Last updateThu, 02 Apr 2020 1pm


Coronavirus Commecials: The New Normal

default article imageIn quarantine, our only outlets of escape are through our TVs and laptops. Whether it’s shows, movies, or browsing the web, both can serve as good time killers or something to distract you from the terrible news every day. But we can’t even escape the depressing news through our only outlets.

Friday night I was watching Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush: Dave Turin’s Lost Mine to obviously be entertained and keep my mind off of what’s going on, yet the commercials felt like watching CNN.

Most of the companies that advertised have changed their campaigns to address our current climate. Companies like Burger King, State Farm, Hyundai, Verizon, T-Mobile, and even Buick had messages catered towards the worried at home. Each commercial had a similar tone of, “In these uncertain times, one thing is certain: that we are always here for YOU.”

For Burger King, they took a serious tone and said their employees would run the food out to your car if you purchased through their app. Meanwhile, State Farm took a lighter tone with gospel music playing in the background and informed how their agents are still accessible digitally for any client needs. Then, to take the cake, Hyundai vowed to freeze any car payments to those who have lost their job to COVID-19.

The impactful ads didn’t stop at the companies because Discovery Channel had their own COVID-19 campaign. In one commercial, they had all of the channel’s biggest stars (who?) sending out a message that we can all get through this. Then in another ad, Mitch Blaschke, a mechanic on their hit show Gold Rush, filled viewers in on how he’s handling quarantine at home.

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Drive, Kid Keeps Their Foot on the Gas: The Virus's Impact on Small Bands

default article imageIt doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the dastardly COVID-19 virus has impacted countless lives and businesses all over the world. The music industry is no exception; musical artists big and small have been forced to cancel shows, postpone tours, or even reschedule studio time. If you’re in a band, chances are the novel coronavirus has brought whatever activities you’ve had planned to a screeching halt, regardless if you’re packing arenas or struggling to fill basements.

My band Drive, Kid has been no exception. If there’s anything we hate doing, it’s cancelling shows. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. We were booked to open for Pennsylvania melodic hardcore band Carousel Kings in Toms River on April 3rd; it was shaping up to be one of the biggest shows we’ve played in some time, and we’ve got our fingers crossed it’ll be rescheduled for a time when the world returns to some degree of normalcy.

Drive, Kid’s drummer, Connor Hastings, felt a strong double-whammy effect as the virus impacted the plans of his other band, Asbury Park-based hardcore outfit P.R.O.G.R.A.M. “COVID-19 completely postponed our tour,” said Hastings. P.R.O.G.R.A.M. was set to tour the northeast during the week of spring break in support of their new album, Wired to Kill. “The shows fell out like dominoes. We’re all very disappointed and hoping we can reschedule another one for June.”

However, P.R.O.G.R.A.M. was still determined to deliver a chaotic live performance of their new songs to disappointed fans, in spite of the show cancellations. “The only ‘show’ we played was a livestream from our band Instagram account,” said Hastings. “To be honest, being out and about is scary, especially since I’m working during this. But, it was really nice to shred out some tunes and be able to forget this mess, even if it was only 15 minutes.”

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Tale of the Tape: Going Back to Physical Media

default article imageAh, the great indoors; isn’t it just lovely in here? Similar to a sprawling park or giant city, it seems like I discover something new about my house every day. For example, when I moved my couch to pick up a popcorn kernel that fell under, I was surprised to find a slew of dust bunnies, pretzels, and pennies: a treasure trove for my dust buster. Wow, there’s just so much to discover!

But beyond what lies beneath the dark shadows under my couch, I’ve realized how much physical media I have lying around the house. In recent years, I’ve been so used to streaming practically any movie I want at the highest quality at my fingertips, yet it turns out I have a vast library sitting on my shelves that isn’t too far either.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself going less on Hulu and more on my DVD, VHS, and even LaserDisc players. Granted, I’ve still been sinking my teeth into Angel through streaming, but for the most part I’ve been playing catch-up on movies I meant to watch years ago.

For instance, I’ve been building up a LaserDisc film library for quite some time, but I’ve never actually watched about a third of the films on my shelf. For those of you who don’t know, LaserDiscs were made before the DVD and were a competitor to the VHS. They are 12-inch-long discs that have two sides, similar to a record. So after 45 minutes or so, you have to get up and flip the disc. Sometimes if the film is long, there are two discs.

The other day, you could say I got up quite a lot during The Godfather Part II, which is three-and-a-half hours. I saw it years ago, but with all this time on my hands, I finally got to refresh my mind on how much of a rat Fredo was. Additionally, I got to see the other classics in my LaserDisc collection like Nobody’s Fool, The Third Man, and My Fair Lady.

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Gemini: A wild family party in Woods Theatre

default article imageWhen pulling a folding chair up to Gemini’s packed dinner table, audiences get a plate piled high with zesty comedy, rich conflict, and a heaping scoop of love. With direction from Jack Burke, Ph.D., and Assistant Director Katherine Fernandez, the Monmouth University Department of Music and Theatre Arts presented Albert Innaurato’s Gemini (1976) with flair.

A snapshot of a blue-collar South Philadelphia summer circa 1973, Gemini takes place around the 21st birthday of Francis Geminiani (Anthony DeFilippo), a Harvard student back on his home turf.

The morning before the ‘big 2-1’, Francis wakes to a “SURPRISE!” from his two Ivy-league pals, siblings Judith (London Jones) and Randy Hastings (Riley Anderson), through his window. Having hitch-hiked from Boston to South Philly, the Hastings pitch a tent outside of Francis’ brick home, to his mild protest.

Almost immediately, Francis’ laborer father, Fran Geminiani (Joe Marano), and Fran’s widowed girlfriend, Lucille Pompi (Samantha Ventola & Dominique Lengyel), welcome the Hastings with Italian-American gusto, regardless of the siblings’ WASP upbringing.

The kooky next-door neighbors come into play with the confident and crass Bunny Weinberger (Emily Woods) and her asthmatic, train-obsessed son, Herschel (Nick Sewell). Both Bunny and Herschel take a liking to the young, wealthy newcomers... Randy, in particular.

With his posh friends crashing the party, Francis has to manage his family’s antics, his own romantic and sexual drama, and the impending arrival of his adulthood. In a whirlwind of drama and hilarity, each character in Gemini learns valuable lessons about life that positively change them.

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The Last Days of the Cinema

default article imageIn the week leading up to AMC and other theater chains closing their cinemas on March 16 to protect patrons from the coronavirus, the writing was on the wall. From Sunday March 8 to Saturday March 14, I saw firsthand—through four separate trips—how theaters struggled to bring people in.

You may ask, “Why put yourself at risk?” Frankly, I used the cinema as a form of escapism and a last ditch effort to enjoy going out before being locked in my house for the coming weeks.

In a world where there is grim news everywhere we go, a little (or a lot in my case) of an escape is desired. Anytime I turn on the news, it’s all about carnage ripping across the globe. I can’t listen to my favorite sports talk radio stations because there aren’t any sports to talk about anymore. When hanging out with friends, the virus is all we talk about. Facebook is a place where soccer moms ask for the best stores to buy toilet paper in the area, so social media is a wash. Plus looking at investments? Oh, that’s funny.

So, to be in a place for two hours in a brief moment of distraction was a nice break. When there’s bad news everywhere, the cinema is where it’s not permitted through the theater door. But in this case, it eventually shuttered the doors for six to 12 weeks, or the unforeseeable future.

Before I detail what it was like to be at the cinema in its final days, I can assure you that I practiced social distancing and played it as safe as possible. However, as much as people were upset at theaters staying open, social distancing was in full swing because it was practically empty anyway.

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Local Band Spotlight: About a Year Ago

Local Band SpotlightNewly-formed Ocean Country melodic hardcore band About a Year Ago independently released their debut EP Borrowed Time on Feb. 4. Rising from the ashes of the now-defunct Toms River-based easycore band Sick on Sunday, About a Year Ago pushes into the new decade with a sound that embodies the raw D.I.Y. essence of the New Jersey local music scene.

Borrowed Time is an emotional, three-track release which thematically revolves around relationships, both romantic and platonic. “The album deals a lot with heartbreak,” said bassist Alex Fischer. “Whether it’s with friends or relationships that have ended; it’s a coping mechanism for us.”

Borrowed Time comes out of the gate with the catchy tune ‘Rewind.’ The introductory lead guitar, courtesy of guitarist Mike Vecchio, is reminiscent of something that wouldn’t sound too out of place on Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out to Get You. ‘Rewind’ has an infectious call-and-response chorus, as well as a pounding beatdown that allows drummer Doug Miller to let his double-bass chops shine.

‘Rewind’ is followed up with ‘Chain of Memories,’ which opens with a pounding drum beat and vocalist John D’Antona shouting a powerful refrain. ‘Chain of Memories’ offers some great classic easycore riffage courtesy of Vecchio and rhythm guitarist Robbie Gaffney. The bouncing chorus indicates that ‘Chain of Memories’ is unfiltered, fun, mosh pit material.

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Don't Answer The Call of the Wild

Call Of WildThey say a dog is a man’s best friend, but Buck has a different calling. Based on the famous 1903 novel The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Buck is captured and sold as a dog sled pusher for a mail carrier. After the carrier is forced to sell his dogs, Buck eventually finds a new home with John, played by Harrison Ford.

The adaptation has the makings of a good film: a compelling story with a beautiful Alaskan backdrop. The problem? That Disney touch weighs this sled down.

The film is marketed as Ford’s film, as the actor is featured prominently in the trailer and poster. However, Ford doesn’t doesn’t come into play until around the 45 minute mark. And by then, we’re already down to an hour left.

Maybe it’s because I’m ignorant and don’t remember the book being dog centric, but when something promises one of Hollywood’s legends, I’d rather see him more rather than a silly CGI dog.

While Ford’s late entrance is a doggone outrage, so are the effects. There are no real dogs, nor real sets. Buck is actually played by a man, choreographer Terry Notary. So while Ford is rubbing the dog’s belly, it’s a little unsettling to think that’s some dude rolling around on the floor in a green skin suit pretending to be an animal.

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50/50 by 2020s Sweden Emphasizes Gender Equality in Film

Sweden Gender Equality 1In 2012, the Swedish Film Institute began an initiative called 50/50 by 2020. The following year there was a plan put in place to achieve the goals by having equal representation for female film directors. There was a program put in place called Moviement so women in the industry could have mentors, as well as resources, to hopefully encourage women to be part of the film industry.

By 2016, there would be 50 percent funding delegated to female-produced films and 50 percent funding for male-produced films. The next year, there was a report put out by the Swedish Film Institute touching on gender equality in the film industry and then on a larger scale in everyday life. 

For the remainder of this year, the goals of this initiative to continuously move towards equal representation of men and women in the film industry include women in more key roles for larger films, increased visibility, and continuous education on gender equality and other kinds of diversity.

The CEO of the Swedish Film Institution, Anna Serner, is a huge advocate for this initiative and speaks often about her opinions. She wants to spread the word about gender inequality, what she has been doing to help and what she believes can still be done to help. In an interview with Rebecca Martin of Cinema Femme, she stated,“We have a responsibility to find the equality in the industry. We want to work with gender equality and diversity, and we want to take all of the talent in consideration… it’s just ridiculous to believe that you leave half of the population out.”

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Tokyo Twilight: The Films of Yasujiro Ozu

Tokyo Twilight 1In Tokyo Story, an aging mother and father from a small village go to Tokyo to visit their adult children, but when they arrive, their children don’t have any time for them. In Late Spring, Noriko is a beautiful young lady who would like to marry, but she doesn’t want to leave her father all by himself. In Equinox Flower, a daughter refuses an arranged marriage to choose her own spouse, but her stern father has a difficult time accepting her decision.

It’s these simple stories that Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu told so eloquently during his 35-year-long career. Ozu (1903-1963) saw a time where films transitioned from silent to talkie, even from black-and-white to color, and the director successfully made those transitions. A lot of Ozu’s work is free on YouTube, but some of his best films are a part of his Criterion Collection set, Late Ozu. Most of the director’s films, which he also wrote the screenplays for, centered around family, along with understanding the different perspectives from older and younger generations.

The way he told his stories was unlike any other director. While the subjects are simple, Ozu made the audience think a little bit by throwing them right into the conflict. There was never any formal introduction to the characters or backstory, Ozu just got right on with it.

When I began watching Ozu’s films, I was a little flustered and confused when he’d dive right into the story without any context. However, you learn to accept it because you realize that after a half hour, the film will come to you. Twenty minutes ago you had no clue who Noriko was, but suddenly you’re wrapped up in her situation.

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'Top of the Pops': A Conversation with The Smithereens

Top Pops SmithereensThe Smithereens are an iconic American rock band that formed in the 1980s, with founding members Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros, and Dennis Diken. They are from Carteret, New Jersey and have played around the Jersey Shore throughout their ongoing career, so it’s only fitting that they stop by West Long Branch.

The Smithereens are performing with guest vocalist Marshall Crenshaw at Monmouth University on Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m. in Pollak Theatre.

They earned a large following with their single ‘Blood and Roses’ from their first album, 1986’s Especially You. The song was also featured in an episode of the hit 80s TV show Miami Vice. The band’s most notable hits include ‘Beauty and Sadness,’ ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep,’ ‘Strangers When We Meet,’ ‘Only a Memory,’ ‘Too Much Passion,’ and so much more.

Their alternative/punk energy mixed with the “teenage symphonies” of some of their heroes Brian Wilson and The Beatles, makes them stand out as a music group.

After the passing of lead vocalist Pat DiNizio in 2017, founding members Babjak, Mesaros, and Diken decided to do the only thing they knew how to honor their friend and bandmate: by playing one last live show. However, to continue his legacy, the band has gone on with touring.

The Smithereens have performed at famous places along the Jersey Shore. From the Stone Pony to the Wonder Bar, and Green Parrot, they are rock kings of the Shore.

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Too Soon for Criterion? The Irishman and Marriage Story Become Part of the Collection

Irishman 1The Criterion Collection is a place where film connoisseurs can go to see which movies have been given the titles of “classic” and “contemporary.” If you look through their website, there is a sea of titles from around the world that have been released for the public to view and collect. The films have been released on their streaming service, DVD, and Blu-Ray.

Film fans look forward to seeing what new masterpieces will be added to the Collection every year and their most recent claims have been director Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and director Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

After hearing this announcement, it makes you wonder; how can two films that just came out on Netflix be considered classic and contemporary already?

Professor of History and Anthropology Thomas S. Pearson, Ph.D., mentioned, “I think the phrase classic is overused in speaking about contemporary films because it’s not always clear which ones will stand the test of time.” It can be such an easy word to throw around, but the film has to back it up.

So for the film community, is it too soon to be announcing The Irishman as a classic film? Pearson explained, “I feel The Irishman is very deserving of a Criterion release. It will make film collectors and archivists like me very happy and it is a fitting capstone to Martin Scorsese’s films about the workings of the mafia.”

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Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151