Category Archives: viewpoint

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


Black History Month Appreciation

Black History Month is important because it reminds us to appreciate our ancestors that fought for our rights. We are blessed to have a month dedicated to impacting events in history. It started off as “Negro History Week” and transcended to the whole month of February. This month is a step up from the measly week we used to have. It feels so good to see black citizens now treated equally. For at a time, they were considered property and nothing more.

This year’s Black History Month is very important because it is the 400-year anniversary of when slaves were first brought to America. The events that took place so many years ago shouldn’t be censored, but rather learned from. America should be grateful to the men and women who fought for freedom and desegregation for a long time. It is thanks to them that people of color now have to same rights as any other U.S. citizen. Realizing how far the U.S. has come in achieving equality for all puts into perspective of the sacrifices abolitionists made. This new generation has now been handed the torch of equality.

The glory days aren’t here yet, though. People are still fighting for peace and equality, and they will never throw in the towel because they are fighting for what this country needs: unity. Americans are taught to love and accept all no matter their differences. To never see color, only see the heart: All people bleed, cry, and feel the same regardless. Peoples’ lives have changed for the better because of past abolitionists who valiantly sacrificed their lives so all can be equal. If it weren’t for their determination to have racial equality, America would never have known how to love each other despite color differences.

by Kendon Sheppard–Contributor

Gillette: Is the Best a Commercial Can Get?

Gillette’s well-known slogan,“The Best A Man Can Get,” has been around since it was launched in an ad in the Super Bowl of 1989. Since then, it’s been used to show men that the Gillette razor is the best razor men could possibly buy, and it would help them look their best. Recently the razor company flipped their slogan and posed it as a question in a new commercial asking: “Is this the best a man can get?” You’ve probably heard about the commercial titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be,” which depicts scenes of boys bullying other boys, and men harassing women in various situations. In the commercial everyone laughs or shrugs the instances off, saying the age-old phrase “boys will be boys.” The commercial then asks the question: “Is this the best men can be?” However, the mood of the commercial changes as a father breaks up two boys fighting at a cookout, and a man stops another man from catcalling a woman on the street. There was a great deal of controversy and backlash from many different people. Many men posted on Twitter they would no longer be using Gillette and even started the hashtag “#boycottgillette.”

Many thought Gillette should not have published such a political ad, and that the campaign was a very poor marketing ploy. Gillette is a huge name brand with millions of men and boys using their products, so a commercial asking men to step up and be the best they can be is perfect for such a well-known men’s razor company. The controversy comes from how the commercial made the men watching feel attacked with the condescending tone it appeared to display as it “tore men down.” Yet, the commercial is not about tearing men down, it’s about tearing down society’s mentality that actions such as bullying and harassment are just “boys being boys.” Gillette didn’t try to state that every man is toxic like the ones in the commercial; Gillette was stating that society brushes these characteristics off. We need to start holding boys accountable so they don’t continue these destructive behaviors and the belief that such behaviors are okay in future generations. We need to teach boys that they don’t need to tear each other down and that it’s not right to treat women the way they’ve been treated for years. Men are perceived as needing to be tough and strong all the time, and Gillette is trying to change that.

The company stated that their intention was to “challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man.” Many believe the commercial was saying that the actions displayed are traits all men have, but that’s not it at all. Those who did not receive the commercial well are the exact people Gillette wanted to see it. Those who felt attacked and are now trying to boycott Gillette seem to believe being held accountable for bullying and sexual harassment or assault is a bad thing. If you believe you are not one of the men in the commercial and that you are better than the toxic actions in the commercial, then prove it. Stand up for one another and hold each other accountable. Tell your friends, brothers, and anyone who needs to hear it. Challenge society’s backwards mantra: “boys will be boys.” Show everyone what it really means to be a man.

By Faith Jones – Contributor

Student Censorship Violates the Right to Know

Throughout history, students have been censored on certain topics administrators find “controversial” or inappropriate. In some cases students have been intimidated to self-censor their articles that would have caused controversy among the readers. Readers have their own opinions, while journalists have their own, in the majority of occasions bias is excluded unless an article is based on opinions. The problem is that these articles have an impact and purpose that will never reach their peers or community. Due to the censorship created in order to avoid the scandals a blockade has been placed, known as censorship.

In 1988, the principal of Hazelwood East High School censored from the students a special issue by not allowing them to publish topics on teen pregnancy and the impact of divorce on students. The student staff sued. The U.S. District court said the students’ First Amendments were not violated. After this incident had occurred, the administrative control on student speech widely expanded.

Student shouldn’t be required to censor articles or topics if time and effort was invested into an article. It was made with a purpose and has an impact to make. If the impact is prevented or blocked from reaching an audience with a right to know, consequences are certain to follow.

According to the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the free exercise of the press is considered against the law. Due to the fact that these are school-sponsored publications, school officials have certain standards they must meet before they can legally censor a students publication under the First Amendments. These standards were set after many school cases went through this situation.

The annual Super Bowl gives an opportunity for many appealing commercials to be produced. Recently during the 2019 Super Bowl, The Washington Post bought a 60-second commercial. This commercial displayed events from World War II to the present, the narrator described the journalists as eyewitnesses and fact-gatherers. The ad ended with the Washington Post’s logo and the quote “democracy dies in darkness.” Past footage of major events and journalists that were killed also were recognized in the commercial.

Journalists risk their lives from day to day to bring the people the information they deserve and this commercial served as a way to deliver the message to a broader audience. Our community and citizens of the country have the right to know what is going on. Whether it’s locally or nationally the news should get out to the people. As we all know, news won’t always be good news or news we want to hear. Yet we all want to know what our society is facing and the issues that need solving.

By Amanda Arellano – Staff Reporter

A Spoonful of Salt

Mary Poppins has been a classic ever since it was brought into the world through P.L. Travers’ book series in 1934, followed by Walt Disney’s film adaptation. The 1964 film was very successful, winning five academy awards and becoming the highest grossing film of the year. With the film carrying such popularity, filmmakers though to put out a sequel. On December 19, 2018, “Mary Poppins Returns” debuted in theatres all over the US. Despite the excitement surrounding the follow up film, questions have been raised as to if the sequel can match the classic.

The story follows the lives of now-grown Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw). The two follow in their parents footsteps, with Jane being an activist and Michael working at the bank. Michael continues to live in the house that belonged to his parents where he raises his children, Annabel, John and George Banks (Joel Dawson, Nathanael Saleh and Pixie Davies), alone due to his wife’s death. As certain conflicts arise, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to aid the Banks family. Holding true to the original, Mary Poppins, the kids go on magical adventures along with lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Mary Poppins Returns is full of references from the first movie. All the hidden and obvious details brought on a lot of nostalgia. It was especially exciting to see Dick Van Dyke’s guest appearance. While all this is good, it came to a point at which the general plot and characters basically matched the first film. The storyline was almost an exact replica of Disney’s original Mary Poppins. The only difference was a slight variation in conflict.
One could say the details differed, but like the plot, only slightly. Each character is basically a doppelgänger of the original cast. The songs were decent musical numbers, but it also felt like they were trying too hard to mirror the original film. A number sung by Jack and the leeries called “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” was supposed to be the newer version of the famous “Step in Time.” While the song was decent, no song could ever compare to “Step in Time,” and this goes for almost all other songs when compared to their original counterparts.

Some may believe mimicking the original is vital to keeping the magic and mystery that was the original film. While this is true to a certain extent, here it was overdone. It felt like I was watching a cheesier remake of the first movie.
One particular scene that I didn’t mind them bringing back however was the 2D animation chalk scene found in the original Mary Poppins, which came out better than before. Today’s new technology combined with the calling in of the original animators of the movie allowed for a truly amazing scene. The scene was colorful, detailed, and evoked a real feeling of nostalgia.

Another observation regarding the animated scene is the costume design. According to costume designer Sandy Powell, she wanted to do something new and unique for this scene. She felt that the characters in the original didn’t blend well with the scene, and wanted a better blend. Powell came up with the genius idea of painting the costumes. Although it took a lot of work, I believe it was well worth it. The costumes were colorful and blended well with the scene while also contrasting enough to allow the characters to stand out.

I was a bit worried for Emily Blunt, wondering how she was going to pull off the timeless role of Mary Poppins. After watching the film, I believe she did her best. Blunt did maintain the essence of the original Mary Poppins while adding a few things of her own. For one, she added a slight snarkiness to the character. While it made the film slightly more comedic, it also took away from the amiable nature of Mary Poppins. While some may prefer this, I was saddened because as a kid, I always saw Mary Poppins as a kindly, motherly figure and seeing her change was painful. Despite this, Blunt still did very well playing Mary Poppins as it is a very hard role to live up to.

On its own, the movie was average. It didn’t stand out as exceptional, but wasn’t completely terrible despite it being a bit underwhelming. I didn’t have extremely high expectations in the first place, but I did have a small hope that this sequel would not be as bad as most sequels are. I would recommend seeing the movie if you are feeling nostalgic. However, I wouldn’t set my expectations too high, unless you are new to Mary Poppins altogether.

by Rachel Singleton–News Editor

Birdbox Offers Thrill

Apparently, what you cannot see CAN hurt you. Or at least that’s what the new Netflix original film Bird Box claims. Starring Sandra Bullock, this sci-fi thriller was highly anticipated for many Netflix subscribers, seeing as how it has the highest starting viewership of any original Netflix film. The plot is intriguing: An unknown entity spreads across the world and forces those who look at it to kill themselves. What the affected people see is left unknown, but it is implied to be their greatest fear, thus causing them to find the easiest way to end their life.

Last year, the popular Netflix film was Bright, which was another disappointment; it’s good to see that Netflix has learned their lesson and released a good film. Bird Box is a fun, fast-paced, and tense thriller that is absolutely perfect for viewers to watch. The film stars Sandra Bullock as a pregnant mother who gets caught up in the disaster, and who eventually gets stuck in a house with a number of strangers she doesn’t know. The film cuts back and forth between this plot line and one five years in the future, in which Bullock and two children are trying to get to a sanctuary via river while blindfolded.

Compliments to give this film go to Bullock’s electric performance. She is great in all of her other works, and this is no exception. In a scene near the end, she elevates the writing given to her in a powerful scene in a forest, and does this all without the use of her eyes. The other standout is Trevante Rhodes as one of the more prominent characters in the house that the majority of the film is set in. He was magnificent in Moonlight, and he shines just as much here.

Luckily, the film’s overall plot and tense nature are more than enough to get the audience through any slowness. No performance in Bird Box is lackluster, but the writing for some of the characters can be trite. In particular, Machine Gun Kelly and Rosa Salazar are both given very little material to work with, and their presence is a hindrance to the progress of the film. I understand why they were included, but I felt little empathy for their situation. Some characters are just thrown in the script, like Jacki Weaver, who has no reason to be in the film. Others are just cliché, like John Malkovich’s character. Malkovich plays the jerk, and it just feels like he’s included in the film in order to create unnecessary conflict. Later in the film, he does get redemption, which makes up for many of the cliche writing earlier on, but it still feels like the writers were trying to make the film longer for no reason.

Luckily, the film’s overall plot and tense nature are more than enough to get the audience through any slowness, and it never gets boring.
One aspect of Bird Box that I especially appreciate is the lack of CGI and tired green screen effects. Almost the entirety of the film is done with only one exception, and this adds to the authenticity of the situation. Even the scenes on the raging river with a blindfolded Sandra Bullock have no green screen to be found, which contributes to the gorgeous cinematography.
However, this leads me to my biggest issue with Bird Box: The structure degrades the suspense. When the audience is shown Bullock five years in the future with two kids, they know exactly who is going to live and die. This does add a bit of dread to the narrative since the deaths are predictable, but this also lessens the impact of scenes that could have been riveting, but are passable. The film eventually catches up to itself, and that is where it gets the most exciting for me, which was around the final thirty minutes.

Bird Box is still a very well-made thriller, but I feel certain aspects of the story could have been rearranged in order to make a more non-stop thrill ride. The film is still a fun watch, and I definitely recommend taking the time to give you and some friends an anxiety-filled two hours.

by Joel Alexander–Student Life Editor

Lil Baby Delivers for Hip-hop Enthusiasts

On November 30th, Lil Baby, a rapper from Atlanta, Georgia,  dropped a new album called Street Gossip. Lil Baby’s last album was Drip Harder, which is a collab with Gunna. Which was released almost a month before Street Gossip.

Lil Baby has been featured on many songs with a lot of artists who are on the top of the list like Gunna and Young Thug. When he entered the game of rap, many people quickly took sight of Lil Baby. His voice was something different, and is something that fans of hip hop wanted to hear, something new. Lil Baby has been teasing fans by releasing leaks of his new album for a while.

I personally like the album, the rappers he includes make new vibes in the songs. The beats of the songs vary in the album and that’s what I enjoy in the album. My personal favorite is Ready featuring Gunna because the vibe of Lil Baby when he comes in is a new voice I have never heard before from him. What I like Lil Baby is that each song in the album gets you a different kind of vibe. When I hear the songs myself, I start to get different feelings to it. I get a chill vibe, or sometimes the beats hits hard and Lil Baby’s voice just goes on with it no matter what type of beat it produces. Street Gossip opens up with “Global” which gives the listeners a certain type of image of Lil Baby’s mental state. What is interesting in Street Gossip, is the type of instruments he adds to his songs like “Pure Cocaine”, which gives the interest of a lot of listeners.

When the features are introduced in the songs, they all have a different tone in each song. And how Lil Baby approaches after, gives the listeners a hype feeling. When Lil Baby approaches, he approaches in a different type of way on every feature in a song. This is what we want to hear. I like personally how Lil Baby’s voice changes in certain type of songs. It gives us what we want.

2018 has been the ultimate come up for Lil Baby, releasing large amount of songs with different quantity of beats. There is no doubt that Lil Baby is one of the top breakout artist in Hip-Hop 2018.

by Luis Rodriguez–Staff Reporter