How Avant Garde Is Too Avant Garde?

By Ayse Hunt

C:\Users\Ayse's Laptop\Pictures\Photos for News\SAM Sculpture Park- Avant Garde piece\Ayse's Camera 553.JPG

     Art is a funny thing—the same painting might be heralded as a chef-d’oeuvre by one critic, and torn to shreds by another. Avant garde, the French phrase meaning a group of people at the forefront of new developments, is a type of modern art that takes any traditional rules of what is and isn’t art and throws them out the window. But in my (albeit limited) experience as a museum goer, there have been a few avant garde pieces that have left me wondering why anyone ever regarded them as art in the first place.

     I think most of us have had that experience. You’re in some fancy art museum on a school trip or with a friend, and there are a cluster of very high-brow, artsy people gesturing towards one of the pieces excitedly. So you work your way to the front of the group of people to see what you can only imagine is the next Mona Lisa, and you’re greeted with something like this Image by Dave Munger.

Via Dave Munger’s Blog (http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/06/08/euroupdate-2-is-science-art/)

    When faced with art that seems like something that anyone could make regardless of formal training, the inevitable question that arises is where the line between avant garde and complete randomness exists. Or, if such a line even exists in the first place.

     One of the most well-known avant garde artists is the American composer John Cage. He is famous for his work 4’33’’. It is a three-movement work that instructs the performer to sit quietly without playing their instrument for a total of four minutes and thirty-three seconds. As a musician, I had learned of John Cage and his infamous “silent” piece through what I heard from other people. I never took the time to read about the history of the piece and what John Cage himself had to say about his message. It wasn’t until last summer in a music history course that I learned about how essential this piece is to how we define music today.
I learned that Cage was not simply a composer with a sense of humor, but rather an innovative thinker who raised important questions about what music really is. His aim with 4’33’’ was not to have the listener sit in silence for the duration of the piece, but rather to have them realize that there is no such thing as silence. That even in the sanctity of a concert hall during performance, there is someone coughing, or shuffling their feet or even just exhaling. The lack of music was designed to call attention to the lack of silence, and in the process, Cage shook the music world to its core.
I recently had the chance to explore a new installation by Seattle-based artist Trimpin at the Olympic Sculpture Park entitled “You Are Hear”. Close to the main entrance of the park, the installation features three bright orange sets of oversized headphones and corresponding tractor seats.

Each set of headphones offers a different selection of sounds. One plays a track that sounds like a toddler banging on a toy piano, another with sounds of nature, and the final set of headphones is silent as homage to John Cage.

Photo By Ayse Hunt

While the installation probably isn’t the kind of thing most people picture when they think “art”, it fulfills the working definition of art that I created after studying John Cage. I believe that art is any kind of expression that calls attention to a subject matter of the artist’s choosing. It might be as direct as a still-life oil painting calling attention to the beauty of how light falls on a bowl of fruit, or as indirect as the sounds of traffic mingling with an art exhibit to remind the viewer of their surroundings. In my opinion, there is no line where avant garde becomes too crazy to be considered art, just as there is no line where it becomes too mundane to be considered art. As long as there is someone behind the work with intention, to me, the piece is art.

“You Are Hear” will be at the Olympic Sculpture Park through October 30th. I highly recommend checking it out and experiencing its unique artistry.

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

By Noah Foster-Koth

Rated PG-13

Movies adapted from young adult novels have ranged from great (The Hunger Games) to terrible (Percy Jackson and the Olympians). The Maze Runner, which has been adapted from a lesser-known book by James Dashner, ranks somewhere in the middle. Director Wes Ball’s interpretation of Dashner’s story is saved from its weak script by a fast pace and great cinematography.

The film starts just after a boy named Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) has his memory erased. Thomas is dropped into an isolated forest called the Glade. There, he joins a community of young men who have been brought to the same place in equally mysterious circumstances. Their village rests in the shadow of a massive, dangerous maze, which is inhabited by ravenous, disease-spreading monsters. Some believe that the maze hides the path to freedom.

In outline the story sounds rather unique, although some of the individual components feel recycled from other, better films. The young warriors seem like they should compete in The Hunger Games, and the Maze itself is similar to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forest. However, The Maze Runner’s gorgeous visual artistry helps it stand out amongst other films in the genre. When I say that this film is visually gorgeous, I don’t just mean that it has a ton of CGI in it (although the CGI work is also excellent). What makes The Maze Runner special is that director Wes Ball and his cinematographer have composed each shot with a painter’s eye for composition and detail. The result is that even the more mundane images, like that of two characters walking around a pond, are rendered striking and memorable. Naturally it’s a difficult effect to convey with words — you have to see it for yourself.
The Maze Runner’s greatest flaw is that none of the characters really resonate. That’s my biggest gripe with what is an otherwise well-constructed adventure movie. The problem isn’t just that the characters are all broad archetypes (the optimistic heroes, the cheerless bullies, the doe-eyed younger children). It’s that their situation is very difficult for the audience to identify with.

A key component of making likeable movie characters is to put them in situations that the audience can relate to, at least on some level. The Maze Runner has very few of these, if any. The dangers that Thomas and company find themselves in are so foreign and outlandish that you’re often too busy trying to understand what the threat is to really invest any concern in the characters.

That being said, Ball and Dashner wisely take the focus off of the characters and instead direct the audience’s attention to the plot. For the majority of its 90-minute run time, the film is coy about who built the titular maze and why. Keeping these details mysterious is a clever creative choice that builds suspense and sustains the audience’s interest. The deadly perils Thomas faces in and around the maze are more frightening the less we know about them. The audience is never given any outside information beyond what is known by Thomas and his friends, which provides at least one piece of shared experience between the audience and the characters.
Eventually the film feels compelled to offer an in-depth explanation for these mysteries, and it’s here that the story reaches its lowest point. Up until then however, The Maze Runner sustains a vibe of mystery and tension that make it feel like a feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone. In other words, it’s thrilling and disturbing in equal measure.
Give it a chance.

Grade: B +

Guardians of the Galaxy garners $11.7 Million dollars…Chris Pratt Gets Fit for Hit Flick…Aliens are just Multi-hued People (Again)…Is Every Sci-Fi film going to use the word Nova?

By Daniel O’Connell

Are you in the mood for cultural/ethnic conflict? Mothers’ dying of cancer? Sexual relations with green people, pink people and sometimes purple people? This thing has all of them…in space. Yes, it’s true, you can watch Chris Pratt of Parks & Recreation’s fame debut on the cinema screen as a loveable goofball, but this time as a buff loveable goofball. He brings with him the same cliched group of rag-tag space criminals as you’ve come to expect from Hollywood – a feisty gun-toting raccoon, a proud and serious green woman, a tree trunk with feelings and Dave Bautista. The group flash around deep space, battling baddies in dark clothing and – surprise, surprise – eventually forming deep, lasting friendships. Blegh.

I saw the movie in a certified 1950s drive-in theater, one of the few surviving in Washington. It inhabited a small forest clearing somewhere amidst Port Townsend, the vestigial incarnation of a favorite American pastime. The parking spots were marked with pressed dunes of soil, and as we drove in a net of heavy xenon beams aligned with the projector screen before fading out to give way for the projector. Surprisingly, they had managed to maintain the classic hook-speaker system, whereby you pull out a wired speaker and attach it to the side of your car. For fear of bugs – and the screams of small children – we resigned to tuning in to the glitzy sound-effects with our radio.

The opening pulls a classic American switcheroo: It prods encouragingly at your heartstrings before abruptly sliding into a groovy rendition of Come and Get Your Love, to which our main man dances along rhythmically. Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and the screen is soon torn asunder by flitting swipes of lasers as the easily identified baddie does all he can to stop Pratt from escaping with a mysterious object. There’s also the pink woman shaming it up in his ship with whom he evidently “slept” the night before, but she is quickly dispatched of (I blame the patriarchy).

All in all, it’s a fitting intro. It vies to cover all the bases of a summer cinema crowdpleaser: Action, which varies from oh-my-will-the-main-character-get-hurt hand-to-hand combat to wow-these-rainbow-colored-people-aren’t-that-good-at-shooting space warfare; Romance, an awkward process whereby Buff Goofball tries to teach Proud Green Woman to dance, a concept that utterly baffles her; and Comedy, as Rodent Manboy and Groot “Grooty-pie” Grootson banter back and forth in terse hissing and basic-bitch grammatical assertions.

My only real gripe with the movie would lie in its cliches and conventions, but it would hardly be fair for me to criticize these points when it’s clear that that’s all it was trying to be. Overall, it’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s got something for most every schmuck. Word around the urinal is that a sequel isn’t too far off. If it’s your thing you should have plenty more enjoyment to come. So go see it. Or don’t. I didn’t make the goddamn movie.

How Dramafest Auditions Work

By Noah Foster-Koth

Dramafest has been a part of Roosevelt High School for 59 years this November. And yet, information about how the audition process works is sometimes hard to come by. The Roosevelt News has not been able to report on Dramafest auditions in previous years because only directors and their assistants are allowed to attend an actor’s audition. This year I am both a writer for The Roosevelt News and the director of a Dramafest production, so I can offer some explanation of how the audition process works.

Getting cast in a Dramafest show involves auditions, callbacks and director bartering, the latter of which is completely out of the actors’ control. The bartering system is unpredictable and elaborate, so a director cannot guarantee a friend a role in their show even if they would like to.

The first part of the process, auditions, are traditionally held over a two day period. During auditions the directors and their assistants sit as an audience in either the theater or the black box. Hopeful actors line up outside and are called in one by one to present their memorized monologues. Student directors listen to actor’s monologues and take notes on their characterization (how much did they become the character), vocal qualities (mainly annunciation), and physical acting. After the actor presents their one minute monologue they leave the stage and the next actor is sent in.

A persistent rumor about Dramafest is that male actors are more valuable than females. This is not entirely true however. While it is true that male actors can get cast in a role more easily than females, this is not because the drama department is sexist. This trend is due to the fact that more girls try out for Dramafest than boys do, placing the few boys who show interest in higher demand. This has been a consistent trend in previous years, and has continued this year as well. Last week 60 girls auditioned in total, as opposed to a total of 41 boys. This means that there are roughly 1.5 girls for every boy, in a competition where many casts have an close or equal ratio of male/female characters.
On Friday, September 25th and Monday, September 29th, the directors will host callbacks for actors that they would like to see in specific roles. Lists identifying who is called back for which shows will be posted in the drama hallway on Friday. Callbacks are not binding. An actor is not guaranteed a role in a play if they are called back. Furthermore an actor maybe cast in a show they did not receive a callback for, or not be cast in any shows at all. Conversely, actors who auditioned may still be cast in a show even if they did not receive any callbacks. Nothing is set in stone until the cast lists are hung in the drama hallway sometime next week.

For more information about Roosevelt’s 59th Annual Dramafest, visit the Roosevelt Drama department’s website at http://www.rooseveltdrama.org/

Stock Up On “Pepper” Spray

By Julia Hower

Youtube star Sam Pepper caused controversy earlier this week when he posted a video entitled “Fake Hand Ass Pinch Prank.” This video consisted of Sam Pepper using a fake hand to make it look like both hands were in his pockets, approaching women on the street to ask for directions, and then proceeding to grope them without their consent. In the video, one woman can be seen jumping back and saying “I don’t like that, I don’t like that,” as Pepper continues to grope her and laugh.

This was met with a very strong response from other successful Youtubers. Many have stated that they will not collaborate with Pepper in the future. He was banned from Vidcon, an annual convention for professional youtubers and their fans. His Youtube account was deleted after he posted a follow-up video saying that this “prank” was a “social experiment,” which many saw as an effort to avoid blame for his truly disgusting actions. Pepper also refused to address the issue on Twitter; in the days following the uproar, he tweeted about Italian food and falling asleep on the bus.

Pepper has a history of creating videos that make women uncomfortable and send very negative messages. One depicts Pepper walking through the streets of London and restraining visibly disturbed strangers with a lasso. Another is simply footage of Pepper forcing women on the street to kiss him on camera, which was supposed to be funny.

Despite a strong movement against Pepper from his colleagues, his fans are still adamant that the video was just a joke, and that he should be forgiven. If any good has come from this situation, it is the outspoken movement to denounce and de-normalize sexual assault, which hopefully has strongly counteracted the base and offensive messages this “joke” video sent. The message Pepper sent is that assault is normal, comical, and to be admired. The message his colleagues are sending him is that his behavior was inexcusable.

Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Review by Noah Foster-Koth

Fun Fact: When I first heard the title of this movie, I assumed it would be some sort of tabloid documentary exposing the flaws of revered celebrities.

As it happens, The Fault in Our Stars isn’t anything remotely like that (and it’s much better for it). In actuality, The Fault in Our Stars is the story of a teenage couple who have terminal cancer and draw love and support from one another as their physical condition slowly deteriorates. The film is based on a book by author John Green (the Judy Blume of the iPod generation) but the plot is easily accessible for those who haven’t read the YA novel.

Shailene Woodley has been on the fast track to superstardom ever since her breakout role in The Descendants. In The Fault in Our Stars she plays Hazel, a young woman who’s struggled with cancer for most of her life. It’s not an easy role, but Woodley does a great job conveying both Hazel’s frustrations with her medical conditions and her desire to live life to the fullest.

Woodley’s performance is strong, but it’s newcomer Ansel Elgort who makes the biggest impression as Gus, a teen who’s lost his leg to cancer. Elgort succeeds in filling the character with charisma without making him seem like a slick charmer. Gus projects positivity and self-confidence, but he has a fragile side too. The movie is at its most heartbreaking when Gus is at his most vulnerable.

Gus and Hazel eventually decide that they’re star-crossed lovers, and the chemistry between Elgort and Woodley is so strong that you can almost believe it. They make for one of the most compelling romantic couples I’ve seen in any recent movie.

The Fault in Our Stars isn’t afraid to tell a sad story, and dry eyes were scarce in the theater where I saw the film. Yet rarely is the story trite in its depictions of love and loss, and the movie’s melancholy tone is a natural extension of the subject matter rather than a ham-fisted attempt at pathos. Indeed, the film rarely indulges in melodrama, in large part because the script (which is based on Green’s book) keeps giving the characters interesting things to do. At one point Hazel and Gus bond over a book about cancer, and go on a trip to Amsterdam to find it’s reclusive author. It’s a tangential part of the plot, but it’s also an intriguing one that shows us new sides of the central couple. There are times when I wished The Fault in Our Stars was shorter, but that has more to do with the tragic nature of the story and less to do with my usual gripes about a film going on too long.

Some will be quick to label The Fault in Our Stars as a simple tear-jerker, but that would be doing the film an injustice. This movie provides a nuanced look at how a relationship develops between two people facing terminal illness.

Grade:  B+