Category Archives: entertainment

A Hidden Gem of American Sitcoms

By Yingyi Lin

I am a big fan of sitcoms. I have watched many popular American sitcoms that have gained mass international popularity: Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family, just to name a few. Many times, these shows take place in American metropolitan cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, places which are interesting to international students like me. The hidden gem ranking the top of my favorite sitcom list, however, has to be Veep.

The HBO show Veep takes place in the capital city of America, Washington D.C. For many reasons, Veep is not as popular as other American shows in China, or in other countries where many international students come from. This mismatch of the popularity of the show with its quality is what makes me call it a hidden gem of American sitcoms. Veep has won many accolades for its quality: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the actress of America’s first woman president Selina Meyer featured in Veep, has won six Primetime Emmy Awards in a row. Her award acceptance speech was among the best, and she was even honored the 2018 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for it.

Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

Before watching Veep, I did not realize that I indeed care so much about politics. As someone interested in learning about human nature, my favorite quote from Selina Meyer is “Politics is about people”. To me, caring about politics does not mean I care which party people stand for; instead, I am intrigued by why and how people make their choices. The interaction between Veep’s politicians, their followers, and their people is a vivid reality of humanity—one that is not only determined by one’s own personal desires but also deeply shaped by the context of one’s life. Veep is more than a political satire of the country’s many presidencies. To me, Veep is about American politics and the everyday life of people living in America. 

The most interesting thing about Veep is that Meyer, like all other politicians in the show, never discloses which party she stands for. Having witnessed the extreme political divide of America myself, the ambiguous political standpoint among Veepers to me exposes the common (and unfortunate) goal of both parties to win more voters. Politicians strive for what they want, but it is unclear whether these desires align with the desires of the people.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

As someone who studies family dynamics as part of my major, TV shows centering around family dynamics are my favorite, such as Downton Abbey, The Middle (the most underrated American family sitcom), and Modern Family. The family dynamics in Veep, however, are very dysfunctional. The characters of Veep relentlessly sacrifice their families for personal political achievement.

I have learned a lot from Veep, and a lot of what I have learned are things that I would not have consciously sought out. For instance, what happens if there is a tie in a presidential election? Veep hypothetically features this scenario, although a tie did happen (in the 1800 presidential election). Through Veep, I also came to know more about America’s lobbying culture and the polling industry—with the latter sharing similarities to my own research.  Veep also has a rich glossary of newly created words, most of which are used by characters in the show to insult other characters. Many of the jokes compound words to create these insults. ‘Voldemeyer’ is such an example, a nickname of Meyer by the media. It is interesting for me to see these nicknames are formed by multiple words in English, and I have learned many different cultural references from this.

Continue reading A Hidden Gem of American Sitcoms

Seeking the Thrill: My Top 3 Horror Movies to Watch This Halloween Season

By Jessica Lee

“Trick-or-treat!” 

A subtle suggestion that demands a treat – preferably candy – or else a trick will fall upon that individual. A simple, iconic phrase that is said that one special time of the year. Halloween. It’s almost that time of the year where people dress up in diverse costumes, devour candy, and watch scary movies. However, how do you know which movie is truly the most terrifying: the clown that lives in the sewers or the boy who is possessed by an unknown demon?

As fanatic of the horror and thriller movie genres, I have composed an updated top three scariest 2022 movies for you, friends, or family to get spooked beyond the mainstream titles that you’ve probably already heard of. 

Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash
  • Smile (2022)

Released on September 29, 2022, with a current IMDb rating of 6.8, this film will take you on a journey of frightening jump scares and emotions contradictory to its innocent title. It revolves around Dr. Rose Cotter, who starts seeing unexplainable yet terrifying images after she witnesses a traumatic incident involving her patient. To face this trauma, she must reopen her past wounds and accept her new fate. This terrifying masterpiece directed and written by Parker Finn is by far the scariest, most unsettling horror/psychological thriller film that keeps your heart racing with thrill and excitement. I highly recommend this for those seeking a film that is cinematically alluring yet also filled with sudden jump-scares, but I would also recommend watching it in theaters or with a great stereo system as this film heavily relies on its sound design to keep you on your toes.

  • Incantation (2022)

Released on March 18, 2022, with a current IMDb rating of 6.2, this film is one of the most horrifying Taiwanese movies of all time. Perhaps it’s the incorporation of shaky, hand-held camera movements and unsettling vlog elements or maybe it’s the eerie incantation that is repeated throughout the film, but it is by far the most unpredictable and psychologically unnerving film I have ever seen. It follows the perspective of Li Ronan, a mother who is cursed after breaking a religious taboo. After being cursed, she must save her daughter from the same fate. Unlike the traditional horror film, Incantation is shot predominantly in found footage (FF), which is a cinematic technique where footage is presented through video recordings or discovered by the characters. By doing so, director Kevin Ko cleverly hides yet slowly reveals varied motifs and details for audiences to ultimately fully digest and reflect upon in their sleep. Furthermore, unlike Smile, this film does not rely on jump scares or sound design to haunt you. Rather, this film has a continued sense of fear beyond the screen. This film is available on Netflix in various languages and subtitles for you to conveniently enjoy at home.

Photo by Ján Jakub Naništa on Unsplash
  • The Black Phone (2022)

Released on June 24, 2022, with a current IMDb rating of 7, this film is based on “The Black Phone” by Joe Hill. While this story is not based on an actual occurrence, the fact that it is inspired from a combination of real serial killers during the late ‘70s is quite disturbing. The premise of this film involves a child killer who abducts and locks children in his soundproof basement. However, Finney Blake – a 13-year-old-boy – receives help from the voices of past victims through a disconnected black phone on the wall, ultimately determined to help him to break free. Director Scott Derrickson presents an emotionally riveting film that includes great character development and acting to the extent that makes you disgusted by such a sadistic, evil, and monstrous being. The Black Phone makes you wonder why such cruel beings exist and makes you empathize with the young victims. While this film follows more of a traditional horror film concept, it contains a solid premise around a black phone that is intense and creepy. I strongly recommend this film for those who enjoy performative and emotionally intense horror films.

2022 has been a solid year in the genres of thriller and horror with other honorable mentions such as Nope (2022) by Jordan Peele and Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) by Halina Reijn. While this list is subjective to my personal tastes and limited to the year of 2022, I strongly recommend these three films for those who seek a terrifying and heart-racing thrill in celebration of Halloween.

Featured Image by Felipe Bustillo on Unsplash

Jessica is a third-year student pursuing a double major in Cinema and Media Studies and Public Policy. As an aspiring filmmaker, writer, music producer, and director, she has been exploring her passion for the entertainment industry as a producer’s assistant for Palette Pictures and a member of Delta Kappa Alpha’s Professional Cinema Fraternity. At USC, she is the President of Taekwondo Club and Vice President of Public Relations of Trojan Steel. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with sound design, filmmaking, playing the piano, drinking boba, writing, listening to music, and playing tennis.

Give Tchaikovsky a Try

By Nikhita Datar

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. Whether it was in dance classes, family gatherings, or elementary school choral concerts, something about the infinite number of possibilities of different instruments and sounds that create music has always captivated me. By combining different fundamental frequencies and pitches from the music scale, you can create wildly different pieces of music, and I think that is amazing. 

Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

I began playing the violin at a really young age. I initially resented the idea of consistently practicing and standing still with good posture. Above all else, I was frustrated that I was unable to sound like Itzhak Perlman (a famous violinist) no matter how hard I tried. As I got older, I began playing in different orchestras and chamber groups, and the opportunity for me to engage with music in different formats and genres really helped me develop my love and passion for it. I was able to play some of the most iconic pieces of classical music from composers that I admire the most, and I was also able to build some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. During the school year, I would play in my school’s orchestra, play in chamber groups, take private lessons, and prepare for all kinds of concerts year-round. In the summers, I would attend different music programs such as Blue Lake Fine Arts or Interlochen Music Academy. What was originally an overwhelming task became a great passion of mine.

I think that I’ve always known since I picked up the violin for the first time that I wasn’t fully going to pursue a career in music. As much as I love classical music and the art of playing the violin, I knew that the pathway of being a violinist wasn’t the right fit for me. Even so, the notion of throwing away years of private lesson tuition and hard work wasn’t appealing to me. I knew I wanted to keep playing music for the rest of my life, even if this special hobby wasn’t necessarily monetarily profitable. I emphasize the notion of monetary benefits because playing an instrument does indeed have a number of other benefits. It can increase your cognitive abilities and decrease loss of memory. As you play music, there are a million things happening in your brain at once. You’re simultaneously checking your pitch and making sure to land on the right notes in the moment while also reading the key signature and time signature to play in the right key. You always have to read a few notes ahead to prepare yourself for upcoming wonky rhythms and accidentals (a note of a pitch that is not a member of the scale or mode dictated by the key signature, indicated by notation such as the sharp (♯), flat (♭), and natural (♮) symbols). 

Photo by Michel Catalisano on Unsplash

I don’t know if I would necessarily say that playing an instrument has made me smarter, but it certainly has improved my ability to think critically, and think fast. It’s also given me access to a greater community of people who share similar interests and have taught me a lot about the world we live in. Simply listening to classical music, rather than playing, can have so many benefits for your brain as well. I would highly recommend listening to or learning to play classical music to improve your cognitive function. And who knows, you might start to really like it! 

Continue reading Give Tchaikovsky a Try