A Community Collaboration: Golden Shovels

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Jet Fuel Review Issue #21 Cover

For our Spring 2021 issue of Jet Fuel Review (cover art by Deedee Cheriel), we devoted a special section to golden shovels. If you are unfamiliar with the form, it is an interesting take on acrostic poetry where a poet chooses a line and puts each word from that line at the end of each of their new lines. Terrance Hayes created the form and based his poem “The Golden Shovel” on Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.” (In Hayes’s poem, he explores his childhood and memories of his father).

We felt that it was necessary to take this golden shovel form beyond the confines of our journal. Like previous issues that had special sections, we would often have a call-out throughout Lewis University in order to foster community engagement and celebration. This time, unlike our 19th issue that focused on collaborative poetry, we chose the golden shovel form. To celebrate the successful launch of our 21st issue, and to witness a mosaic of creativity at the end of the Spring 2021 Semester, we asked students, faculty, and alumni to join together to create golden shovels. These shovels could be from a line of poetry or music that inspired the community member to write.

Presented below is an excerpt from the Special Section’s introduction written by JFR Assistant Managing Editor, Jo Spangler, that discusses the form in more detail. Located underneath the excerpt from our journal, there is a collection of fantastic golden shovels written by some of our own editors of Jet Fuel Review as well as some faculty and alumni of Lewis University. In summation, each of these golden shovels represents communication between the original author of the line and the poet using it. This community project is one that connects to the theme of our special section and gives a glimpse into the creativity and talent of our community. I hope you love Jet Fuel Review‘s 21st issue and also enjoy reading some golden shovels from the Lewis community.

Thank you, and I hope the blog has served you well during this difficult semester!

— Christian Mietus, Blog Editor

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Midsommar

I have no idea about this one.

Okay, I have some, but this movie makes me feel like I know nothing. Jon Snow and I have that in common.

Welcome back, dear reader! Who’s in for a psychedelic, folksy Alice in Wonderland mind ****? Because Christ. This flick is not playing around. This viewing marks the second time I’ve seen Midsommar. The first was opening weekend back in 2019. My main takeaway then was how little I understood. It’s not that I couldn’t follow the plot or anything, but the film is so dense with imagery and implication. Forget a fine-tooth comb. You need a rake to sort through this stuff! It plays with ambiguity much like The Empty Man, but they’re not the same. This one is a thinker—no disrespect to the casual viewer, but this movie doesn’t play to broad appeal. Midsommar is a very particular film with specific sensibilities. If you’re looking for escapist horror, this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking to get weird, and I mean really weird, then welcome!

Following a tragic loss, Dani (Florence Pugh) joins her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a backpacking trip to Scandinavia to partake in a rural Swedish commune’s midsummer festival. But rather than escape her pain, Dani instead finds herself in the grip of an increasingly sinister pagan cult whose ambitions are anything but idyllic. What is it with this blog and pagans? I’m starting to get a bad feeling…

That’s the nutshell, but there’s much more happening on and beneath the surface. This is writer-director Ari Aster’s follow-up to his smashing debut, 2018’s Hereditary—a genuinely horrifying flick that deals with similar themes. If you’ve seen Hereditary and dug what that movie was doing, I think you’ll appreciate this one. While Hereditary is rich in substance, it wasn’t exactly an audience hit. CinemaScore is a service that polls theatre-going audiences to gauge a movie’s appeal. A+ to A- is where you’d want to be at, B+ isn’t too bad, but anything below that could spell trouble for a movie’s box office legs. Opening weekend audiences gave Hereditary a D+. Yikes. Still, the film managed to make a buck (relative to its budget), scored big with critics and generated a fanbase for Aster. He became an instantly buzzed-about filmmaker, so going into Midsommar, curiosity was high. I loved Hereditary, so I was all in on Midsommer. Now here we are, two years and two viewings later, and I’m still working it out. I’m a late bloomer, y’all.

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Rebel Without a Cause: Symbolic Representation of Post-War Society

In Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Director Nicholas Ray and Screenwriter Stewart Stern cast James Dean in a performance of a lifetime. Although Dean died in a car accident at the age of twenty-four, his three performance’s left him a lasting legacy that is still referenced today. It is not hard to see how Dean’s method acting propelled him to stardom with only three pictures because when Jim Stark (James Dean) screams: “You’re not listening to me!” in Rebel Without a Cause, the desperation in his voice reverberates off the screen. When Jim Stark and Buzz Gunderson fight outside the observatory, Stark’s psyche is complex. Dean’s calm and collected demeanor turns into a rage-filled knife fight after being called chicken. These moments stop us cold, and Nicholas aligns us with Dean through various techniques such as the recurrent use of the eye-line match. Jim Stark, a teen who tries to understand what manhood means and his place in society, is thrust into a new environment after his parents move to a new neighborhood. A misunderstood teen who doesn’t have strong parental figures to guide him through adolescence, we see Dean’s character navigate his problems alone. Through the film’s characters, Jim Stark (James Dean), John ‘Plato’ Crawford (Sal Mineo), and Judy (Natalie Wood), Ray and Stern seem to be using them symbolically as products of the ineffectual parenting styles during the postwar era. Furthermore, parts of Ray’s mise-en-scene can be taken symbolically, outwardly representing dysfunctional parental styles and the struggling youth characters searching for a cause.

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Britt’s Anime and Gaming Adventures: Yakuza Kiwami (2016)

Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the 2005 video game Yakuza. Originally for the Playstation 4, Kiwami is also available on Xbox One and PC. Known as Ryū ga Gotoku (Like a Dragon) in Japan, the Yakuza video game series isn’t extremely well-known in the West. However, its wildly successful prequel, Yakuza 0 (2015), helped introduce more Western gamers to the wacky, one-of-a-kind franchise. Yakuza has often been described as the Japanese version of Grand Theft Auto due to its eccentric characters, zany side quests, and the fact that you can beat people up. The series has birthed seven numbered entries, a prequel, and two remakes, not to mention several spin-off titles. In addition to video games, Yakuza has two live-action movies to its name. The series is a mixture of various video game genres, most notably the beat ‘em up and role-playing genres. Despite featuring a wide cast of characters, the franchise’s main focus is on Kazuma Kiryu, a former yakuza member who is constantly dragged back into the doings of the crime syndicate throughout the series. 

Kiwami begins with Kiryu going to prison in place of his lifelong friend Nishiki, who murdered their clan’s patriarch after finding out that he sexually assaulted Yumi, a woman Nishiki cared for. When Kiryu is released from prison ten years later, he discovers that the yakuza has changed drastically in the past decade, as has Nishiki, who is now the boss of his own family. Kiryu also learns that Yumi has vanished without a trace and that practically every clan in Japan is after the ten billion yen stolen from Kiryu’s former clan. Every clan is also searching far and wide for a little girl named Haruka, who is believed to be somehow connected to the ten billion yen. Kiryu eventually meets this girl. Their interactions are nothing short of adorable; there’s something so endearing about seeing a buff yakuza care for a young girl he doesn’t even know. Kiryu’s fatherly bond with Haruka makes him stand out from most action video game protagonists. He might look the part–buff, always looking like someone just spit in his coffee–but deep down, he has a heart of gold. Despite being affiliated with the yakuza, he refuses to kill, torture, or partake in any other activities done by the crime organization. He doesn’t use his status as a yakuza member to gain women or power but instead keeps to himself and regularly helps others. These traits are what make Kiryu such an unexpectedly human video game protagonist. 

Nishiki’s descent into villainy is revealed through flashbacks, and as someone who’s played the prequel, it was disheartening to watch him grow to despise Kiryu, his sworn brother. His inferiority complex plays a big part in this. Several of these flashbacks consist of Nishiki being degraded by his superiors and being told that Kiryu is better suited than him for a leadership role in the yakuza. Nishiki vows to obtain the missing money, not because he wishes to prove himself to his superiors but so that he can afford a heart transplant for his sick sister. Things don’t quite work out, however, and his sister ultimately dies. This causes him to kill his superior, Matsushige, who was partly responsible for his sister’s death. This also marks the point when Nishiki becomes a true villain, as he becomes so obsessed with rising to power that he betrays his former friends and tries to kill Kiryu multiple times. However, there is a shift towards the end, which I won’t reveal because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. 

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: The Empty Man (2020)

Hello, dear reader! Our journey through the Monsterverse complete, I ask myself: what now? We’re not currently suffering from a lack of quality shows or movies, but I wanted to keep with the blog’s core theme if I could. Thank God for YouTube! Specifically, thank you, Chris Stuckmann. Because without him, I don’t watch this movie, I don’t write this blog, and I don’t lose myself to The Empty Man

In a small town with three or four murders a year, people begin dying in droves, leaving behind a simple message written in blood: The Empty Man made me do it. On the case of a missing girl tied to the strangeness, former undercover officer James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) becomes entangled in a web of mystery, cult worship and supernatural terror. As the case unfolds, reality and truth begin to bend, and James must confront whether The Empty Man is a mere tale or something more.

If that summary gives you little to go on, I apologize. It took me the better part of 40-minutes to put it together. It’s tough to talk about this movie in broad strokes because the one thing you absolutely do not want to do is give away too much. And folks, there is SO much to give away! This movie thrives on its mystery, having an audience live the experience lock-step with James, particularly in the first viewing. Beyond that, this movie’s shelf life will come from the discussions it generates. Writer-director David Prior (in his directorial debut, I may add) crafted a wonderfully dense and singular story. It’s a genre film that doesn’t play to the cheap seats or is interested in being a four-quadrant feature. It will alienate some, anger others and exhilarate a lucky bunch. Personally, I love this movie, but I’ve got some qualms. And oh boy, do I have questions.

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Sherlock – The Hounds of Baskerville 

Sherlock is a BBC television series that ran from 2010 to 2017 and starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson. In the series, the screenwriters often referenced the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and sometimes they even adapted whole stories for a specific episode. This is the case for season two, episode two, “The Hounds of Baskerville” (2012), which is a modern retelling of the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902). In the Sherlock episode, Holmes and Watson are contacted by a man named Henry Knight (Russell Tovey), who believes that he saw a “gigantic hound” kill his father when he was a young boy 20 years ago. The way Henry says “hound” instead of “dog” convinces Holmes to take the case and go to Dartmoor to uncover the truth. Once there, Sherlock and Watson find out about a top secret military research base, Baskerville, adjacent to the place where Henry’s father was killed, Dewer’s Hollow. Finding out that the hound is a local legend, the two detectives visit Baskerville using an I.D. card stolen from Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, as it appears that the hound might have escaped from there. Eventually they are forced to leave because Mycroft finds out what they are doing and an alert is sent through the military base. Given the limited information acquitted from Baskerville, Sherlock decides there is only one real way of figuring out if the hound is real, and that is actually finding it. So that night, he has Henry take himself and Watson to the place where his father was killed. Watson gets separated from the two but soon hears growling, forcing him to run and find the others. When he does, they are frightened and in shock after believing they have seen the hound, and Sherlock is forced to consider a possibility his mind can not rationally believe. In this blog, I will be looking at how the tv series adapted the original story for a modern audience. 

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Review of Viy (1967) 

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Viy (1967), directed by Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov, is considered by many as the first and only USSR horror film. It was based on the horror novella “The Viy,” written by Nicholai Gogol in 1836. Gogol, the renowned Russian writer of Ukrainian origin, is most famous for the short stories The Overcoat (1842) and The Nose (1835-36) and the novel he called a “novel in verse” entitled Dead Souls (1842). Interestingly, Gogol is known as one of the first authors to use grotesque and surrealist imagery in his works. With this, the filmmakers of the 1967 film adaptation, produced by Mosfilm, really made sure that the surreal and grotesque were emphasized throughout. In Viy, these moments are some of the most memorable. They are intricately woven into the ordinary through the way we follow Khoma Brutus (Leonid Kuravlyov), who is often referred to as “Philosopher,” in his initially joyous vacation to the countryside. Although some critics argue that the special effects of Viy are outdated, there is something unique about the uncanny effects. The special effects of Viy are far from perfect, with the technological limits, budget, and other constraints as possible factors working against the filmmakers; however, there seems to be an instilling of  horror through the imperfect practical effects that create an inner turmoil and unsettling atmosphere in Viy.

Despite the surreal mode of filmmaking, Leonid Juravlyov has a realistic acting style. His portrayal of Khoma Brutus is disheveled and egotistical. The repeated chant or mantra he chooses, “A Cossack is never afraid of anything,” seems to be a coping mechanism and a phrase to show off his machismo publicly. The obvious contradiction is that Khoma Brutus the seminarian is a murderer. In addition to being a contradiction to his teachings, the murder itself further illustrates the psychology and blindness of rage, ideology, beliefs, all wrapped in one. Khoma Brutus jarringly meshes right back into his monastery after the murder as though nothing happened: the only indication is a tear in his robes. This character’s psychology, the skeletons in his closet, and what happens in the chapel compared to his public outbursts are what make this film an intriguing watch. There is a reluctance in Khoma to fulfill his duty, but he always puts on a fictitious performance for influence. Khoma repents for his sins. The father forces him to read prayers in the chapel, and the promise of one thousand gold pieces versus one thousand lashes if he refuses, all display this repentance. Pannochka (Natalya Varley), the daughter of the merchant who dies as Brutus travels to her, called for him because he beat her senseless thinking she was a witch. The dance sequence following the second night spent in the chapel illustrates his internal battles and coping mechanisms perfectly. Khoma’s dance articulates an attempt to fight back against his fears, further accentuated by his consumption of vodka as a fear suppressor.

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Britt’s Anime and Gaming Adventures: Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 1 (Review)

With the fourth and final season half-finished and with the manga ending this month, I thought now would be a good time to review the first half of the final season of Attack on Titan. I still can’t believe the series is ending–it was one of the first animes I’ve ever watched, and I’ve even made a few friends through the fandom. But alas, all good things must come to an end. Before I discuss the first half of season four, however, I will first discuss the series as a whole. 

The Attack on Titan manga began serialization in September 2009 and will end after 139 chapters this April. It was the groundbreaking debut of writer and artist Hajime Isayama. The series takes place in a medieval Europe-inspired world in which humans reside within walls erected to protect them from humanoid, man-eating creatures known as Titans. The series starts out very simply, with protagonist Eren Jaeger (Yuki Kaji) vowing to rid the world of all Titans after raiding his hometown and eating his mother right in front of him. As the series progresses, however, it gradually becomes more complex, as the main characters eventually learn that there are two races in their world: Eldians and Maryleans. They also discover that the Maryleans essentially created Titans to wipe out the Eldian race. Attack on Titan tackles serious themes such as racism, genocide, and indoctrination, particularly in its third and fourth seasons. The series offers something for everyone: social commentary, plenty of action, and a wide cast of entertaining and well-written characters. In addition to receiving a successful anime adaptation in 2013, it has spawned several spinoff manga series, video games, and a duology of live-action movies. The anime is adored by anime fans and critics alike, with several of its episodes appearing on IMDB’s “Best TV episodes of all time” page alongside other greats such as Breaking Bad and Bojack Horseman. The series has had a lasting impact on both Eastern and Western pop culture, as it has been referenced in other anime and American cartoons such as The Simpsons. 

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Godzilla vs. Kong (2020)

Kong headbutts Godzilla during an underwater fight.

I repeat.

King Kong. Headbutts. Godzilla. Underwater!

Oh God, YES.

We’ve come to it, at last, dear reader. The culmination of the Monsterverse, the showdown of the ages, the big fish! Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard and starring a bunch of humans. Who are they, why should we care? It doesn’t matter! The title is the reason you, your mother and the milkman are here. It’s the movie’s promise. And, folks. It absolutely, one hundred percent lives up to that promise!

Yeah, I’m not going to dance around it, friends. This movie is fantastic! It’s rock ‘n roll! I unironically love it. There. You can jump off this review now if you want. Go! Watch it! Embrace it! Love it, as I love all of you.

In all seriousness, though, this movie is precisely the title and doesn’t try to be more than that. It’s a spectacle: a blue ribbon, neon saturated, synthwave Wrestlemania championship main event. It’s Ali vs. Tyson. The dream bout nerds have been salivating for. And when the film’s focus stays on its titular Titans, the flick is a blockbuster of the highest order. Everything else around them is so-so, but that’s par for the course. And I’m okay with that. It’s Godzilla vs. Kong!

There does need to be a semblance of a story, and this one isn’t half bad. Godzilla is on a rampage. No one knows why, and the humans are in dire need of a weapon to even the odds. Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) must now lead a crew into the Hollow Earth, a pocket dimension in the Earth’s core and the birthplace of the Titans. There they might be able to harness an energy source capable of destroying Godzilla. To get there, however, they’ll need Kong to lead the way. Being another Alpha monster, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and the Monarch organization know that once Kong comes off Skull Island, Godzilla will lock onto him. But for humanity’s sake, they need Kong! Luckily for us, Kong has bonded with young Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving member of Skull Island’s native people. He fights for her, and she guides him. So off they all go to the Hollow Earth to save humanity and face destiny in the form of one titanic, atomic-powered iguana.

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