Arriving home for winter break in the typical post-exam fugue tends to make the inevitable holiday burnout all the more severe. Everyone knows that those few weeks between semesters are best spent binge-watching movies in sweatpants and resisting the urge to hit refresh on MyCourses—at least that’s how we in the Arts & Entertainment section like to refuel. Here’s what we watched this winter break:
Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour
On Dec. 31, Netflix released Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour, a two-hour concert film of Swift’s last performance of the tour. I’m not really a fan of Swift, and, like many, chose to start watching the film ironically. However, I was immediately enthralled by the sheer spectacle of her performance. Everything was captivating: The smoke machines, the projected lyrics and images on the screens behind her, the suspenseful pauses in between familiar chords. Despite help from her talented dancers, instrumentalists, and backup singers, Swift herself dominated the stage. Her sharp, deliberate dance moves, her playful glances, and her majestic bows reminded me of something many of us likely forgot: Underneath all the drama and pettiness that have overwhelmed Swift’s media presence over the past few years, she truly is an excellent performer.
The acclaimed show Black Mirror offers stories that explore the potential to misuse technology’s seemingly-neutral innovations. With Bandersnatch, which was released as a surprise this holiday break, the creators of Black Mirror transpose these cultural concerns into a choose-your-own-adventure format, placing the power of technological misuse in the viewer’s hands. While there is nothing new about this format, the episode’s execution is pioneering in how it tests the ethics of this power. At least, that’s what it explores in one of its branching paths. Bandersnatch, partly at the mercy of the viewer and at the expense of narrative coherence, never has to focus on a singular, overarching theme. It can veer into an absurd fight sequence between a therapist and a patient or meander into the nature of reality during a psychedelic trip, and that’s what makes it brilliant.
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse
In Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, directors Peter Ramsay, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman accomplished something ingeniously simple: They made a superhero movie feel like a comic book. The result is a breath of fresh air in the over-saturated superhero genre and a work that is at once touching and entertaining. Through the lens of Miles Morales, a teenager from Queens, we discover an interdimensional ring of Spidermen—and Spiderwomen. As Hollywood begins to take diversity in representation seriously, this clever plot device allows the filmmakers to introduce a multitude of spidery protagonists. Yet, these characters are not just cardboard cut-outs, and Miles’ story is particularly well-written.
Animated with a sense of individual craftsmanship that belies its hundred-strong animation team, Into the Spider-Verse is a joy to behold, sparkling with retro comic effects and visual jokes which disappear just as you begin to understand them. The scenes of Miles’ daily life feel realistic, yet the last scene delivers a dimension-bending fight scene which threatens to dissolve into pure anarchy.