Spectre: The Blog Review

Spectre might be Daniel Craig’s last film as the enviable James Bond, but even if he returns, the film is part of an era of Bond that was transformative for the series. Films like Casino Royale and Skyfall were some of the better Bond films since the series inception in 1962. Sean Connery makes me giddy in a way none of the other Bond actors ever have, but goddamn if Craig didn’t come close to dethroning the king. Even if it Spectre isn’t as special as its predecessor Skyfall, it’s a bloody good Bond movie.

Even if you didn’t see Skyfall, you heard the eponymous track by Adele, which in my opinion, was one of the best songs of her career. How was the Bond series going to one-up the infallible Adele? With Sam Smith – duh. I’m not even that big a fan of the guy; I thought “Stay With Me” was un-inspired and boring.

But Spectre’s theme song, “Writing’s on the Wall” by Smith is a perfect balance of piercing falsetto mixed with epic operatics. The story hadn’t even started and this moving, tragic ballad had me tearing up.

Sam-Smith-Writings-On-The-Wall

Spectre is unapologetically sexy. Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux are both in peak form. Seydoux, who plays Bond girl Madeleine Swann, is breathtakingly beautiful; she’s reminiscent of Honor Blackman in Goldfinger or Marilyn Monroe in The Asphalt Jungle. She’s a total badass as well, saving Bond’s life at least twice. The two look ravishing together.

Plus, Bond is dressed to the nines in every scene. I want every outfit, even if I’m going to go into debt acquiring just one piece from his wardrobe. Fashionistas, check out a bunch of the looks from the film, neatly organized here.

After they kill Bond-baddie Mr. Hinx – played by former wrestler Dave Bautista – Bond and Swann lie panting on the floor of a moving train. Catching her breath, Swan asks innocently “What do we do now?” Cut to them ripping each other’s clothes off in their sleeper. The flirtation is minimal, the passion is raw.

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Scott Shane on the Lessons of Anwar Al-Awlaki

One of the things Scott Shane wants to impress on his audiences – both the readers of his book, Objective Troy, and the lecture-goers at his talk this past Friday – is that the digital age has severely complicated issues of national security and the spread of propaganda. In the twenty-first century, the United States uses Predator Drones – remotely controlled from military bases – to hit targets from over 1,000 miles away and a number of radical Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda harness the power of YouTube to recruit and inspire young Muslims around the world to commit terrorist attacks.

Scott Shane

Scott Shane

Brought to Brown by the Amnesty International Chapter and the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Scott Shane introduces himself by explaining that the journalism that led to Objective Troy started with some simple questions. What is the nature of terrorism? What leads someone to want to a kill a large group of strangers?

Then, diving into the topic at hand, Shane rewinds to New Mexico in 1971 – the place and date of Anwar Al-Awlaki’s birth. Awlaki would grow up to be Osama Bin Laden’s top recruiter as well as an operational member of Al-Qaeda, helping new recruits like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the infamous “Underwear Bomber,” to secure explosive materials. But Awlaki wasn’t born into a radical Islamic family. Nasser Al Aulaqia, a Yemeni politician and Awlaki’s father, was a huge fan of Larry King, Shane tells the full crowd. Aulaqia wanted his son to grow up to be a engineer. But it wasn’t until Anwar Awlaki fell in with a conservative group of Muslims while studying at Colorado State University that he became interested in becoming an imam.

Awlaki began his preaching career in San Diego before being hired at a popular mosque just outside of Washington D.C. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, media outlets like the Washington Post, NBC and CBS looked for an Islamic presence on news segments to help “bridge the east and west.” Awlaki was smart, young, articulate and just a few miles outside of the capital, making him an easy choice for many outlets. Shane brings up a video on the projector, telling the audience: “this is the good Anwar.” The video is a Washington Post video from early 2002, following Anwar through his daily life at the mosque and at home. In one scene, Awlaki tells the reporter, “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Then, by Shane’s telling, something happened to Awlaki. Unexpectedly, in March of 2002, Awlaki disappeared from the United States. Shane has a theory for why Awlaki left so abruptly but tells the audience that we’ll need to read his book to get that important bit.

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Awlaki in an undated photo.

Anwar Al-Awlaki would end up back in Yemen. He found that as his preaching became more and more radical, the response he got from his congregation was more positive. He was arrested by the Yemini government and thrown in jail for 18 months without trial. In his lecture, Shane notes that the U.S government perhaps had a hand in keeping Awlaki locked up without the right to a fair trial.

Upon release, Al-Awlaki went from a radical imam to figurehead in Al-Qaeda. The hundreds of videos he had uploaded to YouTube were being watched by young Muslims all over the world. Shane pulls up another video and describes this one as the “bad Anwar.” In the Al-Qaeda-produced video, Awlaki wears a military jacket, telling viewers: “I invite you to fight in the west or join your brothers in the new front, Yemen.” Awlaki was put on Obama’s “Capture or Kill” list – and Shane points out that the list has resulted in less capturing and more killing (but that’s another discussion for another time). After an 18-month hunt for Awlaki, a hunt that involved numerous federal agencies, he was killed by drone strike in September of 2011 in Yemen. It was the first time in over two decades the United States military had killed an American civilian without charging them of a crime. But what the U.S military wasn’t able to destroy was Awlaki’s Internet presence. A quick search on YouTube for “Anwar Al-Awlaki” yields over 62,000 results of his speeches and collections of his quotes. Awlaki tapped into a vein of radical Islamic youth and it’s clear that, even in death, his utilization of social media platforms like Youtube is unrivaled in militant Islamist organizations.

It’s slightly unclear, even by the end of the lecture, whether Shane sees Awlaki as a tragic character who was inhumanely murdered by his own government as the result of the Obama Administration’s decision to step up drone strikes in the Middle East or an interesting case of how the power of the Internet has transformed international terrorism, serving as a home for radical thought in the form of videos like Awlaki’s. But as Shane wraps up his lecture, a final image appears on the projector, it’s of a young boy – Anwar’s son Abdulrahman. “Abdulrahman,” Shane notes, pointing to the image of the smiling sixteen-year old, that “[he] was also an American citizen. He was in Yemen, searching for his father in the fall of 2011 when he was killed by a drone strike just two weeks after his father’s death.”

“He had no ties to terrorism.”

Images via, via and via.


What a Time To Be Alive: A BlogDH review

On his second mixtape release this year, Drake teams up with Future for What a Time to Be Alive. Of course, Drake is basically a hip-hop demigod whereas Future is better known for his features on songs like “Love Me” and “PNF,”  both of which happen to feature Drake as well. So why hook up with Future? The dude has hits but does he really have bars?

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While What a Time took just seven days to complete with most of the production supervised by from Atlanta producer Metro Boomin (Honest, Skyfall, Tuesday) it’s a polished, cohesive body of work. But even though Metro and Future – also from Atlanta – have a long history of working together, this is still through and through a Drake album; he dominates every song with superior lyricism, style, and overall prowess.

Many of the enjoyable songs on What a Time to Be Alive tap the same vein that made songs like “Hotline Bling” and “Legend” radio hits. Drake’s rhyming is subdued; he appears less interested in rhymes and wordplay than he is in vocally evoking his emotions. On “Diamonds Dancing,” Drake takes the spotlight with a two-minute long outro. With synths swirling in the background, he croons: “How can you live with yourself / Ungrateful, ungrateful / Your momma be ashamed of you / I haven’t even heard from you, not a single word from you.” It’s an instant jam. I’m brought back to 11th grade, standing out in the pouring rain waiting for the love of my life to come outside. She never came.

Listening to Drake like: how could you do this to me

Listening to Drake like: how could you do this to me…

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Art School(ed): Collection 2015, RISD Apparel’s annual runway show

A look by Ka Brianna Lee

 

The first thing to notice when attending a RISD Apparel Department Runway show is the decorum of the Providence Performing Arts Center. From the lobby’s archway to the exquisite mixture of red and gold that colors the entire space, the Center – once known as the Palace Concert Theater – is nothing short of beautiful. In the 70’s, the space was used exclusively for rock concerts and one can only imagine the spectacle of chaotic rock ‘n’ roll contrasting with the ornate, royal beauty of such a space.

That contrast seemed present this past weekend at RISD’s runway show, Collection 2015. Often with heavy electronic tracks playing in the background (mixed by Jackson Hallberg ’15), the student designers showcased their best work. The main crux of the show was the senior thesis work of 17 graduating students who presented an all-encompassing range of work with tickling collection titles such as “*tween Queen *” (Yuan Peng Wu ’15) and “What’s your Packaging” (Elizabeth Hilfiger ’15).

Noah Berch - "Real Gone"

Noah Berch – “Real Gone”

That’s not to say the sophomores and juniors didn’t present strongly. Notable collections included Adam Dalton Blake’s (’16) outlandish “Judy’s Boys” inspired by wrestling, as well as more subtle collections like Jingxin Xu’s cut-and-sew project “Coleoptera.” Each student’s vision felt present in the designs; some flamboyant in their choice of colors and fabrics, others more bespoke. This was in part due to the different projects each class year had been assigned. The work from the Class of 2017, for instance, was broken up into two projects: Re-Innovative and Print. The Re-Innovative Project, centered around the use of recycled materials, stood out at the show; Noah Pica’s collection “Untamed” used materials like shredded backpack straps to mimic the aesthetic of fur. Pica cited a “tumultuous relationship with my body hair” as inspiration for the look.

Erato Hadjiyianni - "Pulp"

Erato Hadjiyianni – “Pulp”

The senior theses expanded upon some of the ideas and concepts present in the collections of the younger classes. Each student’s collection was supplemented by an introductory video – sometimes as simple as a close-up shot of a young woman eating brightly colored macarons or as pacifying as watching a figure standing out in the ocean, balancing on a jut of rocks, her large white and blue cloak flapping in the breeze. With sounds of heavy bass reverberating throughout the theater, models presented the senior projects, sometimes with astute poise, and at other times eating bananas. Pushing the envelope was Andrea Dyes’ “Congenital,” a collection of spherical designs that seemed to question modern notions of beauty and appeal. The elegant collections inspired the typical jaw-dropping that RISD Apparel is known for inducing, while the aristocratic, sometimes pompous, glitterati that NYFW and other fashion shows are known for was noticeably absent. Every single collection felt sincere and determined in its vision, however peculiar that vision might be.

Andrea Dyes - "Congenital"

Andrea Dyes – “Congenital”

Images by Matt Francis via, via and via.


Art School(ed): RISD Apparel Design’s runway show, Collection 2015, is open to the public

collection-invitation

If you missed out on NYFW15 or “StyleWeek Northeast” at the Biltmore Hotel, this is the moment to culturally redeem yourself. RISD’s Apparel Design department is hosting its annual spring runway show on May 9th at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Featuring work from seniors, juniors, and sophomores, the show promises innovative and unconventional pieces ranging from recycled fabric haute couture to bespoke sports jackets. The runway show will be guest juried by a really cool group of fashion gurus including designers Simon Spurr and Derek Lam as well as Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) senior projects manager Neil Gliks.

There are two chances to see the show: one at 2 p.m. and then again at 7 p.m. You should buy tickets here. Check out the department’s Facebook page and snazzy new website to get a sense of all the amazing work that will be in the show. Continue Reading


Stop thinking and go watch Furious 7

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Yes. That is a car flying between two buildings.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

On a superficial level, it’s fair to call the The Fast and the Furious franchise just another action movie franchise. Indeed, it has grossed over $3 billion at the box office, and the several sequels have ridiculous, incongruous titles (why did they go from Fast Five to Fast & Furious 6 to Furious 7??). The latest installment, Furious 7, has made a record breaking $801 million since it’s release just two short weeks ago. So if ticket sales and sheer longevity are good indicators, The Fast & Furious franchise is certainly a hit.

But there’s more to these films than just the mindless explosions; indeed, at their heart, these are street racing films, centered around unadulterated vehicular chaos. Furious 7 continues in this vein, with a new slew of cars that range in quality from American muscle to Japanese agility to… I guess we can call it a tank.

The film opens up with a nostalgic nod to The Fast and the Furious‘s “Race Wars,” which seems to be the Burning Man of quarter-mile races. Positioned in the middle of the desert, it’s almost exactly what it sounds like. There are women in bikinis, men with too many tattoos, and, of course, a diverse and jaw-dropping ensemble of gorgeous cars. And Iggy Azealea, because this is actually the type of place she would hang out.

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