Entries Tagged as 'Entertainment'

Sapochnik Serves the Juiciest Pie in GOT History With Season 6 Finale “Winds of Winter”

6.29.2016

By Logan Gossett

[HEAVY SPOILERS]

On Sunday, Miguel Sapochnik concluded season six of Game of Thrones with two of the three best episodes in television history, per IMDB and totally objective Game of Thrones fans. If it wasn’t the best episode in television history, “Winds of Winter” was at least the best episode in the series. You know an episode’s phenomenal when “best episode in the series” is a compromise. Due to the resonant hype from the impeccable season six finale “Winds of Winter,” a coherent recap of Sunday’s episode is out of the question. What that question is, I have no idea. Instead, these are six incoherent ramblings from an overhyped Game of Thrones fan. Bullet points are present to give the illusion of structure.

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  • “Winds of Winter” essentially confirmed the most popular fan theory in the history of entertainment, but two scenes somehow carried more gravity.*

First, Peter Dinklage elevated the exchange between Tyrion and Daenerys to another impossibly impressive level. Tyrion hasn’t appeared to be that genuinely fulfilled since his relationship with Shae in season four, which turned out to be manufactured by his father who was *ahem* similarly fulfilled by her.

Second, the first twenty minutes of the show displayed unparalleled visual storytelling. The word “game” in Game of Thrones has never felt more darkly ironic. Cercei’s game overcooked a notable slab of King’s Landing, including the player at the top of the leaderboard in Margaery Tyrell, although an argument can be made that Mace “the ace” Tyrell’s rousing, even arousing, motivational abilities will be missed with greater longing. Perhaps the most impressive cinematography of the episode was Tommen pulling a voluntary Bran by falling from a window after Cercei’s wildfire explosion. The longshot of a charred King’s Landing framed between two pillars illustrated the collapse of faith and the crown, with Tommen falling in-between them. The visual storytelling was like Pearl Jam’s music video for “Jeremy” except good, and not similar whatsoever. Plus, the casting budget for next season was reduced considerably. The Great Sept of Baelor’s explosion was basically a cost saving collaboration between Cercei and frugal HBO executives.

Tommen_Baratheon(Lannister)_jumps_out_of_his_window,_Season_6_Episode_10.

  • Imagine if the most attractive tourist destination in the Bahamas was a kiddie pool with hungry piranhas in it. Now imagine a great white shark idling next to the pool, yelling obscenities at visitors. Throw in a Steve Buscemi selfie at the bottom of the pool for good measure. Thanks to Dorne, this is the obstacle Miguel Sapochnik overcame to make “The Winds of Winter” the greatest episode in Game of Thrones history. Sapochnik turned an episode featuring a Dorne scene into the best episode of the series. Dorne is a kiddie pool with piranhas inside, a verbally abusive shark outside, and a picture of Steve Buscemi at the bottom. Yet, Sapochnik’s brilliance meant that somehow didn’t ruin the experience. Amazing.
  • Bronn should totally be dead by now. When a side character becomes likable, they suffer a prompt, brutal death. Just a few victims of the Law of Likability:
    • Myrcella Baratheon (aka Cercei’s normal kid) : Poisoned by the belligerent great white sharks of Dorne.
    • Roose Bolton (aka vampire guy): Poisoned by his enemies.
    • Syrio Forel (aka ballerina warrior): Killed by the Lannister’s Gold Cloaks, beaten mercilessly by fan theories involving Jaqen.
    • Oberyn Martell (aka staff-wielding ballerina warrior): Rekt by the Mountain.
    • Shireen Baratheon (aka hyper-literate greyscaled girl): Burned at the stake.

In sum, Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss don’t beat around the bush: they uproot it. The fact that Bronn is still alive is unprecedented in Game of Thrones. After hearing “bad pussy,” I’m surprised he didn’t uproot his bush himself.

  • Apparently Arya killed Walder Frey, so that’s nice. Arya’s efforts to ensure that Walder Frey sniffed out her pun before she killed him were admirable. This scene was mostly forgettable, despite its implications for Arya and the satisfaction of seeing Walder Frey eat his sons and die. Many fans bemoaned the heartless nature of Arya’s morbid execution of Walder Frey, but I’m all in on vengeful Arya. If Melisandre peered into Arya’s peepers now, even she would be mortified by the killing machine staring back. Considering Melisandre’s placement on Arya’s list and her removal from Jon Snow’s, Mel should avoid studying flames for a while, because her future doesn’t appear promising.
  • What the hell is Euron Greyjoy doing? There’s no way he’s built more than 15 ships by now, and the few that he has can be quickly charred by dragons. With Dany sailing to Westeros, everything but the White Walkers seems pretty trivial anyway. What are 1,000 ships without a dragon?  What’s an Iron Throne with a limitless army of the dead marching to the wall? What’s a god to a non-believer? What’s one more rhetorical question?
  • Game of Thrones fans have universally lauded Lyanna Mormont (aka bear queen?), but I’m having a difficult time reconciling her role. The reason D&D increased the ages of most POV characters is because a 7 year old killer-assassin-Arya rampaging through Westeros is impossible to take seriously on-screen. If a 14-year-old Jon Snow were to giants in the north and evolve into Lord Commander, we might as well be watching Spy Kids. Bella Ramsey, Lyanna Mormont’s actress, provides a nice performance, but she’s also portraying a 10-year-old girl.

When I was 10, I was probably learning how to walk. An exceedingly competent, inscrutable kid is just intrinsically ridiculous. Arya’s a believable kid character. She’s reactionary, unintelligent, and lacks clear judgement. Her bravery and resolve have triumphed, but she’s not going to hush a maester when he’s offering sage advice. If she did, arrogance and neglect would be the motivating factors, not wisdom.
Dragons? Totally believable. I draw the line at unimpeachable kid characters.

 

*This is probably hyperbole, considering how widely accepted R+L=J was by A Song of Ice and Fire fans in the 20 years preceding Sunday night. Then again, I can’t imagine “Jimmy Neutron is actually an eggplant” or “Family Guy is literally human feces,” carried as much hype as R+L=J.

Black Box, Glass Ceiling: The Life of a Black Actress in America

5.02.2016

By Kate Miller

black actress brianna woods

Brianna Woods on set filming “Oprah Loves Bread (A Weight Watcher’s Parody)” for Friend Dog Studios

Growing up, Brianna Woods was told that being an actress was something she just couldn’t do.

A black 21-year-old woman from Overland Park, Kansas, she remembers sitting down in high school with a high school mentor who she says was trying to be helpful. Woods, who at the time was deciding what she wanted to study at the University of Kansas, was young and impressionable. Her mentor said, “’You have a lot of talent, but it would be wasted,’” Woods remembers. “‘No one is looking for you. No one is going to hire you at this point.’”

Because of that conversation, Woods, who had been acting since third grade, chose to enter college studying business. She kept that conversation secret, even from her family, who had supported her love for the performing arts since the beginning.

Woods eventually dropped business and changed her major to theater in her first year of college—and has since been cast in both traditionally “black” and “white” productions both at her university and in professional companies. Despite her success, she knows the road ahead of her will be filled with obstacles other actors don’t encounter simply because of the color of her skin.

“Growing up it was ingrained in me, my parents would say, ‘Being who you are, you have to work twice as hard, twice as fast, be twice as strong and be twice as hungry,’” she says.

The path to becoming an actor isn’t easy for anyone. It’s a career largely ruled by who you know and the talent you’re born with—plus years of training, relentless auditions and harsh rejections. For a young black person, it’s even harder. Theater is full of traditionally white roles, and for the actors who don’t fit the bill, there isn’t much opportunity. Black actors have long been pigeonholed into “traditionally black” roles and shows, such as subservient characters who serve as comic relief—but seldom the lead.

For Diadra Smith, a black University of Kansas student studying theatre and psychology, this was the case all through high school. She recalls never having been asked to look at any roles outside of “black plays” and remembers serving as a stereotype for her culture in her school. After auditioning for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which she considered a pretty race-resistant show, she was shocked when she wasn’t cast, joking that she could have instead played the chocolate river. Her directors said, “‘Well, you can always do something for Kwanzaa,’” Smith remembers. “And that really threw me back because, I was like, do you think that’s all I can do?’”

However, Smith and Woods are part of a new generation of black actors demanding more visibility and opportunities in the theater world. A new show with an entirely multiracial cast, “Hamilton,” leads the blockbusters this Broadway season. The show, which follows the life of the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, casts black and Latino actors as the founding fathers, including a black George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The University of Kansas theater department’s most recent season includes three shows that focus on diverse casting and culture, compared to just one in the 2014-15 season and none in the year before that.

So what does this mean for the young black actors trying to make a name for themselves? It’s clear that black theater has come a long way from blackface and Jim Crow characters, but even after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it took 72 years before the first interracial couple danced together on a film screen—Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in their famous stair dance in 1935. Even though racist characters and blackface are no longer accepted in today’s media, it doesn’t mean it’s a welcoming field for black actors.

According to a study released in February 2016 by the University of Southern California, speaking roles in film, broadcast, cable and streaming are only 12.2 percent black. Of the black roles present on screen, only 33.9 percent of these are female roles. “Overall,” the study says, “the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed.”

While the study didn’t include theater roles, the results aren’t that different across all fields of media, says Tony Bolden, a professor of African-American Studies at the University of Kansas. And when black actors have representation in film, it’s usually within the stereotypical roles and characteristics existing since slaves were emancipated in the 1870s. “There is a suggestion [in characters in film] that people of African descent are either unintelligent by nature or immoral by nature, given to criminality by nature,” Bolden says. This can come in the form of stereotypical casting— such as blacks playing the roles of criminals, subservient workers or just serving as a culture point in an otherwise “white” play.

Woods knows the struggle of being seen just for her skin color and nothing else. Growing up in Overland Park, her friends from school were mostly white, although she had a community of black friends through church and her community. When she and her friends would play a game where they imagined they were the Cheetah girls (the popular Disney characters from the early 2000s), Woods was always told she had to be Aqua—the “black one.” Even though she was only eight years old, she spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant.

Brianna Woods' professional headshot

Brianna Woods’ professional headshot

“I grew up never feeling like I truly fit in,” she says. “I wasn’t white but neither group thought I was really ‘black’ either. I spent a long time trying to figure out my identity and trying to figure out why being black was both something my white friends thought was cool but also complimented me on not being submersed in.”

Smith says it’s hard for white people to understand how much harder she has to work to be on the same playing field as other actresses. These challenges range from hair and makeup people not knowing how to correctly do her hair to people asking her to do her lines in a “black” accent. “Just little things like that…As an actor, you have to show in your real life that you deserve to be there,” she says.

Even though being black in a predominantly white industry is hard enough, Bolden explains there are several other breakdowns within race that make acting difficult. It’s not just that actors are black; an actor’s gender, socioeconomic status, politics and birthplace all factor into the roles available to them. Simply by being female, Woods and Smith have a harder path ahead of them than a male black actor does.

Despite the difficulties of her field, Woods had a recent breakthrough when she was cast in a new production as the lead. In January, she performed in a staged reading of Moulin Rouge!, the 2001 film starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, at the Buffalo Room in Kansas City, Missouri. The show is set in Paris during the turn of the 20th century, and she played the lead of Satine, a courtesan originated by the fair-skinned, redheaded Kidman.

Brianna Woods performs in the Buffalo Room's staged reading of "Moulin Rouge!"

Brianna Woods performs in the Buffalo Room’s staged reading of “Moulin Rouge!”

While a black Satine may have been a big deal, the Buffalo Room in Kansas City, didn’t use that to publicize its production. At the end, Woods asked the directors why she had been chosen, to which they had responded that she was simply the best who auditioned. “I just started crying and said, ‘Thank you for not making me a gimmick. I wanted to thank you for letting my work speak first in a world where my skin color speaks the loudest,’” Woods remembers.

The co-producers of the show, husband and wife team Vi Tran and Mackenzie Goodman Tran, said using Woods’ race as a promotional tool was never an option. But it did factor into the casting decision—made by Goodman Tran and the other producer, Katie Glichristmainly in a discussion as to whether or not Woods would be up to the potential backlash from the decision and the monumental responsibility from being the face of a “black” Satine. Tran, who is an Asian American actor himself, knew the importance of the casting decision.

“It’s very important that performers like Bri have casting directors who are willing to see her in that role,” he says. “It all comes down to the more that happens, for performers like myself and for performers like Bri, that it becomes normative. Casting directors are doing themselves a disservice if they’re walking in with preconceived notions.”

Sometimes, that disservice begins early, especially in the spaces where actors are learning their skills. But Mechele Leon, the chair of the Department of Theater at the University of Kansas, is hoping to change that. She has seen more opportunities for Woods and Smith develop under her guiding eye. She was chair when the University Theater produced both “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Detroit ’67,” in which Smith and Woods had lead roles. But she says she’s not satisfied with the “simplified formulaic” presented at many university theaters today. Instead of falling back on the old manner of filling a diversity slot in a season by producing a “black” play or a “female” play, she wants to reflect the diversity seen in real life—where those characteristics intersect. For example, instead of producing a “Hispanic” play, she would want to produce a show that explores what it’s like to be a female, lesbian Latina—therefore, exploring several different diversities at once.

She’s pushing for an explicit statement from her department about its role in promoting diversity, especially in the light of the University’s recent racially-charged discussions on campus. “It’s time for us to say what we really think needs to be the shape of the season, for us to feel comfortable about its inclusivity and diversity,” she says. “It feels sometimes like it’s hit or miss. It hasn’t been a commitment; [now], it has to be at the top of our thoughts.”

This isn’t news to actors like Woods and Smith. Both agree the theater through which they learn has taken steps to make them feel more included, but neither is quite satisfied yet. Woods says the recent push towards more diverse theater comes from minority actors being fed up with the lack of representation—and the only option left is for them to take those steps themselves.

“Minorities are realizing that some people are stuck in their ways,” Woods says, “and they’re not going to write parts for us as lead roles and they’re not going to put us in the front seat, so we have to put ourselves in the front seat.”

Photography courtesy of Brianna Woods

Loco For YoYo: Interview with YoYo Performer Patrick Canny

3.01.2016

By Georgia Hickam

yoyo patrick canny

Did you know that you can pursue yoyo as a professional, competitive hobby?  I didn’t either until I met Patrick Canny.  I first saw him perform at this year’s KU’s Got Talent, a student-run talent show full of gifted singers, dancers, and performers.  Patrick is a professional yoyo performer ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 27 in the entire world.  He has won countless yoyo competitions and can now add KU’s Got Talent to his growing list of successes.  I sat down with Patrick to ask a few questions about his unique hobby and his personal style.

What originally inspired you to pursue yoyo?

“My dad really inspired me to get into yoyo when he showed me the basics on an old wooden yoyo. I was instantly hooked! I started taking yoyo more seriously when I learned that there were competitions around the world and people who were way better than me. Ever since I’ve been trying to constantly improve my routines, and I think 2016 will be a good year ;)”

yoyo2 patrick canny

How would you describe your personal style?

“My personal style is almost 100% based on comfort. Some people think it’s super lame, which I don’t really understand, because if you’re not totally comfortable, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you’re doing. In fact, a few of my friends are always calling me out, telling me to wear “nicer clothes” but I don’t really get it. I guess my philosophy is that I should be ready to take a nap at any time, since you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to just chill out.”

What’s your favorite thing to wear right now?

“I’m really into tailored sweatpants (read: joggers) because they show off the kicks as well. Shoes are pretty much always the highlight of my outfit. Lately I’ve been wearing Vans Sk8 Highs and TNT SG, but I’ve got Jordan IIIs and Saucony Trainers in the mix as well. My favorite things to wear lately have been Nike Tech Fleece products. I have a pair of pants and a jacket, and they’re both really comfortable and functional pieces. The nice thing about Tech Fleece is that it’s double lined, doing a better job at insulating heat than other, comparable products. This has definitely been useful in the cold weather we’ve been having!!”

Describe your style in three words.

“Cozy Or Die!”

What role do you see yoyo playing in your future?

“I’m pretty positive that I want to actively pursue yoyo as a career…I’m practicing really hard this year but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be in the competitive scene. I hope to stay connected to all the awesome friends I’ve made in the community, and I’ll probably try to stick around as a judge/contest organizer. I’m also working on a design for a yoyo right now, which is cool because it ties directly into my coursework as a mechanical engineer. Hopefully one day people will be able to use a yoyo that I designed!”

yoyo3 patrick canny

Photography by Luke Finnell

Photo Feature: KU Swing Society Festival

2.22.2016

Some of us spent Valentine’s Day with a special someone, some us spent the holiday alone. But some spent the evening in the Kansas Union Ballroom dancing the night away. Staff photographer Skyler Lucas dropped in on KU Swing Society’s annual swing festival last weekend and grabbed some great shots of the dance competition and its dancers.

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Photos by Skyler Lucas

 

Halloween Must Watch Movies

10.28.2015

Halloween is just days away! We’re getting into the spooky spirit over at Style on the Hill, brainstorming our costumes and watching scary movies. Here are a few of our favorites!

Halloween movies

Tell us what you’re watching this Halloween (if you’re not watching the Royals World Series game) and tag us on social media! We’re @styleonthehill.

Compiled by Holly Kulm
Graphic by Hannah Pierangelo

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