to surface. After five years without a release, there has certainly been increasing pressure for new music. This is a struggle that many artists are faced with at some point. Additionally, The Slow Rush was originally supposed to be released in late summer 2019 but its completion was delayed.
“Ruminating on memories, nostalgia, uncertainty about the future, and the nature of time itself lies at the heart of The Slow Rush. Likewise, the music itself is both a reflection on the sonic evolution of Parker’s project as it’s reached festival headliner status—from warbly psychedelia to hypnotic electronic thumps—and a forward thrust towards something new and deeply fascinating,” relays Apple Music.
The tendency of clinging onto the memories of the past is appropriately evident in tracks like “Lost in Yesterday,” which has nostalgic references throughout its entirety. The imagery of time deeply characterizes The Slow Rush, such as in “One More Hour” and “Tomorrow’s Dust.” However, Parker delves even further, touching upon the intersection between the past and the future.
Much of the credit for Tame Impala’s success has gone back to Parker himself, who not only functions as songwriter, but also oversees its production. His personal life has continually influenced the work of Tame Impala, and it is certainly applicable to The Slow Rush, given that he went through the significant life change of getting married last year.
Kitty Empire, a writer at The Guardian, states in a review of The Slow Rush that as it “builds, you have to hold on tight to the idea that, despite the musical lengths Parker used to go through to camouflage his lyrics, he is actually one of our most intriguing confessional singer-songwriters…That luminous emotional core is harder to locate on The Slow Rush. But it is there.”
Going beyond the lyricism of The Slow Rush, many of the tracks on the album are performed in the indie folk style that Tame Impala is known for. After a five-year wait, Parker has once again delivered exactly what fans of his work were hoping to hear.
Parasite Breaks Barriers
Bong Joon-ho Directs Thrilling Masterpiece
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Since the release of Parasite last year, the acclaimed South Korean film has reached a widespread audience. Locally, the Avon Theater on Thayer Street has been offering patrons the opportunity to view the movie for several months. On a much larger scale, Parasite has also been nominated for several prestigious film awards, including the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Oscars. Parasite brought home the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, and Best Original Screenplay.
The viewers who have been able to get past submitting themselves to subtitles, since the film is presented in Korean, will nonetheless be rewarded with the depth of the film’s plot. This element has actually had a positive contribution to the global interest that Parasite has garnered since its debut in May 2019. One reason for this is that many of the people who have opted to see the movie have claimed that they were still able to grasp the full meaning behind the film despite it not being in English.
“I think it just shows that Parasite isn’t a film that came out of nowhere. Korean cinema has a very long history, and Parasite is a continuation of all the Korean films that came before. It’s an extension of our history. It’s not the first time a Korean film has gone through something like this,” said director Bong Joon-ho in an interview with the New York Times. Such rhetoric is especially relevant considering increased criticism for the lack of diversity in the film industry.
The combination of humor and suspense present throughout has attracted individuals to Parasite. The film focuses on a family of four that is struggling to make ends meet. As a result, they all scheme to work for an affluent family by pretending to be unrelated and recommending one another for their respective positions. While socioeconomic differences would normally never bring families like the Kim’s and the Park’s together, Parasite displays just that, and the two families become closely connected.
However, what begins as a seemingly peaceful and harmless film about a poor family quickly shifts to a rather ominous and disturbing tone. The division between how the poor and the wealthy live and think drive this change; ultimately it is this theme that guides the entirety of the film.
The title of the film is meant to be purposely vague, as Joon-ho intended for his audience to interpret it for themselves. Will Gompertz of BBC News writes, “The movie’s title conveys the humiliation endured by the poor forced to live off the wealthy, for whom the word parasite is equally applicable. It is also questioning the political, economic and commercial philosophies upon which we build our lives. For the most part, the film does this with incisiveness and intelligence.”
With the juxtaposition of comedy and thrill, Parasite has made a profound impact in the film industry. From its complex plot to its powerful thematic elements, it is understandable why the film has been so successful.
Inside the Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Netflix Series Speculates About His Motives
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
When the true crime documentary series Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez recently aired on Netflix, many potential viewers assumed that the series would focus solely on his criminal status. While there is potential for content with that topic, the three-episode collection goes much further, touching upon topics ranging from Hernandez’s life before and after being drafted to the New England Patriots, to speculation about what caused his unfortunate demise.
Years before Hernandez was accused of killing the man that his fiancée’s sister was dating, as well as committing a double murder in Boston, he excelled as a high school football star in Connecticut. The series details the influence Hernandez’s dad had on him, both in regards to football and his personal life, insinuating that this relationship, coupled with who he began to associate with, could have possibly played a role in his behavior later in life.
Killer Inside also raises the question of Hernandez’s sexuality and his fear for how he would be perceived by his father and his teammates. Des Bieler of The Washington Post claims, “While the series is understandably incapable of fully explaining what drove Hernandez to forfeit his lucrative athletic career in favor of the criminality that eventually led to at least one homicide, Killer Inside posits at several points that his discomfort with his sexual inclinations, or at least the way they might be viewed by others, manifested itself in angry and occasionally violent outbursts.”
Throughout Hernandez’s first trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, he was met with a solid amount of support, chiefly from his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, and his cousin, Tanya Singleton.
However, at the time of his second trial for the double murder in Boston, only his fiancée was present to support him, largely due to the guilty verdict found at the conclusion of the Lloyd case. Although Hernandez was found not guilty in this trial, it was discovered that he committed suicide in his jail cell just days later. As it is made clear in the series, this revelation shocked and confused many individuals given the timing.
“The series does draw attention to the numerous head injuries Hernandez sustained on the field—it even withholds until the end the heartbreaking reveal that even though he was just 27 when he died, Hernandez’s brain was completely impacted by CTE,” reports Aja Romano of Vox. While individuals with CTE have difficulty with issues such as “impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses for aggression, emotional volatility, rage behaviors,” the documentary raises the point that other NFL players with the disease have not resorted to behavior as intense and criminal as that of Hernandez.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez does not come to a singular conclusion about Aaron Hernandez. Ultimately, though, the series does imply that he could have met a different end under different circumstances.
TDF Debuts Intense French Play The Maids
Small Student Cast Gives an Impactful Performance
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Providence College’s department of theater dance, and film (TDF) kicked off the Spring semester with a production of The Maids by Jean Genet. Translated from French by Bernard Frechtman, the show debuted in the Angell Blackfriars Theatre during the Jan. 23-26 weekend.
Directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Erin Joy Schmidt, the production also featured several guest artists. Sarah Markley, Steve Shapiro, Michael Clark Wonson, and Chelsea Kerl respectively conducted set design, sound design, lighting design, and costume design.
One of the most striking elements of The Maids is the fact that the play only contains three characters, which notably captured the interest of the audience. Set in an urban 1920s bedroom, the show consisted of only one act. The sparse but insightful cast features Grace Dolan ’20 as Claire, Sydney Cahill ’22 as Solange, and Halle Pratt ’22 as Madame.
The production follows two sisters, Claire and Solange, who are employed as maids by the affluent Madame. They spend countless hours role-playing with one another, envisioning the death of their employer and the days when they may finally be free. The two characters plot to put sleeping pills in Madame’s tea once she returns home.
The Maids offers an intense experience from start to finish. “The only way Claire and Solange have been able to carry on, day after day, is through their ceremony, an imaginative ritual these sisters have created where they take on the role of their employer and act out their fantasies in her boudoir. Throughout the play, Claire and Solange use their act as a means to escape their lives and live in the fantasy world of their dreams,” writes Schmidt in her director’s note.
After the initial exchange between Claire and Solange, Madame makes her entrance. She initially appears hopeless, largely due to the fact that Monsieur, her husband, is in prison. Madame briefly gifts her prized red dress to Claire and a fur cape to Solange. However, she soon learns that Monsieur has been released on bond and exits without drinking the poisoned tea.
Once Madame exits, the role-play between Solange and Claire only further intensifies. Culminating in a purposefully confusing end for both characters, Claire ultimately drinks the cold tea that was left by Madame in a symbolic effort to signify that Madame is dead. In reality, however, Claire has committed suicide. Solange then appears alone, delivering a monologue in an address to a series of imaginary characters from the inspector to Monsieur and the hangman.
While the ending is intentionally ambiguous, such a conclusion certainly adds to the illusory sentiments that are present throughout the production as a whole. Although The Maids was much smaller in scale than other productions put on by TDF, the cast provided a worthwhile show for all who experienced it.
77th Golden Globes Sees Upsets and Firsts
While Ricky Gervais Stirs up Controversy as Returning Host
by: Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
The Golden Globe Awards returned for a 77th time on Jan. 5, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored some of the most profound names in television and film throughout the past year. To the surprise of many, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood triumphed over Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed Netflix film, The Irishman, for Best Motion Picture for a musical or comedy. Additionally, the actress and rapper known as Awkwafina also made history with her work in The Farewell. She is the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe in the musical or comedy category. Bong Joon-Ho’s critically acclaimed Parasite also took home the Golden Globe for the Best Motion Picture for a foreign language film.
Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks were both selected to receive special honors at this year’s show. DeGeneres, who was the recipient of the Carol Burnett Award for excellence in television, touched upon the joy she has experienced thanks to the viewers of her talk show and her supporters. Tom Hanks also spoke with gratitude in acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMile award for lifetime achievements in film.
Nonetheless, the most buzz and controversy from the evening comes from none other than the show’s host, British comedian, Ricky Gervais. New York Post writer Michael Starr writes, “Ricky Gervais did what he was hired to do in returning to host Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards: waltz in—open-collared tux telegraphing his studied disdain—and fire off a string of one-line stingers targeting Hollywood’s pomposity, hypocrisy, and its talent pool (some would say they’re one and the same).”
Much of the criticism regarding Gervais has stemmed from the fact that many of his words were intended to target the very audience that was present. With the 77th Golden Globe Awards allowing Gervais to host for the fifth time, many individuals were more than familiar with his blatant and direct style of humor going into the night. However, some critics have speculated that his jokes went a little too far this time.
In his opening monologue, Gervais called for the evening to be free of political rhetoric in a direct statement to the show’s winners. “If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world,” said Gervais. As a juxtaposition to Gervais’ words, Golden Globe winner Patricia Arquette called out the audience to vote in the 2020 presidential election. The host has also garnered criticism for calling out Apple and its new streaming service. Gervais alluded to the fact that it is commonplace to outsource cheap labor overseas while the company is promoting shows about positivity and doing the right thing.
Beyond politics, he touched upon other current topics, such as Felicity Huffman’s brief time in jail and the lack of diversity within the nominees selected by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Gervais also ultimately urged the audience to donate to disaster relief causes for the wildfires currently occurring in Australia. Although Gervais’s jokes have caused somewhat of an uproar in the days since, these wildfires are certainly being discussed, especially throughout social media.
Disney+ Launches With Success
Attracts Viewers With Classic Movies and TV
by: Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
With much anticipation, Disney released its coveted subscription service, Disney+ on Nov. 12. The streaming platform has already attracted many customers, reaching over 10 million subscribers within its first day available. Although the service has yet to add an extensive amount of original content, audiences are perfectly fine with that. In fact, much of the praise for Disney+ thus far has been rooted in the nostalgia for old movies and television shows.
Disney+ is not the only streaming service that is currently doing this, though. For example, Netflix recently added the former Nickelodeon series Victorious to its platform. Even viewers who watched the show while it was on-air rewatched the episodes. A similar dynamic currently exists with Disney+, which offers an array of older shows like Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place, among many others like The Simpsons.
According to an article published by CNBC, many of Disney’s entertainment options contain “massive, passionate fan bases that will sign up for Disney+ to watch hours of content. For some, it’s a chance to relive their childhoods and for others it’s a chance to share those childhood favorites with their own children.”
Options for subscribers of Disney+ are certainly not limited. In addition to Disney Channel shows, the service includes a wide selection of movies as well as documentaries presented by National Geographic. With this in mind, another appeal is that Disney+ offers something for individuals of all ages and interests. One of the many reasons that Disney is able to provide such a diverse selection of entertainment options is that the media conglomerate is comprised of multiple franchises.
Beyond its original films, the service also includes Disney Channel original movies like High School Musical. Disney also owns the rights to Marvel and the Star Wars franchise, which are also included in Disney+. Josh Spiegel of The Washington Post writes, “This concentration of cultural capital has given Disney enormous influence. And whatever original content it has to offer, the real pitch for Disney Plus is that the service offers a streaming version of your childhood.”
Looking ahead, Disney is one of many other companies jumping into the market of subscription streaming services. The creators of Disney+ are well-aware of this, and are guided by the company’s strategic move to debut the service as quickly as they possibly could. Furthermore, the cost of Disney+ is significantly lower than many other popular streaming options that are currently being offered to consumers; this is projected to attract further audiences to the service.
As time goes on, Disney will likely add more original content to the platform, but for the short-term it will be interesting to see how Disney+ fares operating largely on throwbacks. For example, there has been much discussion recently about the promise of a Lizzie Maguire reprisal. In doing so, Disney+ plans to build upon much of its established content with series reboots, in addition to completely new material.
Frank Ocean Unexpectedly Releases Two Singles
R&B Singer Filled Long Hiatus With Advocacy, Radio Shows
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Back in 2016, Frank Ocean released Blonde, which quickly evolved into one of the most well-received R&B albums of the decade. As successful as the record was, he has yet to release another full-length album in the years since. Recently, though, Ocean broke the silence with the surprise debut of two new singles: “DHL” and “In My Room.”
Although Ocean has not been as focused on producing new music in the past few years, he has certainly remained active in the entertainment industry. His most noteworthy contribution comes from his Beats 1 radio show, which is conveniently titled Blonded Radio.
Blonded Radio originally aired in February 2017 and concluded in December 2018. However, the show resumed again this month, a strategic move to promote Ocean’s new music. Two of the episodes that have aired this year have focused on addressing one of the two recent singles.
Ocean is also engaging in causes that go beyond the music industry. Since his coming out in 2012, Ocean has been regarded by fans as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. On Oct. 17 he sponsored an event entitled PrEP+, a club night in New York City. Ocean once again appeared under the mystery of the Blonded brand, which funded the entire event. The event title fits accordingly with the HIV prevention drug of the same name.
Artists throughout the entertainment industry have repeatedly identified themselves as supporters of causes important to them. Advocacy of this type is particularly fitting for a figure like Ocean, especially considering that he has consistently presented himself as someone who is not afraid to be his true self.
According to Rolling Stone, this event was “the first in a series of club nights dedicated to creating a safe space for people to meet and dance” whilst also featuring “globally celebrated DJs.” The premise of the event was to reimagine what the 1980s would have been like had the drug PrEP been accessible at that time.
In response to the event, Ocean encountered significant criticism. Critics argued that the event attempted to alter an important part of history for the LGBTQ+ community. Others alternatively speculated that this move was a mere public relations stunt to heighten Ocean’s status and get him back into the press.
Ocean discredited both rumors entirely, as it has been implied that he has personal experience with and knowledge of the drug. In addition to acclaiming that the event was “funded by Blonded, independently,” Pitchfork quoted him as saying, “I’m an artist, it’s core to my job to imagine realities that don’t necessarily exist and it’s a joy to.”
Regardless of Ocean’s intentions in planning the invite-only event in New York, it is evident that he is still active both in and out of the music world. In response to the two new singles, there has been much discussion about the possibility of a full-length album in the works. While nothing has been confirmed, Ocean’s increase in recent activity would certainly suggest it.
JESUS IS KING: Kanye Experiments With Gospel
Rapper Undertakes Massive Genre Transformation
by: Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Kanye West has returned to music once again with the debut of his ninth studio album, entitled Jesus Is King. After previously teasing a separate project, entitled Yandhi, the record was released after multiple delays dating back to over one year ago. As the name may suggest, Jesus Is King evokes images of Christianity; accordingly, the album’s style more closely resembles Gospel music than hip-hop or rap.
The album contains eleven songs and features several artists, including renowned jazz saxophonist Kenny G. An accompanying documentary film called Jesus is King: A Kanye West Experience is also currently playing in theaters.
Recently, West has been increasingly transparent about his personal views on God and religion. In addition to the album’s release, he has also debuted a project called Sunday Service, which is a series of mostly invite-only performances consisting of gospel music. In reference to Jesus Is King, West says, “This album has been made to be an expression of the gospel and to share the gospel and the truth of what Jesus has done to me…When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all that he does for me, my soul cries out.”
Some of West’s previous projects, such as The Life of Pablo, contain undisguised religious references. Understandably, the new record takes the theme even further in making God the focal point. Most hip-hop artists do not shy away from explicit material in their content, and West is no different. However, Jesus Is King is entirely void of this type of language.
For a number of reasons, reception to Jesus Is King thus far has been mixed. For some fans, West’s reputation would be unlikely to connote images of spirituality. In a similar fashion, West’s vocalized God complex, coupled with the fact that he is commonly referred to as “Yeezus,” may be just as unconvincing.
The album has a gospel feel to it. Neil McCormick of the Telegraph writes, “Packed with gospel choirs, church organs and soulful ululations condensed into a typically bravura tableaux of obscure samples, warped synths and spooky slabs of vocoder harmonies, Jesus Is King sounds as scintillating as anything in West’s considerable canon.”
West’s political leanings also caused some dissent among his fanbase. Furthermore, considering that this is West’s ninth album, it would suffice to say that he has made a name for himself. Most of his listeners are primed to expect lyrical profanity and a generally faster pace in his music, which is not at all the case with Jesus Is King.
Apple Music states, “The old Kanye and his discerning ear for sample selection is present throughout…It all makes for an album unlike any West has delivered, and one that might set the tone for the future of his music-making.” Nonetheless, West’s departure from the traditional elements of rap music on this record is precisely why it has garnered so much attention.
TikTok: The Fruit of the Vine
Social Media App Fame Leads to International Controversy
by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Some of the biggest advocates for the popular video app, TikTok, have gone so far as to equate it to Vine. While such a statement may seem far-fetched, the platform has increased its exposure in the past year and has been referenced heavily in recent news. TikTok’s concept is rather similar to Vine, which has since been shut down, in that users can create short videos, often with music or lip-synched audio. Contrary to Vines, which are capped at six seconds, TikTok videos tend to run for about fifteen seconds.
A recent controversy involving Panera Bread’s preparation of their popular mac and cheese has brought TikTok into the national spotlight. CNN writer Scottie Andrew writes, “A Panera Bread employee spilled the chain’s not-so-secret trade secret about its signature mac and cheese on TikTok. But the viral fame might’ve cost her the job.” The video itself was viewed nearly one million times. Understandably, executives at Panera were quick to defend their company. While this scenario is problematic in many aspects, it goes to show the impact that social media can have and, in particular, how many people have access to TikTok.
Not all businesses have suffered at the expense of TikTok creators; rather, some brands, such as The Washington Post and Chipotle, have taken advantage of the app’s exploding popularity by creating their own original content. There have even been celebrities who have opted to join the bandwagon.
Although teenagers and college students alike have reacted positively to TikTok, as well as celebrities throughout the United States, it has been under significant scrutiny in the past several weeks from many different parties. Moreover, TikTok’s parent company operates out of China, and this has led to allegations of censorship across the app’s content.
Topics in question have been political in nature, ranging from limiting information about protests in Hong Kong to LGBTQ+ content in conservative countries, as well as other content in the United States.
This has also caused unrest in politics, chiefly at the hands of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has requested that the U.S. Federal government investigate TikTok. A representative of The Wall Street Journal reported, “A TikTok representative last week said its content moderation policies are not influenced by any foreign government and that the Chinese government has not requested that TikTok censor content. Like other fast-growing social media platforms, TikTok is wrestling with how to manage its rapid growth and the possibility for abuse.”
The question of censorship is not unfamiliar, as a wide range of social media platforms have been accused of censoring content, from Twitter and Instagram to YouTube. Even Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has weighed in on TikTok from a competition standpoint. Regardless, TikTok has amassed an extensive following in a relatively short amount of time and will likely continue to grow, as will the threat of censorship and controversial material.