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Two students win NYT awards

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The New York Times Learning Network recognized two reviews by Lincoln’s Intro to Mass Communications students among its top reviews of 2017 in its annual Student Review Contest. Among the 1,494 entries, sophomore Evan Reynolds’ review of the film Battle of the Sexes in the top ten, and freshman Archie Barnes placed in the top 25 with his take on Wu-Tang Clan’s new album, “The Saga Continues.” Reynolds’ review was posted on the New York Times website. As a recognition of their work, the Cardinal Times is publishing both reviews in full.

 

“Battle of the Sexes”: A Hillary Clinton Movie in a Donald Trump World

The year is 1973. A highly publicized tennis match, “The Battle of the Sexes,” is aired between incendiary sexist has-been Bobby Riggs and young up-and-comer Billie Jean King. The media circus of blatant chauvinism surrounding the match quickly fades, as King wins against Riggs in three sets, shattering a glass ceiling for female athletes and putting an end to the outrageous gender politics of the era. Or so it was thought.

Contrast 1973 with 2016, where competent, experienced Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election to Donald Trump, a demagogic businessman who exploits institutionalized sexism in order to draw greater crowds. One of the final glass ceilings suddenly becomes that much harder to reach. And the world’s assumption that modern sexism is ending comes to a screeching halt.

It is this brave new world in which Battle of the Sexes debuted, eight months after Trump’s inauguration. Through no fault of its own, the film loses its resonance, as an ending that was clearly intended to be a victory lap in a Hillary Clinton presidency becomes merely a wistful memory.

Don’t misunderstand me. If one were to keep a checklist of everything that makes a movie conventionally “good”– the acting, the direction, the script, the pacing –it would fill out every single one of those boxes. If one judges the film based solely on artistic merit, it is a resounding success. But the agenda that it clearly tries to push here appears unrealistic.

King (Emma Stone) takes center stage, working with a group of all-star female players to close the gender wage gap while simultaneously struggling with her own sexuality. Riggs (Steve Carell), by contrast, is a washed-up former tennis player and gambling addict who finds himself once again drawn to the court. In order to gain attention, Riggs makes inflammatory statements about women to any media outlet he can find, and challenges multiple women to exhibition matches in order to “settle the debate” about female athletes.

Stone and Carell both give measured, capable performances, and the film is that much better for it. It tackles and takes sides on major issues. But the film loses its impact when it begins portraying sexual discrimination as something ridiculous, a museum relic that children and mothers can point to and laugh at before moving on down to the Jim Crow selection.

Our current politics don’t reflect an end to sexism but a resurgence, as abortion policy and women’s health initiatives are now dictated by committees of white men. Battle of the Sexes is a victim of bad timing, released in a world where its gender politics border on fallacy. Through little fault of its own, it appears hopelessly out of touch.

 

“Wu Tang Clan: The Saga Continues”: A stain on the Wu-Tang name

When Wu-Tang Clan released “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers)” in 1993, they shocked the world. With Method Man’s rhymes, RZA’s beats, and ODB’s flow, it sounded like nothing anyone had heard before. It was incredible, and took hip hop to the next level, and people loved it. Now, with Wu-Tang releasing new music, they’re pressured to live up to the Hip Hop community’s high standards, and to the Wu-Tang name. A couple weeks ago, Wu-Tang released their new album, “The Saga Continues.”

You’d expect the internet and the rap community to blow up over a major artist releasing a new tape, but “The Saga Continues” was largely ignored. After listening to the album, I could tell why.

Although there is the occasional old martial arts sound effect, it sounds like a completely different group of rap artists. Tang’s famous originality went unheard throughout the tape, turning it into just another generic forgettable hip hop album. The tape struck me as being rushed, like the group had to make a week deadline after they started. Another thing that disappointed me was that the album was produced to sound more like the style of rap today. Instead of the well known hard bass lines and classic kick and snare beats that Wu-Tang fans are used to, the instrumentals were replaced with bubbly offbeat bass lines and poor piano riffs.

Produced almost entirely by mathematics, the beats are repetitive and boring, making listening to the songs feel like you’re chewing through a raw piece of steak. No matter how solid the vocals are, a bad beat can desecrate a song. Here the lyrics are lazily put together, and the vocals are performed by lousy club singers that were picked out of soundcloud like slips of paper in a hat.

The only parts worth listening to on the album were performed by original members such as Method Man and Ghostface Killah. Even those were ruined by Redman, who, by the way, gets more airtime than six living members combined. Without U-God and ODB, it seems like the Wu-Tang Clan has fallen apart.

One of the reasons that 1993’s “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” was such a critically acclaimed album was that the lyrics were so incredibly brutal. Wu-Tang didn’t care what other people thought, and made a tape that sounded like nothing ever before. In “The Saga Continues,” the remaining members created a tape to live up to the Wu-Tang name. They wrote the lyrics and created the beats to fit in with a type, instead of creating something new.

I would not recommend this album, especially to the long-time Wu-Tang fans. The tape is sloppily put together, rushed, and taints the Wu-Tang name.

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