ANDY asked its writers about arts and entertainment that affected them most this semester. Here’s what they said.

Shane Madill

My state of mind is regularly conflicts with my thoughts of everyday life, and my desire to be grounded while also achieving success. I often think about the paradoxical idea of zoning out into “Mittyesque” fantasies. I feel bittersweet nostalgia for the past as I remember both good times and bad times. I look back with 20/20 hindsight, and consider how my experiences have molded me into the person I am today and how they have influenced my future.

Recently, I’ve find myself constantly going back to Converge’s discography. I discovered Converge at an especially dark point in my life, and I always go back to them in as a constant reminder of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Singer Jacob Bannon once stated, “People will identify with the darkness you’re feeling,” and sometimes we just need a reminder that we are all connected, even by the basic humanity of the darker emotions we struggle all must struggle through.

Alison Piercy

This past semester I read a countless number of books. All of them were for class. None of them felt very artistic. All of them were non-fiction and World War II related. Most of my time off has been spent looking at graduate school or continuing education programs. Whenever I go out with friends, or family, or colleagues, everyone wants to know what I plan to do next year. In retrospect, I probably should have expected this, given that I’m in my fourth and final year at McMaster. Sadly, the arts haven’t been able to affect me very much this semester because I’ve had no time for them. And life feels empty. And maybe that’s their affect. Here’s hoping for a new year filled with the arts. And less WWII.

Michael Gallagher

While this may be a bit cliché, music will always be one of the most important artworks in my life. I cannot imagine going through a semester without it. Almost everything I know would just feel so empty. How would I pump myself up at the gym if I didn’t have an awesome collection of songs to get me going? Would I even go to my classes if the long walk to school wasn’t made better by shuffling through my iPod? I can’t even try and imagine a semester without music that would me through it. And for me, it is most beneficial to listen to music while I’m studying.

Despite being a music lover, I always had trouble listening to music during a study session, because it was often too distracting. Thankfully, I soon realized that instrumental music – or music without lyrics – was the answer. Soon, some of the most played songs on my iPod were old Jazz albums, hip-hop producer beats, and artists like Ratatat, or BadBadNotGood. They helped get me in the zone I needed to boost my grades.

While I’m sure there are other reasons for the improvement in my grades over the years, I can’t help but decide that music helped me focus, and this was a huge part of it.

Lene Trunjer Petersen

I am a film nerd with a growing taste for controversial, independent films. The very different languages in many of these films is what amazes me. One film in particular that I saw this past term made my reconsider my knowledge of the environment – The East, starring Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård. Skarsgård portrays an eco-terrorist fighting for the world against big corporations. When I walked out from the warmth of the cinema, I stared up in the darkness questioning whether he was committing acts of terrorism or if he was actually saving our world. The film had a grave impact on my own way of thinking and made me strongly consider how I personally can work to save our planet hopefully before it is to late.

Nimra Khan

As my first term ever at McMaster comes to an end, it’s time to turn a little nostalgic and reminisce about all that’s happened. I’ve recently had the flashback of the craziness and flurry of activities during frosh week. It was during that time that I took part in Airbands! Yes, Airbands, an event that took hours of preparations for our team at Eddy’s. It involved long nights and sore arms and legs. I got to work with such fun people from Edwards Hall – and when you spend time dancing with and pretending to be superman while lying on the backs of four people who are practically strangers, you tend to get acquainted very quickly. Airbands made me love McMaster even more, along with Eddy’s; we might be one of the smallest and oldest residences, but that means we all got the chance to meet (and occasionally, dance) with everyone. So this past semester, an “artwork” that affected me was the little dance we put together for frosh week, and the friends and the good times it inspired.

Alison Piercy
The Silhouette

When the days grow colder and darker, my mother seems to accumulate stockpiles of books.

There are old ones from our collection that are battered and torn, others that came from the library and are dusty and laminated, and there are even brand new ones, which are pleasantly crisp and eager to have their spines cracked.

Each year they are always the same genre. They are always murder mysteries.

“Nothing like a cup of tea and a good murder around Christmas,” my mother would say. To an eight-year-old it was devastating. Now, 14 years later, I can’t think of any other type of book I’d rather read around the holidays.

And here’s a list of some fabulous ones.

1. Still Life by Louise Penny

Written by Canadian author Louise Penny, Still Life may not be the most intricate of mysteries, but Penny has the uncanny ability to write believable and relatable characters. The story takes place in the mythical Three Pines, a fictional small village south of Montreal. When one of the beloved locals is found shot with an arrow in the woods, Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team disrupt quiet life in the village in search of the murderer.

What really set this novel apart from others are the descriptions of characters and locations. There is a little café filled with mismatched furniture, beautiful art and delicious delicacies that will have you running over to My Dog Joe to compare atmospheres.

2. And Then There Were None  by Agatha Christie

Penned by the legend herself, Dame Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None is an instant classic in any collection. Ten seemingly unrelated strangers are invited to a remote island and are slowly killed, one by one, in accordance to an old nursery rhyme. The novel is short and sweet, but also chilling and calculated and could be considered equal parts horror and mystery. Almost 80 years later, Agatha Christie is still the best in the business.

3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Roger Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a modern mystery novel written by Robert Galbraith. Haha. Just kidding. This murder mystery novel is actually written by J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame in probably what is the worst kept secret in modern literature. Seriously, her name is printed on the inside cover.

The Cuckoo’s Calling follows a bitter private investigator named Cormoran Strike, who, in the last year, has returned to London from a tour in Afghanistan minus one leg, been dumped by his girlfriend and accumulated a massive amount of debt. The adoptive brother of a recently deceased supermodel acquires Strike’s services, and wants Strike to investigate the nature of her death.

If you are a fan of intriguing mysteries, Harry Potter, and a dash of House M.D., this is the novel for you.

4. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P. D. James

When I asked my mom what who her favorite mystery writer was (sans Agatha Christie, of course), she instantly pointed me in the direction of P.D. James and her Cordelia Grey series.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is the first novel in the series and follows Private Investigator Cordelia Grey, a 22-year-old sleuth in 1972 London. Using only her intellect Ms. Grey attempts to solve the death of her former partner by outsmarting not just the murderer, but also the entirety of Scotland Yard.

Alison Piercy
The Silhouette

Career-defining roles can sometimes make an actor a versatile star, but they can also condemn that person to playing the same character over and over again. Then again, the latter is not necessarily a bad thing.

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In Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson takes on one such career-defining role. She portrays Charlotte, a young woman who has travelled with her husband to Japan on a business trip. As her husband is busy with his job and socializing with a female celebrity friend, Charlotte is left alone in their hotel room. The movie explores Charlotte’s feelings of estrangement from her husband and the feelings of isolation and confusion that come with being in a large city with a vastly different culture.

Johansson, who was 18 when Lost in Translation was filmed, showed a talent and maturity beyond her years and easily convinced the audience that she was older than she actually was. Prior to this, Johansson had only played minor roles as a teen star. Her appearance in Lost in Translation marks her transition into adulthood.

The character of Charlotte in Lost in Translation provided the stepping-stone needed for Johansson to become one of Hollywood’s most prolific female stars today. This is because many of the roles she has taken have similar characteristics to Charlotte – her beauty, her intelligence, and her believability.

One of the most iconic scenes in Lost in Translation is the opening shot of Johansson lying on a hotel bed with her back towards the camera, sporting a pair of pink see-through underwear. From then on Johansson has been considered a sex symbol in pop culture and many of her roles, intentionally or not, have painted her in such a way. Vicky Christina Barcelona and He’s Just Not That Into You are prime examples of Johansson’s sexuality being the central to her characters.

Despite the focus on Johansson’s appearance, many of the characters she has chosen to play also have wit and motivations beyond just being eye-candy. In her most recent box-office hit, The Avengers, Johansson portrays Black Widow, a reformed spy that uses her brain to outsmart several bad guys throughout the movie.

Finally, Johansson’s ability to act with conviction can potentially be traced back to Lost in Translation. In one striking scene, Charlotte, overwhelmed by culture shock and loneliness, calls a friend from back home. Slightly in tears, she attempts to talk her friend through her situation, only to have the other person hang up. Anyone who has needed to talk to someone and been unable to get through can instantly empathize with Charlotte, thanks to Johansson’s finely tuned performance.

For Johansson, typecasting seems to be more of a benefit than a burden. Many of her characters since Lost in Translation have carried on Charlotte’s intriguing combination of sex appeal, intelligence and authenticity. Audiences will have many chances to find out if this trend continues. Johansson is currently starring in Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Don Jon, and will return to cinema screens next year in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.


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