Category Archives: viewpoint

Twenty One Pilots is Back and Better Than Before

After a year-long hiatus, Twenty One Pilots is back with their newest and most hotly anticipated album Trench. After two months of teasing and speculation, the album finally dropped on October 5, and fans were more than satisfied with the final product. Following the global smash Blurryface, some fans weren’t sure if singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun could live up to the hype surrounding this release.

Fortunately, the doubt was completely unfounded.

Trench may be Twenty One Pilots’ best work production-wise in their entire career. The album flows like a river from the heavy opening track “Jumpsuit” to the crescendoing final track “Leave the City.” Every song has its place on this record, and the album works, aesthetically, as a cohesive whole.

In a way, Trench is a bit of a concept album, with the main messages of multiple songs centering around a fictional world that Joseph made to represent some of his personal anxieties. The story focuses on Dema, a city in which a character named Clancy feels trapped in by nine bishops (Nico and the Niners) who represent the darker parts of Joseph’s thoughts. Clancy escapes this city with help from the Banditos, a group of rebels who wear the color yellow to hide themselves from the evil bishops that want to bring Clancy back. He escapes to a place called Trench, a place where he finally feels some degree of safety from the bishops and where his insecurities are pushed to the side.

Now obviously this is all heavily metaphorical, but what exactly it is referring to is up to the listener. I’ve always seen it as Joseph explaining his struggles with depression and the sudden pandemonium of fame, but some have taken the symbolism a deeply religious route, with Trench representing the true belief in faith. This is why Twenty One Pilots has so many die hard fans; anybody can relate to their message because of how open-ended and broad it is.

The album sometimes faithfully follows this fictional story, and others diverges from it to talk about issues directly. One of the highlights of the record is “Neon Gravestones,” a plea from Joseph for society to stop glorifying those who take their own life. He even goes as far to say, “Promise me this / If I lose to myself / You won’t mourn a day / And you’ll move on to someone else.” This sends a provocative and timely message that not only applies to the treatment of other celebrities’ suicides, but also addresses one’s own suicidal thoughts.

The other musical highlight is the at-first-ballady track “Bandito.” The song exemplifies Joseph’s ability to build a song to a roaring climax with masterful effect. It starts off with a vibe that would be great for listening to alone at night, and soon transitions into a perfect song to play in any party.

Joseph truly is a jack of all trades, including hard rock, hip-hop, reggae, EDM, and many more styles into just one album. Trench is a darker and grittier version of Twenty One Pilots, with thundering bass riffs encapsulating both “My Blood” and “Jumpsuit.”

The only complaint I have is that there are two songs on the record that slightly diverge from the tone of the rest of it, but both of those songs –”Smithereens” and “Legend”– work so well on their own that it really didn’t affect my overall perception of the album.

Twenty One Pilots has done it again. They have managed to keep their old tone while working with new styles and production values that have changed their sound for the better. The duo’s enormous fan base will definitely be overjoyed with this new release, and it may even bring on some new fans who didn’t realize that Twenty One Pilots can exceptionally put together a fun and meaningful album.

by joel alexander–student life editor

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Does A Star Is Born Live Up to the Hype?

Remakes are typically underwhelming cash-grabs that exist because a studio willed it into existence, but the opposite is true for Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born. This is Cooper’s directorial debut, and he comes out the gate with a very promising start. The film centers around Cooper as a slightly aged country star who finds himself falling in love with a girl (Lady Gaga) he meets in a bar who has an angelic voice.

Given that this is the fourth remake of this exact same plot, A Star is Born is far better than it has any right to be. It does basically the same thing as the other versions of this story have done, but updates it for a modern time. The film includes elements of pop music that were definitely not there when the first A Star is Born was made back in 1937. All of the new aspects which Cooper brings to the story, such as the excellent soundtrack and the modern feel, greatly improve the film. In fact, Cooper directs this movie with more style and flair than could ever be asked of a first-time director.

Yes, this film has been done before in many different ways, but the one aspect that elevates A Star is Born above other films that deal with similar topics is the electrifying performances. Cooper and Gaga put all of themselves on screen for this film, and there are many times where I forgot who I was watching. Cooper has a surprisingly authentic singing voice, which really helped his character become far more convincing than if he had either dubbed his singing over or gotten somebody else to do it.

Gaga is also an incredibly talented singer, but unfortunately her voice sometimes took me out of the film because every time she sang it just reminded me that I was watching Lady Gaga and not the character of Ally. This is a very minor flaw that probably couldn’t be helped, but it still bothered me.

The standout acting-wise for me was easily Sam Elliott as Cooper’s brother, who is fed up with Cooper’s drinking habits and general laziness. His character is easily the most interesting in the film, and Elliott sells every look and line he gives with acting expertise. There is one scene in particular where Cooper and Elliott are talking in a car near the end of the film that is masterfully acted, but in such a subtle way that many will not even notice it. All this scene needs is a shot of Elliott pulling out of the driveway and it hits harder than any other scene in the entire two hour and fifteen minute runtime.

Unfortunately, this film was nowhere near perfect for me, even though it entranced many others. It starts off great, with a first act that really lets the audience know the personality of the two central characters while showing the audience the magic of their chemistry. However, the more that Gaga’s character get famous and popularized, the more the film starts to lose its touch. By the time the film reached its end, I had genuinely lost interest in the relationship, and ended up not caring as much as I should have about the ending.

The ending (no spoilers, don’t worry) was very tastefully put together and contains the best of both Gaga’s and Cooper’s performances. This would have been great if I hadn’t seen it coming since the first thirty minutes. I have not seen the other versions of this film, so I do not know if they end the same, but I knew in the back of my mind that it would end a certain way, and it did.

Whenever I can predict the ending to ANY movie, that film automatically loses some of its authenticity to me.

The movie is very well crafted and tastefully done throughout, but it never hit me near as hard as it should have. A Star is Born is still worth watching for the performances alone as well as some other pros, but it is nowhere near as masterful as some critics say that it is.

by joel alexander–student life editor

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is Back

The newest incarnation of the famous Tom Clancy character, Jack Ryan, has finally been released on Amazon Prime, with John Krasinski tackling the role this time around. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is the fifth film version of the book series, but it is the first screenplay that is not based directly off of Clancy’s work. This definitely shows in the plot, for the show goes headfirst into some issues that are exclusively relevant to the 21st Century.

Jack Ryan is a CIA analyst and former marine that finds financial records that point to a major player in the Middle Eastern terrorism game: someone who could be the next Bin-Laden. Ryan and his partner James Greer (Wendell Pierce) have to track down this terrorist before he seriously threatens the security of the United States.

This show tries way too hard to be different than its predecessors, and it succeeds in some ways. One of the best parts about Season 1 is how grounded the plot is. It never ascends into Fast and Furious levels of ridiculous, and every single event or action scene feels like something that could occur in modern-day society. The show also utilizes its two leads, Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office) and Pierce (The Wire), in an incredibly efficient way. Krasinski has a mostly comedic background, but here shows that he has the chops to anchor down a drama efficiently enough.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is just generally fun to watch. The show has plenty of problems that I will soon detail, but it does a good job of competently entertaining the audience, and even making it suspenseful near the end. Another plot element that I appreciated was how humane the villains of the story were. A backstory is given to Suleiman (Ali Suliman) that makes the audience empathise his situation despite the fact that he may be attempting to murder hundreds of people.

This leads to some of my serious problems with this show. The villain is given serious hints of a real story and personality, but it is never expanded enough to give it true depth. Near the end, when the stakes get higher, the writers could have made this conflict a true moral dilemma, but they instead retreat back to stereotype and keep it at a typical hero/villain relationship.

Also, while on the topic of writing, the dialogue is often poorly written. There are serious gaps of logic in some of the main character’s decisions, but somehow there are never any repercussions for them. Jack Ryan also makes some serious leaps of faith throughout the season, and he is almost always right. For once, I would have liked to see him make an assumption and be wrong, so that the show could explore the consequences of making a mistake in this line of work.

Most of the storylines in the show are adequate enough, with the exception of two: The romance storyline and a side plot involving a drone pilot. In every show like this, there has to be two attractive white protagonists of the same age who end up getting together. Some shows can pull this off, but Jack Ryan makes it feel incredibly forced. There is no reason for this romantic relationship, and it often just degrades the pacing of the show.  The storyline involving the drone pilot isn’t awful, I just have absolutely no idea why it is included in the show.

The last major complaint I have is the ending. I won’t spoil it for those who want to watch it, but it is VERY sudden. Throughout the season all of these intersecting relationships are built up, and they are all simply ended in one or two scenes in the final episode. This show definitely could have benefitted from a more fleshed out ending, and maybe even a couple more episodes.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan simply exists. The show is not terrible, nor is it particularly good, which is the case with most of these Jack Ryan adaptations. The first season is entertaining enough, but it never quite justifies its existence, especially since it is the fifth remake of the same character.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is streaming now on Amazon Prime.  

by joel alexander–student life editor

Sierra Burgess is a Loser Loses Applause from Audience

 

Sierra Burgess is a Loser marks Netflix’s second teen comedy in the span of a month. For some reason, they are going overboard on the high school films recently, and they’ve quite honestly been more miss than hit. However, after viewing the competent and entertaining To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I hoped that this one would be quite the same, if not better.

Boy, was I wrong.

The plot centers around Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser a.k.a. Barb from Stranger Things), an unpopular and overweight teenage girl who winds up texting and falling for a boy (Noah Centineo) who thinks she is a much more beautiful girl than she appears to be. For those uneducated in the culture, this is called “catfishing,” and is a very mean and deceptive way of using the Internet. The film, somehow, expects the audience to cheer for Burgess even though she is taking advantage of someone like this.

With all of this aside, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is essentially the typical high school movie. The movie stars an antisocial character and her only friend who end up getting thrust into the popular crowd, and by the end of the movie, the main character starts dating the boy of her dreams. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s literally every single high school movie ever made. Every teen comedy in the last decade has had a plot similar to this, if not exactly the same.

Some films, however, decide to twist things up with a unique plot, good acting or some other aspect special to the movie. This film does no such thing. Even though the plot attempts to be different with the “catfishing” premise, the main character and the relationships are so poorly executed that it is very difficult to care.

All of the interesting and well-acted characters are the supporting ones; such as Veronica (Kristine Froseth), who has a very intriguing relationship with her mother (Chrissy Metz, who is wasted here) and siblings that is not explored at all. Jamey, the boy who is being catfished, is also a good character, but is again essentially ignored by the writers. The only funny moments in this so-called “comedy” are delivered by RJ Cyler, who plays the token black best friend, but he is in the film very little and is reduced to stereotype.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser is built on the foundation that the audience will feel sorry for Burgess and her situation. However, she has easily the best life out of anybody in the film. She has a best friend, which is something that not everybody has; she has two parents that care for her; she is incredibly smart, and she is applying for colleges like Stanford. The movie expects us to feel sorry for her when there are other characters in the movie who have abusive parents, deaf siblings, and bad grades.

Another main message that the film gives is that it does not matter how a person looks, but it only matters how they are inside. This is a fabulous message, but the film has no foundation for this message, for the main character is a terrible person. It is hard to see the beauty on the inside of the main character when she is blaming everybody else for her own problems. Plus, near the end of the film, Burgess destroyed what likability there was by committing a despicable act which I will not disclose.

In the end, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is just an overlong build-up until the main characters start dating. By the end of the first ten minutes you can tell they are going to get together, but it takes an hour and 45 minutes to get there. If that sounds like something you’d want to watch then go ahead, it’s streaming on Netflix now, but if that sounds even remotely boring to you, then stay away from this film like the plague and watch Black Panther instead.

by joel alexander–student life editor

Allegations Against Kavanaugh Prove to be Questionable and Exaggerated

Brett Kavanaugh, now Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, was recently accused of sexual misconduct at a party 38 years ago.

Just days before the Senate Judiciary committee was set to vote on Kavanaugh’s passing as Supreme Court Justice, Christine Blasey Ford comes forth with her allegation: 38 years ago, Brett Kavanaugh inappropriately touched her. This occurred at what she has referred to as a party, but also not a party, depending on the instance. She also claims that Kavanaugh was extremely drunk at this “party”. However, no one, not even her lifelong friend she claims was at the event, can corroborate any of these claims.  

What is most troubling about these claims is the timing. Why is Ford choosing to come out now? Most people (including herself), say she didn’t want to see a bad person like Kavanaugh come to power. This would seem to be a logical reason, if it weren’t for the fact that Judge Kavanaugh has been sitting on the D.C. Court of Appeals for some 12 years. A court that sees tenfold more cases than the Supreme Court, which would arguably make it more powerful. Even if some do not agree on the fact that it is more powerful, it is still the second most powerful court in (arguably) the most powerful country in the world. Brett Kavanaugh has been in a position of power since May 2006. When does Dr. Ford (an open Democrat) choose to accuse him, however? The summer of 2018, once he is sure to tip the scale in favor of the GOP for the Supreme Court.

Another concern is the fact that a large portion of the public seems to not only believe Ford, but go far beyond what she claims: he is called a gang-rapist by some on the left, when all he was accused of, by one woman, was inappropriately touching her. What happened to due process? What happened to « innocent until proven guilty »? What happened to believing the FBI when pronouncing an accused attacker innocent? These men and women are running around demonizing Brett Kavanaugh after he has been pronounced innocent. Going as far as to create lipstick lines titled: “ F*ck Kavanaugh,” which was released by the far-left cosmetic line “Lipslut.”

I understand why people want to believe Ford: I watched her testimony, it was extremely moving. However, I don’t let my emotions affect my rationality. When looking at simply the facts, Kavanaugh is innocent. I can also rely on my emotions when judging this case, because Kavanaugh’s testimony was just as (if not more) moving than Ford’s. In his opening statement, he speaks of how these allegations have ruined his life, and how he is innocent. He then, with a trembling voice, tells us a story of his daughter wanting to pray for Dr. Ford, his accuser. Her reason being that she is obviously going through a very hard time, and even though she is wrongfully accusing her father, should be given sympathy and prayed for. This is truly a beautiful story, and although some may say this is just a well thought out ploy on the part of Kavanaugh, the same can be said about Ford’s claims. The only difference between the two being that I’m sure Kavanaugh could actually get someone to corroborate his story. So, when following not only rational, but also emotional thinking, I come to one conclusion: Brett Kavanaugh is innocent.

by celeste pollack–news editor

Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Insults Sexual Assault Victims

The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process has proved to be one of the most controversial and dividing chapters in United States history due to the accusations from Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor from Palo Alto University. Kavanaugh has repeatedly and angrily denied these allegations with Republicans backing him, but many of the Democratic senators are convinced he is lying, which has created contention between the two parties.

At this point in time, Kavanaugh has been officially confirmed to the Supreme Court, which shows that America’s priorities do not lie in whether a nominee is actually qualified to be a justice, but whether the nominee will benefit their party. Kavanaugh proved countless times in his testimony that he is completely unfit to be a bipartisan Supreme Court justice, with his emotional temperament and blatant lies.

Ford’s testimony, directly after, was considered to be credible even by non-believers of her claims. She never avoided a question, all of her claims were proved to be credible, and she has absolutely no reason to ruin her life just to “conspire against the Republicans.” Kavanaugh has now been nominated, and Ford’s life has been certifiably ruined, with her actually having to move out of her house due to the copious amounts of death threats she was receiving. And somehow people still blame her for spreading false accusations that they don’t for sure know are actually false.

Unlike Ford, Kavanaugh constantly avoided questions during his testimony, often refusing to answer questions that would be painfully simple had he been completely innocent. When one senator asked if he had ever been intoxicated to the point of not remembering events from a party in that time of his life, he replied “I don’t know, have you?” What kind of innocent man would say that under oath? He was also asked by another senator if he would support a full FBI investigation into the charges, and he refused to answer the question. If he was innocent, then he would be overjoyed to support an FBI investigation because it would prove his innocence. If I had been accused of murdering my wife, and upon being asked if I had done it I refused to answer, then people would have reason to be suspicious, as should they here.

One of the most important aspects to consider when confirming a Supreme Court justice is the nominees’ temperament, whether it be anger or emotion. A justice on the Supreme Court is not supposed to be extremely emotional about certain issues, and is supposed to be calm and collected in strained situations. The characteristics that I just described to you are the opposite of the ones exhibited by Kavanaugh during his trial. He cried in the the most odd moments: when he was talking about how his friends worked out frequently, when he detailed reading old calendars with his father during Christmas, etc. He also had numerous spouts of sudden anger that caught everybody at the hearing off guard. If Kavanaugh responded like this to important issues plaguing America in the Supreme Court, he would be seen as biased and partisan, but just because Republicans wanted the majority it was willfully pushed under the rug.

Even if all of the sexual assault allegations are ignored (which they shouldn’t be), the temperament issues alone, in a normal world, should be enough to immediately disqualify him from a seat on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh also blatantly lied about quotes that were pulled from his high school yearbook. Throughout his yearbook entry, there are references that quite obviously allude to sexual encounters with fellow classmates, but he has created alternate meaning for these references. There are many of them scattered in this entry, but one of the most blatant lies is his excuse for the reference of the Devil’s Triangle. The Devil’s Triangle is a very specific sex act that involves two men and one woman, one that is relatively widely known. However, when asked, Kavanaugh claimed that it was a “drinking game.”

No, it’s not. I’m not sure what parallel universe Kavanaugh is living in, but a Devil’s Triangle is definitely not a drinking game. This is a blatant lie, and yet it, like so many others, was glossed over by all of the Republican senators who simply want a majority on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh’s conformation is a direct insult to sexual assault survivors all over the United States. Republicans could just as easily have found a legitimate nominee that did not have multiple assault allegations, but they decided Brett Kavanaugh was the one simply just to throw it in the Democrats’ faces. This case says to women all across the country, “Don’t come out with the truth, because nobody will believe you or care about what you have to say in the end.” The white male hierarchy of leadership has always unanimously controlled this country, and Kavanaugh’s confirmation has expressed to all Americans that it is no closer to changing than it was in the 80’s.

by joel alexander–student life editor  

ACLU educates teenagers in social justice

Following the 2016 presidential election, I realized that I had become more self-aware when it came to politics and the injustice that various minorities face. I felt like their voices and experiences, as well as mine by being a part of the communities, were silenced and deemed unimportant by our government. I sensed that I had an obligation to do something, and to use my privilege and platform as a writer to influence those around me. So, I submitted an application to the American Civil Liberties Union Summer Advocacy Institute, a week long camp held at Georgetown University, where rising juniors and seniors can learn more about social justice issues that interest them and how to bring activism into their community. Being surrounded with roughly 500 like-minded students was inspiring; I was excited so see so many young people with as much of a passion for change as I had.
Throughout the week, we were introduced to various speakers, mostly ACLU lawyers, covering a wide range of topics—from free speech to institutionalized racism. These speakers were able to take complicated and controversial issues, educate us on their impacts on our everyday lives and put into perspective their relevance.
One speaker in particular who moved me was Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney who specializes in free speech, privacy and technology. She spoke to us about the importance of free speech, and while I knew that the First Amendment was a key factor in our democracy, Rowland emphasized how essential it really is.
Without free speech, parties on either side of the political spectrum would be unable to voice their opinions. As frustrating as it might be to hear an opposing argument to your side, without First Amendment protections, none would have a platform to spout any views, whether hateful or inspirational. Sometimes, when arguing in support of a position, it can be easy to dismiss an opponent’s thoughts and voice, but in order to change minds we need to be patient and be able to peacefully converse with those different from us. And while there are topics, like white supremacy and racism, where there is no room for compromise or negotiation, it is crucial to realize which battles to fight, and be able to respectfully and civilly discuss these issues.
The most influential speaker at the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute had to be whistle blower Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former technology contractor for the National Security Agency, exposed classified files that offered evidence of the government invading civilians’ right to privacy by reading and listening to phone calls and texts while ostensibly looking for signs of terrorism. Snowden currently is taking refuge in Russia, unable to return to the U.S. for fear of criminal prosecution due to this, his speech was done via video chat. Between taking curious questions about his living status and recounting his internal struggles and repercussions of his actions, Snowden offered insights into ongoing issues over cyber security. However, he made it very clear that he was not to be looked at as a hero. He said that he had just been doing what was right. He emphasized the importance of speaking out against our government when we see injustice and not reacting in silence and cooperation. We must take advantage of our democratic rights and use them to speak up when we feel that our government is not doing what is needed to protect the American people under the guidelines of the Constitution.
Before going to the ACLU camp, I was nervous about meeting those from all different walks of life and in different phases in their journey of activism. In such a rural and old-school town, I was confident in my views and wasn’t afraid to speak out, but going to a camp where hundreds of other students felt the same way—and might be able to express this more articulately and with more experience—made me question myself. While I definitely consider myself an advocate for social, racial and economic equality, I hadn’t made a huge impact in my community like other teenagers, and I was insecure in my abilities to represent my school and my ideals in such a new environment. But after the first few days, I found myself feeding off the energy and confidence of my peers, making me speak up more in discussions and not second-guessing whether what I had to say was “politically correct” or clashed with another student’s views. I had a newfound assurance of myself and found that hearing other students’ situations in their hometowns gave me a better understanding of other communities. This validates where I am on my journey, and even though I haven’t made the strides that Malala Yousafzai or Gavin Grimm have, that doesn’t make my fight and passion any less important.
That week was the most influential and inspiring week of my life; attending this camp put into perspective how passionate I am about making a change in current social justice issues. The amazing speakers and students made me realize how much a group of 500 students can touch different corners of the world and truly make a difference in each community, resulting in a monumental difference. Throughout history, the youth have been those at the forefront of change, making their voices heard and not backing down from the resistance of older generations. So, my advice to my peers is don’t be afraid to stir things up and create a little confrontation; go to protests, talk to your representatives, educate those in the dark, and speak out against hatred and bigotry.

We, the people, are responsible for our own fate, and without the help and support of one another, nothing will change. Remember: Dissent is patriotic.

~erica gudino, editor-in-chief