All posts by LaurenLinhard

About LaurenLinhard

My name is Lauren Linhard. I'm a junior at American University majoring in print journalism and minoring in cinema studies. I have always been a movie lover, but have only recently really started pursuing further study in the area. In the future, I am looking to couple my love of writing and entertainment. When I graduate I am looking to enter the magazine industry, hopefully starting out in chicago. I am always working to find and develop my own voice in the hopes of eventually creating my own magazine.

What does “Sounds Like This” sound like?

By Lauren Linhard- ArtsPost Staff Writer

Eric Hutchinson’s debut album, “Sounds Like This,” is perfect for a summer car cruise with the windows down. It’s catchy, light and fun. Unfortunately, it’s just as catchy, light and fun as any other album by an indie pop artist. Hutchinson has followed in the musical footsteps of Jason Mraz, Mat Kearney and Matt Nathanson. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. But “Sounds Like This” so perfectly mimics the sound and themes of other artists, that you wonder how much of Hutchinson is in his album.

Hutchinson’s career had a false start, originally signing with Maverick Records months before the label folded. His recording sessions came to an end and he went on tour, trying to get his name out there. In August 2007, Hutchinson released “Sounds Like This” on his own record label, Let’s Break Records. A few days later, according to the official Eric Hutchinson website, a high school buddy emailed the famed gossip Perez Hilton a link to Hutchinson’s MySpace page. Hilton recommended the new musician and everything fell into place. By September, “Sounds Like This” was featured in the Top 10 albums on iTunes and was No.1 on the Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Still unsigned, Hutchinson and his album remained extremely successful. Warner Bros. Records picked up the album and officially released it in March 2008.

The key is to listen to “Sounds Like This” three times before making a final decision. The first time is for overall effect, which is decidedly enjoyable. The second is for the musical component, which will seem familiar but impressive. And the third is for lyrics, which you will find…surprising. Hutchinson’s piano skill and sexy voice can easily distract from the lyrics. But when you really listen to the actual words of “Outside Villanova,” which is about having sex with an underage girl, shock is an appropriate emotion. Though sexually questionable ethics isn’t a trend throughout the album, including this song was certainly a risky move.

The album focuses around the popular idea of taking life as it comes. Along with musicians like Jack Johnson, Hutchinson tries to embrace his inner soul to communicate an easy-going existence. During “Rock & Roll” you find yourself craving a day at the beach, or at least a tropical drink, as you sway your hips to the reggae music. The spirit of chill continues with the songs “Food Chain” and “OK, It’s Alright With Me.” Though the album doesn’t come off as generic, it doesn’t come off as entirely fresh either. While some songs seem to be taken directly from a Jason Mraz album, there are moments when Hutchinson embraces his jazzy piano and finally gives us a sound that could be his own.

The album explores a variety of musical genres including funk, reggae and jazz. The assortment of sound keeps the album fresh; however, it also causes a slightly jumble feel. There is such diversity on “Sounds Like This,” it is unclear where Hutchinson’s real musical interest lies.

The good news: Hutchinson is young enough and new enough to gain experience and discover his own sound. Eventually he will sift between the funk, reggae, indie pop and jazz that is “Sounds Like This” to find his musical self. The bad news: the opening of “All Over Now” is alarming close to being mistaken for Taylor Swift’s “Love Song.”

Even a Princess can kick ass

By Lauren Linhard
ArtsPost Staff Writer

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess and she met a handsome Prince. When danger came to the kingdom, the daring Prince saved the fair Princess. They fell deeply in love and got married. And they all lived happily ever after…or not.

Ever wonder what really happened after the happy couple rode into the sunset? Or better yet, what dirty secrets did the Disney Princess stories leave out? Maybe The Little Mermaid lost more than her voice. Maybe her beloved prince wasn’t such a nice guy. And maybe Princesses were meant to kick ass.

In the spirit of adventure, friendship and (of course) girl power, Jim C. Hines has written “The Mermaid’s Madness,” a twist on the old Disney classic. The true story of “The Little Mermaid” is told through the eyes of fellow princesses Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The tale begins after the movie has ended, but instead of a marriage, Ariel, referred to in the book as Lirea, has killed her Prince. Angry and confused, she begins to hear voices. Returning to the sea, she gathers the tribes of Merfolk and declares war on the humans.

Hines certainly gets points for his alternative depiction of the Princesses. Magical powers like singing or talking to animals, which were originally considered feminine, save the day. The gifts that the fairies bestowed on Sleeping Beauty make her undefeatable (not to mention that she is a martial arts expert). Snow White is a powerful sorceress, drawing strength from the magic mirror. And Cinderella, now married to the Prince of Lorindar, controls the sharks and sea-creatures for protection. Basically they are the Charlie’s Angels of fairytales. Rather than the type of Princess every little girl wants to grow-up to be, we have the strong Queens that women want to be.

While “The Mermaid’s Madness” is fun to read, it’s not exceptionally well written. The themes of the book are adult oriented, but the writing style seems geared toward teenagers. The sentences stay relatively simple throughout, as does the dialogue. Though a lot of the conversation is witty and amusing, it can also become repetitive. Each character has a main motivation, which they constantly talk about. You could play a drinking game with the number of times Morveren (Ursella in the movie) mentions saving her granddaughter.

However, what Hines lacks in writing skill he makes up for in creativity. Developing an entire culture for the Merfolk, he describes the royal hierarchy, mating habits, migration seasons and sea magic. Expanding into the fairy world, he adds Captain Hephyra to the mix. The fairy’s tree was cut down to make the Queen’s vessel, forever bonding Hephyra to the ship.  Strong and sultry, she can sense the passionate desires of others, which causes a bit of a stir. The ship is truly fascinating because it is created of a still-living tree. To keep it thriving, the crew stores fertilizer in the lower decks. All these little magical details create an intriguing fantasy world.

Local history remembered at National Portrait Gallery

By Lauren Linhard
ArtsPost Staff Writer

The National Portrait Gallery looks out at today’s Penn Quarter. Modern and bustling, the area houses the International Spy Museum, The National Museum of American Art, and the Verizon Center. So much more than a tourist trap, the quarter is defined by decades of history and culture. The “Glimpse of the Past: A Neighborhood Evolves” exhibition documents that evolution, from the late 1800s to what you see today.

The exhibit is a collection of photographs chronicling the changes around the old Patent Office Building. The photos were donated by various organizations including the D.C. Preservation League, the Library of Congress and The Historical Society of Washington.  Each wall of the Allan J and Reda R Riley Gallery is dedicated to a different part of the neighborhood: F Street, 9th Street, G Street, and 7th Street. The title wall features a series of photographs and captions narrating the Patent Office’s transition to The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art.

Though it initially seems a brief walk-through, the exhibit becomes a timely reminiscence as families from the area point out pictures to their children. A strong sense of Washington pride echoes in the gallery. “Look,” said one father to his daughter, “this is what the metro use to look like.” Another mother pointed to a picture saying “This is where we live! This is Washington.” There is an obvious pleasure at having an exhibit dedicated to home.

The F Street and 9th Street wall gives a before-and-after account of the area. It describes the modernization program, led by Alexander R. Shepherd, the head of the Board of Public Works. By the 1920s the surrounding neighborhood was thriving with restaurants, department stores and entertainment.  This section also includes photos narrating the history of the Masonic Temple on F Street, Velati’s candy store on the corner of 9th and G, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

The G Street and 7th Street wall depicts the gradual decline and eventual rise of the Penn Quarter. This section documents the five days of rioting in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The photos of the riots are paired with photos of the crumbling Hecht Company building. The display marks the development of the Metro in 1976 and the opening of the Verizon Center in 1997 as landmark moments in the revival of the district.

The exhibit includes an interactive component featuring photos taken by local artist Chris Earnshaw. He focuses on the area during the 1960s and 1970s.

The gallery is connected to the second-floor balcony, encouraging visitors to gaze out at the current Penn Quarter. For those who aren’t fluent in the history of Washington, the ability to contrast the before-and-after of the exhibit and the view outside enhances the historical message. There is tangible evidence that the modern world seen from the balcony directly reflects the history and culture inside the gallery.

The “Glimpse of the Past: A Neighborhood Evolves” exhibit will be showing at the National Portrait Gallery till January 2012. The history, culture and admission is free.

Ugly Betty: Say goodbye to this adorable braceface

By Lauren Linhard
ArtsPost staff writer

Betty’s braces are coming off! Sadly, we won’t be around to see her continue climbing the editorial ranks of Mode minus the orthodontia. In January ABC announced that this fourth season of “Ugly Betty” would be the last.

The new and final episodes began airing March 10th. “We’ve mutually come to the difficult decision to make this ‘Ugly Betty’s’ final season,” said ABC chief Steve McPherson in a statement. “We want to allow the show ample time to write a satisfying conclusion.”

When “Ugly Betty” began in 2006, audiences were introduced to Betty Suarez, a curvy vivacious woman from Queens determined to enter the magazine world. Though lacking the fashion sense that New York City is known for, Betty is hired on the staff of Mode magazine, one of the top fashion magazines. She is placed as the assistant to Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius), the editor-in-chief and famed womanizer. Obviously the odd one out, Betty navigates her way through sassy fashionistas, impossible assignments, corrupt supervisors and huge plot twists.

Even at first glance this Thursday night comedy seems special. In a society obsessed with beauty, plastic surgery and dieting it’s refreshing to find a character that doesn’t fit the “Gossip Girl” body type. Betty is a real Latino woman, proud of both her body and her heritage. However, rather than focus on body type, the show uses Betty’s lack of fashion sense to emphasize the difference between her and her co-workers. This is one of the first television series to take a genuine, though often comical look, at the hardships women face in the fashion world.

America Ferrera, the young Latina woman who plays Betty, brings spunk and exuberance to the role. Ferrera, known for her role as Carmen in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, brings passion and a loving nature to “Ugly Betty”. She wears Betty’s braces with pride and rocks the quirky wardrobe. Ferrera went on to earn Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG awards for her performance as Betty. She seems to love the character of Betty just as much as the viewers do.

“I never really pictured myself being on television,” said Ferrera in an interview with Parade Magazine. “I couldn’t imagine a world coming along that would entice me enough to sign away years and years of my life to one character. Then Betty came around.”

Together, Ferrera and Betty created a strong Hispanic role model meant for center screen. “[Betty’s] not a hot-blooded hoochie, or a floor-scrubbing maid, or a drug-pushing member of a gang,” said Chuck Barney of the Contra Costa Times. “And unlike so many of her TV predecessors who share her ethnicity, she’s not relegated to the outer margins of her show.” “Ugly Betty” was based on a Colombian soap opera called “Yo Soy Betty, La Fea” meaning Betty the Ugly, which ran from 1999 to 2001.

Though all of this makes for some excellent TV time, what really drives “Ugly Betty” is the drama drama drama. If there was ever meant to be an evil queen of fashion it would be Wilhelmina Slater (VanessaWilliams), the creative director of Mode. Driven to become the editor- in-chief of her beloved magazine, Wilhemina will do, and has done, almost anything. In season one, you see her plant various pieces of evidence from the Fey Summer murder in Bradford Meade’s office and try to turn Daniel against his father. In season two, she tries to marry Mr. Meade, but when he dies, she steals his sperm in an attempt to have his child. The seasons continue as Wilhemina resorts to every drastic measure possible to achieve her goal.

But the drama doesn’t stop there. We could talk about how Marc (Michael Urie) and Mandy (Becki Newton) are always trying to trip Betty up. Though they do get away with a lot, you just can’t help being amused by the catty duo. We could talk about Daniel’s transgendered brother coming back from the dead to take over Meade Publications. Then there are always the various women who come in and out of Daniels life, continually causing a stir. Not to mention the men in Betty’s life: Henry, Gio, and Matt. All are completely different types, yet all three succeed in winning your heart. Sadly, because of more drama (if you can believe it), none of them stick around.

“Ugly Betty” began strong with a primetime Thursday night slot. After two and a half seasons of strong ratings, viewership began to decrease. When the third season ended and the fourth season rolled around, “Ugly Betty” was placed in the Friday night death slot. Surely, though ratings may have decreased more than preferred, this quality show didn’t deserve such treatment. In January, after ABC announced this to be the final season, ABC placed “Ugly Betty” on Wednesday night in hopes of increasing viewership.

Whip It: Juno With Skates

By Lauren Linhard
ArtsPost Staff Writer

“Whip It,” recently released on DVD, comes packaged with an additional cardboard cover that opens to pictures of the cast. The movie puts in good effort, but you are obviously paying top dollar for the case rather than the film. Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, though featuring a rather impressive cast of Hollywood females, lacks energy and originality.

“Whip It” is a familiar coming-of-age story with roller derby thrown in there for a twist. It starts with a young Bliss Cavendar being forced to live her mother’s dream in the world of Texas pageants. It’s only a matter of time before Bliss discovers her need for roller derby and some kick-ass substitute mothers. Of course, when her parents learn of her secret life as Babe Ruthless, everything starts to fall apart and Bliss must choose between her parent’s wishes and her own.

The usual groups of stereotypical characters find their place in “Whip It.” The first five minutes show the obnoxious popular crowd teasing Bliss. Then there is the sexually mature best friend that emphasizes Bliss’ naiveté. And the film is peppered with scenes of parents who just don’t understand.  While all of these characters have been seen before, they do their part to fuel the film.

However, the most annoying thing about movies is when a random, unnecessary, romance is just kind of tossed into the plot mix. It’s inevitable that the love interest does something that causes complete disruption in the protagonist’s journey. In this case, the role falls to Oliver (Landon Pigg). Bliss refuses to admit defeat and leaves home when her parent’s find out about derby. But the second she learns her musician boyfriend has cheated, she breaks down and returns to face the judgment of her parents. It would have been better just to pass up that small niche audience that always craves a love interest, no matter how shallow.

Ellen Page does an excellent job as an unconventional young woman seeking freedom. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Juno was taken from the suburbs and told to skate in circles. Minus the pregnant belly, Page’s performance lacked fresh inspiration. Jimmy Fallon makes for an amusing “Hot Tub” Johnny Rocket, the roller derby commentator. The rather dry script depends heavily on him for the rare comedic lines.

Barrymore’s random appearances as Smashley Simpson, one of the Hurl Scout skaters, comes off completely false and overacted. Strongest in chick flicks like “Never Been Kissed” and “Music and Lyrics,” Barrymore just couldn’t find her bearings as a derby skater. Perhaps, as director, she should have stayed behind the camera this time.

As far as camera work goes, the film does deserve credit for gradual improvement. With Robert Yeoman behind the camera, having previously worked on “Yes Man” and “Martian Child,” the movie transitions from visually amateur to professional. Though shots were out of time with the skating action in early derby matches, the final skate scene was much more successful. The quick cuts increased tension and the rapid filming tempo during the championship was much more impressive.

Despite that “Whip It” is a story seen many times before, audiences will find the derby culture amusing and fans of Ellen Page will appreciate the film’s efforts. “Whip It” doesn’t merit a true movie-night, but you might consider it when craving something brainless. Suggestion: just wait till the price goes down.