Hot List: POWERMASK: The POWER of Masks by Belgian fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck

 

POWERMASK: The POWER of Masks by Belgian fashion designer Walter Van Beirendonck examines the many different aspects of masks: the link between Western art and African masks, the supernatural aspect, rituals about masks, masks in fashion or as a fetish.

POWERMASK includes work by James Ensor, Paul McCarthy, Keith Haring, Louise Bourgeois, Emil Nolde, Axel Hoedt, Leigh Bower, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, André Breton, and many others including designers Martin Margiela and Thom Browne.

Credits: POWERMASK: The Power of Masks from Lannoo Publishers.

 

Celebrating Black History Month Literary Style

In honour of Black History Month, I have compiled a shortlist of essential writers. Each explores the African American or African Canadian experience in their own way. Some are political. Some are poetic. All are stylistically innovative. And all will make you think. 

Canadian: George Elliot Clarke’s Whylah Falls  

George Elliot Clarke was the Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2016-2017. Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Clarke’s work often refers back to the east coast black community, or what he calls “Africadia”. Whylah Falls is a novel in verse. Set in rural Nova Scotia in the 1930’s, it speaks of love, desire, loss of self, and the spirituality of unrequited feeling. It is composed in fragments: monologues, sonnets, sermons, recipes, and haikus. It was given the Archibald Lampman Award for poetry.

Up and Coming (and Canadian): Aisha Sasha John’s I Have to Live  

Aisha Sasha John is a Montreal born writer, poet, and performance artist. Her latest work, I Have to Live, came out in 2017. “I would only make declarative sentences,” says John. “No questions. No speculation. Just things that I could assert.”. Through poetry, John figures herself out, asserts herself within a white, masculine society. “I’m told that I’m not the authority, that I have to seek other authorities in order to know how to live. And that is not what I believe”, says John. Declaring what she is and what she is not, those things that surround her and those that could, John becomes her own authority. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, John’s poems are both philosophical and unusual.

 

Memoirist: Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Part One of Angelou’s seven-part autobiography, follows a young Maya as she struggles with racism and abuse in small town Arkansas. Childhood experiences conspire to bring her down, to make her feel small and bare. But this is a story of growth and voice. Through literature, Maya emerges. She finds herself in drama and dance, modes that allow her to find a way to speak, to love and respect her voice.

Maya Angelou often credits Shakespeare to be her greatest influence. “Shakespeare must be a black girl,” said Angelou in the context of debates over the bard’s true identity.  She was kidding, of course, but saying something big. If this white male author could make poems that resonated so deeply with a black girl from the American south, then we must have faith in the the power of art to unite.

 

Critic: Hilton Als’s White Girls

Hilton Als is a staff writer and theatre critic for the New Yorker. In 2017, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his “provocative contributions to the discourse on theatre, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America” (New Yorker). His most recent novel White Girls, hailed by Junot Díaz as “the read of the year,” combines literary criticism with insights on race and gender and seamlessly fuses the personal with the political.

  

Modern Classic: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

As one of the great American novels of the 20th century, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man should make it onto any good lifetime reading list. It is a story of existential discovery and self-creation, using language to overcome the limits set on identity by the colour of one’s skin. Ellison writes in jazz-toned speak, with dream interludes, improvised speeches, sudden and off-beat scenes. It is a form speech characterized by the productive interplay of voices and histories. It is a riff on tradition. With jazz, the invisible man finds himself; he achieves “a resourcefulness of craft commensurate with the complexity of [his] actual situation” (Ellison, Shadow and Act). He is a “technical master” within a “tradition [that] insist[s] that each artist achieve creativity” (Ellison, Shadow and Act).

2018 Oscar Picks

Ah, the Oscars. That magical night where we admire the gorgeous gowns, reward the incredible performances and hard work of everyone involved in making movies, and maybe accidentally give an award to a guy who maybe sexually harassed some women (cough cough, Casey Affleck). Last week the Academy Award nominations were announced and I instantly made my own decisions about which movies deserved which awards. Here are my Oscar picks (at least for the big categories. I’m sorry to say I didn’t watch any of the nominees for Best Foreign Language or Best Short Film. Sorry!)

Best Picture: Get Out

Admittedly this was a tough decision, because 2017 may have been a garbage time for politics but it was a great time for movies. I was torn between this and Lady Bird and The Shape of Water and The Post, but in the end writer-director Jordan Peeles fantastic horror film is a clear winner. Artistically, it was stunning, especially considering this is Peele’s first work as a director. But perhaps more importantly, it turned out to be exactly the kind of social commentary about race that the US needed right now, reminding well-meaning liberals that, as it turns out, saying you would vote for a third term for Obama does not excuse you from racism.

Best Director: Jordan Peele, Get Out OR Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

I’m torn! Between two debut directors! Who both did an incredible job! Sorry, I’m just so overwhelmed that two of the best movies of the year were made by NEW directors! I seriously can’t decide between these two. Peele did an incredible, amazing job on Get Out (as previously stated) by pushing his audience to be more thoughtful about race (especially his white, liberal audience members) but Gerwigs work on Lady Bird was also marvelous. She got to the heart of the kind of coming-of-age story that is so rarely given to teenage girls, and did it with kindness, sensitivity, and honesty.

Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out

Unlike some of the other actors up for awards, this is Daniel Kaluuya’s first major film role. Indeed, most of us only ever saw him in that one episode of Black Mirror (Fifteen Million Merits, which in all fairness was a great episode.) This was a bit of a toss-up between Kaluuya and Daniel Day-Lewis, who was up for his performance in Phantom Thread. However, I’m giving this one to Kaluuya, because while Day-Lewis has had decades to perfect his craft, Kaluuya pulled out a stunning performance from a still-young career, perfectly capturing both the big moments and the smaller, more careful touches. In particular, the scene where Chris interacts with a bunch of rich white people trying to show off how “down” they are with black people is a great vehicle for Kaluuya’s talents.

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water

You know that saying about how Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in heels? Sally Hawkins did everything other actors did this year, but with no dialogue and acting against a CGI fish-man. And still, she pulled out one of the most beautiful, delicate performances I’ve ever seen, breathing so much life into her character that I’m just awe-struck. That’s not to say I wasn’t impressed by Margot Robbie in I, Tonya or Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, but Hawkins just did such an amazing job that I have to give this one to her. She made that movie. It’s quite hard to convince an audience to stay on board when you’re trying to sell them the love story between a woman and a fish-man, and I don’t think it could have been done without her.

Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins as Giles in The Shape of Water

Oh, speaking of stunning performances in The Shape of Water that helped me buy the whole inter-species love story, can we talk about Richard Jenkins here? Seriously, that man did so well that this category wasn’t even a contest for me. Jenkins’s performance as Elisa’s neighbor, a closeted illustrator who helps her care for the fish-man, is heart-wrenching and tender, showing such a full range of emotion and depth as he navigated between his wants and his realities, and as he tried to be kind and practical. In particular, his failed flirtations with a pie-salesman are so heartbreaking I almost cried. I will give a special shout-out though to Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty in All The Money in The World, if only because he managed to do a pretty good job under extremely short notice, and because his performance proves that you can recast someone from a project if they turn out to be a predator.

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney as LaVona Golden in I, Tonya

I liked the performances of Laurie Metclaf in Lady Bird and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water, but I don’t think either of them compare to Allison Janney’s turn as one of the worst stage mothers in history. Janney’s performance captures a cruelty and an anger that capture the movie’s themes of abuse and poverty perfectly. LaVona’s twisting cruelty toward her daughter is hard to watch, especially because Janney does such a good job with the material. Her voice, her violence, her chain-smoking, her expressions of near-regret before deciding to not apologize to Tonya, every detail is done to perfection.

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Did you think I was done heaping praise onto Jordan Peele and Get Out? Nope! I have a lot more to heap on! The script was absolutely terrific. From the racist logic behind the “Coagula” procedure to Rod’s iconic ending line (“I’m TS-Motherfuckin’-A. We handle shit. Consider this situation fuckin’ handled.) to that whole scene at the party where everyone wants to tell the black guy why being black is just so hip right now, everything was pitch-perfect, especially considering that most of Peele’s work before was in the realm of comedy. He did a fantastic job.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game (based on the book of the same name by Molly Bloom)

Look, it’s Aaron Sorkin. It’s pretty hard to compete with one of the most talented screenwriters of our time, and I do not think I’m exaggerating. I do think Sorkin was helped by having some absolute bang-up performances from his two leads, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, who spit out sharp-fire lines in that classic Sorkin style. He took an already exciting story (poker! Money! Celebrities! Russian mobsters!) and even made the less exciting parts (courtrooms! Legal terms!) and made them just as heart-racing and tense as the rest of the film. And almost every line uttered by Chastain’s character, Molly Bloom, was perfection.

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What Novella Loves

 

This month, I’ve been enjoying Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett’s debut collaboration, Lotta Sea Lice. Musically, the two go together like bread and butter, John and Paul, and on Lotta Sea Lice you them get them both at their slow-going country rock-inspired best. Often they sing in harmony, but most memorable are those tunes where they sing in turn, as though you’d caught them in the middle of a thoughtful, mellowed out conversation. Over all, the album has a real warm quality, a good defence against winter blues. Definitely worth a listen. — Rachel Gerry, Contributor

Here is the best pair of boots I have ever seen… no exaggeration! These boots are everything you are looking for when you want a classy pair of shoes you can wear in any occasion but with a little twist. The medium size heel allow you to run all day long in the city, the colors match with everything, the shape is classy and at the same time characteristic of Gucci. And if you are looking for something even more classical, the brand proposes the same model without the pearls. — Aurore Evee, Contributor 

I guess Aurore and I both have Gucci on the brain. I am in LOVE with Gucci’s Queercore Brogue boots which can be dressed up or down but either way they will definitely make a statement. Sadly, my bank account doesn’t share the love for these shoes so I will have to continue to pine over them from a distance.  — Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief 

I blame it on Thundercat and his crazy music video for getting me back into my, for a lack of a better term, Japanese Western zone. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurais and Yojimbo especially. A general plot summary for many Japanese Western movies: a town is run by greedy and malicious crime boss, government officials are weak and corrupt, justice needs to be outsourced. Many such films, especially Kurosawa’s, are nuanced explorations of power relationships, community building, collective suffering and memories, and the pitfalls of relying on well-meaning ronins for a functioning society. Check out Kurosawa’s films, and, if you prefer something a bit lighter, Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Photo: MissPrism

I recently finished reading Janet Fitch‘s novel White Oleander and was completely taken aback by how unbelievably stunning the writing itself is. The book is written in the most beautiful prose, giving the novel a fluidity that causes each sentence to beautifully transition into the next. For as much as I love reading, I often have a hard time getting into a book if it hints at being just the slightest bit dry or boring. This has caused me to sadly leave many a novel half read, collecting dust on my bookshelves. However, this novel was something else. Stretching the farthest I’ve ever seen from the realm of boring, White Oleander packs a punch. For such a stunningly and delicately written book, the contents within deliver a deafening blow to the reader. Turning the beautiful prose into a double-edged sword. On one end, you have a book that reads like a song, while on the other, the heartwrenching story of a young girl forced to live through the many different lives that are given to children in Los Angeles’ foster care system meld together to create a book steeped wholeheartedly in despair, punishment, acceptance, rebirth, and growth. Cutting progress off in certain parts, while planting the seeds of hope in another. I highly recommend picking the book up if you enjoy coming of age stories with fewer fairytale endings and the reality that the human experience of growth and self-acceptance, regardless of gender, sexual preference, age, income, etc. Can often-times be the most brutal experience in the world, and more often than not, we are left to cope and learn from it alone. 10/10 — Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Ever since I saw the incredible movie The Shape of Water (which is incredibly amazing and go see it now if you haven’t yet), I’ve been obsessively listening to the soundtrack on repeat because it’s ridiculously good. You might recognize Alexandre Desplat for composing countless other film scores, from The Queen to The Imitation Game to Zero Dark Thirty. His work shines through here, giving this dreamy, surreal, underwater feel, perfect for the movie it accompanies and for making my daily routines seem a lot more fantastical. Not to mention, even beyond his stupendous work the soundtrack also features beautiful music like “You’ll Never Know” and “La Javanaise”. — Adina Heisler, Contributor

Things to Watch During The Olympics

If you’re anything like me, you don’t care at all about sports. Like, at all. And yet, I can’t help but get really into the Olympics when they happen. Is it the world coming together? The records getting broken? Or, is it any of these cool things happening during the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang:

Leslie Jones’s Commentary:

You may recall comedian/SNL star Leslie Jones being so fun and enthusiastic about the 2016 Summer Olympics that NBC invited her to go to Rio and give live commentary, but did you know that they asked her back to do it again? And I have to say, she’s doing a wonderful job. Jones knows how to get you excited about literally anything, literally all winter sports. She’s even gotten all patriotic this year, painting her toenails red, white, and blue. As an American, I rarely say this, but…USA! USA! USA!

Nigeria’s 1st Bobsledding Team:

If you haven’t heard of Seun AdigunNgozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga yet, you will. These three Nigerian women are not just the first Bobsledding team from Nigeria to qualify for the Olympics, but the first team from the entire continent of Africa. The three started their athletic careers as world-class sprinters, skills that are easily transferable to the fast-paced, icy world of bobsledding. They’ve done exceptionally well in the qualifying pre-Olympic events, and I wish them the absolute best on the track.

America’s 1st Openly Gay Male Figure Skater

Adam Rippon made American history on January 6th by becoming the first openly gay male figure skater from the US to qualify for the Olympics. And, as it turns out, this is the first time Team USA has sent a gay man to compete in the Olympics since 2004. And despite being 28 years old, much older than most figure skaters, Adam Rippon is ready. He’s already made history with his quote about what it’s like to be a gay athlete: “It’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Only with better eyebrows.”

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