PREVIEW Dance Mix 2017 The Galaxy Edition

Sometimes you need to take a break from exam studying and paper deadlines. That’s where Dance Mix 2017 comes in!

Where: The Power Center (121 Fletcher St)

When: Tuesday, April 18th @ 7 PM

Cost: FREE with Passport to the Arts

Tickets are also on sale at the Mason Wall posting wall April 14th & 17th, 10-4pm

A quick list of all the groups performing:

  • EnCore
  • FunKtion
  • Impact Dance
  • RhythM Tap Ensemble
  • Cadence Modern Dance Company
  • Dance2XS University of Michigan
  • The Ballroom Dance Team at the University of Michigan
  • Michigan Izzat
  • Michigan Manzil
  • Outrage Dance Group
  • Salto Dance Company at the University of Michigan
  • Photonix
  • Revolution Chinese Yo-Yo

Here’s a link to the Facebook Event so you can put that you’re attending

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

After sixteen years of existence, the M-agination Film Festival has only improved with time. Being at the Michigan Theater, the event felt more like a night at the Ann Arbor Film Festival than an evening of student-made films.

Actually, I think M-agination’s festival was better. Before the festival started, I noticed the number of small touches that made it feel like a full event. Not only was there free popcorn and T-shirts and the obligatory programs, but I also saw a photo op  area with the M-agination logo and posters of each movie set on the a table in front of the theater.  

Of course, the most important part about a film festival are the films. I was impressed at the level of production of each film. Several that I saw, such as Millenia and Anna Garcia Does a One Woman Play looked pretty darn close to something I might see on TV or at a regular movie theater.

The very first film, Cheater, was admittedly pretty superficial. One boy’s goal to cheat on an assignment any way possible, with the action escalating, until the very end when we find that the assignment was to write five things about himself. Simple, yet I was nevertheless laughing throughout the film.

Foodie Daddy was a fresh take on  the concept of a sugar daddy, but with food. Innuendo played to everyone’s predilection for sexual humor. The Little Grebe was an adorable animated children’s story about a bird with a message in search of a recipient.

Like many student films, however, the M-agination docket lacked the depth that you would see in award-winning films. The Ladies Room was a “drunkumentary” that capitalized on the novelty of following girls as they prepped themselves before and after a party. I really enjoyed the idea of the film, but I would have liked to see a little more of a cohesive story there. Perhaps if the filmmakers did a genuine documentary shot in a ladies room, there could be some filmmaking gold.

Low Expectations, an honors thesis in the form of a sitcom pilot and the last film of the night, followed three girls as they struggled through the trials of college. It was a good film, but it was also the kind of film that is almost frustrating because it could have been much better with a few tweaks here and there. As most student films go, Low Expectations was color-corrected like a Marvel Movie (desaturated and flat). There were several wonderful jokes and ideas throughout the pilot, but they felt too far apart. Alas, it’s still worth a watch.

I highly recommend watching a few of this year’s films. Hopefully they will be uploaded to the M-agination Vimeo Page soon.

PREVIEW: M-Agination Film Festival

First, watch this film:

That’s only a taste of what you’ll see at the 16th Annual M-Agination Film Fest.  M-Agination Films is a student group operating out of UAC. Producers work with directors, actors, and other film crew members to make passion projects a reality. All films made throughout the year are screened at the festival in April.

When: Thursday, April 6. Doors open at 8 PM and the show starts at 8:30

Where: The Michigan Theater

Cost: FREE!

Also includes FREE T-SHIRTS & POPCORN!

Link to Facebook Event

Link to the M-Agination Films Vimeo Page

REVIEW: Moonlight Film Screening OSCAR WINNER

I’m glad Moonlight won Best Picture over La La Land.  Most  of Moonlight is bleak, yet beautiful; it’s simple, yet incredibly diverse in the range of emotion that flit across the screen.

The film follows Chiron through three stages of his life: “little” catches him as an adolescent boy, “Chiron” offers a few scenes from his teenage years, and “black” shows us a glimpse of the man he eventually becomes. One of the things I liked most about Moonlight was that it never ties anything up neatly in a bow.

At every moment, even in the final shot of the film, Chiron struggles with his sexuality and identity. Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, plays an anchoring father figure during the first third of the film. Then, tragically, he disappears from Chiron’s life due to an off screen death, leaving Chiron floundering when he needs a powerful male figure the most. Chiron eventually becomes a drug dealer, just like Juan, and even adopts the same clothing style and mannerisms as his de facto father.

Although Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for best supporting actor, every single performance in Moonlight is incredible. The film is minimal on dialogue, so the actors do much of the speaking with their faces and body movements. When we do hear someone speaking on screen, the words seem so much more powerful, even though most of the time they’re phrases we hear in everyday conversation.

Somehow Moonlight manages to look incredible on a 1.5 million dollar budget. Much of the film is tinged with cool tones, marked at times by swaths of violent red.  The lighting is deliberate, and complements perfectly a story Juan tells about being called “Moonlight” when he was a boy. The cinematography too is powerful, capturing the range of emotions that occur in each scene.

Moonlight would have felt a lot like a modern day Boyz n the Hood if it wasn’t for the haunting, string-heavy score throughout the film. Almost like in a horror film, the strings quickened during key sequences, but remained beautiful.

I was happy to see a packed room at the Michigan League.  Moonlight is an incredible movie, and I agree in every way that it deserved Best Picture over La La Land. Moonlight has no fears about shoving us face first into questions of what it means to be human without bothering to answer them. Moonlight knows that being human and finding your identity is complicated, and it doesn’t wrap things up in a neat little box.

PREVIEW: Moonlight Film Screening OSCAR WINNER

February is Black History Month, but that doesn’t mean appreciation of Black History has to be contained in that single month.

On March 7th, there will be a FREE screening of the Oscar-winning film Moonlight at Hatcher Grad Library.

When: Tuesday, March 7 @ 7pm

Where: University of Michigan League Ballroom

Cost: FREE

See the film that snatched Best Picture out of the hands of La La Land!

Mahershala Ali won an Oscar for his role in this film, which follows the life of a young black man as he makes the transition from child to adult in Miami.

 

REVIEW: A Night of Rakugo

Sitting on a 2’x2’ cushion on stage, in front of a large audience, telling a funny story — that is the 400-year-old art of Japanese storytelling, or rakugo.

Having some prior knowledge of rakugo, the moment I heard about a live performance in Ann Arborfree of charge — I knew. I was there. Doors opened at 6:30PM in U-M’s Modern Language Building Auditorium 4. The performance was planned for 7PM sharp. Although my friend and I arrived on time, we were greeted by a full house. In fact, it was so crowded, people were standing against the walls. We were handed a very nice program that was half in Japanese and half in English, detailing the night’s schedule.

Organized by the U-M Japanese Language Program and Center for Japanese Studies, I saw the faculty dressed in kimonos. In case you don’t know what kimonos are, they’re long, loose robes with wide sleeves and tied with a sash, originally worn as a formal garment in Japan.

Seeing beautiful and intricate patterns, colorful fabric, wooden sandals, I could feel my heart punch a hole through my chest. This was the real deal.

Well, thanks to my punctuality, my friend and I found front row seats…on the floor. The faculty handed us Japanese newspapers to sit on and apologized that there were no seats left. It was really no trouble, though. Sitting on the floor was a pain in the butt, but the show was free, and we had a great view of the stage. It was red, with a lush purple 2’x2’ cushion sitting on top of it. A paper lantern stood on each side.

The show began by first teaching the audience a little bit about rakugo and giving a short demonstration as to how a typical performance is done.


Rakugo
is a traditional comedic performance that definitely throws anyone for a loop the first time around, but it’s actually pretty easy to understand. Long story short, the performer sits on the cushion on stage and tells a story. They do this by enacting every character in the story, and using their only two props: a paper fan and a tenugui (Japanese towel). They may stand up on their knees but never on their feet, so the performance never leaves the cushion.

Because the performer has so much to act out, their creativity and skill shine through the performance. They can use the fan as a pair of chopsticks or as a pen, they can use the towel as a letter or a book! The performance really delivers the story.

After the crash course on rakugo, the performances came next. Because the show was organized by the university’s Japanese Language Program, students studying Japanese were able to participate in this unique art of storytelling. One by one, short stories a couple minutes long were told by each student.

One of the students told a story about a little girl greeting her father who had come home from a seaward trip. The girl urged to see his photos of the ocean, gushing over the fish swimming underwater. In one photo, the girl found a sea creature that was uglier than the rest and, disgusted, she asked her father what it was. Then the father scolded her, because it was not a fish — it was her mother!

In rakugo, the story typically leads up to a hilarious punch line at the very end. And honestly, they were really funny! I was cracking up on the floor, trying to hold in my hideous snorts.

After the students were the two Japanese rakugo performers, who had flown to the United States all the way from Japan as cultural envoys. Rakugo professionals.

Yanagiya Sankyo (柳家さん喬) and Yanagiya Kyonosuke (柳家喬之助) are two widely famous rakugo performers in Japan, and tickets to see their shows are priced usually over $30 per person! It was the biggest honor to be able to see their performances for free. I was just happy to be there. Even if I was sitting at eye level with people’s feet.

Unfortunately, photography was prohibited for the two famous rakugo performers. But I promise you, they were amazing. Sitting up there with their commanding presence, their expressions and voices varying with every character — it was truly an art. Just by a small turn of their torso, they suddenly became a different person! Their performances were definitely the highlight of the night.

Yanagiya Kyonosuke (柳家喬之助) performed first with the story Hatsu Tenjin (初天神, “First Tenjin Festival”), which was summarized in the program: “A precocious boy named Kinbou convinces his father to take him to the festival at the Tenjin shrine, on the condition that he won’t bother his father to buy him anything. At the festival, of course, Kinbou can’t help asking for everything he sees, causing problems for his father.”

It was a hilarious performance, and the room roared with laughter as Yanagiya Kyonosuke pouted and wailed as the child. Kinbou was one spunky child, and I loved every second of his character on stage. It was an incredible performance by an incredible performer!

The last performance carries the most prestige in a rakugo show. After a brief intermission, Yanagiya Sankyo (柳家さん喬) delivered the last performance, telling the story of Shinigami (死神, “The God of Death”). In the program, it was summarized: “The God of Death tells a man who has decided that he wants to die that it’s not his time yet and teaches him a way to make a living as a doctor. He grants the man the ability to see the God of Death and teaches him a spell. If the God of Death is sitting by the patient’s feet, then the patient will recover. He simply has to recite the spell and the sick person will get well. If the God of Death is at the patient’s head, there’s nothing that can be done for him. The man becomes very wealthy but spends lavishly on trips and ends up broke. When patients stop coming, he becomes desperate to regain his fortune. But is it possible to trick the God of Death?”

Shinigami (死神, “The God of Death”) is one of the most popular and famous rakugo stories out there, and although it’s a little on the scarier side, it has its funny moments. Shinigami was beautifully told by Yanagiya Sankyo. Everyone was plunged straight into the story as he acted out the God of Death and the cheating doctor. As the God of Death, Yanagiya Sankyo held the fan like a cane under his hands, chuckling at the man’s misfortune. I was enraptured by his performance, visualizing the elements that weren’t there. It was a wonderful story told by a wonderful performer to end a wonderful night.

If you ever catch the word rakugo keep your ears peeled. A story will be told!