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October 29, 2013 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-29

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T M D cTuesday, October 29, 2013 - 5

The Michigan Daily - mich'igandaily.com

PBS to examine
'Worlds' broadcast

A treatise to the macabre

'U' alum discusses
involvement in new
Daily Arts Writer
According, to Twitter, the
world ended 10 months ago,
there is a 60-foot prehistoric
shark roaming the Pacific Ocean
and. human traffickers have
taken over a grocery store in
Grand Rapids, Mich. We have
a history of buying into these
sort of "panic stories," which
are only exacerbated by the
Internet's facilitation of instan-
taneous communication (and
miscommunication). This phe-
nomenon is not new, not another
black mark specific to the ledger
of our generation's faults. This
culture of panic was present
on Oct. 30, 1938, when Orson
Welles performed his notorious-
"The War of the Worlds" broad-
cast, which convinced nearly
one million people in the United
States that Martians were taking
over the Earth.
On Oct. 29, PBS's "Ameri-
can Experience" is releasing a
documentary about the event
and, because of his extensive
research into the aftermath of
the event, University alum A.
Brad Schwartz contributed as a
screenwriter for the film.
Schwartz sat down with the
Daily to discuss his involvement
in the project and his roots at the
In part because of his child-
hood insomnia, Schwartz grew
up listening to old-time radio
including Orson Welles's famous
shows, so he has been familiar
with the broadcast for a long
"It wasn't something I was
particularly interested in until

I came to the University," he
said, "And a librarian from
the (Screen Arts and Culture)
department, Phil Illman, came
in and gave a presentation about
all the library resources avail-
able to students. He had recently
in the past few years gotten two
big collections of Orson Welles's
personal papers."
Many people are unaware of
the vast amount of Welles materi-
al the University currently holds,
including letters sent to Welles
in the aftermath of the event,
which Schwartz discovered
while searching for a thesis topic.
Schwartz recognizes both the
Screen Arts and Culture depart-
ment and the Historydepartment
for giving him the tools to tackle
this exhaustive project.
"The two majors - history
and SAC - it's not a combination
many people consider, but the two
feed into each other really well.
My thesis got me the interest of
PBS, and then the screenwrit-
ing got me contacts in L.A., con-
nected me with a book agent to
write my book. They are two fan-
tastic departments that provided
me with opportunities I really
couldn't have had otherwise."
Schwartz, who graduated in
December 2012, was contacted
by PBS while still a student, as
he was the only person to have
catalogued the more than 1,400
letters sent to Welles. These let-
ters demonstrate the anger felt
by those who really believed that
their lives were at stake during
the "alien invasion," and dem-
onstrate the pervasive presence
of radio during this time. More
than just atale of the gullibility of
humans, "The War of the Worlds"
illustrates the power of the media,
even 75 years ago, in swaying the
outcome of a story.
"I think it's become this arche-
typal - almost mythological -
story about the power of media,"

Schwartz said. "Any time some-
thing happens in the news when a
Tweet or something has a partic-
ularly profound affect on people,
people say it's another 'War of the
The way we communicate
has evolved so drastically since
1938 that it seems impossible
that a radio broadcast could be
absorbed with either such fear
or, as print journalists respond-
ed, with such vindictive deri-
"The development of the
radio and the birth of broadcast
radio was so very similar to how
the Internet is taking over the
news business today," Schwartz
Radio was the newest tech-
nology, able to emotionally
connect with millions in a way
single newspapers couldn't -
an issue Schwartz found as a
recurring element in the letters.
"The press would try to
ignore radio, attack radio.
That's a lot of what 'The War
of the Worlds' fear was about
- newspapers attacking the
How often do we hear the
lamentation of the loss of books,
the complaints of older genera-
tions over the newfangled tech-
nology to which our generation
seems so attached?
"Even back then, they were
saying that newspapers were
dying, that print media was
dying," Schwartz said. "People
were going to listen to the radio
and weren't going to read books
or newspapers anymore."
While the social landscape
has changed rapidly over the
past few years, "The War of the
Worlds" is a prescient reminder
that these concerns aren't nec-
essarily new. Progress may not
mean the death of one outlet,
just the inauguration of anoth-

f life had a Ctrl+F function
to determine how many
times people have said the
same thingto me in the past few
days, my first search (after "Ryan
Gosling is
standing five
inches behind
you.") would
be "Yo,
Akshay! Isn't
it insane how .
it's already
Halloween?! AKSHAY
What the SETH
terns should
I be watching?" A text bubble
reading "Too many fucking
times, man" would spontane-
ously pop up in front of my
eyes, and for the bajillionth
time, I'd consider making this
column an extended catalog
of films that have made me
curl up into a ball, yelping like
Jamie Lee Curtis in that one

of most audience members
because, yes, he stabs people
while they're naked, but he's
driven to do so because of the
stressed (understatement of
the century?) relationship he
shares with his mother. By
playing on this notion of moth-
erhood, director Alfred Hitch-
cock takes something as basic
as a classic family dynamic
and twists it beyond recogni-
tion, exaggerating to a point
where we begin to question the
validity of our own relation-
ships. That uncertainty is what
good horror is all about.
It's not the only reason the
film works, but it's a unifying
recurrence that lets the plot
"This thing bled acid. Who
knows what it's gonna do
when it's dead?" - "Alien,"

that, d
an IMI
in thef
will tr'
the abs
mon th
large p
so if yo
time to
take yo
For t
of the t
find m(
ten in E
of thea
"I thi
yet als
is the f
not tal

arpenter movie. A lot of directors working
the Daily is better than today attribute the death of the
ammit, and a column is "classically creepy movie" to
to be a discussion, not studios looking for cheaper, reli-
DB user Top-20 list. So, able scares that occur more reg-
following paragraphs, I ularly in the pictures' already
y my best to pick through skimpy runtimes. Two or three
surd number of horror decades ago, filmmakers had no
sI've seen in my quest to problem investing as much as
e cinematic enlighten- an hour setting up a gag. And
and hash out the com- when that blessed climax finally
reads that make them materialized, the payoff would
be more than enough to keep
the faint of heart: The asses glued on the edges of seats
ques I describe are in until the credits rolled.
art applicable to films Take, for example, "Alien,"
ly meant to leave their in which director Ridley
ed audience disturbed, Scott doesn't give us a single
u're here for "E.T." or instance of violence until more
r," it's probably a good than 50 minutes into the film.
get mom and dad to Weirder still? After that chest-
tu out for some trick-or- burstingly demented scene,
g (ZINGER!). there is never another minute
quite as bloody throughout
the movie. But it didn't matter.
these films Scott has us the moment he
yanked us out of complacency.
vill For the rest of the film, we
i horrify were waiting, hands shaking,
ir H alloween for the next alien baby to claw
its way out of someone's chest,
xperience. and even if it never happened,
the anticipation was already
This slow build-up, framed
by an almost irregular atten-
he impatient: The names tion to the mundane - shots of
wo films I personally the crew doing maintenance
ost unsettling are writ- drills, eating dinner - is a key
boldface toward the end to creating tension and add-
article. Look down, and ing impact to the "gotcha"
our life changed forever. moments sprinkled through
the film.
ink I must have one of Think about it in terms of
e faces you can't help the "Jaws" theme: The cre-
'ing." - "Psycho," 1960 scendoing beat in the last
10 or 15 seconds of the track
aps the most obvious, registers in our head only
o the most overlooked, because of the two minutes
d employed in effective of repetitive buildup we have.
into the horror genre to sit through beforehand; it's
ilmmakers' ability to an eerily simple methodology,
ige social norms. I'm harkening back to that unwrit-
king about large, hairy ten rule about the power of the

"A murderer would never
parade his crime in front of
an open window." - "Rear
Surprisingly, unexpected-
ness isn't the defining factor
for the last technique I'm
going to examine, one I've
seen pulled off effectively in a
single film, Hitchcock's mas-
terpiece, "Rear Window." The
movie is about a wheelchair-
bound photographer who
begins to suspect that the man
living across the street has
killed his wife (No, this is not
the one with Shia Labeuf).
Nearly every minute is pre-
sented to us from behind a
window, creating the detach-
ment through which Hitch-
cock crafts a false feeling of
By putting distance between
his protagonist and the source
of the conflict, the master
director forces us onto the
same page. After all, aren't all
trips to the movie theater, in
some form, just another way
of looking through a rear win-
dow? Throughout the course of
the film, nothing unexpected
ever really happens. It's two
hours of tedium, interjected at
choice moments by plot devel-
opments we saw coming from a
mile away.
The entire time, we know
the photographer's world and
that of the supposed murderer
are going to intersect. The
actual deconstruction of that
detachment is where Hitcheeck
excels, and where he leaves us
questioning, even if it's only
for a moment, our own safety
inside the cinema hall.
The idea of closing distance
is simple, but as I've said in one
of my previous columns, the
simplest mechanisms canyield
the simplest solutions (in this
case, the most effective scares).
Unfortunately, it requires
tense, slow setup - something
most studios todayaren't will-
ing to invest in.
Tense, slow setup (over 1,000
words worth) is something
Akshay Seth isn't afraid of. So
now that you've had a chance to
get an idea of what to look for
in the films you watch this Hal-
loween night, I'll clue you in on
two underrated horror movies
that always bring out the Jamie
Lee Curtis in yours truly:
"Funny Games"
"Jacob's Ladder"
For the people who actually
read all the way through, make
sure to check out the rest of the.
films I namedropped in what I
am now calling my treatise to
the macabre.

Driving to the spirit and soul
of the legendary Lou Reed

Online ArtsEditor
When I heard that Lou Reed
died, I thought back to an eve-
ning in March. I was with three
friends in Naguabo, Puerto
Rico, speeding down a narrow
road in search of a restaurant
we never found.
The sun descended behind
the mountains to our west while
the cows to our east looked
on. We lowered the windows
and didn't say much. We were
listening to The Velvet Under-
ground t Nico and "Heroin" had
just come on, so we turned that
up instead. "I don't know just
where I'm going/But I'm gonna
try for the kingdom if I can." We
were lost, but we didn't care.
We had Lou Reed.
We drove through moun-
tains and old wards, exploring
the island's natural riches and Linger on.
pockets of poverty. As night
overtook the town, we made front th
our way by the coast. The ocean ity of en
shimmered with moonlight, struggle.
the silver ripples reflecting music in
the brilliant nocturne expanse to challe
above. As if on cue, "I'll Be Your impossib
Mirror" played at an inappro- didn't cI
priately loud volume. Driving lenged u
aimlessly through a beautiful, feelings
foreign town with three friends times) se
was enough to make the and hypt
moment memorable; driving His geni:
with The Velvet Underground navigate
as our soundtrack made it noth- cerns wi
ing short of perfect. and grac

Seth is screaming like Jamie


e uncomforting real-
motional and physical
He claimed to writer
pursuit of beauty, not
nge us. And yet, it is
le to say that Reed
hallenge us. He chal-
s to feel. He harnessed
of love and (some-
If-loathing, oppression
ocrisy, and the eternal.
us lies in his ability to
these universal con-
th unimpeded realism
e. Finding'the beauty

one day they will remember
Machine Metal Music - as Reed
himself did - as Yeezus's punk
ancestor. And, I suspect, every-
one will remember his or her
personal connection to Reed's
music - everyone will have
his or her very own "Lou Reed
Mine was that drive. When-
ever I hear Lou Reed, I'm nes-
tled in the back seat, staring
out at land and sea with three
of my closest friends, each of.
us trying to postpone reality
for just another second longer.
Looking back, I realize that Lou
Reed tells us something differ-
ent. We weren't evading reality
- we were enjoying it. Beneath
the radiant Puerto Rican sun-
set, we were young and content.
We were trying for the king-
dom. There could be no better
voice to guide us there than
Lou Reed's.

monsters that look nothing
like human beings and derive
pleasure from mutilating
helpless passersby, though at
a basic level, even such visibly
twisted personalities creep
us out specifically because
they're so "out there." The
gory spouts of violence they
spray upon the world can be
fun for awhile, but at its core,
it's lazy storytelling that feels
tired after every re-entry.
For reference, see the
countless unnecessary
sequels to "A Nightmare on
Elm Street" or "Friday the
13th." Both franchises fea-
ture excellent originals, but
they're one-time'deals. By
offering pointless exposition
and relying on the physical
deformities of their antago-
nists to create conflict, the
sequels go against one of the
most basic rules of horror:
We're afraid of what we can't
The real fun comes from
watching people who are per-
fectly fine to look at, yet only
so to hide crippling mental
and emotional deformities
beneath the surface. These
antagonists challenge norms
at a much deeper and more
poignant level, as they don't
have the luxury of having
knives protrude from their
fingers - they need to go
deeper in order to keep us
In "Psycho," Norman
Bates scares the shit out

unexpected. Lee Curtis. To shut him up,
e-mail aksneanumic , e

* L(

in Reed's art is not the chal-
lenge - the challenge rests on
Vhat's your our capacity to view our world
with similar perspicuity.w
)u moment? Everyone will remember his
talent and influence. Everyone
will remember his candor and
occasional arrogance. They
Reed's poetry tends to will remember "Perfect Day"
a lot of moments like and "Pale Blue Eyes" and Ber-
is lyrics dare you to con- uin and Transformer. Perhaps

that. H


4 A 4 A

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