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The Cinephile: Analyzing Animal House — the tragedy of the dissatisfied frat girlfriend

Katy and Boone

Before tackling Animal House’s take on college administration (a theme that must be of interest to us all as Dartmouth prepares for the presidential transition in July), I’d like to consider the pause inserted quietly between the behemoth juxtapositions of Delta and the Administration “Bvilding.” Often overlooked, the scene in which Delta brother Boone unconvincingly comforts his dissatisfied girlfriend Katy nevertheless acts as one of the most applicable moments in Animal House to modern life at Dartmouth. Or at least to anyone familiar with the age-old Dartmouth tradition of consoling friends moping over the un-dateability of guys they meet in basements over FoCo brunch. Every one of those tired complaints emerges here: frat brothers are immature (Boone charms Katy merely by pouting, it seems). They value bro-bonding over campus romance — as soon as Boone proposes a weekend at Katy’s parents’ place, she automatically assumes the trip will include Boone’s frat buddies riding along to “empty my parents’ liquor cabinet,” and she’s not entirely wrong. Boone says, “It’s just going to be you and me…and Otter and another girl.” (For more on Animal House’s fascinating homosocial bonds, visit the previous Analyzing Animal House post). We can’t forget narcissistic, either. While… Read more »

The Cinephile: Did the Oscars Play it Safe This Year?

Django Still

With much of the post-Oscars attention focused on a ceremony some called banal (the choice of Seth MacFarlane as host really upped expectations of provocation), the real question remains —how safe were the Academy Awards choices this year? Yeah, Argo won Best Picture, Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress, Amour for Best Foreign Language Film and Paperman for Best Short Film, Animated, as everyone predicted (that last one maybe only for film nerds). But that doesn’t mean the choices weren’t controversial. In fact, this was probably the most exciting year for debate about the actual accolades in recent history. Here’s a look at some other potentially scandalous wins — and why or why not they should be questioned. Best Picture: Argo Leading the contentious tone of the choices is undoubtedly Best Picture winner Argo, whose screenplay’s inaccuracies and themes have been dismissed as promoting “a retrograde ‘white Americans in peril’ storyline.” The Iranian Mehr news agency even called the film’s Oscar success an “an advertisement for the CIA.” Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained As much as Django might have been the most fun to be had in theaters all year, Christoph Waltz’s win evokes all that seemed… Read more »

The Cinephile: Analyzing Animal House — An Introduction to Delta, or: Why We Frequent Frats

We all remember our First Time at Dartmouth, our introduction to the subterranean world for which our campus is so (in)famous. Maybe you first experienced it with a big group from your floor during Orientation, or perhaps when a friend told you to meet him or her at some unfamiliar Greek letter or other and you plunged into the deep of the frat basement alone (quel horreur!).

Upon descending those steps, you may have first been struck by the assault on one’s senses — the acrid scent of beer, the percussive knocking of pong paddles against tables as players self-congratulate or fling their unlikely instruments of glory in pursuit of The Save, music slavishly promulgated from top 40 pop-filled playlists, the fluid cycle of introductions that may or may not be acknowledged the next day. But I don’t want to get all David Foster Wallace foot-notey on you, because this is a world we all know too well. And while the First Time, our communal induction into Dartmouth’s dominating social structure, may be somewhat traumatic, it is also undeniably exhilarating. Our introduction to Delta House in Animal House suggests why…. Read more »

The Cinephile: Analyzing Animal House — “Knowledge is Good”

National Lampoon's Animal House

From a close read of the first few scenes of Animal House (1978), I’d like to rupture the illusion that its comedy does not merit further thought than the surface laughs we get every time we read the Faber College motto, “Knowledge is Good.” These first few scenes (credits included) show it to be a movie that should be taken seriously. Director John Landis was largely untested at this point in his career, but his instinctual grasp of how to begin a great battle of us versus them prefaces his tremendous, commensurate later work such as The Blues Brothers (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Trading Places (1983). Consider: the film begins with a stately neoclassical building looming over the frame, reading “Faber College 1962.” Cut to two young, suited men emerging from an L-shaped dorm that looks it may have been the height of architectural style at the time. Recall that Chris Miller ’63, a former member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity — now Alpha Delta — penned the script, along with The National Lampoon’s Harold Ramis and Douglas Kennedy. Did Miller have any say in location scouting? With the dormitory’s resemblance to the River residential cluster, a modern Dartmouth student has… Read more »

The Cinephile: The Fateful Marriage of J.J. Abrams and Star Wars

Courtesy of Laughing Squid

Though this week saw the Sundance Film Festival and further Oscar politicking, The Wrap’s big reveal on Thursday that J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars Episode VII (2015) has trumped all other news. Though just a few months ago Abrams told us he wouldn’t take on Star Wars, Disney’s choice rings of destiny. The marriage of J.J. Abrams and Star Wars, the ultimate consummation of devoted fan and pop culture icon, seems to be ordained by the Fates — or the Force. In all his work, Abrams masterfully evokes pop culture touchstones and assembles referential material into something modern and new — he’s Tarantino for the sci-fi set, with less pretension and a good helping of awe. Abrams’ previous film and television endeavors flirt regularly with Star Wars, deliberately or unintentionally and his oeuvre is a treasure trove for the Star Wars fan. In Abram’s early genre-mashup televison series “Alias,” the double-agent protagonist Sydney Bristow echoes Princess Leia in her intelligence, determination and notable acting chops. Like Leia infamously playing slave to Jabba the Hutt, Sydney assumes feminine wiles with the true intention of pursuing the ultimate goal of equality with the intelligence agency father figures that pepper the show…. Read more »

Cinephile: Oscar-Nominated Scores

Picture 2

With such rich offerings in theaters, film awards season always produces an unavoidable sense of guilt. The limited-release availability of the nominated films — this year, those may include Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), Amour (2012), and The Master (2012) — and the requisite two-hour time investment make it utterly impossible, even for the most enthusiastic, to see all the nominees…. Read more »