Category Archives: opinion

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

How Rankin-Bass’ Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer “went down in history”

By: Ben Brunsting/Staff Writer

Photo Caption: Hermey the elf, (left) voiced by Paul Soles, petting Rudolph, (right) who is voiced by Billie Mae Richards

Christmas, as told by Andy Williams, is the most wonderful time of the year. And what is there not to love? With traditions like decorating the Christmas tree and opening presents on Christmas Day it’s hard to not be infatuated by this holiday. But one tradition sticks out amongst the rest, and that’s our tradition of watching several of the Rankin/Bass movies like Frosty the Snowman or Jack Frost. But one Rankin/Bass movie, like its main character, will “go down in history.” Of course I’m talking about the stop motion Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie. Even with this movie coming out in 1964 – 57 years ago! – millions of people today take time out of their busy schedule to watch this genuine classic. So before you see it this year, I thought I would give you some history on arguably the biggest Christmas movie ever. 

As I said earlier, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer came out in 1964 and was produced by Videocraft LTD. “Videocraft LTD?” I can hear you saying, “I thought the movie was by Rankin/ Bass?” And you’d be right. Videocraft LTD would later become Rankin/Bass after the creators Aurthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass decided on a name change, but back to Rudolph. Rudolph’s first airing was on December 6th 1964, and it has shown every year since, making the movie the longest running Christmas special ever. 

To be running for this long the plot must be outstanding, right? Well here’s a quick rundown of the plot so you can decide for yourself. The movie starts with Sam the snowman reminiscing about the Christmas that was almost canceled because of a big snowstorm and about how Rudolph saved Christmas. We then cut to Donner and his wife who has just given birth to Rudolph. They notice his bright red nose and Santa comments on how he won’t be allowed to be in the sled team. Donner reacts by covering this nose so he can appear normal amongst his peers. This leads to a mishap later on in life where his nose gets revealed to his class and his teacher expels him. From there he meets Hermey, an elf who ran away to pursue his dream of becoming a dentist.  Rudolph decides to run away with him. From there they travel all over the North Pole meeting people like Yukon, a prospector looking for silver and gold, and the Island of Misfit Toys whom they befriend by promising to have Santa deliver them to kids. Some time passes and he grows and leaves his friends out of fear of his nose endangering them. When he returns he finds that his family is looking for him and sets back out to find them. He finds them being attacked by the Abominable Snowman and attempts to help, but he gets knocked out by the monster. Hermey and Yukon save the day by tossing the monster over the cliff, but before he is fully over he grabs Yukon and they fall together. After returning back Yukon turns out to be alive and has a now tamed Abominable Snowman in tow with him. Santa enters and announces that because of the snowstorm outside he can’t make his trip around the world for Christmas, but then he sees Rudolph’s glowing nose and has the idea to have him lead the slay. They ride off towards the island of misfit toys to deliver them and Santa says to have a good Christmas as he and Rudolph fly by the screen.

While the film does show its age upon repeat visits compared to the advancements in film seen commonly throughout film today, the retro style of the stop motion animation is always a charming reminder of the lengths directors would go to to create pieces of art. The animation of the film itself took about 18 months for every half an hour of the movie and with the movie coming out to roughly an hour in run time. That’s a whopping three whole years of filmmaking. To put into perspective it took Avengers Endgame with it’s 3 hours or runtime a whole five months to finish filming. That’s triple the total runtime in about 1/7th the time, though you’d be mistaken to call the creation methods of the film to be slow. You have to keep in mind that each time there is even the slightest hint of movement in a frame that there is a pause in real life where someone came over and moved a prop or puppet in a very deliberate way so that the movement seemed lifelike. Thus was the painstaking nature of stop motions animation.

    The marvel of Rudolph does not end just with the movie, however, as the tales of the original puppets continue. With the movie being made entirely with practical effects came the notion that someone had the original puppets used and that made collectors everywhere excited. One of the original Rudolph puppets is currently owned by Arthur Rankin, Jr. The others were said to have been given to a secretary. The secretary had given the puppets to family and the dolls were lost until in 2005 when two resurfaced on Antiques Roadshow. A young Rudolph and Santa were seen in poor condition because of having been played with and put into storage for an unknown amount of time. Though at that time they were said to only be valued at about 8-10 thousand. They were bought by Kevin Kreisler that same year and restored where they were then auctioned off at $368,000. Afterwards they were donated to a museum where they can be admired for the pieces of art they are.
    With the holiday season just around the corner and the Christmas movie countdown in even closer proximity, it’s important to recognize the not-so-modern masterpiece of stop motion animation that is one of if not America’s favorite Christmas movie of all time. And now that you know a little about the history of the classic you can enlighten your friends about the interesting history of Rankin/Bass’ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Fifteen movies in one month with Mr. mcKenna

By Drew Smith/Staff Writer and William McKenna/Guest Writer

Film is a topic of passion and particular endearment for me. My favorite films have impacted me in ways I was unable to predict. Filmmaking is a satisfactory and fulfilling experience for me. I love making, watching, discussing, and being inspired by films. With all that considered, I often fail to watch films as much as I should. I often will find myself having not seen a film in months, putting off movies I should have seen by this point, and generally lacking the drive to just sit down and watch. That’s why for this month, I watched fifteen films, along with Mr. McKenna. He recommended seven to me; I recommended eight to him. The genres and quality of the films vary wildly throughout, and our opinions certainly differ, but be sure to check out these films on your own time, I guarantee you it will be worth it. 

  1. Bicycle Thieves (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – Bicycle Thieves is a post-World War II Italian film directed by Vittorio de Sica, and it is beyond fantastic. A striking film for its time, this film captures tragically the horrors and plights of the working class, amidst a time of reconstruction and destruction. When a man desperately tries to support his poverty-stricken family, he finds a job opportunity that requires a bicycle, and when his bicycle is stolen, he spends every waking minute hunting for it in Rome. The performances by Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola are so magnificent, their father-son dynamic is put on display, their relationship carries the entire film. The cinematography is simple but extremely tactical, so many scenes’ tension is carried by nothing other than the camera and its positioning. The soundtrack and soundscape is minimal but still bolsters the already quite emotional film, for a film released in such hard times, the quality stays consistent throughout. Every aspect of the film is so incredible. It tells one of the saddest tragedies of the 20th century, of working class hardship and absolute desperation, and about the lessons we pass onto the next generation. This film gets a quite-deserving 5/5.
  2. Good Time (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – MEH…at best. This is a film that screams….”Hey look how edgy and raw a movie I’m making.” It stars the new young superstar of the day…Robert Pattinson… who is desperately trying to shake his pretty boy image that put him in the game with those Twilight films. I have never seen them and I have no idea their merit. Good Time is a very basic heist gone wrong film that attempts to do a full on Soderbergh with improvised immersive  dialogue through character. Many non-actors portray their various professions, cliche stuff like that. The director also stars in the film Benny Safdie…he plays an autistic person…he does give a very good performance as a man who trusts the person who should be looking out for him…his brother, Pattison, who of course abuses him and forces him to help rob a bank…which goes south fast all before the opening credits …edgy. The rest of the film is about Pattinson trying to spring his brother out of jail. He gets the wrong guy out and goes on a not very likely adventure with a character even worse than the Pattinson character. There really is no major character in this film worthy of any sympathy except the autistic brother. Pattinson spirals from one awful situation to the next. I’m not sure what I was supposed to feel. All I saw was the abuse of an autistic person by the person who should have loved him most. Clocking in at 1:41 it is at least 20 minutes too long. I kept screaming, “Move it along!” The directing is okay with its faux gritty cinematography. It made some noise  at Cannes in 2017… I guess for being pretentious and gritty? I’m not sure what I was supposed to find interesting or entertaining in this film? Whatever it was …I did not find it. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as a found footage film…but it’s in the same ball park.Oh yeah it actually rips off Of Mice And Men…I beg you to watch that instead starring John Malcovich and Gary Sinise… man, Good Time is a lazy piece of junk. The closing credits broke my heart.
  3. Big Fish (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – Big Fish is a fantastical feature by the great Tim Burton, and it’s quite a doozy. With larger-than-life sets, campy and over-the-top acting, and a sweet soundtrack to go with it, this film is quite magical. Ewan McGregor absolutely carries the film on his back, with his toothy smile and comical Southern accent, each scene that he’s in is so hard to peel away from. The film centers itself around a father-son dynamic, when Ewan McGregor’s character begins to fall severely ill and is on his deathbed, his now matured and adult son must confront him and try and get to the truth behind the tall tales his father told him. This movie is quite heartbreaking. Its tragic tale of misunderstood fathers and frustrated and unsatisfied sons is so bolstered by its lead actors and bombastic score and set pieces. The film has plenty of heart, spread out amongst so many endearing scenes, whether it is a dramatic retelling of time served in the military, or a simple exchange between father and son; it’s all done very well. But for all the film gets right, it still falls flat in some aspects. I believe the son’s character arc and story is not nearly fleshed out enough; it definitely lacks some much needed narrative to it. And the pacing as well as editing are all out of whack in certain areas. The film cannot help but bounce from scene to scene with no rhythm or rhyme and often leaves the viewer startled or just confused. The film gets so much right, but its disjointed and poorly organized structure weaken the film’s message and theme. This film gets a 3.5/5 for me.
  4. Roma (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – A masterpiece…a human story…the style and beauty of the story does not distract from the human story it presents. Every scene is meticulous and informs the mood, emotion and time of the story. There is a huge backstory but it’s the little story with Cleo that forms the narrative. The film has a smooth pace and is very tight. Coming in at 2 hours 15 minutes not a minute is not important to the story. It is shot in glorious black and white, which only enhances the beauty of this very human story.
  5. Nosferatu (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – Nosferatu is one of the most unique and excellently crafted horror films of all time. Using the backbone of the classic Nosferatu narrative, it expands from that in such ingenious and mind-boggling ways, using incredible filmmaking to carry those explorations into the horror genre. Directed by the German filmmaking titan Werner Herzog, this feature has some of the best directing, cinematography, writing, and pacing of any horror films out there. Starring Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula himself, Kinski has the performance of a century, with his subtle use of body language and physical performance as a bastion for horror, and his line delivery absolutely executes on the building tension throughout the film. Every scene with Count Dracula only builds upon the undeniable terror of the character, capitalizing every minute he’s on screen to fleshing out and constructing the character. Throughout the film, he becomes scarier and also receives a plethora of depth to the character; you soon realize he’s not just a monster, but a pathetic and utterly lonely old man who has nothing to do in the world but cause harm. This film is perfect in every aspect, and has so much more to say about death and the perception of it under the surface. Such a home run of a film. 5/5.
  6. Wildlife (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – Terrific film…but a real downer about a family falling apart in the ‘60s. Written by the amazing Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano who also directs. Based on a book published in 1990.  It’s well shot and paced with a compelling story that breaks the viewers heart. There are no villains in the film…just human beings getting lost along the long trail of life. The wild fires featured in the film represent the family that was being destroyed by forces that were beyond their control. When the fire passes only the standing dead trees are left… the family is THE standing dead. The film ends with the broken family getting one more family portrait… so the boy can remember he once had a family. Terrific performances by all the actors in the film…very well cast . They all convey an inner sadness that seems genuine.
  7. American Movie (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – American Movie is a splendid documentary that explores the dreams and aspirations of an independent filmmaker in Wisconsin, as he attempts to make his first feature film, and then subsequently goes onto finish a still developing short film. This documentary is so neat and the people within it are just so fun to watch. So many personalities are to be found from the filmmaker himself Mark Borchardt, to his goofy and subtly creepy best friend, and to his Swedish mother, so much is captured within the runtime. Through crises and triumph, the camera is always rolling, as it slowly reveals throughout the film Mark’s deep insecurities and fears about mundanity. His constant self-criticising and self-actualizing are humorous to watch, but also saddening as you soon get to understand what is really going on in his brain. His ambition and dedication feels futile, but still deserves the absolute respect of any viewer. The documentary is a fantastic romp through Wisconsin, and it never fails to entertain. 4.5/5
  8. Lift (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – Terrific little doc …it’s one shot (outside of several cutaways of flies walking on an elevator wall… which makes me think of the “fly on the wall” saying) talking to people over a number of days at different times when they are on an elevator… you get a glimpse into the lives of regular people just being human beings. The conversations last only as long as an elevator ride…it’s uplifting and heartbreaking all at the same time. The human condition is an amazing thing and it doesn’t take much to bring it out… just ask. Clocking in at 25 minutes, it leaves you hoping all the people presented were okay after the camera was turned off. There were a few other cutaways down the elevator shaft and of things going on and off the elevator. I saw it as a metaphor for life… it’s just a short up and down journey.
  9. Coven (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – Coven is very interesting. Directed by the aforementioned Mark Borchardt, the short film is quite a mess, but has a ton of heart. The short film is all done by real people in Mark’s lives, a community project headed by Mark himself. It attempts to explore alcoholism and drug abuse, but does not go very far in its venture. It’s mostly centered around horror, as a writer finds himself in a hospital after an overdose, and his only remaining friend pushes him to join a suspicious support group.  It is a very choppy and misorganized short film, but I cannot help but love it considering the circumstances it was made in. A very interesting watch, that I can’t say much on as a short film, but as an experience, I very much enjoyed. N/A.
  10. Travelers (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – People who ride a commuter train talk about their lives. It’s a heart breaking examination of the frailty of human life. People coming and going just trying to find why they are in this world. Unlike his other film this one ventures into the living spaces of the subjects. All have hopes and dreams. Much more polished than his first film Isaacs has a  knack for getting people to open up. Well-shot with perfect sound. It has little moments of joy that make the travel worthy of the journey. Once the film is over the viewer can’t help but hope all the people we have met are okay in the world. Clocking in at 48 minutes, it’s a ride worth every minute.
  11. Slacker (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – Slacker is a feature directed and written by the incredible Richard Linklater. It is quite the unique and tactical film. It was crafted using guerilla filmmaking techniques, a low budget of nearly $20, 000, entirely underground and inexperienced actors, and almost always filming on location, this feature utilizes and capitalizes on every opportunity and resource available to make this film possible. Slacker follows the lives of hundreds of people in Texas, spanning twenty-four hours, as they live out their lives and explore the world around them, running into old friends, encountering thieves, as well as being followed by manic conspiracy theorists, this film tackles a massive task of capturing all of these stories. For a 97- minute runtime, the film manages to feel like three hours and overstays its welcome. It seems it would fit better as a lengthy short film, there are definitely individuals the film follows that just are uninteresting and ruin the pace of the film, and if you cut them out, it would be much, much better. The film could have been a masterful short film, but instead turned out to be a slightly disappointing feature film. – 4 out of 5
  12. Meantime (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – This is a well crafted and directed film from the UK with a powerful cast that has both Tim Roth and Gary Oldman when they were really young. Set to the backdrop of the poor working class of the Thatcher era England, man, it’s joyless. There are scenes that are uncomfortable to watch but they inform the reality the film presents and are necessary. The listing has it as a comedy drama…but I saw no comedy. Tim Roth plays Colin, the main character who is lost in a sea of English despair. The conclusion is absolutely heartbreaking, in that it isn’t an end… just another continuation into the dead end of his existence. The scenes in the film are punctuated by the music that consists mainly of a single piano playing down beat music… mundane music for a mundane life. Well directed by Mike Leigh this is a film that is raw and gritty with purpose…. like life.
  13. The Jerk (Recommendation by McKenna, review by Drew) – The Jerk is a wondrous comedy directed by Carl Reiner that stars the undeniably incredible Steve Martin. This film piques my interest. Its strong direction towards absurdity and the fantastical mixture of Steve Martin’s performance and the film’s writing lead to a completely goofy, yet outdated experience. The pace of the comedy certainly disservices the film. When certain jokes fail to entertain or just are not that funny, the film feels as though it comes to an absolute halt as you wait for the unfunny bit to be wrapped up so you can move onto the next joke. But when jokes do work, it is beyond amazing. While plenty of the film has not aged well, so much of it has, so much of its witty absurdity and goofy performances are spectacular and a blast to enjoy. For as much of the film is able to get right, it certainly lacks substance in many departments. The cinematography is far from engaging and plenty of the creative aspects lack life. Certain parts of Martin’s performance are perhaps too over-the-top and cause the film to be more obnoxious than humorous. It’s a solid entry, but lacks substance in many areas, and could use a stronger direction and a cleaner script. – 3.5/5
  14. Black Girl (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – It’s a well constructed human story by Osmane Sembene, a director from Africa. It’s overwhelmingly sad. A Black woman from Senegal goes to France to become what she thinks is a nanny. Instead she is enslaved by a horrible French couple. It’s a very slow destruction of a human being.  Recognizing the story telling and structure doesn’t do the film justice. It’s just so sad it’s hard to watch. It’s real and raw… the film gave me anxiety… perhaps that was the point. The lead drives the story through her eyes as she reflects on where she is in life and where she has come from. Her eventual ending is tragic. The French couple are pure evil…cold and heartless monsters. The French couple take everything but give nothing…. they torture the woman with their white French privilege… they of course get off scot-free and never answer for their criminal actions. I recognize the film as a great work of art… but I didn’t enjoy it. Movies are an escape for me…I already know humans are awful. The film is just over an hour in length… a hard hour to watch.
  15. Mishima (Recommendation by Drew, review by McKenna) – A Paul Schrader masterpiece… that must be clear… it works on every level… it borders on high spectacle with its eclectic stylized story structure… all working together to come together in one story… it’s ultimately a tragedy. The story is based on the real Japanese writer Yukio Mishima who commits suicide for his world view in 1970. It’s a fictionalized account that incorporates his various writings into the story. It’s a story of self-illusion bordering on full delusion. Mishima sees himself in the grand world of his novels and plays…seeing himself as the only person who can lead Japan back to glory by reinstating the Emperor to power… that would be a terrific story alone… but much of it actually happened which brings a humanity to the story that may not have existed if solely a work of fiction. Much of the story is about the past…looking back…always stylized… we know what the past is…. The present is confusing and the future is scary. So let’s go back…which isn’t possible…the present is already the past. Great artists sometimes carry much madness and self importance…Mishima brings that to the forefront of the story. Mishima as a character exists in Shakespearean level of self tragedy …. he is simply an epic figure in his own mind. Often with great ego comes great art. Schrader doesn’t compromise the story he wants to tell as he moves the story along at a perfect pace, jumping around time periods scene to scene and never confusing the viewer. It is shot in color and black and white and also uses varied color balance to create mood for time and place. Set design is spectacular…parts are surreal that helps illustrate the ego of our protagonist. The person who created these grand visions in his mind thinks a great deal of himself. Mishima embraces extreme ideas of masculinity with his physical body and his outward mannerisms… all of which made me wonder who he was trying to convince. All the machismo looked to be a shield to keep people see his inner vulnerability and self. The film ends with Mishima trying to storm a military installation and trying to install the Emperor to power…25 years after World War Two was over…. it’s a very ego-driven pursuit…ultimately Mishima commits ritualistic suicide…perhaps as he had always envisioned …he becomes a character in one of his story’s. The thing is…this film is a great representation of America today … 36 years after it first came out…exaggerated masculinity …. storming of a political facility and holding officials hostage…demanding to go BACK…it’s nutty how close to now it is.

Well, that’s all for our fifteen film review. We’ve gone from the endearingly hilarious American Movie, to the everyday lives and occurrences within an elevator in Lift, to the horrific masterpiece of power and meaningless destruction in Nosferatu, and the absolute blurring of the lines between art and life in Mishima. It has been an absolute blast to not only recommend these films and get to see the quite animated reviews from McKenna, but to also see the wondrous variety of recommendations I received from him. This experience has helped me push outside of my usual film taste and explore other genres, styles of filmmaking, and general approaches of these films. It has challenged me to look past what I usually think of as a fantastic film and to see value in films that aren’t necessarily obvious masterpieces. This has been an extremely valuable experience.

Holiday story: A Day in the Life of an Elf

By Kalei Griffin/Staff Writer

As one of Santa’s elves, I have many tasks to accomplish. Throughout the day, I am in charge of many things. It’s a luxury being one of Santa’s elves. Let me take you through my day! 

Each elf has their own room. Mine is located in the middle of, what we call, the Santa hall; its where the most prized elves stay. Santa calls me his “beloved elf”. Every elf wakes up around 6 in the morning. Some wakeup at 5 just so that they can get a head start, but I’m quite lazy when it comes to waking up so I stick to 6! Once I wake up, I go straight to the designated elf room(bathroom) and get freshened up. I brush my teeth and then do my skin care routine, which takes about 10 minutes. After that is done, I brush out my hair and begin to get dressed. My “uniform” is pretty simple: a hat, a snug dress, and a pair of pointed toe shoes of my choice(most of my shoes are bedazzled hehe). Once my whole morning routine is done, I head down to headquarters for a light breakfast. I usually have 3 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon, and two pieces of toast but sometimes if i’m feeling fancy, i’ll have some of Mrs. Clauses homemade cereal, aka, elf charms. It’s delicious!, but I prefer a warm breakfast. While i’m down in headquarters chowing down on my breakfast, I chat with my fellow elf besties for the meantime. We usually just discuss what we are doing that day, what we are going to eat that day, and sometimes, if there is any gossip going on, we will secretly discuss that as well. 

Now that breakfast is over, all of the elves head to the workshop to receive our tasks to complete for that day. Santa wakes up at 7 because he feels that he needs his beauty sleep in order to function. Once we arrive at the workshop, we wait patiently for him to come down and join us. Once he is completely awake, he joins us on the floor and assigns us our task(s). I usually get the honor of making the stuffed animals and legos; everyone else usually has the more boring jobs like making wooden cars, trains, assembling toys together, etc. It takes no longer than a few hours to make the desired amount of toys for that day, so after we are done, we just find something else to do. We can make more toys, clean, help Mrs. Clause cook, go sledding for a few hours, or have a snowball fight. We usually choose to either have a snowball fight or go sledding. 

After having fun, we join back together to have lunch. It changes every day so we have no idea what we are going to have. My favorite is chili with elf-shaped bread slices. Today we had creamy elf mac and cheese with tomato soup and crackers. It was so yummy! After lunch, we continue our snowball fight/sledding adventure until dinner. 

For dinner, we had a thanksgiving feast basically. Everything you can think of that you would have at thanksgiving, we had. With having a big dinner like that, most of the elves go to bed super early. It’s like they are in a food coma. We eat until we can breathe. Santa, after dinner, always eats a plate or two of chocolate chip cookies with two glasses of milk. When I eat a big meal like that, I have no room for cookies. I don’t know how Santa does it! At this point, everyone heads to bed and relaxes for a few before falling asleep.

You might think that elves are super busy 24/7 and that we don’t have any time to have any fun, but really, it’s the exact opposite! With that being said, that is a day in the life of an elf!