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The Paramount theater on the Downtown Mall — with its glowing vertical sign and art-deco presence — is a Charlottesville staple. The 88-year-old establishment reopened its doors in July after showing their last concert in March before COVID-19-related restrictions began. Since then it has adapted its programming drastically, from a live events model back to its roots as a cinema house, screening movies in its massive 1,000-seat theater. On Halloween afternoon, the theater screened the horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby” to a modest audience.
It can be tempting to categorize Hollywood films as visionary projects helmed by a director — in fact, it is a tradition now often criticized under the label “auteur theory.” But how much less iconic would franchises like “Star Wars” or “Jurassic Park” be without their ubiquitous melodies composed by John Williams? Would Christopher Nolan’s bombastic blockbusters really have the same weight stripped of their Hans Zimmer scores? Would David Fincher thrillers like “Gone Girl” and “The Social Network” be as enticingly menacing without electronic accompaniment from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross? All of the mentioned film scorers are respectively distinct and accomplished, but none of them have amassed as broad of a portfolio of Hollywood work as Thomas Newman, who since the start of his movie scoring career in 1982 has been responsible for original music in everything from “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E” to “The Shawshank Redemption.”
FX’s “Fargo” has always been a great adaptation of the Coen brothers’ 1996 film of the same name, particularly with a first season that felt right at home in the original’s snowy, barren but funny universe of good and evil. The show’s second and third seasons grew progressively more ambitious with new sets of stories set across different cities and time periods with loose connections to the original season. It comes as little surprise then, that the fourth season is the story’s most complex and sprawling iteration yet. The new season, which premiered with two episodes on FX Sunday night, is set in 1950s Kansas City and chronicles a conflict between the mafia and a new crime syndicate.
The original “Mulan” was released 22 years ago and is remembered today as an immensely charming product of the Disney ‘90s renaissance, thanks to its potent blend of multiculturalism, subversive twists on the classic Disney princess formula, memorable characters, banging musical score and simplistic yet beautiful aesthetic that complemented the story’s Eastern origins. In this latter respect Disney’s live action adaptation of “Mulan” does surprisingly well, containing inspired landscape compositions that are decorated and produced with immaculate care. As for recapturing the rest of the original’s magic, the 2020 adaptation of “Mulan” — like so many other things this year — falls short.
We live in a multimedia world. By that, I don’t just mean the way your professor shares their Powerpoint slides while speaking over a Zoom call, I’m talking about the versatility and adaptability of all the music and entertainment around us. Quarantine is a pretty terrible time for most things, but it can be an opportune time to bust out some music you haven’t discovered yet while you socially isolate and do a complementary activity. Here are some immersive combinations that should give you as close to a transcendent experience as you can have sans hallucogenic narcotics. Think of it as a soundtrack for the way life might be for some time.
HBO’s “Westworld” has always been a strangely positioned show. When it debuted in 2016, it seemed like a natural sci-fi complement to the network’s then fantasy hit “Game of Thrones.” The series is based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name, featuring a cowboy theme park in the future staffed by robotic “host” actors that run amok and kill the human guests. But while “Game of Thrones” stuck close to its source material in tone, theme and realistic, brutally-imagined fantasy setting, the TV series “Westworld” has always seemed brainier and more philosophical than its now somewhat dated and corny source material.
The night of Tuesday, March 3 was Super Tuesday in the United States, an evening that saw a national party picking a face to battle what many see as dangerous extremism in the Oval Office. The same night at Newcomb Theater, extremism was also being tackled by the Senegalese film “Baamum Nafi” — optionally translated as “Nafi’s Father.” Director and writer Mamadou Dia filmed the project in his hometown, utilizing mostly untrained actors.
Gaming is a complicated industry. Video games, once considered a niche children’s form of entertainment, have become a massive, several hundred billion dollar industry — bigger than music or film. Gaming’s role in culture has evolved from the “World of Warcraft” parody on South Park to streamers like Ninja playing Fortnite with “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah. Games are an undeniably mainstream phenomenon making tons of cash. Yet at the same time, the industry faces constant controversy over toxic fanbases, abusive working conditions for employees, casino-esque monetization schemes and being a breeding ground for the alt-right. The new Apple TV+ comedy “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” attempts to tackle all of these aspects of gaming — both ugly and positive — and it does so better than any other show has. It might indeed be the “Silicon Valley” of gaming — after HBO’s similarly styled comedy takedown of tech.
The most recent decade of network sitcoms has gotten progressively smarter, bolder and more revered. But long before “The Good Place” first aired or “The Office” saw a massive resurgence of popularity thanks to streaming, there was a genre-defying show on NBC called “Community.” The show — set in a community college — revolved around an absurdly diverse but lovable study group and has lain dormant since its conclusion in 2015. It does not have the clout of “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation” within the mainstream mindshare, yet it has remained relevant, and the talent it incubated is ubiquitous today. It deserves to be remembered for its innovativeness and being so ahead of its time.
While the field of art is often thought of as a progressive one, social critics — and artists themselves — have long complained of minority groups not being shown their due. A monolithic curation strategy is seen as out of touch and exclusive in a time where diversity is recognized as a strength. Museums and galleries are working to change this. At the University, the Fralin Museum of Art hopes to utilize its extensive historical collection and engage with diverse contemporary artists in order to present a broader range of art.
Streaming was supposed to be the solution to expensive cable packages. Now, it seems like the myriad of subscription options will shift money from the pockets of cable companies into the pockets of Big Tech. Netflix made its name as the de facto streaming king, and HBO grew into a titanic force on the back of “Game of Thrones” in the last decade — along with the rollout of its own cable-independent streaming service.
Smartphones — and the online infrastructure they run on — are seen today as inevitable, ubiquitous and perhaps even oppressive in their pervasiveness. Critics bemoan their invasion of everyday life, but the tech industry was seen as a well of optimism and dreams not long ago. Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude’s documentary “General Magic” is a look back before Facebook and Apple made headlines for privacy scandals or concerns over tech oligopolies.
HBO’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Watchmen” premiered on the network Sunday, and the series features a soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who have made waves in the film and television industry in the last decade as prolific musicians. The duo is releasing the soundtrack from the series as three separate LPs later this year, corresponding with events that will occur in the series itself. What many do not know, is that Trent Reznor was changing music by angrily screaming into grungy records decades before his clean, instrumental sound defined a new sound in Hollywood.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
The streaming wars are here, and every week seems to bring a new show of one-upmanship as one company or another proudly announces the revival, follow-up or sequel to a beloved intellectual property. Netflix had its moment of pride with the surprise reveal of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” this summer, a “Breaking Bad” sequel delivered in the format of a movie that had been filmed in secret only one year earlier.
“I’ve hurt so many people,” lead Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek) says in the premiere of Mr. Robot’s last season. “I have to make this right.” After four years, Sam Esmail’s innovative cyberpunk thriller “Mr. Robot” has evolved from a stylish, hacker-themed homage to “Fight Club” into a compelling modern fantasy about morality. The show — despite its dark themes and unreliable narrator — has never lacked a moral center. From the excellent pilot opener to its final remaining episodes, Elliot has remained a flawed character trying to do the right thing — whatever that means. He suffers from depression, social anxiety, drug addiction, and yet he sees the modern world better than any of television's more typical protagonists or antiheroes.
The streaming era of television has been a turbulent one for the creative industry, both praised for the freedom it gives artists and simultaneously criticized for oversaturating the media landscape with a scattershot approach to programming. The imaginative content it leads to, however, is a dream for many specific audiences. Lower key projects — like Netflix’s documentary series “Abstract: The Art of Design” — are a testament to the beauty of niche media produced to perfection. The series follows influential artists and designers of the modern world narrating their careers and creative processes, and its second season debuted quietly on the streaming service Wednesday.
“We are not scientists,” explained activist artists Yvonne Love and Gabrielle Russamongo when giving a talk on their latest work, currently on display in Ruffin Gallery. “Our entrance into this work was visual.” The pair of collaborating artists may not be climate scientists, but Russamongo’s photography and Love’s material-based sculptures tell a story of climate change that numbers and data cannot. Their work, titled “A Quick and Tragic Thaw,” was made possible thanks to the research of Environmental Science Professor Howard Epstein. Love and Russamongo have weaven a story through that data and materialized myriad climate maps, data, trends and migration patterns into an intimate and emotional installation.
“Television has never been bigger, television has never mattered more and television has never been this damn good,” Bryan Cranston said when introducing the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards airing on FOX Sunday night. If only a similar sentiment could be said about the Awards themselves, a prolonged menagerie of advertisement, occasionally interesting if predictable speeches — shoutout to Michelle Williams calling attention to the still very-real pay gap in the industry — and self-congratulation airing on a medium that loses relevance by the day. The Emmys in 2019 celebrated profoundly innovative television in a remarkably antiquated way — highlighting efforts by unique creators and pioneering streaming companies through the same channels that your grandparents watch their nightly network news.
Few would be shocked to discover a new espionage miniseries, based off historical events, written and produced by “Homeland” talent Gideon Raff. As premises for new shows go, it is a fairly formulaic recipe for success. What is surprising is that the star — the spy himself — would be none other than Sacha Baron Cohen, perhaps best known for pranking America with his series of parody personas like Borat and Ali G. In “The Spy,” Cohen portrays Eli Cohen, an Egyptian-born spy working for Mossad in the early ‘60s.