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Last updateFri, 19 Jun 2020 7pm

Entertainment

PRAISED POET IN POLLAK

The University was host to the inaugural poet Richard Blanco on Tuesday, March 25. Speaking in Pollak Theater, as opposed to the usual Wilson Hall auditorium, he served as the most recent installment in the visiting writer’s series as well as one of the most prestigious speakers to come to campus in the last few years. This event was co-sponsored by the honors school.

Blanco is an awarded poet and civil engineer who lives in Maine. He was the first immigrant, first Latino and first openly gay inaugural poet in history (he read at Obama’s second inauguration). His mother fled Cuba while seven months pregnant, gave birth to him in Spain and then moved to the USA when he was a baby. Growing up in the “cultural purgatory” of Westchester, Fla., he was always conscious of the divide between the version of America he saw on TV, the America he lived in, and his parents, who frequently reminisced about the life and family members they’d left behind. His attempts to find the balance between these worlds influence the majority of his work.

The evening started off with an almost full house and an introduction from Michael Thomas, Associate Dean for the school of humanities.  “Blanco’s poems are a testimony to the duality of identity,” Thomas said.

With this, Blanco took to the podium. Beginning with more general statements about his life and his take on poetry, he shared with the audience the emotional and cultural foundation of his work. “The writer’s job is to share something about real life,” he said, mentioning how poetry should function as a mirror for what is really happening in the world.

“In some ways, to be a poet is the most self-indulgent endeavors,” he laughed, “but in some ways, it is the most selfless.”

Throughout the event, he showed pictures from throughout his life, beginning with his first baby photo: the one used for his green card when he first immigrated to America. He talked about how this is a symbolic representation of who he would later become and that it serves as a reminder of how far he has come.

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DEVILISHLY GOOD: THE PRETTY RECKLESS

When The Pretty Reckless first broke onto the scene with their album “Light Me Up” back in February of 2011, their blend of hard rock roots and aggressive, sexually charged lyrics set them apart from both other bands and from their female-led musical predecessors. One of the other main factors for their huge popularity was the chatter all across the internet at the band’s choice of frontrunner and leadsinger, Taylor Momsen, a name that left some going, “Who?” while others said, “Cindy Lou Who!”

Despite the hype over Momsen as the band’s lead, she has not overshadowed her bandmates, Ben Phillips (lead guitar, backing vocals), Mark Damon (bass), and Jamie Perkins (drums, percussion). Phillips had a notable role in their newest album release, titled “Going to Hell.” While he only sang a few verses in one song, this is a huge jump from “Light Me Up,” where he only sang a few lines.

“Going to Hell” begins with one of their hit singles, “Follow Me Down,” where a brief dramatic introduction (with porn star Jenna Haze faking an orgasm) segues into a guitar-heavy opening riff, allowing Phillips to set the album’s tone with his signature style. As with a number of songs from “Light Me Up,” this one deals with Momsen singing the age old, “Since I’ve met you, I’ve been crazy” line, talking about the influence of a significant other, though the song ends implying that heartbreak killed her, leading appropriately into the next song.

“Going to Hell,” the second track on this release, is a faster, more excited song with echoes of “Goin’ Down” from “Light Me Up.” It even features the priest to whom Momsen confesses her numerous sexual dalliances, singing, “Father, did you miss me?” A line later followed by, “For the lives that I take, I’m going to hell. /For the laws that I break, I’m going to hell,” a whole-hearted embrace of the vice and decadence for which the band is now known.

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“Veronica Mars” Captures Fans Again

Of all the feisty teenage heroines that have populated television culture in recent years, perhaps none were more quick-witted or unflinchingly self-aware than high school detective Veronica Mars. Played with a familiar snarky attitude by the pitch perfect Kristen Bell, Veronica was revived from a premature television graveyard to solve one more mystery on March 14 in the film adaptation, “Veronica Mars.”

The beloved cult classic show, which originally ran under the direction of Rob Thomas from 2003 to 2007, made headlines last year with a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. The online funding platform saw an unprecedented amount of traffic on the site when Thomas and Bell made a promise that hit all the right notes for fans of the quirky and boundary-pushing television show that met with an untimely demise: raise two million dollars, and we’ll make a movie.

The fans raised $5.7 million, and it was time for Thomas and Bell to make good on their promise. The goal, Thomas said at a Comic-Con panel, was to create a stand alone film that would be a “love letter to the fans.” This wish fulfillment strategy turned out to be both an asset and a crutch for the final product, turning “Veronica Mars” into a satisfyingly funny but slightly watered-down version of the original hit.

The film wisely opens with a beautifully-edited montage and a voice over, filling in audiences on the show’s basic premise. The opening establishes Veronica’s past, which was fraught with betrayal, vengeance, and an unflinching desire for the truth. All of this led to her joining the family business by becoming a detective. At the center of this drama is Veronica’s high school enemy-turned-boyfriend, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), with whom her relationship has always been complicated.

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THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM FOR STUDENT RECORD LABEL

The University’s student-run record label, Blue Hawk Records, will be dropping their third EP and hosting a live show outside the Rebecca Stafford Student Center on Wednesday, April 30. Having already launched two successful compilations since the label’s inception in 2013, Professor Joe Rapolla and his Music Industry students are currently working hard to write, record, and deliver new tracks.

Students can expect Blue Hawk Records’ third EP to contain music from the university’s own Abby Devey, The Trusties, and Kevin Stryker’s Band, as well as a collaboration between JPiFF, Jax the Genius, and Joe Faenza. All featured music was written by the artists and recorded at Lake House Studios in Asbury Park, NJ.

Because Blue Hawk Records is still fairly new to campus, the University’s Applied Music Industry II class was tasked with developing an effective public relations program to spread awareness about the label’s new EP. This campaign will include video and radio promotion, press releases, and both campus and social media outreach. The program will culminate with a promotional concert outside the Student Center on album release day.

In developing a final product that is for the students, by the students, the University’s Music Industry majors have the unique opportunity to learn about all areas of the field in a real world situation. Blue Hawk Records gives students the chance to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom and gain crucial experience in the professional music world.

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Wes Anderson’s “Grand” Adventure

The films of director Wes Anderson have always had a sort of architectural sense to them, with every minute detail, from the dialogue to the music to the stance and position a character is standing in a shot, being meticulously crafted and constructed as a small piece of a greater, more elaborate whole.

With this logic, one would imagine “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Anderson’s latest, to be his most baroque-like and grandiose construction yet, and not just for the lavish model of the hotel appearing through the film. From its dense, fast-paced plot to its lavish, gorgeous cinematography and art design, every facet of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is crafted with extreme precision detail, but is bursting with enough heart and personality to make it all seem effortless and fun.

Set in the fictitious Eastern European nation of Zubrowka, where the enormous Grand Budapest resides, the film tells stories within stories in order to uncover the history of the fictional hotel and the characters that ran it. Set initially in the 1960’s with the hotel in decline, the film starts with a writer – known only as “The Writer” (Jude Law) – who writes a book about The Grand Budapest, based mainly on a conversation he had with Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham), the hotel’s then-owner, while staying their one evening.

At this point, the older Zero (who’s younger self is played by Tony Revolori) tells his story about his experiences there as a lobby boy working under the guidance of concierge Monsieur Gustav H. (Ralph Fiennes) in 1932, which makes up the bulk of the film’s narrative. From here, we are taken through Zero’s perplexing tale of an old lady’s will, a priceless painting, prison breakouts, an oppressive, intimidating army, and more, all with the purpose of explaining how Zero ended up owning the once renowned hotel.

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“Little Shop of Horrors” Slays Audiences

Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy finds mysterious plant from outer space and feeds it humans in order to achieve success and keep girl. While this may not sound like the typical love story, it is what happens downtown in the University’s spring musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” which opened on March 5 in Lauren K. Woods Theatre.

The setting of “Little Shop” takes place in a flower shop on Skid Row, a rundown street lost in the ever-growing urban city in the 60’s.  The owner of the flower shop, Mr. Mushnik played by Nick Zaccario, is on the verge of closing due to no business on Skid Row. However, Mushnik’s “ward,” Seymour, played by junior Brandon Wiener, shows him the strange and unusual “Audrey II” he finds at an exotic plant shop in another part of town.

At first, the plant is withered and dying until Seymour cuts his finger and sees that the plant needs human blood to survive, and gives it enough to flourish.  Soon, “Audrey II” generates an astronomical amount of local and even national success for the shop until Seymour finds out that the plant is actually a creature from outer space and has another craving: world domination.

What most people don’t know about “Little Shop of Horrors” is that it takes the same journey as Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and John Water’s “Hairspray.” All three of these comedies were originally movies that were turned into musicals. Once all of these cult classics made it big on the great white way, their musical adaptations were then again recaptured on the silver screen.  “Little Shop” in particular was originally created as a comedy in 1960 before it was revamped into an Off -Broadway musical in 1982.

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Pharrell’s Phantastic “GIRL”

Pharrell Williams (also known as Skateboard P) is back at it again, hoping to gain much more positive exposure with his second solo album “GIRL,” released on March 5. His first solo album, released back in 2006, “In My Mind” didn’t turn out so good within the eyes of the critics and his fans. Now, at the age of 40, he’s hoping for some positive results, and he is headed on the right track with his newly released single “Happy” after it shot to number one on the music charts.

Although radio stations play the song to death, it still makes me want to scream and shout “because I’m happy” and next thing you know it I’m either blasting it in my car or dancing around my house. Throughout the album you can hear nice guitar lines, which bring funk with a taste of the R&B singer Prince.

The first track on the album “Marilyn Monroe” is not a track you want to skip over. It has a great beat and a bumping bass line alongside the interesting lyrics about a helpless romantic and the perfect lady. Pharrell sings, “Not even Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn Monroe)/Who Cleopatra (‘Patra Please)/Not even Joan of Arc (Joan of Arc)/That don’t mean nothing to me/I just want a different girl.” The meaning behind the lyrics is that he not too fond of the beauty queens of history, and that he is just into girls with their own attitudes and personality.

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Stop-Motion Animator Visits University

The final installment of Monmouth’s “ART NOW” series came to Wilson Hall on Thursday, Feb. 6, showcasing the work of accomplished stop-motion painter, Jennifer Levonian. Much like the previous guests of the visiting artist series presented by Professor Michael Richison, Levonian’s work is accomplished through multiple mediums. Her presentation, which involved both a lecture and interactive workshop, highlighted the process of animating paintings to produce short films.

Levonian first became interested in this unique medium while she was studying painting at the graduate level and signed up for an animation course taught by recent Oscar nominee David Sousa. This introduction to the world of short film opened up new doors for Levonian, who quickly fell in love with the medium.

She began painting puppets that required multiple moving parts, which were then filmed and edited to give the illusion of motion. Using this stop-motion technique, Levonian went on to create films that have been featured in places like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery.

Some of these short films were screened during the presentation on Thursday, including a very relatable piece called, “The Poetry Winner.” This short featured a character named Caitlyn, who had just finished college for the semester and was spending her summer as a grocery store clerk. The story culminates with Caitlyn’s declaration to a fussy customer that she is, in fact, a poetry winner, thus validating herself among a mundane hometown life.

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Remembering Harold Ramis: A Comedy Legend

Though taste in comedy might differ, laughter is universal. Few understood this fundamental truth more than the late Harold Ramis, a Hollywood visionary behind cult classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Caddyshack,” and “Groundhog Day.” News broke Monday, Feb. 24 that Ramis had passed away due to autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis at the age of 69, and his loss has since been felt all throughout the film community.

The writer, director, and actor was most often characterized by his boundary-pushing humor, first showcased when he got his start at Chicago’s Second City, a well-known comedy troupe. After an auspicious launching of his career, Ramis left the windy city for the Big Apple to collaborate with Bill Murray and John Belushi in “The National Lampoon Show.”

Before long, Ramis’ satiric writing style was in demand. He was hired as a performer and head writer of “SCTV,” a late-night sketch comedy show in the same vein as “Saturday Night Live.” This move would effectively launch his film career as he regrouped with the “National Lampoon” team to write the rowdy fraternity movie, “Animal House.”  Following this successful debut came “Caddyshack,” a film directed by Ramis about country club golfers, played by comedic veterans Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield.

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“Little Shop of Horrors” to Open in Woods Theatre

Want to see a murderous plant musical? Sure, it sounds weird, but the Theatre Department has proved that it’s also pretty hilarious. “Little Shop of Horrors” will open at Woods Theatre on March 5 at 8 pm.

Directed by Maurice J. Moran, the show tells the story of Seymour (Brandon Wiener), a flowershop salesman who grows a strange new plant that he calls Audrey II. He really just wants to help Mr. Mushnik (Nick Zaccario) keep his shop open and maybe impress Audrey (Brooke McCarthy). Things take a turn for the worst when he realizes the plant needs blood to survive.

Zaccario plays the oldest character, but he is actually one of the youngest cast members. Zaccario was thrilled to be cast. The communication and theatre major said, “Being a part of the cast of ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ as a freshman nonetheless, is truly an honor - it’s one of my favorite shows of all time, and I was just thrilled to get to revive my role as Mushnik two years in a row.” (Zaccario previously played Mushnik in a high school production of the show.)

Moran said that casting was a very hard process this year. Anyone from the university in any department is welcome to audition for the Theatre Department productions every year. This year’s cast includes students from the theatre, communication, music, political science and psychology majors.

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Lea Michele’s Lackluster“Louder”

The third time is the charm. After less than stellar albums from Matthew Morrison and Mark Salling, a “Glee” star finally managed to release a decent album. To the surprise of no one, Lea Michele will be the first “Glee” cast member to release a successful mainstream debut with “Louder.”

Vocally, Michelle knocks it out of the park. She can sing, but after five seasons of singing covers and hitting high notes on “Glee,” that was expected. Lyrically, she could use some work.

Michele’s singles were kind of disappointing. “Cannonball” is bright and uplifting but didn’t quite work for a first single. It seems like someone wanted to use Sia Furler’s songwriting credit (known for her song “Breathe Me” and Flo Rida’s “Wild One”) to validate Michele as more than just the girl on “Glee.” Honestly, it could be a decent song, but Michele’s weird pronunciation of the word ‘cannonball’ is so irritating that I can’t focus on anything else. She grew up in Tenafly, NJ and Bronx, NY; there is no way that she naturally says “cah-nun-bowl.”

The real issue with the first songs released before the album dropped is that someone really wants to show Leas as the broken girl dealing with boyfriend Cory Monteith’s death. Monteith died in July, after Michele finished her album, of a drug overdose. Of course, that has to be a massive part of her life right now, but that isn’t the strength of the album. Only two songs were added after Monteith’s passing (“Cannonball” and “If You Say So”), and it was supposed to be a dance pop album. The best songs aren’t about loss and moving on; they’re about love and not letting go.

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Contact Information

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

MAILING ADDRESS
The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey
07764

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu