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A sock for a water bottle, a hammock for bathroom items, slippers that clean the floor as you walk – these are some of the many items one can find in Daiso, the most recent Asian craze to enter the Houston scene since 85C Bakery Cafe. Daiso is a Japanese dollar store that has an international presence. But to call it a dollar store does not do it justice, because Daiso is more than an exporter of Japanese commercial items – it’s an exporter of Japanese lifestyle.
There is something precious about the interim period spent waiting for the campus shuttle or in line at the servery. These are times of idleness, and they feel like an oasis from the rat race of college life. In these moments, I turn to idle games – games on my phone that are perfectly situated for these idle times. They are engaging enough that I don’t have to focus too hard, but shallow enough that I am not committing to anything meaningful. After years of culturing and reinforcing this habit, I now consider myself somewhat of a hardcore idle gamer, and will do my part to lend my critical eye for the prospective idle gamer.
You know the drill. Eat at home. Stay away from social media. Yes, us stags and spinsters have learned to deal with the week of Feb. 14. But even the most seasoned among us may have trouble finding things to do in their Postmates-blessed, Instagram-free anniversaries. So let this viewing guide serve those lonely souls who could burn an hour or two on some silver screen entertainment.
It took five hours to fly to Seattle, and then five days to drive back to Houston. That was my first road trip; a taste of the Americana, because not many places in the world have roads long enough. To put it another way, I imagine the distance we covered each day could have been a circumnavigation of my country, Taiwan.
“Black Mirror” is often blurbed as the “Twilight Zone” for the 21st century and it is an apt elevator pitch. Created by Charlie Brooker, “Black Mirror” is an anthology series about how technology relates to our society, privacy and politics. With such heavy emotional turns and intense subject matter, “Black Mirror” is best watched in small doses. This was not a problem until the current season, in which Netflix promptly doubled the number of episodes resulting in a whopping runtime of seven hours. Thankfully, the full season three experience is still possible if one is selective about which episodes to watch. Following, I’ll be reviewing my three standout episodes.
Last month, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston featured “Sweet Bean,” a film directed by Naomi Kawase about a dorayaki shopkeeper and his two unlikely friends. To those in the know, dorayaki is a treat best associated with its mascot, a blue robot cat. But if that fails to ring a bell, imagine an ice cream sandwich where you replace the wafer for a pancake-like batter and then the filling for red bean paste. The combination is a textural balance of gentle and wholesome, and incidentally the same words that describe Kawase's film.
It was a Saturday when I threw half my stuff away. My inspiration? A book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” written by the “guru of tidiness” Mari Kondo. My relationship with my dorm room was strained. While others saw a boring but harmless room, I saw the mounds buried behind my drawers and the skeletons stuffed in my closet. Sometimes the mound would surface like a sperm whale, and I had come to expect his presence every time midterm season rolls around. But Kondo promises this does not have to be if I follow her “KonMari Method.” So, armed with the bible of decluttering, I set aside a Saturday to give that whale a KonMari poke.
For those of us who cannot be found roaming Anderson Hall at night, the celebration of architecture is epitomized by two campus events: Architectronica and Archi-Arts, which is Architectronica minus the big party. If it is difficult to pin down what to expect from Archi-Arts, it is probably because people are picturing Architectronica Act II. However, Archi-Arts should really be considered a beast of its own. Curators Sam Ding and Hannah Wang explained how they are designing the experience to diverge entirely from Architectronica.
A documentary that neither Netflix viewers nor Oscar voters can ignore, “What Happened, Miss Simone?” weaves through the life and music of jazz legend and civil rights activist Nina Simone. As one of the most recognizable African-American voices of the 20th century, Simone laid her fingerprints on the culture of many generations. Directed by Liz Garbus and produced by Rice alum Amy Hobby (Will Rice ‘86), the film has been nominated for Best Documentary in the upcoming Academy Awards.
Known for traversing the limits of Euclidean space, Cirque du Soleil materializes on stage the film that pioneered mainstream 3-D cinema, James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Titled “Toruk: The First Flight,” the show is the obvious marriage of two visual feasts. As the world’s leading contemporary circus, Cirque du Soleil constructs heritage and mythology through fascinating spectacle.
Any aspiring filmmaker knows that the film industry is an unforgiving one. Financial- and distribution-related woes inevitably weigh down even the purest of passion projects. Even if the film manages to wring itself through the logistical nightmare, it will be splayed out to the saturated market to be torn apart by the circling critics. Under this spotlight is Taylor Richard’s directing debut, “The Final Project,” in which a group of college students investigates the paranormal activity of a historic plantation in Louisiana.
With the 2016 Oscars just around the corner, most pundits have truncated the official list of eight Best Picture nominees to an unofficial shortlist of three: the gripping “The Revenant,” the provoking “The Big Short” and the oddball – “Spotlight.” Mainstream media have largely sidelined “Spotlight,” which is a true story about the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Catholic Church child sex scandals in the early 2000s. Directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight” is a film that dedicates its form to its narrative and delivers a snapshot of history with handcrafted care.
In a world where matchmaking is everything and “sensible” ladies are confined to the drawing room, the last thing the Bennet sisters need is to fight off a horde of zombies, yet that’s exactly what happens in the upcoming film “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Austen purists might object: “Subtlety is all but ruined in this heightened culture of ours.” Zombie aficionados might lament: “I find it hard to believe Lizzy Bennet can knock down an actual zombie while wearing a corset.” Notwithstanding, whether one be posh or nerd or somewhere in between, I believe there does exist a Venn diagram where the Victorian gentry and the walking dead overlap. The film comes to theaters on Feb. 5.
The Oscars have always been a contentious bunch of awards. On one hand, there are the popular favorites that give rise to the cliched “Oscar genre” film — the deglamorized celebrity, true story-inspired biopic, orchestral score, the whole gamut. On the other hand, there are the art house films that no one else saw, but stole the hearts of film snobs everywhere. Even before nominations are announced, the fight between the layman and the snob has already taken off. To make it easy, here are my picks for films that could satisfy both sides of the aisle.
Most protests are reactions against injustice, but sometimes, people protest for the sake of protesting itself. “The Altruists,” written by Nicky Silver, explores the lives of three such self-identified “professional protesters,” whose “sticking up to the man” mantra results in one of them being framed for murder. Directed by Rice alumna Susannah Eig (Jones ’14) and produced by Lovett College junior Mei Tan, the Rice Players Company’s performance of “The Altruists” captures the beating heart of a satirical and whimsical true story.
“What would you do if you knew you were living the last year of your life?”
Not many of us can relate a personal experience to a visit from the undead. On the other hand, the haunting persistence of an obsessive first love, undead or otherwise, hits everyone close to home. This is the premise of “Clinger,” an upcoming film co-created by Rice alumna Gabi Chennisi Duncombe (Wiess ’12). As the title suggests, “Clinger” is about an overly attached boyfriend who dies in a tragic accident, only to return to the land of the living bent on killing his now-ex-girlfriend in the hopes of a posthumous reunion. The film made its debut earlier this year at Slamdance Festival.