Spike Lee makes a powerful political statement with BlacKkKlansman: a modern-day masterwork

Acclaimed writer/director Spike Lee has returned with his newest joint and he is back with a vengeance, for BlacKkKlansman is a force to be reckoned with. Lee’s film is a true story about a black man named Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. Sound ridiculous? It is. This is a movie that, conceptually, shouldn’t work, but somehow it is one of the most enthralling, hilarious, and powerful films of the year.

When it comes to politics, Lee is no stranger: in BlacKkKlansman he takes many controversial issues head on such as police brutality, the state of the nation, and the potential racism of the current president. He takes on all of these issues magnificently in a 1970s setting, which furthermore enforces his point that not much has changed between then and now. One would think that a historical drama about the KKK would be an exploration into history, but that is not what the movie has in store. Lee wants to shine a mirror up to every American citizen and ask them, “Are you content with the current state of society?”

Despite all of the politics, Lee still crafts a thrilling and fun ride throughout, and actually makes this one of the funniest films of the past couple months. Much of that humor is executed so well because of Adam Driver (Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), who plays the white man that physically appears in the form of Ron Stallworth at the Klan rallies. Driver is easily the standout in this film: he shows a spectrum of emotional depth, becomes one of the most likeable characters, and is at the center of the most complex and nail-biting scenes. Washington also shines as the lead role; he talks quite a bit like his all-too-famous father (Denzel), but also shows that he is an excellent actor in his own right.

One detail about BlacKkKlansman that I truly did not expect going in, was that I would get to know these Klan members. Lee portrays them not as truly evil people, but as normal citizens that just happen to have a severely misguided look at society. The film in no way supports these hateful people, but it takes the same approach that Ron Stallworth does when looking at the Klan: fascinated by what drives them and how they became to think the way they do.

The flaws this movie contains are quite minimal. Only small things stood out, such as a rally scene in the beginning that lasted about a minute too long (but it was so well shot that I didn’t mind), or the fact that I could, for the most part, tell which events were true and which weren’t (but the script was so well written that, again, I didn’t mind). The only outstanding flaw seemed to be that Stallworth himself was not given much background, but even this was pushed under the surface by the complexity of the events happening on screen.

BlacKkKlansman is important. Not everybody will agree with the political message it sends, but it is still one heck of a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. It is funny, timely, well-acted, emotional, and a whole bunch of other qualities that Oscar voters should eat right up.

At the end of the movie, despite having laughed through the majority of it, nearly all of the audience in my theater was crying. That’s the type of impact that the message of BlacKkKlansman creates.

BlacKkKlansman is is in theaters everywhere now and it is rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.

-by Joel Alexander

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a charming romantic comedy with a disappointing, conventional ending

 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is another Netflix original film that approaches the typical high school comedy in a slightly different way. It centers around an incredibly antisocial teenage girl (Lana Condor) who writes fake letters to every boy that she’s had an intense crush on. She keeps these letters secret and hides them below her bed, but all of that changes once her little sister actually sends them out to the objects of her affection.

Netflix has released more movies recently than many of the major production companies, and, quite honestly, many of them have been completely insufferable. Getting through The Package and Brain on Fire was harder than paying attention to a three-hour powerpoint presentation on thermodynamics. Luckily, Netflix has finally shown some potential with this film, which is a charming retelling of the book of the same name by Jenny Han.

The characters are made so personable because the actors really put effort into bringing them off the page in a lifelike way. The ensemble cast is competent overall, but the one who really rises above the rest is Noah Centineo as one of the subjects of the aforementioned letters. Centineo brings a charisma to his role that, frankly, made the other actors look more mediocre than they actually were. It is also really nice to see an Asian-American female lead in a major film like this. Between Crazy Rich Asians and now To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it seems that inclusion is making a rise in Hollywood at long last.

One particular aspect of these teen films that I always pick on is the high school part and its accuracy to high school in real life (which may be because I’m actually in high school). Thankfully my critiquing was kept to a minimum, because for the majority of the film, they portray high school as it is. There is no typical “bully” character, the high school characters aren’t pigeonholed into groups of people (thespians, jocks, etc.) and there actors don’t look like they are all thirty-six years old. One thing that struck a chord for me, in particular, was the struggle of finding people to sit with during lunch time, which is something most people can sympathise with.

However, this lack of clichés completely disappears when the final third of the movie starts, which is where nearly all of my problems with the film lie. Until then, the story involving the letters was funny, charming, and compelling, but the final act takes it to a slightly different direction that tarnishes the films experience as a whole. My biggest gripe with this movie is that the writers decide to resort to completely manufactured and unnecessary conflicts in the last thirty minutes. It is also painfully easy to tell exactly where it is going in that amount of time. It seems like the writers thought up this great plot involving letters, had it all written out, and then had absolutely no clue how to end it. So, of course, when in doubt they turned to every cliché in the book to finalize it out.

The final act didn’t keep me from enjoying the good things that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before had to offer, but it definitely didn’t help my overall perception of the film. As Netflix teen comedies go, this is one of the better ones, probably right up there with Alex Strangelove. However, if you are looking for a good high school movie or TV show then I also highly recommend Love, Simon.

Netflix has had some real stinkers lately (*cough* Mute *cough*), so it’s nice to see a release that is a genuinely enjoyable film, even if it doesn’t 100% stick the landing. If the plot doesn’t interest you, the characters will still likely win you over by the halfway point; this is more than can be said about many other films released throughout this summer.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is streaming on Netflix today.  

by Joel Alexander

Boys basketball shoots into new season: Brizzi and the Falcons look to improve on eight-point record

Despite only having an eight-win season last year, the Falcons remained competitive throughout most of their games. This will be used as a fuel to grow for head coach Wayne Brizzi and the boys basketball team, looking to carry their offseason momentum into a new year.

“If the offseason is any indication of our upcoming regular season, we will have a tough and hardworking team,” Brizzi said.

The Falcons will first need to replace Grant Keithley and John Smith, two standout stars from last season lost to graduation. Both were key components to the offense, with Keithley the team high scorer, averaging 15 ppg shooting 42 percent from the field. Smith averaged 10.9 ppg shooting 47 percent from the field. The team will look to seniors Frank Strano and Dakari Mullins to fill the void, both among last season’s top scorers behind Keithley and Smith.

“We know that losing our top two leading scorers from last season,” Brizzi said. “Grant Keithley and John Smith may be a challenge, but I feel excited about this year’s senior class to fill their shoes.”

This season, Brizzi and the team are confident that their training and preparation will help power them through the year, helping them improve the minor details. The Falcons start the season away facing non-conference opponent Charlottesville on Nov. 25.

“Our strong suit is the hard work our players are bringing. We’ll work on becoming more consistent on every possession, both defensively and offensively,” Brizzi said. “Our number one goal is to improve every day and every game, and to be in the mix of the playoffs at the end of the regular season.”

~alex wright, sports director

Lamper commits to play on Rams softball freshman year

After visiting Shepherd University over the summer, senior Sarah Lamper signed to play softball this fall. This makes Lamper the third FHS student to join Rams softball , following alumni Leann Brown and Rachel Taylor. Shepherd University is an NCAA Division II college in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, competing in the Mountain East Conference.

The recruitment process was a long one, she said. The Rams recently changed coaches, and after being offered a place on the roster from the previous coach, Lamper had to start over once the current coach took over.

“The new coach was so busy getting back in the swing of things so I couldn’t get a hold of her for a really long time,” Lamper said. “I had been in communication with the coach, and I got her to come and see me play in some games and I got to practice with her team. After she offered me a spot on the roster.”

For the last 10 years, softball has been a core aspect of Lamper’s life. Even though she began at second base and outfield, she gradually worked her way up to becoming a pitcher. In addition to the school team, she has played with the Fauquier Freeze 18U team for three years, as well as the recently combined Fauquier Freeze–Ott team for the last year. Softball coach Mark Ott, who has been coaching Lamper since she was 9 years old, said he is confident in her ability to thrive at Shepherd.

“She is a coach’s dream,” Ott said. “She is very enthusiastic about what she does. She works so hard and never complains about anything. I don’t think anybody can have a better teammate that her; whether she’s pitching or not, she is cheering on for whoever is.”

Although she was offered a spot at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Lamper said she knew that Shepherd was right for her. Even though playing softball in college was a priority, she also made sure that they provided classes for her major and that she was still close to her family.

“I just really like the area,” Lamper said. “It’s a really cute, small town, and it kind of feels like home. It’s really scenic and it’s also close to home; I didn’t want to go too far away.”

Lamper is planning to pursue a career in occupational therapy after college, and although Shepherd does not have that program, they do offer the classes needed before getting a master’s degree. Balancing school work and adjusting to college will bring challenges, Lamper said, but she feels that softball is her way to cope with stress.

“Softball has helped me with a lot of things in life and it is a way for me to get away from everything else,” she said. “It’s a good thing to have as I continue through school.”
Ott said he is confident that Lamper will thrive at Shepherd and feels that she will fit right into the community.

“My words of advice are keep doing what she’s doing,” Ott said. “That’s all she can do, because she is a phenomenal individual. She’ll do well, and I think she’ll make a big impact this year.”

Even though Lamper has secured a spot on the team, she said she hopes to improve her stats before entering on the Shepherd team, increasing her ability for more opportunities as a college freshman.

“I hope to start at Shepherd; it’s kind of a big hope for a freshman pitcher,” Lamper said. “They only have two [pitchers] this year, and I know that they’re trying to bring in three with my class. There’s going to be a lot of competition, but I plan to work hard.”

~erica gudino, editor-in-chief

Football looks back: Team reflects on highlights and missed opportunities

After finishing 2-8, the 2017 season now holds the title for the worst record in the last decade for Falcon football. However, this may have been the hardest schedule in years for the Falcons, as eight of the ten teams they played went to the playoffs this season, combining for a total record of 60-27 among them all. For head coach Joseph Prince, despite the disappointing season, he can still take away a few positives.

“We played some pretty hard teams,” Prince said. “The number of wins doesn’t always concern me, and I felt like we competed in a lot of games. I enjoyed working with the guys and the coaches that we had. That’s the part I enjoy about football the most.”

Yet still, after three seasons as head coach, Prince has not beaten either county rival and still hasn’t made the playoffs, dropping his overall record at FHS to 11-19. Both of these were major goals for the team this season, and with the last times the Falcons reigned victorious versus county rivals Liberty and Kettle Run was in 2002 and 2012, leaving no seniors to have ever experienced beating the Eagles or Cougars.

The Falcons lost 21-20 in a close game against Kettle Run on Oct. 6 but fell to Liberty on Nov. 11 in a 57-13 blowout. Both opponents made the playoffs.

“We had our shot against Kettle Run, went for two, and just didn’t execute. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with penalties that night,” Prince said. “In the Liberty game, we had some momentum when we blocked the punt, and scored two quick ones [to get] back into it—we just didn’t capitalize. Liberty is a very good football team; both teams are.”

Along with remaining competitive in most games, a few more positives can be taken away from the season, including junior running back Kevin Chavis’ 1,000 yard season, where he lead the district in rushing yards. Chavis also secured a spot on the first team All-Northwestern District, along with senior captains Joe Heisler (Center/All-purpose), Cole Anderson (Linebacker), and Franco Camarca (Tackle/guard). The team will be graduating eleven seniors.

In the future, Prince wants to establish more depth within the team, something they were plagued by throughout the season. He said a key to that will be keeping players for all four years, providing a greater amount of time to develop.

“We need to get kids that can play football, to play football,” Prince said. “We have a lot of kids in our school that don’t play, [and] it would be nice to have them. We need more depth, that probably hurts us as much as anything [because] when someone goes down it really puts us in a bind.”

This offseason, Prince will be emphasizing training in weight room to prepare for next season.

“We have to get in the weight room and get stronger, were lifting three days a week and we have to convince our kids they have to get stronger,” Prince said. “You have to pay the price in the weight room, you have to be there if you want to get stronger.”

~alex wright, sports director

Black Friday bargains cause craziness, controversies

After waking up at the crack of dawn, millions of Americans brave excited hordes of people and long lines at big-box stores on Black Friday, one of the busiest—and most highly-anticipated and advertised—shopping days of the year. The day is also one of the most controversial annual events.

Some look forward to the Friday after Thanksgiving as the unofficial beginning of the holiday season, during which they can score massive savings on their Christmas shopping; others, however, worry that the day promotes commercial greed.

Junior Ashley McGregor said that although she loves the great deals, Black Friday can be too hectic to be fully enjoyable.

“All the sales are great, but some people go a little bit too crazy about it,” McGregor said. “It’s a good time to go Christmas shopping.”

Senior Shelby Bush said that Black Friday can pressure shoppers to buy anything that’s on sale, causing them to overspend to waste money.

“Some people, when they go, buy things they usually wouldn’t, just because there’s a good deal,” Bush said.

One of the biggest arguments against Black Friday is that it takes the focus off of Thanksgiving and makes people forget about being grateful for what they already have.

“People go from being so very thankful to being so greedy, and waiting for Thanksgiving to be over so they can go and do their Black Friday shopping,” Bush said.

Senior Haiden Smith said that although he likes the idea of Black Friday, it’s often poorly organized, and stores and shoppers don’t focus on the safety of others.

“Honestly, I would do it, but the way it’s organized makes it one of the most dangerous things I would ever be attending,” Smith said. “I’ve seen a lot of news about people getting trampled at those things.”

Recently, many stores have been opening their doors for Black Friday sales earlier and earlier. Many commercial chains have even begun to open their shops on Thanksgiving day, some as early as 4 or 5 p.m., when many families are still eating dinner.

“It’s called Black Friday, not Black Thanksgiving,” McGregor said. “They’re more focused on shopping, not on spending time with their family on Thanksgiving.”

Senior Joseph Morales works at Walmart, one of the most popular Black Friday stops, for its wide array of products. Morales said that the Warrenton location is already prepping for the rush of holiday shoppers by reorganizing the placement of merchandise throughout the store and on the shelves to maximize space and visibility of popular items.

“They have a whole system that doesn’t change much, but it just started changing too because of the holidays, and they’re trying to accommodate shelf-space,” Morales said.

The popularity of online shopping has inspired many consumers to sit out on Black Friday, opting to wait until Cyber Monday to take advantage of holiday deals.

“The problem with a lot of stores now is that more and more people are doing online shopping,” marketing teacher Tiffany Chappell said. “They probably have all these additional Black Friday deals to try to boost Black Friday sales, because sales are declining on that one day.”

Cyber Monday allows shoppers to avoid the hassles that come with shopping in traditional stores, like crowds and limited inventory. McGregor said she prefers to participate in Cyber Monday because of its convenience.

“Most of the time there will be more selection [online], and you won’t have to deal with all the people in the lines,” McGregor said.

McGregor added that commercialism should begin to focus more on Cyber Monday, because it’s calmer and doesn’t require consumers or store employees stress out too much.

“I think we should into Cyber Monday, because it’s less crazy,” McGregor said.  “It would give [workers] a break that they deserve. A lot of people like [Black Friday], so we should move away a little but not completely. It shouldn’t only be Black Friday; if they’re going to do it, they should do it like twice a years so you have  two opportunities.”

~katie johnston, managing editor

Elections prove importance of participation

The past two years, for the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, I’ve volunteered with the Fauquier County Electoral Board as an election page. Both times, I arrived at the polling station at 5 in the morning to help set up for the day, assisted voters and the precinct chief, and handed out stickers. While most of the tasks lacked any major significance or contribution to the day, it helped me realize the importance of political involvement at both the national and local levels. The past two years, for the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, I’ve volunteered with the Fauquier County Electoral Board as an election page. Both times, I arrived at the polling station at 5 in the morning to help set up for the day, assisted voters and the precinct chief, and handed out stickers. While most of the tasks lacked any major significance or contribution to the day, it helped me realize the importance of political involvement at both the national and local levels.

Almost every election official was elderly, and they all seemed so excited that a young person was interested and willing to participate in the election process. Individuals under the age of 30 are notorious for their lack of interest in politics, while Baby Boomers have the highest voter turnout of any age group; according to census.gov, only 46 percent of the population between 18 and 29 voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared with 70 percent of the population over 75.

It’s crucial that young generations familiarize ourselves with the political process and participate in it as much as possible so we can create the world we want ourselves and future generations to grow up in. After all, the results of elections have the greatest impact on the youth, who will have to live with the consequences of the results.

The difference in voter turnout between the 2016 election and the recent election also stood out to me. While the line was hours long in 2016, the same polling station never had a line of more than 20 people during the governor’s race. While I wasn’t expecting as much enthusiasm, because it wasn’t as highly-publicized or controversial as the presidential election, I was disappointed that so many people didn’t bother exercising their right to vote. When I asked the other workers if this was normal, they said that there was a greater turnout than usual for a local election but that, on average, only around one-third of the precinct’s registered voters participated in local elections. However, local elections are more important than national ones because they have a greater impact on our everyday lives.

For example, a governor’s plans for reform in public schools will most likely affect students and families more than a president’s position on abortion, even though the latter is more controversial. It’s essential to keep in mind that every election is important; news coverage and campaign size do not equate significance.

Too many high-schoolers assume that because they can’t vote, their voices are unimportant or that they are simply just unable to participate in politics yet, but  there’s much more to politics than casting a ballot on Election Day. Among the many ways to get involved in politics, students can:

•Participate in the election page program, like I did, or volunteer with a political party or organization.

•Advocate our ideas in school clubs and petition and contact our representatives about legislation.

•Attend and speak up at town meetings and hold leadership positions in school clubs and organizations to help us develop the necessary skills to become strong political leaders in our  community.

•Encourage our parents to vote, reminding them that our future is in their hands.

Of course, one of the best things we can do is learn and stay informed about political issues, so that when we are old enough to vote, we can make an educated choice and ensure that we are truly making the decision that we believe is best for our nation’s future.

~katie johnston, managing editor

Fauquier High School's student newspaper. By the students, for the students.