REVIEW: Corsage

7:00pm • Sunday, January 15, 2023 • Michigan Theater • SPOILER ALERT

I was easily absorbed into Corsage‘s slow-burning drama and sumptuous visuals. Corsage stars Vicky Krieps as Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary, and imagines her story in the year following her 40th birthday. The movie explores themes of agency, beauty, and power, depicting Elisabeth struggling to free herself from the constricting roles of queen, wife, and mother. Its pace is slow and its tone is elegiac, defined by lush settings (the phrase that came to mind was fan-service) and the haunting, repetitive chords of Camille Dalmais’  soundtrack.

The movie leaned into the ever-salient, patriarchal ideology that a woman only has value to the extent that she is seen as beautiful. However, something I reflected on during the movie was that while Elisabeth was oppressed to the extent that she was a woman, she was also in a position of great power which could make her behavior feel hypocritical. Over the course of the movie, in order to accomplish her own goals of preserving her public image while achieving greater personal liberty, she exerted her authority as queen over her ladies in waiting. In particular, Elisabeth’s favorite confidant, Ida Ferenczy (played by Jean Werner), faced the brunt of the empress’s self-serving ill-treatment. Ida was prevented from marrying, and ultimately consented to impersonate Elisabeth at public functions so the queen did not feel the weight of preserving her image. Elisabeth demanded that Ida assume the austere diet she kept in order to maintain her famous 50cm waistline, while she finally helped herself to candied violets and cream cake. 

Of course, the narrative developed in Corsage was highly fictionalized, bordering on the counterfactual. This helped me put together some of the events which occurred near the end of the movie. In a move which was at the time inexplicable to me, Elisabeth enlisted an 18-year-old countess towards whom she had previously expressed envy to act as her husband’s mistress. This made more sense at the end of the movie, when Elisabeth threw herself off of the bow of a ship, a move which realistically seemed like suicide (or freedom, in the context of the movie’s themes).  This led me to interpret many of the film’s previous events as preparations allowing her to abdicate her many roles.

Overall, I enjoyed Corsage for its artistic cinematography and its complex depiction of power. I would recommend it whether you would like to untangle the film’s many salient themes or simply enjoy the outward beauty of its construction.

 

 

REVIEW: The Muppet Christmas Carol

I hope everybody is having a wonderful break and a happy holiday season! This past Sunday, December 18th, the Michigan Theater was overflowing with Christmas joy. Although the showing of The Muppet Christmas Carol began at 1:30 pm, at 12:30 there was already a line at the door! The theater had planned a variety of surprise events, such as free hot chocolate from Sweetwaters, a free piggy bank, Santa Claus, and carolers that performed both outside and inside on stage. It was so much fun to see how excited everybody was, and the workers even dressed up with Christmas headbands and sweatshirts. It’s lovely to see how hard the community has worked together to put on this event!

For those curious about the movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol reminded me a bit of The Grinch, since both involve a protagonist that’s initially unwilling to celebrate Christmas before coming around. I didn’t know that the movie was based on A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens until Gonzo poses as the author himself; alongside Gonzo (in the film ‘Charles’) is Rizzo, and these two muppets act as the narrator for the film. Although I didn’t read the book, they made a powerful comedic duo that added a voice unique to the film.

Since most of the audience was children, parents, and the elderly, I was shocked by how different the viewing experience was; the laughter was a lot more boisterous and there were a lot more questions and comments; in addition to the muffled voices of the muppets, it was hard for me to hear the lines in the movie, so without subtitles, I struggled to understand the plot at times.

Something that impressed me was how well the directors incorporated both muppets and humans into the film. I knew the film was old, but the interactions between the muppets and humans were natural. It didn’t occur to me how old the film was until I saw the visual effects, though; it’s been thirty years since it was released!

To be completely honest, I didn’t enjoy the film as much as I hoped. Although it’s a children’s movie, I wish there was more background information given, and the character and plot development seemed rushed: the loud audience definitely made the event less enjoyable as well. Still, I can see how this film would be adored by muppet fans and those who watched it when it released or while growing up.

Merry Christmas everybody and have a happy new year!

REVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra Concert “Tick Tock, It’s Pops O’Clock”

*Photo of the conductor, Luca Antonucci, taken by @willzhang*

The Michigan Pops Orchestra concert “Tick Tock, It’s Pops O’Clock” had an impressive turnout despite being at the same time as the game, and there were many elderly people in the audience for an organization even students don’t know about. It was heartwarming to see the local community and the University come together.

The most memorable part of the concert for me is actually the opening piece: it began quietly and suspensefully before growing into a fascinating, powerful melody that really boasted how wonderful the acoustics in the Michigan Theater is. I normally attend orchestral performances in Hill Auditorium, which is renowned for its acoustics, but due to its sheer size, the music doesn’t reach the outer audience as well.

Another highlight was concertmaster Katie Sesi’s solo in Vivaldi’s Winter. I don’t know what to comment on her playing beside it being phenomenal. This will be the last semester Katie, who is also Executive Director, will be in Pops. Her speech was very bittersweet, and I’m glad she got to be featured in various ways like also being conductor.

How hard the students worked really showed in their performance: it was incredible how well-timed the OSTs and films were with each other, and I particularly enjoyed the scene in the Harry Potter film when Buckbeak, a dog, bites Malfoy by yawning. The audience’s offbeat clapping for the Victors was also hilarious.

Unfortunately, the singers’ voices didn’t project clearly, possibly because of the mics. The collaboration with the SMTD theater students was one of the pieces I was looking forward to the most, so that was rather disheartening.

Nevertheless, I still loved the event, and I look forward to what Pops will bring us in the future. 

Get it? Time theme? 😀

PREVIEW: The Muppet Christmas Carol

I live under a rock. I’ve never seen the Muppets and don’t know much about them besides Kermit the frog being a meme. Luckily, the perfect chance for me to learn about them came up! On Sunday, December 18th, the Michigan Theater will be showing The Muppet Christmas Carol at 1:30 pm for free.

Some people may already be out of town, though, and it might be inconvenient timing since it’s during finals (if you have late finals, which…rip), but it might just be the Christmas cheer you need before getting back to grind time. At least that’s why I want to watch it. I need some happiness after finals.

I’m sick of Elf being the only Christmas movie that pops into my head too. I haven’t watched any Christmas movie musicals, so it’s time to expand my collection. I’ve heard good things about Michael Caine’s performance being funny, so that’s another aspect I look forward to.

Good luck with finals everybody, and I’m wishing you some Christmas cheer!

PREVIEW: Michigan Pops Orchestra Concert “Tick Tock, It’s Pops O’Clock”

This semester, the Michigan Pops Orchestra chose ‘Time’ as the concept for their concert, meaning the pieces they’ve selected have some kind of tie-in to that theme. On their instagram @michiganpops they’ve advertised OSTs from Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Star Trek, as well as pieces from classical composers like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. I’m assuming that they chose timeless classics (heh) that everybody has heard alongside other iconic soundtracks, so it’ll be music familiar to the audience. Full orchestral symphonies aren’t as commonly heard though, so it’ll still be a new experience for a crowd not as well-versed in classical music.

The Michigan Pops Orchestra is one of the only (perhaps the only) ensemble on campus that is completely student run. This allows the performers much more artistic freedom, so each one of their concerts is unique. One aspect of Pops that differs the most from other ensembles is their inclusion of skits and films; I’m not sure what the skits will be, but the films they’ve created will be playing during Jurassic Park and Harry Potter!

Everybody is welcome to attend their concert: K-12 students get free entry, Adults pay $9 per ticket, and University students get discounted tickets for $5.

Tickets will be sold in the Posting Wall at Mason Hall from November 28th to December 2nd and at this MUTO link: mutotix.umich.edu/3688

Don’t worry if you missed these dates, though, because tickets are also being sold AT THE DOOR the day of the concert on December 3rd at 7:00pm in the Michigan Theater.

REVIEW: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

*There won’t be any spoilers… at least not intentionally*

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever definitely did not unfold as I expected it to. I didn’t think it’d be as good as the first Black Panther, but I’m pretty disappointed in the quality. Letitia Wright (Shuri) truly got to shine in this film and her performance was phenomenal. In my opinion, though, the plot still held back what she is capable of. I look forward to seeing her acting in other films for sure.

I mentioned in my preview that I was curious if the directors might use Wakanda Forever to start building toward a driving plot for the new generation of Marvel, but that didn’t happen at all. None of the other recent Marvel films I’ve seen so far have done that either, though, besides the latest Spider-Man, so I’m not upset with Wakanda Forever in that regard.

What upset me is the storytelling, pacing, and characterization.

I wanted to see how the creators would effectively work around the hole left behind by Chadwick Boseman’s death but the resolution they came up with was very flat. The opening scene was definitely exhilarating and emotional but the transition to the next scene was rather anticlimactic and there wasn’t much explanation provided. Whenever the topic came back up, there weren’t any additional details either as I hoped there would be.

This relates to the problem of pacing I mentioned before: after the initial drama, the rising action was very slow and tedious. I didn’t feel like there was a steady buildup and so once the climax hit we were bombarded with a lot of rushed action and character development, leading to an unsatisfactory falling action as well. Not only that, though; the initial premise for the conflict was pretty promising, but then the conflict itself was rather… interesting. A new character that I thought would be vital didn’t play as impactful as a role that the premise hyped her up for, either, which I found surprising. The ending scenes did somewhat tie back to the opening, but there were a lot of holes left in the plot, especially in regards to the passage of time, and ambiguity for what comes after.

Something I did really like about the plot though is the dynamic difference between Shuri and the elders. We already saw some tension between them in the first film, but it played a bigger role this time as a recurring theme. I think lots of young adults would be able to relate to generational differences, such as scientific vs. spiritual beliefs and progression vs. tradition. I wish they showed more scenes of them interacting.

Overall, it’s not a film I’d recommend for its quality. I also don’t think it’s essential to the Marvel Universe, and perhaps watching it might even take away from the impact that the first Black Panther had. I do think my review sounds rather harsh: I don’t actually hate the film, but it’s just disappointing and not something I’d watch again or recommend to others.