86th Oscars Make History, Mark Push for Justice

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on March 3, 2014 under Arts & Living | Be the First to Comment

Tonight’s awards for excellence in film has gone by several different names over the years, and its famed golden statuettes have transformed with them, as well. But no matter the movies that were recognized or just how “subjective and random” they are, like Best Leading Actress winner Cate Blanchett said, the 86th Academy Awards ceremony was an experience to watch.

First, please join me in thanking God for creating Ellen DeGeneres, the hostess of this year’s awards. She roasted Hollywood’s favorites, handed out lotto tickets to Bradley Cooper, and took this year’s most important selfie to commemorate Meryl Streep’s 18th Oscar nomination with a few other stars (which forced Twitter to crash). Her comic genius and satirical pitchfork brought laughter to everyone in the Dolby Theatre and to millions of viewers watching from home. The hostess also ordered pizza and served it on paper plates. Making everyone feel at home?

The most important selfie of the year. Courtesy: Ellen.

The most important selfie of the year. Courtesy: Ellen.

While there were few, if any, shockers of the night, the biggest surprise was perhaps the social justice push by the night’s winners. Jared Leto, who won Best Supporting Actor for his (somewhat problematic) role in Dallas Buyers Club, gave a shout-out to Venezuela and Ukraine, and the Makeup and Hairstyling Designers from the same movie spoke out about AIDS in ‘85. Ellen also played her part when she slipped in a small swipe at the Oscars during her opener: “Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two, you’re all racists.” Give Ellen a bit of credit for toeing the line of social justice warrior with panache and class. (Spoiler: it won Best Picture).

Tonight’s biggest and most deserved win went to Lupita Nyong’o of 12 Years a Slave for Best Supporting Actress, making her the seventh black woman to win an Oscar in its history. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Kenyan actress’s full-bodied, courageous, and tear-evoking performance as Patsey would win. On the awards trail, Lupita stole critics’ and audiences’ hearts alike with her iconic block print style and sincerity. Her acceptance speech, both modest and inspirational, reminds us that there are actually good people in Hollywood. With her outcry of “Yes!” the star received a most well deserved standing ovation.

Like a true winner, Lupita said that her Oscar should, “…remind me and every little child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

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RENT Preview

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on February 11, 2014 under Campus News, Video | Be the First to Comment

The whole campus is buzzing about the Department of Drama’s upcoming production of the late Jonathan Larson’s RENT, one of the most well known and loved Broadway musicals of our time. Particularly after The Daily’s feature article last week about RENT, everyone is fighting to see the sold-out production of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical that captures the heart and soul, grit and grime, and spirit of the late 80’s and early 90’s in New York City.

To prep you for the production, we’ve provided some of our favorite songs from the musical, though of course every song is a hit.

1. “Take Me or Leave Me”

This diva-off between Maureen and Joanne, the two women in a love-hate-love relationship, would probably be the number one choice if RENT were offered at karaoke bars. In this video from the RENT movie made in 2005, Idina Menzel (from the original Broadway cast) and Tracie Thoms go to town with the rocky duet.

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Box Office Hits and Misses

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on February 7, 2014 under Arts & Living | Be the First to Comment

Thank goodness it’s Friday, and what a snowy week it’s been. Though this week has been pretty stress-free, snow day and all, if you know someone who has a paper, a project, or job applications waiting to be done, take them out to a movie this weekend. Here are your options going from best selling to flip-flopping:

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Senior Soliloquies | Superbowls and Black Holes

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on under Blogs on Blogs | Be the First to Comment

As the Super Bowl approached and people placed their bets on either the Broncos or the Seahawks, I was calculating some other odds: the odds of my graduating with or without a job.

Super Bowl Sunday was just that sort of day.

As a second semester senior, I can’t seem to avoid the question: “So what are you planning on doing after you graduate?” And if that question isn’t enough coming from your parents, your friends ask you, too.

I decided to take a few quizzes and tests to see what professions best suited me in the real world. The first I took was the Myers-Briggs test as issued by the Career Services Center here at Tufts. Results: I’m an ENTJ, which stands for Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. Pretty on point, if you ask me. So I trusted it, and went on to look at careers for ENTJs on the Internet and through the resources provided by the Center.

One such list had, in this very order “CEO, judge, lawyer, actor, and waiter.” Fate’s a comedian, and this is proof.

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Half Time | Super Bowl XLVIII

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on February 3, 2014 under Arts & Living, Sports, Video | Be the First to Comment

If you ask any of my friends the top ten things I’m interested in, sports would probably not be mentioned on their lists. Probably not even on a top 15 list. But once every football season, my inner sports fan (I know he’s in there somewhere) comes out for a brief affair with the NFL on Super Bowl Sunday.

In my opinion, Super Bowl XLVIII could not have started off on a better foot. Ignoring Queen Latifah’s forgettable rendition of “America, the Beautiful,” Renée Fleming, the world-renowned operatic soprano and 4-time Grammy Award winner, sang a beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

While some lamented opera’s entrance onto the stage of American football in place of the pop and R&B singers of past, classical music lovers such as myself welcomed the soprano in celebration of her three-plus decade career. So, props must be given to La Diva Reneé for starting off the game on a high note.

For the Seahawks, the game only got better. I’m not going to comment with too much depth on the sports side of things to avoid entering realms which are not my forté, but the Broncos played abominably, falling to the strength of the Seahawks’ offense and cowering to their defense. It was a trainwreck you couldn’t stop watching.

But for me, the show started at halftime.

In true halftime fashion, the NFL chose a rock band and a pop singer to split the show as they’ve done prior with the notable exception of last year’s blowout performance from Beyoncé and her sidekicks from bands past, Destiny’s Child.

I’ll be candid in that I don’t think many performances will ever top the perfection that was last year’s Halftime Show, but that shouldn’t and won’t take away from my enjoyment of this one.

Frankly, I’m not the biggest fan of Bruno Mars. I would have much prefered to watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform for the duration of the show to please my need to rock. But I was pleasantly surprised by and happy about the singer’s performance. Mars and his band sported matching gold, sparkling blazers to couple his starry, high tenor vocals and smooth yet swift footwork that entertained and delighted. His performance was Michael Jackson-esque without that extra umph.

Through a beautiful segue, Mars and Co. “Gave It Away” to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) who came on shirtless and raring to go. The band’s quintessential rock was welcomed with cheers, energizing the relatively dormant crowd from just a moment before. What was unfortunate, however, was that RHCP performed for perhaps a total of 5 minutes, teasing what would have otherwise been an enthralled audience.

As is becoming tradition with the Halftime Show, the NFL telecast U.S. troops around the world who took a moment to send love to their families and friends whom they are risking their lives for. Mars performed one of his first hits, “Just the Way You Are” directly following the broadcast. His performance gave new meaning to the pop singer’s best selling single – while it’s intent was as a cute anthem of teenage infatuation, it became a message of love and well wishes from mother to children, and from husband to wife, doing so without patting the singer on the back or diminishing the soldiers’ honor.

What makes a good performance, a blowout game, and sub-par intermittent entertainment bearable, however, is sharing it with 50+ guys and gals screaming and shouting at the screen, whooping at great plays, and sharing some guacamole, dip, and wings with you. That for me is what the Super Bowl is all about. Congratulations to the Seahawks and good luck living this down, Broncos.

Album Review | BEYONCÉ at Her Best

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on January 17, 2014 under Arts & Living, Blogs on Blogs | Be the First to Comment

Back in December, I was sitting in the halls of Ginn with a friend, tormented by the temporary madness that most college students refer to as “finals period.” This was the most brutal bout of finals that I had experienced, and I was inconsolably delirious with a lovely case of writer’s block. Until I found out that Beyoncé had dropped her surprise album.

My sociology paper was out the window faster than you can spell the chart-topping diva’s name, and with remarkable speed, I logged on to iTunes and downloaded BEYONCÉ, her self-titled album. And what an album it is: the words “masterpiece” and “magnum opus” come to mind.

The eponymous work includes 14 songs and 17 videos which create a seamless piece of visual and musical art. Featured on the flawless album are Frank Ocean, Jay-Z, and Drake, with a featured speech given by Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the song “Flawless,” and Beyonce’s daughter Blue Ivy making her (adorable) debut in “Blue.”

From “Drunk in Love” to “Mine,” BEYONCÉ leaps from R&B to hip-hop and takes a turn into pop with fearless ease. As a whole, the album has an ethereal, futuristic, and melancholy sound to it accompanied by Beyoncé’s resonant and incomparable voice. This sound is nothing like what she has created before; that is part of why people love Beyoncé as much as they do. With each album she recreates who she is as an artist and finds new avenues to explore her own musical styles and artistic proclivities. BEYONCÉ is like nothing else that has come before, without any guilt or apologies.

While some of the pop-ier ballads tend to touch upon chasing dreams or following one’s love such as in “XO” and “Pretty Hurts,” the songs about sex are by far the best on the album. “Blow,” which is straight up about oral sex (as the title suggests) evokes a cool, relaxed, but in control mood that is easy to tap your foot to.

My personal favorite track is “Partition” (or in video form “Yonce” into “Partition”) on which Beyoncé goes IN! With lyrics like, “I sneezed on the beat/and the beat got sicker,” Queen Bey, in no uncertain terms, owns the throne to which she ascended around the time she released “B’Day.” The sexily sung and spoken track infuses the best elements of Beyoncé as she acknowledges her God-given talents (and assets). And in case you’re interested, there’s already a highly popular dance to go along with it, albeit not done by The Queen her royal self.

The videos play an essential part to the album, contextualizing the songs in what could be looked at as a pop opera of sorts. The visual album tells the story of Beyoncé and Jay-Z (who duets with his wife in “Drunk in Love” and appears in a few of the tracks), their love, their heartaches, and Beyoncé’s pangs for her marriage to work, as well as making room for baby Blue. The visual album also offers a few of Beyoncé’s inner monologues, giving her fans visuals of her past and an inside view on how Beyoncé feels about society’s treatment of women.

“Pretty Hurts” serves society straight up for the gross indignation with which it treats women, and follows up with “Flawless,” telling women that they are flawless and should be proud of themselves. She sings, “Ladies, tell him/I woke up like this, I woke up like this.” And in spite of this, the album drew controversy over Jay-Z’s pointed jokes about Tina Turner and her abusive husband Ike. Whether this disproves Beyoncé’s feminism or highlights her imperfection, Beyoncé aimed to express herself musically and visually through this album, not to write her own feminist manifesto. If she wanted to write a manifesto, she would. And, oh wait, she did for the Shriver Report. While it may be sparse, Beyoncé’s essay is one vital step forward for the world because she’s one of few female pop stars to assign herself the label “feminist.”

While I could wax poetic about BEYONCÉ and Beyoncé all day, I have reached my word limit. As your resident Beyoncé expert and admirer, I hope to share my love with you time and again.

Top Justice Scalia Quotes from the Snyder Lecture

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on October 3, 2013 under Campus News | Comments are off for this article

Yesterday, the Richard E. Snyder President’s Lecture featured Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a proponent of ‘constitutional originalism.’ The lecture, established in 2004, was meant to “…stimulate thought and discussion that foster a deeper understanding of contemporary issues and challenge conventional wisdom” according to the Office of the President’s website.

Here are some memorable quotes from yesterday’s lecture
———-

“Don’t talk to me about minorities, if you don’t believe in democracy, you don’t believe the majority rules.”

“Strict constructionists give originalists a bad name.”

“I have a deal with the Congress. I leave them alone. They leave me alone.”

“The law doesn’t have to be dull, sir.”

“Can’t scare me. I have life tenure.”

“Lawyers interpret the meaning of words in the way they were enacted.”

“If a minority group cannot convince the majority on an issue, then that minority group probably doesn’t have a deserving claim.”

“I confess, I’m a conservative… if it were up to me I would put more people in jail.”

“The living constitution should be called the dead constitution, and mine should be called the enduring constitution.”

All the world’s a stage, especially for a HYPE!

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on April 28, 2013 under Arts & Living, Campus News | Comments are off for this article

hype

Courtesy Abby Setterholm

As quickly as she set foot on campus, Abby Setterholm, a junior at Tufts University, set her eyes on the Balch Arena Stage and got involved in student theater.

“I always performed in high school,” said Setterholm. “I chose to attend Tufts, because the theater opportunities were so available.”

Since freshmen year, Setterholm stage-managed six productions, most recently Pen, Paint and Pretzel’s (3P’s) spring major “Alice in Wonderland.”

Setterholm, though, appears on the stage herself in Tufts’ own HYPE! Mime Troupe, which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year with a performance this evening in Cohen Auditorium at 8PM.

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A New Age of Musical Theatre

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on April 24, 2013 under Arts & Living, Uncategorized, Video | Comments are off for this article

What’s wrong with the American theatre is producers asserting their creative “license” over directors. Or at least that’s what Derek Wills, the director of the fictional musical, Bombshell, yells as he quits the production on NBC’s “Smash.” “Smash (2012-),” the NBC musical drama follows Bombshell, a musical making its journey to the Big White Way.

In its second season, the series has featured an “edgy” list of underground musical theater composers that includes Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Pasek and Paul) of Edges fame, Joe Iconis, and Drew Gaspirini. To justify incorporating this new musical sound, “Smash” conjured two cutting-edge composer characters into the storyline who are working on a musical ironically titled Hit List.

“Broadway, Here I Come” from “Smash”‘s Hit List

While Hit List and Bombshell are fictional musicals, “Smash” portrays two very real and different styles of modern musical theater converging.

The show has zeroed in on the dialogue the American musical theater community is torturing itself about: how to define “musical theater.”

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Students thank Dining Services with flowers

Posted by Alexander Kaufman on April 20, 2013 under Campus News, Photos | Comments are off for this article

Seniors Rachel Rubin and Alyssa Wohl brought hand-made tissue paper flowers to the workers at the Dewick-MacPhie dining hall yesterday in an effort to say ‘thank you’ and demonstrate the student body’s collective appreciation

Wohl (left) and Rubin (right) in the lobby of Dewick dining hall

Wohl (left) and Rubin (right) in the lobby of Dewick dining hall

“We decided to make the flowers to thank the dining hall staff for coming in when they’re risking their own safety in order to provide some semblance of normalcy for students,” Rubin said.

Rubin, Wohl, and Dining Services workers

Rubin, Wohl, and Dining Services workers

Wisler Clerjuste, one of the workers at Dewick, said she appreciates the gesture.

“It was very, very fine. Everyone over here was so happy about it,” he said with a smile.

Allie Wollum, a senior and a friend of Rubin’s and Wohl’s, taught the two seniors how to make the flowers this morning quickly and efficiently.

“It was something simple that we could make at home,” Rubin said, “but it’s still a nice thank you gesture.”

If the pair have time to gather more material, they plan to do the same for the workers at Carmichael Dining Hall in the near future.