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Entertainment

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Photo Courtesy of midwestliving.com

Katherine Hartner
CONTRIBUTOR

On March 18 around 900 people attended Fontenelle Forest’s Fairy Faire, a program specifically aimed at families with young children.

Families turned out to build fairy houses, some so small and well-camouflaged as to be nearly invisible, others large and ornate buildings worthy of being called mansions.

Jamie Vann, the Teen Naturalist volunteer coordinator who managed the Faire, said that Lacey Pucinski, a staff member at Fontenelle Forest, had heard of Fairy Faires and thought it would be a good way to get kids interested in the STEM fields. Vann said that around 550 people had pre-registered for the Faire, but that more people actually showed up, giving an estimate that was supported by the staffers at the front desk of around 900 people.

Elizabeth Chalen, Fontenelle Forest’s Volunteer coordinator, gave some insights on what goes into planning for an event like this.

“The hardest part is preparing all the materials and making sure that there’s enough of everything,” Chalen said, adding that there are always people who just turn up, making it difficult to prepare.

“We actually ran out of coconut oil about halfway through,” Vann said, laughing. “We didn’t expect the popcorn machine to take so much.”

“My favorite thing is seeing the people, what they’ve done and how creative they are, just having a good time,” Vann said. “Sometimes it’s just stuff shoved everywhere, and sometimes it’s these big beautiful houses. Whatever kids want to do.”

“I enjoy seeing the families out in the forest building fairy houses together, spending time together,” Chalen said.

“Any way we can, we try to incorporate learning into activities,” Chalen said. “With the tokens, they’re learning math. You can’t just buy everything in the store.”

The attraction isn’t just for kids, however. Vann mentioned that a pair of adults registered as well, and parents get very involved.

The first Fontenelle Forest Fairy Faire was held in 2010.

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Photo Courtesy of thepitmagazine.com

Will Patterson
A&E EDITOR

Rock enthusiasts are getting another chance to catch a rising band as their tour rolls through Omaha. Shallow Side will be performing at Shamrock’s Pub alongside Seasons After and Guns Out At Sundown on Feb. 11.

The groups are traveling together as part of their Rebels and Renegades Tour.

Fans of rock music who are unfamiliar with Shallow Side are still probably acquainted with their well-known cover of “Renegade” originally by Styx. The cover even became popular enough to catch the attention of Tommy Shaw, the writer of “Renegade” and member of Styx.

While the group may be on the fast track to stardom, their humble beginnings are still in the not-so-distant past. The group hails from the city of Cullman in northern Alabama where their band started as little more than an interest in playing rock music.

“We started as I imagine how any other band would start,” said Eric Boatright, the lead singer of Shallow Side. “A couple of guys who were interested in music.”

From a backyard shed the four began practicing and fleshing out songs. Eventually a weekly gathering of friends evolved into a week-ly house party, bouncing between different band member’s houses.

The size of the band’s gatherings quickly became massive and took place every Friday and Saturday.

“The parties starting getting so big that the cops started showing up before us,” Boatright said.

In true rock fashion the band’s parties were being closely monitored by local law enforcement. This pushed Shallow Side to move their musical performances to small venues and bars in town, thus sparking their first steps towards a professional band.

Ambition propelled the new band as they took on more venues in bigger towns surrounding their hometown. This finally sparked the commitment by the band members to take on full-time positions and tour which is bringing them into Omaha.

As for the actual sound of the band, Boatright cites Shallow Sides’ Pandora station, which typically suggest songs by groups like Shinedown, Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin, 3 Doors Down, Three Days Grave and other similar bands.

“If you listen to any of those then you would probably find our music appealing to you as well,” Boatright said.

Those who are interested in Shallow Side’s music should look up two of their biggest songs: “Rebels” and their “Renegade” cover. Both songs carry similar vibes lyrically and musically. Additionally, these songs have seen a fair share of radio time on rock stations since picking up in popularity.

Boatright encourages people of all ages and walks of life to give his band’s music a try.

“We don’t have a generation or age group,” Boatright said, “We really try to stretch across the board.”

Tickets at the Shamrock’s Pub & Grill for Shallow Side’s show on Feb. 11 will be $10 if ordered in advance and $12 if bought at the door.

Those looking to hear Shallow Side can find their music on their website: shallowside.net.

Additionally, the band and members maintain an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

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Marissa Wiese
CONTRIBUTOR

Want to make the holiday break rock? Omaha’s Downtown music scene is keeping the beat throughout the student holiday.

The Slowdown is a rock club and bar located on North 14th Street that promises to be a hot spot during the cold weather. The club will be hosting Frostival 2016 on Saturday for an all evening event of music and fun.

Frostival 2016 is an all ages’ music set like many of the others The Slowdown offers the public. The event will kick off at 6 p.m. with doors opening to Happy Hour. The music starts at 7 p.m. and promises to last all night and into the next morning.

Rock the night away with the several bands The Slowdown put together for their 9th annual charity event presented by Rad Kadillac and Tribal Equinox. The bands Blue Martian Tribe, Linear Symmetry, Djem, Funk Trek, and Midland Band will all take the stage along with the Pink Floyd tribute band Floyd and David Bowie tribute band Rock and Roll Suicide.

The proceeds for the event go to a good cause this holiday season. The Slowdown is supporting the Open Door Mission for this annual snowy gig. Tickets are available for $10 with a donation of unwrapped toy or five cans of food to the charity or $15 without a donation.

The band Floyd pledged, “We’ll be performing a rocked out set for this benefit for the Open Door Mission.”

While not the usual holiday jingles for the weather, all the bands promise to be unique rock with encore worthy beats to dance to, en-ergetic features, and crowd pleasing tributes.

This Frostival won’t be the first for some bands. Midland Band stated that they’re “looking forward to being back at Frostival this year” and that “it’s been awhile since the last time.”

All of the bands are based out of Nebraska with most claiming Omaha as their hometown. Frostival 2016 won’t just be an amped up event open to everyone, it will be a gig that honors Omaha’s music scene.

The Slowdown keeps a lifeline to the pulse of the rhythm. The club mentions how it got its name from an early band with the same title: “We thought it was a cool homage to that band, the early Omaha music scene and where we come from.”

The club regularly announces new sets that draw attention to the bands Omaha and the surrounding areas have to offer and hosts three to four events per week.

Some activities to expect at any of the events are “rock shows, socializing, dancing,” according to the club. They also offer more laid back opportunities to enjoy their club and bar. However, Frostival will be a loud night of good bands and dancing.

Frostival 2016 is a great chance to kick off the student break to a good beat. Once tickets are sold out, there won’t be extra tickets on the day of the show or at the door so consider Frostival 2016 now to warm up to good music on a cold winter night.

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Rob Carraher
CONTRIBUTOR

In dramatic film, the human element is what draws the viewer in and makes the experience relatable. If the audience can feel for the film’s characters, the chance of an effective movie going experience increases significantly. In Director Barry Jenkins’ breakthrough hit, “Moonlight,” the human element is captured with luminescence.

The characters are near photographic, as are the growing pains they encounter as lessons unfold. “Moonlight” is a film that does a lot well, while borrowing from successful filmmaking conventions. As a technically sound film, the human experience is what really sells its final product.

“Moonlight” is broken into three segments chronicling a handful of memories from Chiron’s life in the Florida region. In the first third of the film, Chiron, nicknamed “Little” (Alex Hibbert), finds refuge with Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae), from a life of being bullied and problems at home.

In the second segment, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is juggling the anxieties of being a teen, understanding himself and his mother’s (Naomie Harris) bout with drugs. The final portion of the film portrays Chiron, now referred to as “Black” (Trevante Rhodes), as an individual influenced heavily by the consequences of his earlier life. He is reunited with his childhood friend, Kevin (played respectively by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and Andre Holland).

Jenkins, who also wrote the adapted screenplay, has a vision to tell of the story of a young black man growing up in Miami, while alternating between typical life problems, and a handful of not so typical problems. He does this with an expertise envied by many filmmakers. It is hard to argue with Jenkins’ auteur brilliance. But the question must be asked; why this story must be told? The purpose isn’t abundantly clear, and this is the biggest issue with the film. With that said, it is incredibly difficult to knock the prowess of what is being displayed by Jenkins.

Jenkins has assembled a cast worthy of much praise. There is not a single performance in the film that could be deemed as weak. The tragedy lies in that audiences aren’t treated to more from these skilled actors. Ali and Monae are specifically great in their control of scenes. As the film comes to a close, it is disappointing these two actors didn’t have more of physical presence throughout the film. Harris is also fantastic in her performance of drug induced insanity. The film could be more centrally situated around her, and it would have been just as compelling if not more so.

All three of the actors who portray Chiron hit a subtle tone that leaves their work somewhat understated. This is especially true when comparing them to the charismatic character traits exhibited by the actors portraying Kevin. It should be noted many of these performances can be attributed to successfully written characters by Jenkins.

Where performances failed was less to do with the actor and more to do with the brevity of their screen time. Because the film is segmented in the way it is, character development isn’t great. Character purpose isn’t always clear, and it makes understanding the film difficult at times. The segments are a bit disruptive in the flow of the film. Just as things begin moving forward, they are cut short by a shift in the story. In the end, the impact is a little less because of the fluidity interruptions.

At the cost of sounding like the film isn’t good, which it is, it is imperative to make general comparisons to other films. In its narrative style, the film bears similarities to “Boyhood” (2014). Nothing has ever done exactly what “Boyhood” did with how it changed film-making, so “Moonlight” falls just short on this angle. The film also resembles what “The Place Beyond the Pines” did with segmented story telling. The difference is that a clear plot was present with that film, and not so much in “Moonlight.”

Staying within the same calendar year, “Moonlight” exhibits a sort of rawness that doesn’t always execute, and it does here, but “American Honey” (2016) with the same sort of feel does it slightly better. In an industry that strives on doing things uniquely well, “Moonlight” does things well, but the unique aspect isn’t present.

As unfair as it is, “Moonlight” falls just short of the expectations created by critics and award season buzz. It’s hard to figure out exactly why it doesn’t quite connect, but the narrative and unoriginal concept might be part of the issue.

However, if acting prowess, and ability to capture real life translated into grade-A cinema, this would make the grade. It is certainly worth the movie-going experience to marvel in the performances. Even if it isn’t the most original, “Moonlight” does a lot right, and should be applauded for its achievements.

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Photo Courtesy of movies.disney.com
Photo Courtesy of movies.disney.com

Jeff Turner
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

Certain Women (Reichardt, 2016)
Director Kelly Reichardt has been a low-budget filmmaker from the very beginning. Few maintain more steady indie cred. Her film follows the lives of four women, who deal with the charges life and society thrust upon them. The strengths of “Certain Women” lie in the use of technique and how Reichardt plays with space and movement. The film is focused on its mundanity, because sometimes this is how people’s stories are. “Certain Women” will be playing at Film Streams through Nov 22.

Moonlight (Jenkins, 2016)
This has been the film that has caught on fire at festivals. Filmmakers and attendees alike have been in awe of this film. Film critic Brian Tallerico of rogerebert.com calls it “lyrical and deeply grounded in its character work” and “a balancing act that is breathtaking to behold.” “Moonlight” follows the journey of one boy’s life in Miami as he begins to discover himself and his own sexuality. “Moonlight” opens at Film Streams on Nov 11.

Arrival (Villeneuve, 2016)
De-nis Villeneuve’s latest is currently being predicted by Indiewire as the film to win best picture at the Academy Awards next year. It’s been met at festivals with near unanimous praise, to the point where it currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Lauren Williams, from the website Black Girl Nerds recommends the film to fans of Christopher Nolan, and Cameron Williams of Graffiti with Punctuation praises its ability to transcend genre trappings. “Arrival” opens in wide release on Nov 11.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Yates, 2016)
Five years later, moviegoers will be gifted an opportunity to return to the Harry Potter universe. This David Yates-helmed spinoff will follow Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in 1920’s America. There have been no early reviews as it is a big release, but the cast and material seem lined up for success. The book has earned some strong praise, and director David Yates has adapted author J.K. Rowling’s writing successfully four times now. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” opens in wide release on Nov 18.

The Edge of Seventeen (Craig, 2016)
“The Edge of Seventeen” is a new teen comedy starring Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. The trailer offers a lot of self-deprecating humor, most of which is very funny. David Ehrlich, film critic for Indiewire says “pick a god, any god, and thank them for this movie.” Many other critics cite Steinfeld’s performance as the selling point, like Steve Pond from The Wrap, who praises her lead character as being ‘very distinctive.’ “The Edge of Seventeen” opens in wide release on Nov 18.

The Handmaiden (Park, 2016)
“The Handmaiden” follows an elaborate plot by a Korean con man to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman out of her inheritance. Park Chanwook has some street cred among indie buffs and foreign film buffs. The average patron of movies might have seen “Oldboy”, for example. A.A. Dowd from the AV club describes it as a “fiendishly clever, sinfully funny con job.” Maggie Lee, from Variety praises Park’s signature aesthetic beauty. “The Handmaiden” opens at the Alamo Drafthouse in La Vista on Nov 11.

Moana (Clements; Musker, 2016)
“Moana” is the latest tentpole from Disney. The film follows a young woman who uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island, joining her is her hero, a Demi-God named Maui. The odds that it will be delightful are high, since “Frozen” was delightful (at least the first time was). “Moana” opens in wide release on Nov 23.

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Photo Courtesy of pinterest.com
Photo Courtesy of pinterest.com

Marissa Wiese
CONTRIBUTOR

Thanksgiving day is the kick-off for the holiday season at the Gene Leahy Mall. The Holiday Lights Festival on Nov 24 starts there by decorating the mall area in beautiful white lights.

Mayor Jean Stothert is going to lead the countdown to the Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony at 6 p.m. that Thursday to make Downtown glow.

The tradition started seventeen years ago with the Millennial Lights in 1999 and is sponsored by Downtown Omaha Inc. Foundation as one of their biggest Old Market attractions of the year. The lights will dazzle from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. every evening until Jan 2 and bring in around 100,000 visitors throughout the holiday months.

Nothing matches up to the atmosphere of the actual lighting ceremony, though. This will be the second Holiday of Lights Festival for organizer Christine Dunn, and she describes how the experience is still magical for Omaha residents who have seen the ceremony before.

“The anticipation of the lights,” Dunn said, “is still somehow very exciting every year.”

It jump starts the holidays in a glimmer of lights and music at the Gene Leahy Mall. A small concert before the Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony will be performed by the Bells and Whistles followed by Mayor Stothert’s countdown. Following the countdown, many of the shops, restaurants and pubs will be open with decorations of their own for festival goers to wander around and enjoy.

Walking around the area to enjoy the hundreds of thousands of lights during the festival is “the best opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere,” according to Dunn.

There will also be a horse drawn carriage that evening as well as the free Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert at 7 p.m. The concert will feature the Nebraska Wind Symphony and opera vocalist Drew Duncan. This is Duncan’s first performance for the Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony due to bad weather last festival. The 2015 ceremony was postponed from Thanksgiving and the concert had to be cancelled.

Duncan is rescheduled to appear this Thanksgiving at the concert which will also feature a sing along. The visitors who go to walk the streets and admire the lights “can warm up at the concert,” says Dunn.

The Lighting Ceremony is a great addition to any family Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Dunn, “you can go to the lighting ceremony, go to the concert, go get a late dinner if you’re not already stuffed.”

For those who can’t take time from their busy Thanksgiving plans, there’s always the North and South Omaha Holiday lights later in the season. The Holiday of Lights Festival has held these events for the past 5 years thanks to the Sherwood Foundation. They will take place this year on Dec 3.

Sounds of the Season will also ensure that delightful holiday music can be heard every Saturday from Nov 26 through Dec 17 at the Gene Leahy Mall or 11th & Howard in the Old Market by featuring local choir groups.

Omaha residents can celebrate the holiday season with the ConAgra Foods Ice Rink, or the Wells Fargo Family Festival, or simply enjoy the holiday spirit Omaha has to offer.

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Photo Courtesy of jitterbugs.org
Photo Courtesy of jitterbugs.com

Will Patterson
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

The Omaha Jitterbugs is a non-profit organization that is bringing back swing dancing. Through classes, workshops and a weekly dance event, the organization is helping revive the thrill of the dancing sensation that shaped America in the early 20th century.

“No experience needed,” Billy Sobczyk, executive director of the Omaha Jitterbugs organization, said, “Just come.”

The organization recently had its 16th anniversary since its foundation by Sobczyk and Christie Palmer. Today the organization operates out of the Eagles Ballroom at 201 S. 24th St.

Sobczyk and his wife Lindsay, who is a graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, met through and continue to operate the Omaha Jitterbugs. Along with many others at the Omaha Jitterbugs, they’re helping provide some nightlife to the city of Omaha.

“We try to break down barriers and make people feel comfortable,” Sobczyk said.

Sobczyk emphasized the easy going nature of classes at Omaha Jitterbugs. The philosophy behind their method is to help bring people out of their shell through a humorous and friendly environment.

Participants rotate dance partners and practice repetition to help make the dancing feel more natural and fun.

“You get a clean slate every time you switch partners,” Sobczyk said. “You can feel successful with your improvements and forget the mistakes you might have made a moment ago.”

Classes are available for a range of dancing ability from beginners to experienced dancers looking to improve. They typically meet once a week over the course of a month or two. Each week, participants will build on what they’ve learned and try to add to their method.

Omaha Jitterbugs is giving life to Omaha’s entertainment industry by hosting its weekly dance event, Jitterbugs’ Night Out.

The event, occurring every Friday, gives students of the organization’s dance courses, and thrill seekers alike, a chance to showcase what they have on the dance floor.

“The dance scene isn’t big in Omaha,” Lindsay Sobczyk said.

The Sobczyks both said the weekly event gives something new to the Omaha night life scene. Without many dancing opportunities, much less swing dancing, Jitterbugs’ Night Out fills that niche with a unique twist.

In addition to providing a place for people to let loose on Friday nights, Jitterbug’s Night Out also features a variety of live performances to accompany the sessions. Jazz performances by artists, both local and national, give attendants a rhythm to swing too.

One group that plays about once a month is UNO’s Jazz Band. In return for their performance they’re given a slice of the money brought in at the door.

Since the Omaha Jitterbugs is a nonprofit organization, volunteers are a major part of operation. Students interested in a chance to either help teach a dance class or run an event for the Omaha Jitterbugs can find more information at their website or Facebook page.

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Rob Carraher
CONTRIBUTOR

The uproar surrounding the 2016 Academy Awards was caused by a lack of diversity among the academy’s nominees. That is only part of the problem associated with the way Hollywood portrays race on theater and television screensall across the United States. Too often roles written for persons of color reflect only historically damaging events. It is rare that mainstream film and television series portray black or Latino communities simply as communities of people living their everyday lives. Marvel’s “Luke Cage” does just that.

The significance of “Luke Cage” is that it introduces widespread audiences to a community and culture that is often neglected in the superhero world. Much of New York City is found in other superhero stories, but Harlem is regularly the forgotten borough. Not in “Luke Cage.”

Creator Cheo Hodari Coker takes a common superhero plot and surrounds it with a community rich in culture, keeping the premise fresh and interesting. But what really makes “Luke Cage” different than much of the work coming out of mainstream Hollywood featuring black characters, is that it places the happenings of the series in the same realm as many of Marvel’s other stories such as “Daredevil.” When it comes down to it, Luke Cage is a superhero, he just happens to be from a black community.

The pilot episode entitled “Moment of Truth” introduces us to Luke Cage (Mike Colter), a fugitive with superhuman strength working multiple jobs just to make it by in Harlem. One of Cage’s jobs is working as a dishwater at Harlem’s Paradise, a club owned by crime boss, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali). After one of Stokes’ arms deals goes bad, he is left on a manhunt for the men responsible. Stokes’ cousin, councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), is heading a community initiative called “New Harlem Renaissance” and has enlisted Stokes’ men to help her collect funds. Cage is faced with a decision of whether to keep a low profile or use his super powers for the betterment of the community.

In the opening episode, “Luke Cage” lays the groundwork for potentially interesting characters by providing a likable hero with apparent motivations. Although it isn’t exactly clear what those motivations are, up to this point, they clearly exist.

Whereas superhero plots rely on their hero in order to work, they rely on their villains to succeed. Stokes is the kind of villain that has potential to be a really great baddie. But after one episode, the mystery surrounding his character makes such a claim a little premature. At the very least, the Cage/ Stokes dynamic is intriguing, and demands further investigation upon its viewers.

Something that “Luke Cage” does very well is immerse it’s viewers in music. At times, the pilot episode could have easily been confused for something out of the pages of a Brett Easton Ellis novel. The music references and purpose are riddled throughout the episode’s scenes. Over and over, the face of The Notorious B.I.G. appears of the wall of Stokes’ living quarters, just begging viewers to take note.

The soundtrack is the kind of contribution that is worth listening to on its own. Just as is the case in one of Ellis’ novels, music and culture play a main role in the storytelling element of the series. That alone is enough to make audiences return for following episodes.

As is the case in “Daredevil,” another Marvel/Netflix collaboration, “Luke Cage” is quite gritty. It spares no sight of violence. There is a sense in this universe that certain people are very bad, and they must be feared. This easily makes a compelling argument for why these tortured superheroes are necessary. In the pilot episode, Cage barely gets his feet wet, but if some of the scenes displayed are any indication, he is in for some extreme encounters as the season unfolds.

Although it is likely this story could be copied from Harlem and placed in a completely different community, “Luke Cage” doesn’t ignore its setting. The opening episode references current social issues with being black in the United States. It doesn’t ignore what is happening as part of a greater social landscape. That is what makes the show so important.

In a time where there is clearly racial tension, it is imperative to create strong black characters that are reflective of the people in real communities all across this country. “Luke Cage” helps close the gap that mainstream Hollywood often perpetuates. At its core, the series gives audiences of many different backgrounds an opportunity to enjoy the kind of thrilling story Marvel produces on a regular basis, while treating them to a unique cultural experience not usually represented in such platforms.

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