An Insider’s Look at the 2014 WGA Awards

Courtesy of Eddie Zapato '14
Courtesy of Eddie Zapata '14

It’s awards season here in Los Angeles, and while the Oscars are the hottest ticket in town, the guild awards are much more lax with who they let in. This explains why this past weekend, I was able to secure a press pass for the 2014 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards. Below is my log of the event and the days leading up to it.

Jan. 25, 11:30 p.m. While sacrificing a goat so that Hulu would finally play the latest episode of “Community” without crashing, I notice a few of my friends on my Facebook newsfeed having fun at the Directors Guild of America awards and meeting cool people like Jane Lynch and Alfonso Cuarón. Wanting to do something similar, I look up ways to get into the WGA Awards. Although they don’t sell general tickets, I am able to apply for a press pass.

Jan. 27, 3:44 p.m. I receive an email from the WGA telling me I’m in. I scream excitedly and am told to leave Starbucks since I am frightening the other patrons.

Jan. 28 2:13 p.m. In the middle of my workday, I realize that I am completely unprepared for Saturday: I don’t have a skinny black tie! If there’s anything I learned from “Entourage,” it’s that you show up to these sorts of things in a tuxedo or white dress shirt and skinny black tie. Since I don’t have easy access to the former, I procure one from a friend on my FSP. Crisis averted.

Feb. 1, 4:06 p.m. After wandering the massive hotel complex where the awards are being held, my friend Eddie Zapata ’14, whom I managed to get in as my photographer, and I find the press table. We check in and walk over to the red carpet. On the floor are placards with the names of various publications so that the reporters and photographers know where to stand. Unfortunately, The D is not deemed important enough to warrant its own spot. Luckily, someone didn’t show up, so we take that place instead. Thanks Moviehole!

Katie Kilkenny '14, Eddie Zapata '14, Amanda Young '15, Varun Bhuchar '15 / Courtesy of Eddie Zapata '14

4:44 p.m. Celebrities have slowly been trickling by. June Squibb from “Nebraska” saunters down the carpet, clearly reveling in the attention, while others, like nominee David O. Russell, walk quickly down the path. The one I gush over, however, is “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan. I don’t even notice him until he’s ten feet away from me. I don’t really have anything to say to him because I’m too overwhelmed by his presence and soothing Southern drawl.

June Squibb / Courtesy of Eddie Zapata '14
Joe Manganiello / Courtesy of Eddie Zapata '14

5:06 p.m. The red carpet event is over and it’s time for the press to get into position. While we don’t get to go into the ballroom where the awards are actually being held, we do get to sit in the next room and watch them simulcast on television screens. The winners then come in to get their pictures taken. The mood in the room is dead compared to the red carpet downstairs, but it’s also a lot more informal, with reporters making digs and wisecracks about the winners.

6:00-7:22 p.m. Various winners enter the room. At first we applaud them, but we quickly grow weary and the applause disappears, replaced by the rote gathering and subsequent dispersal of photographers.

Betsy Brandt / Courtesy of Eddie Zapata '14

7:23 p.m. Another one of my friends who was able to come swears she saw Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation” on a stairwell practicing his presentation. I excuse myself to go to the “bathroom” to see this for myself. When I reach the stairs, he is nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, I still make a trip to the bathroom in the hopes of finding some more celebrities. I am unsuccessful.

8:36 p.m. Somewhere in the middle of “Breaking Bad” winning its umpteenth award, I check my Facebook and see that Indiewire has posted the WGA winners – even the ones that haven’t been announced yet. I am pleased to see that the expected domination of “Her” has continued, along with the unexpected surprise of “Captain Phillips” in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. We wait for the Breaking Bad writers to come in so that we (mainly I) can bask in the glory of Gilligan one more time. Then, we leave early, descending the escalator and exiting the hotel into the fog of downtown Los Angeles.

"Breaking Bad" Writers / Courtesy of Eddie Zapata '14

Cinephile: American Country Experiences a Renaissance at the Movies

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When I was a kid, the radio stations local to my Appalachian hamlet frequently intermingled nineties pop and rock with country ballads — the latest from the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks. Since the region’s unofficial mantra was John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” this was hardly surprising.

Nevertheless, it came as a shock to me when I moved to New England, where country music was considered decidedly uncool (it was Santana and Lil’ Jon all the way). Since living further north, I’ve heard plenty of rants about country’s lack of sophistication — such as how it is only ever about a significant other leaving the singer, guns and drinking — that can be unfair and misinformed. Sure, much of what you hear on popular country stations incorporates these themes, but they do not characterize a vibrant genre that encompasses everything from Appalachian folk to traditional Cajun music. Continue reading

Film FSP students present music videos in Loew

Courtesy of Eddie Zapata
Courtesy of Eddie Zapata

The lights dim, and a computer mouse clicks. Music fills the auditorium, and three stories unfold on the screen. The stories are so complex and the cinematography so compelling that you lose yourself in the images and the sounds. This is the product of 10 weeks of hard work, 12 bodies moving constantly and much emotional and physical stress.

This past summer, 12 students embarked upon the first film and media studies foreign study program to Edinburgh, Scotland, where they experienced Olympic festivities, the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the process of music video production. Jeffrey Ruoff, chair of the film and media studies department and film professor, and several students who attended the FSP held an event on Monday in Loew Auditorium in the Black Family Visual Arts Center to showcase the music videos that the students produced and to discuss their experiences on the trip. Continue reading

The Cinephile: Five Great Performances that May Not Be Nominated This Year

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I recently saw “The Master” in 70 mm and, like most, cannot stop thinking about it. Every moment of it was glorious – the recurring deep blue color palette and shots of the boat’s wake, Johnny Greenwood’s discordant score, that enigmatic final scene, and, especially, Joaquin Phoenix’s haunting performance as Freddie Quell.

However, the film also reminded me that Phoenix’s role is guaranteed an Oscar nod not merely due to its merits but also to two distinct advantages on the road to Oscar: one, the emotional showiness of the part and two, the fact that he has Harvey Weinstein backing his awards campaign. But what about this year’s understated or underrepresented performances? Continue reading

Cinephile: Back to school, a return to the movies

The return. It’s probably the central theme of September in Hanover, when old friends reunite to embrace the world’s troubles as their own … or just settle down into that glorious college routine of studying, eating, partying and sleeping, in no particular order. But Dartmouth is unique because it extends this welcome of a return to freshmen as well as seasoned students. I’ll never forget walking to Robinson Hall before Trips, a nervous wreck – I had gotten out of that ominous-sounding Hiking 1, but what if everyone on Nature Writing and Painting possessed artistic genius? – until I noticed the white banner hung over Collis porch with the reassuring message, “Welcome Home.” Continue reading