Fates and Furies

You may have seen copies of Fates and Furies on the featured shelf at your local bookseller. You are probably familiar with the bold white letters and the roiling waves on the cover. You have probably never heard of Lauren Groff in spite of the fact that Fates and Furies was named book of the year by both Amazon and Barack Obama. But no matter your familiarity, you are doing yourself a major disservice by not reading this book.

Fates and Furies is, at its core, a love story. It is not erotica, though parts of it are erotic. It is not Jane Austen, though parts of it are feminist. It is not Nicholas Sparks, though parts of it are beautiful and touching. The love story that this novel presents is one that is entirely its own, as Groff presents an astoundingly complete portrait of the marriage between Mathilde and Lotto by piecing their unique perspectives together to form a greater picture.

While the marriage between the two main characters permeates every aspect of the narrative, the story touches on many other themes as well including jealousy, loneliness, forgiveness, and grief. Simmering below the surface of this grand love story is a tangled web of relationships that explore a piece of the greater human condition.

The novel is broken into two parts, the first showing things from Lotto's perspective and then the second showing things from Mathilde's. Mysteries in the first part become clear chains of events in the second, as each of the main character's pasts are expanded and expounded on. There is one revelation toward the end of the book that serves as a punch to the gut, though this is not the kind of story that leans on a big twist to prop up a lackluster narrative. Rather, the plot is a character-driven emotional buildup that is fueled by the reader's need to unravel these characters and understand what makes them so.

Even beyond the fleshed-out cast of characters, Groff's writing is magnificent. Her lines of description are pure poetry. Somehow, she was able to make expert artistry accessible to the layman, as the text reads as smooth as butter and is easily digestible. She also includes the added novelty of bracketed asides and comments from an omniscient speaker to shed additional truth on a passage.

Basically, Fates and Furies is a fantastic read because of the richness in character and language that the author brought to her work. Anyone who is a fan of other modern epics like Middlesex or The World According to Garp would find a new favorite in Fates and Furies. If you're looking for something to read this summer, Fates and Furies is highly recommended.

Taylor Reviews: The Discovery

Taylor Raj is back, baby, and this time he's reviewing the Netflix exclusive, The Discovery, starring Jason Segal and Rooney Mara.

The Discovery is a Netflix original drama (3/31/17) which focuses on a neurologist, Will Harber, (Jason Segal) traveling home to visit his estranged father, in a world where the afterlife has irrefutably been proven to exist.

The very first scene drops the viewer six months after the titular Discovery has already been made public. The renowned scientist who made the findings (and Will’s Father) Thomas Harber is being interviewed by a newscaster regarding the millions upon millions of people who have taken their own life to preemptively get to the afterlife. The scene is abruptly concluded when a member of the film staff takes his own life on live television, kickstarting Thomas towards going into reclusion and continuing his research. All in all, it’s an extremely well written, believably acted, and cohesively edited first seven minutes.

Unfortunately, the superior level of quality does not last through the remainder of the movie. The very next scene finds the viewer hastily introduced to Isla (Rooney Mara), in a meeting with Will that draws large parallels to the beginning scene of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Isla is a strange bastardization of the “manic pixie dream girl” trope – instead of a whimsical, and unnaturally quirky ball of light who can’t be contained, Isla is instead a depressing show of flat affect and monotoned musings. Isla only exists as a one-dimensional character who’s only purpose is to show Will the error of his ways, the harm of blanket skepticism, and to exist as an object to take care of.  It’s painful watching these two fall in love: the characters are written to be too socially awkward and clinically depressed, and they share only a handful of extremely stilted lines before deciding they’re an item – all within a very small window of time. The relationship doesn’t feel natural, it doesn’t feel convincing, and it doesn’t allow the viewer to invest in anything that is going on on-screen throughout the middle 80% of the movie.

There’s no help from the story beats to mask the character’s misgivings either - it struggles to find it’s tone, often wildly oscillating between the straight-faced maudlin and tongue-in-cheek humor. One scene finds a normally friendly leader giving an extremely tense monologue to a group of his followers for a daunting stretch of three minutes while a previous scene had two characters cracking jokes while literally stealing a stranger’s body from a morgue – an action that in no way suits the protagonist's character in any way. Technical mistakes also run rampant – one scene finds Rooney Mara’s line dubbed in post while her mouth is completely still. Another has the main character breaking into a keypad-secured room, while the rest of the cast is completely unable to enter for sake of not interrupting the plot.

Luckily, the ending of the movie picks up a few of the blatant story notes the film has spent the previous hour and a half beating the ignorant viewer over the head with and twists them into compelling thought exercises. While it is aggravating seeing the ensemble theorize and dialogue in circles around a clearly sign-posted plot points – namely where and what “the afterlife” actually is in the canon - the delivery and execution of the penultimate sequence is quite well thought out: the cuts, writing, acting, and mood finally return to the quality delivered from the initial seven minutes. Of course, the movie decides to sour the sequence by cutting to a sequence that breaks the just previously established rules of the afterlife and pulls an Inception-esque cut-to-black, but in this usage, it seems more likely that writer had no cohesive way to end the story without being completely unsatisfying or saccharine and cliché

There are shining – even glimmering – moments that bookend the beginning and ending of this movie, and it’s a shame the connective tissue is the awkward mess it ended up being. This film shines in its premise, the discussions, and the thought exercises that stem from it – but as a piece of entertainment or even just content, it flatlines.

Final Rating: 4/10

Don't Watch This Shit Episode 7: Repligator

Mick, Jesse, and Taylor watched 1996's Repligator, a piece of thrill-rotica about soldiers, sexy babes, and cheap raptor masks. There isn't anybody famous anywhere near this movie unless you count the guy who played Leatherface in the old Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which nobody does.

Tits: 13

Production Mistakes: 12

Lasers: 25

Jesse

  1. Science gadgets save the day

  2. Alligators only affect women

  3. Horrible, blatant sexism

  4. Inexplicable number of women

  5. Little plot cohesion. Scenes nearly exist in a vacuum.

Final Rating:

It's like watching the boring parts of a fetish porno.

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Mick:

  1. This will basically be a ripoff of alien.

  2. There will be a sex scene. It will be awkward af.

  3. There will be a "big reveal" that Dr. Goodbody is actually a repligator.

  4. There are going to be a FUCKLOAD of filming mistakes.

  5. Shitty wordplay/puns.

Final Rating:

This is the worst episode of Planet Earth I have ever seen.

Taylor:

  1. At least half of the scenes will have awkward pauses before cutting away.

  2. There is no evil doctor, just science accidents.

  3. A line akin to "yes, but at what cost" will be uttered.

  4. There will be a real world news tie-in like Bill Clinton being president

  5. There will be dude butt.

Final Rating: 

A Steve Irwin porn parody would have been more tasteful.

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Run the Jewels

Mick cut together a music video set to the song Close Your Eyes (And Meow to Fluff) by Run the Jewels. It is meant to serve as a stylized visualization of the lyrics using commercials, film excerpts, and news footage from both network and gonzo sources.  View it right here, right now: 

Doo-Dads - Karl Strasen

Karl's work combines the modern with the classical. Some of his pieces uses the most cutting edge technology available to bring his vision to life, while others rely on the tried and true mediums of paint or graphite. His work takes the ordinary and put it in an extraordinary light by reducing it to its most basic elements. 

Follow Karl on Instagram here!

I’ve loved art from an early age, but my work comes in fits and starts. Once a project starts to get too big, I feel overwhelmed and sweep it under the rug. In this sense, I am the king of unfinished projects. I find the futuristic space art of Robert McCall and the massive, raw landscapes of Bierstadt awe-inspiring. But the process to make such beautiful artworks was surely painstaking and more than I can handle. I’ve got a lot of sketch doo-dads at least.
My art is much smaller in size and ambition. But thematically, I connect with the idea of people and technology all being balanced with one another and with nature. Maybe this is rather idealist and simple, and maybe this isn’t present in all the images I’ve provided here as one or two are more inwardly focused. But the disc golfer, the scuba divers, and the space shit are all along those lines I think. In the future, I’d like to either depict more detailed landscapes with more subjects interacting or depict one single subject in greater detail.
Maybe Japanese woodblock prints are the answer. But for now, it’s more work and disc golf for me. Mick at Also That, thank you so much for sharing!

-KR

NTWON: Lucky Number Slevin

In this edition of Nothing to Watch on Netflix, we watched 2006's Lucky Number Slevin starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, and a bunch of other great actors. 

Lucky Number Slevin is a hidden jewel of the 2000's, especially if you are a fan of other crime thrillers like In BrugesThe Usual Suspects, and Snatch. This movie sports a plot that is full of twists and absolutely rewards multiple viewings.

While the action sequences and actors are fantastic, this movie's strongest point is the script. The chain of events is so tightly woven that by the time the credits roll every possible question the audience could have is answered. There are plenty of funny beats to add a comedic streak to the action and mystery.

Lucy Liu does a particularly great job as her character is very different from the usual cold-hearted killers Rather, Liu plays a plucky mortician named Lindsay, who in addition to serving as the main love interest also works to push the main character, Slevin, to unravel the conspiracy he is steeped in.

There are absolutely ridiculous elements in this movie, such as one of the main crime bosses being a rabbi that has Hassidic Jews as his henchman or the fact that the set design looks like something someone would see when they're tripping on acid. But the ridiculous elements work with the film and enhance the overall enjoyment for the audience. 

Definitely give this one a watch. 

Don't Watch This Shit Episode 6: Yoga Hosers

Mick, Jesse, and Taylor watched Kevin Smith's second installment in the True North trilogy: Yoga Hosers, which stars Johnny Depp, Kevin Smith, and their daughters Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith and is the sequel to the movie Kevin Smith made on a dare. 

Tits: 0

Canadian Jokes: 43

"Fellow Kids" Jokes: 21

Jesse

  1. Jason Mewes

  2. Canadian Jokes

  3. Hello Fellow Kids

  4. Mad Scientists= Bratzi

  5. Terrible CGI

  6. Johnny Depp/ Kevin Smith is big bad

  7. Bratzis crash senior party. 

  8. Fight montage involving yoga poses

  9. Excessive number of Kevin Smith/ Johnny Depp film references

  10. Friendship is threatened then saved.

Mick

  1. They never get to the party

  2. Good at combat for some reason

  3. Gratuitous Cameos

  4. Stupid Canadian Jokes

  5. We will see a Tim Horton's

  6. Terrible CGI

  7. This movie will not have a satisfying ending

  8. The girls will end up with no boyfriends at the end because they don't need no man.

  9. Inaccurate Yoga

  10. Gratuitous Millenial Jokes

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Taylor

  1. The word "hashtag" will be said aloud.

  2. Yoga positions will be sexualized or framed to look like sex

  3. Two horribly dated 2016 "hit tracks" will be used that won't age well

  4. The nazi's evil plan is only to take over Canada because they're so passive

  5. Remarks about the US being Canada's big brother, or the US saving the day are made.

  6. There are plastic-esque (Mean Girls) bitches as primary antagonist for the first 15 minutes.

  7. They never get to the part. The party was in their hearts.

  8. Saving the day makes them the coolest sophomores, every guy has 10k boners

  9. They stop to Instagram/Vine (RIP) an interaction with the monsters.

  10. Johnny Depp and Kevin Smith are in the movie (no parents, maybe Nazis.)

Waterproof- Che-Val

Che-Val is the pop juggernaut you've never heard of. The husband and wife duo of Kenny and Laura Cash combine their unique talents in a freshman album that blends Laura's powerful vocals and Kenny's musical know-how to create a sound that is simultaneously both modern and retro. 

The thing that separates Che-Val from other pop acts is that they are extremely versatile both in their sound and subject matter. Each track on Waterproof has a distinct flavor that is highlighted by the accompaniment. The album starts strong with the upbeat "Oh Darlin" that is backed by a brass section and multi-layered vocals pleading for love. This is then followed up by the dance-y throwback "My Beat", whose synths sound like they came straight out of a time machine from the 80s. The album's titular track "Waterproof" is third in the line-up and slows things down, as Laura delivers vocals that move the listener as the lyrics describe the singer's resilience and strength of character in the face of negativity.

Gone Mad is the fourth track on the album and brings a more philosophical slant to things as Laura ruminates on how "It’s a crazy world headed for collapse/ We are animals prime for attack/ It’s a crazy world and we’ve all gone mad" and Kenny employs the use of strings to heighten the dramatic feel of the track. The video for this song borrows aesthetics from Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to emphasize the topsy-turvy nature of the world that Che-Val describes. The fifth track, The Lead, which features a verse by the artist Rothstein, builds off the strings from the previous track before trading them in for a spicy synth hook that makes you want to dance your ass off. Don't Give Up on Me follows the Lead, stripping away the high production value of the previous tracks in favor of a simplified pairing of Laura's voice and an acoustic guitar. 

The seventh track, Classic Man, is a modern take on the ballad, as it blends Laura's soulful singing with synths to celebrate the idea of traditional romance. Following Classic Man is Poison, where Laura takes a more breathy approach to her singing while accompanied by piano and some bass-heavy synths, creating a dark mood that directly contrasts the loving tone of track immediately preceding it. The pace changes again with Love Still Waiting, which features the Funky Dawgz Brass Band, as the album takes another high-energy optimistic turn as Laura sings about impatiently waiting for her lover to return. The album closes with the thoughtful and spiritual God Only Knows, that makes use of heavy reverb and airy synths. 

On the whole, Che-Val's freshman album offers a nuanced look at the band's versatility in both lyrics and sound. Kenny and Laura are a power couple as they pair rich, dynamic vocals with precise production. Their range of sound and subject matter is particularly impressive, Waterproof offers a track to suit whatever mood a listener might be in. Give Che-Val a listen and at least one of their songs on this album will become a new favorite.

Visit their website here.

Follow them on Twitter here.

Follow them on SoundCloud here.

Come Fly With Me - Maria Theebs

Maria Theebs makes her triumphant return to ALSO THAT, with her piece "Come Fly With Me" serving as the very first of what will be a long line of Feature Artworks. Check out what Maria has to say about this piece below! 

This mixed media started out as a very simple watercolor painting. I decided to go through some old magazines for inspiration and I stumbled upon this vibrant feminine figure. I wanted the figure to be dancing in the sky and accompanied by the goddesses of nature: butterflies. I wanted to focus the composition on femininity; the strong, female silhouette and the gentle butterflies prancing around together through a warm and cool color palette.

-MT
 

Click here to visit Maria's site.

Click here to follow Maria on Instagram.

NTWON: Love Season 2

This month on Nothing To Watch on Netflix we spotlight the newly released second season of Love. 

For the uninitiated, Love is one of the many, many pies that Judd Apatow has a finger in. After a moderately successful first season, Love's second season dropped at the beginning of March.

In spite of its title, Love is a complicated look at modern romance from a realistic, if not overly cynical perspective. While the first season focused on the boy-meets-girl dynamic between Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), the second season centers on their developing relationship.

The thing about this show that separates it from other rom-coms is that the main characters are total, nearly irredeemable pieces of shit. Gus is a passive-aggressive "nice guy" with a savior complex while Mickey is a psycho-sexual trainwreck struggling with alcoholism and sex addiction. If that doesn't make things bad enough, this season also focuses on the strains that distance can have on an already dysfunctional relationship.

One thing that is particularly unique to Love is that the viewer actively roots against Mickey and Gus at every turn. It's clear that, due to their individual shortcomings, their relationship is not meant to last. However, the two characters are too lonely and co-dependent to see this for themselves.

While the burgeoning romance between Mickey and Gus may not be the main appeal for most viewers, the secondary cast of characters will probably keep the audience interested. Bobby Lee's character is particularly entertaining as he steals nearly every scene he is in. Bertie, Mickey's roommate (played by Claudia O'Doherty), deals with relationship issues of her own that are on the whole more entertaining to watch because she's not a total piece of human garbage. 

Love is without a doubt an entertaining watch, but it is by no means feel-good. If you are a fan of fuzzy pink romance stories, this is not the show for you. However, if you are interested in a realistic portrayal of love between two deeply flawed individuals then this is the show for you.

Serenity - Benjamin Casiano

As springtime comes, it's only fitting that Benjamin Casiano brings a splash of color to ALSO THAT. Benjamin is a Connecticut resident whose work is reminiscent of Picasso as he stylizes the human form with bold lines and bright colors. He has displayed his work in galleries all over the United States. 

 
I went from artist to designer and back again. Each year I would paint once every so often but when I fell victim to the great recession, my artistry was truly resurrected in the process. 
 
At first, it was a distraction while seeking employment as a designer. I began reminiscing on why I became an artist in the first place. I was able to tap into the deepest part of the subconscious without therapy, prayer or meditation. Each brushstroke became another part to a zen-like serenity. The studio became my sanctuary. 

Eventually, I accumulated a body of work and was accepted into a few galleries near home. Today my work has been viewed in several major cities including New York, Philadelphia, Delaware and Providence. 

I paint every day just to add a bit to our culture & society, one painting at a time. One exhibition at a time.
-BC

Click here to visit Benjamin's website.

Click here to visit the Acrylic Painting Facebook group run by Benjamin.

Click here to follow Benjamin on Twitter.