Review: Bobcats’ favorite holiday movies

While some of us may have begun celebrating Christmas a month ago, for those of you who are adamant about not listening to a single verse of “Jingle Bells” until Thanksgiving has passed, the holiday season is now officially upon us. And what would the Christmas season be like without all those classic holiday movies, both new and old? I asked a couple Bobcats to name their favorite seasonal flicks, so if you choose to celebrate Christmas, make sure to schedule time in your winter break to watch these films – odds are they’ll all be on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas at some point!

1) Elf (2003) 
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Elf is my favorite Christmas movie because there is so much physical comedy and every time I watch it, I notice something new.” – Lucas Hackenburg, Senior

It’s hard to believe this instant classic is twelve years old this year. Will Ferrell stars as the lovable Buddy the Elf who, after being raised by elves in the North Pole, makes the trek to New York City to find his real dad, whom he is shocked to find on Santa’s Naughty List. With such iconic scenes as Buddy pressing all the elevator buttons because it “looks like a Christmas tree” and classic lines such as “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and shoved eleven cookies into the VCR,” this movie is just as endearing and funny with every viewing as it was the first time you saw it.

2) The Polar Express (2004)

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The Polar Express is my favorite movie because it’s a fun and heartfelt Christmas movie. When I watch it I feel like a little kid again, with the anticipation building up for Christmas Day. The idea of the bell and how only those who believe in Santa can hear it is an idea that really warms my heart. And on that topic, when my oldest nephew was about two or so he went on a Polar Express train ride. At the end, he got a bell from Santa just like the ones in the movie and for Christmas that year he gave to me as a gift. It was probably the most heartfelt gift I’ve ever received. The bell and the overall movie is just a really good reminder to myself about what Christmas is all about. It’s not about the presents or the cookies – it’s about believing in something bigger than oneself. It’s about the magic of the season bringing people together and it’s about being happy. The Polar Express reminds me of this magic every time I watch it. Also, I just really love the “Hot Chocolate” song on the train ride in the movie.” – Maureen Mierke, Junior

Maureen basically said it all. Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg and starring Tom Hanks in various roles, this movie stunned audiences with its beautiful and realistic animation and the childlike wonder it inspires. If you don’t tear up when “Hero Girl” and “Lonely Boy” (they’re never given actual names) sing “When Christmas Comes to Town,” your heart just may be two sizes too small. And yes, I know that’s not from The Polar Express. You get my point.

3) A Christmas Story (1983)

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“It’s my favorite because every single year my family and I watch the 24-hour showing of it on TBS.” – Cheyenne Buckingham, Junior

As Cheyenne said, this movie is so dearly loved by audiences old and young that it has its own 24-hour marathon every year. Nearly everyone is familiar with the leg lamp and the image of Ralphie’s poor little brother Randy lying in the snow, unable to get up due to the numerous layers of winter clothing forced onto him by his mother. The movie was largely filmed in Cleveland and the Christmas Story house is now open to visitors as a museum.

4) The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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Now for a couple of my personal favorite Christmas movies. Before you groan and dismiss this choice because it features the Muppets, I’m going to need you to stop and give this film a chance. This adaptation of Dickens’s famous tale is so popular that Buzzfeed proclaimed it “the best Carol of them all,” and for good reason. Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog are a perfect Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, respectively. You will laugh out loud at the narration provided by Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, and you will be appropriately scared out of your wits by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (it looks very much like a Dementor from the Harry Potter universe). Your heart is guaranteed to grow three sizes – again, I’m aware that that’s a reference to a different story – and you will be humming all the catchy tunes for days afterward.

5) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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No holiday movie list would be complete without this timeless tale from director Frank Capra. The style of this movie has been copied time and time again by numerous television shows and other films, but nothing compares to the original. Although the greater part of the film doesn’t actually take place at Christmastime, the holiday season seems to be the perfect time for viewing this flick with your loved ones and a cup of hot chocolate. You’ll empathize with poor George Bailey (portrayed excellently by the inimitable Jimmy Stewart) as he grows from an ambitious child with big dreams to an adult exhausted by the reality of life who can never seem to catch a break. You will shed a happy tear when George sees how many lives he’s touched and how different the world would have been without him, and you will smile when you hear Zuzu’s oft-repeated line, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings!” This story will continue to resonate for generations to come because so many people can relate to George’s plight and because it ends on a joyful note. As Clarence Odbody says, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Theatre Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing recently received the Ohio University Theater Division treatment. Director Dennis Lee Delaney reimagined this classic tale by setting it in 1945 instead of the traditional Elizabethan Age in which it is usually set.

Audiences entered the theatre had the scene set for them right away: the scenery suggested an Italian town that had been touched by World War II, and Don Pedro and his men are among a group of World War II soldiers returning from war. Jazz music is naturally thrown into the mix at various points throughout the play. Overall, this twist lent itself nicely to the tone and plot of the play.

The highlight of the story was the romance between Benedick, a companion to Don Pedro, and Beatrice, the niece of Leonato, the Governor of the seaport where the story is set. Hilarity ensues when Benedick’s companions and Beatrice’s family decide to make the pair realize their feelings for each other. The scenes in which these two groups arrange for Benedick and Beatrice separately to overhear them raving about how madly the other one is in love with them are the highlight of the show; the auditorium was filled with nearly ceaseless laughter for a matter of minutes. This romantic couple starts off butting heads with each other but of course fall in love by the end of the show, and this is portrayed to excellence by Brian Epperson and Ellie Clark. Epperson in particular has an easy comedic presence on stage; his timing and physical comedy were superb.

Another romantic plot is brought into play by Claudio, another companion of Don Pedro, and Hero, Leonato’s daughter, portrayed by Jake Sabinsky and Bri McCabe. These two lovers fall in love at the very beginning of the play but run afoul when Claudio is falsely informed that Hero has been unfaithful to him and he cruelly leaves her at the altar. Then, because this is Shakespeare, Hero’s family helps her to fake her own death. Claudio learns of his mistake and deeply regrets his actions, so he agrees to marry Leonato’s niece to make up for it, who is revealed at the wedding to be the live Hero. Sabinsky and McCabe pulled off this complicated plot with just the right amount of angst and sweetness.

The set, which began in a dilapidated state after the war, was slowly restored throughout the show, and the lighting was arranged to suggest a warm and inviting atmosphere. Overall, the production made for a relatively lighthearted and amusing night at the theatre.

There is a reason Shakespeare’s plays are still told hundreds of years after his death, and this production reminded its audience why.

Top 5 places to eat before a night out

Are you trying to decide on a place to eat before going out with your friends for your 21st birthday? Maybe you’re going to see a touring Broadway show at Memorial Auditorium but need to find a place to have a quality meal beforehand? With so many wonderful places to eat in Athens, it can be hard to narrow down your choices. No need to worry; I’ve done the research for you! These five eateries, all of which can be found on or just off of Court Street, are the best places to enjoy a meal before any kind of occasion.

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Casa Nueva – 6 West State Street (All photos by Brooke Robinson)

Casa Nueva is a classic Athens favorite, and with delicious Mexican-style food, vegan and gluten-free options, and live music, it’s no wonder why. Casa even uses ingredients like pawpaws when they’re in season for a truly unique dining experience. Friendly service, a casual ambience, and some of the best quesadillas in town make this restaurant a hit.

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O’Betty’s Red Hot – 15 West State Street

Perhaps you need to grab your food and run? Just across the street from Casa Nueva, O’Betty’s is a great little hole in the wall with famously delectable hot dogs. All the hot dogs on the menu are named after famous exotic and burlesque dancers, and vegetarian options are available. My personal recommendation is the Lily, which comes topped with homemade baked beans and cole slaw. Also, if you’re a cheese fan, their cheesy fries are the bomb. You can’t go wrong with O’Betty’s.

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Sol – 33 North Court Street

Athens is known for having a variety of exotic cuisines, and Sol is the epitome of that. This restaurant specializes in Cuban dishes along with traditional college student favorites such as loaded nachos (with cheese, black beans, lettuce, tomato, fire-roasted salsa, red onion, and sour cream – yum). Many of their dishes are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. Try their Cuban fusion wrap, fish tacos, or maduros (slightly cartelized plantains) and enjoy the friendly staff.

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Salaam – 21 West Washington Street

The minute you step into Salaam, the atmosphere sets the stage for the meal you’re about to have. Beaded curtains, colorful tapestries, and the hospitable employees make you feel right at home and ready for some amazing Mediterranean food. Try a plate of their Mediterranean pasta (penne pasta with basil pesto, feta, and sun-dried tomato) or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, the vegan vegetable curry with tofu (fresh vegetables with fried tofu and a tomato/coconut milk curry sauce served over basmati rice with coriander chutney and papadum).

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Fluff Bakery – 8 North Court Street

Or maybe you’re more of the Leslie Knope-type and prefer to just fill up on dessert or baked goods before going out. Although Fluff Bakery also carries entrée-type food (sandwiches, salads, and salmon, just to name a few), they’re best known for their bakery, as you may have guessed. Their cannoli, pumpkin and red velvet cupcakes, macaroons, cinnamon twists, etc., are to die for. If you’re not hungry before walking in, the smell of the kitchen will have your mouth watering in no time.

Treat Yo Self at the Athens Farmer’s Market

The push to support local products has greatly increased in recent years. With the growth of genetically modified foods, it has been more and more difficult to find fresh produce that has not been unnaturally altered in some way.

Fortunately, Athens has an answer to both of these dilemmas. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the Athens Farmer’s Market is open in the parking lot beside Texas Roadhouse on East State Street. Additionally, the Farmer’s Market is open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesdays from April through December and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays from May through September.

The Farmer’s Market is a delight in the fall. On a crisp Saturday morning in the autumn, what could be better than sampling and buying some great local foods? The market is brimming with all kinds of delectable fall eats: apple cider made with locally grown apples, squash, kettle corn, pumpkin pies and bread, maple walnut fudge, you name it.

I visited the Athens Farmer’s Market to talk to a few vendors about their bestselling fall items and why they chose this market as a venue for their products.

Ghosts of Athens Past

When I was a kid, I had an inexplicable fascination with all things morbid and macabre. I thought Wednesday Addams was the coolest and I read “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” over and over. I once convinced my elementary school class that I had a family of ghosts living in my house, even going so far as to plant evidence around my house when I had classmates over to prove I was telling the truth. It may then be seen as fitting that I ended up attending college here in Athens, because although you may not realize it, Ohio University has repeatedly been named the most haunted college campus in America. In fact, Athens was featured in an episode of the popular television show “Supernatural” for this very reason. As we head into October, I’d like to take a look at a few of the most famous supernatural legends here at OU. So light a pumpkin-scented candle, grab a mug of hot apple cider, and read away (and maybe sleep with a light on tonight).

The Weeping Angel of the West State Cemetery

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The Statue Itself – all photos by Brooke Robinson

The story behind this Athens landmark is one that has probably been told about every angel statue in every graveyard in the world, but it’s eerie nonetheless. This statue was built as a memorial to the unknown dead buried in the cemetery. The angel is said to cry and move from time to time.

Wilson Hall

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Wilson Hall on West Green

Nicholas Lantz, a journalism student at OU and author of the book “Ghosts and Legends of Athens, Ohio,” said that there is a vast difference between the legend of Wilson Hall and the facts behind it.

“If you do your research,” Lantz said, “you’ll find that the reality is a series of unrelated events and oral storytelling that happened over a couple decades and blended together to become this whole different story.”

The story goes that decades ago, a female student took to practicing Satanism in  her room (room 428). After not being heard from for a few days, resident assistants checked her room and found that she had killed herself, but not before writing Satanic scripture on the walls in her own blood.

According to Lantz, the true story is this: in the 1970s, a female student with an interest in the paranormal requested room 428. One day, RAs noticed that she had an altar in her room and assumed it was Satanic. When confronted, the girl acknowledged the altar but said it was a meditation altar, nothing more. During this confrontation, she did say that two girls down the hall were known Satanists who liked to try and summon spirits for fun in her dorm room, which may have been contributing to paranormal activity in the building.

“As for the ‘blood’ on the walls,” Lantz said, “that girl had drawn a dragon on her wall in red crayon. That’s literally all it was.”

Lantz maintains that Wilson Hall is a very haunted building, perhaps due in part to the building having been built on a cemetery owned by the Ridges.

“The bodies were all moved before construction began,” he continued, “at least, all the bodies they could find. But my friends have had personal experiences in that building. It is the most haunted dorm on campus but not for the reason people think it is.”

Simms Cemetery

I was unable to get a photo of this location because it’s actually a small family cemetery on private property, and on top of that, it’s notoriously difficult to find. The website Forgotten Ohio says this cemetery is “said to actually move, making it difficult to locate for the Ohio University students who regularly search for it.”

Lantz doesn’t advise scouting out this haunted locale, but he does say that the stories that are commonly told about it are generally based on fact.

“There was in the 1800s a local hangman who would hang people for the smallest crimes,” Lantz said. “I don’t know if he was a government employee or not, but his name was John Simms and he did exist. There’s a tree in the cemetery that they would hang the victims from. I’ve known people who’ve found the cemetery, and they’ve said there are actually fragments of rope from nooses still on the tree.”

Reported ghost sightings here include the alleged screams of unjustly executed victims coming from the area, the shadowy figure of a man in a black hood (assumed to be John Simms himself), and in one case, the spectral image of a body hanging from a tree.

The Ridges

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The Unmistakable Facade of The Ridges

Of course, there can’t be a story about haunted locations in Athens without mentioning this famous former lunatic asylum. The tale told most often concerning the asylum is the account of the infamous “body stain.”

Forgotten Ohio recounts the tale of a patient disappearing from a ward in the late 1970s. Over a month later, her corpse was found in a room on an abandoned upper floor. Before her death of heart failure, she had taken off her clothes and folded them. The eeriest and most memorable part of the tale is that her body left a stain on the ground where it had lain for weeks – a stain that remains to this day.

“The body stain does exist,” Lantz confirmed. “I’ve seen it myself several times.”

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Do you see any faces in the windows?

Continuing to draw from his own personal experience, Lantz recounted a paranormal investigation in which he participated two years ago.

He said, “I was exploring in the basement area, which was originally used to house the really dangerous patients, when I heard a weird noise and walked into this room that honestly resembled a dungeon. Then I saw that written on all the walls in chalk was a mental patient’s diary – literally from ceiling to floor – talking about how he’s not crazy, how he sees these creatures with yellow eyes and fangs following him in his dreams.”

Lantz went on to say that parts of the diary were hard to decipher, but one particularly chilling phrase written on the wall reads, “The demon, the demon it follows.”

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No names, only numbers.

After discovering this room, he and the rest of his group did an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) session, in which electronic recordings are made and played back to detect spiritual voices.

“One question I asked was, ‘Are you afraid?'” Lantz recalled. “You could hear a faint, ‘No,’ on the recording. Then we asked if there was any reason for us to be afraid, and this deep voice very clearly said, ‘Yes.'”

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One of The Ridges Cemeteries

Another incident took place just minutes after Lantz and his group had entered the building.

“We were setting up equipment when we heard a female voice scream. There were only two women in the building and they were right next to us, and just when we heard that scream the bathroom lights turned on. I don’t know how else you would explain that,” he said.

Are the Ridges as overrun with paranormal activity as all the tales claim?

As Lantz put it, “I thought the stories were way overhyped, but to be honest I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. But I don’t think it’s as haunted as some people build it up to be.”

Top 5 famous Ohio University alumni

Since Ohio University was established more than two hundred years ago, millions of students have roamed the streets of Athens. The bricks that make up these streets echo the footsteps of all those students – but some of these footsteps are more recognizable than others. These are just a few of the more famous Ohio University alumni who have come before us.

Thom BrennamanThom Brennaman

Son of Marty Brennaman, the famous Cincinnati Reds radio sportscaster, Thom attended Ohio University after graduating from Anderson High School in Cincinnati. As a Bobcat, he was president of Beta Kappa and worked for a local radio station. After graduating, he took a cue from his father by becoming the voice of the Reds on television.

 

Matt LauerMatt Lauer

A native New Yorker, Matt actually dropped out of the School of Telecommunications in 1979. He returned to OU to attain his degree when he was 39 years old. He is now famously known as the host of The Today Show. He has also previously worked for ESPN, HBO Entertainment News, and NBC News. One of his most beloved segments on The Today Show is Where in the World is Matt Lauer? This, of course, is modeled after the game show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? You may also recognize Matt from his cameos in the movies Sharknado and Sharknado 2 or his prank wars with Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year.

 

Nancy CartwrightNancy Cartwright

The voice of Bart Simpson from The Simpsons grew up in Kettering, Ohio, where she attended Fairmont West High School. She was active in public speaking competitions throughout her high school years and later during her college years at OU as well. She only attended OU for one year, after which she transferred to the University of California in Los Angeles and obtained a degree in theater. Along with Bart Simpson, she has also created the voices of Chuckie Finster (Rugrats), Mindy (Animaniacs), and Rufus the Naked Mole-Rat (Kim Possible). In 2012, Nancy returned to the hills of Athens to give the undergraduate commencement address.

 

Ed O'NeillEd O’Neill

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Ed attended OU for history on a football scholarship. He was also a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Because of his less-than-stellar studying habits and his arguments with his football coach, he returned to his hometown after his sophomore year to attend Youngstown State University. He later had a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers before being cut. He is most well known for portraying Al Bundy on the show Married… with Children and more recently for playing Jay Pritchett on Modern Family.

 

Piper PeraboPiper Perabo

Unlike O’Neill and Cartwright, Piper not only completed her degree at OU, she graduated summa cum laude from the Honors Tutorial College with a degree in theater. She is best known for her roles in the movies Coyote Ugly, Cheaper by the Dozen and its sequel (as the oldest Baker child), The Prestige (alongside Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman), and the television show Go On (with Friends alum Matthew Perry). She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her work on the television show Covert Affairs in 2010. She is also close friends with Lena Headey, better known as Cersei Lannister on the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.