ARTiculate: Revenge is a dish best served Old

Among Asian cinema connoisseurs, Oldboy easily stands as one of the most beloved movies to grace the silver screen. Originally released in 2003 from Korean director Chan-Wook Park, few films have managed to uphold the grim desperation of a man who spends 15 years in captivity, kidnapped, with no hint of any underlying motive.

Lackluster characteristics and restrained intensity renders Spike Lee’s Oldboy as just another action flick. Press photo

While trapped, he is made aware of his wife’s murder and his status as a primary suspect. And so, he meticulously attempts to dig out of his cell — his main driving force being revenge.

He is mysteriously released and receives a taunting phone call by his captor, which sets forth the action and the main character’s bloody quest for revenge.

What follows is a non-stop thriller filled with paranoia, conspiracy, torture, and violence that only a man who has nothing left to lose can display. But despite the grim tones, the movie also features a love story with a shocking twist that serves as the proverbial cherry on top of a masterfully made sundae.

Like Pulse and Godzilla before it, Oldboy is the latest of several Asian films to have received an American remake. So, how does the Western take on this classic compare to the original?

Like most of these Hollywoodized versions, the adaptations seek to draw in a new audience by decentralizing some cultural aspects.

Oldboy‘s remake, much like The Ring, for example, homogenizes much of what made the movie stand out in the first place. Plot twists are exhaustively explained — which is like explaining the punch line to a joke in an attempt to make it funnier — and many taboo topics are flat out discarded and edited out.

Furthermore, much of the movie’s violence is toned down. Some may argue that this is a positive factor, but considering the savage nature of the movie and the importance of the protagonist’s vengefulness, this disregard of the main character’s primary driving force waters down the movie to unbelievably dull levels.

The desperation and much of what gave the original movie its soul seems muddled and almost impossible to discern from yet another action thriller.

In turn, the adapted movie becomes nothing more than a two-hour snoozefest that attempts to explain and justify itself to a Western audience with a shameful lack of confidence.

Usually, these faults can be blamed on the director; the Hollywood version of Oldboy, however, boasts none other than Spike Lee at the helm — a cinema industry veteran, with several strong films under his belt such as Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and The 25th Hour.

There are few excuses, therefore, for this flat out bastardization of a cult classic.

The movie received an abysmal score of 43 per cent on, and is considered a box office bomb, as well as one of the weakest Thanksgiving openings in movie history.

However, Oldboy — the original South Korean version—is definitely worth seeing.



ARTiculate — A love letter to the action film

Dearest action films,

No collection of words could possibly describe the love we feel towards you. There will always be that one flick we find ourselves quoting the very next day, reenacting every fight sequence when nobody is around. Why do we keep falling back into the big burly arms of action movies?

Graphic by Jenny Kwan

Action flicks help us escape from reality and allow us to take a break from our hectic lives in favour of some adrenaline-rushing entertainment that makes our jaw succumb to the laws of gravity.

Watching our favourite hero single-handedly destroy a sizable army of bad guys and then getting the girl at the end is why we love you. The fundamental idea of one man accomplishing everything he sets out to do is inspiring. After watching our hero kick some serious ass, you can’t help but want to kick some of your own in the real world. You give us regular Joes hope we never thought existed. We become endowed with the courage to go out and seek that job promotion or finally talk to that girl who had always seemed intimidating.

Sweet action films: with heroes like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone and most recently, Jason Statham, you present us with perfect role models. Thank you for instilling confidence within us, helping us achieve our marginal dreams, one sucker punch at a time.

Wrapped up in your toned, veiny and tattooed arms, you satisfy our eyes with explosions, beautiful women and heart-racing car chases that we can’t help but wish we were a part of.

You provide a rush that overtakes every fibre of our being — teaching us the true meaning of being on the edge of our seat. The entertainment value you offer is like the most addictive drug on the planet, the minute you get a taste, you can’t help but come back for more, hoping to achieve that very same high you experienced the very first time you watched the movie.

My darling action flick, you are one drug that will stay in circulation long after we are gone, trying to live our own action dreams in heaven.

Without you, my beloved action films, there would be no heroines to lust over. We would deliberately put ourselves in mortal danger if it meant that Lara Croft or Katniss Everdeen would come to our aid. All of these gorgeous and courageous women are like super glue to our eyes, the minute you step onto the screen, we cannot bear the thought of looking away. Watching you beat up bad guys brings the term sexy to a whole new level, which we promise to study and explore for many years to come.

The action genre is like air itself, without it, we couldn’t possibly go about living. Take inspiration and entertainment away from us, and why the hell would we get out of bed in the morning? We love you for everything you stand for and we promise to treasure and love you even if Armageddon suddenly becomes a harsh reality.

So come on life, give us everything you got: whenever we are down, as long as we have action movies we will always respond with, “I’ll be back!”



ARTiculate: Literature of the campus

Did you know that there is such a literary genre as the ‘campus novel’? The novels in this category tend to take place in academic institutions, with the focalization on either faculty or students. They were a major trend in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and while the genre went through a slump for a few decades, it’s been experiencing a steady rise within the last two, popularized by heavyweight authors such as Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates. The following list includes campus novel classics, as well as some exciting recent additions to the literary school.

The Big U by Neal Stephenson

This underrated book may very well change your life. Or at least your perspective on it. Set in the fictional American Megaversity, this novel sails the reader through gaming clubs, political societies, and religious associations. It offers glimpses into the lives of every kind of student, including ones we would never have looked into otherwise. A satire, a drama, and an adventure novel all rolled into one, the book is as funny as it is sentimental. And while Concordia may have dodged a bullet last year, in this story the faculty and staff do indeed go on strike.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

One of the most lauded works of the twentieth century, this novel remains as misanthropic and insightful as it did when it first appeared in 1954. Jim Dixon, the protagonist, is a hapless professor of medieval history and one in love at that. Dealing with one bureaucratic colleague after another, he does his best to retain his cushy job and win the affections of the girl. Lucky Jim contains hilarious scenes as our hero navigates through the artifices and pretensions of a university establishment.

Giles Goat-Boy
by John Barth

Read this book only so that you can say you’ve read postmodern Fabulism. The novel takes place on earth…only the entire earth is a single university, with deans instead of kings and queens. Before you get excited immersing yourself in a world where the pope becomes your THEO 101 professor, know that even a campus is not immune to feuds. Published in 1966, the story is an allegory for the Cold War, where the West Campus is at odds with the East Campus, and rioting takes place instead of military tension.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Fariña

In The Doors’ L.A Woman album, Jim Morrison based the song “Been Down So Long” on this very book. The story revolves around a trouble-making college student during the turbulent 1960s America of the Beat and Love generation, who goes on a journey riddled with police chases, drug dealers, and Cuban revolutionists to find love and meaning. The book has posthumously garnered a cult status among the literary community, namely for its rough-edged style yet profound subject matter.

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Published after Lolita and definitely standing in safer waters, Pnin is the story of a professor that has immigrated from Russia to the United States in the 1950s and struggles, comically and endearingly, to maintain his dignity through a series of misunderstandings, academic conspiracies, and manipulation from an unreliable narrator – a Nabokovian trademark.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Set in a fictional liberal arts college, this novel centers around Harpooners, the college’s baseball team. The protagonist, Henry Skrimshander, is a gifted infielder, scouted by major leagues as a top draft prospect. But of course, Skrimshander experiences losses when he unexpectedly sinks into a funk. But this is not a story about baseball entirely. This 2011 novel examines the human condition through the bromances, and gay relationships of the team members.

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis

A wild literary ride, this novel is mostly narrated by three characters, Sean, Paul and Lauren. The three upper middle class bohemian college students experiment with their sexuality and their attractions to one another. There is a lot of sex, drugs and booze in this book. But mostly sex. However, it is through the examination of the debauchery of these characters that we gain an understanding of the emptiness that we are all susceptible to.

Moo by Jane Smiley

Though it’s set in an American agricultural college, the story’s central figure is a large white hog. But wait. Around this hog is a collection of odd characters, corrupt professors, and students who want academic excellence. Some want fame, and others that sex. But it is this hog that stands as a symbol of uninterrupted purity upon which the college experiment happens in this satirical story of greed and politics on campus.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Narrated by the gawky and insecure Richard Papen, this murder mystery is set in a Vermont college and revolves around six classics majors. In contrast to the usual rowdy characters of the campus novel, these students abhor the party lifestyle. The story opens with the murder of one of the students on campus, and the reader becomes absorbed in solving the case. In the process, they grow to learn more about themselves, and begin to dissolve their pretensions.


Making History by Stephen Fry

Everybody’s favourite polymath, Stephen Fry, writes a novel wherein a history graduate student and a physics professor, team up to prevent Adolf Hitler from ever being born. The first half of the book chronicles the young life of Hitler, his mother, and her abusive husband, along with Hitler’s time as a soldier in World War I. In the second half, the characters realize that the world they have now created, one without Hitler in its history, is far from well. Europe is subjugated by a more ruthless Führer, America is in a cold war with Nazi Europe, and the civil rights movement never took place. The novel is thoroughly charming and engaging, just like its author.



Most Anticipated: The Great Gatsby – 7.5/10

There is bias here. We fell in love with the book in tenth grade. Like Gatsby himself, most people have been waiting five years for this dream to come true. And like Gatsby, it seems that reality never quite lives up to the fantasy.

Graphic Jenny Kwan.

Baz Luhrmann’s version of the movie was the embodiment of a Jazz Age party. It was visually vibrant, the musical score was modern, and the camera dipped and swirled across the screen like it was dancing the charleston. The casting was spot-on, with Leonardo DiCaprio being the obvious successor to Robert Redford as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan charming us all as the wide-eyed Daisy.
However, bits of the film felt recycled from other Luhrmann pictures. In particular, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, sitting at his typewriter while the words lift off his page and float around the screen – if one were to screw their eyes up right it could just as easily have been Ewan McGregor typing away in Moulin Rouge.
Another qualm was the narration. Nick becoming the author of the book, writing it from his sanitarium, seemed like a cheap reference to Zelda Fitzgerald living out her later life in a similar place, doing work her husband took credit for. Maybe this is reading too much into it, but it is irksome nonetheless.

Most Likely to Become a Cult Classic: Sharknado -0/10 if you’re taking it seriously; 10/10 if you’re not.
This gem of a movie, starring Tara Reid and Ian Ziering, premiered July 13 on the Syfy channel.
For those of you who live under a rock and have managed not to hear about this TV movie masterpiece, the title says it all. It essentially involves sharks who get sucked up into a tornado, and subsequently rain down on the unsuspecting citizens of L.A. Of course, by sharks, this really means the low budget option, which would be shark-like puppets and recycled stock footage of hammerheads in murky water.
Spoiler alert: the best moment was the scene in which Ziering’s character gets swallowed whole by one of the sharks. Just as the audience begins to accept his unceremonious death, he cuts his way out of the animal’s underbelly and emerges from the flaps of shark flesh, covered in blood. It was hauntingly reminiscent of a birth canal, and made only more fantastic by him pulling out one of the other protagonists behind him. A shout-out also goes to Reid, who seems to have wholly forgotten how to act.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Conjuring – 8/10
The prediction was that The Conjuring would be a hybrid of The Exorcist and Chucky.There were no expectations beyond some cheap thrills. Then five crucial words appeared onscreen: based on a true story.
This is the hook that kept the interest piqued, and prompted a Wikipedia search to find the details of the real story.
The merging storyline of paranormal investigator couple, Ed and Lorraine Warren, and the haunted Perron family made it more compelling and story-driven than the usual fear-mongering film. The use of gore was minimal, making it all the more stomach-churning when disturbing images did pop up.


ARTiculate: I can has cheezburger. Iz I art?

Webster’s Dictionary defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” This definition makes sense—after all, a painter learns to paint, a filmmaker develops the skills they need to make movies and a writer learns how to meld words together on a page. All of these are established artistic pursuits in today’s world. But do popular Internet memes, fit into it?

A meme is defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture,” again that comes from the well-respected Webster’s Dictionary. Memes take hundreds of forms in today’s world but the most common is a screenshot from a movie or film, or a drawing, accompanied by text. They have become a dominant force of the modern Internet culture to the point where entire websites such as 9gag and Imgur are devoted entirely, or nearly entirely, to their distribution. They are definitely an important tool to understanding culture, but are they art?

The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is that, according to Webster’s, a meme by itself is an idea. Therefore, the posting of memes to the Internet, the area widely regarded by the world as the last safe haven for the free exchange of ideas, would be an expression of that idea. American poet Amy Lowell called art “the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in.” There are a vast number of memes devoted solely to expressing personality—such as grumpy cat or trollface. Therefore memes expressing an aspect of personality should be considered art.

But wait; Webster’s defined art as needing both the use of skill and creative imagination. The fact is, memes do require skill, just not in the same sense as other art forms. Creative imagination is used to either draw or find the image and if your first reaction is to say that those who capture images rather than draw them are not artists, there are a few photographers who would disagree. Other skills are used in the crafting of the meme—creating the text, background etc.—which allows the artist to express their idea. That indicates a practical knowledge, not just understanding how to accomplish creation on the Internet but how the World Wide Web functions as a tool for spreading information. This would not be the first time such a thing has happened; films spread art into cinemas while mainstream papers allowed writing to take place in homes.

Whether memes can be compared to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, for example, is not the point up for debate.

Memes are an important expression in culture and the role they play grows daily. How many people would be aware of the Kony 2012 movement; would there have been any political pressure on that topic at all if not for memes? They are more than ideas; they are an expression which flows as the freest form of art on the internet right now. Consider memes to be art: it makes putting off essays sound a lot more reasonable when one is indulging in artistic expression.


ARTiculate: How do you measure art?

Recently, soaring prices on the art market at a variety of auctions (particularly in the United States) have begged the question: should art really be worth this much? In his book, The Value Of Art, which was published earlier in 2012, author Michael Findlay points out that there are many things that can influence the value of a particular work of art. Provenance, condition, authenticity, exposure and quality are the basic parameters that he denotes.

Thoughts on the matter can go either way. On the one hand, it seems understandable that the concept of the sentimental value that we attribute to our work as the ‘creators’ be a source of influence in the value we attribute to it and that value will therefore be reflected in its monetary worth. It’s the artist’s prerogative to believe that what he has created is worth some kind of recognition and said recognition is often expressed in the financial appraisal of his or her work.

On the other hand, one must also understand that engaging in the ridiculously high market pricing that is currently in place necessarily means restricting the accessibility of art to the elite. For all art aficionados out there, consider this: how many times have you been to visit a gallery and felt snubbed, disregarded for your lack of knowledge on a given subject matter?

After all, initially, art is made to seek out an emotion in it’s audiences, to provoke something within them, to stimulate people and make them think. It is made for what, in French, we would call ‘le grand publique’, meaning that it is meant to be appreciated on a variety of levels, gaining diversity for the variety of understandings it can provoke in people.

So these pieces, worth millions and sold only to exclusive clientele, in the midst of these prestige-filled auctions—are they truly benefiting the art world? As Mr. Findlay mentions it in his book, some people will say that buying art is not business; it’s an art itself. Scouting out artists with potential, judging the value of their pieces, getting them sufficient exposure: this market is not an easy one. Then that brings us to another question: what about the others? The ones who don’t get scouted? And don’t get enough exposure? Who is to say that the artist in the tiny, debutante gallery is any less valuable than the contemporary artist that has just sold for thousands of dollars in front of our very eyes? It seems unfair that timing and connections would price your work before any kind of appreciation can.

The bottom line goes as follows. Art will always be worth more to the person that created it; there is a dedication that inherently accompanies their spurs of creativity that ensures this. It is therefore difficult to be against the idea, per se, of an art market based on capitalist principles. However, for what it’s worth, it is not ludicrous to consider that when the price of a piece of art reaches a limit that would require most of us to mortgage a house twice, it may be time to revisit the system in place.


ARTiculate: An Unexpected Journey not a Phantom Menace

Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Press photo.

The undisputed blockbuster this past holiday season was the highly anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part in Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy based off the book by the same name written by J. R. R. Tolkien.

While the film has merited an enormous box office success, (over $21 million so far), the film has met with a decidedly mixed reaction from professional critics. Scoring a mere 65 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and an even lower 58 per cent on Metacritic, The Hobbit finds itself in similar company to another trilogy-first of this generation, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. According to the current opinion held by many critics, Peter Jackson is poised to repeat George Lucas’ controversial exercise in storytelling, yet according to the movie-going public, this is not the case.

The Rotten Tomatoes summary, which is based on all of its critical reviews, summarizes The Hobbit as, “an earnest, visually resplendent trip, but the film’s deliberate pace robs the material of some of its majesty.”

The Phantom Menace fared equally bad in its summary: “Lucas needs to improve on the plot and character development, but there’s plenty of eye candy to behold,” read the review. Both reviews stress the films’ visual prowess but emphasize problems in the script. While The Hobbit may have a deliberate pace, is this a fair criticism? While it does render an experience significantly different from its source material, The Hobbit is a far more competently made film and stands well on its own merits.

There are several key areas where An Unexpected Journey and The Phantom Menace vary greatly. The essential difference, however, is in the strength of characters. In The Hobbit, Bilbo follows a clear path of character growth throughout and serves, as an outsider, to introduce the audience to the world of Middle-earth. There is no clear protagonist in The Phantom Menace, that burden is split four ways between the characters of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala and none of them serve as a conduit to introduce the audience to George Lucas’ fantastical Star Wars world. This cripples the storytelling capabilities of The Phantom Menace to the point that you could start at Episode II without missing anything of real relevance to the trilogy’s plot. The Hobbit serves as the first part of a trilogy whereas The Phantom Menace comes off as the most expensive prologue ever made.

Much of the film’s criticisms centre on scenes that have little impact on the current film and were not present in the source material (The White Council, Radagast the Brown, Azog the Defiler). There is an entire subplot present in The Hobbit film trilogy which did not exist in the book. This may anger some book enthusiasts but really, it is hard to judge a beginning without knowing the middle and the end.

While critics are currently judging Jackson’s Hobbit harshly, fan support has been present. The Hobbit ranks far higher with user reviews on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes as well as enjoying an 8.4 on IMDB. This differs greatly from fan reaction to The Phantom Menace. Proof that Peter Jackson may yet be doing more good than given credit for. As Gandalf states at the beginning of The Hobbit, “every good story deserves some embellishment.”


ARTiculate: A blank canvas; an empty screen

In recent memory, the advancement of technology has increased the popularity of video games and their production. As the home-based video game turns forty, an argument has been raised as to whether or not video games can be considered art and whether the practice of gaming is an art form.

Beginning with The Odyssey video game console (manufactured by Magnavox and released in August 1972) popularity, accessibility and advancement in home-based video game consoles has grown exponentially with companies such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo leading the way into the 21st century.

Video games have gone from simple graphics of a ball bouncing from one side of the screen to the other to three-dimensional, extremely detailed games such as Halo IV and Assassin’s Creed III. In recent years the production of video games has taken on new levels of complexity. Real actors are sometimes used for the characters in the games; historians are needed for the accuracy of the time periods; costume designers and architects for the clothing and building designs; as well as musicians and composers for the background music.

Furthermore, the storyline of a game takes as much creativity and is as complex as an author’s plot for a novel. Inevitably, video games take just as much research, creativity, imagination and development as movies, novels and other popular culture art forms.

Thomas Felix, an employee at Ubisoft in Montreal argues that for numerous years, video games have been an art form in its entirety, with the use of history, codes and techniques. “Even if they borrow and nourish many art forms … I think that at the final stage a video game in itself is art, but also each part that goes into the whole, i.e. the music, acting, painting, etc.”

William Robinson, professor at Concordia University, teaches the class Video Games and/as Literature and has written over eighty pages for his dissertation on the subject of whether video games can be considered art. He explains that there are more than one competing definitions of art; the most influential definition of art in art history, English and sociology is called the institutional position. The institutional position claims that art is the product of a network of artists, museums, scholars, patrons and spectators. It is a discourse between artists through their creations or performances.

John Sharp, an art historian from Georgia Tech University holds the institutional position, believing that because game designers are not in a dialogue with art historians or other artists they are not making art.

Berys Gaut, a philosophy professor at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, offers ten definitions for the cluster definition of art in his book Interpreting the Arts: the Patchwork Theory varying from possessing positive aesthetic properties to being the product of an intention to make a work of art.

In Robinson’s thesis he argues that game playing can also be artistic: “games are like scores and scripts which are played and performed for ourselves and our audience. If a performance of a game of chess is creative (i.e. it is original, valuable and produced without following a recipe) and if that performance is viewed for aesthetic reasons, for instance if it is conceptually worth looking at for the sake of looking at, then, bam!, you have reason to believe that it is worth calling such a performance artistic.”

All arguments are sound and make for interesting discussion but give no straight cut path for deciding with which to agree. It depends on personal opinion. In any case, whether video games are considered a form of art or not, it is indisputable that they are not achieved without much precision, time, research, creativity and imagination, and therefore a product to be appreciated in its own respect.


ARTiculate: Kids books can be grown-up friendly

We all have our favourite children’s books and, for many of us we have that one book in particular that we loved the most.

Whether that book was Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are or Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, children’s books have marked us in a significant way. Although we’ve outgrown the cradle, kids books can still be relevant in our adult lives because they offer a different and a more hopeful perspective on things we seem to lose sight of as we grow older.

Today’s literature is slowly but surely giving classic kids books a run for their money. A great example of this is Kyo Maclear’s Virginia Wolf. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (who is nominated for a Governor General’s literary award), the book tells the story of two sisters; Vanessa and Virginia, an obvious allusion to writer Virginia Woolf, and painter Vanessa Bell, her sister. In the book, Vanessa’s sister is feeling “wolfish” and Vanessa, wanting to help her sister, decides to paint a whole mural of her sister’s perfect imaginary place called Bloomsberry. Virginia is instantly cheered up.

The real lives of Virginia and Vanessa are rather melancholic, but Maclear and Arsenault take simple words and stunning illustrations and turn a tale of sisterhood into a beautiful children’s story about overcoming fears and doing something beautiful for someone you love. Virginia Wolf is the perfect example of a children’s story that takes real life adult events and turns them into a more hopeful situation. This is exactly what we need as adults, since our sometimes cynical views tend to make use lose sight of the bigger picture.

Judd Palmer’s The Umbrella, also nominated for a Governor General’s award, is about a black umbrella which is a man’s sole companion. When the umbrella gets ruined, a sinister crow tells the umbrella that the man will no longer love him. However, the man continues to love his umbrella. This story demonstrates the purity of love and how “true love is always returned.”

The crow represents the many challenges and people we face that force us to doubt ourselves and the ones we love. Palmer’s metaphors make this book and its message easily relatable to adults.

One thing people tend to forget about kids books is that they are written and illustrated by adults. Even though their target audiences are children under the ages of eight, anyone, whether you’re 18 or 80, can enjoy them.

Chloé Beaudet-Centomo, a second-year political science student at Université de Montréal said she feels that “kids books present the facts of life in a way that a child can easily comprehend.” Although the message in children’s books is somewhat simple, Beaudet-Centomo thinks a simple message is often better, even for adults.

“Kids books use imagery to represent situations we deal with in real life, and most importantly, kids literature is inherently hopeful,” she said.

Katherine Beauséjour, a second-year administration student at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business said she thinks that, although kids books consist mostly of bright and colorful images, they still have significant storylines.

“They convey strong messages,” said Beauséjour. “People should keep reading kids books because they remind you of the small, important stuff in life that one should enjoy.”

Books like Virginia Wolf and The Umbrella, do just that. They have beautiful images and easy to follow, yet entertaining storylines. Children’s literature can still be significant in your adult life, if you’re willing to read between the lines and enjoy a simple, yet meaningful story.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”


ARTiculate: All genres are equal, some are more equal than others

In the world today there are many places where prejudice is tolerated. However, there exists in idealism, several establishments where free thinking and expression are valued and encouraged. A university is one such place, but sadly idealism is not reality. Concordia’s creative writing program promotes individuals to step forward and express themselves through fiction, but only if it’s a certain type of fiction.

For people who write in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, many doors in the literary world are closed. There exists an unspoken understanding that these genres are not worth the time of serious writers. It has become commonplace to see this exclusion and there are many publications, most of which claim to support all forms of creative fiction, that will not touch these genres.

One needs look no further than Concordia’s own Soliloquies, a student-run anthology that publishes bi-annually. On their website, Soliloquies advertises its goal: “to showcase writers that you might otherwise never encounter and be able to enjoy.” This mission statement sounds very encompassing and encouraging.

Yet it is not the whole story as the submission page presents two restrictions: no science fiction and no non-creative essays. The latter is easily explained since Soliloquies markets itself as a fiction platform.

“Soliloquies, if you look through past issues, has never accepted sci-fi, and I don’t think that the graduate journal, Headlight, has either. The reason for this is simple. I am sure that you remember that when you applied to Concordia’s creative writing program that portfolios had a similar restriction: no sci-fi, no fantasy…The reason for that is because none of Concordia’s creative writing professors specialize in the genre…therefore it is not something that we, as a program, specialize in. Journals like Soliloquies and Headlight exist mainly to showcase talent from the program, and since we do not specialize in sci-fi or fantasy, we do not accept those sorts of submissions,” said Soliloquies editor-in-chief Lizy Mostowski.

Concordia’s creative writing program does actually accept works of science fiction in the entrance portfolio. The instructions for submitting a portfolio as part of the application to admission to the undergraduate creative writing program states: “Work in a specific popular form (for example, fantasy, science fiction, horror, or romance) will be considered only if it does not constitute the entire portfolio, as our program does not focus on these areas.”

Despite this, Mostowski still feels science fiction would look out of place in the publication.

“It would be like accepting romance genre submissions and trying to put them alongside experimental works of poetry and a short story about a road trip, it would not work with the curation of the journal. That being said, we only accept pieces that are highly literary, which can include short stories that can fall into the category of magic realism, but I’m not interested in reading a story about aliens,” said Mostowski.

The question then becomes: why is science fiction not included? Such a restriction directly implies that the genre of science-fiction is worth less than the others. There is no way around the implications of such wrongful restrictions. Yes, everyone out there will admit that there is bad science-fiction. But who can honestly claim to have never read a bad romance, boring comedy, tedious drama, or pretentious satire? There is nothing innately better about any of the other genres but for some reason science-fiction is singled out.

Soliloquies and the other literary publications that restrict science-fiction are all well-run organizations but this prejudice hurts them as well as their readership. It is an unfair judgment that says there is no difference separating writers like Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and H.G. Wells from the mass of poorly written science-fiction works. Even Margaret Atwood’s, novel A Handmaid’s Tale was science fiction; a book, it should be mentioned, that is often used in academia.

However, many would still dismiss science-fiction as inferior to works of poetry and literature. It is seen as light reading, a means of escape and therefore not an intellectual pursuit. Arthur C. Clarke disagrees with this assumption, “There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places…We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality…In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues.”


ARTiculate: Equal footing; lit and the graphic novel

What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘comic book’? Spider-Man swinging through the streets of New York after the Green Goblin? Batman chasing the Joker down a dark alley? Superman catching a burning plane as it falls from the sky?

Comic books have become synonymous with superheroes. In the minds of the general public, there is little else that comics could possibly be about. Thus, in an attempt to avoid genre restrictions, the term ‘graphic novel’ was born.

Yet what does it mean to read a graphic novel? While there are many perceptions that illustrated fiction is still the domain of capes and crusaders, the truth is that graphic novels cover as wide a variety of topics as their more wordy counterparts.

One needs look no further than famous graphic novel writer Alan Moore to find a greater depth in the medium. While Moore’s more famous works include superhero epics such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, the author has written numerous graphic novels that have nothing to do with beings of incredible power. In his graphic novel From Hell, Moore chronicles the horrific, brutal history of Jack the Ripper and presents a stark, realistic portrayal of the events. Indeed it is arguably more real than any other historical account, as life-like illustration adds a new layer of horror to Jack the Ripper’s crimes.

Moore has also explored issues of sexual identity in his work. His graphic novel Lost Girls presents an erotic in-depth look at the tales of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan from the eyes of their female protagonists. The novel, rife with nudity and sexual exploits is not fit for children but challenges a new adult understanding of older stories as well as examines the development of female sexual identity.

In an interview that asked if he only wrote for one genre, Moore denied it adamantly, stating: “Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you’re lucky.”

Moore may be the most famous example, but he is far from the only one. Neil Gaiman, another well-known writer, has also used the graphic novel medium to relate complex stories. His series of Sandman novels tell an incredibly rich literary tale with many forays into myth, fable and historical anecdotes. The main character, Sandman, while possessing supernatural abilities, has far more in common personality-wise with protagonists like Dorian Gray than with superman.

There are also many graphic novel versions of famous literary works. Classics like The Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, and A Tale of Two Cities have all had graphic novel adaptations yet many would not associate these works with the common perception of comics. This transformation has opened the readership of these classics into a wider audience. Any readers out there that are put off by the perceived wordiness of older literature will be more likely to read the graphic novel version. It follows the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words.

If the process can work one way, then logically it can work the other. Would The Sandman and From Hell gain more recognition with the illustrations removed or would they lose the feature that enhanced their effectiveness? There is a good chance that many out there who feel that graphic novels are only for children would read and appreciate these books if they were in a different format. These are literary prejudices and they should end, on both sides. Books should be appreciated as books and graphic novels should be able to have serious literary value in their illustrated form. It is time for society to recognize the value of the graphic novel medium.


ARTiculate: No viewing required

When picturing Frankenstein, what comes to mind? What does Dracula’s castle look like? Imagine a shark swimming in the water, what music accompanies it?

Odds are your mind has a thought for all three. A tall, greenish corpse with bolts in its neck, a sinister man in a black cape standing at the top of stairs covered in cobwebs, and a sinister two-note melody. Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), Jaws (1975): three film classics that have rooted themselves into our culture, so much so that even people who may not have ever even seen the films, still recognize them. That is the nature of a classic; it is a film that is so famous, you don’t even need to see it in order to know it.

Jurassic Park (1993) was one of the most financially successful blockbusters from our generation’s childhood. That initial image of the brachiosaurus walking across the screen while the music slowly plays and the actors in the movie stand transfixed with the same awe as the audience. Not enough time has passed, however, for this film to be deemed a classic. Many critics do not look at Jurassic Park as anything more than just another blockbuster and the film has received little in the way of special honor. For our generation it may be a classic since most saw it as children but for those outside our age, it is still too early to accurately tell.

Now examine Frankenstein. Those who have read the book will know that there is no mention of bolts or that the monster lumbers with arms outstretched, yet both of these things are directly associated with the monster, because of the Boris Karloff iconic film. The film, Frankenstein, was so popular in the thirties that it spawned a number of sequels and planted a seed in our culture that has germinated into an archetype.

It is also interesting to point out that if many of us saw films like Frankenstein, Dracula, Lawrence of Arabia, or Jaws: we may not even like them. Since film appreciation is a subjective art, it is difficult to concretely cement the quality of any film. There are many opinions that some of the films defined as “classics” have not held up over the years and now feel dated and boring to watch. Indeed some of us may even find the best use for a “classic” is to cure the insomnia caused by a stressful night of schoolwork.

There aren’t any requirements for films seeking to become classics beyond being popular enough to succeed. People simply need to see it. This is evident today when looking at what may be the next vampire phenomenon, Twilight. Many would say that the quality of the movie is not sufficient enough to warrant it a place in history but no real argument can be made against it being a prevalent presence in culture. The word “vampire” is starting to have new image associations because of this film, and that is the mark of a potential classic.

Likewise Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy may someday fall under the term classic as it took an already well-established character and propelled him to an unprecedented height of popularity. Many superhero movies are now made with a higher degree of realism in an attempt to emulate the style of Nolan’s films.

It is difficult to predict the nature of the classic. They have become an unusual genre all to themselves, defined by what the public deem popular at the time. To view them is to view an aspect of culture.

For your fix of classic films check out Cineplex’s Fall Classic Film series.

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