SHIFT Magazine: Deep Ellum Outdoor Market: One Small Step for Deep Ellum, One Giant Leap for Dallas

April 28, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

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By Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

What makes Paris, London, Los Angeles, and New York City authentic, thriving cities? They have grand parks with gathering areas. They have cultured art scenes. And with the help of government funding, these urban dreams become a reality.

In Dallas, not a year goes by without yet another multimillion-dollar project. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge project expected to be finished in October of 2011 will cost roughly $93 million, says the structural engineers. The 5.2-acre deck plaza onto of the Woodall Rodgers highway is a $110 million public and private project with costs split by the city, state, and federal government, according to theparkdallas.org. And lastly, the Trinity River Project which is expected to cost another $93 million dollars to construct.

But with billions of dollars being put into these community improvements, do these structures and the taxpayer dollars they consume make Dallas any more like the lively neighborhoods at the center of these other cities’ pulse? Obviously, throwing money at public projects will rarely produce a genuine urban community.

Brandon Castillo traveled around the world and saw one thing all of these great cities had in common: markets. Nine months ago, Castillo’s wheels started turning about a new kind of market here in Dallas. What was his creation? The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

(Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

Castillo based the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market on two of his favorite markets: El Rastro in Madrid and the Brooklyn Flea in New York City. El Rastro has up to 3500 vendors every Sunday with tens of thousands of people who gather to shop for tools, movies, clothes, antiques, pets, comic books and everything in between.

Customers arrive at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market prepared for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine).

Launched in June 2010, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is located in the parking lot behind Café Brazil at the corner of Elm Street and Macolm X Boulevard, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market transforms an ordinary parking space into an extraordinary eclectic collection of items, vendors, food and music.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Deep Ellum, casual pedestrians walk up to the market as Melissa Ashton stands behind a table displaying a collection of handmade, up-cycled, found objects that have been made into jewelry, accessories, headpieces, and home décor. She smiles behind her large lensed sunglasses as curious customers pick through her one of a kind products.

One day Ashton was at Half Priced Books when a woman stopped her and begged to know where she had purchased her feather earrings and necklace. Ashton blushed and admitted her pieces were actually from a collection of found and broken antique objects she created her own pieces out of. “’Well, I’ll take them!’” Ashton recalls the woman saying. Ever since Ashton has been a local vendor at Make Studio & Boutique in the Bishop Arts District, an active team member of the design website Etsy, and a vendor every third Saturday at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market.

“When you first pull up to the market, you hear live music playing,” says Christy Yip, who is creator Brandon Castillo’s assistant and in charge of “vendor relations.” Underneath the covered parking lot, vendors are selling an extensive compilation of items. From vintage books to one-of-a kind jewelry, printed tees, cowboy boots, fine art and used records, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is vintage lover’s paradise.

At the market, Castillo says, “every single vendor is an entrepreneur.” The wide range of vendors at the DEOM are all experts, producers, and the salesmen and saleswomen of their own diverse craft. The DEOM has “everything from clothes to books to ray guns,” says Castillo.

And Castillo’s vendors are as enthusiastic and lively as Deep Ellum’s neighborhood. Allison Drake, who is “the shirt girl,” makes every one of her pieces herself. “I sell everything myself, set up my booth myself, run all the websites–everything,” says an enthusiastic Drake, who intended her work as a vendor to be a side job. But now, six months later, she has decided being a vendor was “way more fun.”

Drake sells clothing with screen-printed witty sayings. “I’ve had more than one couple come tell me they can’t wait to have children so their babies can wear my onesies,” says Drake. “I even had one woman turn to her husband and ask him if they could start trying to have a baby after she oohed and ahed over the ‘sweet baby bird’ layettes.”

Yip, Castillo’s assistant, says the only complaint customers have had about the DEOM is the lack of alcohol served at the market. However, on the other side of the street the DEOM houses a food truck with delicious and authentic Texas barbeque for the shopper who needs to take a breather. “We hand out neighborhood maps to everyone who attends the market. Then they know where else they can go in Deep Ellum,” says Yip, who encourages customers to stroll the Deep Ellum streets for small dive bars, music venues, and local businesses.

Christy Yip welcomes new customers to the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market with a smile. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

Another vendor, Nancy Friedman, started selling at the DEOM last August when she saw an article about the market. “I loved the aura. It reminded me of the best flea markets in Los Angeles,” says Friedman, who is a 25-year veteran of the flea market business and now a regular vendor at the DEOM. Friedman sells a wide variety of accessories for women.

“I am a one-woman operation,” says Friedman who admits that the economy has influenced her work in the flea-market world. Friedman was one of the original vendors at the Venice Beach Abbot-Kinney Street Fair in Los Angeles, California. “The Dallas Outdoor Market has all the charm and funkiness of Abbot Kinney,” but in Texas, says Friedman.

“My newest items are my ‘boob tubes,’” says Friedman as she picks up the yellow “boob tube” out of an assortment of many different colors. Friedman explains that these are mini camis that can be worn instead of full-body layers of clothes. These bra-tops are a cooler, layering alternative especially for the unbearably hot Dallas summers.
All of Friedman’s products are useful for women and reasonably priced. “I am very sensitive about the economy so I design with reasonable pricing in mind,” says Friedman as she sells yet another one of her “boob tubes” to a prospective customer.

Around the corner from Friedman’s display is yet another vendor. “I make beaded jewelry– bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rosaries, and more,” says Jennifer Julian, the founder of One Star Designs. Each piece Julian makes is unique. “I have a mix of ‘normal’ jewelry and ‘freaky’ stuff as well,” says Julian, who mentions that her husband and “right-hand man,” Justin, always says she has “everything from bones to butterflies.”

The Deep Ellum neighborhood continues to prove itself as the perfect place for an outdoor market. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

“One minute a mom and dad are buying a cute little ‘memory wire’ bracelet for their young daughter and the next minute a woman with green hair walks up to buy a necklace with a bat pendant,” says Julian. “It’s a great mix of clientele.” One Star Designs has customers ranging from age 4 to 80 according to Julian. “All of our customers at the market have been awesome.”

Julian is beaming as yet another satisfied customer walks away from her display with a One Star Design at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. (Photo by Danielle Barrios/SHIFT Magazine)

One customer, Hilary Whiteside, 23, has been a veteran of outdoor markets since she attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “It’s such a great place to meet cool people doing cool things,” says Whiteside, who adds, “with these kind of markets, it’s just not about the money.” Whiteside says her favorite part of an outdoor market like the DEOM is that every visitor can buy a one-of-a-kind-item. “Looking through Missing Link Records is like going back in time,” says Whiteside. As Whiteside jumbles through the cases of records, she says, “People just don’t own stuff like this anymore.”

As Whiteside continues to browse, DEOM vendor Richard Quintana sits with a pleasant smile by his boxes of vintage and prized LPs in the middle of the covered parking lot. Quintana is the mastermind behind Missing Link Records. Two years ago, Quintana welcomed a much-needed breather from his work as a sub-contractor at Texas Instruments. One day, he came across a record store going out of business in Indiana. “I felt that we didn’t have enough record stores in the area so I made a deal to buy it in hope of opening a store in Richardson,” says Quintana. Now, as owner of Missing Link Records, Quintana travels to look at collections, moves all newly bought merchandise, unloads and stocks the records inside a warehouse, sorts the product when possible, and loads the records to travel to markets like the DEOM.

“Missing Link Records is different because I don’t bring hand-made items to sell,” says Quintana. “These are vinyl records,” he says, pointing to his boxes full of hundreds of vinyls as interested customers flip through. Quintana admits that you can find records nowadays at local record stores. “But we bring clean, budget-priced records to suit every taste,” he says. And that’s why his records are different from the rest found in stores.

Outdoor flea markets like the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market have appeared in the U.S. for several decades. The most prominent of these kinds of markets is the farmers market. Statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that from 1994 to 2000, the number of outdoor markets in the United States grew by 63 percent. And it has continued to grow over the past 10 years.

Ten years ago, the neighborhood of Deep Ellum may have questioned the presence of an outdoor flea-like market. But today, with these growing numbers, Dallas will have to plan for many other vendor-type markets to come.
Caleb Massey, yet another vendor at the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market, heard about the market from his aunt and fellow vendor Melanie, and figured he should give the venue a try. When Massey was 19, he started a career designing props for the Dallas Children’s Theater. Now, a few years later, he, his wife Cat, sister Kineta, brother Forrest, and buddy Joel all contribute to ‘Red Ranger Ray Guns.’

Crafted out of toy-store guns and other industrial material, Massey’s ray guns looks space invader left them behind. About a year ago, Massey realized people wanted to buy the ray guns Massey had originally been making as a hobby. Now, at the DEOM, Massey says, “I don’t have many left by the end of the day.”

Massey’s vendor display is unlike any other at the DEOM. “I make sure there are things for the kiddos to do,” says Massey as one eager customer shoots the robot with Nerf ray gun and another destroys the chalk Martians with the water guns at Massey’s display table.

“I take toy guns and make them look like ray guns from the ‘50’s,” says Massey, who uses everything from lamps, clocks, staplers, figurines, or anything else he says “I feel like raygunning.” But Massey’s favorite items are his one-of-a-kind assemblage guns he builds entirely out of found objects.

Massey and his entourage of friends and family who all contribute at the DEOM have been pleasantly surprised by how much people enjoy the product. Massey says his “favorite reaction was when someone walked by and did a double take then said ‘Ooo! Ray Guns!” Massey has seen one kid and repeat customer who started making his own ray guns.

“We offer products you can’t find anywhere else,” says Castillo, “products made by our neighbors.” And Ashton of Indie Thrift can attest to the success of the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. “I have already had a ton of repeat customers from past Deep Ellum Outdoor Market Saturdays come back and greet me,” says Ashton. “One young lady came up to my booth smiling so big and then she asked, ‘Is this Indie Thrift? I saw you online!”’ Ashton was equally as elated. “She knew my label before she even met me,” says Ashton. “It isn’t often that someone recognizes a handmade artist, so I feel like that was a big accomplishment.” And without the DEOM, Ashton and all of the vendors know much of their success would not have been possible. Revenue and numbers aside, the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market has brought members of the community in direct communication with one another and that’s something that can hardly be said about North Park Center.

Castillo remains hopeful that one day Dallas will become a real city, thanks at least in part to his creation. “Real cities have markets. Cities like Chicago or New York are real cities and we intend to make Dallas a real city.”

SHIFT Magazine: One Humble Yogi

April 22, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

It is late Thursday afternoon. As the sun sets, cars, bikes and casual walkers enter the parking lot of Karmany Yoga. The small studio is conveniently settled on McKinney Avenue only a block away from the Katy Trail on the second floor of a building facing away from Highway 75. Karmany’s studio looks a lot smaller from the outside. Students gather outside and after a swift stride up the outside set of stairs to the studio door, the studio’s neutral wall color adds an inviting ambiance with burst of natural light enters through the front large window.

Karmany Yoga was founded by owner, Deanna Anderson. But Karmany was not a part of her life plan. For college, Deanna attended New York University to study Physics, Philosophy, and Mathematics. Then, in 1994, she discovered something that would change her life for the next 17 years: yoga.

“I was living in New York City and there were yoga classes at my gym on Madison Avenue,” said Anderson as she sipped on her latte outside of Dallas local hot spot The Pearl Cup. Next to Deanna’s small frame and dimpled smile sat her purse, a small clutch entirely made out of recycled bottle caps.

Deanna experienced a humble beginning inside the Yoga world. “I gradually figured out what teachers that I liked and I started fitting it into my schedule. It started out as a backburner kind of thing,” says Deanna. “She’s always so modest. It’s charming,” says longtime student Gillea Allison who enjoys Deanna’s classes several times a week.

Before Yoga, Deanna enjoyed a demanding but exciting career as a fashion editor in New York City. But soon, yoga became more than just a casual class taken at the gym. Then finally, in 2001, Deanna finally received a basic yoga certification and began teaching in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. From then on, Deanna’s passion for her craft became quite clear and it soon was reflected in her teaching style and classroom environment.

Today, over 11 million Americans practice yoga as a form of meditation and physical exercise that has been in existence for over 5,000 years. And Deanna’s classmates constantly benefit from Yoga’s abundant gifts. Class began that Thursday afternoon as Deanna’s eclectic play list set the tone. The Shins played through the studio’s speakers as the laid-back classroom environment and an overall feel-good vibe resonated off the walls.

As one of the first donation-based studios in Texas, Deanna’s studio is unique compared to other Dallas studios. Karmany is “founded on the principle that yoga should be available to anyone, regardless of financial means or skill level.”

Deanna is quick to point out that Karmany’s donation philosophy does not mean free yoga. Donation-based means there are no set fees for regular classes or a lengthy membership registration. Karmany’s website clears up a lot of the gray-areas with a recommended fee structure. One class a week is $15 a class, two classes a week is approximately $12 a week and so on. “We ask only that you contribute what you can. In the yogic sense of karma, as we are giving a gift, it is our hope that you will give back,” says the Karmany mission statement.

“I had no desire to start a studio. I hated the idea of being tied down,” says Deanna, who sees herself more as a performance artist. “The idea of running a studio and being in an administrative position was not my cup of tea at all.”

But now, Karmany has built quite a name for itself in Dallas and was voted Best Yoga in Dallas according to D Magazine.

Deanna admits that Yoga is not for everyone, but it’s certainly not elite which is part of the reason why Karmany is a donation-based studio. “Traditionally, before you embark on a spiritual path, you have to have your basic needs met. You need to have shelter and food and clothing and that you can be a contributing member of society because if you haven’t got that kind of stuff in order, it is very difficult to open up to a path of service.”

Deanna is confident in her craft. “There’s something for everybody. Yoga can be athletically intensive or spiritually.” She explains, “there’s really gentle practices and really vigorous practices- some practices are hard because you have to be really still and some practices are just more athletic.” Even Deanna’s student, Gillea Allison, is in the process of getting her instructor certification. Thanks to Deanna, Yoga is becoming a large part of Gillea’s life as well.

Every yoga style is different. “You can’t make a sweeping generalization and say that one is superior. It’s really just what one person relates to the most and what works best for them.”
Even though Deanna believes there is no such thing as a skilled class, “a skilled teacher should be able to have a lot of things going on in the same class,” says Deanna. “I’ve had students develop really quickly in three to six months where they can start doing arm balances.”

Deanna’s classroom is a colorful combination of all levels. “The tight guys that were really into lifting weights, they have the endurance but they struggle with flexibility and balance,” she says. For student Whitney Bartels, who has been attending Deanna’s classes for little over six months now, she has definitely has experienced physical improvement.

“I can have an experienced or an advanced student doing the crazy Cirque du Soleil stuff in the corner and then have someone who has a herniated disk on the other side of the room doing something therapeutic- it depends on the student and how patient they are,” says Deanna.

About 9 and a half years ago after her teachers encouraged their students to write and share various kinds of philosophy on a regular basis to gain inspiration from various topics, Deanna started dhyanayoga.com. She occasionally adds an article or two each week. This week, she added a risotto recipe with uncooked, raw rice and truffle oil for raw food enthusiasts. Deanna does admit the raw food lifestyle is “time consuming and very preparation intensive. But, I love raw food and definitely still make a lot of raw food.”

Along with her diet, mentality, and overall positive energy, Deanna’s daily regime involves deep meditation inside and outside of the classroom to establish her journey as a Yoga instructor. As class ended that Thursday afternoon, a physically exhausted but refreshed class said “namaste.” in unison.

Deanna eats, lives, and breathes Yoga. “If you can’t embody what you’re talking about, then no one is going to believe you. You really have to walk the walk and talk the talk.” And Deanna definitely does.

SHIFT Magazine: One Family Behind the Farmer’s Market

April 21, 2011 by · Comments Off 

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by Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

It’s 4:30 Friday morning. Javier Diaz, 31, rolls out of bed to meet his wife, Gloria Diaz, 29, preparing a traditional Mexican breakfast in the kitchen. As the sun begins to rise, Javier finishes his eggs, beans and rice. Javier slowly puts on his boots. He knows he has an exhausting day ahead of him.

“I usually check on him every hour to make sure he is drinking enough water,” says a concerned Gloria as she looks out the small window above her kitchen sink in her East Dallas home. Javier and Gloria were born in raised in Dallas. After explaining a typical day, they admit they never imagined they would become farmers one day.

About five years ago, Javier and Gloria Diaz found themselves in an economic crisis. Javier, a landscaper, was finding even less work as the economy began to crumble. Gloria stayed at home everyday with their three daughters. Until one day, Gloria heard of a friend down the street who was growing herbs in her backyard garden and selling them at the Dallas Farmers Market. Gloria mentioned to Javier that maybe they should start growing even more vegetables in their backyard. That way, they could sell them and make a profit.

An hour later, Javier picks and collects all of the produce in the Diaz backyard. Gloria and her three daughters sort, clean and package the produce that isn’t bug infested or bruised. Their backyard produce ranges from garden herbs, Mexican garlic and bell peppers. However, depending on the season, the Diaz family garden varies. The Diaz family also resells Mexican grapefruit. Even though they don’t grow the grapefruit in their backyard, the sweet not sour grapefruit continues to be one of their most profitable items.

“I help out my Mom every Friday morning. Getting ready for the Farmer’s Market takes a really long time,” says Manuela, 11, Javier and Gloria’s oldest daughter.

Early that Saturday morning, Javier, Gloria, and Manuela load up their truck and drive to the Dallas Farmers Market on South Pearl Expressway five miles from their home. As they drive out, it’s 6 a.m. and the sun has barely started to rise.

“The earlier you get here, the better spot you get and the more customers will visit to buy your produce,” says Javier as he stacks dozens of tiny heads of Mexican garlic on his large display board. If the Diaz family arrives early enough, they can get an outside spot. Outside spots are at the front entrances of each section of the Dallas Farmers Market.

A spot at the entrance is prime real estate for sellers. It is the first thing a casual Dallas Farmers Market attendee sees and, therefore, usually the first place they buy. The market’s produce aisles are practically identical: the same vegetables, the same fresh grapefruit and citrus, and the same spice selection at each vendor. The Diaz family sets up their produce display in Shed 1 with the other Dallas dealers who sell packaged produced, products being resold from local grocery stores as well as fresh grown produce.

“Want to try some delicious fresh grapefruit? It’s sweet and not sour,” says Manuela, standing only four feet tall. She smiles and talks to customers in broken English as she hands out small slices of grapefruit to curious customers. “It makes me feel so grown-up,” says the proud 11-year-old.

“Manuela is quite the saleswoman…salesgirl, I mean,” says a proud Gloria smiling as she combs Manuela’s long black hair. Gloria estimates that Manuela’s sales techniques contribute to about half of Javier and Gloria’s overall sales.

For over six decades now, the Dallas Farmers Market has featured hundreds of local farmers like the Diaz family. Over the year, the market has grown into a Dallas phenomenon, becoming one of the largest public markets of its type in the country. The DFM features produce but also homemade pottery, plants, candles, and authentic Mexican cuisine. And Dallas residents come to the DFM not just for fresh produce but also to support local farmers’ hard work.

“I love coming here. The produce is undeniably fresh and the people are great,” says Jane Koppock, 24, an Uptown resident. “The Mexican garlic is my favorite.”

Koppock rides her bike to the market with her fiancé, David, about once a month to stock up on fresh produce. Their first stop: the Diaz family produce section. “I use this garlic in practically everything,” laughs Koppock as her fiancé nods.

Several hours pass by as Javier polishes the produce display while Gloria fills in empty display spots with fresh grapefruit and garlic (the Diaz family’s two most popular items) from a box Manuela brought from the truck.

According to Manuela, Gloria is “The Set-Up Queen.”

Javier smiles flashing a missing tooth on the left side of his mouth as potential customers browse through the produce. Some move on and some stay but Manuela makes a point to smile and say hello.
As noon rolls around, Javier, Gloria, and Manuela’s clothing looks tired. Manuela’s light blue dress is stained with red grapefruit juice. Gloria’s shirt is spotted with dirt.

When business is slow, Javier strolls up and down the market aisles in Shed 1 and Shed 3. He says hi to fellow farmers and dealers. Mostly, though, he’s scoping out the competition. “The Mexican garlic I grow tastes nothing like the other farmers’,” says a confident Javier. “I think that’s why we do so well. Our produce is like nothing else out here.”

Every Saturday, the Diaz family can make anywhere from $500 to $1200. “But that doesn’t include supplies and other expenses,” which Javier admits puts quite the dent into the family’s overall revenue.

But the money the Diaz family makes doesn’t just go to Javier, Gloria, Manuela and her two sisters. They also support much of their extended family. “We help out my sisters and brother, their children, and my parents. The money we make here is very important,” says Javier. “It’s tough, but worth it.”

by Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

It’s 5 p.m. and as the sun begins to set, Gloria starts to pack up the truck. Manuela picks up leftover boxes of bell peppers and oranges as Javier counts the cash before they head home to East Dallas. “It was a good day today,” says a satisfied Javier, “Not the best, but good enough.”

Then, Gloria explains what the rest of the weekend will bring. The Diaz family returns home, unloads, and is bed by 8 p.m. Gloria thinks about tomorrow. What will she cook for her 20-member extended family for Sunday dinner? Manuela lies in bed anxiously waiting to play endless games of tag with her cousins all day in the streets of their neighborhood. And Javier, next to his exhausted wife, dreams of a day where back-breaking labor isn’t the only way to keep his family above water.

Horror Film Blog: Black Swan (2010)- Ballerina Thriller Filler

November 19, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

From the second I stumbled upon this trailer, I knew Black Swan has the potential to be a great thriller to add to my repertoire of adored films. Now, you may be wondering how I could possibly rave about a film that has yet to be released, but I can assure you, I have a strong feeling about this one.

Sink your teeth into these cinematic treats: the talented, flawless, and a personal favorite of mine, Natalie Portman, classically trained ballerinas effortlessly dancing across the screen, The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream’s mastermind, Darren Aronofsky, and a psychological disturbia a la Roman Polaski’s Rosemary’s Baby.

Since the film’s debut at the Venice Film Festival, Black Swan’s haunting depiction of a ballerina’s struggle with her own sanity has got critics buzzing.

Portman plays an obsessive ballerina, Nina, in a New York City ballet company. For an extra dose of crazy, Nina lives with her equally neurotic mother, Erica played by Barbara Heresy. Much to Nina’s delight, her ballet company’s artistic director replaces prima ballerina Beth MacInyre, played by Winona Ryder, with Nina for the role of the graceful White Swan in company’s season opener, Swan Lake. Nina’s rookie counterpart, Lily (Mila Kunis) is cast as her opposite: the sensual Black Swan. As rivalry and twisted friendship emerges between Nina and Lily, Nina becomes more in touch with her dark side, which turns out to be her ultimate rival.

A blog from Moviefone.com says critics and moviegoers like Mike Goodridge at ScreenDaily praise the film as “disturbing and exhilarating.” Goodridge raves about Aronofsky’s artful cinematography and even says “this dark study of a mentally fragile performer derailed by her obsession with perfection is one of the most exciting films to come out of the Hollywood system this year.”

With Portman and Aronofsky’s past works in mind, I would be more than shocked if this film was, at the very least, just a slightly enjoyable thriller. Black Swan has some serious potential.

Although I do have a slight apprehension this film might walk the lines of the horror and thrill genre, Black Swan seems to be nothing short of promising. (As a side note: if you crave a guaranteed ballerina horror film, check out the gruesomely psychedelic 1977 flick, Suspiria)

Feel like you need a break from finals or still in silent mourning about the passing of Halloween or just need one last taste of thrill before the holiday season rolls around? Head to theatres Dec. 3 when Black Swan hits the box office for it’s psychologically thrilling debut.

Horror Film Blog: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)- ‘The Most Controversial Film Ever Made’

November 19, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

Once again, I realize that the timeliness of a film that was made 30 years ago, is, of course, completely non-existent, however, as my last blog I could not help but feature Cannibal Holocaust since it is one of the only films I have ever had an issue on completing.

Before I continue, this is my official warning. This film is not to be taken lightly.

Around this time last year, I stumbled upon Cannibal Holocaust during one of my frequent trips to Premiere Video on Lower Greenville. Curious about the title, I picked it up despite even the clerk’s recommendation to not waste my time or money. But, like a child, this man’s recommendation only made me want to see it more.

Before watching it, I did some research and found out why.

Cannibal Holocaust’s plot is really quite simple. Four documentarians travel to the South American jungle to film indigenous tribes. After failing to return two months later, anthropologist Harold Monroe, played by Robert Kerman, travels to their treacherous whereabouts on a rescue mission. Unfortunately, he only finds the explorer’s lost cans of film. After watching the footage, he sees all four of the researcher’s tragic fate and the movie goes on to chronicle flashbacks from the recovered film.

On the surface, the plot may even seem a bit tamed but let’s put this film into perspective: Grindhouse calls Cannibal Holocaust “the most controversial film ever made.”

It is difficult to not sound boastful when I say I have seen my fair share of horror films that are far from the conventional or mainstream. But to be completely honest, I could not finish Cannibal Holocaust. The scenes of graphic torture are strange. And it’s not because the scenes are gruesome but because they all too real. Something is slightly off. After witnessing hundreds of horrifying and gory scenes in movies, there are ‘movie magic’ signs that leave the viewer with an assurance of that scene’s faux-authenticity. But Cannibal Holocaust is all too real.

In fact, Ruggero Deodato, the director, was quickly arrested after the film’s release in 1980 for actually murdering actors for the film. But don’t freak out just yet, the claims turned out to be false and he was eventually released.
Are you ready for this? Seven animals, including a coatimundi, turtle, spider, snake, two squirrel monkeys, and a pig, were actually killed for the film (not to mention the animals used for extra takes).

Yes, Cannibal Holocaust borders on snuff.

Bloggoers at Moviefone.com mention how even “sexual assault is low on [the film’s] list of egregious offenses to good taste.” In a film where “genitals are mutilated, people are flayed, impaled and dismembered, and worst of all, real animals are killed,” it is no surprise that Cannibal Holocaust has been banned in 50 countries around the world and Deodato has since adamantly apologized.

Even if Deodato claims to be making some kind of gaudy statement about society’s metaphoric cannibalism, this film fails miserably.

I guess if there is room for cinematic masterpieces in the horror genre like Stanely Kubrick’s The Shining, there is just enough space for films which leave us regretful and disappointed. Cheers.

Horror Film Blog: Let The Right One In (2008)- The Swedish Magnum Opus of Vampire Films

November 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

First of all, after seeing this movie, I found myself a bit surprised for two reasons: 1) how have I avoided writing about a single foreign or vampire horror film in this blog? and 2) why can’t American film makers produce vampire movies that don’t completely discredit the blood-sucking genre?

Well the answer to the first question is, unfortunately, beyond my comprehension. However, for the latter, I have come to terms with the fact that authentic movie-lovers might never really understand the appeal of teenage vampire melodrama.

But not all is lost because Swedish filmmakers finally washed all of our sorrows and doubts away!

Let the Right One In is brilliant. And for those of you out there who may not enjoy the horror genre but can appreciate beautiful cinematography, it would be an absolute shame to pass this one up.

This 2008 film directed by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson is based on a romantic horror novel with the same name. The film chronicles a bullied 12-year-old boy by the name of Oskar (played by the adorably meek Kare Hedebrant) who meets his new neighbor, a young girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson). At the very beginning, Oskar is desperate for friendship and despite Eli telling Oskar they (mysteriously) cannot be friends, an intimate friendship emerges. After Eli finds out that Oskar is getting viciously bullied at school, the plot thickens and Eli does everything in her vampire power to keep Oskar safe while feeding her thirst for blood.

In the film festival circuit, this movie recieved nothing but rave reviews. A blog from Tor.com called it “one of those slow, quiet, disturbing, beautiful, and quite possibly brilliant category-elusive films…part coming-of-age, part horror, and part…something like a love story.”

I couldn’t agree more. Even as a horror-film lover who adores all things terribly horrifying about the genre, there are films like this one, which are nothing less of a genre masterpiece. American filmmakers get so mixed up with the demand of the horror film market that they forget the how an intricately detailed plot and beautifully subtle cinematography can impact an audience far more than sadistic gore.

And guess what? Let the Right One in was actually released in 2008 at the Austin Fantastic Fest! So head on over to Movie Trading Company, and ask for Let the Right One In NOT Let Me In (the recent American remake). Or get both, watch the American first and cure your disappointment with this refreshing Swedish delight.

Arts Blog: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)- ‘Let’s do the Time Warp again?’

October 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Danielle Barrios

In honor of haunted festivities about to begin all weekend, and Glee for that matter, here is a film that is not so terrifying, but oh-so Halloween.

Who can honestly resist the cult classic, over-the-top parody, ‘Time Warp” dancing, perfect adaptation of the British musical stage play, The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

If you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years, The Rocky Horror Picture Show may actually sound like a horror film. Instead, however, it is a psychedelically dreamy trip into the zany lives of a crew of perfectly dramatized characters. The films two main characters, Brad and Janet, played by Barry Boswick and, yes, Susan Saradon herself, stumble upon a castle and find themselves going for a neurotic trip through ‘Transsexual Transylvania.’ The film has catchy tunes and scantily clad men and women running amok while Brad and Janet endure the wonderfully homo-erotic Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

The reason why I’m not giving too much information away is simple: if you haven’t seen it, 1) you should be ashamed of yourself and 2) this is the perfect season to change that.

Audiences have been obsessed with the film practically since its debut in 1975. And since then, midnight showings have become a phenomenon across the country. For hardcore fans and even those just a little bit curious of what this crazy tale is all about, websites like an official Rocky Horror fan site have links to finding when the next viewing is near you.

Attending a showing for the first time? Prepare for the virgin treatment. Without seeing The Rocky Horror Picture show at an official viewing, you are not only completely unaware of what the showing has in store for you but if you do choose to see a showing, your experience be a little bit different than the rest of the veterans in the audience. Trust me, going to a showing is worth the experience.

So don’t have any exciting plans this weekend?

Lakewood Theater in Dallas is showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show this Friday October 29th! The shadowcast is “Amber Does Dallas” and being only 3 miles away from campus, you have no excuse not to go. Call 214.821.7469 or go to The Lakewood Theatre’s website for more information.
Oh, and Happy Haunted Halloween!

Tim Jon Semmerling Presents Extraordinary “Renditions”

October 28, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Danielle Barrios
dbarrios@smu.edu

Students and faculty gathered Wednesday night for Tim Jon Semmerling’s lecture on Extraordinary “Renditions”: When Law and Pop Culture Co-Narrate the Bush Administration’s Use of Extraordinary Rendition hosted by SMU’s Asian Studies Program, the Department of Religious Studies, the Embrey Human Rights Program and the Scott Hawkins Lecture Series.

Although attendance was low, which Semmerling accounted for Ranger’s being in the World Series, he thanked everyone for showing after an impressive introduction noting that in May of this year, the U.S. army appointed him the lead mitigation specialist.

As Semmerling began his presentation with a welcoming smile, he began to present an intricately formulated slide show as he strolled the front of the lecture hall in Dallas Hall’s McCord Auditorium wearing a black suit with a green and gold striped tie. The slides began with President Bush’s introduction of the “Extraordinary Rendition” which Semmerling stated as “one of the most vital tools in our war against terrorists.”

“The truth of the matter is that our information on ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ is based on scattered and poorly tested evidence,” said Semmerling continuing, “we lack a certainty of truth.”

Semmerling stressed that our society needs to learn to scrutinize the narratives we have about the extraordinary renditions.

As Semmerling began to set out an agenda for the rest of his lecture, he mentioned the growing reliance in the postmodern world.

Tim Semmerling delivered his lecture Wednesday night on Extraordinary "Renditions." (PHOTO BY DANIELLE BARRIOS / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

“Because pop culture is finding its way into the law, lawyers are forced to rely on their gut feeling,” said Semmerling. “Pop culture is grabbing onto this authority of law by grabbing onto the objectivity of law.”

Semmerling went on to describe and analyze Dick Cheney’s “The Dark Side” speech but believes there could have been a more comprehensive meaning to explain what he really meant about what he later explained as the “Frontier Myth.”

The Frontier Myth is a 300-year-old myth describing how American democracy was built. He described this myth as “justifying our power as a nation” and “verifying who we are as patriots” following specific steps laid out as the separation from civilization, the regression to a more primitive state, and the regeneration through violence. Using a flow chart, he showed how civilization must win and the savage must lose.

SMU senior, Sahar Pezeshki, commented on Semmerling’s interesting further connection between fairy tales and the “Frontier Myth” admitting that although she was required to attend for class, “I would have come anyway.”

Semmerling continued anaylzing “The Dark Side” speech by pointing out three parts: separation, regression, and violence. Then, he spoke about the realms of truth which consist of factual truth, high or legal truth, and symbolic truth which “borrows, never surrenders, and trumps both.”

He went on to mention the movie Rendition proving that symbolic truth will always trump legal truth cutting functions and time short, distorting torture and “sanitizing the entire experience.”

Semmerling continued by saying that pop culture is getting rid of lawyers.

“In order to understand what extraordinary rendition is we must scrutinize,” Semmerling said, “we have to accept our own complicity and recognize the limits and demand more accountability.”

As the slideshow came to a close, Semmerling took questions, which encouraged his dynamic lecture but a comment from one professor criticizing missing elements of his “Frontier Narrative.” Semmerling admitted that America may never get out of war.

Arts Blog: I Spit on Your Grave (1978)- One Dose of Old-School Revenge, Please

October 21, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Danielle Barrios

It’s that time of year again. Halloween? Well, yes. But more importantly, it’s horror movie remake season. We’ve all sat through at least a dozen, and regardless of whether you’ve seen the older version or not, you always hear the same reaction: “The original was so much better.” This is why I commonly find myself asking why Hollywood insists on revisiting films in the first place. If the original was so epically iconic or even dreadfully unbearable then why on earth would you give it an underappreciated love child?

Beats me. Here is the most recent example.

In 1978, director Meir Zachi debuted what is still known today as one the most gruesome feministic revenge movies of the 21st century. At the box office, I Spit on Your Grave, barely broke even. Instead, the film made headlines across the world. Bad 1970’s film quality aside, the violence is ruthless.

Jennifer, the main character played by actress Camille Keaton, endures brutal torture, forced sodomy, and rape by four men for more than half of the film before strategically performing an equally evil revenge for all four of her prior assailants. If you are shocked, you should be. This film is not for the fainthearted, which is why some countries, even the U.S., modified versions of the film for several years after its release due to censorship issues. Some critics saw it as glorifying violence against women. But others, perhaps more avid horror lovers, saw it as THE female empowerment flick.

And now, audiences can have the pleasure (or displeasure depending on your experience) of seeing a more contemporary version. Director Steven R. Monroe managed to remake a cult classic into what is now equivalent to a money-hungry blockbuster wanting nothing short of the reaction a suburban housewife would have to snuff films on the Internet. Just like the saying “some things are better left unsaid,” some movies are better left untouched.

Why not see it and decide for yourself?

The unrated 2010 remake of I Spit on Your Grave is now playing at the Angelika Dallas throughout this haunted season.

But do yourself and everyone else in the theatre a favor, at least try to see the original first. =)

Horror Film Blog: Diablo Cody’s ‘Jennifer’s Body’ Underappreciated

September 26, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Posted By Danielle Barrios

Ever since the horror movie industry has attracted niche audiences of vampire lovers and zombie freaks, so too has a demographic of film connoisseurs who crave the underdog grown beneath the radar. Ironically enough, and perhaps even unpredictably, some films, aimed at a specifically commercialized mainstream audience, naturally take form as cult classics.

Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body without a doubt falls into this middle-child category- craving much deserved attention. Although the film’s release involved a substantial amount of press and advertising (thanks to the cleverly chosen cover model, Michael Bay’s action bombshell, Megan Fox), the film flopped– at the box office, at the reviews, and, furthermore, at the bank.

But with Diablo Cody’s repertoire in mind, how did this happen? Did the audiences just not get it? Was it too obscure for a wide-range audience to understand the satirical nature of the film’s content?

Although the move has since been released on DVD since its 2009 box office debut, horror film lovers have refused to leave this one in the dust. The Cathode Ray Mission gives Jennifer’s Body cult credit to Amanda Seyfried, “the movie’s real star…capturing the movie’s twisted take on female friendship.”

Fox’s good looks and horrible acting is overshadowed by a sweet doe-eyed Mean Girl which can be seen as either fiscally ironic or just plain good dark humor. I think what the audiences didn’t get with Cody’s creation is that the horror genre should not just attempt to terrify but familiarize hilarity.

The premise of the film is outrageous, and rightfully so. Cody wanted her audience to not only be horrified by the physical capacities of the film’s characters, but to laugh at their ridiculous intentions. And quite honestly, it’s classic. Her subtle use of satirical horror asks why we no longer watch or make films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a terrifyingly hidden message about hippies and their unavoidable death for rivaling against the government.

Which begs the question: shouldn’t we want our horror films to do more than just horrify?

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