• Your one stop for college news and resources!
Bomb Threat

Man Arrested on Suspicion of SXSW Bomb Threat

Trevor Weldon Ingram, 26, has been arrested on suspicion of emailing a bomb threat to the Fair Market concert venue during the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.

Ingram has been charged with making a terroristic threat and, if found guilty, could face up to 10 years in jail. A statement released by Bud Light, the show’s sponsor, said that police were “able to identify and locate the suspect believed to be tied to this threat and at 11:08pm a warrant was signed” for Ingram’s arrest.

The statement added, “There are no indications of any broader security concerns for any activities relating to this incident.”

The threat, which took place March 17, led to the cancellation of a SXSW concert that was due to showcase hip hop musicians The Roots, Ludacris and Rapsody. Police were called to the venue promptly but found nothing suspicious.

Roots’ drummer Questlove took to Twitter on the day of the threat to say “no one is Mr ‘show must go on’ than me. But we can’t risk our lives if we are told there was a bomb threat.”

The bomb threat comes amid a tense and troubling time for Austin. The city has been on high terror alert following several fatal letter bomb attacks which have occurred in recent weeks and an explosion that injured two people late on Sunday night. No arrests have been made in connection with the letter bomb attacks.

One of the letter bomb incidents killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House on March 2 at his home in Austin, Texas.

Another attack of a similar nature killed 17-year-old Draylen Mason and left his mother seriously injured on March 12. A separate package explosion occurred within hours of the attack, leaving a 75-year-old woman in critical condition.

All victims are people of colour. Austin police chief Brian Manley said “we are not saying that we believe terrorism or hate are in play, but we absolutely have to consider that.”

Further reading: Woman Attempts Murder with Poisoned Cheesecake

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Film Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Be warned: Major spoilers ahead!

To review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) is to convey what violent grief truly means. Unless you have the artistic talents of Frances McDormand—the leading actress and protagonist of the movie—this is no easy feat. However, the headstrong messages that echo throughout the narrative scream out and refuse to be ignored—a notion that has evidently been felt by the vast majority of the movie’s attendees.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was written, produced and directed by Martin McDonagh—the charismatic and somewhat polarizing playwright-turned-filmmaker. McDonagh was raised in south London and his parents were working class Irish immigrants. His writing strongly reflects his diverse upbringing. During his early career, McDonagh dazzled the London stage with his writing, with several of his plays showing simultaneously. But the bright lights of the movie theatre were beckoning and the writer/director went on to create In Bruges (2008), a film generally regarded as a triumph. He more recently directed Seven Psychopaths (2012), which didn’t quite manage to garner the same positive response. Several critics have said that Three Billboards is McDonagh’s best film to date and is McDormand’s most poignant performance since her appearance in Fargo back in 1996.

The inspiration 

McDonagh was apparently inspired to write the dark and emotionally raw tale after travelling “somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner.” The screenwriter/director saw three billboards in passing that referred to an unsolved crime in the local neighborhood. “The rage that put a bunch of billboards like that up was palpable and stayed with me,” McDonagh said. Unable to get the image out of his mind, he pondered on what could have sparked such anguish. “[…] Once I decided, in my head, that it was a mother, everything fell into place,” he remarked.

The plot

 And so, the opening scenes of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri begin. Without a word being spoken, the dank hopelessness of Ebbing, Missouri’s (a fictional place in the southern Unites States) backward community is brought into view. As the not-so-subtle name suggests, this is a town where society seems to be receding. McDormand storms onto the screen as Mildred Hayes: a fiery divorcée and mother whose young daughter was raped and killed seven months prior. As the result of their inaction and incompetence, Hayes wages war on the local police department—armed with a bandana and a tongue so sharp it could cut you to shreds.

As Hayes rides into town, she is accompanied by the soft twang of a western-esque score from Carter Burwell, who incidentally worked with McDonagh previously on In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. Hayes rents a trio of broken down hoardings on the outskirts of town, brandishing them with a message to the local sheriff, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Hayes’ intention is to shame and spur the officers into action and, in doing so, shine a light on the corruption that is rife within the town’s police department. The embodiment of everything that is wrong with the law system is Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a man whose skull-cracking tendencies make him volatile and dangerous. Even in the first moments of our introduction to him, we become aware of his vindictive, racist and homophobic inclinations. We are also made aware that Dixon has recently been involved in a racist assault, although the audience are never fully given the gritty details.

As the tale of Hayes’ struggle unfolds, we come to realise that prejudice is not only engrained within the police, but also within the majority of the townsfolk. Chief Willoughby’s loyal followers remain impassive to his shortcomings, leaving Hayes to defend her cause alone to the very end. It is only the addition of a few unforeseeable events that bring any glimpse of closure for the character.

While there is a darkness that clouds the entire film, it is interlaced with a distinctive thread of satire. In McDonagh’s signature style, he manages to play comedy against violence. At several points—whether it be through Hayes’ prickly sarcasm or Dixon’s bumbling incapability to do the simplest of tasks—the audience are forced to stifle a laugh. Each joke has an unsettling undercurrent, a dark subtext that makes us wonder why we are laughing at all. McDonagh’s knack for making audiences question themselves shines through and is perhaps what makes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri such an interesting watch.

One of the most fascinating elements of Three Billboards—whether intentional or not—is that there is no mention of the time in which the story is set. There is no assurance as to whether these circumstances are happening today or, perhaps, a decade ago. While the difference seems insignificant, one could argue that it matters. The narrative gives no real mention of social media, for example, or any other signifier of modern-day culture. And yet, the story could conceivably be set in the here-and-now. Could it be that this was McDonagh’s intention all along? Was this a ploy to have us contemplate the abundance of discrimination that remains in today’s society?

Each of the three main actors give stellar performances, in fact McDonagh admitted that he wrote the characters of Hayes and Dixon with McDormand and Rockwell in mind. However, it is McDormand who steals the show. Her knack for complete naturalism and her depiction of raw emotion makes for an enthralling experience.

The critical response

While Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has largely been applauded for its unique approach, not all reviews have been positive. A number of very important issues are raised in the movie. But, while the matter of race is brought into the story early on, it soon falls to the sideline. Concepts of racism are there but never shown outright. Could this be seen as a copout (pardon the pun)? The same goes for the central character, Dixon. We are indirectly informed of his racist attack on another town member, but by the end of the film we start to feel a tiny shred of sympathy for him. This directional choice is extremely problematic. Humanizing somebody, whose actions cannot be described as anything apart than evil, smells very much like validation. Perhaps, rather than wanting to change our view of this character, we are instead supposed to realise that everybody (even the most vile of people), have a trace of humanity within them.

The movie’s initial release in the Unites States and Canada led to a gross profit of approximately $45.3 million. Since its release in the UK and elsewhere in January 2018, the worldwide total has reached $100.9 million.

McDonagh’s fierce, tragic comedy tugs on the heartstrings; its twists and turns often make us question who and what the real focus of this film really is. Our film review in short: don’t miss it.

Oscars 2018

The Oscars 2018: Our Predictions

As the 90th Academy Awards ceremony approaches, general murmurs of possible nomination candidates have begun to circulate within the entertainment community. The Oscars 2018 awards ceremony itself will take place on March 4, with the crème de la crème of film stars guaranteed to be in attendance. From January 5, members have been able to cast their votes online. Here, we offer our predictions and compile a list of worthy contenders for the Oscars 2018. Meanwhile, we’ll speculate which dark horses could throw a spanner in the works for the front-runners.

2017 has certainly been an interesting year for Hollywood—to put it lightly. With scandal plaguing the headlines, the spotlight has been solidly fixed on tinsel town and its residents. So what has this meant for film and cinema? Well, a great deal as it so happens. Numerous accounts of sexual misconduct that began with Harvey Weinstein have meant that topics of gender, inequality and power manipulation are top of the agenda. Since the first Academy Awards in 1929, only four women have ever been nominated for the Best Director Oscar: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1975), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003) and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2010); Bigelow is the only female director to win. This translates to a ratio of one female to 88 male directors. We believe that women—in front of and behind the camera—will have more of an opportunity to prove themselves this award’s season (although it begs the question: why has it taken so long for such an alteration to occur?). A crop of female-led and female-centric films has burst onto the scene (and about time too), which could dramatically change the landscape of the Oscar Awards. With models of directorial excellence exhibiting such as Dee Rees’ Mudbound (2017), one could assume that the lists may appear different this year—or be confounded if they don’t.

Furthermore, the scathing criticisms surrounding the Oscars that emerged last year may return with a vengeance—the #OscarsSoWhite campaign springs to mind. In 2016, the Academy was condemned for the lack of ethnic diversity shown in their decision-making. Others have directed their blame at the film industry itself. According to The Guardian, “During this century, minority actors have secured only 15 percent of the top roles (as identified by billing, critical esteem and box-office takings).” But the sharp writing from Jordan Peele’s Get Out—set in ‘post-racial’ America—surely cannot be ignored this season, right?  What we can say without any hesitation is that the Oscars 2018 will be like no other.

 The unspoken rules of Oscar nomination

Over time, the Academy has revealed certain trends in their nomination picks—whether conscious or not. We have labeled these trends in decision-making as the ‘unspoken rules’.

  • Films released early in the year are often ignored or forgotten
  • Horror films are almost never nominated (according to IMDB, the last horror film to win an Oscar was The Wolfman in 2010)
  • Technical achievement is ranked higher than storytelling
  • First time directors don’t usually triumph
  • Those that were unjustly snubbed in the past stand a better chance of receiving a nomination in the future

 Our Oscars 2018 predictions

 The Sure Bets

  1. The Post (2017)
  2. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
  3. Dunkirk (2017)

I don’t think anybody could dispute that Dunkirk deserves a place at the nominee’s table; especially taking into consideration the meticulous shooting, awe-inspiring score and groundbreaking performances that were involved in bringing it to the screen. Both critics and home-viewers alike have hedged their bets and surmised that it will be nominated for Best Picture for the Oscars 2018 ceremony. The technical components alone make the film a masterpiece to behold and could well tip the scales in director Christopher Nolan’s favor. In the past, avid fans of Nolan have felt duped at the considerably low recognition the director has received. While Inception (2010) and Memento (2000) received Oscar nominations, it is astounding that this giant in modern-day cinema has never received a win. Perhaps Dunkirk will present a more palatable genre for the committee to swallow.

Others threatening the top spot include Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird and Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name. Spielberg has long been recognised as a man who knows how to tell a damn good story—The Post is no exception. While Spielberg’s ode to journalism plays out beautifully, the titan reputation of the director may in fact lead to his dismissal in order to make way for other directors. Meanwhile, Call Me by Your Name brings something completely new to the table. The coming-of-age love story sees a sensuality that is so very rarely projected onto the big screen. Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar, 2014) gives a truly remarkable presentation of the young protagonist, Elio; a naive and cosmopolitan character who struggles with his sexual identity. Surely this exceptional young talent will be in with a shot for Best Supporting Actor?

The dark horses

  1. Shape of Water (2017)
  2. Mudbound
  3. *Get Out (2017)—our top pick

While some films seem solidified in the nomination’s list, there are always a few surprises. These dark horses may just steal gold—they certainly have the clout for it. Shape of Water, is one such film to watch out for and may just sneak into the nominations list. Guillermo del Toro’s aesthetic is immediately recognizable in this tale of an unlikely relationship between the mute, Eliza (played by Sally Hawkins) and a sea creature who resides in the lab in which she works. Much like his dark fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), del Toro weaves an imaginative story that is surprising and hopelessly romantic. The music subtly nods to that of the 60s era in which it is set, and the visual effects alone should certainly receive a large amount of credit.

Netflix has been trying its damnedest to make its break with its first Oscar nomination, and before now, has failed to do so. But could this year finally see a breakthrough? Screenwriter and director Dee Rees’ latest screen adaption of Hillary Jordan’s novel, Mudbound (published in 2008), is starting to gain some traction. As the title suggests, Mudbound plants us right in the middle of the muck in the rural Mississippi delta. The film’s musical score by debut film composer Tamar-kali has received considerable praise for its authentic Southern tone and synchronization with the movie’s climactic scenes. The blues-tinged notes helps to make the story feel all the more soulful. What really gives Mudbound the dark horse status, in our book, is the phenomenal performance by superstar Mary J Blige. Rees was apparently so sure of her casting decision, that Blige was not even asked to audition. We think it was right on the money in sight of her memorable portrayal of Florence Jackson, matriarch of the Jackson family.

One of the most deliciously surprising movies released this year was Get Out. Not much could have prepared audiences for Peele’s darkly satirical social thriller. Get Out could well be the film to deviate from the Academy’s trend of overlooking the horror genre (although it encapsulates elements of several genres). If nominated, it would also contradict the Academy’s tendency to avoid first-time directors, with the film being Peele’s solo directorial debut. Rather than simply being a narrative filled with scare tactics, this clever deconstruction of society peeks under the genteel façade of American suburbia and reveals what ugliness lies beneath. Daniel Kaluuya’s gripping portrayal of the main character steals the show, which justly earned him a win for Best Actor at the Golden Globes. The performances of his costars Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford also add to the Stepford Wives-esque feel that the movie radiates. While racial alienation lies at the heart of the storyline, let’s not gloss over the genius way in which Peele decides to express this message. While it is uncertain whether Get Out will manage to win Best Director, Best Actor or Best Picture, it’s certainly got our vote.

The Overlooked

A few wondrous feats of cinema inevitably fall through the cracks when awards season comes around. Sometimes they didn’t manage to flourish at the box office or were simply outshined by more recent arrivals—but we believe they still deserve recognition. Stronger (2017) is one such example. The film is based on the true story of Jeff Bauman’s struggle to cope with the amputation of his legs after being wounded in the 2013 Boston marathon bombing. But Stronger massively deviates from the all-too-familiar formula of the “true story”: the ultra-Hollywoodized narrative where the protagonist triumphs over all obstacles unscathed, finishing with a life lesson for the spectator. Technically, the film does slot neatly into the group; however, David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, 2013) directs Bauman’s account in such a way that marks it head and shoulders above the other films within its category. There’s a real commitment to exhibiting Bauman’s perspective: his struggle with PTSD and his detachment from the hero status he earns himself. It seems highly unlikely that Stronger will make the cut on this occasion but it is worth a view for sure.

Are you excited for the Oscars 2018 awards? Give us your thoughts on our predictions—are they accurate?

Catch up on last year’s Oscar nominations: 2017 Oscar Nominations