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Fan of Wes Anderson? Then you’ll love t

Fan of Wes Anderson? Then you’ll love the mystery and colors of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” http://ow.ly/vnSXs http://ow.ly/i/57kJo

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“Let ‘em sweat it out”: Stray Dog

Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog opens, fittingly enough, on a close-up of a panting dog, cooking in the summer heat.  One of the film’s two main characters, both policemen, played by Takashi Shimura, continually wipes his face and brow of pouring sweat.  Throughout the film, his partner, Toshiro Mifune, looks disheveled in a crumpled linen suit.  No one’s clean and no one can get out of the heat. But when Mifune loses his gun, a very serious occurrence, things really heat up.

Most of the action centers on Kurosawa regular Mifune as a naive rookie cop, and his efforts to retrieve his gun.  But he’ll do so only under the patient guidance of Shimura’s wise mentor.

Stray Dog is a Japanese film in a class all its own.  Kurosawa loved detective novels, especially those written by Georges Simenon.  Stray Dog is his love letter to these influences and a terrific police procedural. It is often categorized as being film noir and rightly so, however this genre masterpiece, like many other Kurosawa films, is difficult to pin down.  It was released in 1949, eight years after the birth of film noir (black film) with The Maltese Falcon (’41) and almost 10 years before Touch of Evil (’58), what film critic Paul Schrader calls the genre’s death knell.

Many elements of a good film noir are here: the conflicted hero, the femme fatale, light and shadow, and a blurring of the line between good and evil. But all of this seems like an opportunity for Kurosawa to break the rules.

Kurosawa was a great student of Dostoevsky and Chekhov, humanist-realists who preferred not to pass judgment on their characters.  Kurosawa’s “stray dog,” though wrong for stealing a policeman’s gun, is revealed to be in deep emotional turmoil through Mifune’s careful digging into the man’s personal life. And while we’re not sure we understand what he’s going through when he shrieks in the middle of a white flowerbed at the film’s conclusion, we feel his pain.

Even aesthetically, Kurosawa brands his signature on film noir.  He balances a heavy use of dark shadow with a breathtaking scene in which Mifune and a pickpocket look up at the star-filled night, connected but still miles apart. Or a riveting montage in which Mifune poses as a Japanese soldier, searching desperately in the growing black market for his stolen gun.  Blinding white scenes filmed in the blazing sun are contrasted against a provocative night sequence in which Mifune, a naive rookie, saunters along a fence of prostitutes.  Kurosawa’s comments about the dangerous effects of post-war Western capitalism and the loosening threads of tradition are obvious but always handled deftly.

Stray Dog is an early-Kurosawa masterpiece and you’d be hard-pressed to find a cooler movie to ditch the summer heat. The film is available in an excellent DVD release by the Criterion Collection.  Be sure to check out Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince’s insightful commentary track.

Kathryn Bigelow. Woman. Filmmaker.

On March 7, Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) may be the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director. It will be a cause for celebration.  Not because she will be the first woman to win the award, but rather because she will have been the year’s best director.

It’s hard to pin down a directing force like Bigelow and that’s exactly what makes every film of hers excitingly fresh.  It seems that she is, at heart, a genre filmmaker.  However, she isn’t interested in the genres that one associates with other female American directors, those even more influential and commercially mainstream than Bigelow, such as Nora Ephron and Nancy Myers.

Given Bigelow’s oeuvre, it is hard to imagine she would direct a film called “Hanging Up,” as Ephron did, or “It’s Complicated,” as Myers did.  Instead, Bigelow has dipped her feet into such male-dominated genres as science fiction and horror, and made them her own.  “Strange Days” (1995), starring Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett and produced and written by ex-husband James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”), displays an eerie version of the future that will either be viewed as schlocky entertainment or frighteningly prophetic in the coming decades.  Its cinematic impact can only be guessed at as well.

Bigelow’s critically-acclaimed endeavor into horror, “Near Dark” (1987) avoided the bombastic clichés that have come to define the genre.  I’m referring  to the breathy female, not smart enough to escape from the knife-slashing killer but also too determined not to stop running. “Near Dark” was an early showcase for actor Bill Paxton (now of “Big Love” fame) and an interesting study of a group of vampires, bound to a life in shadow and pitted against one another by selfish ambition.  The film has reached cult status and for many, Bigelow is still known as the woman that made “Near Dark.”

Her grossly underrated 2002 film, “K-19: The Widowmaker,” provided a fresh perspective on a dead genre: the submarine film.  Viewed largely as a Harrison Ford action vehicle, “K-19” provided audiences with all of the tension that accompanies men driving a tin can under the sea, whilst injecting real drama into the misadventure.  Centered upon a damaged nuclear reactor upon a Soviet submarine in the 1950s, the true incident almost brought the U.S. and Russia into WWIII.  Beneath Ford’s heavy-handed Russian accent is an expertly layered film.  Bigelow was careful to depict the reality and humanness of men under extraordinary pressure.  Even with one of Hollywood’s top stars, she moved the film to its tragic and honest end.

In hindsight, “K-19” was a warm-up exercise to Bigelow’s professional masterpiece, “The Hurt Locker.” The film has been hailed by both sides of the political aisle for its impartial storytelling of the war in Iraq. It depicts a military unit who may have the most dangerous job in the world: dismantling and disposing of insurgent bombs.  Bigelow’s gritty visual palette is aided by Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography.  Ackroyd isn’t a stranger to depicting true stories, having worked on “United 93” (2006) and the excellent Irish drama, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (2006).  Bigelow constantly draws amazing talent to her projects both on- and off-screen.

While she certainly isn’t the only female director making waves in contemporary cinema—Palestinian filmmaker Cherien Dabis and Sofia Coppola come to mind—you would be hard pressed to find a director, male or female, that has pushed the envelope in genre filmmaking or cinema itself as far as Kathryn Bigelow.

Keep an eye out for this one.  Two, if you can spare them.

– Jonathan Michels

Haunted harmonies

Throwing a Halloween party this year or just want to get pumped before walking to Franklin Street? This playlist will get you in a frenzied, frightful mood.

  1. Rob Zombie: Dragula
  2. Gnarls Barkley: The Boogie Monster
  3. Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast
  4. Michael Jackson: Thriller
  5. Iron Maiden: Fear of the Dark
  6. The Misfits: Astro Zombies
  7. Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell
  8. Radiohead: Creep
  9. Puddle of Mudd: Psycho
  10. Korn: Freak on a Leash

-MaryAnn Barone

As a college student, I think Whole Foods is a little pricey. Yes, I think its mission to sell the highest quality natural and organic products is important, but I can’t shell out $6 for a 5-ounce container of hummus.

That’s why I’d never eaten from their pay-by-pound buffet.

It was almost 4 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten yet, so when a friend asked if I wanted to tag along, my stomach overruled my wallet.

The Whole Foods buffet has variety of hot and cold foods, with something for every eater – carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, frescatarian and anything else.

Some foods can be found everyday while others rotate. You can always get southern barbecue (and other types of barbecue), make your own salad, eat from the taco bar or choose from a variety of soups. International fare changes daily, as do the different items on the hot and cold bars and the dessert bar.

Here’s a sampling of what I ate:

whole foods plate

Even at 4 p.m., I was surprised at how fresh the food was. I loved the Indian food. It had great flavor and wasn’t too spicy for me. I even liked the tofu, especially the Asian marinated one (I sampled five kinds).

My pretty large plate ran me $9.45 – a little more than I would normally spend on lunch. But it was natural, organic and better than another Lean Cuisine. Plus, I was hungry.

-Danielle Cushing

Dear Carolina Football

Dear all supporters, haters, coaches and players of Carolina football,

I refuse to give up hope.

Contrary to what Caulton Tudor claims, I am fully confident that we are capable of surprising the masses.

Yes, we are young. Yes, we are inexperienced. But we are talented. It’s simply a matter of showcasing that talent in the most optimum way. I know, I know; easier said than done.  We need to channel our talent.  Feel it.  Play like it.

We are better than the University of Virginia.  And better than Georgia Tech, for that matter. Based on the previous two games, we’ve lost the heart and soul of Carolina football.  Where did our underdog mentality go? Forget national and conference rankings. They are meaningless until bowl season. Instead, let’s play with that chip on our shoulder that keeps us humble.  Let’s find that swag again.

We are better than the174 total yards on offense we recorded against UVA.  Heather Dinich, ACC blogger for espn.com, recently posted this about offensive coordinator John Shoop:

North Carolina’s offensive coordinator has been under the microscope, as UNC’s offense has the worst scoring offense in the conference with 18.6 points per game, is No. 11 in total offense, and No. 10 in rushing offense.”

Obviously, we are struggling offensively. So, how relentless are we? Ryan Houston showcased his persistence, rushing 5.2 yards per carry versus Virginia. Our defense proved unyielding as they managed to give up only one touchdown when the Hoos were in scoring position.  Our resilience might be all we have left to combat our offensive woes.

We are better than a 3-2 record.  In a post-game press conference, coach Butch Davis mentioned the unexpected turnarounds the Baltimore Ravens displayed during their Super Bowl-winning season in 2000.  He said this year’s squad may need to resort to unconventional forms of winning.

“I admire that,” Davis said in his post-game media address. “Sometimes you just have to find a way to win ugly. Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot from a team perspective. There were times last year when we’d score 45 and 38 points and it was not enough. It’s a team game.”

Please, prove me right.  I can only fight in the pigskin corner for so long.  I’m sick and tired of die-hard Carolina fans viewing football season as a mere precursor to basketball season.  I hate hearing Tar Heels, young and old, counting down the days until Late Night with Roy Williams so they can get excited about winning again.  Let’s win now.  On the gridiron.

Best wishes,

A believer among non-believers

-Anna Feagan

Blue & White sports editor

Graffiti: the original wall post

Graffiti art on pedestrian detour sign at Stadium Drive and South Road

Graffiti art on pedestrian detour sign at Stadium Drive and South Road. Photo by Brittany Bass

If you take a glance at the back of a few Pedestrian Detour maps around UNC-Chapel Hill, you might notice Calvin & Hobbes or the face of a sun stenciled with spray paint.

Graffiti art on campus can be hard to spot, but it catches my eye every time I see a new piece. Although this graffiti was most likely done by a student on campus, I would like to imagine that infamous graffiti tagger Banksy has come to UNC.

From monkeys to mice to overzealous police officers to the Queen of England, Banksy has done it all. The British “art terrorist” whose work has become an underground masterpiece is the creator of some of the most unique graffiti artwork today. He uses stencils and works quickly under the cover of night, but by morning two police officers wearing banana suits will have appeared on the face of a brick building. There is some mystery surrounding the actual identity of the artist, who simply goes by Bansky.

Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to see one of Bansky’s creations in Chapel Hill, but for now I’ll just admire the graffiti we have on campus.

-Brittany Bass

Foster’s Market: fresh, fast and student friendly

FostersMarket2Foster’s Market is located on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsborough Road, but the café’s artsy décor and eclectic atmosphere remind me of a Carrboro eatery.

The seating arrangement is a hodge-podge of colorful tables, chairs and booths.The décor is both cheerful and utilitarian, with warehouse-style lighting, exposed pipes, large paintings and bright colors.

Sara Foster opened the first Foster’s Market in Durham in 1990 and the one in Chapel Hill eight years later. The concept for the market is based on using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients to prepare simple food.

And the food at Foster’s Market is indeed simple and fresh. I ordered The Herbie Bird Wrap, with herb roasted turkey breast, spinach, tomato, cucumber, dill havarti and basil mayo. The turkey and havarti tasted fresh, the vegetables were crisp, even if they went a little heavy on the spinach, and the basil mayo complemented the ingredients well.

And Foster’s Market is convenient (eat in or take out) and affordable. Students get a free fountain drink and bag of chips with any sandwich or wrap. Also check out the soups, salads and pizzas, the breakfast menu, the baked goods, the coffee and juice bar and the specialty grocery items.

-Danielle Cushing

Greek blog fire photo

As a Carolina blue fire truck pulled into Fraternity Court Wednesday morning, 22 members of UNC’s Greek community stood bleary-eyed in the misty rain.  There was no fire to extinguish — only a photograph taken of UNC Greeks getting ready to ride to Washington, D.C.

As a participant in the program From Chapel Hill to Capitol Hill, I was in that photograph.  Sponsored by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, this program packed a group of motivated Greeks onto a charter bus and headed to D.C.  Our mission: to convince representatives and senators to support two bills for fire safety on college campuses.

Our trip was part of Campus Fire Safety Month on Capitol Hill.  Phi Gamma Delta recruited support from all the Greek houses on campus to make this trip in honor of the lives lost in a fire at their house in 1996.  We joined the cosponsors from the Ohio Fire Safety Coalition and parents that lost children in fires to represent students across the country faced with the threat or consequences of fires on and around college campuses.

On Thursday morning our day of lobbying began with a short press conference and photos on the Capitol steps, where we hoped to make a difference.  Thirteen groups headed to meetings in the offices of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

My group met with staffers from offices from Ohio, Florida and Maryland.  The staffers are the people who study all the bills that go through Congress and advise their respective representatives or senators how they ought to vote or what they should support.

It was surprising that these staffers, who were genuinely interested in what we had to say about fire safety, were only about 25 years old.  Our country is run by people only a few years older than the students who were lobbying for fire safety bills.

Taking full advantage of this unique opportunity, my group went to the basement of the offices and took the “members only” subway and trams to get from building to building beneath the Capitol.  We also got tickets to view the sessions of the House and Senate and saw John Kerry, John McCain and N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan at work voting.  After our meetings, we met Rep. David Price, who represents my district.  I was fortunate enough to have a chance to take a picture with the man I voted for!

This was an incredible experience.   I learned about fire safety, understood more about how laws are created and discovered that our senators and representatives really care about what their constituents want.  With enough time and persistence, we will have influenced the laws that govern this country and we’ll have made campuses safer for students.

The voices and presence of these UNC Greeks in D.C. influenced the future of our country this week.  I can’t wait to go back next year to continue to be a part of something that really makes a difference.

-Megan Cassell

Bobby Frasor practiced his video documentary skills when the UNC men’s basketball team visited the White House in May. While his camera skills leave something to be desired, he may have a future as a fashion critic. Watch Frasor give his teammates a hard time for their wardrobe mishaps and see how the national champs cope with the recession.

Check out Lindsay Britt’s column about men in suits on page 10 of the September issue of Blue & White.

-Natasha Duarte