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Miscellaneous

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, Hunter S. Thompson’s Review of America

Journalism hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years. Sure there is a ton more equipment and technology to capture new types of media and perspectives, but the grime-y corporations in charge of pumping out the central perspective of what a country’s culture is and should be remains the same.

Sometimes this isn’t an inherently bad thing, as we are able to have more “objective” reporting through outlets like AP News

Hunter S. Thompson was a radical mainstream journalist, at least in American culture. I am not proficient in media history, but his efforts to create gonzo journalism, a style written without objectivity usually set in the first person perspective, is one of the more chaotic approaches and critiques in journalism’s history. 

In Thompson’s book, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, he is the protagonist, reporter, drug fiend and agent of chaos throughout the entire narrative. His perspectives offer a distorted and often terrifying view of Las Vegas and America. He is able to offer insights on the “American Dream”, journalism and one of Thompson’s favorite topics, Richard Nixon.

One of my favorite aspects of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” are the illustrations done by Ralph Steadman. None of them are able to be posted here but the drawings and artwork are all over his website. Fun fact, this book just turned 50 years old on Jul 7, 2022. 

Quick Synopsis (Spoiler Free)

Photo of Barstow road sign that also points to Las Vegas and is surrounded by desert.
Road sign outside of Barstow, CA. Photo by ChrisGoldNY. Provided by Creative Commons License

Thompson’s character is given the name Raoul Duke and his attorney (his travel buddy) ventures to Las Vegas to report on a road and desert race, the Mint 400. Duke is reporting for Rolling Stones magazine. While on their drug-fueled nightmare, they see a cacophony of lizard people, witness circus clowns doing inappropriate things with animals and they interact with too many law enforcement officers all while never getting arrested or put in cuffs. 

The drug abuse never really stops in this novel and can be hard to read and think about most of the time. It puts a strange abstraction on the entire series of events, which makes it difficult to assume what is real and what is a hallucination. 

At the end of the novel, Duke and his attorney have gone through the epitome of hell on Earth in Las Vegas. Their “journeys” lead them through the heart of the American Empire’s greed capital, a place where no one wins and you leave unhappy. 

Why Do We Need “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

Thompson does many great things with this novel. He taps into the vein of America and drives a needle straight into it. Thompson is aware of racial inequalities, capitalistic greed and the villainous nature of Richard Nixon. 

Duke serves the purpose of reporting on a largely unimportant race and reporting on the sense of what it means to be a journalist in America. He portrays big media companies like Rolling Stones magazine as money grabbing snake pits and the casinos as a spike trap to lose it all. 

This novel serves as a reminder of how biases in the media can be beneficial to the advancement of journalistic techniques. Thompson gets to the heart of what he sees as issues and reports on them. His own perspective is able to critique and loosen the strict flow of how media empires operate. He creates the opportunity for change by showing the horrors of the backstage. 

A Few Highway Exit Thoughts

One thing I want to learn from this novel is how to write like Thompson did. His wicked fast style allows for readers to plow through his words while still appreciating their beauty and realism. 

His brevity creates the attitude that journalism and reporting should be quick and to the point, which allows for multiple stories to be ingested rather than one big clunky thing that weighs down the readers. 

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Miscellaneous Music News and Interviews

Songs That Have a Hold on Me – “Amoeba” by Clairo

I have a few select songs constantly on replay and I thought why not make a series covering them?

I’m starting a series about songs that have a death grip on my mind and we’re starting off with “Amoeba” by none other than Clairo.

Yes, it is one of her most listened-to songs and that’s probably why it has such a hold on me.

Initially, when Clairo’s sophomore album “Sling” was released, I was drawn to the song title as a Biologist. However, it was the meaning behind the song and the catchy guitar melody that got me hooked.

Aspects of the song were described as what it feels like to be drunk, with this bounciness of background instrumentals. 

What I particularly love about this song is the lyricism and how many of the lyrics could be taken in multiple ways. It’s a song that Clairo took a creative risk with compared to her first album with less direct lyrics and it paid off. 

Clairo describes the track as being about what it feels like to navigate a toxic relationship or an uncomfortable social outing.

Yet the song is also about how she got so caught up with her career when she was first put into the spotlight and how she often forgot to keep in touch with her family and friends because of how drained and chaotic her life got.

The title amoeba actually related to the single-celled microorganism as well as meaning to change or alter in Greek. As a result, the track about Clairo shifting her lifestyle after realizing it was not the healthiest was given a fitting title. 

The piano chords along with the bubbly guitar instrumentals and soft vocals give the whole track an airy feeling. The drums kick in during the chorus and give the song an overall groovy funky beat.

The lyrics that hit the most are the verse “Aren’t you glad that you reside in a hell and in disguise? |  Nobody yet everything, a pool to shed your memory |  Could you say you’ve even tried? You haven’t called your family twice | I can hope tonight goes differently, but I show up to the party just to leave” 

Especially when we get into a new routine or start a new opportunity for the first time like a new school year or a new job it’s not hard to immerse ourselves in it. 

It happened to me last Fall when I finally got to experience college in person again. I was so caught up with school and events that I would often forget to call my parents.

I feel the song’s most underrated verse is towards the end. “Pulling back, I tried to find the point of wasting precious time | I sip and toast to normalcy, a fool’s way into jealousy |  I mock and imitate goodbyes when I know that I can’t deny | That I’ll be here forever-while, I show up to the party just to leave.”

Though all the lyrics in this song are super relatable if you’ve experienced anything similar, this verse hits the hardest. When you’re trying to blend in at a social gathering mentally count the minutes you’ve been there. Pretending you’re having fun when in reality you want to leave. You’re jealous of the people leaving early but you want to put on a facade that you’re staying longer to enjoy your time there. 

What I learned from this track is to prioritize your mental health and check in with those around you even if you are having the time of your life. It’s easy to be distracted but it’s still important to prioritize your needs at the same time.

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Miscellaneous

Rating and Reviewing My Headphones

Somehow, in my years of being a music enjoyer, Apple device owner and human being functioning in society… I’ve piled up 5 pairs of headphones/earbuds (which all have their different purposes).

I’m certainly no audiophile nor expert in sound quality, but I do have an above average number of headphones and I want to breakdown their pros and cons.

Anker Soundcore Q20 Headphones

I snagged this pair on sale last week and I must say having noise canceling headphones (of any quality) is a game changer. I think this pair of headphones is a reasonably priced introduction to headphones with good sound quality and they’re Bluetooth which is convenient. They’re a good fit for me, have great battery life, and are intuitive to use. My one qualm with these is that the built-in microphone is subpar.

Rating: 9/10

Apple Earbuds

I have two pairs of these guys because one has the headphone jack for my computer and the other has a headphone jack for my phone (which, is very annoying in my personal opinion). As far as sound quality goes, these are fine and get the job done, but now that I know what good sound quality sounds like… these leave something to be desired.

These do have an excellent built-in microphone. They are very convenient and portable, however the convenience is somewhat impeded by the fact that they are wired headphones. But again, for the price, they’re good (and are some of the only earbuds that fit in my ear).

Rating: 7/10

Airpods

I have an older generation of Airpods, so they don’t have noise-canceling or any of the other features that come with new Airpods. Airpods are fairly pricey, but I’ve had mine for over 3 years now and I still use them nearly every single day. It’s worth noting that the battery life decreases with time, they are extremely easy to misplace, and the microphone is terrible.

I’m sure there are better Bluetooth earbuds on the market, but this is the pair I have and I love them dearly. 

Rating: 8/10

Sony MDR-V150 Monitor Series Headphones

These headphones were an impulse buy because I needed a wired pair of headphones for DJ purposes. These are fine for what I use them for (hearing myself during air breaks), but otherwise are a below average pair of headphones.

They were cheap and definitely reflect that… with these, you’re paying for what you get (for the worse). The wire is entirely too long, there is no built in microphone and they have a rather uncomfortable fit.

Rating: 3.5/10


Here’s to hoping all of these headphones and earbuds last me a long time.

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Miscellaneous Music News and Interviews Playlists

“Gilmore Girls” and Indie Music

For those of you who don’t know, “Gilmore Girls” was a show on The CW that aired from 2000 to 2007. 

The show was about a quirky mom, Lorelai, and her daughter, Rory. It focused on their mom-daughter relationship as well as their relationship with Lorelai’s parents and the people in their small town. 

Granted that their characters were seen as witty, sarcastic, and super knowledgable in terms of pop culture, music, and movies, the references to underground artists often came off as snobbish at the time. I would never understand the music references they made and felt like I was somehow behind.

A lot of moments on the show felt like Rory and Lorelai constantly wanted to seem “not like the other girls”, however, after watching it regularly I grew accustomed to their rapid banter and uniqueness. 

Eventually, their quirkiness turned into their charm.

There are a handful of bands I discovered specifically through that show. Rory and her best friend Lane, a female drummer, both were huge music geeks and after hearing their music references, curiosity got the best of me.

I wanted to see if the bands they referred to were truly worth the snobbery. 

Here is a brief list of the bands and artists that were mentioned in the show: The Bangles, Paul Anka, Sonic Youth, The Shins, Arcade Fire, The Go-Gos, New Order/Joy Division and The Libertines. 

The “Gilmore Girls” show writers were big music connoisseurs as well and wanted the music to be on the forefront to give the show its own vibes and sound.

Since the show’s primary audience was mothers and daughters, the music references in the show made pre-teen and teen girls get into music that Lorelai and Rory found to be cool.

A handful of the musicians they reference throughout the show actually made cameos as well.

The band Lane was a drummer for, Hep Alien, performed a lot of cover songs on the show too. They performed “London Calling” by The Clash, “Fell in Love With a Girl” by White Stripes, and “I’m the Man” by Joe Jackson along with many others.

The show is an acquired taste so I would only recommend watching it if you’re open to an eccentric family-centered show.

It’s a show that was revolutionary for its time making underground pop culture references seem like the ‘it’ thing and music was a huge part of Rory and Lorelai’s characters. 

If it’s not for the characters, there are a lot of great tracks found throughout the show.

Here’s a playlist if you’d rather skip straight to the music!

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Miscellaneous

A Bit of Love for Film Anthologies

What do anthology films bring to the film world that full length feature films cannot truly present? They show the synthesis and thematic similarities across a wide array of stories. 

There are many films, TV shows and books that split themselves into completely different segments, which take on new narrators, worlds, ideas and plots than the stories that already exist in the medium.

One of the brilliant uses of anthology collections is that it is a prime way for younger, newer artists to grasp a project and showcase their work through it. Young filmmakers that have limited experience in the film world are able to take a chance and make a story their own with a more limited screen time, which allows for a wider appreciation of their art. 

“Memories”

One anthology where multiple directors came together to create a sci-fi anime collection is “Memories”. All three directors were in the prime years of their careers when they made this collection. Within “Memories” are three 40 minute short films that depict the human struggle to survive in an apocalyptic world setting. 

In “Magnetic Rose” (directed by Koji Morimoto) space garbage men explore an eerie, ancient dump. In “Stink Bomb” (directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who made “Akira”) there is a bioweapon outbreak in Japan. In “Cannon Fodder” (directed by Tensai Okamura, one of the “Evangelion” directors) we experience a war-lusted world through the perspective of a young boy.

Each of the short films bring out perspectives only a science fiction writer could extrapolate from the world. I love being able to see the synthesis between the beautiful animation styles and stories that these directors have made for us to see. 

The diversity of the directors adds to the value and appreciation of this anthology. Because each story was handled and made by a different person, it’s like having a perfectly planned three course meal where each course complements the next or the one prior. 

“Coffee and Cigarettes” and “The French Dispatch”

Another way film directors use anthologies is to express themes that transcend one person’s life and they take on a more expansive view of humanity as a whole. In “Coffee and Cigarettes” by Jim Jarmusch and “The French Dispatch” by Wes Anderson, there is little to no overlap between the stories that are shot on screen. 

In “Coffee and Cigarettes”, each scene and story are focused on coffee and cigarettes. Cups of blasted clay clink together for a “cheers” and the sharp inhale then pause after a drag from a cigarette are seen and heard in almost every scene. This film collection focuses on the mundane and chaotic world we live in. Bill Murray, RZA, GZA, Iggy Pop and other familiar faces flash on the screen for a few minutes of time as their characters process cigarettes and coffee.

Similarly, “The French Dispatch” has a diverse cast, but the narrative thread is more prominent: it’s the last issue of the fictional newspaper, “The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun”, and all of the journalists’ stories are shown in order of publication in the paper. 

Each of the stories in “The French Dispatch” have their moments of tension and some are more passionate and evocative than others. “Coffee and Cigarettes”, I think, has the same issues. These movies combine all the fragmented pieces of life into one big place that can be split up or reassembled in many fashions. Both these anthology films are fun to re-watch, as the stories grow more powerful every time I watch them. 

“Chungking Express”

I put Wong Kar-wai in his own little section of this essay because of how well he is able to synthesize strangers’ lives. In “Chungking Express” specifically, Wong Kar-wai takes one tiny food vendor and a few characters to explore love.

The first half of the film is focused on a recently dumped detective who wants to fall in love, and the second half is focused on a cop who is dealing with an ambiguously defined relationship and being alone. Both main characters are remarkably different and are set in the same world, location and time. The two stories briefly overlap and that is it. 

“Chungking Express” (and “Fallen Angels” too) perfectly blend two seemingly separate stories into a beautiful hulking beast that is a testament to how chaotic and crazy finding love can be. 

Concluding Thoughts

All the mentioned anthology films are only a slice of what is out there. In TV shows like “Adventure Time” there are few episodes that focus on multitudes of stories that kind of overlap, and many literary magazines publish collections of short stories by different authors which can tie together in some fashion.

The anthology is not an uncommon form of media representation, but I think it doesn’t get enough attention and use by artists trying to pave their way in a culture where it is hard to make even enough money to live. I would love to see more budding artists combining together to create mass works of art in the future so I can see how the minds of collaborators make giant artistic feats.

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Miscellaneous Non-Music News

Movies, Music and the Deaf Community

In the past few years, the deaf community has been given more representation on the big screen in American cinema.

Whether it was with the sci-fi movie “A Quiet Place”, 2021’s Best Picture winner “CODA,” or 2020’s nominee “Sound of Metal”: deaf stories are being highlighted on the silver screen.

The latter two films, “CODA” and “Sound of Metal” gave the audience two unique perspectives about the deaf community and how music can play a significant role.

Ever since I watched the two movies, I knew I wanted to write about them. Not only were they a huge step forward in representation in the movie industry, but the movies themselves were phenomenal. 

I didn’t necessarily want to do a movie review, but instead, just start a conversation about these films, specifically regarding how they impacted me and what I learned from them.

CODA” –

The title of the movie itself can be taken two different ways. CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults as well as a music theory term that refers to the end piece of music.

This movie was interesting to me because it focused on a hearing girl, Ruby, whose mom, dad and brother are deaf. It showed aspects of her life that made her family reliant on her: such as acting as a translator for the family, helping keep their family fishing business running, and daily tasks like conveying their personal medical concerns to doctors. On the other hand, she wanted to pursue her interest in music and be involved in her school choir, and eventually go to Berklee Music school. 

It’s a simple coming-of-age story at heart.

A movie about Ruby trying to find her identity and essentially finding out what she wants to do with her life outside of her family. As she begins focusing on her passions and getting more involved with singing, she realizes that her choir rehearsals start coinciding with the duties she has for her family. It’s to the point where she really has to choose which path to prioritizing – her passion for singing or her love for her family.

What I loved about this more specifically is the charisma of all the characters. Her parents and brother were all amazing and were played by deaf actors. When “CODA” won Best Picture at the 2021 Academy Awards, it was a huge win for deaf representation. 

“CODA” is an adaptation of the French film titled “La Famille Bélier.”

It made me emotional watching it, and I recommend giving both movies a watch.  There are so many aspects of being deaf or hard of hearing that I was opened up to.

 “Sound of Metal” –

“Sound of Metal” is the story about a drummer for a heavy metal band, Ruben, who starts losing his hearing on tour and how he decides to deal with it.

The film does an amazing job of putting the audience in Ruben’s shoes by at times modifying the audio of the movie to make it sound like Ruben’s hearing ability. This stylistic choice allows us to really experience the progression of his hearing loss up close, first gradually and then all at once. 

Conversations are heard as muffled or muted as Ruben hears them, however the silences in the movie never feel empty and add to the piece as a whole.

Throughout the movie, we were able to experience Ruben’s character development firsthand. Initially, he doesn’t want to accept that he is losing his hearing at all. He plays show after show, not being able to follow along with the music of the band, till one show he can’t hear a thing. After a meeting with a doctor, he finds out he has already lost a majority of his hearing and that the only solution in his eyes is a cochlear implant. 

His journey of finding money to afford the cochlear implant is a majority of this film.

His girlfriend introduces him to a community for addicts that teaches them how to live with their deafness. It’s during this time that we really understand the importance of music no matter if you are a hearing person or hard of hearing. He eventually begins teaching the kids in this community to drum and use percussion instruments. 

What’s beautiful about this specifically is that the vibrations in the drumming and in music are how people in the deaf community can interact with music. It’s how Ruben learns to interact with music given his new condition.

The last scene of the movie is the most impactful to me.

After Ruben gets his cochlear implant, he realizes that it’s not at all what he expected. Instead of getting his hearing back, everything he hears is distorted and staticky. His girlfriend thinks he is healed now and their band can start touring again, but Ruben realizes his music career is over.

“Sound of Metal” comes to a close as we see Ruben aimlessly walking down the streets of Paris trying to adjust his implant.

Then he removes the device and we are left in silence. We experience Ruben accepting his deafness.


Although these are wins for the deaf community, in terms of representation there is always room for improvement. I really think these two films are worth a watch for their entirety. 

They are both big teaching moments as well. Moments that force people to understand that deafness is not something that needs a quick fix but it’s something to accept and take time to grasp and accommodate to.

The charisma of the casts, the acting talent, the writing, and the musical performances – it’s all impactful.

If you haven’t already be sure to check out “Sound of Metal” and “CODA.”

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Miscellaneous Music News and Interviews

The Resurgence of a 1980s Classic

“Stranger Things” is one of Netflix’s biggest shows and is set during the 1980s.

This show is no stranger to dropping 80s movie references and including tons of iconic and classic songs from the 1980s to add to that effect. Not to mention, the show is about a group of teenagers that live off pop culture.

Music was as big a part of 80s culture as it is today, and due to the popularity of the show, songs from the 80s are on the charts once again. To be more specific, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Kate Bush. 

The song has more significance in the show than just being a part of the soundtrack.

*Spoilers Ahead about Stranger Things Season 4*

“Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was an influential part of saving the life of a character named Max, portrayed by actress Sadie Sink.

If you’ve seen the season, you know how important finding the right song was to save the lives of characters that were targeted by Vecna. Max had a strong connection to the song “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Kate Bush which led to her life being saved.

It was this concept that your comfort music can reach parts of your brain that a human’s voice isn’t able to. 

Not only was this her favorite song but the lyrics were highly significant to Max’s history, knowing her trauma. Her brother, Billy, had been possessed by a creature called the Mindflayer and was eventually killed at the end of season 3.

After Billy’s passing, Max blamed herself and had this overwhelming guilt and trauma from witnessing his death. This is reflected throughout the song as seen with the lyrics “And if only I could | I’d make a deal with God| And I’d get him to swap our places” 

Max spends day after day thinking about Billy’s death and if she could have saved him. If she could have taken his place. She’s seen wearing headphones connected to a Walkman, constantly listening to music as an escape from her reality.

The resurfacing of this song led to a lot of fans discussing what their favorite songs are and essentially what songs would “save them from Vecna.” It’s cool to see how a TV show can cause a music trend to arise.

The scientific aspect of how music activates all parts of your brain is so fascinating to me. The fact that there can be one or two songs that you have an emotional connection to can literally save your life.

I might not make it out alive if I was ever in that situation. I am too indecisive when it comes to choosing a favorite song. One day I like one song and the next I’m religiously listening to another song.

What I love about the power of the internet when it comes to popular shows is that fans do not hesitate to make edits. The song has been used in over 1.5 million edits and videos and has finally hit #1 on multiple charts after 20-ish years.

Plus, what makes that all the better is that Kate Bush wrote, sang, and produced the entire song all on her own. 

Check out “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” if you haven’t already, you won’t regret it.

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Miscellaneous

The Movies and Music

Music and film have been able to evolve together over the past 100-ish years to create more beauty out of these arts than any artist could probably have imagined. Obviously music has been around for a longer time than movies, but the profound affects the two have on each other led them both to feed each other’s creative capabilities. 

First There Was Silence

Before there were movies with sound, we had the silent era of film. I have not seen many films from that era, but I do know how popular Charlie Chaplin’s films were and still are today. His film, “The Kid” features a comedic fight scene that has no sound, but honestly doesn’t need it. 

Chaplin was able to take visual arts and impact millions of people without a sound, which inspired generations of filmmakers to come. Chaplin wasn’t the only silent film influence on the world, but he made big strides toward the future with his techniques

Then Came the Music

When sound came to film, there became so much more room to explore within the medium. People could have conversations without being interrupted by dialogue cards, fights that sounded real and thrilling and the sounds of music could be heard by the audience. 

One of my favorite scenes from “RRR”,  a movie that came out this year, incorporates music, choreography and cinematography beautifully. You can watch it here:

Naacho Naacho from “RRR” released in 2022. Video uploaded by T-Series.

The colors and costumes in this exciting action film aren’t even the best part. The music and choreographed scenes add more to the movie’s strengths than the dialogue or plot. 

“La La Land” and “Sound of Music” are another two films that blow me away in their use of music in film. They, like “RRR”, have scenes throughout the film that are choreographed and feel separate from the film universe around them. Whenever I see an amazing musical-ish movie like “La La Land” I do enjoy it, but it often feels less plot oriented and less emotionally impactful than narrative films. 

Synthesizing the Worlds

The films above are absolutely fantastic and I have nothing bad to say about them, but the way these next couple of films use sound and music creates more emotional connection and tension. Instead of separating scenes into dialogue and music, the directors of these movies have incorporated music and rhythm directly into the cinematography of the entire film. 

In the opening scene of “Sound of Metal”, the camera is focused solely on Ruben about to launch into his drum routine live on stage. We see his reactions and actions to the sounds and stimuli around him, and we learn this movie is more character driven than anything else.  

The music of that scene adds to Ruben’s character rather than existing as a nice emotional piece of music. It is the background and platform to understand his current state of emotional affairs. Music is part of Ruben’s world and throughout the film, music and sound are used as character development rather than emotional stimulation. 

Also, in movies by Edgar Wright, like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Baby Driver”, action scenes are synched to a musical rhythm like Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. It is a lot like a choreographed dance, but instead of relying on dance to show the rhythm, the scenes are able to use violent action synched to a beat. The characters also rely on music to express themselves to the people they love around them. 

Conclusions

I have found movies that are able to synthesize music with the narrative flow and cinematography often create a more emotionally influential piece of art. Music hits our ears at the same time we see a story unfolding and pictures moving with the sound of the film. 

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Miscellaneous

“Boiling Point” – Movie Review

After watching “Uncut Gems” a fair share of times, I gained an appreciation for a masterfully done dramatic thriller film. That is exactly what “Boiling Point” is. This film was released in 2021, and was directed by Philip Barantini. 

This movie is shot in a single take, like “1917”, and uses this technique to drive your heart into your throat. I was choking out of anticipation by the last minutes of the film. It has a run time of 92 minutes, which feels incredibly short while watching it. 

This is Barantini’s second feature length film and it is his most successful. The main actors are Stephen Graham, who plays Andy Jones, Vinette Robinson, who plays Carly and Alice May Feetham, who plays Beth. The movie is set in a London restaurant focused on head chef, And Jones’ ability to handle the heat of his personal life and kitchen life in a single night. 

This movie is quite intense and uses extreme language as it is set in the high seas of a foul mouthed kitchen. 

Quick Synopsis:

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot of this movie because that is the driving force behind the tensions and heart pounding story. Basically, Andy Jones comes into his restaurant and immediately faces barrages of inquiries that make him feel overwhelmed. 

His front of house (FOH) manager, Beth, is already up in his business when he walks in the door, which makes it hard for Andy to even have a calm moment to prepare for the busy night. Also, his sous chef, Carly tells Andy about issues and new trainees that are happening while he deals with management issues from Beth. 

I always start to perspire when I think about how long of a night this kitchen staff has after the closing of a restaurant. Platter after platter of drama piles up, and by the end of the film it feels like there is no way for Andy to resolve the mess he has gotten himself into. 

A Review:

Having this film be shot in a single take is astounding to me. Not only does every single actor have to be sharp and attentive for the entirety of the film, but the crew has to be prepared too. Plates of food are brought out and fires extinguished constantly. Barantini really does make you feel like you’re in a kitchen with a time bomb strapped to it. 

Having sweat slide down my forehead while sitting and watching a movie is never something I thought I would recommend, but the ache in my heart from anxiety I got watching the film was intoxicating. 

Stephen Graham and Vinette Robinson are also fantastic throughout the entire film. I could absolutely believe them in their roles. Carly and Andy play off each other so well, it feels like real kitchen experiences I’ve had myself. 

Conclusion:

The more I thought about this film as a representation of kitchen life and stress, the more I began to enjoy it. Films and directors that are able to focus on a few key emotions instead of a spectrum of feelings, keep me involved and invested during and after the viewing. I feel like I learn something about someone’s life perspectives by taking in their sights, sounds and frustrations with their world around them, which is exactly what “Boiling Point” does. 

Keep eatin’

– DJ Chef

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Miscellaneous

“How to Survive a Plague” – A Look at Activism during the AIDS and HIV Epidemic

How to Survive a Plague” is a documentary that shines a blindingly direct spotlight on the activism during the AIDS and HIV epidemic from the late 1980’s until the late 1990’s period. This film is not a happy one, but the director, David France, created a documentary that has given a clear perspective of the AIDS and HIV virus from the eyes of the groups ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (Treatment Action Group). 

David France has a rocky relationship within the film community and other social spheres because of his ignorance and greed when he stole the story of Marsha P. Johnson from creator Tourmaline, as stated in their Instagram post. I absolutely do not support what France has done with his Marsha P. Johnson documentary, and any person that decides they have the right to steal art should have everything they create be critically examined for plagiarism.

That being said, I think France has still made an extremely powerful documentary in “How to Survive a Plague”. France’s boyfriend died from AIDS in 1991, as mentioned in this IndieWire article, and I think that assists in validating his voice for this documentary. This film does accurately report on the lives of ACT UP and TAG members by primarily using archival footage and exclusive interviews done in 2012.

There are a few notable people highlighted in this documentary like Larry Kramer, Anthony Fauci, and Jim Eigo. More important members of both activist groups play key roles in the history of this film. 

HISTORY

To appreciate and understand the impact of this film, some history is required before watching. I will be pulling some timeline information from the HIV government website and this timeline from PEPFAR

The HIV and AIDS epidemic first started getting attention from the media and communities in 1981, so the beginning of this documentary really starts in the middle of the epidemic, which makes it difficult to follow at some points. 

The HIV virus was almost immediately linked to the LGBTQ+ community, which caused the immediate and further ostracization of these community members. It wasn’t until 1989 that AIDS cases reached 100,000 reported infections as stated by this CDC article. After that, the numbers grew even faster. 

“ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, was founded in NYC in 1987 as a political action group in response to the AIDS crisis. The group’s first action, in spring 1987, was a march on Wall St. to protest the high cost and lack of availability of HIV treatment.” 

This quote is directly from ACT UP’s website.

ACT UP successfully started the campaign of getting more attention and action to the epidemic. The documentary goes into great detail about theirs and TAG’s foundation, so I won’t go into detail about it here. 

In October of 1995, the CDC reported 500,000 cases of AIDS in the United States, and from 1990 to 1995 there were just under 1,000,000 AIDS related deaths in the world, which you can see in this graph.

My little history report does not go into nearly enough detail about the atrocities committed by those in power who prevented and stalled research, funding and support for this epidemic. The documentary, however, does do this. 

THE DOCUMENTARY

The acquired film and interviews that David France used are synthesized in a way to emphasize the emotions and stories that are weaved together. One of my favorite techniques utilized in the documentary is how well peoples’ faces are highlighted. You can see their betrayal, anguish and hunger for life all in their eyes through the framing done by cinematographers.

“How to Survive a Plague” overwhelmingly succeeds in showing the impact of raising concerns and actively participating in the world around us. The collected films show people on their deathbeds participating in research and activism because they want to live. Not only do they want to live, but they want other people with their afflictions to live. 

France did an alright job collecting clips from the voices in the community, but he still leaves out many voices that deserved to be heard. A CDC report from October 6, 1986 states that Black and Latinx communities were disproportionately contracting AIDS and HIV in comparison to white people. I would have loved to have seen interviews or footage from these community members rather than solely the leaders focused upon in this film. 

One last thing I want to note about this film is how well it uses the death toll from the virus throughout the film. We see the numbers start around 100,000 deaths, and then they grow. 

These statistics are like bookmarks in time. Each growth correlates to the inaction of those in charge, and the flattening of the curve shows the success of ACT UP and TAG.

CONCLUSIONS

As I stated in the beginning of this review, this film is not easy to watch, but I highly recommend seeing it once. The HIV and AIDS epidemic that swept through the world (and still affects millions of lives today as you can see on this graph) is still not talked about enough today. 

The inaction from the US government and governments around the world has robbed the LGBTQ+ community of strong leaders and activists that could have supported the new, younger generations today. Millions of young people could have been supported by a strong community, but were instead left with a fragile support system that still continues to struggle under oppression from those against the LGBTQ+ community. 

Just remember, “Silence = Death”.

-DJ chef