PREVIEW: Oh, the Places Pops Goes!

On April 2nd, 7 pm, Michigan Pops Orchestra, the U of M’s student-run, student-directed orchestra, will present “Oh, the Places Pops Goes!” in the Michigan Theater. The program includes  Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, Michael Giacchino’s UP, Yokota and Kondo’s Super Mario Galaxy, and John Williams’s E.T.

I’ve been to Pops Orchestra’s last movie-themed concert, and it was such a cute event. Pops Orchestra entertained the audience with humorous movies they have filmed themselves to accompany the music, and the music they chose were the ones that both classic-lovers and non-classic lovers could enjoy. Above all that, it was a local and heart-warming event comprised of Orchestra members and their family and friends. I’m expecting that this concert will also carry a similar warmth, so I’m excited about it.

Students with Passport to the Arts can get free entry! More information about where to find the Passport to the Arts can be found here.

More information about the event can be found here.

PREVIEW: Groove Robs The Louvre: A Percussive Heist

A great beat and an action-packed story of a heist have a commonality – it brings the thrill to the listener.

This combination, already promising excitement by the choice of word combination itself, will be performed as a percussion/dance show at the Michigan Theater, this Friday, April 1st, at 7:30 PM. The performance is designed by U of M’s student percussion-and-dance group, Groove. They have proudly stated that this show will be their “most action-packed, drum-tacular performance yet“. I’ve been to some of their shows, and they truly put the listener into a trance when they beat their non-traditional instruments-on the events that I attended, they used buckets, garbage cans, and metal drum cans. I’m really excited to check out how they had integrated their amazing beat with a thrilling story. Plus, It’ll be April fool’s day. I don’t mind getting tongue-tied at some great beats!

U of M students could get free entry to the show when they have a Passport to the Arts. Where to find them can be found in this link.

PREVIEW: Compartment No. 6

Now showing at the Michigan Theater, Compartment No. 6 is an award-winning film that is, at its core, a character study. The trailer seems excellent, offering a great visual vocabulary for the dreary train cabin and the building action leading us there. In addition to this, the plot device of two strangers getting to know each other through external forces, like a shared train car, is sure to offer an in-depth understanding of both these characters and their shared dynamic.

 

Spending some time in a theater is always a go-to for me when the weather gets as underwhelming as it is now. Grab a student ticket and check it out!

REVIEW: Oscar nominated shorts-Animation

Don’t expect kids’ favorite stories when you think of Animation. One (Robin, Robin) of the five of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts (Robin, Robin / Boxballet / Affairs of the Art / Bestia / The Windshield Wiper ) did fall into this category, but the others either hold confusion, bizarreness, obsessions, and horror of the world. Here I’ll focus mainly on ‘Affairs of the Art’, an animation in a pencil-drawn style that reflects on how modern society defines art and allow strange things to happen in its name while giving short comments on others.

Robin, Robin – very cute, fluffy animation with the ever-selling theme of finding your value despite the environment that says otherwise. Cliche told again but not boring.

Boxballet – Very interesting visual contrast of the characters, explaining very much through this visual information. Surprising and bitter point-back to the political reality at the very end.

Affairs of the Art – Strong, grotesque criticism on ‘Arts’. This features a story of a middle-aged woman who gloats that she is doing ‘Art’ while forcing a model to move for her even when it’s clear that the model is suffering from it. Her story expands over her family members, who each seem to have a weird obsession. The main character gives an example of art as her sister’s obsession with dead and rotting things which occasionally involving animal abuse points could refer to obsessions and grotesque, even immoral things being allowed as ‘Art’, and her sister’s success seems to refer to the society’s funding poured to that form of ‘Art’ when it catches people’s attention and is demanded by the market. The main character’s gloat of finally doing art also criticizes how Art is praised like something divine and desired the snobbism, or the neglecting of questions asking whether the deeds done in the name of art are acceptable or right. The story tells about how obsessions for such art could be bizarre and grotesque, and even expands it toward a more commercialized form of art, the art of ‘the body’, by the main character’s sister saying that her reformed body is like ‘an exhibition’. The sweet art style of pencil drawing did not prevent this animation from conveying disturbing emotions. This one is a strong one.

Bestia – Chilling cross-showing of reality and mental breakdown based on a horrible historical villain of Chile. Dolls made of Regin were a perfect choice to convey the character. Because of its storyline crossing over reality and imagination, sometimes it was hard to tell whether a scene was in reality or not without the historical background.

The Windshield Wiper – Visually very satisfying and colorful. In this collection of short scenes, the scenes of each very short that last less than a minute, even with chunks of dialogues or not at all, tell a strong story and conveys emotions, and for that, I praise this film. However, how the scenes will add up was not as clear.

PREVIEW: Disfluency

A film written and directed by U of M Alum(U-M Dept of Film, Television, and Media Alum ’15), Anna Baumgarten, is coming to the Michigan theater on March 8th, 7:30 pm. ‘Disfluency'(2021, 95 minutes, drama) is about a senior, Jane, who failed her final college class and returned home and her trauma. This film won the Jury Award for Narrative Feature in Austin Film Festival 2021 and was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Indiana Film Journalists Association, US 2021.

I am looking forward to this film for two reasons: first, there’s a power of seeing art that talks about Trauma and how to overcome them. The spring break just ended a while ago but I’m sure that a lot of people were feeling that they need a break, maybe a bit longer one than a week. Won’t it be nice to see a story where someone copes with their own trouble, learns, and muster the energy to fight the conflict, and use it to fights one’s own trouble? I feel like this would be a good time for me to get that sort of empowerment. Second, this was filmed in Southeastern Michigan. Yay for local production!

Finally, for all the creative people/film fans out there, this event will be even more special because the writer/director Anna Baumgarten and Producer Danny Mooney will be at the post-film discussion. Hearing from the production team is a rare and exciting chance, especially because you can not only understand the film better but also because you can get a glimpse of what it’s really like to be the person actually making the art, not bound to the audience seat which sometimes limits the scope of appreciation for the artwork.

 

Free tickets can be purchased from the Michigan theater website.

REVIEW: Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is a Studio Ghibli film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki that follows a young man who searches for a forest spirit that can lift his curse, one that was inflicted upon him by a possessed demon boar. This is one of Miyazaki’s darker films, depicting the way in which human progress often comes at the expense of nature, as well as at the expense of other humans. 

The key players in this film and what make it worth watching are a young woman named San who was raised by wolves, and Lady Eboshi, the woman who runs a nearby town where her ironworks provide the primary source of income. Eboshi actively seeks to rid the forest of San and the wolves in order to expand her town and presence as a threat to other villages. The forest is represented by the Deer, Wolf, and Boar Gods, who seek to protect their home and clearly voice their hatred for humans. The way the relationship between humans and the environment is particularly compelling, with demons being created by the violence perpetrated by the humans of Irontown, and Eboshi justifying her actions as Irontown provides a safe space for sex workers and lepers. Eboshi is the clear antagonist of the film and is driven by greed, but I find it interesting that she also sees the forest as a source of evil, and believes San was corrupted by the animals in the forest. I always find it interesting when an antagonist is more interesting than the protagonist – Ashitaka is a little boring – and I also really enjoyed how the forest was essentially a living creature, represented by the Gods and San, all acting defensively with reason to hate the humans. 

Another aspect of the film worth noting is the animation. Studio Ghibli is known for its whimsical background and character designs, and Princess Mononoke continues this trend, but also incorporates more violent imagery to go along with its themes. There are several fight sequences in this film, the best being a confrontation between Lady Eboshi and San early on. I particularly loved the animation for San’s movements, how quick and aggressive she ran and fought, and how acrobatic her technique was at the same time. One of my favorite shots from the film is in this scene: it is from San’s point of view as she charges head on at Eboshi, who remains centered in the frame as the townsfolk scatter out of the frame.

I also loved the design of the demon that Ashitaka fights in the beginning of the film and again, I love the movement. The way it crawls is terrifying and the tendrils coming out of its body are disgusting yet mesmerizing to watch (click the image to see for yourself). 

There is so much to appreciate about Princess Mononoke – its themes, characters, technical aspects, and more. It is one of my favorite Studio Ghibli films and perhaps one of their more underrated films – and I highly recommend it.