‘Annihilation’ is bold, beautiful and bland

We are in the midst of a new era of science fiction. While series like “Star Wars” are as strong as ever and continue to expand, a few directors are leading a small revolution that’s exploring epic sci-fi. They don’t rely on fantastic sci-fi action or humor to tell their stories. These new films utilize complex ideas, elaborate visuals and decidedly realistic settings. Recent examples include Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” and Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.” Alex Garland is among these new sci-fi leaders, despite his significantly lower profile. His directorial debut, 2015’s “Ex Machina,” garnered critical acclaim and an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. “Annihilation,” Garland’s second feature, follows biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) and a group of four other women (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny) as they enter The Shimmer — a strange region that sprouted from an extraterrestrial object. Nobody from prior expeditions has returned, save for Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) who lies comatose for most of the movie. That’s about all the plot that’s safely spoiler-free, as revealing any more would take away from the viewing experience. This movie is certainly one of the weirdest of its genre in recent memory. It bends sci-fi by borrowing from other genres like body horror, slasher, monster and psychological thriller. The movie lives and dies by the big ideas it’s playing with....

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Oscars predictions: Who will probably win, and who should

With much of awards season complete, Hollywood’s gaze now shifts to the Oscars, which will take place on Sunday, March 4. “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro’s aquatic fantasy, leads the nominations with 13. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has the second most nominations at nine, followed by Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” with eight. Other films up for multiple awards are “Get Out,” “The Post,” “Blade Runner: 2049,” “Lady Bird,” “Coco” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Here are the nominees for some of the major awards, and predictions of who or what will probably win (and who, I...

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Mac Bites vs. Mac Bites: This town is big enough for the both of them

High Street in Uptown Oxford houses a wide variety of eating establishments. Chain restaurants like Skyline Chili and Subway share the same bit of road as the local businesses and holes-in-the-wall like Steinkeller and Bruno’s Pizza. Two of these eateries, Skipper’s Pub and Mac and Joe’s, exist at opposite ends of one of the mildest debates to grace the brick street. The question is: Who serves the better mac and cheese bites? The thing is, they’re the same. Both get their mac and cheese bites from Fred’s for Starters, a food service that offers several frozen appetizers to its partnered businesses. Fred’s provides a plethora of starters including fried pickles, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and, of course, mac and cheese bites. The differences that do exist are subtle. Skipper’s fries its bites in 350-degree vegetable oil and serves them with chipotle ranch for dipping, while Mac and Joe’s uses soybean oil at 350 degrees and a side of aioli, essentially a spicy mayonnaise. Mac and Joe’s has a long history as an Oxford eatery. John McFall and Joe Beinford, two Oxford natives, opened their doors in 1946, becoming one of the first bars in Oxford post-Prohibition. Seventy-one years later, it hasn’t strayed from its classic layout. Dark wooden booths line the upstairs and downstairs walls, enclosing additional tables in the center. The bars in either space stand out, with...

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Comparing Miami’s student fees to other universities

Miami University charges the most of any public university in Ohio for its Basic General Fee. The fee is the largest among Miami’s non-instructional and non-residential fees and is allocated to various places including intercollegiate athletics, outside lecturers and artists, student activities and the operations of on-campus facilities including Armstrong, Goggin, Shriver and the Rec Center. Fifty-three percent of the revenue generated from the general fee goes to intercollegiate athletics. This is by far the highest allocation. The next highest specific allocation is 12 percent for the Rec Center. Goggin and Armstrong get seven and three percent, respectively. Associated Student Government is given 3 percent, which it is free to allocate to various student organizations. Miami’s general fee sits nearly $150 above Kent State University, the next highest institution. The graphic above shows the specific amounts for several other major public institutions in Ohio. “When someone says ‘College is too expensive,’ I think about the different options and choices there are, and I think that that’s very important,” said Brian Woodruff, director of the H.O.M.E. Office. “It’s important that a variety of options would exist so that, to some degree, students have control over what they’re paying.” As illustrated with the general fee, the choice Miami students have made is for one of the more expensive options. David Creamer, the Senior Vice President of Finance and Business Services and...

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In ‘Hell’ in Alumni Hall

“We’re in hell.” That’s what sophomore Molly Burns has to say about the first floor of Alumni Hall, which trades in fire, brimstone and the eternally screaming souls of the damned for wood shavings, broken drill bits and the curses of one of the most hard-working groups of students on campus. Alumni is an interestingly juxtaposed building. The brick and stone of the old library encompasses the entrance and a few classrooms. Further into the building, the classic space gives way to the modern, lofted, steel and glass showcase and studio space. This “hell” has four circles, as opposed...

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