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Amir Abou-Jaoude

Sheridan Square

In 1982, Howard Ashman seemed to have everything he ever wanted. His show “Little Shop of Horrors” had just premiered off-Broadway to rave reviews. Since he was a child, he had aspired to work in musical theater as a librettist, lyricist and director. Now, he was realizing those dreams. While Ashman achieved immense professional success,…

Hidden Struggle: Flaws in ballet’s disability narrative

The critic Susan Sontag once observed that dancers differ from other artists. They are “driven by notions of perfection — perfect expressiveness, perfect technique.” As Sontag noted, “the daily life of every dancer is a fulltime struggle against fatigue, strain, natural physical limitations and … injuries.” Because they are in pursuit of perfection, “news of…

‘The Women’ is about far more than femininity

When “The Women” was released in 1939, MGM’s publicists went to town. They stressed the novelty of the movie. It boasted an all-female cast. As the publicists noted, the production team went to great lengths to ensure there was no male onscreen. Even the dogs in the film were certifiably female. Despite the preponderance of…

In ‘Shame,’ Ingmar Bergman examines evil in ordinary people

When Ingmar Bergman’s “Shame” premiered in 1968, the critic Renata Adler was quick to offer an interpretation. Reviewing the film in The New York Times, she asserted that “the shame of the title is God’s.” Indeed, throughout his career, Bergman elucidated existential questions of faith and fate.  Adler’s analysis, however, misses what is for me the…

American culture is under fire in ‘The Big Heat’

Toward the end of Fritz Lang’s 1953 film noir, the detective Dave Bannion suddenly realizes that he has been double-crossed. The widow of a slain policeman reveals that she was complicit in her husband’s murder. In a rage, Bannion pushes her into the mantlepiece and puts his coarse hands around her neck.  “With you dead,” he…

‘Death in Venice’ documents the decline of the bourgeoisie

Because many retirees live there, some cynics have called Florida “God’s waiting room.” In his 1971 film, director Luchino Visconti proposes another candidate for the title—Venice. Visconti’s adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella centers around the composer Gustav von Aschenbach, who arrives in the Italian metropolis after a disastrous concert. Yet, his stay proves far from…

Ford and Fonda examine the legend of ‘Young Mr. Lincoln’

Near the end of John Ford’s 1962 Western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” a newspaper publisher gives some curious advice. Although he is obligated to chronicle events around town, he is not concerned with the veracity of his stories. Instead, his maxim is, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Ford printed a…

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ brings Baldwin’s story to the screen

The Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim claimed that many musicals are failures because “their authors are blinded by the attractiveness of the source material,” but “they never ask themselves what music will do for the story that hasn’t already been accomplished by the original author.” Sondheim calls these works “why” musicals, because there’s no reason why…

‘Midnight Cowboy’ critiques American mythology

“Midnight Cowboy” begins inconspicuously. Joe Buck, a 6-foot-4 stud, stands in front of mirror, clad in full cowboy regalia, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. As Harry Nilson’s classic song “Everybody’s Talkin’” resounds, he takes his suitcase, quits his job and boards a bus. For three minutes, John Schlesinger’s 1969 film seems like a…

Sex, society and ‘Shampoo’

“Shampoo” takes place on the day that Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, but none of the characters in the film are particularly interested in politics. They all live in luxurious estates in Beverly Hills, make glib comments and dress in glamorous couture. No matter who was running the country, they would continue to…

Yung Slee crafts songs from Stanford

Today, the Stanford-based musician Yung Slee is releasing a new mixtape, “Cross My Heart.” Slee, who was profiled by the Daily last year, talked to managing editor Amir Abou-Jaoude last week about his passion for music, his creative process, his inspirations and his new project. The Stanford Daily (TSD): Could you tell me a little bit…

De Palma steals from the masters in ‘Sisters’

The literary luminary TS Eliot used a simple maxim to differentiate between writers. He claimed that, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” By Eliot’s criterion, Brian de Palma was already a mature artist at age 33, at which time he made “Sisters” (1973). Still, a synopsis of the film can make it seem sophomoric; Danielle…
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