Beyond the Books

Your Guide to student life

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Ariana Mushnick.

Finals season is winding down, and chances are you’ll soon be home for the holidays with little to no responsibilities. Take advantage of your free time with the best of Netflix’s latest, from Britney Spears’ 2002 cinematic debut to 236 hours of “Friends.”

X

Promotional poster for “Almost Famous.”

“Almost Famous”
Available: Dec. 1
Take a journey into the ‘70s with a movie full of corduroy, platform shoes and Kate Hudson circa 2000 rocking round blue-tinted sunglasses at all hours of the night. The semi-autobiographical film directed by Cameron Crowe tells the story of an aspiring teenage music journalist who has the adventure of a lifetime. Touring with a rock band as a writer for Rolling Stone at age 15, he witnesses all the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll with hilarious awkwardness and coming-of-age moments.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
Available: Dec. 6
Ron Burgundy is back in action. The 763 new jokes the trailer brags about may be stupid, but they sure will make you laugh. Unwind from finals season with this cast packed with comedic icons: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner. Even if the plot seems silly, watch until the end for the epic fight scene even funnier than the first film’s, this time featuring Harrison Ford, Kanye West, Will Smith and Tina Fey.

“American Beauty”
Available: Dec. 1
Before Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey was Lester Burnham, who leads just about the opposite life of his “House of Cards” character. Watch Spacey’s Academy Award-winning performance as a miserable father facing a mid-life crisis. The twisted plot unravels as Lester becomes fed up with his neurotic wife and infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend. You may be dreading a month of holiday family dinners, but after this you’ll be glad you weren’t born into the Burnham family.

“Crossroads”
Available: Dec. 1
If you’re looking for a more casual movie night, “Crossroads” is an option for some fluffy entertainment. Three young friends bury a box and make a pact to open it the night of their high school graduation, but by the time senior year rolls around, they’ve ended up in separate cliques. Kit (Zoe Saldana) is the popular prom queen, Mimi (Taryn Manning) is a pregnant rebel and Lucy is the innocent good girl, who is played – ironically – by Britney Spears. Despite their diverging paths, they fulfill their pact to open the box and end up reuniting for a roadtrip in a yellow convertible with jam sessions to “Bye, Bye, Bye” along the way.

“Friends”
Available: Jan. 1
If binge watching TV shows is more your style, Jan. 1 is your lucky day. All 10 seasons (that’s 236 episodes, 83 hours) of the iconic series will be available New Year’s Day to help you kick off 2015. “Friends” is on just about every list of “Top TV Shows of All Time,” but if you’re not familiar with the series, it follows Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe, Ross and Monica as they try to make their way through life as young adults in Manhattan.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 3:07 p.m.

What We’re Watching: ‘Force Majeure’

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Eric Robinson.

“Force Majeure”

★★★★✰

Discomfort is definitely the feeling one experiences when watching director Ruben Östlund’s “Force Majeure,” a Swedish film that follows a family on vacation at a ski resort in the French Alps.

After the father, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), has a moment of cowardice, his seemingly perfect life with his wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), and his two kids is completely shaken.

Promotional poster for “Force Majeure.”

What follows is an examination of gender roles, masculinity and parenthood, with Ebba keeping Tomas from moving past the event, and Tomas refusing to openly take responsibility for his actions.

Östlund captures the tension between the two parents with long, uninterrupted shots of their conversations that are completely stationary, forcing the audience to witness every moment of their unease. Each talk is like a ticking time bomb, as one wrong word or facial expression has the potential to turn a civil exchange into a full-blown argument.

Östlund’s strengths are in more than just the conversation scenes: His film contains some fantastically beautiful imagery. In one scene, the characters are caught in a snowstorm and barely visible. Faint shadows serve as the only visual aid, and the audience must use them to follow the characters.

In another scene, a stunning pan of the French Alps at nighttime shows little orange lights dotting the peaks in the distance. Even the opening scene, which consists of a simple shot of the French Alps during the day, is gorgeous in the way the blue of the sky contrasts with the pure white of the snow.

But there are moments of “Force Majeure” that seem a little extraneous, particularly in the final scenes. Kuhnke also flubs a few emotional moments toward the end, which dampens the film’s resolution. But Kuhnke lackluster performance doesn’t hamper the bold way “Force Majeure” challenges the image of the “perfect family” and the roles that mothers and fathers are supposed to play.

In one crucial scene, Ebba argues with a woman over open marriages. Ebba is perplexed by the family’s health because it goes against her preconceived notion of how marriages are supposed to work. Such is the problem with Ebba’s marriage: Both partners have expectations for “how marriages work” that get in the way of a healthy relationship.

“Force Majeure” is ultimately a cry for emotional openness and less judgment between married couples. As a cinematic bonus, it does this with flair and beauty.

Released: Oct. 31
Director: Ruben Östlund (“Involuntary”)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Cuddle with kittens Thursday at the Humane Society's pop-up cat cafe. Photo by Flickr user "pinguino k" under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Cuddle with kittens Thursday at the Humane Society’s pop-up cat cafe. Photo by Flickr user “pinguino k” under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Looking for a way to unwind after finals? The Washington Humane Society’s pop-up cat cafe is coming to the Rock & Roll Hotel on Thursday.

You heard that right.

About a month after announcing a partnership with upcoming cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers, the Washington Humane Society will offer playtime with adoptable cats in two VIP rooms of the venue at 1353 H St. NE from 5 to 8 p.m.

Guests can also check out a cat “reading room,” where they can learn more about the organization, and 15 percent of all sales from the event will go to the Washington Humane Society.

The pop-up joins a growing trend of “cat cafes” – coffee shops that offer cuddles with kittens while you sip your latte – across the country, from New York City’s “Meow Parlour” to Oakland, Calif.’s “Cat Town Cafe.”

  • Permalink
  • Comments

"The Halal Guys" street car in New York City. Photo by Flickr user Tal Atlas under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

The Halal Guys street cart in New York City. Photo by Flickr user Tal Atlas under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Finals aren’t even over yet, but there’s already a reason to get excited to head back to campus come spring.

As with all things exciting, it involves food – kabobs, to be exact.

The Halal Guys chain, a New York City staple known for red-and-yellow street food carts and steaming gyros since the ’90s, is coming to the District, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The street cart chain, which opened its first New York brick-and-mortar store in the summer, has plans to open 100 shops over the next five years, Eater reported, including as many as 10 in D.C. starting in spring 2015.

Although the iconic carts aren’t part of the expansion plan, the “Guys” will continue serving chicken and rice platters, gyros and, of course, their famous kabobs.

The company, which has partnered with franchise consulting firm Fransmart, also hopes to open locations in Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, Canada and eventually Europe.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

As the semester winds down, go out with a bang by exploring a new exhibit at Freer Gallery or shopping at fashion trucks all weekend.

Saturday

9th Annual Upshur Street Arts and Crafts Fair: Twenty-five local artists will gather in the Petworth neighborhood and D.C. musicians will perform all day, courtesy of Listen Local First D.C., which promotes the city’s music culture. It’s the perfect place to shop for last-minute gifts. Be sure to grab some warm pierogis or goulash soup from Domku between vendors as you take advantage of the balmy December weather.
800 block of Upshur Street. NW. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free.

Zen, Tea and Chinese Art at Freer Gallery: Check out the opening of the latest exhibit at Freer Gallery of Art, which explores the Chinese roots of Japanese cultural expressions like Zen Buddhism, tea and ink painting. The exhibit aims to synthesize the rich history of these dichotic cultures through ancient paintings and ceramics, and runs until June 2015.
1050 Independence Ave. SW. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free.

Sunday

Fashion Truck Market at The Yards Park: So-called mobile boutiques will take over Navy Yard this weekend. This community of entrepreneurs pushed back against restrictions in the food truck-friendly District last spring, and it seems to have found its footing. The event will showcase sellers like Street Boutique, a Parisian-themed shop no bigger than your dorm room.
Tingey and 4th streets. SE. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free.

Paperhaus at U Street Music Hall: If you missed Kraftwerk last weekend, have no fear: Paperhaus will perform a rendition of the group’s famed “Trans-Euro Express” at U Street Music Hall and host a listening party for their upcoming, self-titled album. The electroclash sound of local duo Alex Tebeleff and Eduardo Rivera is reminiscent of bands like the Talking Heads and the modern psychedelic artists of MGMT.
1115 U St. NW. Doors at 8 p.m. $5.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 10:36 p.m.

What We’re Watching: ‘Citizenfour’

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Eric Robinson.

“Citizenfour”

★★★★✰

Promotional poster for "Citizenfour."

Promotional poster for “Citizenfour.”

There’s a moment in “Citizenfour,” a documentary that follows journalist Laura Poitras as she works with Edward Snowden to leak information about the National Security Agency surveillance program, that encapsulates the paranoia and darkness at the film’s heart.

During one of Snowden’s many conversations with Poitras and Glenn Greenwald in a Hong Kong hotel room, a fire alarm blares to life. Tension increases as Snowden openly wonders whether the alarm is meant to force the group out of the hotel room so others can spy on them.

When it turns out that the alarm is just for a drill at the hotel, the room relaxes – but not completely, as evidenced by the hint of hesitation in Snowden’s voice as they resume the discussion.

Moments like this punctuate “Citizenfour,” whether it be Snowden shaving his face and cutting his hair in an effort to radically change his appearance or a roomful of journalists getting rid of all their cell phones to avoid being bugged.

It is impossible to know whether anyone in the room was actually wiretapped, making both the film’s characters and viewers wonder if they are being watched.

“Citizenfour” takes place firmly from the point of view of Poitras and Greenwald as they meet with Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room before, during and after the release of the leaks. The sequence is tense because of its intimate vantage point as the leakers watch the world react to the information they provide.

It’s very much like watching history unfold before your eyes.

Whereas most politically motivated documentaries go for a confrontational or incendiary style reminiscent of Michael Moore, “Citizenfour” is more subtle. Poitras uses a minimalist style, incorporating emails, raw interview footage and secret communications.

Poitras completely excludes herself from the documentary despite her very active role in the leaks, a decision that makes the film seem more journalistic. The film isn’t made so much to anger or outrage you, but rather to immerse you in a world of secrecy.

Yet even with this style, “Citizenfour” is rather terrifying. Its portrayal of a world so frightened of terrorism that governments feel the need to spy on absolutely everyone is effectively disturbing and saddening.

In one particularly grim scene, Greenwald sits in a room with Snowden as they communicate via pieces of paper – in case the room has been bugged.

After finishing their conversation, Greenwald tears up the pieces of paper, and a final shot shows Greenwald gathering the pieces with his hands.

With scenes like this, the film leaves one question for viewers: In a paranoid world, where everything can be traced and found, how can anyone, like whistleblowers and journalists, be safe?

Released: Nov. 26
Director: Laura Poitras (“The Oath”)
Genre: Documentary
Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Beeny, Jacob Appelbaum, Ewen MacAskill

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Finals season is here again, and as usual, avoiding work the right way is the key to staying sane. Check out these websites for optimal procrastination opportunities, especially if you’re not looking to sink to this level.

Hatchet File Photo

Hatchet File Photo

1. If there’s one thing guaranteed to lower your self-esteem, it’s six hours in Gelman Library with a bag of chips and a semester’s worth of reading. During a study break, counteract this with The Kanye West Self-Confidence Generator, a stream of quotes by Yeezus about Yeezus. It may not break the Internet, but it will inspire you to channel the self-proclaimed “No. 1 living and breathing rock star” and ace your biology exam.

2. Find the invisible cow. And for just $2, you can find an invisible fox. Use headphones!

3. As a millennial, employers expect you to know how to code and navigate the nuances of social media. But do you know how to make a GIF? This is important stuff, even if you end up just spamming your friends with your new skill.

4. Bring in the cats. And not to spoil the surprise, but we also recommend reloading the cats.

5. POTUS Interruptus. You know you want to watch it again.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Updated: Dec. 9, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.

Don’t get stuck hunting the stacks for empty Gelman Library study rooms. Granted, we’ve all been there. But whether you’re in need of an isolated spot to cram or a place with enough seats for your study group, head to one of these off-campus study spaces instead.

For writing a final paper

The Lerner Room at the Hirshhorn Museum
Bang out your final paper at this third-floor lounge of the Hirshhorn Museum, a little-known sanctuary with a large couch, desks, free Wi-Fi and plenty of outlets. The quiet, removed atmosphere is perfect for a solo writing session, and you can browse the galleries when you’re in need of a break. Eyes getting tired from staring at your laptop screen? The room features floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can rest your gaze on the National Mall in between paragraphs. Just don’t forget that the museum closes at 5:30 p.m., all the more reason to get your work done early.
The Lerner Room at The Hirshhorn Museum, 700 Independence Ave. SW. Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free admission.

Soho Tea and Coffee. Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Soho Tea and Coffee. Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

For a study group

Soho Tea and Coffee
Couldn’t score a study room for your group in Gelman? Not to worry. With its neighborhood feel, large, round tables and free Wi-Fi, this no-frills coffee shop is ideal for groups. Call up some study mates, order a freshly brewed espresso or tea and get to work. When you need a pick-me-up to keep the group going, you can always grab a snack from the cafe, which offers pastries, sandwiches and desserts. Plus, the cafe stays open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, so you won’t be kicked out come 6 p.m.
Soho Tea and Coffee, 2150 P St. NW. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For catching up on reading

The National Gallery of Art
If you’ve put off your readings for class, don’t panic. For a peaceful, chat-free space to get into your zone and power through those pages, the National Gallery of Art is the place to be. Read with a view of some of the nation’s most famous artworks while lounging on one of the many couches throughout the museum’s exhibits.
The National Gallery of Art, 6th Street and Constitution Ave. NW. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tryst Cafe. Photo by Flickr user Alex Guerrero under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Tryst Cafe. Photo by Flickr user Alex Guerrero under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

For last-minute cramming

Tryst Cafe
When the pressure’s on, you’ll need a late-night spot to cram. Grab your Red Bull and headphones and get to work at Tryst, a coffee shop in Adams Morgan that stays open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Chow down or drink up some study fuel between bouts of cramming, like a lavender hot chocolate ($4) or a cinnamon honey scone ($2.75). There’s plenty of seating, from booths to tables and armchairs, plus free Wi-Fi. But be warned: The coffee shop turns off Wi-Fi on weekends between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Tryst, 2459 18th St. NW. Open Monday through Thursday 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday through Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to midnight.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Tryst Cafe was located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. It is actually in Adams Morgan. We regret this error.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014 2:31 p.m.

What We’re Watching: ‘Wild’

“Wild”

★★★✰✰

Reese Witherspoon as Strayed in "Wild." Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in “Wild.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

A careful adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, “Wild” tells the true story of the author’s inner struggle as she walks out of a troubled past – on a solo trip of 1,100 miles.

Reese Witherspoon takes on the part of Strayed, whose life has unraveled into uninhibited promiscuity and a mirage of heroin after losing her mother to cancer. With nothing else to live for – no home, partner or job – Strayed decides it’s time to live one of her dreams and plans a backpacking trip north on the Pacific Crest Trail.

From the start, Strayed’s struggle on the long journey is clear. Without any means of communicating with the outside world, Strayed must solve her many challenges – from crossing paths with a rattlesnake to bypassing the worst Sierra Nevada snow of the decade – alone.

The intensity and peril of the journey is portrayed in riveting and sometimes difficult to watch scenes, like when Strayed pulls off one of her too-small boots during a rest on a mountain peak, revealing a bloody and bruised foot and a dangling toenail. With viewers cringing, Strayed grabs the nail and pulls quickly.

As she stumbles backward from the force, a boot slides off the cliff, and Strayed grabs the other boot and chucks it off the mountain, yelling, “Fuck yeah, bitch,” with such anger that a burden of pain and troubles is released through the sound.

Strayed’s closest friend, Amy (Gaby Hoffmann), agrees to send food and care packages to each stop on her trip, reminding her, “You know you can quit at any time,” but Strayed is resilient, and her determination to finish the impractical journey makes her character fascinating.

Witherspoon as the rugged, strong-willed yet regretful and lost Strayed is a refreshing change from her usual rom-com roles, and her narration throughout the film creates an enduring connection with the audience.

Without the need for anything more than clear and minimalist shots of the beautiful West Coast forests, the camera follows Strayed as she walks past the natural blue lakes, mossy rainforests and windy deserts, and the imagery itself is a work of art.

Strayed’s haunting past is depicted through blurs of dark flashbacks, but these scenes of damp apartments with a drugged Strayed lying on the ground are largely unexplained, making the film feel somewhat stagnant.

Because of the lack of insight into Strayed’s inner thoughts or earlier life, the film’s conclusion seems rushed and cut off. Although Witherspoon narrates an epilogue to her story, the actions of her character during the film don’t reflect her apparent outcome, and the viewer is left thinking how she overcame the troubles haunting her.

The viewer knows Strayed has gone through a change in her behavior and outlook, but isn’t quite sure why or how.

Author Cheryl Strayed’s powerful story allows director Jean-Marc Vallée and screenwriter Nick Hornby to craft a unique film that stands out from other recent releases, if it be by plot alone. But though the first half of the film connects viewers to Strayed’s life and confides in them her past struggles, it is missing the resolution that makes her 1,100 mile hike worth it.

Released: Dec. 5
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
Writer: Nick Hornby (“An Education”)
Genre: Drama
Cast: Reese Witherspoon (“The Good Lie”), Laura Dern (“The Fault in Our Stars”), Gaby Hoffmann (“Veronica Mars”), Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Updated: Dec. 7, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Joshua Shin.

A reception was well underway Thursday night at the House of the Temple, a classical marble building that seems out of place just off the quirky bookshops and pebbled sidewalks of hip Dupont Circle.

Here, the Colonial Lodge No. 1821, the chapter of Freemasons affiliated with GW, held its year-end celebration and Installation of Officers, a public ceremony in which the chapter’s seven officers are advanced into the hierarchy.

And progressing through each stage of leadership isn’t easy.

“Ascension is linear, so someone who is elected as Junior Steward, the lowest of seven positions, is expected to be Worshipful Master in seven years,” said GW alumnus Tyler Coffey, who was installed as the lodge’s Worshipful Master, the head position.

A gathering of mostly men mingle in the lobby, the Masons set apart by their white bow ties. Although flanked by dark granite columns, a lit Christmas tree and small menorah at the center of the room provide some holiday cheer.

Founded in 2008, the Colonial Lodge is among the youngest of D.C.’s 44 lodges, but that hasn’t stopped it from reaching out and working on GW’s behalf.

Last year, the organization pledged 10 percent of its annual dues to Gelman Library.

“We didn’t have much, but we wanted to help in any way we could,” said Morgan Corr, a GW alumnus and former Worshipful Master of the lodge.

Corr said the lodge donated $500 to the library in 2014, and he expects the number to grow as membership grows.

The group’s most noteworthy achievement from the past year, though, was the $25,000 it managed to collect for “First Night,” an event where GW’s freshman class were whisked off to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.

Most of the funds were donated by the Masonic and Eastern Star Home Charities and the Scottish Rite, the Masonic organization that owns the space where the ceremony was held.

Earlier this year, the Colonial Lodge received an award of $5,000 from MESH for its fundraising efforts. But at the ceremony Thursday night, the lodge donated the full $5,000 back to the Scottish Rite to help fund future renovations.

The GW Freemasons’ activities have also piqued the interest of current students and alumni, many of whom attended the event to learn more about the lodge, like Daniel Matsumoto, a freshman who submitted his petition for membership at the reception.

When Matsumoto found out that his grandfather had been a Freemason, he was inspired to look into membership opportunities at the lodge.

“When [my grandfather] died, he left me a ring with a two-headed eagle,” he said. “I started looking into books on symbology for its meaning, and it turned out that it was the symbol of the Scottish Rite.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly identified Morgan Corr as Jordan Carr. We regret this error.

  • Permalink
  • Comments