Category Archives: viewpoint

Wasteland, Baby! Provides Emotion

After an almost five-year hiatus, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier released his second album Wasteland, Baby! on March 1. Many know him from his successful debut, “Take Me to Church,” which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although his newest album is a small step down from his debut album Hozier, and an obvious hit chaser, his distinctive voice sets a high bar and it’s truly an album listeners can get lost in.

Before the drop of his album, he gave fans a few sneak previews. “Nina Cried Power (feat. Mavis Staples)” was by far my favorite. In this song, Hozier gives homage to artists who have helped shape rock ‘n roll, artists such as Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday, James Brown, and Mavis Staples, who was featured in the song. Mavis Staples’ voice paired with Hozier’s resulted in lush harmonies and a rich blues-rock sound. Hozier has been known to use meaningful lyrics and in this song, he clearly demonstrates that. Lyrics such as, “And I could cry power/ power has been cried by those stronger than me/ straight into the face that tells you to rattle your chains/ if you love bein’ free,” highlight the central meaning of the song and the struggles suffered by those who shaped blues and gospel music during the Civil Rights Era.  

I must admit that there were a few songs in the album I just could not get into. I could tell he was trying too hard to make another hit and it spoiled the album. A clear example is “To Noise Making (Sing),” which is probably my least favorite song from him. It has a good message–the power of singing regardless of talent–yet it feels empty. It just sounds like he just wanted to make an indie song to clap to or play in the background of a coffee shop. Regardless, there are many songs that I could never get sick of if I were to play them on repeat. Hozier has such a profound voice and sound it’s hard to absolutely hate any of his music. “Wasteland, Baby!” is the perfect album to play when you just need a little inspiration and soul in your life.

By Nayei Arellano-Sports Editor

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Captain Marvel Is Neither the best nor the Worst

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues deeper into the lore of its comic book origins, it would seem apparent that superhero movie fatigue would set in. It only took the DC Universe three films for viewers to get sick of its characters, but the MCU is miraculously still thriving with every entry it churns out, with many more on the way. The newest flick is Captain Marvel, which marks the first female-led solo superhero movie for Marvel. DC already threw their hat into the ring with the massively successful but hollow and safe Wonder Woman, and after the disappointment of that film, I had my doubts going into Captain Marvel.

Brie Larson (Room, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) takes on Carol Danvers–a woman with a complicated past who finds herself caught in a war between the shape-shifting Skrulls and the Kree. She must fight the Skrulls, figure out the murky details of her past, and save planet Earth while also gaining the confidence to be the warrior she is destined to be. Along the way, she finds young Nick Fury (a movie-stealing Samuel L. Jackson) and must figure out who to trust, for the Skrulls can shape-shift into anybody she assumes she can trust.

Captain Marvel breaks itself up into three sections: the space-epic the first twenty minutes promise, the buddy-cop action film which the bulk of the film is made up of, and the typical Earth-saving superhero movie of the last thirty minutes. Of these three, the best is easily the second, in which Samuel L. Jackson gives his best Nick Fury performance yet and the best moments of the film are contained. Jackson is the glue that holds the film together, and without him the majority of the humor would have fallen flat. While others gave fun and sometimes emotional performances, I always looked forward to the moments in which Jackson bantered with the other characters. In fact, the quality of the film exponentially increases when he first appears on-screen outside of a Blockbuster Video while investigating a supposedly routine case.

Others give quality performances, such as Jude Law as the protagonist’s former mentor and Ben Mendelsohn as the leader of the Skrulls. However, the standout supporting character is Lashana Lynch as Danvers’ friend from her complicated past, who shocked me with the most emotional and subtly-acted scene in the film. I haven’t seen her in anything thus far, and I hope to catch a glimpse of her in the future–preferably with better writing.

Unfortunately, the weakest link in this film when it comes to acting is Larson herself. I don’t believe she performed badly, especially when I have seen her be so radiant in other films. For the first half of the film, her character is kept at a distance from the audience, which creates confusion when it comes to the feelings they should be exerting towards her. Luckily, the second half clears some of the confusion that the first half establishes, but the feeling of connection with Carol Danvers’ emotions never comes flooding in, and I never felt that I got a glimpse into what she was thinking at a certain moment. The reason supporting characters like Nick Fury steal the show is due to the lack of understanding we have of Danvers’ inner workings. This makes it that much harder to empower her and to send a strong message, even though the writers still succeed in doing so by the end of the movie.

By far the biggest issue I have with Captain Marvel is the pacing. The directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, never seemed to be able to hold a scene for the correct amount of time so the audience could embrace the full impact. In the first third, when the film introduces Captain Marvel’s life on the Kree planet, the audience isn’t given enough time to fully understand the impact it has on her disposition. Because of this, when certain plot elements are introduced later in the film, it was hard for me to grasp how profoundly these events mattered to her personal life. On the flip side, the third act of the film seems to hold each scene about thirty seconds too long: just enough that the audience gets tired of the point that the writers reiterate. If the time spent on these useless and long scenes had been spent on developing the essential storylines near the beginning, then we’d have gotten a better film that trusts the audience instead of spoon-feeding them the morals and themes. That being said, Captain Marvel is an unabashedly fun movie that will give the majority of viewers what they want. While plot stereotypes are included, character stereotypes are avoided by the writers. Diversity is spread throughout the story; the movie satisfies both those who want to see Captain Marvel as an empowered and unique female character, and those who want an entertaining superhero movie without any overt political opinions included. While Captain Marvel is nowhere near the best the MCU has to offer, it is also far from the worst–this is especially astonishing given that this is the twenty-first film in the ever-continuing saga. Before every Marvel movie, I always think it is finally time for fatigue to start setting in when it comes to superhero movies, and I am wrong nearly every time. While I do wish more time had been spent in editing the film to perfection instead of adhering to the typical chichés, it can’t be denied that Captain Marvel is escapism entertainment at its finest, which is all this movie needed to be while audiences wait for Avengers: Endgame to hit theaters.

By Joel Alexander-Student Life Editor

How to Train Your Dragon’s Nostalgic Final Trilogy

The dragon fantasy PG-rated movie, How To Train Your Dragon, made the third movie to the twelve-book series that is based on. They are about a boy named Hiccup, whose family and village are the center of everything when it comes to hunting down the dragons.

The two allies must work together to save their world’s from being destroyed by their enemies. As he and his village grows with more dragons, their land gets crowded and they become a greater target for their enemies. They always have a plan to escape from what situation they get into and they come up with a backup plan when it’s needed the most.

Hiccup becomes to be the leader of his village when his the time comes and he realizes that Toothless, his dragon, also needs a partner as he already has one. He also leans to let go when time comes and Hiccup only wants what is the best for his scaley retiled best friend.

They didn’t put The Hidden World in the title for nothing. Hiccup played by Jay Baruchel and his partner Astrid played by America Ferrara go to find Toothless when he was not returning home and they fly into a waterfall. They find countless different dragons that they never discovered before and they soon see Toothless with a white light fury, who becomes to be his mate that he always wanted and finally found.  

A great series can’t end without fighting the antagonist and having an ending that will surely make this trilogy the greatest to those dragon lovers.

Many people say that books are always better than movies, and sometimes they can be right about that. The book series has been around since the early 2000s and it has gained a great amount of popularity since its first release by Cressida Cowell. This PG-rated film brings back those memories that you have from being a young child and liking the fantasy world. If you watch all three movies together, then you might be able to see how each character has changed since the beginning and their true colors will show. I recommend this movie and the other two to anyone who wants to feel like a child again and wants to feel like how it once was when they were five years old again. This movie might even have you believe in things that you may once believe in at the end and bring your younger sibling, so that they may too also enjoy that moment of cherishing of time traveling of being a child again.

By Yohali Arias-Martinz

Leaving Neverland Sheds Light on the Jackson Case

Most people know about the Michael Jackson controversy regarding his alleged abuse of children. The scandal has been the butt of any joke regarding Jackson since the details were first revealed back in the early ‘90s. However, the majority of his fans have never heard the personal stories of the accusers and what they claim to have been through, which is where the new HBO documentary Leaving Neverland comes into play.

From the very start, the documentary lets the audience know the focus is not on Jackson himself, but the two victims–Wade Robson and James Safechuck–who detail the story of their lives leading up to the alleged abuse and how it affected their families in the years following. It is easy to talk about the subject of this documentary without having seen it, for many have done so while swaying the public opinion towards the denial of these accusers’ stories. However, the only way for society to have an educated discussion regarding his guilt or innocence is if people actually watch this documentary and see for themselves what the rumors are about.

It didn’t take long for me to be certain these men and their families were telling the truth, for you can see it written all over their faces throughout the duration of this film. Many people have said these men are lying in order to get money from Jackson’s estate, and if they are then they are the best actors in the entire world. I don‘t know how people can watch Leaving Neverland while still believing these men are lying and that Jackson is completely guiltless in this scenario.

However, the reason this documentary rises above the fray regarding journalism of this kind is due to the angle director Dan Reed takes when telling this story. He doesn’t focus on Jackson’s life, his background, or any other factors that would cause the audience to sympathize with him or his situation. Reed did not make this movie as a Michael Jackson biography or exposé, but as a film that gives long overdue awareness for child abuse and how the abused are mentally affected. Even though the film makes it clear that Jackson is a famous pop artist, he is simply treated as the predator that changed the lives of his victims, and not the subject of his own story.

By reputation only, Leaving Neverland is an exposé that accuses Michael Jackson of various crimes, but in reality it a piece that brings light to the struggles of child abuse victims, and how the abuse stays with them throughout their lives. The abuse was not only physical but mental. Jackson manipulated the kids’ minds into thinking the sexual acts were for their benefit, and even had them fighting over each other in order to win his affections. The boys did not even think of the abuse as negative until 25 years later, which is when they first came out against Jackson to the public. Every facet of this widely known case is covered in excruciating detail, and all from the eyes of two men who will never fully recover from one man’s perverted way of expressing himself.

Never before has child abuse been portrayed in this truthful and personal a manner, which is why Leaving Neverland is one of the more important pieces of journalism in the past couple of years. The recognition that this issue deserves is long overdue, and the many victims of childhood sexual abuse that exist in society have needed a change regarding the stigma that has plagued them for so long. As stated in the epilogue to the film hosted by Oprah Winfrey, one in six men have experienced some kind of childhood sexual abuse, and more people like Wade Robson and James Safechuck exist than most people are willing to admit.

Leaving Neverland is an essential film for anybody that looked at the Jackson case and had even a slight doubt in their mind that the allegations were true; it is essential for those that do not realize the true magnitude of childhood sexual abuse all over the world; and it is paramount that more people support victims with similar stories in their community. This story does not stop at Michael Jackson: it is far broader. While not a perfect film (chronological issues near the beginning), anybody who is not aware and who can take in the graphic details should watch this movie and understand the mental stigmas that are unnecessarily applied to cases similar to this.

By Joel Alexander-Student Life Editor

Is Parent Hovering Helpful or Harmful

PRO

Throughout history, society has developed many different styles of parenting, one of the most controversial being helicopter parenting. Merriam-Webster defines a helicopter parent as “a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child.” Helicopter parents are often given a bad rap in society. While this is understandable, it’s also  slightly unfair when you look past the surface.

Do you ever wonder why your parents are always hovering over your shoulder? It may be annoying, but  many kids need to realize that their parents love them and just want to protect them. Every good parent wants the best for their child, and  may express this feeling in different ways . Helicopter parents usually have good intentions, even if they seem over-controlling.

Many benefits can come out of helicopter parenting. For one, helicopter parents are always around and trying to be part of their child’s lives. This gives the child a support system that they can always rely on. Parents who aren’t always there  can leave their children feeling alone and unwanted. For example, there’s a recurring movie cliche in which wealthy parents spend no time with their child, leaving the child to resort to bad deeds to get their attention. On the other side, there’s another family with stricter parents that may annoy the kids at times, but the kids are happier because their parents are around, caring for them.

Helicopter parents also keep their child in check. Without  strict parents making sure their kids are behaving themselves, there would be a bunch of immature, chaotic kids running through the streets. Parents that let their children do whatever they want are not raising model citizens, and if their child continues to think they can get away with anything, they will carry this attitude into their adulthood.

Helicopter parents are often known to force their children to participate in multiple  activities as well as require the child to perform well in school. While this may seem harsh at the moment, it is really beneficial to the child’s future.

In regards to participating in activities, it gives the child the opportunity to gain different skills and experiences. A free environment is created in which they can  fail and learn from these failures. Meanwhile, children who are not introduced to these things will stay in a little bubble called their comfort zone; they often won’t do things they think they’ll be bad at or dislike and therefore, never have any true learning experiences.

Enforcing good school performance also benefits the child as it provides an open, more promising future . If the child is slacking in school and their parents aren’t watching , their attitude towards work will only worsen, giving them a hard time to get into college let alone find a job. In the short-term, the constant nagging about good grades may be tough but the future is bright and helicopter parents know this.

Many disagree with this viewpoint, saying that parents who always control their kids’ lives take away a child’s independence and ability to choose for themselves. All these are valid points that can be found true and I won’t deny that. Yet, kids are kids and their brains are still developing.They need some sort of guidance in making decisions because they won’t always make wise ones. They can learn from what their parents have taught them, and if they want to change their beliefs once they have the opportunity, they can. Helicopter parents aren’t going to always be on your back, usually, they are just trying to fly you down a safe path.

Situations with helicopter parents vary from person to person. Helicopter parents have their benefits but there are some situations in which they can be too extreme. I believe it is important for a parent to be strict to an extent at which the child is not turning into a crazy monkey, jumping through trees. That level of discipline will label the parent as a helicopter parent, but I don’t see anything wrong with that as long as the discipline is kept at a reasonable level. The most important thing is that the child is safe and happy.

By Rachel Singleton-News Editor

CON

Throughout history, society has developed many different styles of parenting, one of the most controversial being helicopter parenting. Merriam-Webster defines a helicopter parent as “a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child.” Helicopter parents are often given a bad rap in society. While this is understandable, it’s also  slightly unfair when you look past the surface.

Do you ever wonder why your parents are always hovering over your shoulder? It may be annoying, but  many kids need to realize that their parents love them and just want to protect them. Every good parent wants the best for their child, and  may express this feeling in different ways . Helicopter parents usually have good intentions, even if they seem over-controlling.

Many benefits can come out of helicopter parenting. For one, helicopter parents are always around and trying to be part of their child’s lives. This gives the child a support system that they can always rely on. Parents who aren’t always there  can leave their children feeling alone and unwanted. For example, there’s a recurring movie cliche in which wealthy parents spend no time with their child, leaving the child to resort to bad deeds to get their attention. On the other side, there’s another family with stricter parents that may annoy the kids at times, but the kids are happier because their parents are around, caring for them.

Helicopter parents also keep their child in check. Without  strict parents making sure their kids are behaving themselves, there would be a bunch of immature, chaotic kids running through the streets. Parents that let their children do whatever they want are not raising model citizens, and if their child continues to think they can get away with anything, they will carry this attitude into their adulthood.

Helicopter parents are often known to force their children to participate in multiple  activities as well as require the child to perform well in school. While this may seem harsh at the moment, it is really beneficial to the child’s future.

In regards to participating in activities, it gives the child the opportunity to gain different skills and experiences. A free environment is created in which they can  fail and learn from these failures. Meanwhile, children who are not introduced to these things will stay in a little bubble called their comfort zone; they often won’t do things they think they’ll be bad at or dislike and therefore, never have any true learning experiences.

Enforcing good school performance also benefits the child as it provides an open, more promising future . If the child is slacking in school and their parents aren’t watching , their attitude towards work will only worsen, giving them a hard time to get into college let alone find a job. In the short-term, the constant nagging about good grades may be tough but the future is bright and helicopter parents know this.

Many disagree with this viewpoint, saying that parents who always control their kids’ lives take away a child’s independence and ability to choose for themselves. All these are valid points that can be found true and I won’t deny that. Yet, kids are kids and their brains are still developing.They need some sort of guidance in making decisions because they won’t always make wise ones. They can learn from what their parents have taught them, and if they want to change their beliefs once they have the opportunity, they can. Helicopter parents aren’t going to always be on your back, usually, they are just trying to fly you down a safe path.

Situations with helicopter parents vary from person to person. Helicopter parents have their benefits but there are some situations in which they can be too extreme. I believe it is important for a parent to be strict to an extent at which the child is not turning into a crazy monkey, jumping through trees. That level of discipline will label the parent as a helicopter parent, but I don’t see anything wrong with that as long as the discipline is kept at a reasonable level. The most important thing is that the child is safe and happy.

By Catherine Smith-Staff Reporter

Fighting with My Family Is a Boring Cliché

Over the past year, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been taking over Hollywood with his mindless action films and various comedies; so it was only natural that at some point he would make a film about his own career and talents in the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). His role as producer in the new sports biopic Fighting with my Family–which documents the true story of famous wrestler Paige (real name Saraya Bevis)–resonates through the entire film due to his obvious influence over the creation of it and his brief cameo as himself.

However, the film isn’t supposed to be about The Rock or the WWE, even though it ends up being just that. The audience is led through Saraya Knight’s rise to power, and how she became the youngest woman to win the Divas Championship Title at only 21. For reasons unknown to me, the writer of this film changed Saraya Bevis’ real name to Saraya Knight. Knight was the surname of her early stage name, and the makers of Fighting with my Family must have thought it was a more accessible name than Bevis, so they made it the entire family’s name. This is one of many decisions that confuses me throughout this film’s runtime. I understand that some liberties must be taken when telling a true story in order to make it more interesting and accessible, but so many are taken here that some parts of the movie are pure fiction with no resemblance to the actual events.

Fighting with my Family does get a lot of things right–in particular, the casting. All of the acting in this movie is excellent, and frankly, the product as a whole is much better because of all the performances. Florence Pugh (Outlaw King, The Commuter) plays Knight (Bevis) with ease, making her job look easier than it actually is. Jack Lowden (Dunkirk, Calibre) gives a typically powerful performance as the brother of the female protagonist even though his character is taken in a mundane and overused direction that grated on the pacing of the film. Vince Vaughn also shines as the snappy coach for the NXT program with the best jokes in the film, and Dwayne Johnson is hilarious despite his minuscule screen-time.

Writer/director Stephen Merchant brings his signature wit to the film’s script, which also helps it become more watchable than if they had created a stoney-faced sports biopic. After all, Merchant penned much of The Office, which is the gold standard when it comes to modern comedy. However, it doesn’t seem that Merchant can structure a plot as well as he can tell jokes, for the repetition and seen-it-before mentality of the plot drags this movie down. Any person who has seen an inspirational sports movie will know, step for step, the route this movie is going to take before it even makes the turns. As each pivotal scene starts, I could immediately tell whether the protagonist was going to embarrass herself or come out victorious, and I was heavily disappointed to find I was right every time.

The amount of cliché that Fighting with my Family contains makes the historical inaccuracies of the story all that more pointless. If they had stuck to the true story with relative accuracy, then the producers would have had an original and solid film on their hands. The second half of the film, in particular, was so cookie-cutter (she hits a low point because she thinks she isn’t good enough; brother, father & mother make rousing speeches; she gains the courage to try again; etc.) that I was wanting her to succeed just so the movie would be over. The good and essential messages it expresses (people who don’t look like a supermodel are often excluded without regard for their talent; the average person isn’t as simple as they look) are overshadowed by the boring plotline, and there isn’t enough thematically to get me to remember this movie in a month.

Apparently, Dwayne Johnson was inspired to pursue this project when he saw the 2012 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting with my Family, which details the same events that this movie covers, but with far more accuracy (obviously). Watching this documentary was supposedly the first he heard of this story, which also means his cameo in this movie would have had to be entirely fictionalized. I wouldn’t mind this much if the film didn’t imply near the end that Johnson had a major part to play in getting Paige famous. It gives Johnson and Vince Vaughn’s character (who is also fictionalized) much of the credit for her breakout, and this takes away much of the kudos that Saraya Bevis deserves for her own fame. This film should empower her, but it instead decides to further inflate Johnson’s ego and become a big advertisement for the WWE.

To be fair, Fighting with my Family is a good easy watch, and it would probably be sufficient to have on in the background at a party or if something mindless is needed to watch out of boredom. However, any originality that could be squeezed out of Saraya Bevis’ story is mostly voided by the Hollywood commercialization of the piece. Look for the performances when watching, and Google Jack Lowden and Florence Pugh, because both of those actors are going to places far better than Fighting with my Family. As much as this film tries to overcome its flaws with its inspirational story and passionate performances, the over-adherence to boring clichés drags it down to the average and forgettable territory.

By Joel Alexander-Student Life Editor

Jenkins Creates Flawless Film “If Beales Street Could Talk”

Fledgling director Barry Jenkins took the world by storm with his 2016 masterpiece Moonlight, winning the best picture Oscar of that year. Now after two years he has released his highly-anticipated follow-up: If Beale Street Could Talk. In Moonlight, though centered in Florida, Jenkins organically introduces a story that gives viewers an insight into the African-American experience in many areas around the states. With his new film, Jenkins zeroes in on the flawed prison system by adapting James Baldwin’s famous novel of the same name.

The storyline follows Tish, a pregnant girl whose father has been incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Half of the film takes place in present day and deals with various struggles revolving around the newfound pregnancy, while the other half is told in flashback, and shows Tish and Fonny’s blossoming relationship before it all went wrong. Jenkins structures the story perfectly, with each flashback sequence giving context to the subsequent present-day scenes they accompany. Knowing what is to come during the flashback scenes adds a sense of dread, but does not stop each scene from displaying the chemistry of actors Stephen James and Regina King beautifully.

Like he does in Moonlight, Jenkins shines light on new actors who haven’t yet gotten their share of the limelight by giving each and every role breathing room to become their own important character. Smaller characters such as Fonny’s friend (Brian Tyree Henry of Atlanta) who is still scarred from his time in prison and from the evil that reared its head from the white prosecutors make up important pieces of the puzzle that Jenkins assembles.His style of direction often involves extreme close-ups of the actors’ faces, which means there can be no false move from the actors. Luckily, Jenkins picks performers who can hold up their end of the bargain; especially Stephen James, who shines as the main character who slowly realizes how hopeless his situation is as the film goes on.

Even though If Beale Street Could Talk is based on a novel, the film unfolds like a stage play. One standout scene in particular exemplifies that, in which the family of Tish must confront Fonny’s family regarding the pregnancy. The blocking and writing are top-notch during this wildly uncomfortable and contentious scene. Every actor carries their part well including the miniscule characters, such as Tish’s sister, who makes quite an impact with every line delivered.

Many important themes permeate throughout this film, including the implication that religion may not be there to save everyone, the effect of grief on a victim of a tragic event, and, most importantly, the systematic problems with the American prison system. If Beale Street Could Talk may take place in the 1970s, but this problem is just as prevalent in today’s society, which is why Jenkins thought it right to release the movie decades later. What happens to Fonny is completely out of his control, and the movie, despite its themes of love and happiness near the beginning, slowly starts to exert a feeling of hopelessness. The white system leaves black people all across the country helpless to argue or complain about their place in society, which leaves too many people in situations where they must deal with the repercussions of an action they didn’t even have anything to do with just because of the color of their skin.

Jenkins is such a precise director that it is hard to find anything wrong with this film. He makes even the smallest moment feel magical and life-altering, such as a heartwarming father-daughter moment in which Tish is getting ill and her father must comfort her. Maybe one of the only flaws would be that the ending scene is anticlimactic and not particularly memorable, which leaves the movie on a forgettable note, but this pales in comparison to the overall message the film sends. If Beale Street Could Talk is an important film that examines race relations in America today via the broken prison system. The awards attention this film is getting is justified, though instead of constantly nominating Regina King, they should be nominating Stephen James. Jenkins proves that he is not a one-and-done filmmaker with his second tour-de-force in a row, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment/Student Life Editor