Arts Beyond Hotchkiss: Film and Music Reviews

“November Rain,” by Kris Wu

For many listeners in the United States, November 2 was the first time they had ever heard of Kris Wu. This popular Chinese hip-hop artist branches out to a new market with his debut solo album, “Antares.” As of November 5, 2018, songs from the album have taken the top 7 spots on the iTunes Chart.

Kris Wu explained the story behind Antares, expressing his hope to bridge the East and West with his music: “In the Western world, Antares means a heart of a Scorpion, and I am a Scorpio; in China, Chinese people would call themselves the center of the Dragon.”

The catchy song “November Rain” stands out. It was produced by Murda Beatz, who has also worked  with artists Migos and Drake.  Wu used auto-tune to ornament his melodic rapping, and the stereophonic-sound makes the song more reflective of modern pop. The dreamy and gloomy melody along with mumbled rap expresses Kris’s lonely childhood.

The singer explained “This song was inspired by my childhood memories. I was born in Guangzhou, where it always rains in autumn and winter. Then I moved to Vancouver to study,…the weather there is also the same, which is why my memories and feelings about November are always related to the rain.” On November 6, Kris Wu  hit the stage and performed this song in New York, and, coincidentally, it was raining in the city that day.

The song itself concentrated a lot on its rhyme, to the neglect of the essence of the content and the lyrics are somewhat cliche and repetitive. Since beats and rhythms are quite also a bit repetitive and invariable, it’s hard to make some listeners get hyped.

Overall however, the 14-track album is definitely one that  should be added to your playlist. Antares, one of the brightest stars in the galaxy, showcases the singer’s potential to become one of the brightest stars of his generation.

Wildlife, by Paul Dano

In his review of Wildlife,  New York Times movie critic Glenn Kenny writes, “The whole of the film is a potent collaboration in every respect and a remarkable directorial debut.” Kenny is absolutely right. Not only is Wildlife actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, it is a must-watch.   

Wildlife is based on the book of the same name by Richard Ford. Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan adapted the novel into a screenplay, which Paul Dano directed. The film was released in the United States on October 19, 2018, and has been met with mostly positive reviews by critics and audiences.

The film chronicles the failing marriage of Jeanette and Jerry Brinson (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal), through the eyes of their fourteen-year-old son Joe (Ed Oxenbould). Though the plot seems mundane, Dano weaves distinct character narratives into the movie. He provides audiences with a father who is still trying to figure out  what he should do with his life and a lonely mother who wants to feel wanted. By demonstrating this story through the eyes of the couple’s child, Dano adds great complexity to the film.

Dano’s film generates audience sympathy for a familial relationship that is otherwise quite ordinary. By depicting Jeanette and Jerry as weak and unable to overcome their life struggles, Dano allows the audience to follow the son Joe more intimately and sympathetically, especially as Joe realizes that his parents are not ideal role models. This film is not the typical loving family movie. It won’t make you want to call your parents and tell them how much you love them. This film is refreshing because its plot is not something that has been done by many movies before it.

Its cinematic style also elevates this beautiful film. Dano captures each character for the first time in a close-up that forces the audience to concentrate on the moment because it is so artistically captivating, frozen like a Renaissance painting. Dano creates a film that is so visually captivating that audiences won’t want to look away. Because he focuses on both character development and strong cinematography, he makes the movie appealing for people who enjoy either and undoubtedly unforgettable for those who appreciate both.

Good Time, by Benny and Josh Safdie

Good Time, available on Netflix, is an hour-and-a-half thriller that should not be missed. It tells a compelling and surprisingly emotional story. The 2017 film, directed by brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, tells the story of two brothers over the course of one night. One of the brothers (played by Benny Safdie), gets arrested very early in the film when the two of them are robbing a bank, causing Connie, the eldest brother (Robert Pattinson), to try to rescue him from jail.

The directors successfully capture the grit of the real world. Good Time is honest and does not hide anything from the audience. There are drugs, dirty relationships, addiction, and more. The directing can feel uncomfortable at times, a little close-quarters and personal, but it is intentional – you’ll feel uncomfortable at critical moments where the protagonists might feel nervous. 

Ultimately, Good Time tells an honest story. A true story. You won’t be laughing out loud at moments throughout the film like it’s Happy Gilmore, and you won’t be weeping, like when Bambi’s mom died. It has its fair share of action and violence, but you won’t be cheering on one or the other. The film is a brutal reflection of the world.

This film is well worth the watch. The directors do a fantastic job moving the audience, and Robert Pattinson’s and Benny Safdie’s performances are amazing. If you want an authentic view of resilience, as well as a fantastic story of how much brothers will sacrifice for each other, watch Good Time.