Category Archives: A&E

Five Reasons to Rock Out at Rocky Horror

Published Oct. 2, 2012. See it here.

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If you aren’t already familiar with the ultimate cult classic known as the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Halloween is the perfect time to get acquainted with its glamorous greatness. Every Friday at midnight, the historic Plaza Theater on Ponce de Leon projects this campy, corset-y, 1970s musical and allows Atlanta’s own Lips Down on Dixie cast to do its thang. They’ve been at it for more than a decade, so they pretty much have it down to a science. Or rather, a science fiction/double feature. Although the Plaza faithfully features the film every week, we have five reasons why October is the best time to go.

1. Nothing says “Happy Halloween” quite like a singing, transsexual, mad scientist.

2. The plot is like a sexed up version of a Halloween literary classic, Frankenstein, plus a few aliens, some Cabaret-worthy costumes, and a whole lot of eyeliner.

3. Dressing up is always encouraged so it’s good practice for the Big Day. We recommend wearing any garment covered in glitter.

4. If you’ve never been, the devoted Lips Down on Dixie cast plants performers among the audience to help clue newbies in on when to throw things, when to shout obscenities and when to get up and dance. So don’t be intimated by the long line of fishnet-clad fans at the box office. The LDOD staff is guaranteed to be on their Welcome Wagon Game during Halloween.

5. You get to do the Time Warp. It’s like a less cheesy version of the Monster Mash. If the Plaza were a graveyard, it would definitely be a graveyard smash. It also works much like a séance, briefly allowing Time Warp-ers to contact the immortal spirit of All Hallows’ Eve itself.

So toss those inhibitions aside, slap on the reddest lipstick you can find and get ready to embrace your inner creature of the night at the Plaza. Tickets cost $8 each.

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2012-2013 Year in Review: Movies

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Printed April 26, 2013. Published version here.

Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. These three names alone should be enough to tell you that “Silver Linings Playbook” is awesome. Yes, this acting trifecta certainly helps confirm this movie’s claim to greatness. It’s really not all about the cast, though. I swear.

That being said, Jennifer Lawrence triumphs for her role with wit and finesse. The Oscar it earned her was well-deserved and not just because everyone felt bad for her when she tripped.

She plays a widow named Tiffany who, donned in modern mourning clothes, acts as confident on the outside as she is crushed on the inside.

“Silver Linings Playbook” offers audiences a distinct blend of romance, drama and comedy that’s a far cry from typical rom-com material. The leading couple, should you care to call them that, comes to know each other through frank discussions of their various psychiatric conditions.

Mental health is a topic not often explored with such openness and humor in film — or in life — and “Silver Linings” handles it admirably.

Screenwriter/director David O. Russell balances the serious issues with dialogue full of quick quips, a whole lot of Eagles football, a Raisin-Bran date and, of course, a ballroom dancing competition. The film manages to be edgy without losing its heart. Some call it the rejuvenation of the romantic comedy.

I just call it genius.

Jazz on the Green 2013

Printed April 16, 2013. Published version here.

Last Thursday at 6 p.m. on the Dobbs University Center (DUC) terraces, April showers gave way to the melodic powers of the Emory Jazz Combos. Originally planned as an outdoor jazz event for the Patterson Pavilion between the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts and the Goizueta Business School, the so-called “Jazz on the Green” had to relocate due to wetter weather conditions.

Fortunately, the change in locale did nothing to diminish the resolve of the musicians whose superior performances proved that improvisation is more than just a musical skill.

The concert was divided into two parts, the first part featuring the Emory Jazz Band and the second part showcasing the Emory Jazz Combos.

Promptly at 6 p.m., the silky smooth sounds of jazz began flowing from instruments sans verbal introduction.

Throughout the show, the musicians quickly transitioned from one song to another, providing themselves only the briefest of pauses to accept applause. It seems that the Emory Jazz groups would rather let their instruments speak for themselves when it comes to music.

Director of Jazz Studies Gary Motley and Emory Jazz Artist Affiliates Chris Riggenbach and Justin Chesarek — on keyboard, double bass and drums, respectively — provided the backbone of the band’s music, leaving the trumpet, trombone and trio of saxophones to administer most of the complex compositional flourishes.

Almost every member of the band became a soloist at some point during the introductory songs. Polished solos were met with smatterings of applause and an occasional cheer from enthusiastic onlookers.

They followed the opening number with an upbeat, toe-tap-inducing ditty that piqued the curiosity of passersby. Many pedestrians aimed impressed facial expressions toward the band and a number of intrigued students stopped to appreciate the live music for a minute or two before resuming their walk through the balmy spring night.

Once the full band had finished their fourth or fifth song (and more than a few audience-members had snapped a photograph of the striking ensemble), it was the smaller combinations’ turn to practice their art.

As it states on the Emory music department website, “the primary focus of these groups is on gaining experience in improvising and soloing for each participant.” The website goes on to cite “individual expression as well as group interaction and cohesiveness” as key facets of the Emory Jazz Combos’ mission. What the online description fails to mention, however, is the pure joy with which each artist plays his or her particular instrument.

The brass instruments were traded out for the softer jazz guitar in this second, more mellow section of the hour.

The guitarist picked out unpredictable melodies on the steely strings of his instrument while saxophone, double bass and keyboard filled in harmonies underneath.

A gentle rain shower and a faint rumble of thunder accompanied this particular set, sending the audience scooting farther under the DUC’s awnings and somehow adding to the peaceful ambience of the event.

The last and smallest jazz combo closed the event with a relaxing, keyboard-heavy lineup that naturally dissolved into the cloudy Atlanta twilight.

Throughout the event, as the hour grew later, more and more people joined the crowd, confirming the infectious power of the art form.

What began as a gathering of perhaps a dozen more musically-inclined individuals swelled to include a respectable group of students, faculty and community members of all ages.

While some braved the pollen-coated chairs and benches, others opted to stand or meander around the terrace, mingling with fellow spectators. The unassuming nature of the music in the latter half of the show encouraged the audience to let loose, leaving people free to chit-chat and enjoy each other’s company. One well-equipped group brought along refreshments in coolers and Tupperware containers, contributing to the pleasant casual quality of the evening.

There will be a second Jazz on the Green at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 25. Weather permitting, it will take place in the open air of the Patterson Pavilion.

The two-part concert series is intended as a celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month (aptly abbreviated JAM), an annual festival in honor of jazz as an extraordinary American art form. The festival, which first began in 2001, is the brainchild of musical historian John Edward Hasse.

The informal vibe of the Jazz on the Green concerts allows for an earnest, unostentatious celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month.

Last week’s Jazz on the Green at the DUC demonstrated that jazz need not be the stuff of department stores, elevators and waiting rooms. It’s a playful, energetic genre, filled with all the rising, falling, snaking and looping of an acoustic rollercoaster.

It commands the ears’ attention without disturbing the mind and, as the highly diverse crowd of last week’s performance can attest to, it brings different sectors of the Emory community together. And that’s surely something to be appreciated.

Cinematheque Celebrates Universal

Print Jan. 29, 2013. Published version here.

This spring, Emory’s Department of Film and Media Studies continues Cinematheque, a series of free 35mm film screenings every Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm, from Jan. 30 to Apr. 24 in White Hall 205. For 2013, Emory College and the Department of Film and Media Studies join forces to show the series “Universal Pictures: Celebrating 100 Years” presented by American Express and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Film. Emory is the only venue in the southeast to host the touring series of outstanding Universal Pictures films, as well as one of very few venues in the Southeast to screen 35mm programming.

According to the department’s website, the series, curated by film and media studies faculty, will include 12 films, two documentaries and two special features hosted by Sir Salman Rushdie. The diverse slate of films, spanning from 1931 to the 2000s, is meant to illustrate Universal’s diverse output through the decades.

“Every decade is represented from the 1930s to the 2000s except the 1970s … Back in the day, each studio had a pretty specific identity (Universal had horror films in the 1930s, hence the double feature on the 13th; pink Technicolor comedies in the late fifties, 1960s, hence Pillow Talk) comprised of genre, star and visual style,” Dr. Matthew Bernstein explained in an email to the Wheel.

Such shifts in focus are to be expected from a centenarian movie studio. As the oldest continuously operating producer-distributor in the U.S., Universal Pictures has explored a myriad of cinematic styles. German-born Carl Laemmle founded the pioneering Hollywood movie studio in April 1912. Although popular movie genres and filmmaking techniques have changed dramatically in its century’s worth of production, the iconic spinning globe logo has remained the same.

Throughout its history, Universal Pictures has strived to strike a balance between prestigious and popular entertainment, often questioning the distinction altogether. From the 1930s horror flicks “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” to the 1980s blockbuster “Back to the Future,” the films selected for the series surely reflect Universal’s ongoing struggle to let art and profitability share the screen.
One may not expect the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds” or the highly accoladed “Apollo 13” to appear in the same series as a 2005 Judd Apatow comedy, but the film studies department wanted to showcase the Universal ancestry in its entirety.

“Perhaps the biggest surprise for students is “The 40 Year-old Virgin.” As the first feature film to make a huge splash from Judd Apatow and his crew, we thought it was important to link this highly successful comedy with the Technicolor fantasies, melodramas, horror films, sci-fi, rom-coms and westerns that preceded it,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein feels fortunate to have been asked to screen the series and expressed his hopes to see large audiences come out to White Hall on Wednesday nights this semester. “Our series take a lot of time and work, and we offer them to the entire campus community,” he said.

All screenings are free and unticketed. For the full list of film titles, visit the film studies website.

Shadowboxers Interview

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Printed Oct. 9, 2012. Published version here.

The story of the Shadowboxers is a transcontinental tale of hard work and talent. And they only graduated in 2011.

The musical journey began right here at Emory University where Scott Schwartz (‘11BBA), Adam Hoffman (‘11BBA) and Matt Lipkins (‘11C) met during their freshmen year. The boys quickly discovered their respective musical abilities fit together in perfect harmony.

If you’ve never heard of the Shadowboxers, it’s time to get acquainted with a soulful slice of Emory history. Be sure to drop by Eddie’s Attic on Oct. 12 to see these ambitious band mates jam in Atlanta before touring across the country.

Back in 2008 the original trio entered the first-annual Emory Arts Competition on a whim. At the time, they were just three sophomores with a nameless band and a song they had written for a music theory class assignment. They ended up winning the first place prize and subsequently started playing shows all around Atlanta.

Since that fateful talent competition, a lot has happened to the little trio that could. For one, they’ve quit doing gigs as simply “Matt, Scott and Adam” and have come up with a name that they hope evokes “the sentiments of old school rhythm and soul,” Schwartz said.

Beyond the addition of the spiffy penumbral moniker, the band has grown to include five musicians. Jaron Pearlman and Ben Williams joined the founding members during their senior year, playing drums and bass respectively.

The Shadowboxers’ sound is much like a cross-germination experiment in today’s musical genres. They’re pop, but not bubblegum. They’re smooth, but they aren’t exactly easy-listening. And they often dare to combine R&B-worthy vocals with instrumentation that closely resembles rock and roll.

When asked about their musical influences in an interview with the Wheel, the band articulated a particular passion for Motown and 1970’s. Lauded names of past and present music legends flowed freely from the mouths of the band mates. Everyone from Crosby, Stills and Nash, Stevie Wonder and the Allman Brothers to John Mayer and Dr. Dog got shout outs. From such a revered roster of idols, it’s easy to tell that quality vocals are key to the Shadowboxers’ musical outlook.

“We’re a harmony band because we’re all singers,” said Lipkins, the band’s lead vocalist and keyboardist.

In light of recent events, it seemed germane to discuss the band’s views on Emory’s standing as an artistic community. The Shadowboxers agreed that they would not have gotten where they are without Emory. They made many core connections through the Emory network.

However, the band didn’t always feel love from their alma mater.

“There wasn’t a lot of support for students to form a rock band. Nothing was built in for that to happen. There was no infrastructure,” Hoffman said. “In a way, we benefitted from being the only band on campus – when someone needed one, we were there.”

The band worked hard to make itself known on a campus that wasn’t the most band-friendly. They view it as “a blessing in disguise” since they might have received less recognition in a more artistically involved environment.

Schwartz asserts that it takes more initiative to find success in a creative field at Emory, but he remains hopeful for the future of Emory musicians. “I hope we’ve left a legacy encouraging musicians [because we] covered new ground,” Shwartz said. “Ultimately, the work of individuals can trump the work of the school.”

Lipkins suggested that their art may have benefitted more from Emory’s academic resources. “Adam took a lot of creative writing classes that were very helpful for songwriting, and I try to link music and psychology as much as possible,” Lipkins said. “I think it helped, having an understanding of group dynamics.”

The last time the Wheel featured this homegrown group, the Shadowboxers were bidding Atlanta farewell, ready to embark on a tour of the country with fellow Emory alums and Atlanta natives Amy Ray (‘86C) and Emily Saliers (‘85C) of the Indigo Girls.

Now, they’ll be joining the Indigo Girls for another tour in just a few weeks. So far, their relationship with the folk-rock duo has been a fruitful one.

“Touring with them is awesome for so many reasons. We get to play incredible venues that we wouldn’t be able to get in on our own,” Hoffman said. “They have incredible fans who know all the words so that’s great to be around. Plus, we’re getting our name out there and seeing the country.”

Schwartz likewise appreciates the veteran duo’s influence. “They’re both a good example of professionalism,” he said.

Lipkins explained that the Shadowboxers’ musical style may not be as different from the Indigo Girls’ as one might think. Both groups value tight harmonies, eloquent songwriting and choruses that pack a melodic punch.

“We revitalize their songs that have been heard for 20 plus years with our soul-pop element,” Schwartz said.

This past spring, the Shadowboxers recorded a full-length album entitled Red Room, which will be released in early 2013. They gathered material for their lyrics mainly from personal experience, but they’re definitely open to songwriting experimentation.

“[We’re] trying to write from a more story-telling perspective… writing from our own experience, the opposite experience or someone else’s experience,” Hoffman said.

The Shadowboxers look forward to showcasing their inventive songwriting styles on the new album, and they can’t wait to share their music with a wider audience.

Future aspirations may include lofty words like “booking agent” and “album debut,” but these Emory grads have stayed down to earth through it all.

In terms of what the Shadowboxers want to do after the much-anticipated album release, Lipkins put it simply: “To not screw it up.”

“None of us have goals in terms of fame or monetary success, if we can play music continually and live comfortably, I think that’s a goal of all of ours,” Hoffman said. “If we can establish a fan-base who finds joy in what we do – that’s really our goal.”