Category Archives: opinion

Drew and McKenna Movie Challenge 2

by William McKenna/Guest Writer


# 1 Dune 2021

I have been told about how great the Dune series of books is for over 40 years and I have yet to read them and likely never will. Even when I was in the Sci-Fi book club I avoided it. Why… way too much work. Trying to keep up with the House of this and the House of that and the trade routes and the spice. I’ve seen the David Lynch version of the book from 1984. I have also seen the great documentary Jodrowsky’s Dune which I highly recommend… so I am quite aware of the Dune universe. YES I know that George Lucas was inspired by some of the things from Dune when he made Star Wars. I get it…people love Dune. People love 50 Shades of Grey and I haven’t read that either. I’m more of a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy type of person. So to each his own. I will try and enjoy the movie all the same.

The film features the dreamy Timothee Chalamet as some sort of chosen one type character who is thrust into a quest on the planet Arrakis. It’s the only planet that has the SPICE which I guess gives people super powers or something? The rest of the cast is rounded out by various cast members from the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe. Aquaman has pretty solid part as some sort of ultra tough warrior. Big surprise there. Mary Jane from Spider-Man I guess is the love interest. Never saw that coming? The cast is fine as they spout such epic lines as

“This is worm territory” and “worm time warning”. I guess there is a worm problem on planet Whatever.

The good guys are all nice looking people while the villains are bloated gross people with horrid table manners. I’ve never seen a movie where the characters who were disgusting when they eat were not the villain. The main villain is channeling his best Marlon Brando as he mumbles his lines and gobbles down squishy, sloppy, nasty food. He even looked like Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. “The Horror…The Horror.”

The problem with the film is that it is boring. The screenplay uses way too much exposition. Characters walk in the room and describe various this and that so the viewer can understand why the heck we should give a flip about the SPICE or fear the sand worms. A novel works in its own universe and often does not translate to screen. Dune is a prime example of a book that just doesn’t translate cinematically. Though Star Wars covers many similar themes it is written specifically for the screen and works great. The screenplay for Dune a is like a long walk in the desert because the story spends a long time with characters talking about the desert and walking and occasionally running around in the endless desert avoiding the giant worms.

The film has the expected cinematography and production design. The special effects look like stuff you have seen in other movies. The desert scenes are OK but the entire film is shot too dark. I kept wondering why nobody ever turned on a light. I guess space people can see in the dark.

The film ends with out any sort of climax as that has to happen in the next film. The novel is long and dense and the 2 hour 35 minute running time for the film isn’t enough time to tell the story. So I guess I will have to wait till the next film to find out why I should care about anything that happened in this film. Timothee never even rides the giant worm…oops that’s a spoiler for the next film.

The film is fine overall; it’s just not a movie that interested me. I’m still not sure what the story is really about outside of people really loving them some SPICE and be careful or you might get eaten by a giant worm.

# 2 A Taste of Honey 1961

This is a film about a school girl left to take care of herself when her mother remarries. It’s directed by Tony Richardson. This is a gritty drama for it’s time and features a bi-racial romance that would have been controversial in 1961.

Well-shot and directed the film moves along at a good pace but finds a way for the viewer to connect with the characters. Jo, played by Rita Tushingham, carries the film as she plays a 17- year-old just trying to feel loved in the little spot she occupies on the planet. She has a relationship with Jimmy who is a sailor that leads to a pregnancy. He ships out and there she is by herself to have a baby alone.

Jo quits school gets a job and befriends Geoffrey, played by Murray Melvin, who is gay which also would have been controversial in 1961. The two form a little family that brings some needed stability to Jo. Though Geoff is gay he is dedicated to Jo and is willing to marry her though they are not in love.

The stability is shattered when Jo’s mother returns after her recent marriage collapses. The mother chases off Geoff and Jo is once again trapped in the cycle of disfunction with her awful mother with the only person who cared about her gone.

The film uses upbeat childlike music throughout which is interesting as the situations the characters are in seem hopeless. Jo is a child and it works almost like an inner monologue reminding us that even though Jo is pregnant and taking care of herself…she is just a child.

Many scenes in the film feature children playing games and doing kid things. Jo is a kid herself but her situation keeps her from being in that world even though she wishes she could. Jo is frightened of the responsibility being a mother brings as she has never had any stability in her own life.

Will there be a happy ending for Jo and her child? That’s a question that is not answered as the film ends. All that is certain is that Jo is on her own just as she was when the film began.

#3 Spencer 2021

On August 31st 1997…I know exactly where I was when Princess Diana died in a tragic car crash in a tunnel in Paris. I had come in and worked a Saturday at WRTV 6. Though it was Sunday the 31st in Paris, the time difference made it only Saturday in Indianapolis. I recall clear as day just before we were going to air the producer that night, Jenny, in a voice of shock saying “Oh, my God, she’s dead!” We stayed with network from then on out. That’s an important story to keep in mind as I give my thoughts on Spencer, a movie about Princess Diana’s fictional Christmas with her awful husband and in-laws. I have no interest in royal people…I think it’s absolute nonsense. Princess Diana, on the other hand, had been a kindergarten teacher and seemed to be just a regular normal person trying to do her best every day. By her own accounts she just wanted a family and be a good mother and wife. Unfortunately, she was involved with the wrong man for that. I’m not likely to give the royal family a break in this review.

The film opens with Princess Diana, played as best she can by Kristen Stewart, arriving late for a Christmas weekend at a cold English estate. She does what she can with the accent and the immaculate style of Diana. Stewart controls every scene she is in and demands attention as it’s all happening from her point of view. It’s a tough role as Princess Diana meant so many different things to so many different people. I’m guessing nobody will ever be able to really capture how complex Princess Diana actually was but Stewart is all in on her effort.

Diana is completely aware that Prince Charles is having an affair with another woman. He even gives his lover the same gifts he gives his wife. He has no problem humiliating her. Diana is a strong but abused woman. She entered a marriage with the proper intentions but her husband did not.

The story unfolds with preposterous ceremony in a family Christmas weekend, everything so formal and lifeless. Diana was just too bright a light for the pompous, cold, dark royal family. The estate is poorly lit with centuries of old artifacts. The dinner scene with the family is so formal and soul-sucking I was hoping somebody might pass gas to lighten the mood.

The production design is top-notch. Even though it takes place in a large estate, the environment gives off a stifling claustrophobia that closes in on Diana in every scene. As soon as she enters the house she is in by all accounts a haunted house of horrors. This help set the mood for Diana’s state of mind thoughout the weekend. It’s known that Princess Diana had mental health issues intensified by her environment.

The rest of the cast fulfills their roles as best they can. The royals come off as cold, lifeless ghouls. That is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s how they exist in the story as it unfolds around Diana. The actors who play the help are the only people Diana connects with on a human level. Sally Hawkins as Maggie is Diana’s only friend and confidant and she is great in the role.

The best scenes are with Diana and her children William and Henry. Above all else Diana wanted to be a good mother and her children are the only family she has that weekend that loves her. She was suffering through it all in hopes things would work out for the children.

Scenes with Prince Charles are tense as would be expected under the circumstances. It’s a thankless role as he is truly the villain in this relationship . He keeps trying to control his wife while living as he pleases. There is simply no love. Charles goes on about doing things for the good of the country but is willing to do nothing for the good of his family.

There are lots of really good scenes as Diana begins to break free from the confines of royal life. An unapproved visit to her childhood home reminds her of her joyful youth. She simply has to be her own person. By the end of the film she gathers her children and returns to London. In a call back to an opening scene where Princess Diana pulls an old coat off a weathered scarecrow as a sort of contrast to her immaculate image, she drives past it and this time the scarecrow is dressed in her clothes. She is leaving it all behind. The film ends with Diana not knowing what her future would be. Of course I know what happens so it makes the events of the film that much sadder.

This is not a movie I would usually be interested in but Stewart is so engaging that it’s really pretty good. The directing is fine but it’s the power in Kristen Stewart’s performance that drives the film. It’s stylized and at times borders on hallucinatory but feels real at the same time. That is tough to do.

#4 Portrait of a Lady on Fire …2019

Portrait of a Lady On Fire is like any film where a painter comes to paint the portrait of a person on an island. From the start you know they are going to end up in a romantic entanglement . This film is very predictable from the very start. Marianne arrives on the island to paint the portrait of Heloise who is about to be forced into a marriage to some guy she doesn’t love. Has there ever been a movie or story been made about a beautiful young woman being forced to marry some guy by her family where the viewer is like “Yeah, this is great”?

The film is directed by Celine Sciamm. The production design and setting is spectacular and enhances the story of forbidden love that is being presented. The film is a period piece that takes place sometime in the 18th century. The women are stunning in the fashions of the day, all of which informs who the characters are and their status in the strict social structure.

The film is interesting in that it is strictly from the women’s point of view. The story is about women and the relationships they form with each other and the value society puts on them. Heloise does not want to sit for her portrait as she knows when it’s finished she will have to get married and she will have to compromise her own identity to fit social norms of the day. Marrianne also has few options as a woman of her era to be free as she would like to be as well. Over time the two women embrace their own desires and enter into a relationship. It’s not presented as something salacious or vulgar but as two people who genuinely fall in love. Though the story is very predictable and been presented in other films where usually the male painter pursues the female subject, this film focuses more on two people finding each other as people, not just objects of lust. There are many quiet moments of the women together where the attraction grows in a much more organic and fulfilling manner.

The women only have a few days together when the mother of Heloise is away from the island where they can be free. At a gathering at a bonfire with other women Heloise’s dress briefly catches fire and she appears as a phoenix for just a brief magic moment. This of course becomes the painting the title of the film comes from as it is a symbol of the fire like passion the woman have for each other. Though the fire burns only for a short time it burned brilliant like their love.

Marrianne finishes the painting as Heloise mother returns and has to leave the island. As she leaves she turns back to see Heloise in her wedding gown. This is the last time the women will be able to show how much they love each other as both know they will be less than they could be as they will now be apart.

This is not a movie I would usually seek out but it’s a cut above the painter falling in love with the subject trope. The story is completely predictable but the directing and performances rise above the basic story elements.

#5 Happy Lazzaro 2018

This is an Italian drama directed by Alice Rohrwacher and stars Adriano Tardiolo as Lazzaro. I can tell by the grit of the film that it is well shot on 16 mm film. This gives the film a strong visual presence that informs the viewer there will likely not be many funny bits in this film. The Italian village where the film is shot looks really lived in and the grain of the film enhances the environment of these characters.

The story revolves around a group of isolated people who are being swindled by a land baron to work on a farm. The story is a kind of fairy tale. The people in village are so isolated that they do not know sharecropping is illegal and they are being exploited. The story is based on something that actually happened. They are exploited and just continue about their daily lives as best they can with little hope of improving their place in the world.

Through a series of events the villagers discover they are being swindled by the land baron. Lazzaro falls off a cliff and becomes unconscious as the other villagers are rescued from servitude. Lazzaro becomes a Rip Van Winkle figure.

Time passes and Lazzaro wakes up having not aged at all. When he goes to his old village it is abandoned and run down. He finds his way to the city where all the old villagers now live. They have fallen into terrible poverty, much worse than they had in their days of servitude in their old village. Lazzaro is very confused by what is happening and wants things to be the way they were before he went into his Rip Van Winkle sleep. He is a young man lost in time as all he knows is gone and all his friends have become old or died as he has stayed young and somewhat innocent.

Lazzaro is desperate to try and return things to the way they had been before and ends up in a bank asking that the old land baron be given back his fortune so he can return to his village. The people in the bank think it’s being robbed and beat Lazzaro to death.

The film ends with a wolf maybe running through the city into woods back to the old village…this being Lazzaro’s spirit, I guess.

Not sure what the big takeaway from the story is as things go from bad to worse to dead. The film is very well-done and shows the human spirit can be crushed in more ways than one. Not even the innocence of a good-natured young man is enough to overcome unfortunate situations. A wise man once told me, “Life is a poop sandwich and each day you take another bite. “ Poor Lazzaro and his villagers had the misfortune of actually having to eat two poop sandwiches.

In closing I would like to say I have enjoyed the journey of watching these films that Drew has picked. Most are films I most likely never would have discovered. In a time where most kids his age think Jason Momoa talking to a digital fish is high art… it’s good to see a young person finding real stories to watch. It seems that for the most part Drew likes films that are kind of downers where the characters get kicked in the head a lot by the world around them. Yes, life does have a lot of hard knocks…that is for sure. But there is also a great deal of love and happiness. Perhaps pepper in a few Steve Martin comedies from time to time to offset the misery of life films.

Squishmallow review: Cute, cuddly collectibles

by Shelby Duncan/ Staff Writer

Photo Link:

Many kids are fascinated by a new collectible called “Squishmallows. ”So, I decided to write a review on them. First things first, you may be wondering what a squishmallow is. A squishmallow is a stuffed toy that comes in many unique colors, characters, and sizes. They have just about any animal you can think of in any color, or any character you may like. They are extremely soft and they have a very squishy texture.

Zozo-photo from website:

Squishmallows are used in many ways. Some are simply a young children’s toy, some are collected and displayed, and some are just to use as a pillow or a fun bedroom decoration! It’s however you’d like! I’d say many high schoolers collect them and use them to decorate. My color guard team and I like to collect them and share them with each other. 

There are also lots of different sizes and that can make a difference on how you use them. Squishmallows come in 3.5 inch (keychain), 5 inch, 7 inch, 8 inch, 11, inch, 12 inch, 13 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch, and 24 inch. Obviously if you get the small one it may be a keychain, but if you get the largest one you could use it as a big chair or pillow! So it all depends on the combinations you may pick. Although, they are discontinuing the 13 inch soon! 

Personally, I love squishmallows. There are so many and they are really fun to collect. Although, there is ONE downside to them. The price. Squishmallows definitely aren’t cheap. For one small 8 inch size, it can range from 12-18 dollars depending on where you buy it. Other sizes can go up to 50 dollars. You may ask “Is it worth it?”

Now, as an individual I think it is worth it. But, others may not think the same. Many people think stuffed animals are not fun, or just stupid. So it really just depends on the type of person you are. If you love to collect things and you love things that are soft and irreplaceable, then you might like these!

All in all, anyone can like squishmallows. No matter your age or hobbies, squishmallows can be a fun thing to have. Squishmallows are at just about every store, so if you want to check them out try finding them at your local pharmacy or supermarket. I hope you have fun “squishing!” 

Link to Photo:

‘The DNP league’: examining underwhelming end to nba regular season

by Drew C. Smith/Staff Writer

DNP is an abbreviation used in the National Basketball Association to indicate that the player it is listed with did not play in the game.

Photo Caption: Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo cheers from the bench. Antetokounmpo sat out Sunday’s game, along with the rest of Milwaukee’s starters, against the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the Bucks losing 133-115. DAVID DERMER/AP PHOTO

It was an anti-climatic final day in the National Basketball Association this past Sunday, despite the fifteen-game slate that took up the entire afternoon, including interesting match-ups between key playoff teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies, and the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. But, the main story of the night ended up being the fact that most of these teams sat their best players and sold on the game. It relates to a much larger debate that surrounds the NBA about load-management (load-management, to clarify, is a recently coined term that essentially means “planned rest” that players often use to avoid back-to-backs and to keep them play-off ready) and star players missing games and “ruining the product.” To be fair to those who argue that, a night like Sunday is a perfect example of how load-management and sitting star players can ruin what would otherwise be an incredible end to the season; the Celtics and Grizzlies game was run on TNT, with the Grizzlies sitting their entire starting five (with exception to Ja Morant who is still recovering from an injury). 

This does not exactly represent the league in the best light to the casual viewer. But, to be fair to the teams and players who make the decision to sit out, the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs game that same Sunday night explains exactly why they choose to sit. In a meaningless game that would not affect seeding or play-in tournament contention, Luke Doncic (the Dallas Mavericks’ only all-star and an MVP candidate this year) played in the game and suffered a calf-strain that could likely put him out of the first round of the playoffs. Had he sat out, he likely would have avoided the injury and been well-rested and prepared for the Mavs’ first round matchup against the Utah Jazz. There has been much debate about whether to shorten the regular season or not for some time, with some suggesting shortening the season by ten or twelve games. 

Some have suggested much more radical changes to not only the regular season, but the playoffs. Daryl Morey, President of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, suggests shortening the regular season to fifty-eight games. “I like fifty-eight,” explained Morey on the Colin Cowherd Podcast, further dictating, “Every team plays every other team two times.” Morey has an even grander vision for the playoffs, stating, “Shorter is better. I would have it one-and-done. There’s a reason everyone tunes into every game at huge ratings in the NFL. It is literally one-and-done.” Compared to the current playoff system, that is quite a shift, and in my opinion, a shift in the wrong direction. Part of the appeal of the NBA playoffs is the seven-game series, which sees coaches and players making shifts over the course of the series and adapting to each other in a sort of chess match between the teams. 

I’m not sure shortening the season is a move in the right direction either, especially when it’s only by ten or twelve games. There are still going to be back-to-backs, there is still going to be load management, and there are still going to be nationally televised games where the all-stars are on the bench. It just happens. Teams value their superstars in the long-term much more than they value the ratings of a couple TNT or ESPN games, and I do not think they are wrong for doing so. It’s like a nice pair of all-white shoes: you only wear them occasionally, you don’t wear them when it’s muddy out, you don’t slip them on to go take out the trash, you constantly check if they have marks or stains, and you’re constantly worrying about them while you’re wearing them. Yes, it would be awesome if you could wear them all the time, but are they going to last that long if you do? Probably not.

It’s funny to think about. People look back at the careers of Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady and remark how tragic it was that their careers ended so quickly, and then turn around and call the players of today soft for sitting out of games or taking a long time to recover from injury. Hardaway played nearly every game of his career, playoffs included, before his knee blew out in the 1996-97 season. Maybe his career could have been lengthened had load management been a part of the league back then and had the Orlando Magic front office and medical staff been as protective over him as teams are over their superstars nowadays. Maybe it would have been the same, we don’t know. The point is the NBA has some of the most advanced and intelligent medical minds in the world, working constantly to maximize the league’s premier stars’ longevity, athleticism, and health. So, when they sit out a bunch of the starters on a nationally televised game, sometimes it’s just like those all-white shoes: it’s better to keep them in the box for mundane days so that you can wear them to special occasions for a long time. 

Spider-man: No Way Home Review: triple the trouble

by Kaydence Ham/Staff Writer×660/top/

No Way Home picks up immediately after the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Spider-Man’s identity is revealed, which means nothing will ever be the same for Peter Parker (Tom Holland). No Way Home particularly impacts their whole friend group including MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). MIT denies all three of them admission. Peter automatically jumps to the conclusion that it’s because of his identity and the roles his friends play in his little disasters and his role of the “ friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” 

Peter has a plan, which is my favorite part of the whole movie. Peter asks Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell. But Peter becomes very indecisive and messes up the whole spell, which creates the big issue for the whole movie. 

The special effects were also really great in the movie. Something I had never seen before was the cages in Dr. Strange’s lair. Once villains were trapped in them, they could not escape even though there was no door. The cage could sense their magic, though, as well as the fact that they were not fully human. Towards the end of the movie there’s this scene where the sky is ripping open showing a vibrant purple color, and Dr Strange casts this spell and one can see it go out to the sky, and the sky starts to seal shut again. The special effects on this scene were amazing. There were so many details, and it looked so real. 

So many superhero movies now have confronted what it means to be a superhero. But in No Way Home Peter is put in a position to basically try to save the men who tried to kill other multiverse versions of him, which is when Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire are brought into the new movie. Andrew Garfield played in The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. Tobey Maguire played in Spider-Man 2 in 2004 and Spider-Man in 2002. I really enjoy the aspect of bringing in the two Spider-Man actors, and the fans really enjoyed it too. 

Peter Parker tries to save Octopus (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and Lizard (Rhys Ifans) by taking away their bad aspects. When he brings this idea to Dr. Strange, Dr Strange disagrees and then they get into a fight in the folding multiverse which is a really cool aspect of the movie. When watching it, it was mesmerizing. There were many colors and shapes in it. The other two Peter Parkers are brought into the movie with a scene when MJ and Ned try to find their Peter, after a tragedy that he had to face. The Peters immediately go to Holland and comfort him and relate to him with things that are similar to what happened to him but in their universe. The other two Spider-Mans soon realize that the villains from their universe have come into Holland’s universe which are the villains Holland had been dealing with. 

I like the aspect of bringing back the villains from the old movies as well. Some people may say that they needed to do something more original. But this really was a great addition to the Spider-Man series. I’ve never seen a movie quite like it. No Way Home was an overall great movie; the director, Jon Watts, uses amazing effects for Dr. Strange’s powers. Watts even added some new powers into the movie for people who didn’t have them before. The idea of bringing all of the Spider-Men back was quite clever and added a lot of emotion into the movie for people who have been watching Spider-Man since the original versions. Although viewers might be sad to see them go, seeing them all on screen again, together, was an amazing experience. 

What to Watch: Film Reviews for February

by Drew Smith and Mr. William McKenna

Have you ever experienced this? You open up one of the many streaming services you may have, and proceed to mindlessly scroll through all the movies and TV shows before selecting something you have already seen or exiting the app. If so, then this article is for you. Bill McKenna, Greenfield’s very own Radio/TV teacher, and I watched six films that are on popular streaming services, such as Amazon Prime and HBO Max. We do our best to give thorough and intelligent reviews to help inform readers on if these films that they may scroll past mindlessly are worth checking out. So, without further ado, here are six films we watched this February:

  1. Beautiful Boy (2018)

(Drew’s Review)

A film that follows the memoirs of David and Nicolas Sheff about Nicolas’ extreme 

struggles with drug addiction and the brutal cycle of rehabilitation and relapse. Steve Carell stars as David Sheff and delivers an excellent performance that really stands as the strongest part of the film. Everything from line delivery to body language is captured incredibly by Carell. His performance elevates the emotion of the film and, at times, elevates a script that can be lackluster. On this note, I think at times Timothée Chalamet is unable to make some of the more bewildering dialogue work and his performance can feel a little shoddy. But, on the whole, Chalamet gives a solid performance and really shines when bouncing off of Carell. The cinematography is simple but effective, capturing landscapes in the beautiful wide shots and finding interesting ways to use the space around the characters to say something. The soundtrack is, at moments, egregiously over-the-top and really hit or miss. When the music is good and befitting of the scene, it works really well, but when it’s bad, it is really bad. Overall, the film really is about a parent’s relationship to their child and the uniquely unconditional love that comes with that, no matter what that child becomes or what that child goes on to do, they’re still their child. The film, I believe, aptly conveys that. – 7/10

(McKenna’s Review)

Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet star in a film directed by Felix Van Groningen . The true story is taken from two memoirs (BEAUTIFUL BOY: A FATHER’S JOURNEY THROUGH HIS SON’S ADDICTION and TWEAK : GROWING UP ON METHAMPHETAMINES) about a father who tries to pull his son back from the brink of the end due to very heavy drug addiction. The subject matter is a tough one to take in as it shows the decline of a terrific young man as he compromises all he is as a human being to the drugs that have consumed his very soul. The story is condensed and covers a lot of ground quickly. Films don’t have the luxury in telling the story slowly like a book. The characters are from an upwardly mobile family with the funds to pursue all the various treatments…each no more successful than the last. The film has all the usual drug addiction movie tropes but manages to stay engaging. The performances are really good all around with Chalamet great as the young man who was unable to see his own worth outside of the drugs that made him feel wanted. Carell is a bit too earnest as the father who will do anything to save his oldest child from his addictions. Ultimately the story breaks down to a father having hope in the face of hopelessness because the reality leaves few options. There is never a happy ending in a story of addiction… just the pursuit of a better day.

  1. The Lost City of Z (2016)

(McKenna’s Review)

The Lost City of Z is directed by James Gray and stars Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson. The story is about Englishman Percy Fawcett who was a military man who made several excursions into the Amazon to find the lost city of Zed. The film follows the usual “man-obsessed” tropes as Percy gets further and further into the jungle with each exposition. The native people attack and Percy finds a way to befriend them. He learns more about himself as he ventures into the jungles of the Amazon. The film is well shot with spectacular cinematography that makes the jungle the best character in the film. At two hours and twenty-one minutes long, I found it very dull.  Percy Fawcett was a real person and the film kind of tries to make it a Laurence Of Arabia in the Amazon. The film has a grand vision but I just didn’t connect with it on the level necessary to care about the characters. I found myself much more interested in the people who were already living in the Amazon than the intruders from the “civilized” world. Tom Holland shows up as Percy’s son for the final act of the film. When he enters the jungle where danger lurks I couldn’t help but say to my TV, “Use your Spider-Sense!” That’s not fair but that’s what I thought as “Peter Parker” showed up in an early 20th Century English adventure film. Movies are not real and to make them compelling liberties are always taken with the truth. The conclusion of the film borders on fantasy. The real Percy Fawcett story is quite interesting but that’s not captured in this film. It’s worth your time to Google him and learn about his efforts to find something that most likely didn’t exist… not in the way he thought it might. Overall, the performances are fine and the direction is adequate. James Gray followed this film up with Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones and it’s exceptional, but this film gets lost amongst the backdrop of the Amazon. If interested in a movie about an obsessed explorer looking for a lost city in South America, I highly recommend Aguirre, the Wrath of God directed by Werner Herzog. 

(Drew’s Review)

The Lost City of Z is a film that never falls short but never exceeds expectations. Based on the real life story of Percy Fawcett (a British explorer who goes searching for a lost, ancient civilization deep in Amazonia), the film is essentially about man’s obsession with myth and mystery and the need to conquer these fantasies of the unknown. But while I think the theme is a fairly basic but solid backbone for the film, the script suffocates it with unrelentingly bad dialogue and messy pacing. It is very hard to get invested in the characters and plot of the film when everyone is written like blocks of cardboard that just spit out incessant cliches. The actors do their best, I believe, to try and elevate the script, but the lead man Charlie Hunnam struggles immensely and his performance left a little to desire. Robert Pattinson gives a solid performance as Hunnam’s co-star in the role of Henry Costin, Percy Fawcett’s main companion on his explorations of Amazonia, and I think the majority of actors do their best. The cinematography is a highlight of the movie, capturing the Amazonian jungle in these colorful, gorgeous wide shots. The music is serviceable at worst and really engaging at its best. The film has a lot going for it, strong cinematography, solid music, good actors, but the unavoidable elephant in the room, the script, continues to rear its head and sink the quality of the film. – 6/10

  1. Rashomon (1950)

(Drew’s Review)

Rashomon is so much in such a short span of time. Only lasting a tight eighty-eight minutes, the film is able to capture so much without rushing anything. This Akira Kurosawa film is most remembered and most celebrated for its excellent bending of narrative structure and important questions about truth and morality. And it certainly lives up to its accolades, having some of the best direction I have ever seen from a film. Kurosawa is absolutely masterful with the camera in this picture, turning moments and exchanges that most directors would ignore into creative sequences that give insight into the characters and themes of the film. So many shots have so much cinematic language within them that it just makes your jaw drop. The performances all exceed expectations and give so much life and depth to these characters. The script is insanely effective and is able to build perfectly to the final moments of the film. The editing is lovely and fairly ahead of its time, of course it frequently uses the “wipe” transition. Overall, Rashomon has much more to say than just thoughts about morality and truth. It also has subtle commentary on how audiences trivialize horror and evil for their own enjoyment and commentary on misogynist culture in Japan. The film leaves it to you to come to your own conclusion of the events of the film. The real horror is that after being given four versions of the same murder and sexual assault, you are still left inconclusive on what exactly happened. – 9/10

(McKenna’s Review)

This is where you start when dealing with real greatness. Rashomon is such an influential film that it basically created the Oscar for the Best International Film category. The film is so influential that it created the “Rashomon effect,” which refers to when different people have very different perspectives of the same event. This plot device has been used over and over…especially on TV. The film poses the question…what is truth? Every person tells their story…the basics are the same…but the details make it different. The nature of truth is not so easily defined. Directed by the great master Akira Kurosawa, whose influence is so great that it would be impossible to trace everybody who has been touched by what he created for cinema. Let’s just say there would be no Star Wars or any number of Spielberg films without him. The film is magnificently shot in black and white with breathtaking cinematography and style. The film has some of the first uses of handheld camera shots, which enhances the action sequences and creates a feeling of dread. There is great beauty followed by great fear and horror. The script is as tight as a drum and comes across like an epic poem. With a running time of just ninety minutes, the film gets right into the raw emotion of the story. The acting is fantastic with each actor bringing depth and emotion to the characters they play. The story revolves around a murder of a samurai and an assault on his wife. Multiple people tell their version of what happened and each has key differences that call into question what is actually the truth. The conclusion is the same…the samurai has been murdered but the “why” and “how” is called into question. Ultimately the truth comes out, but it is much different than the stories being told by the other characters…the outcome is no less heartbreaking regardless of which story is believed. There is a reason this film is considered one of the best ever made…because it simply is one of the best ever made ….and that is the “TRUTH.”

  1. Mon Oncle (1958)

(McKenna’s Review)

Mon Oncle directed by Jacques Tati is an amazing film as it is a throwback to the works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, while influencing the future of The Pink Panther films, Mr. Bean, the works of Wes Anderson, and even the Oscar winning film Parasite. The film is a visual poem about conformity and people’s desire to keep up appearances in the modern world. The film introduces us to the character of Monsieur Hulot, a man happy with his place in the world but his relatives want him to embrace the modern sterile world in which they live. Using very little dialogue, Monsieur Hulot goes from scene to scene experiencing the absurdity of “modern conveniences.” Much like Chaplin in Modern Times, Monsieur Hulot gets tangled up in the machinery. All of this is done with ever-increasing physical and visual comedy bits that fit together like LEGOs to create an entire narrative, much like a Buster Keaton film. Monsieur Hulot has his nephew along for much of the antics as he is as childlike as his young companion. It’s through the innocence of the two characters that the nonsense of social status is exposed. Monsieur Hulot is the predecessor to Inspector Clouseau with his stumbling into one absurdity after another. The minimal use of dialogue and subtle visual comedy certainly influenced Rowan Atkinson in his various Mr. Bean T.V. shows and films. At first glance it would appear that this is just an absurdist comedy from France, but it’s really much much more as it comments on the pressure to be a part of modern social norms. Just like today in the film Parasite, modernity takes as much as it gives as it forces people to compromise their humanity for technology and social status. The film has fantastic cinematography that punches up the differences between the modern technological world and the world of the past. The visual style is much like the films Wes Anderson makes today, as every structure serves a purpose in the scene. The music accentuates each scene setting the tone for the hilarity that takes place. The French love the comedy of Jerry Lewis for his comedic style that utilizes the visual over the verbal. The French are a master of this kind of storytelling as seen in many of the films of Roberto Benigni and other French film makers. The film links all the segments together using dogs. The dogs go about their lives with the freedom of not caring what world they live in…they are allowed to just be dogs and act like dogs. Even the domesticated dogs just act like themselves. You can put a stylish jacket on a Dachshund but it’s still a dog and will act like a dog. Unlike the humans who must conform to the ever-changing world. In the end our Monsieur Hulot is forced to take his place in the old “rat race,” which is a shame. Coming in at one hour and fifty-six minutes, the film unfolds like a tapestry of hilarity. The last scene is of the dogs running free and being happy dogs while the humans…well, the humans try to fit in when they really don’t want to…better to be a dog.

(Drew’s Review)

This film is unbelievably spectacular. It follows an uncle and a modern, suburban family in a slice-of-life type of story.  The precision with which this film is executed is ridiculous, from every shot, to every costume, to every performance. The cinematography is so wide and is framed excellently, it uses a lot of deep focus to get so much in one shot. The performances use so much of the actor, relying more on the way they move and their facial expressions to show the characters’ personalities. The costuming and set design elevate this film to another level, the modern suburban house that the family lives in is this ridiculously pretentious style with more attention paid to status and look rather than functionality. They contrast this with the uncle, who lives in a town away from his sister and nephew, which while the town is crowded and noisy, it serves much better as an actual place to live. The film utilizes music in a really neat way too, in the suburban house there is no music, it’s just silence. But, in the town, it is full of lively music. Overall, the film is really a comedy about childhood and adulthood, and enjoying life for what it is rather than trying to make it what it isn’t. – 10/10

  1. Le Samouraï (1967)

(Drew’s Review)

This French film by director Jean-Pierre Melville is one of the quietest and most purely visual films I’ve ever seen. Following an insanely ritualistic assassin as he carries out a hit on a club owner that goes awry once the club’s pianist spots him on his way out, this was a hugely influential film during the era of French New Wave cinema. The camerawork is so fluid and dynamic, capturing scenes of planting a listening device or a police chase in the French metro system in these intricate, winding ways. There is this really neat, synth-heavy soundtrack that enhances the scenes with a minimalistic, tense rhythm. The performances, especially from Alain Delon and François Périer, are understated but work so effectively. The film falls short at moments with its winding pace and utter silence leading to times where it is easy to zone out. But, for the most part, the film is a simple joy to watch. The influence this film has on the crime-drama genre is immense. The film is so quiet and utilizes the camera to tell the story which is so refreshing. A very unique movie that is a must watch. – 8/10

(McKenna’s Review)

Le Samouraï is a French neo-noir film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. The plot revolves around a hired killer who makes a mistake by having several witnesses see him at the scene of his crime. The film plays as a game of cat and mouse, as the killer evades the police as they close in little by little to the final conclusion. Will he escape justice? Though the film has all the usual tropes of the hired killer films, with the steely-faced,  calm hitman who is ever so professional in his work, the film still manages to rise above with stylish directing and a clever script. The police line up scene is particularly good and made me think Bryan Singer borrowed heavily from it for The Usual Suspects. Great cinematography and music choices help set the mood as the protagonist Jef Costello, played by Alain Delon, manages to stay three steps ahead of the persistent police commissioner. Delon sells every scene with minimalist dialogue, using just his face and body language to inform the scene. Very stylishly dressed in a trench coat and fedora, he is quite the handsome killer that makes the audience wonder if he just might beat the wrap. Assassin movies are not a genre I ever cared much about, though there have been some great ones like the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Most assassin films are just noisy shoot ‘em ups with no logic. Le Samouraï is so much better than the modern hitman films. The film exists on its own terms just like the character Jef Costello who, even in the face of the police closing in on him, never yields to expectations and does it his way. 

  1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

(McKenna’s Review)

What I know about French musicals is less than nothing, but I really enjoyed The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, directed by Jacques Demy. The film stars Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo as young lovers who get split apart by war and societal expectations, a common love story theme that’s elevated by the music and setting of the film. Though the film is in French, I found it easy to follow the musical numbers using the melodies and the subtitles. The film unfolds like a painting, using bold colors in the production design that makes each scene explode with color and mood. No color tone seems out of place, be it in the umbrella shop or the auto garage. The bold vivid colors draw out the beauty of each character. Catherine Deneuve is the standout as she is magnificent as the young woman who has to watch as her true love is forced to walk away. She has to go from a young girl in love to a woman who has to make tough choices for herself and her young child. She has to do all that while singing at the same time. This was early in her storied career. She is still working in films today 58 years after this film came out. This is the film that put her on the road to stardom. If she is in it, it’s worth watching. The film takes place in 1957 and spans 5 years. The production features stunning costume design that greatly enhances the overall aesthetic of the film. The film comes in at a very tight ninety-one minutes, not wasting any time getting to the heart of the story. The music is beautiful and it’s no wonder the film was a huge hit. It’s a continuous score with every line of dialogue being delivered in song. The melody stayed with me long after the film had ended. The film ends with the two former lovers reunited at a gas station at Christmas in the snow. They have both made choices but can’t help but wonder what could have been, as they go their separate ways as the snow falls. That’s what I call a musical ending.

(Drew’s Review)

A romantic tragedy musical directed by legendary French New Wave director Jacques Demy, this film was absolutely spectacular. Following a young couple in the French city of Cherbourg as they are separated due to the Algerian War, this musical surprised me in a lot of ways. It has one of my favorite opening credit sequences I’ve ever seen, so fun and creative and sets the tone for the coming magnificence. The film has some of the best set and costume design I’ve ever seen, which color plays a large part in, designating certain shades and tones to characters to represent something about them and their emotions. The film is so purposefully detailed and it extracts so much out of each aspect of the picture. It really is a non-stop musical, with each scene being its own song, with certain songs referencing back and using certain passages from earlier in the movie. The cinematography and camerawork are of course fantastic, they utilize a lot of these extremely well-done long takes that capture so much in one shot. The performances from everyone are really incredible and they all bring out so much character despite singing the entire time. The script at times features some flat and horrid dialogue, which can hold back the film from being on another stratosphere. Overall, the film is about codependency and young love, and how sometimes you don’t end up with the people you thought you were meant for because life gets in the way. – 8/10

So, in all, it was a joy to watch these six films. Ranging from foreign classics to modern films that fall short, it was a neat collection of movies to watch. So hopefully this gives you readers an idea for what to check out on your streaming services. Maybe some of these films caught your attention or maybe you have zero interest. But, regardless, when you are scrolling your streaming services and you feel like you are in an endless spiral, reference back to this article and check something out. 

No Time to Die: Bond movie reaches Thrilling Conclusion

by Caleb Curry/Staff Writer

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) share a drink in Cuba in No Time to Die.

The 2021 film No Time to Die is the 25th James Bond movie to hit the big screens. Daniel Craig plays the British spy James Bond once again. Craig is seen as one of the series’ best Bond actors, and has acted out Bond for the new age.

No Time to Die is Daniel Craig’s fifth James Bond movie. The film takes place five years after the end of 2015’s Spectre. The film’s main cast include: Daniel Craig as James Bond, Lashana Lynch as Nomi, Léa Seydoux as Madeleine, Rami Malek as Safin, and Ana de Armas as Paloma. The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, was tasked with the job of closing out the Craig Bond series in an epic way. The movie was filmed all over the world with locations such as Cuba, Jamaica, London, and Italy. The score of the movie is done by the award winning Hans Zimmer. The film began production in 2019 and was set to release fall of 2020; however with the pandemic going on the studio made the decision to delay the film’s release until 2021.

Overall in my opinion the film No Time to Die is a well-made enjoyable film. That being said there are some flaws in the way the story is told, but overall is fun to watch. The problems with the movie come in the length and the characters. The film’s runtime is 2 hours and 43 minutes making it the longest James Bond movie ever. The film however feels about an hour too long; the movie would be much more enjoyable had it only gone for 1 hour and 40 minutes. The other problem with the movie are some of the characters. The antagonist Safin has virtually no development and is thrown into the plot seemingly at the last minute. Nomi is a character that I feel is unnecessary in the movie, her character is not very likeable and in the end does not serve a point in the climax of the movie. The other character that is a problem is Ana de Armas’ character Paloma. Paloma is a well done character; however, the biggest problem is she isn’t in the movie for longer. Although Bond does not need a sidekick or partner the writers gave him one in Nomi, and I think this role would be much better if it was Paloma.

The plot of the movie takes too long to develop. Due to the runtime of the movie, the overall plot of the story takes too long to develop. We know there is a bioweapon, and James Bond needs to stop it, but a true structural antagonist is not made clear until very late in the film. The plot is not a unique idea, it is the typical action hero needs to stop the villain from trying to commit some crime. It is a plot formula that is not original; however, in a movie like No Time to Die it does not detract from the entertainment value the acting and choreography bring.

Despite the flaws in the movie the good far outweighs the bad. The movie is beautifully shot and the plot, while not incredible, is enough to keep the viewer entertained. Daniel Craig gives an incredible portrayal of James Bond. Craig brings a certain aspect to the role that leads to why he is considered by some to be the best Bond yet. Every action scene in the movie is well done with excellent fight choreography. One of the staples of a Bond movie is the song that is written for the opening credits. This film’s song was No Time to Die by Billie Eilish which, like the movie, is not a masterpiece, however it is enjoyable. I think the best part of the movie is the closure it gives for 2015’s Spectre. No Time to Die is built as a finale to the 2015 film, bringing back multiple characters while also introducing new ones. Spectre left so much still to be explored with closure still not given. No Time to Die answers those questions that were left unanswered.

The score is a key aspect in a movie that often goes unappreciated. Hans Zimmer has worked on movies such as The Lion King, Inception, and The Dark Knight. He is well respected and very well known across the film industry, and his work on this movie shows why. The score is upbeat and fast during chase scenes and slow and solemn during serious scenes. The film’s score can give you insight into what is going on in Bond’s head, when he is smooth and in control the score tends to be the typical fun sounding 007 theme. To contrast that, when Bond is out of control and chaotic the score shifts into more of a fast-paced music. When you are watching a movie you often don’t realize how important a score is in the success of a movie. In No Time to Die the score, while subtle, remains to be one of the most impressive aspects of the film.

No Time to Die is far from a perfect film, however it is still good. The movie bodes well for the future of James Bond in the years to come. I would recommend watching the movie in theaters if you get the chance, and definitely as it becomes accessible digitally.

A day in the life of an elf: “A secret documentary”

by Caleb Curry/Staff Writer

Bang! Bang! The constant sound of the hammer making toys. Constant Christmas carols, happy faces, laughing, and talking.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” the elves sang.

Wonderful, haha,” Mike said quietly, More like horrible. Oh by the way my name is Mike. I’ve been one of Santa’s elves here in the North Pole for 15 years. Now the world doesn’t recognize life in the North Pole so human rights violations and labor laws don’t apply out here. Fifteen years and not a dime for my trouble. I just love the work some would say, or it’s the kids’ happy faces that get me up in the morning. All of that is pure nonsense. No amount of happiness can fulfill the amount of pain that my ears go through. This much constant noise is enough to make someone-“

“Bang! Bang! Clank! Bang! Smash!” the hammer continued. 

“Hey, Jonathan,” Mike yelled, “I’m doing a mysterious monologue to the documentary crew here. If you don’t stop, I will take that mallet and throw it out the window.”

“Sorry about that. As I was saying, the working conditions are laughable and free will is nothing but a construct of our imaginations, which is why I have formulated a plan. This documentary is not going to focus on the joys of Christmas and the ‘happiness of the holidays.’ Instead I will be drawing attention to the human rights violations committed by the big man in the red suit,” Mike finished.

“Let’s start by interviewing Mitch,” Mike said, “Hey, Mitch.”

“Hey, Mike,” Mitch said, “What’s with the big camera?”

“Documentary about the joys of the holidays,” Mike said with a wink to the camera. “How long have you been making jack-in- the-boxes?” he added.

“I’m entering hour seventeen now,” Mitch responded.

“And have you seen a cent for your labors, Mitch?” Mike inquired.

“What does that have to do with Christ-“ Mitch started.

“Don’t be such a cotton-headed Ninny muggins, Mitch, and answer the question.”

“No, I guess,” Mike said, “Also that was a bit rude of you and I would like an apology.”

“Well, that’s all the time we have for Mitch,” Mike said quickly. “Let’s go take a look at the reindeer.”

“And here we are in the wild, a look at the reindeer in their natural habitat,” Mike said, “except they’re not because Santa kidnapped them and brought them to the frigid North Pole. He fed them magic carrots that make them fly, and forced them to fly all around the world to each house with the world’s heaviest bag of toys,” Mike said angrily. “Now there is just one more thing I want to show you,” Mike said with a smirk.

“The Holy Grail of Big Red’s great atrocities,” Mike said, “Santa’s stash of coal for the naughty kids. The world is striving to find fuel sources because natural resources will run out, and here the Big Kahuna is with an eternity’s supply.” Mike said. He closed out, “Ladies and gentlemen of the Earth I call you to put an end to Santa’s reign and dethrone him if not for us, for the lifetime supply of coal.”

“A shocking news story has developed today as a documentary titled ‘The True and Scary Story of Santa Claus’s Compound’ reached the world today,” the news anchor said, “The documentary was produced and hosted by a former elf named Mike. Mike showed up on the coast of the U.K. requesting asylum after allegedly swimming from the North Pole.” She went on, “Many world leaders requested a conference with Santa Claus who made the decision to cut off communication with them all together. In response countries started taking sides and the unofficial declaration of World War Three has begun. We will now show you footage of different leaders stating which side they will be on.”

“If there is large amounts of coal in the North Pole, then sure I’ll go to war,” The U.S. President said. 

“Human Rights violations are ay-okay with us, so we’ll take Santa’s side,” the leader of Communist China said.

“I’m going to stay out of this one,” the German leader said.

“In other news, parents are now angry that they will have to spend their own money on Christmas presents. The U.S. president has said the term ‘Christmas Spirit’ is just commie propaganda. The U.K. said they will be renaming the holiday on December 25th to ‘Happy Cold Day,’ and some people are pushing for people to remember the true reason for theholidays. This is Channel 12’s Jane Wilkinson wishing you a Merry Happy Cold Day and a good new year. Good night,” Jane closed.

Holiday Essay: The Christmas Experience

by Lauren Blasko/Staff Writer

      Photo from:

Everyone likes to talk about what Christmas was like for them as a child. Most adults would say that it is better to be a child than an adult on Christmas. As a kid you get presents, make cookies, and get to see family you never get to see throughout the year. As an adult, you have to buy everyone’s gifts, wrap them, and sometimes even get your house ready for the holidays because everyone is coming over. So overall hearing between the two, you would more likely say that being a kid on Christmas sounds way better, but what about being a teenager? Teens have more responsibility than a child, but not completely like an adult. When you are a teen, you get both the benefits of being a kid at Christmas and an adult.

Most teens by the ages of 15-17 can drive. This means they can go places, see people, and make new memories. When you are a teenager you are more than likely to have a job. If you have a job, you have money, and with money you more than likely have a car. If you have a car, you can go places, which means for Christmas you could buy people gifts. As someone who is a teenager, who has a job and a car, I like to buy gifts; this is one of the things I look forward to the most during the Christmas holiday season.

When you are this high school age, you are still technically counted as an adult. Because of that on Christmas you can still get presents, just like a kid would. In most movies it seems that it is only kids that get gifts, but teenagers still do, too. With that, the gifts you receive as a teen most of the time you already know what you are getting. Teens’ Christmas lists tend to be a lot smaller than kids, which means it would be easier to shop for a teen than a kid that wants everything in the world. That way a week or two before Christmas you don’t have to stress out about what your teenage son or daughter would want before Christmas. This means at this age, you are more than likely to get what you want on Christmas Day than a child.

Finally the family benefits from Christmas. Most kids and teenagers don’t get to see their family members as much as their parents or guardians do throughout the years. With being a kid you are a full-time student that has homework and can’t drive so you can’t go anywhere unless you ask your parents, so that means you don’t really get to see your family members as much. As a teen, people who are full-time students, have a job and homework, and sometimes have other after school activities you tend to not have time to see your family that doesn’t live near you. So on Christmas you are just as excited as a kid is to see your family members. That’s why being a teen on Christmas is the best because you are just as excited as a little kid to see your family on the national holiday.

When you are a teen, you get both the benefits of being a kid and an adult on Christmas Day. Being a teen is in between being a kid and an adult, which means you get the benefits of both being a child and an adult. This is why it is better to be this age on the day of Christmas rather than being an adult or kid.

Two different worlds: exchange students compare holidays

by Zoey Petersen/Staff Writer

Giovanni Vincenzi: 11th Grader from Italy

Irene Arenas Iguacel: 11th Grader from Spain

Zoey: 10th Grader from America

Interviews in Script Format

Photo Caption: Giovanni Vincenzi, 11, exchange student from Italy works on AP Physics 2. Photo by Zoey Petersen

Zoey: So I was telling my friend about how I was going to do this, and they pointed out that not everyone celebrates Christmas because it’s kind of a religious thing. But then I remember you telling me you were Catholic and that’s a part of Christianity so…I wasn’t sure if you celebrated Christmas in Italy.

Giovanni: Okay yeah, so do you want to know if we celebrate Christmas then?

Zoey: Yes.

Giovanni: So yeah, I will say that for us it’s the main festivity of the year. We don’t have Thanksgiving or Halloween. We don’t have those almost at all. So yeah, we celebrate Christmas and it’s kind of a big thing.

Zoey: Okay. So what are some of the traditions you have?

Giovanni: It’s not a lot, but it’s not super religious related. It was born that way but it isn’t that way anymore. Basically we have two weeks off from school and you go with your whole family on the 24th of December we go to my Grandma’s house. Then we have a huge Italian dinner, and that starts at 6 p.m. and goes to usually 11 or 12. 

Zoey: Really?

Giovanni: Yes, there’s a lot of servings. You bring out a course and then talk a little bit and then more servings. Then at midnight, the beginning of the 25th of December is when we open the gifts. That’s what we usually do. Other than that, we like to spend time with our families of course. Some people like to go skiing and things like that. One year we went to Paris. Oh, and of course we have Christmas trees and that…oh I don’t know what to call it. You know with Jesus Christ?

After some translating and google searches, we figured out he was talking about the Nativity Scene with Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. 

Irene: In Spain, usually Christmas is the 24th and 25th so we can have lunch with both parts of the family on each day. It’s different in each house but in my house we open some presents on the 24th and some on the 25th.

Zoey: What do you know about Christmas here because it’s not the same but it’s not completely different?

Irene: I know that in America it’s one of the biggest holidays. Also for example, I know that in most houses there is a real tree. We only have fake trees in Spain and they are not big at all.

Giovanni: Okay, for now? Nothing. I’m being serious. It’s kind of different because my family moved here from New York and they moved here 7 months ago. Everything has been very busy and we haven’t even done the Christmas tree yet. I know that people like to go to the Christmas market in Caramel where people like to go ice skating and things like that. That’s all I know for now. 

Zoey: Okay…so Santa? 

Giovanni: What?

Zoey: Is Santa a thing for you guys or…?

Giovanni: Oh like Santa Claus? Yeah, yeah, yeah it’s the same. There’s Santa with the…oh uh I don’t know how to say it in English. The uh…

Zoey: Reindeer?

Giovanni: The thing that flies? Yes, we have that and they deliver presents. It’s all the same for us. 

Irene: When you are a kid, your parents tell you that Santa and the three wise men have a parrot looking at you at every time of the year to see if you’ve been good.

Zoey: So what about stockings?

Giovanni: What?

Zoey: Stockings, they’re like big red socks with white at the top and you hang it up Santa puts things in there. 

Giovanni: Oh yeah and you have the thing that rides…the oh I don’t know. 

Mimics a witch riding a broom. Grabs his phone to translate. 

Giovanni: Hag? I’m learning new words.

Zoey: I don’t think hag is the right word. 

Giovanni: It’s the socks, right? That you hang up on the…the uh-

Zoey: The chimney.

Giovanni: What?

I proceed to briefly explain a chimney/fireplace, turns out that’s not what he was talking about.

Zoey: I’m talking about socks, yeah. You hang them and fill it with things.

Giovanni: Okay yeah. So for us there’s like this…I don’t know how to say it. There’s like an old witch that rides the…like in Harry Potter, rides the…

Zoey: A broom? A broomstick?

Giovanni: Okay yeah. A broom, and puts coal in the socks for the bad kids and gives candy to the good kids. This is on the 26th. 

Gets confused and looks up the date.

Oh, just joking. It’s on the 6th of January, it’s called Epiphany. That’s the only thing we do with socks, it’s not a part of Christmas. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even know where it comes from. 

Irene: We don’t do stockings back in Spain and I think it’s a really good tradition because you can put small presents in there that you wouldn’t put under the tree. Also on January 6th we celebrate the Three Wise Men day (Epiphany). The three wise men bring presents for everyone and we eat a lot of food with our families.

I give a brief explanation of Christmas in America and we compare gift opening times. We discussed the Christmas Market in Caramel. 

Zoey: What’s your favorite part about Christmas?

Giovanni: Okay so, when it’s not Christmas I hang out with my friends a lot. But for those two weeks that we get off for school, I don’t want to see anyone. I just want to be with my family. 

Zoey: That’s really nice. I think Christmas here is pretty family oriented but definitely not as much as in Italy. I kind of like Italian Christmas better than American Christmas. 

Irene: My favorite part of Christmas is of course, the food, and getting together with my family. My favorite Christmas meal I would say is the typical things that we have in Spain, we have a lot of seafood; Serrano ham, turrones (nougat candy), polvorones (shortbread cookie), etc.

We wrap up talking about a few different things, Italy gets a week off of school for Easter but Christmas is definitely the biggest holiday that they celebrate.

Zoey: Okay well thank you for doing this. 

Giovanni: You’re welcome, it was interesting.

Irene: Thank you so much!

Zoey: I agree it was interesting, have fun at the marketplace. I personally love the Carmel Marketplace, it’s so pretty. And thank you, Irene!

Giovanni: Yes, thank you.

The End

Irene Arenas Iguacel, 11, Aubrey Brewer, 10, and Kilee Chappelow, 10, discuss their different cultures in English 10.

Have we lost the true meaning of thanksgiving?

by Jeremiah Edwards/Staff Writer

Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans celebrating thanksgiving Photo from

A holiday and tradition held by many in the United States and Canada, dating all the way back to its start in 1621: Thanksgiving. The Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans would come together to celebrate one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies, though many claim to have had the “first” Thanksgiving. This day is heavily regarded by historians as the first true celebration of gratitude. Now, in the present day, it’s a good question to revisit : Do we still value the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving, or are they buried by the excitement of the Christmas season? 

A time to give thanks for all the fortunes obtained in the past year has now turned into a rush to purchase gifts for the holiday season. Black Friday completely overshadows Thanksgiving. Once the clocks hit 12am, it seems everything about Thanksgiving is lost in memory. In a survey taken by, 28% of the surveyed American adults will participate in deals on Black Friday in 2021, while 58% say they’ll participate in other holiday deals. Countries all over the world are prepared for Christmas even before the start of December. It’s starting to seem like an obligation for some people to host a Thanksgiving dinner. 

Whether you’re religious or not, there’s still a spiritual aspect of Thanksgiving. If you just flip flop the two words that make up “Thanksgiving” you have your answer: giving thanks. In better terms, gratitude. Remember the Gratitude song from the beloved show “Spongebob Square Pants.” Yeah, that’s what it’s all about: being grateful for all the good things life’s handing you on a silver platter, though when the last Thursday of November comes people only see it as a day for a big feast and to eat as much as they want. “Turkey Day” is a nickname for the day held by many, presenting the possibility that maybe it’s the only reason they celebrate Thanksgiving. How could you show gratitude in the spirit of thanksgiving? Donating to a food pantry or charity, or inviting those who may not have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with to spend it with you is a great way to give to those who are less fortunate.

Why should you give thanks and show gratitude about the people or things around you? According to Harvard Health, showing gratitude actually makes you happier. A study carried out by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, the leading scientific expert on gratitude, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami put people into three groups to see what happened when people thought about their blessings. The first group would write about things that occurred in their week that made them grateful. The second group would write about things that irritated or displeased them during the week. The third group would write about events that affected them with context on whether or not the events were positive or negative. After 10 weeks, the first group proved to be more optimistic and felt better about their lives.

Thanksgiving is meant to give you a dose of optimism about your life, a chance to reflect on all the good present in your life, not to be the kickstart to the shopping season or being stressed about what you’re going to get someone that you only see once or twice a year. Thanksgiving is more than just a feast