Category Archives: staff memo

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

FHS students perform civic duty in election

Walking into the polling location and casting a ballot for the first time is a rite of passage for many students, marking their transition into adulthood. But before making a final decision on which candidates to choose, they must first realize their stances on issues like immigration and education. Senior Kevin Mullis said he has been waiting to vote since he was a child, and after being one year short of the age requirement last year, he was excited to finally cast his ballot.

“I think it’s important to be involved and care about the government around you,” Mullis said. “I always thought voting was a good thing, so being able to vote in this election made me happy and inspired me to get more involved in the political process. I was very happy to put on the ‘I Voted’ sticker.”

When making the decision on whom to vote for, senior Carleigh Cordova said she made sure she was informed on the candidates’ different policies and if they supported her ideals. However, she was turned off by the negativity that the advertisements reflected.

“I read about their perspectives [on certain issues] and tried to find unbiased websites or read both sides,” Cordova said. “I looked at their ads, but I honestly hated them because they were so hateful toward each other. Nobody focused on what they wanted to do.”

Mullis, who views himself as more liberal, said one of his main focuses is keeping funding for Planned Parenthood. Because of this, he decided to cast his ballot for the three Democratic candidates on top of the ticket in the Virginia gubernatorial race: Ralph Northam for governor, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring for attorney general. All three were ultimately elected on Nov. 7.

However, Mullis said he also disliked the attack ads—as well as scam calls that gave voters false news about changes in their polling place, and the aggression of campaigning outside the polling areas.

“The sheer amount of signs and people trying to hand me stuff when I was walking up to the polling place was annoying,” Mullis said. “I personally don’t like the in your face campaigning method.”

Unlike Mullis, senior Daniel Duca voted solely for the Republicans on the ticket, including Ed Gillespie for governor, Jill Vogel for lieutenant governor, John Adams for attorney general and Michael Webert for delegate. He said he doesn’t limit himself to one party, but that his vote was based off of the candidates’ anti-abortion policies.

“I agreed with what a lot of the [Democratic] ticket said, but it just came down to pro-life for me,” Duca said. “It’s more about the morality of the politics, as opposed to the details.”

While Cordova said she leans more toward the Republican viewpoints, she decided to split the ticket. Even though she did choose GOP candidates Adams and Vogel, she also voted for Northam for governor. She said that she was more focused on personality than a candidate’s political affiliations.

“I was looking for someone who would represent our state well and someone who agrees with what I [believe],” Cordova said. “Someone who is more mellow and not radical, [and is] willing to work with both parties and [isn’t] as stubborn or close-minded.”

Although Northam, Fairfax and Herring beat out their Republican adversaries, incumbent delegates Michael Webert, Scott Lingamfelter and Mark Cole, all Republicans whose districts fall within Fauquier County, won back their seats in the General Assembly. Approximately six in 10 Fauquier voters also favored the top-ticket Republicans, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

In other formerly red districts, however, the state GOP did not fare as well. Democrats flipped an estimated 15 seats, according to the Washington Post, potentially creating a power-share situation in Richmond, where the GOP formerly controlled 66 of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates. Cordova said that she was not surprised by the results.

“I expected that Virginia would go blue because a lot of people are unhappy with [President Donald] Trump,” Cordova said. “I’m not one to be really upset about it because they only have so much control, but I think that you have to be open-minded and not be so judgmental the second they get elected.”

Cordova emphasized the importance of having every eligible voter participate in the election by first informing themselves about the issues and then casting their ballots.

“[Voting] is a really easy process, and there’s not any reason for people not to vote,” Cordova said. “They need to be educated when they vote and look at each candidate instead of going in and basing it on different parties.”

~erica gudino, editor-in-chief

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

Munoz accepts offer as midfielder on Walsh lacrosse

Senior Anthony Munoz recently announced that he would be attending Walsh University, located in North Canton, Ohio, to play lacrosse next fall. Munoz said he knew he wanted to play in college after playing for the travel team Apocalypse during his sophomore year. He began the recruitment process two years ago by playing in tournament showcases to get his name out to the colleges and immediately drew the attention of a recruiting coach from Walsh.

“At the very first recruiting showcase I went to in the summer, he was the first coach that talked to me,” Munoz said. “He saw me at the next tournament that I went to, and then the tournament after that. We just kept talking from there.”

After contacting the recruiting coach, Munoz worked even harder to prove himself to the other coaches. He spent countless hours working out and practicing on the field to better his game.

“I went to Walsh’s prospect day because he wanted to get me in front of the head coach,” Munoz said. “The head coach really liked what I had to offer for the team, so I went back for another visit, and shortly after that I decided that’s where I wanted to be for the next four years.”

After officially announcing his commitment, Munoz is already looking ahead to next year and playing for the Walsh Cavaliers. Even though he will only be a freshman next year, Munoz said he hopes to make a big impact on the team.

“My expectations are very high,” Munoz said. I’m hoping to bring in my recruiting class and really take the team to the next level. I think I bring everything that they’re looking for.”

Besides Walsh, several other schools were interested in Munoz, such as Davis and Elkins College, Alderson Broaddus University, and Chowan University. Although they peaked his interest, the characteristics of Walsh were too enticing to pass on.

“It’s a whole new area; there’s so much to do off campus [and] the campus is really beautiful,” Munoz said. “They’re always adding new stuff [and] new programs. The lacrosse program is always growing, so it’s nice to be a part of something where you’re building up a team.”

Munoz gives a lot of credit for his commitment to his summer travel team, Apocalypse, and also to the hard-working coaches who helped him in the recruiting process.

“All of the coaches were very helpful; you could ask them for almost anything and they would definitely help you out,” Munoz said. “They were all young guys and played in college, so they all knew what a college coach was looking for and helped me get noticed.”

Munoz said he plans to major in exercise science or sports management at Walsh University. He will be receiving $6,000 in athletic scholarships, as well as $12,000 for academics.

“The scholarships really motivate me,” Munoz said. “It really helps me out that I got these, but now I just have to work extra hard in the classroom and on the field.”

~alex wright and nate thomason, sports director and design director

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