Friday, May 27, 2016


Expletives echo off the walls of North Santiam Hall 207 as a dragon systematically roasts and devours six valiant heroes, bringing their month-long quest to an end.

But that’s just another day at LBCC’s RPG (role-playing game) Club, where a tight-knit group of friends spend their afternoons exploring mystical lands of wonder, conquering formidable foes dwelling in dank dungeons, and desperately resisting the urge to kill each other’s characters along the way.

Starting summer term, the club will be meeting every Monday from noon to 3 p.m. in Red Cedar Hall room 116.

“I just love the flexibility of tabletop role-playing games,” said club representative Nik Geier. “You can do whatever comes into your imagination, so there’s a huge amount of tactics and improvising.”

Geier has occupied the role of club leader and game master since the beginning of spring term, mostly running campaigns through the tabletop staple “Pathfinder.”

“We’ve played other games. A member actually developed her own gaming system after a manga she liked, so for a while we traded off between that and 'Pathfinder'.” We also dipped a bit into the 'Serenity' RPG, and that was a lot of fun,” said Geier.

Although a mutual love for role playing is what first brought the RPG club together, the friendly atmosphere is what keeps its members coming back.

“I love the gaming, but the best part is just getting together with friends and having a good time,” said member Jordan Eade.

“We laugh together, we share the joy of victory, and it’s basically a second family,” said Nicholas Carrol.

But the RPG Club is always looking for new players, and its long-time members are eager to accommodate anyone unfamiliar with the hobby.

“Just hold no preconceptions, jump in with both feet, and ask for as much help as necessary from a veteran player,” said Mattie Guilliams.

Phil Rezanow is one such veteran, with over 20 years of tabletop gaming experience.

“I'm easily the oldest person in the group at 40, but the group was very welcoming and I leave each session excited for the next week,” said Rezanow.

And now would be the perfect time to join, as the RPG Club is just about to kick off a brand new campaign around “Dungeons and Dragons: Fifth Edition.”

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Daniel Brockgreitens.

At a Glance:


Adviser: Rob Griffin

Representative: Nik Geier

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why the Original “Star Wars” Trilogy is Overrated.

Wow, that title is an impeccable example of whorish clickbait, isn’t it? Add only a number, and the words “that will blow your mind,” and it’s downright Buzzfeed worthy. So before I take an ouroboros adventure up my own ass, let me put this on record:

I love “Star Wars.”

I loved “Star wars” before I ever saw “Star Wars,” with fond adolescent memories of collapsible plastic lightsaber duels that left welts for days. And by adolescent, of course I mean from the age of five, to two weeks ago.

I view bitching about midi-chlorians as a respectable vocation, and “Knights of the Old Republic” ushered me into the tar-pit that is western RPG gaming, a pastime that is far-and-away the most time-exhaustive leisure activity of my life, with the second being sleeping.

And now that we’re all good and sad about my aversion to standing, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why I think the original trilogy is a Rancor of an overhyped beast, an opinion that brings me no self-gratification.

Yet it won’t go away.

First, I’d like to change my previous statement from “I loved ‘Star wars’ before I ever saw it” to “I saw ‘Star Wars’ before I ever saw it.” According to IMDB, “A New Hope” is the most referenced film of all time, so it’s no wonder why essentially every scene was spoiled for me by the time I got around to putting those botched Special Editions into our family’s lone VCR. I remember the “Luke, I am your father” twist being spoiled during “Toy Story 2,” Mel Brooks’s “Space Balls” lampooned away most of the other mysteries, and everything else about the film I inferred from dialogue in Kevin Smith movies and episodes of “South Park” (my parents weren’t the most attentive).

It was inescapable. “Star Wars” was like air, lingering in every conceivable corner of pop-culture.
Forget about the series’ uber fanaticism (although I’ll get to that later), this is the apex film franchise of two entire generations, perhaps only recently usurped by “Harry Potter” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s too massive of a pop-culture cornerstone to not be overrated. At some point, you have to look at all of the countless toys, shirts, and assorted baubles and trinkets plastered with Darth Vader’s mug shot and ask yourself, is any strip of celluloid worthy of a $30 billion empire?

And the fact that Lucasfilm was swallowed by Disney doesn’t help either. That company has approved business practices so evil they’d turn Lex Luther’s pubes grey.

This blizzard of merchandising means that “Star Wars” no longer belongs to any single niche group. And at this point, the real weirdos are those who don’t consider themselves fans of the franchise.

“When I meet people my age, men especially, less so women, there’s this sense we share that those movies shaped our childhoods,” said Stephen Rust, an English and film instructor at the University of Oregon. “For some reason, things like comics, and “Star Trek,” and even “Harry Potter” have been viewed slightly more in terms of nerd-culture. While you can admit to being a “Star Wars” fan without falling into any nerd-grouping.”

“Star Wars” has an accessibility that is unmatched by any of its nerd-culture contemporaries, stemming from the elegance and simplicity of its narrative. So many elements of the original trilogy are timeless, drawing on ancient mythological storytelling as way to create something enjoyable regardless of age or upbringing.

And there lies the problem

“Star Wars” is nowhere near the be-all and end-all of filmmaking; it’s the foundation on which understanding of storytelling can be built.

And yet still, the American Film Institute lists “A New Hope” at #13 on their 100 greatest American films ever made, surpassing such arty darlings as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey” (at 15) and F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” (at an astonishingly low 82).

I know it’s futile to complain about the order of a movie list. AFI has created it with the help of 1,500 film experts, all who are far more knowledgeable than myself, but there seems to be a disconnect here. “Star Wars” is the rudiments that should lead to more complex work, and I feel like I just watched “Chopsticks” edge out “The Rite of Spring.”

But really, the AFI list is an anomaly, as the scholarly perception of “Star Wars” has always placed somewhere between mindless entertainment, and the impetus for the decline of films-as-art. Contrarian critic Pauline Kael dismissed it entirely, describing its absence of beauty and lyricism (whatever the hell that means), while film historians cite the trilogy as the birth of popcorn intensive summer blockbusters. 

If cynical cinephiles ruled the world, the release of “Star Wars” would be remembered as an historical event akin to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Worse in fact, because at least that led to “Take Me Out.” Until recently, the most recognizable canonical aspect of the “Star Wars” legacy was a Jamaican CGI comic relief character.

So when I write “’Star Wars’ is overrated” I’m speaking strictly on a blue collar level. About the accumulation of love over filmmaking history, and when comparing quality against cultural impact, the original trilogy is almost inarguably overrated.

But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The saving grace of its overexposure actually comes from those fanatics I mentioned earlier, devoting years of their lives to creating fan-fiction, costumes, and other creative works in devotion to the series.

When considering the expanded universe, with its volumes upon volumes of story arcs encapsulating thousands of years of fictional history, it isn’t out of bounds to say that the blind admiration this franchise inspires has resulted in more creativity than any other.

Then Disney came along and etch-a-sketched the shit out of it, but no matter.

 Along with “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” is the dawn of fandom, and a niche phenomenon that has evolved into something much more. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Everybody Wants Some!!" Review

During the release of 2014’s “Boyhood,” many critics assumed the film’s main character (a bratty, teenage, aspiring photographer with a surprisingly punch-able face) was meant to be a surrogate for the film’s writer and director, Richard Linklater.

However, Linklater was quick to deny this in interviews, as he told Rolling Stone Magazine, “I was an ex-jock. I had to make a choice which side of me to show, and I bet on the ethereal, arty guy as a more interesting kid.”

In hindsight, accusations of a creator stand-in should have been reserved for his newest film, “Everybody Wants Some!!,” as its central character seems to fit the ethereal jock role quite nicely. The movie is now showing at Eugene's Bijou Art Cinemas.

In the fall of 1980, Jake (Blake Jenner) is an up-and-coming baseball star moving to Southeast Texas for his freshman year of college, bringing with him only a knapsack of tawdry clothing, and an impossibly diverse vinyl record collection. (I mean, seriously? The Talking Heads and Crosby, Stills and Nash? My suspension of disbelief will only stretch so far.) He rooms in a small house on campus with his teammates, a ragtag group of college prospects, as they spend their nights embarking on testosterone-driven quests for sex and alcohol.

Billed as a spiritual successor to Linklater’s 1993 film “Dazed and Confused,” “Everybody Wants Some!!” shares that film’s inescapable sense of nostalgia, attempting to capture the early '80’s through the thickest pair of rose-colored glasses.

As it's still early into the decade, many of the more persistent trends of the '70's seep through. Meaning, disco fortunately isn’t dead yet. Only dying, and relegated to on campus dance clubs, which apparently are magical wonderlands where 18-year-olds are offered free beer, and people unironically wear some of the most kitsch shit ever manufactured by sentient life. Yes, '70’s fashion is still in full swing, as we haven’t yet stocked every Goodwill from coast to coast with discarded bellbottoms and tins of mustache wax.

The decade to come is only hinted at, as the boys partake in a “Wayne’s World”-esque car ride singalong to The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight,” and perform some cathartic moshing at a punk-rock concert. Of course both hip-hop and punk will become homogenized into American culture by the decade’s end, but here they’re still very much esoteric. As the team’s slack-jawed catcher puts it, “I don’t know man, I kinda like Van Halen.”

Like any place filled with unchecked alpha males, the team’s house immediately descends into an environment of competition and machismo pride. Be it “Whose ping-pong skills reign supreme?” or “Who can achieve the most biblical bong rip?” every facile interaction is taken as an opportunity to assert male dominance.

Their banter of back-and-fourth bullshitting is brilliant, and it makes “Everybody Wants Some!!” Linklater’s most consistent comedy since“School of Rock.” Though the director receives much of his props from Sundance kids who won’t shut up about his career long meditation on the human perception of time (or some bullshit, i dunno), this is a reminder that he’s also the man who gave us the funniest Jack Black performance ("High Fidelity" notwithstanding). Even if dialogue between teammates can be incredibly crass, peppered with antiquated misogyny and homophobia, it rarely feels forced or inauthentic.

The opposing voice to Jake’s macho surroundings is Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a theatre major with strawberry auburn hair who reciprocates his appreciation for poetry and music and, essentially anything not involving a jock strap. On the surface, she checks every box of the manic-pixie-dream-girl archetype, but Deutch’s on-screen affability and Linklater’s deft script both assist in circumventing the trope. She ends up feeling like an actual person, rather than a crutch devised to move the story forward.

Linklater has proven to have a knack for writing animated dialogue between two equally well-educated souls. His “Before” trilogy is a fan favorite among weepy cinephiles (myself included *sniff) for exactly this reason, and he employs this same conversation technique with Jake and Beverly. Neither of them are experts in the heady topics they attempt to explore, but they both have an aptitude and awareness that captures the “I’m a college freshmen and I have ideas damn it” mindset. It can be assured that Linklater has spent enough time participating in intelligent discussion and, more importantly, has listened, as opposed to waiting to talk.

Jake’s “jock or artist” dichotomy becomes the crux of the entire picture. This inner conflict isn’t exactly original, but what differentiates “Everybody Wants Some!!” from other such coming-of-age films is that Jake's transition from youth to adulthood feels almost ancillary. Unlike “Dazed and Confused” or “American Graffiti” that emphasize the importance of character choices, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is about the discovery that choices exist in the first place. We only witness the three days leading up to Jake’s fall term, closing out just shy of his first classroom lecture. As a result, his revelations are unobtrusive. He’s someone cautiously approaching a crossroads, and we view him just before his crucial pivot.

But what direction will he turn? Here’s hoping Linklater gets around to answering that someday.

Maybe in another 23 years.


At a Glance:

Title: “Everybody Wants Some!!”

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Will Brittain, J. Quinton Johnson, Temple Baker, Juston Street

Richard Linklater's "Everybody Wants Some!!" is a consistently pleasant time-capsule, complete with a talented cast of soon-to-be known young actors.

See it at Eugene's Bijou Art Cinemas at 3:30 and 8:30.

Monday, April 25, 2016

PJ Harvey's “The Hope Six Demolition Project” Review

Released during the height of grunge, PJ Harvey’s 1993 album “Rid of Me” proved once and for all that copying the post-post-hardcore sound of The Pixies was no longer strictly a man’s sport.

But nobody sold it quite like Nirvana.

Alright, that’s not exactly fair. Sure, “Rid of Me” is breakup-balm through and through, but what differentiated Harvey from most of the decade’s lovesick, flannel-clad indie-kids was she didn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself.

Instead of dwelling in moroseness, or trying her hand at sly sneak-dissing, Harvey is absolutely venomous on this record. Fueled by a drilling guitar sound, and drums that could collapse mountains, she came off as an artist set to kill, a public image she would run from her entire career.

As she told the Chicago Tribune, “People have a very specific idea of what I am-some kind of ax-wielding, man-eating Vampira- and I'm not that at all.”

Unfortunately for Harvey, the title track’s mantra of “Don’t you wish you never met her?” had listeners nodding both to the rhythm, and in agreement.

But forget the snark, “Rid of Me” is nothing short of amazing, and a seminal piece of feminist pop music (Alanis Morissette ain’t got shit).

She didn’t stick with her “Surfer Rosa”-centric sound for long, and her career-spanning effort of continuous genre jumping is truly something to witness. 2000's “Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea” is a pop-rock love letter to urban living, while her last album, “Let England Shake” in 2011, is a starkly beautiful dirge filled with horrific World War I imagery. The only thing these two records have in common is they both gained Harvey TheMercury Prize (which are like Grammys, but they matter), making her the only artist in history to win two.

The point is, expectations should go out the window with each new PJ Harvey release. She is the archetype of the critical darling, oddball art-rocker, and her refusal to be comfortably pegged down is something all musicians should envy.


Throughout her career, Harvey has been described in many ways; explorative, eccentric, fucking magical (man-eating Vampira). But not really controversial.

That changed earlier this month, when she caused a media shit storm with the release of “The Community of Hope,” the opening track off her new album “The Hope Six Demolition Project.”

It was an indie rock banger, hidden under a thin coat of fuzz, and held together with steady cowbell. However, the controversy wasn’t Christopher Walken demanding his favorite instrument receive greater representation (because the universe isn’t that awesome), it was Washington, D.C. politicians accusing Harvey of defaming their city.

The song makes clear reference to the DC neighborhood of Ward 7, and doesn’t exactly paint it in the most positive light.

Here's the highway to death and destruction
South Capitol is its name
And the school just looks like shit-hole
Does that look like a nice place?

No one likes to have their town be called a shit-hole, and Harvey could have used a lesson or two in tact before she decided to piss off a population of 6,105, according to City-Data.

But beneath her callous descriptions, the song is actually a rant against the gentrifying consequences of neighborhood reconstruction projects that, although improving property value, force out lower income families. This is where a central theme of the record, the systematic apathy towards the needs of society’s poorest individuals, first materializes. Of course, this is just one of several social problems Harvey  this record.

Written during her travels to both DC and Kosovo, Afghanistan in 2014 "The Hope Six Demolition Project" is without a doubt the most politically charged work of Harvey's career. 

Though she seems to be a very passionate and intelligent person, at least if her interviews are any indication, Harvey's decision to commentate on world issues has varying results as her level of insight on this record fluctuates wildly from compelling observation, to shallow preachiness.

The album’s penultimate track “The Wheel” details a deadly amusement park ride that causes children to disappear in its spin. The song dissipates with repetitions of “watch them fade out,” leaving this deep feeling of emptiness, and evoking thoughts of children lost to war.

On the other end, we have “A Line in the Sand,” a track that is ultimately too blunt to inspire. Though its bouncy rhythm is pleasing, the song’s overtness will try the listener’s patience, with the opening lines:

How to stop the murdering?
By now we should have learned —
If we don’t then we’re a sham
Bad overwhelms the good.

While the topics Harvey explores in this album are undoubtedly significant, her revelations are at times less than enlightening. Every legitimate insight is undermined by instances of banality, as Harvey is at her best when she illustrates rather than sermonizes.

Still, even if bits of naiveté are present here and there, the production on this album is consistently lush and exciting.

Handled by the same producers who helmed her last record (Flood and John Parish) it features a dense soundscape of what must be every instrument under the sun. Seriously, these guys are miracle makers. This album’s bloated personnel list (What the hell is a hurdy-gurdy?) would have dissolved into chaos in lesser hands.

Instead the compositions are assured, and maybe even accessible in some cases.

The four blasts of noise that repeat throughout the course of “The Ministry of Defence” bombards the listener like muted tank shells, creating the ominous sense of anticipation of a slasher flick. And “The Orange Monkey” has a primal drumline and enchanting background vocal that (at least instrumentally) add up to one of the record’s lighter moments.

However, the music is not always so welcoming, and Harvey lets in just enough stray oddities to keep the arty spectrum of her fan base satisfied (she's a Captain Beefheart fan after all).

The seemingly nonsensical sax solo that closes out “The Ministry of Social Affairs” is an album high point.

It’s just so raw and forceful. While the “Did you know homelessness is a thing?” message on the first half of the track may fall flat, this solo’s attack on the senses will get across frustration better than words ever could.

The most significant instrument on the album proves to be Harvey herself, as her vocal work is stunning. On her last album, “Let England Shake,” she stuck almost exclusively to her fragile upper register, while here her range is more comprehensive. The fuller tone of her voice on the bluesy “Chain of Keys” contrasts well with her siren call on “River Anacostia.” Harvey's singing on every track is emotionally resonant, with special acknowledgement for her performance on the closer “Dollar, Dollar.”

“The Hope Six Demolition Project” is an uneven, but diverse collection of songs from pop music’s leading lady in esoteric beauty. It’s not the best she’s ever done, but with this album PJ Harvey once again reminds us why she's needed. In a cultural landscape that favors the entertaining over the challenging, it’s good to know that there is still a bastion for listeners who don’t restrict their music to the background.

Reading into her lyrics may reveal cracks, but at least they’re worth analyzing in the first place.


At a glance:

PJ Harvey is an English grunge-rocker turned art-rocker who's been making music since the early 90's.

Artist Website:

PJ Harvey's “The Hope Six Demolition Project” is a gorgeous, though infrequently trite, collection of music.


1."The Community of Hope"  
2."The Ministry of Defence"  
3."A Line in the Sand"  
4."Chain of Keys"  
5."River Anacostia"  
6."Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln"  
7."The Orange Monkey"  
9."The Ministry of Social Affairs"  
10."The Wheel"  
11."Dollar, Dollar"  

"Eye in the Sky" Review

Drone strike technology has effectively given world powers the finger of God.

Face-to-face combat is no longer needed to quell global conflict, as targets can now be eliminated from thousands of miles away, with the same device used to play “Angry Birds.”

This horrifying reality is the driving force of Gavin Woods “Eye in the Sky,” a film that attempts to explore the ethical implications of a drone strike scenario.

It mostly succeeds through effective suspense and crystal-clear filmmaking, though its lack of restraint and simplistic characters leave something to be desired.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) of the British Armed Forces leads a surveillance mission for the purpose of locating and capturing international terrorists hiding out in Kenya. The mission escalates to a kill order when three of the top 10 most wanted terrorists in the world are tracked under the same roof, a small shack in Nairobi preparing for a suicide bombing. Powell corresponds with political leaders in Britain, military personnel in Nevada, and undercover agents in Kenya as they prepare for the drone strike. When a 9-year-old Kenyan girl enters the strikes kill zone, all parties are forced to assess the moral, political, and military implications of their attack.

“Eye in the Sky” never overtly establishes a political agenda. It instead creates moral ambiguity by exploring the pros and cons of the situation while leaving judgment to the viewer. The effort to blur the line between aggressor and victim is laudable, but the execution is off, as the moral conflict isn’t shown as a full spectrum of grays but as a clash between two extreme viewpoints.

The result is some shallow characterization. The military officials never waver in their “bomb now” approach, showing a disdain for rules and procedure that border on John McClane levels. A female political advisor is steadfast in her “think of the children” ideology, while every other decisive voice is a weasel-like politicians, constantly “referring up” to their superiors as a way to avoid responsibility.

Conversely, the Kenyan girl’s family are shown as idyllic and pure. Our introduction to them is a father repairing his daughters hula-hoop, shown at the height of humility, not able to afford a new ring of plastic. Even if a poor young girl playing hula-hoop does illicit a desired audience response of harmonic “Awww,” this depiction can at times feel corny. The family comes off as angelic as opposed to real.

Issues with character portrayal aside, the film builds tension perfectly. Stakes are raised with each passing second, accentuated beautifully with continuous cross cutting and pulsing score. The constant stream of edits can be confusing if your focus wavers, but it’s an intensely rewarding experience for the attentive viewer.

There’s never a moment where the movie lets up. It maintains a tight grip throughout its entirety, leaving the audience thoroughly wrung-out and staggering away from the theatre when it comes to a close.

“Eye in the Sky’s” craft is impeccable, but the film’s most impressive feat is its ability to inspire lofty ideas. Though military officials and politicians are tasked with approving a drone strike, all of the risks of an attack are held by their subordinates. Undercover agents on the ground are in constant threat of enemy capture, and when an attack order is given, low-ranking military personnel hold the mental burden of pulling the trigger.

The victims of drone strike collateral damage are apolitical, and their lives are destroyed incidentally with very little understanding of why. There’s no attempt to hide the fact that this creates a perception of ruthless cruelty, and breeds hate in the population who experience it.

But what is the alternative, allow terrorists to carry out atrocious acts? Though the human capital lost in drone strikes may be great, it likely comes nowhere near the amount of suffering caused in their absence.

Do the ends justify the means, or is it fighting evil with evil?

These are the type of questions “Eye in the Sky” desperately wants the audience to ask, and the provocative conversations that will occur after the credits roll are more than worth the price of admission.

The film is in memory of the late Alan Rickman, who plays the John McClane like general mentioned before (taking a break from the Hans Gruber side). Perhaps best known for his work as Snape in the Harry Potter series, he was a quality on screen presence, boasting a consistency few character actors could match, as well as an often imitated baritone that was sensuous and spine-tingling.

He will be missed.


At a glance:

“Eye in the Sky” is a provocative, suspenseful thriller from a sizeable array of talent.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Hardcore Henry" Review

Does anyone remember the 2005 film adaption of “Doom?”

 It featured Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike before either knew how to act, and was meant to be a star vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, back when his middle name might as well have been ‘The -Rock.’

 It’s no surprise if you can’t; essentially everything about that movie was forgettable.

Everything except for an action sequence toward the end, shot entirely in first person as a way to imitate the film's video game roots. Unfortunately, by this point the movie had already planted its feet firmly in artistic bankruptcy, and no amount of fan service could save it.

 But that didn’t stop one unified thought from passing through the mind of every audience member, or at least the ones who hadn’t yet fled the theatre.

 “What mistakes led me to watch this?”

 And after that.

 “Hey, this is almost cool. What if they shot the whole thing like this?”

 Low and behold, a mere 11 years later and that collective curiosity has come to fruition with Ilya Naishuller’s “Hardcore Henry,” an action film shot entirely in first-person via a head-mounted GoPro Hero 3.

 The POV (point-of-view) gimmick may predictably wear thin, but “Hardcore Henry” has at the very least enough trashy low-brow delights to fill its short runtime.

 There isn’t much of a plot to talk about here, which is to be expected from a movie titled “Hardcore Henry.” Henry, our silent protagonist, awakes on an operating table with a bad case of narrative induced amnesia. He’s greeted by his fiancé Estelle (Haley Bennett), who informs him that much of his fragile human fleshy-bits have been replaced by cybernetic enhancements, effectively turning him into a one-man-killing-machine. Their reunion is cut short however, when the lab is destroyed and Estelle is kidnapped by the film’s main antagonist Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), a telekinetic with a thick Russian accent and impeccably groomed snow-white hair. Henry must now save his fiancé, and stop Akan from creating an army of mindless super soldiers to take over the world.

 Because that’s what supervillains do when they’re not busy building giant moon lasers.

 From the very first action scene, the limitations of the POV technique become apparent. Without the agency that comes with video game control, a first-person chase scene and gunfight becomes jarring. At best the action sequences are only mildly confusing, at worst the shaky cam can cause sensory overload and nausea.

 This issue does lessen as the film progresses and your brain adapts to “Henry’s” special brand of chaos, but it still doesn’t change the fact that first-person is not an effective way to film action. It lacks the momentum and grace that can be achieved with traditional cinematography, never giving the audience clear perspective by isolating them to a single viewpoint. The attempt at absolute escapism is admirable, but in practice it fails spectacularly.

 The novelty is a dud.

 However, the first person perspective does excel at showing close-up brutal violence, and in “Hardcore Henry” that is frequent.

 This is definitely not a film for the squeamish, and some of its more gratuitous moments managed to provoke the kind of wincing not heard outside the “Paper-Cuts” stunt from “Jack-Ass.”

 Though not based on any existing video game IP, “Hardcore Henry” shows clear affection for the dumbest and most testosterone fueled aspects of the medium, rushing through common first-person shooter clichés at breakneck speed. There’s a “Robocop”/”Halo: Combat Evolved”-esque opening tutorial sequence, boss battles, escort missions, and literal waypoints given to Henry by the NPC (non-player-character) Jimmy (Sharlto Copley), a didactic guide that repeatedly dies only to be brought back like he has a healthy supply of quarters.

 The film shows a surprising degree of precision at imitating the experience of a tasteless first person shooter, giving it an aesthetic that should be recognizable to anyone who’s ever played games like “Far Cry,” or “Call of Duty.” It’s enamored with brainless 80’s action, its attempts at jokes are crudely constructed yet well-timed, and the cartoony near-future-Russia setting is an open world sandbox in waiting, shallow but intriguing. Alone, these aspects seem detrimental to the enjoyment, but mixed together they create a cocktail of nostalgia that’s intoxicating.

 “Bad but fun” can’t help but feel like a lazy justification. And though Hardcore Henry never reaches the irreverent heights of something like “Crank” (Jason Stathom’s badassery trumps a blank slate main character any day), it’s escapist entertainment of the purest form. I walked out of the theatre with what I can only describe as a uniquely pleasant migraine, and I suppose the smile on my face must be worth something.


At a glance:

Hardcore Henry succeeds in everything it attempts, it just doesn't attempt a lot.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Chicano: Three Local Mexican Americans

What is a Chicano?

In an article written for The Huffington Post, comedian Cheech Marin answers this question with a resounding, "Who the hell knows?" perfectly capturing the ambiguous connotations of the label.

Chicano isn't a word embraced by all Mexican Americans, but those who identify by it do so with a deeply held pride for their own heritage.

The designation first grew in popularity during The Chicano Movement, or El Movimiento, a period of social protest that occurred alongside the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s for the purpose of self-empowerment among Hispanics. 

It focused on eliminating stereotypes, expanding educational opportunities for students, and improving working conditions for Californian migrant and seasonal farmworkers, an effort led by Cesar Chavez and the UFW, United Farm Workers of America.

It’s a movement that has echoed through time, spawning its own untapped well of culture, and inspiring a new generation of Mexican American artists, advocates, and educators.

These are three short accounts from two self-identified Chicanos, and one Chicana.


Picking Oregon strawberries as a child is Diversity Achievement Center Director Javier Cervantes’s earliest memory.

“I did that for many years of my life, I realized I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life, so I went to school,” said Cervantes. “I had been doing it since I was conscious, on and off from when I was 4 to when I was 16 years old.”

It’s a backbreaking job he inherited from his mother, a farmworker at the age of 8 picking fruit and vegetables in California.

Though her circumstances were dire, she was fortunate enough to have a very politically active family, one that did not hesitate to protest the mistreatment of Mexican American laborers.

She would accompany them as they marched alongside Cesar Chavez himself, participating in history in a way few are afforded.

Even though her association with the Chicano Movement was so integral to her youth, she never discussed the topic with her children.

It remained a secret to Javier until around 2006, when his mother noticed a t-shirt he was wearing depicting Chavez.

So of course, she decided to casually mention her involvement in the most pivotal time in Mexican American Civil Rights history.

“I asked her why she never told me,” said Cervantes.

Her response, “You never asked.”


LBCC art instructor Analee Fuentes and her sisters were able to use art as it should be used.

As a tool for change.

Raised by Margaret F. Stewart, a single mother and Rosie-the-Riveter-type, Fuentes’s connection with the Chicano Movement is direct and sincere.

Her half-sister Yolonda Lopez was a recognizable female voice of the movement in the late '70's, making waves by creating art that challenged both ethnic and gender stereotypes.

“She became an icon of the Chicano Movement and the woman’s movement for her portrayal of the Virgin of Guadalupe as a runner,” said Fuentes. “It was very controversial at the time, as there were very few female Mexican American role-models in art. Most depictions were passive, like maids or servants.”

The movement has equally affected Fuentes’s own art.

She cites works like her “Cruzundo La Frontera,” a view of skeletons crossing the U.S./Mexican border through binoculars, as directly influenced by Chicano ideals.

“Even in death we will be crossing the Mexico/California border!” said Fuentes.

But Fuentes’s affinity for Mexican American art and culture has not always been met with enthusiasm.

In October 2013, LBCC hosted an art gallery in celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead. The holiday has been a great source of artistic inspiration for Fuentes, and the event was meant to be a way of showcasing cultural diversity and understanding.

Apparently, someone didn’t get the memo, as the school received a letter from a concerned citizen who felt the display was “catering” to Mexicans.

Fuentes recalls a postcard riddled with ignorant racist clichés, like “Go back to where you came from.”

“I was born in the United States,” said Fuentes. ”Do they want me to go back to San Diego?”


The Albany Public Library hosted a screening of the PBS Chicano documentary “Prejudice and Pride” on Tuesday, April 5.

The event featured guest speaker Chicano historian Ronald Mize, an associate professor at OSU and the director of the campus’s Center for Latino Studies and Engagement, CL@SE.

Born in Denver in 1970, Mize’s introduction to El Movimiento came in the form of the ever-present photos of Cesar Chavez hanging on the walls, and the union magazines littering the floor of his grandparents' home.

His grandfather was part of the Mine Mill Union, an almost militant socialist labor organization that fought against wage-slavery.

Mine Mill is possibly best known for their involvement in the 1954 film “Salt of the Earth,” a pro-union, pro-feminism, and pro-socialism picture released during the height of McCarthyism.

The controversy surrounding its release resulted in the deportation of its lead actress, Rosaura Revueltas, as well as the blacklisting of director Herbert J. Biberman, producer Paul Jarrico, and writer Michael Wilson.

Mize’s cousin married the godson of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzáles, a radical figure in El Movimiento whose advocacy for self-determination among Chicanos through his group, Crusade for Justice, caught the attention of local law enforcement.

Mize recalls barbeques as a small child with the Gonzáles family, where food and fun were interrupted by police surveillance.

“Every time we had a barbeque, Denver cops would drive by, stop and stare at us,” Mize said. “Corky’s family had become accustomed to this. When they went to the grocery store they were tailed by police.”

He later added, “I was too young to be part of the movement at the time, but when looking back I realized I was always in the movement. Just by the virtue of the family I had.”


At a Glance:

Chicano Movement is a period of empowerment for Mexican Americans

The experiences of three people who identify as Chicano.

A few definitions of Chicano.

Ron Mize: “I think of it as a political label. To claim it is to identify with past struggles, and to connect with a community.” 

Analee Fuentes: “For me, it’s always been a Mexican American who has ties to and identifies with their culture. Being socially and politically aware of what it means to be an American in this day and age is what it means to be a Chicano.”

Javier Cervantes: “For me, it’s been a political awakening for my consciousness and my commitment to social justice. My commitment to my political ideology, my commitment to the community, and my commitment to what’s just is what makes me Chicano more than anything else.”

Something like the Chicano Movement, that has effected the lives of so many Americans, has surely created countless stories just like these.

It's not just history that’s been overlooked, it’s history that’s being written every day in the lives of the people who relate to its culture and philosophy.

View "Prejudice and Pride"

Javier Cervantes
Diversity Achievement Center
Forum: Room 202

Analee Fuentes
Office SSH 11

Ron Mize
Waldo Hall on OSU campus
Email @ instructor website