One of the many important messages in the film, is portrayed in that the audience is able to see the struggle of the couple, without them throwing in the towel, no matter how appealing that may sound to them. This is very relevant especially concerning foster children, because a lot of children are toasted from house to house and learn not to trust people. As a result, they will always test the supposed ‘love’ of the people taking care of them, but it is when you pass the test that their love and family will knock your socks off.
By Liz Steeves
Good news, it’s not another Hallmark movie! And better news, Instant Family (2018) manages to be comical without making fun of the foster care system!
These were my two fears going into the film, but in the end, I was very pleased with the way director Sean Anders presented such an important topic. Anders is able to give the audience a taste of the heartache of fostering and adopting kids in a such a reflective and comical way. While still managing to fight for the importance of family, without going too far into chick flick territory. In fact, there was at least one satisfying punch in the film (by the jacked Mark Wahlberg), officially clearing it from such a label.
The film follows the decision of a husband and wife, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne), to adopt not just one teenager but her two younger siblings as well. This kind of story is so important to share on the silver screen, because so many people are unaware of the heartbreaking numbers and statistics that children in foster care face. With this, I was extremely pleased to see that the film contained real data, regarding the number of children in foster care as well as the devastating situation that follows aging out of the system. While I would have liked to see more statistics worked into the dialogue, I think Anders did a good job pulling at the audience’s heartstrings without making them so overwhelmed that they left with a bad taste in their mouth.
This story was actually inspired by Sean Anders and his wife Beth’s decision to adopt three siblings out of foster care years before. Anders was therefore able to tell his story in such a way that sheds a true and positive light on the decision to adopt, particularly older kids. Furthermore, Maraide Green, a former foster child, was hired on to the film as a consultant, she was essential in how a lot of the sensitive information was communicated, particularly the attitude toward the children’s birth mother. Anders’ others films however, are not known to be this… respectful. Films like Daddy’s Home, We’re the Millers, and Horrible Bosses 2, are known for being screwball comedies, but Anders and his crew’s representation of his story and the stories of others definitely hit a home run.
Casting Mark Wahlberg as the Pete, the dad in training, was an amazing and vital choice that added a lot to the film. Everyone views Mark as a man’s man, but they also recognize that he isn’t afraid to care about the important things in life, like family. As Mark runs a restaurant chain Wahlburgers with his family. Furthermore, he is a devout Christian and father of four, and is always willing to stand up for his values and morals.
One of the many important messages in the film, is portrayed in that the audience is able to see the struggle of the couple, without them throwing in the towel, no matter how appealing that may sound to them. This is very relevant especially concerning foster children, because a lot of children are toasted from house to house and learn not to trust people. As a result, they will always test the supposed ‘love’ of the people taking care of them, but it is when you pass the test that their love and family will knock your socks off.
Pete and Elle in the film worried that they had to be a special kind of people to do something as extraordinary as adopting kids, but they soon discover that all you need is love. The film doesn’t aim to send you out of the theater and right to the adoption agency, but it aims to get rid of a lot of the negative connotations that have grown around the idea of adoption, particularly of a teenager. Instant Family is an honest, and heartfelt story that is sure to bring you and your family closer this holiday season.
By Joseph Naguski
Let the amazing type and colorful lights take over as you enter the void. As we began to explore in the WATCHMEN post, title sequences can be much more than just the names of cast and crew. The art of designing title sequences has long been in development since the beginning of films. From works like North by Northwest designed by Saul Bass and Se7en designed by Kyle Cooper titles have evolved dramatically. A very prominent part of these works and other notable sequences is the way they use typography combined with images to communicate the themes of the films in which they reside. The type of typography that is used in a film’s title sequence can evoke certain emotions from the audience as it prepares them for what is in store.
The 2009 movie Enter the Void by Gaspar Noé starts off with a psychedelic barrage of typography in its opening title sequence. When the credits first hit you, they are not too outlandish. The words go by, flickering rapidly. Only one typeface is used with an orange and white color palette, until a sudden pause occurs. Then an abrupt onslaught of different designs starts to flash before the screen to the tone of a booming electronic beat. As the sequence goes on, the credits rapidly pick up speed with neon colors flashing before the viewer. This gives them a visual sensation of essentially what it feels like to be tripping on drugs. This might look familiar if you are a fan of Kayne West or his song “All of the Lights”. The music video for the song is heavily inspired by Enter the Void.
Seizure warning: This opening title sequence is not for those who are triggered by fast moving light and images.
The way this title sequence is portrayed certainly begins to prepare the audience for the psychedelic mess they are about to jump into. As the title sequence suggests, this movie revolves around drugs and the experience of using them. The plot centers on the life of an American drug dealer named Oscar living in Tokyo. The film explores the outer body experience he undergoes after his death. The composition Noé uses is cinematically captivating in the way it uses high crane shots to show this experience from a first-person narrative. Scenes filled with flashing lights and other trippy cinematic images are also scattered throughout the film. The content of the film is somewhat grotesque and heavily explores violence and sexual themes. It shows the troubling events of Oscar’s childhood, which led to him into the world of drugs. It also shows the relationships of those he was close to when he was alive. There is a special focus on his sister who became an exotic dancer, to his displeasure. The psychosis derived from these events could not have been displayed better than in the stunning visuals of the title sequence.
There are many layers to the design of this title sequence which make it so fascinating. Enter the Void is very unique because it focuses on using almost entirely type within its design to convey its theme. There are many films that mesh well with images and typography together but seldom do we see the sole use of typographic work alone. This work does not stick to one simple design either; there is a multitude of different styles that cohesively come together to express what tone Noé is trying to achieve. Interestingly, the logo was created using electrophotography by the German filmmaker Thorsten Fleisch. The use of different languages also uniquely adds to the motif of this piece. The combination of English, French, and Japanese collide in the same way as the different cultures do throughout the movie. The film itself is created by a French director and is designed by Tom Kan, who is Franco-Japanese. An interesting point about how the layout was made is that Noé “wanted a fast-paced compilation of typefaces, all very different, inspired by films, flyers, and neon signs to announce the tone of the film… wanted each title to reflect the person it concerned” (Kan). From this, I assume Noé truly appreciated his film crew and this is a nice way to honor them. Another interesting and integral part about the credits is that instead of just a select few of the credits placed in the beginning, Noé chose to have all of them at the start of the movie. The innovation that this sequence contains would not be possible without the choice to do this. More type allows for more possibilities to enhance the creation of the title sequence.
The original designs aren’t the only thing that make this so special. By themselves they have a presence but without sound to assist them they become less effective. Sound design is just as important as visuals in film, and title sequences are no exception. The electronic pop song “Freak” by LFO enhances the emotions being conveyed by the designs. As soon as it blasts, it assaults the audience with its energetic sound as the in-your-face type enters in and out of the title screen. The music definitely helps to portray the feeling of psychosis and causes a sense of anxiety in the audience. Moving the designs to the rhythm is no easy task and Kan does it beautifully.
Typography is something that not too many people outside of design think about. It is something that is seen all over in real life and it undeniably has a place in film. Type combined with cinematic images can create masterpieces of title work that can stand on their own, separate from the film they reside. In the case of Enter the Void, barely any images are even used. The variety of different designs and how they all cohesively come together is a sight to behold. This united with the fast flashing screen and stellar soundtrack creates something very remarkable and unique. I will come back to this title sequence many more times even though I will most likely never want to watch the actual movie again.
Noé, Gaspar, director. Enter the Void. Fidélité Films, 2009.
Kan, Tom, designer. Enter the Void. Fidélité Films, 2009.
By Megan Hess
A Simple Favor (Feig, 2018) is anything but. Based on the Darcey Bell novel, it’s Nancy Drew (Fleming, 2007) mixed with Gone Girl (Fincher, 2014) and a splash of Game of Thrones (Benioff and Weiss, 2011). It’s best described using a Kanye West album title: a “beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy.” Director Paul Feig, who’s best known for Bridesmaids (2011) and the ill-fated, all-female Ghostbusters reboot, has found a profitable niche in comedy. However, other than I Am David (also based on a novel) in 2003, A Simple Favor is the most serious movie on his resume – and, coincidentally, one of the best.
Several years ago, Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) experienced a startling and gruesome personal tragedy. Thanks to her type-A personality, she’s been able to rebuild her life and even has a successful “mommy vlog.” Then she meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) a fellow parent from her son’s class. Despite being different in every way other than having children, the two become best friends. One day, Stephanie gets a phone call from Emily asking for “a simple favor…” which whips her formerly uncomplicated life into a frenzy of mystery, lust, trauma and murder.
The base storyline of A Simple Favor is meaty and twisty enough on its own that it would make a decent movie with almost any cast, but Kendrick and Lively make it impossible to see anyone else in their roles. Cutesy-awkward Stephanie isn’t anything new for Anna Kendrick – imagine her Into the Woods (Marshall, 2014) character as a mommy vlogger. Besides the Pitch Perfect trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Wright), she’s made a career of earnest, enthusiastic women cleverer than they appear.
The one moment in Pitch Perfect that feels like something Stephanie – or almost any of Kendrick’s other characters – would do.
Blake Lively’s character is the total opposite: chic, cool, a little crazy. Lively’s made a career out of playing leggy blondes - in Gossip Girl (Savage and Schwartz, 2007) the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Kwapis, 2005) movies and more – but, unlike in Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011) or Café Society (Allen, 2016) she’s more than just pretty window dressing here, and thinking of her as such seriously underestimates her talent. (Saying any more than that would be venturing into spoiler territory.) She and Anna Kendrick have an authentic, compelling, sometimes homoerotic chemistry. Other than the two leads, the only actor whose performance really stands out is Andrew Rannells, who takes a break from Broadway for a catty dad cameo. (Emily’s husband, Shawn, is attractive but forgettable…although he does get to have a steamy sex scene with Kendrick.)
The one major critique of A Simple Favor (other than that it’s heavy on the profanity, which is a personal preference) is that it does its job too well. On its way to wrapping up, it gets so twisty that it’s a little hard to follow. However, an attentive viewer might bypass this problem – the film’s way of keeping the audience on its toes. If you want to skip the gore and guts this Halloween season and are looking for a psychological thriller, Feig’s contemporary neo-noir effort might be just what you need.
By Bill Friedell
Have you ever heard the phrase, “it isn’t about the destination, but the journey”? You probably have, and it can certainly be applied to storytelling. It is a journey with a beginning with a destination: the end. This idea is paramount when it comes to understanding the twelve issue comic book Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. When Watchmen debuted in 1986, the comic book medium had been around for fifty years, giving it time to develop its own storytelling techniques and tropes. What Watchmen did was showcase the uniqueness of what comic books can do. It is a comic book about comic books, or a metanarrative. This integral aspect of the story made the idea of adapting this story into other mediums. Specifically, movies. So how would a filmmaker go adapting Watchmen?
In 2009, Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder, comes closest to capturing the spirit of the original comic with its opening credit sequence. Using film language to mimic the storytelling style of comics through the combination of montage and slow motion, it condenses of themes of the film in an artistically beautiful way and pays tribute to it’s comic book origins.
In montage, images are assembled together so that they might explain an idea. In the case of Watchmen, the montage effect is used to give the backstory of the world by showing the rise of superheroes in the 1940s to the cataclysmic results in the 1980s. Juxtaposed with Bob Dylan’s “Times They are A’ Changin”, the opening credits portrays the passage of time and the decay of American morale.
To make this montage, Snyder uses a technique seen throughout Watchmen, but is most skillfully used in the opening credits: slow motion. While in the bulk of the film itself, Snyder attempts to use slow motion as a way of bringing the comic panels. With time slowed down, the framing can become still enough to linger on an image (effectively remaking the panels themselves) but remains in motion and therefore cinematic. The best example of this is recreating the panel of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) being thrown out of his condo through the window.
What makes this technique work well in the opening credits is the framing device of photography. If you notice, many of the shots in the montage are events being photographed by photographers: the heroes of the past and present together, the pictures taken of the forty’s heroes’ demises, among others. The merging of slow motion and on-screen focus of photography recall the still images of comics and the way they capture heroism and its downfall.
In doing this, Watchmen’s most famous exploration of the medium is condensed: the idea of superheroes removed from fantasy. What if the superhero did emerge on the verge of World War II, but not just in[HL1] comics, but reality? What kind of effect would they have on America and world history? In the sequence of events, we see the glamor of superheroes punching bank robbers and taking pictures of their meetings and celebrations, but as the montage goes on, we see the superhero Dollar Bill (Dan Payne) shot dead as the result of his cape getting stuck in the bank door, punching the myth of the superhero in the gut. Silhouette (Apollonia Vanova), is kissing a woman on the day Japan surrendered as a sailor would heroically kiss, later paying off with the image of Silhouette murdered in her bed with her lover. Mothman (Niall Matter) is dragged off to be put in an asylum. Silk Spectre’s (Carla Gugino) marriage is shown to be unhappy and argumentative. The Comedian is revealed as the assassin of JFK. As America progresses, more darkness is uncovered, as shown through the intertwining of history and superheroes.By adding the JFK assassination, references to Russia and the Cold War, and the moon landing, Watchmen juxtaposes the fantastical with reality, showing you a backstory of a world hinted at in the book with supplementary material found at the end of each issue of the original comics. Using psychiatric reports, excerpts from autobiographies and newspapers, Watchmen uses this as a way of filling out the world’s history while also juxtaposing the comic book medium with other paper-based mediums. The photography motif is its play on other visual forms as well as the use of Bob Dylan’s song, where the combination of visual and sound creates film, thereby recreating that same juxtaposition the original comic did.
While the opening credits create the past of the world it presents, it also establishes the next generation. Dr. Manhattan Billy Crudup), being the only hero in this world with actual superpowers, is connected to America’s positive aspects: the lunar landing and shaking hands with JFK. He is associated with power and accomplishment. But a hero like Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), alluded to with his card resembling his mask, is associated with brutality. The modern Night Owl is shown as an art piece by Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup Cans, tying into the pop culture of the world and the commodification of the super hero. Even regal presence of Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), juxtaposed with the crowded slum visually establishes Ozymandias as his namesake: a conqueror modeled after conquerors of old, looking at his “subjects” which he wants to bring to the world.
Opening credits can be more than courtesy to the cast and crew of the film. It can be a tool that can effectively and concisely distill the themes of the story. Most films now use end credits to do interesting artistic displays distilling the film experience like a highlight reel. For an example of this, check out the end credits for any Marvel Studios film starting with Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013) and every proceeding film produced by them. Watchmen’s opening credits can only be at the beginning. Showing it at any other point, the information and context would be pointless. This tool in a filmmaker’s toolbox should not be forgotten or overlooked because of perceived impatience by an audience. You can paint an entire tone and mission statement for the audience and create a sort of movie within a movie at the same time. And with this tool, Zack Snyder finds a way to adapt his use of slow motion with the montage to create an ode to a genre that gained legitimacy because of its source material.
MOORE, ALAN. WATCHMEN. DC COMICS, 1986-1987.
Snyder, Zack, director. Watchmen. Warner Brothers, 2009.
Black, Shane, director. Iron Man 3. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2013
By Dylan Delaney
Bohemian Rhapsody is the 2018 biopic of rock and roll legend Freddie Mercury and Queen. It captures their initial formation, and the years leading up to their famous Live Aid concert appearance in 1985. Queen fans or really anyone who has heard their popular hits are going to love this film. Not only does it bring them back to life, but it also tells the story behind how they came to be.
Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury has been very well received considering the complexity of the character, and the skill level required to convincingly pull it off. Replicating Mercury’s unique demeanor and stage presence was no easy task. Malek said that he worked with a choreographer to master Freddie’s mannerisms and dance moves. The vocals were a combination of Malek’s and the original soundtrack. Malek has explained in interviews that he met Brian May and Roger Taylor, the remaining members of Queen, at Abbey Road Studio in London prior to receiving the role. He also took voice and piano lessons beforehand in preparation. The actual Queen members were involved with production, which added to the film’s overall authenticity. Another large attribute of becoming the character was his false teeth, which helped him understand that specific insecurity. Needless to say, he did a fantastic job.
Music defines this entire film, and emotionally unifies the members of the group who “don’t belong together”. Most of the popular Queen songs are incorporated into the film. If they aren't literally sung, then they are played as background music. Given that the film is well over two hours long, they could only highlight their major hits. Seeing the unique behind the scenes process of how the songs came to be is fascinating, and makes you appreciate them even more.
With any success story, there is always plenty of conflict. Controversy has surrounded the film related to how much attention would be paid towards Freddie’s sexuality. From the moment the trailer was initially released, only a brief shot of an intimate moment between him and another man was seen. Compare that to his relationship with Mary Austin, which is repeatedly shown, there was an apparent imbalance. Regardless, the film does a good job touching upon the various aspects of his career while still addressing other important areas.
The final sequence of Live Aid concert is truly spectacular. Live Aid was global initiative meant to raise one million pounds for the hungry affected by the Ethiopian famine. Every little detail was recreated, down to the Pepsi cups on the piano. There are a few shots in particular that left my eyebrows raised. Experiencing the film in IMAX is also incredible, especially during all of the concert sequences. It is extremely immersive, and simulates the viewer as being a member of the crowd.
From the fantastic visuals and performances, Bohemian Rhapsody beautifully recreates the iconic moments which shaped Queen's legacy.
Written by: Dylan Delaney
By Bill Friedell
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Johnson, 2017) is the eighth film in the Star Wars saga of films. The movie picks up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015) left off. Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks the guidance of world weary Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), both to train her and help the diminishing Resistance due to the destruction of the New Republic. Meanwhile, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) come up with a dangerous plan to save the Resistance from destruction at the hand of the First Order, with the help of Resistance engineer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). The Last Jedi may have been the most controversial of the Disney released Star Wars films, or possibly any. And while I don’t believe it to be perfect, The Last Jedi presents a more retrospective and contemplative take on the franchise through the themes and characterizations, reconciling the past of the franchise while finding the future path it should take.
The most compelling characters in the story are Luke, Rey, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Daisy Ridley sells Rey’s confusion as she tries to find her place. She has this powerful connection to the force and she doesn’t understand it. Adam Driver also excels even more than in Force Awakens. His inversion of the hero's journey (the villain’s journey, if you will). Mark Hamill gives perhaps his best performance in this film. He was given the hardest role to sell to the audience, a Luke who has seen so much go wrong that he is in a crisis of faith in the force and the “Jedi religion”. This isn’t the same Luke we left at the end of Return of the Jedi (Marquand, 1983). But, Hamill brilliantly sells this idea, especially when he interacts with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee), where you can see the old Luke from the Original Trilogy emerges, showing his inner struggle his frustration with Rey and where he fits in her story. He has been through some of the greatest challenges and loses in his life; losing his Jedi Temple and being unable to prevent the turn of Ben Solo to Kylo Ren, tragically going through what his previous mentors went through when the Jedi first fell. Even Finn struggles with finding his place. He now has someone he cares for (Rey), but he still struggles with where he fits within the galaxy. He still wants to run away from the First Order, thinking the Resistance has no chance. But it is through meeting Rose, acting as the angel on his shoulder showing the injustice that permeates the galaxy, on a world that looks closest to Earth compared to other worlds, and D.J. (Benicio del Toro) acting as a devil on his shoulder, showing that the injustice is just a part of life, implying that Finn should live with it and even take advantage of it. To DJ, there are no good guys or bad guys.
Cinematography-wise, the movie is one of the best-looking Star Wars films, trying new techniques with the types of visuals such as the inventive use of mirror imagery when Rey enters a pit where the dark side resides. Its red motif offers distinction and danger, contrasting its various environments, such as in Supreme Leader Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) throne room and the brushed salt on the planet Crait, symbolizing the bleeding the Resistance is facing.Johnson also pays tribute to classic cinema . Its cinematography resembles the feel and scope of classic westerns and Korusawa-esque samurai films, both genres influencing the original Star Wars trilogy. While the Force Awakens brought more modern cinematography to table, The Last Jedi brings a more classical but still inventive visual look and camera penmanship, calling back to classic cinema like Wings (Wellman, 1927) in a tracking shot at Canto Bight’s casino. The influence of westerns and samurai films which were genres that influenced the Original Star Wars Trilogy, come to the forefront with a one on one duel that simulates the high noon feel of Luke’s decision to act as his wardrobe pays tribute to a samurai’s clothes as well as his own clothes from Return of the Jedi. In recalling these genres and homages to old films, Johnson returns to the past of movie genres to help understand and get at the heart of Star Wars.
Thematically, there is a treasure trove in the Last Jedi. The primary theme would have to be the relationship people have to the past and the future. A fundamental misreading of this film seems to come from people taking Kylo Ren’s viewpoint on the situation, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”. Because of how certain perceptions have taken the movie to be completely irreverent to Star Wars traditions, it has become popular to site this as the point of the movie. However, it is relevant through Luke and Rey’s journey. Luke learns that the past is something to learn from, especially failure. To completely forget the past is to make the same mistakes as before. The First Order is a perfect metaphor for this idea, being a returning Galactic Empire. The past needs to be remembered, but we cannot be weighed down by it, like Luke had let the past temporarily defeat him when he failed Ben Solo (Kylo Ren). Luke and Kylo believe the past should die, but Luke learns through the ghost of Yoda (Frank Oz) that the past, especially failure is to be a teacher.
In many ways, this brings in a meta narrative aspect of the film. Johnson is looking at what the fundamentals of a Star Wars movie is. What does the legend of Luke Skywalker mean to the audience? Johnson displays through Rey and the final shot of the movie, where the legend of Luke Skywalker inspires the generation to come. Rey, like the audience, knew him both as a legend, and more importantly, as a human being.
Now like I said earlier, Last Jedi isn’t a perfect movie. While the exploration of the past and future worked well, there are times where the movie can become unfocused or muddled in its messaging. For example, the movie wants to make the point that it is more important to live and protect what you love rather than sacrifice everything, but it appears to be the right move to sacrifice. With Finn alone prepared to sacrifice himself to protect everyone else, but Rose stops him from doing so. The message gets muddled when the situation seems to contradict the message. Also, there can be awkward portrayals that if shot or framed differently, could work. For example, Leia gets shot into space, still within the ships shields and uses the force to return back to the capitol ship. It’s shot to make it look like she’s Superman or Mary Poppins. With perhaps a different approach, this would be easier to swallow, but in its existent form seems far fetched. Another scene that suffers from this problem is the scene where Luke throws away his old lightsaber, rejecting Rey’s initial call for help, asking Luke to help the Resistance. This could be a moment where audience members gasp, but the timing of the scene makes it humorous. I don’t believe the director meant it to be funny, but with the tone the movie sets, it can be mistaken for a joke. Speaking of jokes, the humor for some people may be hit or miss, but I overall thought the jokes were in character for each, the jaded sarcasm of Luke, General Hux’s (Domhall Gleeson) lack of self-awareness, and Poe’s distraction method, similar to his classic line in Force Awakens, “Who talks first?”
While The Last Jedi may rub fans the wrong way in certain moments and asks you to understand a Luke who has suffered his greatest failure, the movie gives fans the chance to see the farm boy we met in 1977 overcome perhaps his greatest hurtle and gives the galaxy an ideal to strive for in the way nobody expects, much like his victory in Return of the Jedi as he finds victory as a true Jedi would, as well as mirroring his former masters. The journeys of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren take their next logical progressions, both completing arcs from the previous film and setting for what’s to come.
Johnson, Rian, director. Star Wars Episode VIII The Last Jedi. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2017.
Abrams, J.J., director. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2015.
Wellman, William. Wings. Paramount, 1927.
By Bill Friedell
With the upcoming release of Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2018), I thought I’d look back at the previous Avengers film, Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015). While it isn’t regarded as a terrible or bad film by most, many brush it off as being more of the same and bogged down in setting up future movies, as well as other complaints. While I agree it isn’t among the very best MCU movies, I feel like it gets dismissed too easily. Age of Ultron brings us further into the dynamics of the team and allows us to truly understand who the Avengers are. If Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012) is about how "Earth’s mightiest heroes" can come together, Age of Ultron is an exploration of how the group operates afterwards. Avengers is the story of flawed “gods” from different creeds and backgrounds coming together for one shared cause. Age of Ultron is the story of monsters, as seen in the various members of the team, either creating monsters or being monsters themselves, as shown through these archetypes; the mad scientist and the monster continuing a cycle of violence that threatens everything.
The mad scientist has been a major figure of the horror and science fiction genre both in film and comic books. Typically, a mad scientist is a genius who wants to achieve something god-like, but end up creating something terrible. They create monsters. This goes back to Mary Shelly's classic novel, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist is a genius who wishes to achieve something god-like, but ends up creating an abomination, or, a monster. The most popular version of the mad scientist in film, also Victor Frankenstein, was forever defined by Colin Clive in the 1931 adaptation, Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931), which defined the mad scientist as singularly driven to the point of raving madness, but realizes what he has created and tries to deal with the monster himself as best he can (Frankenstein). The influence of this movie has not only influenced movies, but comic books themselves. Originally, Lex Luthor, Superman's arch nemesis was introduced as a mad scientist (Siegel, Shuster). An even more direct translation is Dr. Bruce Banner, irradiating himself, whether intentionally or accidently, becomes both man and monster. Sympathetic and dangerous (Lee, Kirby).
But for Joss Whedon, most obvious “mad scientist” of Age of Ultron is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Tony Stark is a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” who has far from a perfect record. As said in Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013), “We create our own demons”. Tony used to create weapons, demons of his own design and the reverberations of that have been felt even after he shuts down the weapons program at his company. Most, if not all of Iron Man’s villains in the MCU are the result of technology he created, especially his final weapon, the Iron Man suit. Iron Monger in the original Iron Man, (Jon Favreau, 2008) is made of the scraps of Tony’s original armor, and Whiplash in Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010) creates the arc reactor technology he uses to make his whip weapons based on his father’s work as well as Tony’s. But not only did he create demons and monsters through technology; he also made monsters through his character. The primary example of this is Aldrich Killian, the villain of Iron Man 3. Tony brushing off Killian’s offer to join his think tank inspired his scheme to take over the war on terror behind the scenes. Tony has created countless problems and demons to face, which doesn’t end in Age of Ultron.
But Stark isn’t the only mad scientist of the group. Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is unique in that he is both mad scientist and monster. He made himself into the Hulk to recreate the super soldier serum of Captain America and also assists Iron Man in scientific endeavors, such as creating Ultron. He is Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein’s monster, and Victor Frankenstein rolled into one. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) can also be considered monsters. Captain America is the result of experimentation. Now, pulled out of the 1940s, Cap is a man out of time. He doesn’t know where he fits in. In being a man out of time, he has become an outsider, as seen in the running joke of Cap pointing out Tony’s “language”, merely out of force of habit because of the time he came up in. Black Widow was taken to the Red Room, trained since childhood to become an assassin. She has no place in the world, she admits to her teacher, and is solidified in a “graduation ceremony” where Black Widow is sterilized, unable to bear children. Her entire self was violated and manipulated into making her a killer, a guilt she carries with her to this day. It's the “red in her ledger” she refers to in the first Avengers. Even Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is grappling with the idea that he is going to be a monster to his own people, having a vision of Ragnarok; the death of Asgard, brought about by him.
This is all best summarized by Ultron, saying, “Everyone creates what they dread. Men of peace create engines of war, invaders create avengers, people create… children, designed to supplant them. To help...end them”. Ultron sees himself as the child of Stark and that it is his duty to supplant him. This is particularly shown in Ultron’s personality, mirroring Stark’s quippy, smug, personality. Ultron is representative of this cycle of “creating what we dread”. Iron Man makes way for Killians, Ironmongers, and Ultrons. Hydras create Shields, which rebirth Hydra (Captain America Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo). \
The movie, particularly, the character of Ultron, employs many Biblical allusions. Ultron refers to Captain America as “God’s righteous man. Pretending that you can live without a war." He first meets the twins in a church, which was built in the center of the town, so that everyone will be equally close to God, and says he will “build his church” on vibranium (his chosen rock). He equates his plan with God flooding the world, which points to the fact that Ultron believes that he is God and that it is his duty to destroy humanity so that it will evolve and create peace. His sitting in the center of the church is like God sitting on his throne.
Let's go back to that line referring to Cap as the righteous man. Here, Ultron is pointing out that Captain America is a soldier, and without a war, he has no place. The Avengers gave Cap an avenue to continue the fight, to retain his sense of purpose. In many ways, this is what the Avengers are here for: to stop threats to the world. If there are no threats, no more Avengers. If there are threats, the cycle continues. This was why Tony wanted to create Ultron: to be the suit of armor to protect the earth from cosmic threats like the Chittari from the first Avengers. But in doing that, Tony created another threat. Another demon to dread.
So, we know this cycle: man creates monster, monster creates more monsters. How do you break the cycle? In the text of the movie, the answer is found in the character called Vision (Paul Bettany). While created by Ultron to be his final form, Tony and the Avengers put Jarvis (Tony’s personal A.I) into the body. Banner rightly points out that this is what exactly got them into this situation, which Tony replies, “We’re mad scientists. We’re monsters, buddy. And you’ve gotta own it. Make a stand. It's not a loop. It's the end of the line”. Tony has finally become self-aware of his actions. His preventative measures and ego have put themselves there. He is who he is, just as Banner is condemned to who he is. So, with Jarvis inside and Thor zapping the metal body with lightning (much like Dr. Frankenstein giving his monster life), Vision represents a being entirely new, referencing Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14), saying “I’m not Ultron. I’m not Jarvis. I am… I am”. Vision doesn’t wish Ultron dead. But he knows he must be stopped to preserve life. A born Avenger. The cycle must be recognized and something new must form to stop the cycle of violence.
The cycle clearly hasn’t stopped in these movies, seeing how the MCU continues to this day. But there is acknowledgement of the failings and troubles of these characters we all come to admire. While we know from their own movies and even the previous Avengers film that these are far from flawless people, Age of Ultron addresses the idea the demons they create are a cycle, much like others in the superhero genre. Some villains are self-made; others are born of the heroes, or even exist merely to challenge them. But what makes the Avengers special is that they acknowledge the nature of this cycle and must understand that they must own up to what they have wrought, which is perfectly encapsulated in Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) words to Wanda Maximoff, “Its your fault, it's everyone's fault. Who cares? Are you up for this? Are you? I need to know, because the city is flying. The city is flying, there’s an army of robots… and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense… It doesn’t matter what you did, or what you were, if you go out there, you fight… but if you step out that door, you are an Avenger”. It’s up to us to own our mistakes and we can choose what to do next. Ignore the problem or stand for change. We are all responsible. We create monsters. We transgress against each other all the time. As Banner says and Ultron realizes, the biggest threat to people are people. As Vision observes, “Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that”. Avengers: Age of Ultron is an exploration of what it means to be human, like most all art, by capturing the worst and best of humanity.
Whedon, Joss, director. Avengers: Age of Ultron. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2015
Whedon, Joss, director. The Avengers. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2012.
Black, Shane, director. Iron Man 3. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2013.
Favreau, Jon, director. Iron Man. Paramount Pictures, 2008.
Favreau, Jon, director. Iron Man 2. Paramount Pictures, 2010.
Russo, Anthony and Joe Russo, directors. Captain America: Winter Soldier. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2014
Whale, James, director. Frankenstein. Universal Pictures, 1931.
King James Bible. Holman Bible Publishers, 1973.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Frankenstein.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 Apr. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/Frankenstein.
Siegel, Jerry (w), Shuster, Joe (p, i). Action Comics #23 (1940). DC Comics.
Lee, Stan (w), Kirby, Jack (p), Reinman, Paul (i). "The Hulk" The Incredible Hulk 1 (May 1962)
Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother (Julia Roberts) meet with the principal at his Beecher Prep orientation (Wonder, Chbosky, 2017)
by Megan Hess
R.J. Palacio’s debut novel Wonder – the story of a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetically inherited craniofacial deformity, attending school for the first time – has become an instant classic in middle-grade fiction, transcending its original audience. I read the book a year or two ago – before the movie came out, at any rate – and my feelings on it echo the personal and critical praise it has received. Palacio has a strong command of character and plot, and I keep Googling her, looking for news of the next project (a currently fruitless endeavor, but I hold out hope…) I didn’t get to catch the movie during its theatrical run, but I ended up seeing it twice in one weekend later on. My few critiques aside (we’ll get to them later on), I really applaud the Wonder cast and crew for retaining the spirit of the book. Adaptation is a tricky business, and, when the source material is well-loved like Wonder, it multiplies the challenges.
In the film, Auggie’s sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) uses an astronomical metaphor for her family structure: Auggie is the sun, and she and her parents are planets. This metaphor could apply to the structure of the book and film as well; Auggie’s perspective is supplemented by sections narrated by other characters in the book. I was pleased that the film took this same approach; I think it’s essential to the story structure. Although they scaled back the overall diversity in the characters, the film still had elements of racial diversity – at least a realistic amount for upper-middle-class\upper-class Brooklyn. There’s even an interracial relationship between two major characters.
Justin (Nadji Jeter) flirts with Via (Izabela Vidovic) as they walk home from school.
Overall, Wonder has a really strong cast. Based on this movie and the first installment of the IT reboot (Muschetti, 2017), I would label 2017 as “The Year of Stellar Child Acting.” Even though Jacob Tremblay played the main character, I’m not as interested in talking about his performance as much; he’s already had a lot of mainstream recognition for previous films, as well as this one. Noah Jupe brought spirit and heart into his portrayal of Jack Will, Auggie’s best friend at Beecher Prep. (At the time of this writing, you can currently see him in A Quiet Place (Krasinski, 2018)) Bryce Gheisar had a tough role to play as Wonder’s antagonist, Julian, a smarmy, two-faced trust-fund kid who instigates most of the teasing targeting Auggie. His character is imbued with complexity, so that that by the end of the narrative, he’s not as bad off as he seems. Palacio wrote a side story called “The Julian Chapter” which talks about some of the events of Wonder from Julian’s POV. Gheisar’s performance makes me wish they had included it in the film, even though it’s not part of the original book. The best moment between their two characters is their extremely satisfying fight scene - full of tension, character development, and even humor. Izabela Vidovic, who plays Auggie’s sister Via, has primarily worked in TV before Wonder, but she’s too good to be relegated to small-screen bit parts.
Besides their talent, one of the reasons I’m so impressed with the young cast is because of the adult co-stars with whom they have to share the spotlight. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson play the Pullman parents, and have such excellent chemistry that it surprised me to read that they hadn’t worked together onscreen before Wonder. They have many enjoyable scenes together, but my favorite isolates their relationship, without the distractions of work and family life. Despite all the difficult circumstances they’ve endured together, they’re still able to keep the spark alive….
The Pullmans attend Auggie’s fifth grade graduation (Wonder, Chbosky, 2017)
The adult presence in the film also includes two excellent educators: Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin) and Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs). While their characters are a bit cliché – Patinkin plays the wise old owl principal, while Diggs is the hip and with-it young teacher – they fit their personalities so perfectly that it’s a passable affront. If you’re a fan of the musical Hamilton, which introduced Diggs into mainstream American popular culture and beyond, it’s a bit jarring to see him in such a tame role after his firecracker Broadway performance. When the sass comes out, it’s more subtle, and a pleasant surprise. There’s also moments of touching tenderness – like Mr. Browne comforting Jack Will after his fight with Julian - which we never saw with Lafayette and Jefferson. Overall, it really makes the case for his nuanced talent, and I hope he has more of a screen presence in the future. I also loved Crystal Lowe as Julian’s mom. It’s a small part of the movie, but large in importance, and she nailed the nuances of the character.
Thus far, I’ve listed all the things I’ve enjoyed about Wonder. Now it’s (finally) time for the critiques. Other reviewers have commented on the fact that they would have rather seen Auggie played by an actor with actual facial differences, not someone who needed a prosthetic to look that way. I agree with this, and also think they downplayed his look. It’s possible that, over the course of the film, I just got used to Auggie’s face, and it didn’t shock me anymore…but it didn’t shock me that much in the first place. Perhaps the effect is different on younger audiences – and perhaps they had those younger audiences in mind when they sculpted his face, not wanting to frighten them too much – but I think that discomfort, and being able to transcend it, is an important part of the storyline, for actors and audience alike.
Changes to source material almost always occur in the adaptation process, and Wonder is no different. I’m usually fairly picky about this – as much as I know it’s natural – but only one confused and irritated me to the point it’s worth discussing here. Towards the end of the book, the Beecher Prep fifth graders go on a field trip to a nature reserve, where Auggie gets attacked in the woods at night by a group of older students, who make off with one of his hearing aids after scaring him and pushing him around a bit. Film Wonder keeps this moment, but lessens the tension considerably by setting it during the day instead – and his hearing aid isn’t stolen because he doesn’t wear them in the first place. I’m thinking they did this to reduce the fear factor it might evoke in younger audience members, but it feels like a cop-out, evading a genuine empathetic moment. Being scared by a movie isn’t always fun, but sometimes it’s necessary.
If you’re not ready to cry, this is not the movie for you. However, if you would like an emotional and thought-provoking experience, Wonder might be a good choice for movie night.
Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) looks to her public (I, Tonya, Gillespie, 2018)
by Megan Hess
Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya (2018) is the Maleficent (Stromberg, 2014) of biopics. What makes the analogy doubly appropriate is that, to many past and present figure skaters, along with fans of the sport, Tonya Harding is certainly “The Mistress of All Evil.” Although she was the first woman in the world to perform the triple axel in competition, most people only remember her alleged involvement in the brutal attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan, not her athletic capacity. Vilified and lambasted by society, she never got the chance to tell her story. Patriarchy came for Tonya Harding, as it comes for all women – even those, like Nancy Kerrigan, who seem to conform to its demands. This analysis will examine how I, Tonya, shows Harding’s diversions from gender norms - specifically looking at cultural context, dress, and behavior – and how they impacted her success in the figure-skating community.
A tense dinner between Tonya (Margot Robbie) and her mother (Allison Janney) (I, Tonya, Gillespie, 2018)
Harding’s rise to fame occurred in the 1980s’, an interesting time for American women…on and off the ice. The push for a return to “family values” in the 1980s’ tried to bury the consciousness raised during the women’s movement the past two decades before. On some level, they succeeded – pushing feminism into hibernation after the divisive “sex wars” of the antipornography movement and the failed attempt to pass the Equal Rights Amendment – but they couldn’t undo the female empowerment gains made during the past two decades of activism and scholarship. However, feminism had not touched the figure skating world. In fact, regarding gender roles and conduct, it was frozen in time. As Tonya says in the film “it’s a sport where the friggin' judges want you to be this old-timey version of what a woman is supposed to be.”
Like many popular women’s sports, appearance factors into an athlete’s success in skating. One of the judges even admits to Tonya that “we also judge on presentation.” Specifically, if a female skater is a) physically attractive by contemporary social norms and b) outfits herself in the manner the judges and audience are accustomed to, she finds she will do better than if she disregards these elements. The judges objectify the skater, yet an overtly sexual “look” will count against her score. Like ballerinas, skaters must have a feminine, graceful, look.
As a young girl, Tonya adheres to the ideal more because her coach has more influence on her. However, she still stands out. For example, Diane (Julianne Nicholson) encourages LaVona (Allison Janney) to buy Tonya a fur coat so that she blends in with the other young skaters. She knows Tonya’s lower-class background will impact her presentation, and, therefore, her scores. So she gets one…technically.
Young Tonya’s (McKenna Grace) “fur coat” - and her response to all those who ridicule the gift (I, Tonya, Gillespie, 2018)
As a young adult, she pushes back against the system. Typically, skaters had – and still do, to some extent - a more typically feminine look: long hair and soft color palettes. By comparison, the first time the viewer sees teenage Tonya, she has short hair and wears a bold blue and yellow skating costume – standing tall and proud on the ice.
Tonya at a younger, more innocent, less controversial time in her life (I, Tonya, Gillespie, 2018)
Her bright-colored costumes, which she wears throughout the film, reflect her confidence in her own skill as a skater - which the judges and more traditional members of the figure skating community see as such an affront. However, as she struggles to be accepted by this group, she tries to acquiesce. When Tonya leaves her mother, she cannot afford the expensive costumes she needs for performing. She sews a pink skating outfit that she thinks looks more like what the other skaters wear. (But it still gets that special Tonya touch – she sews a butt bow on it.)
Tonya – wearing her pink skating outfit – is shocked by her low scores (I, Tonya, Gillespie, 2018)
However, even after all her hard work training and sewing, she does not get the scores she thinks she deserves. It’s even implied that her handmade costume loses her points. Those go to her contemporaries who toe the party line a bit better – for example, Nancy Kerrigan…
I, Tonya subverts audience expectations by choosing not to pit Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding against each other. Instead of going for the cheap thrill of a catfight, it makes things more interesting. A “Man vs Society” conflict drives Gillespie’s film: Tonya vs the corrupt, classist, sexist, system of the late 20th-century US figure skating scene. Nancy and Tonya were both entangled in the machine, but Nancy could work the system better than Tonya because she typified its ideals. She does not have a strong presence in the film. Her most standout moment is, of course, the iconic scene post-knee-bashing. As she grips her leg and wails “Why?” she wears a white lace skating costume reminiscent of a young girl’s First Communion dress. The media – and the movie - used this image for juxtaposition. Now Nancy Kerrigan was the Cinderella of the skating world, and Tonya was just the ugly stepsister. She should have stood out for her ability, but she was cast out for not fitting the mold.
Tonya, tasting success, with no idea that she'll have it all taken away very soon.... (I, Tonya, Gillespie, 2018)
It wasn’t just Tonya’s style that limited her success. Her behavior set her back as well. Frequently in I, Tonya, instead of just taking her scores and leaving, she confronts the judges over their biased treatment, even calling them out for the classism inherent in the sport. The way she does this – directly, on the ice, instead of speaking to them in private after her skate – and calling definitely contributes to the judges’ collective dislike. In one scene, Tonya confronts a skating official after a competition in a parking garage, accusing them of treating her poorly. In response, he tells her that their negative feelings towards her come out of not wanting to promote her because of how she diverges from their wholesome, all-American girl model. This hurts her not only in later competitions, but also when the Kerrigan controversy breaks. It’s possible to argue that if Tonya was more well-liked, they wouldn’t have gone after her so aggressively. While Tonya does not have to serve jail time for her alleged involvement in the attack, she does not escape punishment. She gets put on probation for three years and sentenced to 500 hours community service on top of fines. This seems like punishment enough for her role, but the US Figure Skating Association takes it one step farther, banning Harding from skating professionally… for life. Instead of accepting her punishment and (in the words of Dylan Thomas) “going quietly into that good night,” Tonya tries to protest: “All I did was the hindering of prosecution. What, you're never gonna let me skate again? I mean, I'd rather do the jail time. Please, they only got eighteen months. They got eighteen months, I'll do that. Your honor, I don't have an education. All I know is skating. That's all I know. I am no one if I can't skate….I mean, I'm not some monster. I'm trying to do my best. It's like you're giving me a life sentence if you do that, you can't do that.” Instead of rewarding Tonya’s feminine vulnerability, the judges hold to their initial decision, and wash their hands of her forever.
Over 20 years have passed since Tonya’s last skate, and much has changed about the figure skating world that was so hostile towards her. While still primarily a domain of wealthy whites, minority skaters have made their mark – for example, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan. Black women still do not have a significant mainstream presence in American figure skating, but there have been some talented black American female skaters, like Debi Thomas and, most recently Starr Andrews. Catherine Machado is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and was the first Latina woman to represent the US in the Olympic Games in 1956. On the men's side, we have openly gay figure skaters like Johnny Weir and Adam Rippon. At the same time as all this diversity has been introduced, much has not changed. Skating is still tied to the thin, ultrafeminine ideal and is more high-cost than other sports. It’s curious to see if these things will ever change, but these developments give us hope. It’s too late for Tonya Harding, but perhaps not for a similar girl in the future.
When it comes to Japanese-animated films, most people are usually familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s work from Spirited Away (2001) to My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and others. However, 2016's Your Name (Shinkai) is one that shows that Japan’s creative vision can and will continue forward after Miyazaki is long gone.
Your Name is the story of two teenagers who discover they are connected to each other beyond time and space. Mitsuha Miyamizu (Stephanie Sheh), a girl in a small rural town, and Taki Tachibana (Michael Sinterniklaas), a boy working in the middle of Tokyo, discover that they switch bodies in their sleep. Through writing notes down on their hands and in their phones, they work together to improve each other’s lives. When Taki wants to visit Mitsuha in her town, he finds everything is not how it seems, and that Mitsuha’s future is in danger. Taki and Mitsuha must work together to survive and push past all obstacles so they can finally meet in-person.
A part of Japanese culture that plays a major role throughout Your Name is the “red string of fate.” The legends behind it say that people connected by it are irrevocably tied to each other through a vein that starts at someone’s heart, passes through the pinky, and to another person’s heart (American culture represents this myth through the “pinky promise”). Though the string can lengthen or tangle, it can never break (Monasterio, 2015). In the film, Mitsuha wears a red string as a hair tie. A flashback/dream sequence depicts Mitsuha reaching out to Taki using the string, trying to connect with him. Taki is also shown wearing a red string, using it as a bracelet. Mitsuha’s grandmother Hitoha (Glynis Ellis) reiterates the ideas behind the red string of fate when talking about “Musubi” or the flow of time and how all things in the universe are connected. The cords of the universe, as she says, “converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, and hone connect again.”
The film uses the red string to not only fuel the relationship between the two leads but also to inspire hope that they’ll finally meet. As Mitsuha and Taki learn more about each other, the forces of nature sever their connection through the comet Tiamat. It is revealed that Mitsuha lived three years in the past apart from Taki, and that she died when a piece of the comet struck her town. Taki decides he is going to change the past so he can prevent Mistuha’s death so that they can meet. Despite the absurdly impossible conditions that Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship exists in, they always find a way to keep their bond strong.
Your Name is not only a great story about how two people can overcome obstacles that get in the way of their relationship, it is also a great story about how close friendships are made and maintained. When Mitsuha and Taki discover that they are switching bodies with each other, they each come up with a list of do’s and don’ts for whenever they are switched. They are honest with each other, telling each other what helps and hurts them to do. This is a good example for what healthy relationships should look like, whether they are platonic or romantic. Meanwhile, having each other literally in their lives shakes up their routine. While Taki acts more assertive and confident in Mitsuha’s body, making her more popular with her peers, Mitsuha acts more kind and caring in Taki’s body, making him more appealing to his crush Miki Okudera (Laura Post).
Your Name is a heart-warming, hopeful story about friendship that literally transcends time and space, and a recommended watch for fans of Japanese animation and movies in general.
Monasterio, Lucia Ortiz, "The Legend of the Red String in Japan" Faena, 6 Nov 2015, http://www.faena.com/aleph/articles/the-legend-of-the-red-string-of-japan/