Beyond the Books

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Academy Awards

Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 6:43 p.m.

Binge watch your break away with HBO Go

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Bridie O’Connell.

The holidays came early for students who are hoping to binge watch winter break away.

HBO Go became available to students last month and can be accessed off campus by logging in with a GW NetID and password. Check out our guide to the best TV shows and movies to watch on HBO Go for every situation you may encounter over break.

Mind- altering thriller: “Westworld”
Fans of dystopian science fiction shows will love HBO’s newest thriller, “Westworld.” “Westworld” mixes the past and the future in a way that is sure to mess with your mind. The combination of robots and the old west might seem confusing or cheesy, but “”Westworld” is a highly intricate show that will keep your mind occupied as you constantly try to figure out what is real and what is part of the park. In addition to the riveting science fiction aspect of the show, it is also full of action and romance.

A good cry: “The Danish Girl”
Inspired by a true story, “The Danish Girl” follows Einar Wegener who discovers that he identifies with a fictional persona, Lili, who he dresses up as to model for his wife’s painting. The film showcases the complicated relationship between Einar and his wife Gerda as they adjust to Einar’s transition to womanhood with delicate grace. The film is a true tearjerker, and the moving performances by Eddie Redmayne, as Einar, and Alicia Vikander, who won an Academy Award for her role as Gerda, will give you high standards as you size up the past year’s films for your Academy Award predictions.

Holiday movie to watch with family: “Miracle on 34th Street”
“Miracle on 34th Street,” which was added to HBO Go last month, is a classic Christmas movie that is perfect to watch with family. Based on a true story, “Miracle on 34th Street” tells the story of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa. This movie is perfect to turn on as every generation of your family gathers in the living room because the old-fashioned department store setting will send your grandparents on a trip down memory lane and the heartwarming holiday plot will please every age. Though it has many dramatic twists and turns, a happy ending ensures you’ll walk away with some extra holiday spirit.

Binge-worthy television: “Insecure”
Check out Yvonne Orji in the hit show, “Insecure,” to see a GW alumna who has made it to the big screen. “Insecure” is a comedic and relatable story of a woman trying to find her place in the world. With only one season out on HBO, now is the perfect time to binge before another season comes out next year. While this show follows a creative and funny plot, it also has been praised because it pushes back on stereotypes of black women. The 30-minute episodes fly by, making this the perfect show to binge on during winter break.

A trip back to the District: “Veep”
If you are spending winter break wishing you were back in D.C., “Veep” will make you feel right at your second home. The satirical show follows a female politician, who serves first as vice president then president of the U.S., as she attempts to make a lasting mark on the world while avoiding the political games and drama that the District is known for. Season six comes out this spring, so winter break is the perfect time to catch up while getting some comedic relief to forget about real-life political drama.

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Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 7:33 p.m.

What We’re Watching: ‘Selma’

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Eric Robinson.



From the simplicity of “The Theory of Everything” to the jingoistic hagiography of “American Sniper,” 2014 was a year that exposed the flaws and limitations of the biopic genre.

Filmmakers revealed a pervasive unwillingness to explore the human complexity of their subjects in favor of stereotyping and even misrepresenting them for the purposes of creating easily digestible Oscar bait.

Promotional Poster for 'Selma.'

Promotional Poster for “Selma.”‘

So it was a shock to see a film as high profile as “Selma” depict one of the most revered figures in American history, Martin Luther King Jr., as he truly was: a flawed and complicated human being.

“Selma” follows King (David Oyelowo) and his followers as they attempt to stage political marches in Selma and convince President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to support legislation that guarantees black Americans the vote.

The absolute genius of “Selma” is the decision to make King a supporting character in his own film. Whereas a lesser film would narrowly focus on King’s experience, “Selma” instead focuses on the Civil Rights Movement’s political efforts as a whole, functioning like Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

By casting a slight shadow on King, “Selma” avoids idolizing him and instead allows the decisions King makes as a leader and the small intimate moments with his wife speak for themselves. Keeping with this very human approach, “Selma” smartly integrates King’s infidelities and personal doubts into the narrative, creating a portrayal that is both rich and honest.

Director Ava DuVernay presents a film with a power that is effective despite the measured approach she takes to the subject matter. The scenes in which peaceful protesters are being brutalized feel terrifyingly real and violent without being excessive. DuVernay is fearless in her effort to link the seemingly distant past to our present, and the result is downright uncomfortable and moving.

In one scene, King confronts the grandfather of a murdered protester. Whereas most filmmakers would attempt to wring emotion from the moment by having King make an inspirational speech, Oyelowo’s King struggles to say much of anything, eventually settling on, “There are no words.”

“Selma” is the greatest biopic of 2014. It’s a film that understands that sometimes, honesty is the best way to honor an icon.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Christopher Saccardo.

Poster for "Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)," the Hatchet's choice for best live action short film.

Poster for “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me),” the Hatchet’s choice for best live action short film.

Despite their lack of fame in the U.S., the live-action shorts are one of the best parts of the Oscars. This year five flicks from five different countries vie for the title, but one is a clear winner.

If you’re still interested in attending a screening, all five shorts are running at E Street Cinema nightly for a normal student ticket price ($9.50), or you can head over to The National Archives on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for a free, commercial-free screening, where the run time is just over an hour total.

Editor’s note: Some summaries may contain spoilers.

“The Voorman Problem”
Country: United Kingdom
Directors: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

4 stars out of 5

Fueled by quirk and wit, “The Voorman Problem” tells the story of a psychiatrist who is hired to asses a prisoner who claims to be God. After claiming he can wipe Belgium off the map, the doctor goes home, and sees it is no longer in his atlas.

There was never a dull moment – the absurdity and humor in finding a sea where Belgium once was in the map left the audience cracking up. Nonetheless, it wasn’t anything particularly memorable. The film ends with another trick. Only this time, the psychiatrist finds himself screaming in a straightjacket as the prisoner says goodbye in a full suit. Though the prisoner and psychiatrist swapping places was funny, this did not serve as a satisfying ending.

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre” (“Just before Losing Everything”)

Country: France

Directors:  Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras                                      

3 stars out of 5

When a film starts with a somber boy walking late to class because he has to buy cigarettes for his parents, you know from the start it is not going to be cheerful. When the boy’s mother tries to leave town from an abusive husband with the boy and his sister, the husband catches them and engage in a quick cat and mouse chase. After hiding behind a car, profusely sweating, he eventually gives up, leaving the mother and her children to escape safely.

Pained by a slow start, the film could do without the first half of build-up. Though thrilling during the chase, the excitement only lasts for a short period as the viewer only learns about the husband half-way through. Establishing the danger early, rather than leaving the audience confused would have been helpful.

“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”

Country: Finland

Directors:  Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari                                    

4 stars out of 5

Everyone knows that chaotic family with the cluttered kitchen. “Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” is a hilarious walkthrough of a family’s frantic wake-up routine in preparation for a wedding. After waking up late, forgetting the dresses in the washer and losing the gifts, the family leaves with a potted plant as their present, stained clothing and the children clad in Halloween costumes. Upon arrival, they walk into a funeral and realize the wedding is next week.

As the shortest film (only 7 minutes), it manages to convey the hectic lifestyle with ease. It thrives on the particular events like the wife angrily walking into the bathroom to find the husband fine-tuning his beard, only to become angrier. Also being so light-hearted it serves the perfect contrast to the overall tone of the other shorts.


Country: Denmark

Directors: Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson   

3 stars out of 5 

“Helium” opens in a hospital room with a terminally-ill child looking around. After developing a relationship with the custodian, he learns the place he’s in is called ‘Helium,’ the destination following death. After being moved to a different room, the janitor defies security and finishes his story before the boy dies, leaving the boy to board the zeppelin for ‘Helium’ in the final scene.

This is the classic story of a sick individual that builds a relationship with an unlikely candidate. Though reserved at first, the janitor comes around and falls deeply invested in the child before he dies. Though it is cliché, it is successful in bringing a tear in your eye, especially after the child wakes up from his death to embark on his journey to ‘Helium.’

Hatchet’s choice: “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”

Country: Spain

Director: Esteban Crespo          

4.5 stars out of 5

Easily the most compelling film of the night, “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” depicts the tale of a couple who traveled to Africa as doctors, only to be halted by an army of children soldiers, who sit the couple down before an older man enters and instructs them to shoot the husband.

Following rape and mass slaughter, the fast-pace thriller-drama concludes as the woman drives with the child who killed her spouse. At the end, the child, now grown up, is shown finishing a speech about his experience in the children’s army. In the audience the woman sits, tear-stained and clapping.

The film elicits a wide array of emotions, from resentment against children’s violence to anger against rape, fear for one’s life and finally, desperation as the two sit in the car, one wounded physically and the other emotionally.


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A GW alumnus emerged from the Academy Awards victorious.

“Life of Pi.”

A graduate of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Bill Westenhofer took home the Best Visual Effects award for his work on “Life of Pi” in Sunday’s Oscars ceremony. Westenhofer beat out four other nominated pictures, including “The Avengers” and “The Hobbit.”

Westenhofer is no stranger to the Hollywood awards season. His work on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects in 2005, and in 2008, he received the BAFTA and Academy Award for visual effects on “The Golden Compass.”

CCAS alumna and “Django Unchained” star Kerry Washington also graced the Oscars stage, presenting a clip from the film alongside co-star Jamie Foxx.

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