Movie Review: "Avengers: Infinity War"

Will Carsh | Staff Writer

“Avengers: Infinity War” is a tricky film to review. The nineteenth addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes hot on the heels of “Black Panther,” a self-contained film that told a smaller, more personal story than usual. Back to back, the two films couldn’t be more different: while “Black Panther” required little outside context for newer viewers, “Avengers: Infinity War” almost requires viewers to have seen every previous entry of the franchise. It spends little time with reintroductions of characters or concepts from previous films. While it does have an overarching thread, it’s also basically four or five movies in one, more than  characters all being split off into separate groups and plotlines that sometimes split off into more subgroups and plotlines. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that “Avengers: Infinity War” is a lot to process.

Props must given to the directing and writing team—a collaboration of the Russo Brothers behind the camera and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely penning the script—for holding the movie together despite its massivity. Right off the bat, it’s clear that the people in charge of the film’s production put Joss Whedon’s haphazard style to shame. The direction is strong, the visuals striking. The writing is sharp. And most importantly of all, there’s a definite willingness to take risks—both stylistically and narratively—than any other film in the franchise to date. It’s doubtful that anyone’s predictions will completely hold up here, and even the more predictable elements are still surprising in the way that they’re delivered. The film very quickly establishes higher stakes than any previous film, making for a somewhat nerve-wracking viewing experience as beloved characters are constantly faced with possible death. From a craftsmanship standpoint, the film doesn’t entirely escape the sense that perhaps a little too much is going on at once, at least at first, but it does manage to constantly keep the viewer interested in what’s going on at a time, briskly taking them from location to location until its outstanding finale. By the time it reaches the end, it feels as though it has justified its risky narrative choices. It’s rather brilliant in this regard.

The cast of actors and the characters that they play also hold up pretty well despite appearing in an overwhelming amount. On the one hand, viewers will likely feel disappointed that some characters are pushed to the background in favor of others. While this is necessary for the sake of cohesion and clarity, it is still a bit odd that some very popular characters get so little screen time while some normally tangential ones find themselves in the forefront of the story. While it is necessary to keep the film digestible and isn’t necessarily a flaw, I feel obligated to issue that warning: not all your favorite characters are going to have equal screen time or relevance here. However, compliments are owed for the specific groupings the film presents the audience with. Tony Stark and Doctor Strange in particular mirror each other well, with both characters exposing the other’s similarities and dissimilarities. Surprisingly, Thor and Rocket also play off of each other well, injecting the film with some heart along the way. While the film may at times may threaten to lose sight of its characters, it ultimately cleverly utilizes them for strong dramatic effect. Not everyone gets equal play, but everyone is at least characterized consistently with previous appearances.

It seems necessary to devote an entire section to the film’s villain, Thanos, played in motion capture by Josh Brolin. The special effects on the character are solid: while no one will mistake it for anything other than CGI, it’s still state of the art and a marvel (no pun intended) to behold. Brolin’s acting is also strong, giving the Titan a sense of calmness and confidence throughout. Thankfully, Thanos also gets some much-needed fleshing out over the course of the movie. While some viewers may still find Killmonger from “Black Panther” a more successful villain, there’s no denying that Thanos is one of the strongest in the series, boasting twisted but clear motivations and some genuine humanity in the midst of all of it. In terms of physicality, he also fixes a running issue of the franchise in that him and his minions feel like a genuine match for the heroes. Their battles are titanic, sprawling bouts that push the boundaries of CGI carnage. Those looking for spectacle in the film’s battles along with a true sense of danger will find plenty to soak in here. Thanos and his team represent a thrilling counter to the earth’s mightiest heroes, resulting in both dramatic and combat-filled encounters that should leave viewers on the edge of their seats. Several times throughout, the film left me with my jaw on the floor from the visuals alone. It easily is Marvel’s most striking film in this regard.

If this review has been rather vague, it’s because I’ve taken great effort to be spoiler free while still addressing potential quality concerns. “Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t an easy film to dig into without quickly reaching “spoiler” territory. It’s also not an easy film to digest, as it has more going on in it than perhaps any film ever has. I haven’t seen a film quite like this before, and while I suspect that those who are fans of the franchise will find the film fantastic, those who haven’t done their homework or only casually enjoy the films may find themselves only invested in the spectacle. Think of it as the first part to a season finale of a TV show: it’s just not going to mean a whole lot unless you’re caught up on and enjoyed the season beforehand. It’s also not going to offer complete closure, so prepare to spend the next year until the fourth Avengers film speculating and wondering about where the story is going next.

Still, there’s no getting around the fact that far more often than not, “Avengers; Infinity War” challenges and subverts the superhero genre. It’s an ambitious film, one that perhaps stumbles once or twice in small ways trying to juggle more than it can always handle. However, it never completely drops the ball, and by the end justifies its seemingly more questionable creative decisions with perhaps the most jaw-dropping conclusion to a superhero film in the history of the genre. Whatever few issues there may be are overwhelmed by the staggering achievement this film really is when taken in as a whole. From a craftsmanship perspective, there’s never been a film like it. From a visual perspective, you’ll get more than your money’s worth. Hats off to the cast and crew for taking my breath away, and hats off to Marvel studios for continuing to push themselves. If “Black Panther” was a masterwork of the solo-superhero movie, then “Infinity War” is the first masterwork of the superhero team up movie. Overall, “Infinity War” is an incredible film for those that have kept up to date with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a jolt to the system that won’t soon be forgotten. While casual watchers of the films will definitely need to catch up first and those that haven’t been entirely won over yet likely still won’t be here, there’s really no getting around it: Infinity War is one of the biggest wins yet for Marvel Studios and their second brilliant film in a row. I’m floored.

10/10

Live music may be a remedy to 'pinecone curtain' phenomenon

Zachary Monroe | Contributing Writer

The Woodshed Bar and Grill on Sprague Avenue is a karaoke haunt. On Thursday, April 26, there were few enough people that one could hear each individual conversation. Several people sat alone at the bar, bobbing their heads to the beat, some even singing along, as Kyle Johnson, a recent Whitworth alumnus from Colfax, WA, performed his rendition of “Hotel California.”

Charles Bumpas, a regular at the Woodshed, said, “I like the way he sounds… I hope this boy does good.”

Many Whitworthians are involved in the Spokane music scene, which can be an excellent way for students to break through the infamous ‘pinecone curtain.’

“You have students who have been here for four years… I feel like they don’t ever go south,” said Chris Reichart, a senior.

“Sometimes it feels like two separate worlds,” said Carter Hudson, another senior. “But it’s nice to try and bridge that a little bit.” Music is a potential cure for this problem. “I think it’s rad to be out in the community. It’s super easy to get stuck on campus.”

Hudson started playing guitar when he was eight. Now, he has recorded an EP of all original music in collaboration with his older brother and Benjamin Olsen, an alumnus. Around Spokane, Hudson has played at Boots Bakery, open mic night at The Bartlett, Bloomsday, and in a church worship band. His method of getting involved has been “mostly relational,” in his words.

“I guess I have my feet in a lot of  different musical things,” Hudson said. From writing his own music to performing covers, he has met many people in the Spokane music community.

Live music can be a potential remedy for the ‘pinecone curtain’ phenomenon which seems endemic to the Whitworth experience. The alumni & parent relations office at Whitworth were able to identify 41 alum who work at least work part time in music. They range from recent grads to people who went to Whitworth in the 1950s, and in occupation from part-time organists at churches to owners of production studios.

The variety of Whitworth graduates who are involved in music can be, if anything, more encouragement for students to get out and go to a symphony or bar to experience Spokane culture. Having an alum or fellow student out in the community doing something musical can be a personal connection for Whitworth students. Students have performed at bars, restaurants, bakeries, farmers markets, churches, and public events all across Spokane.

Lane King, a senior from the Tri-Cities has used his guitar talent to produce one album and do gigs across Spokane, especially at farmers markets. The reason King focuses on farmers markets is because his style of music fits that type of venue. He said that getting in the gig scene is about “marketing yourself as somebody who has something to offer.”

Whitworth music students, especially in the jazz department, are generally encouraged to get out in the community and perform.

“If a person is called to be a musician, then… it’s a shame if they are unable to make a living,” said Brent Edstrom, professor of music, “Professional experiences are helpful.”

“I consider myself a professional. I do what I do, I do it regularly, I do it well, I get paid to do it,” Reichart said. “Our music department is really phenomenal and I think they do promote student teaching, [and] student performing… I think its a healthy environment for that because you are with other musicians.”

Music has more benefits besides just getting involved in the community. According to “How does Music Affect your Brain?”, an article published in 2017 by Ashford University, listening to music releases dopamine and antibodies that boost the immune system. Learning to play an instrument can do all of those things and also increases memory and dexterity.

As Johnson closed up his night at the Woodshed, the bartender went up to sing with him, putting the second microphone to use. Johnson is taking a path that many musicians probably dream of. It is a path that will also continue to connect Whitworth to the the rest of the world. While discussing his future plans, Johnson voiced that he wants to buy a van and tour the country, booking gigs where he can and start making connections.

“This is what I’m doing full time... I want to make it,” he said.

Student composers shine in "Argonautika"

Colleen Bell | Arts & Cultural Editor

Whitworth Theatre’s production of “Argonautika,” written by Mary Zimmerman, premiered last Friday, April 13. The play is based on the classical Greek story of “Jason and the Argonauts,” in which Greek prince Jason and a crew of heroes set out on a voyage across the treacherous Mediterranean Sea to recover the priceless Golden Fleece from a foreign king, aided by goddesses Athena and Hera.

The production is directed by Naphtali Leyland Fields, visiting assistant professor of theater. The cast is composed of 14 students from a variety of majors and years.

Sophomore Madison Oliver, a communication and visual design in computing major, played Pollux, one of twin sons of Zeus who accompanied Jason on his voyage.

“The play is full of great comedic moments, but also hits some very serious topics of what it means to be a hero, tragedy and the role of fate and free choice in life right on the head,” Oliver said. “I was immediately excited to be in the show as soon as I read the script.”

The musical score for the production was composed by sophomores Brian Wittenberg and Cary Jeffery, who are both music majors in the composition track. 

“The playwright of 'Argonautika,' Mary Zimmerman, actually encouraged directors to have their own musical score created for the show, so I think it’s great that we are following her advice,” Oliver said.  “I also think it’s amazing that we were able to involve Whitworth composers on campus and have an avenue for them to gain experience and have their work presented with a live show.”

Jeffery and Wittenberg, along with their composition seminar class, were offered the opportunity to compose for the show last fall, and the final composers were chosen by Fields through an audition process.

“It was a little weird [to be chosen] because I had conducted that audition a little bit late after the deadline, but I was super excited to be on board anyway,” Jeffery said.

As music composition majors, this was an opportunity for Jeffery and Wittenberg to gain experience in their desired career path.

“I was extremely excited because this is sort of the realm of what I want to do, composing for games or movies, and so this is a first step into that kind of thing,” Wittenberg said.

Jeffery and Wittenberg worked with Fields starting late fall semester, beginning with a list of “examples of certain emotive and style qualities” which Fields wanted the score to have, they said.

“[Fields] gave us just a list of all the tracks that she wanted,” Wittenberg said. “She had a length of time that she wanted and kind of a feel that she was going for and so we would just kind of write for that, show her the next week, and tweak that based on what she wanted.”

Jeffery and Wittenberg composed a variety of pieces for the show, including themes for each of the main characters.

“There were more [tracks] that ended up in the play than were originally [suggested],” Wittenberg said.

“Pretty early on [we decided] we wanted character themes, which we didn’t get to repeat too much but it gave us a good feel and a good way to control the direction of how the story was going and what the characters were about,” Jeffery said.

Overall, Jeffery and Wittenberg are pleased with the final product, they said.

“I really do like how it turned out,” Wittenberg said, “I wish that there was maybe a little bit more music just to flesh out some of the scenes a bit more or that we had more time to flesh out some of our musical ideas, because fitting a whole musical idea in 20 seconds is pretty hard.”

The remaining performances of “Argonautika” are Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Cowles Auditorium. General admission is $15, or free for Whitworth students with valid student ID.

Contact Colleen Bell at cbell21@my.whitworth.edu.

Film News: Why "The Shape Of Water" deserved Best Picture

Will Carsh | Staff Writer

This week, the Academy hosted its annual award show. There were a few surprises and upsets along the way- Gary Oldman grabbing a (deserved) best actor win was probably the most controversial due to domestic abuse accusations- but all in all, the show went along smoothly leading up to the most coveted award of all, Best Picture. Nine films were nominated, each of them bearing something unique. “Get Out”, Jordan Peele’s debut feature, is notable for being the first horror film in quite some time to find its way into the ceremony. “Dunkirk” is notable for its organization of narrative. “Lady Bird” is a coming-of-age film. “Three Billboards…” is a comedy. And the list goes on. Every film was qualified to win, and the Academy did a good job of picking a variety of nominees.

Which left many viewers- myself included- surprised that Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” ended up taking home the gold. Having only received nominations back in 2007 for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro’s return to the awards show left him winning both Best Director and Best Picture for ‘The Shape of Water.” It’s exciting to see a well-revered director getting his due, but it’s also exciting because of just what kind of movie ultimately brought home these awards.

Make no mistake: “The Shape of Water” is not necessarily a perfect film. About a month ago, I wrote in length about all of its issues and oddities, but I still also left with an overall positive impression. There’s no denying that del Toro was deserving of the Best Director title- the film’s visuals are a sight to behold. He’s always been able to work a shot, and maybe more so than any other film in his body of work, “The Shape of Water” puts this on full display. The film was clearly a visual passion project for del Toro, and it’s fantastic to see all the hard work he put into making the film feel so organic and alive did not go unnoticed as it often has in the past. Yes, plenty of other films could have just as easily taken the award, but for del Toro, it’s a long deserved one.

In terms of the film’s big Best Picture win, however, there’s one factor that makes its victory so exciting: it’s a really, really bizarre movie. Yes, its message about acceptance and inclusion is timely- and very much welcome- but from an artistic and storytelling standpoint, the fact that the film won is an indication that the Academy is starting to acknowledge a wider variety of films that run in contrast with the films that often win. The academy tends to favor dramas, whether they be historical or not. A quick look at some recent winners- “The King’s Speech,” “The Artist,” “Argo,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman,” “Spotlight,” and “Moonlight”- show us a pattern of very similar films receiving award attention, with a notable exception of the strange “Birdman.”

Each one of these films was, of course, completely deserving of the title. I do not mean to try and strip them of their significance by pointing out their similarity. But the reality is, most of the films featured here, and more so when one looks even farther back, are either historical dramas or a drama of some variation. And yes, “The Shape of Water” is most definitely a romantic drama. It is, however, more so than that a dark fantasy film that borders on arthouse at times.

Ben Croll of Indiewire described the film as a “powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free” in his review of the film, and to me, this is why del Toro’s win is so significant: it is farmore odd and imaginative than films that the academy usually recognizes, let alone gives the win to. It is in many ways comparable to 2016’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” receiving a nomination for Best Picture. In a world where I was fully expecting a movie like “The Darkest Hour” or “Dunkirk”- both of which are excellent films in their own right- to win based off of what the academy typically tends to recognize, I was left fairly amused at their decision to give such a personal and artistic film the show’s most coveted award. While the film is a fairly familiar romantic story, it’s also a very unique and constantly risky one, featuring an interspecies romance and a story that manages to not quite go the way that you’re expecting it to go. While it may be conventional in some ways, in even more ways, it’s not really like any other movie that I’ve seen before.

It seems like the Academy is starting to branch out and give the spotlight to new kinds of films. While this isn’t necessarily the most momentous win in the show’s history, it’s nice to see an artistically unique dark fantasy film take home the award. Here’s to hoping that in the future, we see more genres snag the prize. I’d love to see “Black Panther” take home some trophies next year…

Movie Review: "The Darkest Hour"

Will Carsh | Staff Writer

“The Darkest Hour”, directed by Joe Wright and starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, deals with Churchill’s crucial first decisions as Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II. It’s overall a well directed, written, and acted feature that builds towards a particularly emotional conclusion. However, one can’t help but feel that the film is perhaps a little too safe during most of its runtime, falling into the category of being good while rarely achieving true excellence.

 

There are two primary aspects at play that make the film consistently work. First, Wright opts to keep the focus of the film down to Churchill’s earliest days in office without going too much into his early life. The film is a bit of a snapshot, and is all the better for it, avoiding taking on too many threads at once. The audience gets a necessary view into Churchill’s familial life- Kristin Scott Thomas pulls an impressive performances as Clementine Churchill- but it isn’t the film’s focus. The film instead takes place in bunkers and offices for much of its runtime, building tension as Churchill faces opposition both from Germany and men within his own cabinet. The film’s primary conflict relies on whether or not Churchill should try and seek peace relations with Germany. Churchill recognizes that peace under Germany would be worse than total destruction, but Edward Wood (Stephen Dillane), Earl of Halifax, and previous Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) disagree. The two men conspire to take Churchill out of office, but neither are presented as downright villains: the film does both sides of the difficult argument justice. It becomes apparent throughout the film that decisions that may seem obvious to us now really weren’t in the time, a powerful message for today’s complex political climate.

 

The second aspect that drives the film into success is Gary Oldman’s shockingly good performance as Churchill. It is almost impossible to recognize him beneath the prosthetics, accent, and mannerisms. His nomination in the “Best Actor” category at the Oscars is well-deserved; Oldman owns every single scene that he’s in, fully embodying his character so well that it doesn’t even feel like a performance. His acting chops are especially crucial for this sort of character as Churchill was not necessarily the most likeable man in the world. The film doesn’t shy away from his harsher traits; in fact, the audience is first introduced to him being flat out cruel to Elizabeth Nel (Lily James), his personal secretary. However, both the script and Oldman’s performance do wonders in showing his more redemptive qualities. The pinnacle of the film is an incredibly moving scene towards the conclusion that features Churchill on a train with regular British citizens. Both writer Anthony McCarten’s dialogue and Oldman’s performance shine in the sequence, a moving, tender moment that carries more emotional and symbolic truth than historical accuracy.

In terms of downsides, the film rarely breaks the mold. With the exception of the scene above, nothing that happens in the film, in terms of both directing and story, that comes across as particularly surprising. An early scene hints at a slightly dysfunctional family dynamic within the Churchill home, but the film does little to expand on this. The film also ends rather abruptly and opts to conclude some of the major parts of Churchill’s story in text before the credits, and I can’t help but feel like its a missed opportunity. Wright’s directing can also be a little drab at times. He makes a few interesting decisions- the opening shot in particular is exciting- but also makes a few odd ones. A scene in which Churchill meets Ben Mendelsohn’s King Henry VI in particular stands out as awkwardly dark and blocked, regardless of artistic intent. Still, he generally proves to be quite good, just nothing that one wouldn’t expect from the genre. The same can be said of McCarten’s script, which is surprisingly witty and light in some places, but mostly just sticks to “good”. The film feels a bit like it’s designed specifically for Academy attention in the way that it minimizes risk taking in favor of consistency.

 

However, the timeliness of the story combined with Oldman’s performance are enough to make the movie easy to recommend. Even if the film takes few artistic risks, it builds to an emotionally satisfying finale that mostly makes up for the film’s safeness. If you’re looking for a good drama that features one of the best performances in recent memory, “The Darkest Hour” is an absolute must-see.

 

8/10

Senior makes playwriting debut with "Stalled"

Marisa Palazzo | Staff Writer

On Saturday, Feb. 17, theater major Mathias Oliver’s senior project, “Stalled,” showed in Cowles Auditorium Stage II. “Stalled” was a staged reading of a play written and directed by Oliver. The cast consisted of four women; sophomores Marguerite Ainsworth and Sarah Chandler, and freshmen Cambria Pilger and Alina Sunoo. “Stalled” is a play about four very different women and how they handle problems concerning the way women are treated in the workplace.

“I wanted to use “Stalled” as an opportunity to tell a story that I wanted to tell, because, being an actor, I’m usually at the disposal of some other playwright and director for what they want to say. So, I wanted to use Stalled as a way to tell something that I thought was really important story wise,” Oliver said. “I felt that, in regards to theater, women weren’t really getting much of a say in the narrative that was being told about them, and there just weren’t really any substantial plays that I found that addressed the issues that I wanted to talk about with regards to women in the workplace.”

“I worked with Mathias before and he’s really, really talented and such an awesome person to work with, so I was really excited for the chance to get to work with him again,” said Ainsworth, who played the role of Maye.

The four women in the play were Maye, Jennifer, Esther, and Marge. Maye used her good looks and sense of humor to work her way up the ladder. Jennifer went about things very differently, she believed that hard work and education was the way to gain higher authority. Esther cared about everyone, she was the woman who did anything she could to ensure that everyone got along. Marge dressed more masculine than the rest and had a sense of humor.

“My favorite scene is Act 1 Scene 6 which is between Marge and Esther because one it’s this nice kind of charming break from the previous scene were everybody’s kind of going at each other’s throats, and Esther and Marge, this is were we really get to see the development of their friendship… and it’s just a really cute scene” Oliver said.

The actors were cast at the end of Fall Semester 2017 and began rehearsing during Jan Term.

“I was very excited. Maye is a very loud and exciting character, but it was also really cool to see her serious side and how she tackles issues in her own way. I thought [she] was very true to life even though she’s a larger than life person.” Ainsworth said. “ So, I was really excited reading through the script. I thought it was so funny and Mathias’s writing is just so good.”

“I really liked the spaghetti scene. It was cool because during the rehearsal process we had so many talk backs and jokes and that was super fun to get close to the cast and work on [the play] at the same time and the spaghetti scene was one of those that we really bonded over constantly making jokes about spaghetti on and off script,” Ainsworth said.

Junior audience member Grace Carruth wanted to come to “Stalled” because Oliver is a good friend of hers and she wanted to come out and support him.

“[“Stalled”] was very funny, and it was very well crafted for [Oliver’s] first writing project” Carruth said. “Stalled” was very humorous at times due to the snarky remarks that Maye and Jennifer threw back and forth at each other, but there was a more serious side too, looking at the points of view of both women especially because most women can relate.  “[“Stalled”] made me laugh and made me think.”  

“There’s one scene where Jennifer calls Maye a slut and the actresses did such a good job from just going from throwing these snarky barbs back and forth in quite a funny way to when she says that line Maye’s really hurt, and I thought that all of the actresses did a really great job of showing how it went way too far,” Carruth said.

“Stalled” has been a working progress since last Spring Semester. Oliver has revised it quite a few times with the help of his project advisers. “Stalled” is still in the beginning stages, it is Oliver’s hope that one day it will be a published play, he said.

Music Review: "Black Panther: The Album"

Will Carsh | Staff Writer

In addition to the release of the excellent “Black Panther” film last week, an accompanying soundtrack curated by modern music legend Kendrick Lamar dropped on the Febr. 9. It debuted at the No.1 position on the Billboard top 200 and has earned a fairly positive response from critics thus far. The film’s director, Ryan Coogler, personally selected Lamar for the job, statingin an interview with Collider that Lamar’s “artistic themes align with those we explore in the film.” The album doesn’t necessarily function as a new Lamar project as much as a various artists’ compilation that carries his personal touch and influence from track to track. And really, it is overall pretty stupendous.

The album opens with Lamar going solo for the titular track. Clocking in at 2:11, it’s a short piece, but one that adequately sets up the direction that Lamar has chosen for the project. Historically, he has made a bit of a name for himself for his ability to tell stories and experiment in his music, and this album is thankfully no exception.

The soundtrack works best after one has already watched the film: Kendrick’s exclamation of “I am T’Challa” at the end of the opener makes it clear that the lyrics and the film’s story are meant to be tied together closely. The track itself features a lovely piano bit that transitions into more dissonant, exotic sounds.

Next up is the album’s lead single, “All the Stars”, a collaboration piece between Lamar and SZA. The track peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100 chart, and it’s not hard to see why it was a success. Catchy, soothing, defiant, and equally fitting for both the film and for pop radio, the song is musically one of the album’s strongest. It’s lyrics, however, seem more disconnected from the narrative. One could be forgiven for not recognizing it as part of what’s essentially a concept album.

The next cut, “X”, is oddly the first track that carries what becomes the general vibe of the album. A pure hip hop track, it features Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, and Saudi coupled with some memorable, enjoyably repetitive lyrics. The oft-repeated line “Are you on ten yet?” quickly becomes infectious. From this point on, the songs stick to the format of solid grooves, beats, and performances by some great choices of guest artists.

A favorite of mine is “Opps,” a track that’s featured predominantly during the film’s centerpiece action sequence. Featuring performances by Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok and boasting a flute as part of its main beat, the track is lyrically one of the more aggressive ones, the line “You’re dead to me” over a heavy bass and tribal drumming patterns drilling into the listener’s head.

Another highlight is “I Am,” performed by Jorja Smith. Featuring dissonant chords that give the track a chaotic feel despite Smith’s lovely vocals, it’s one that slowly grows on the listener over time. “Paramedic!” is another fun one, the lyrics taking on the voice of the film’s villain for the first time.

“Redemption” and “Pray for Me” are other tracks to look out for, the latter of which features an unexpected collaboration between Kendrick Lamar and The Weekend. Overall, there isn’t an incredibly weak track on the record musically speaking. It doesn’t stray far from the hip-hop genre, but manages to find variety through guest collaborations and different sounds to go with the beats.

Lyrically, the album as a whole makes more sense once one has seen the film. Kendrick focuses more on the themes of the story than plot details, allowing the album to fit in fairly well with the themes featured within his body of work. It’s not hard to see why Coogler chose him for the job; his wit, wordplay, and honesty remain intact on every track. “Black Panther” is a thought-provoking film, and Lamar has made a name for himself penning thought-provoking lyrics. He is a perfect fit for this sort of project.

It may be a controversial claim to make, but as a whole, the record actually may be a bit better than last year’s already strong “Damn.” It certainly leans less in a pop direction- a couple of tracks aside- and generally features a more aggressive, harsher-sounding hip hop direction. It’s a solid addition to Kendrick Lamar’s catalogue, and while it may not be quite as groundbreaking as the film that inspired it, fans of hip-hop and the film will definitely want to check this one out.

8/10

The return of a Whitworth Choirs tradition

Marisa Palazzo | Staff Writer

The Whitworth and Women’s choir groups hosted a Valentine's Day concert on Feb. 12 in the music building. The program consisted of 17 love songs ranging from songs about romantic love to songs about lost love to songs about the love a parent has for their child. There were solos, trios, songs calling for audience participation, and vocal jazz. The Valentine’s Day choir concert is a tradition, but hasn’t been put on for four years. All of the available seating was taken.

 Both the Whitworth and Women's choirs performed at the concert. Pictured, Whitworth Choir members accompanied by senior music major Denin Koch on guitar.

Both the Whitworth and Women's choirs performed at the concert. Pictured, Whitworth Choir members accompanied by senior music major Denin Koch on guitar.

Audience member junior Emily Myhre attended the concert because two of her good friends had solos and she wanted to support them.

“I thought it was very different than any of the other choir concerts I’ve been to [at Whitworth],” Myhre said. “Choir concerts always give me a sense of community and coming together around something beautiful and enjoying music as a group.”

Myhre really enjoyed the jazz pieces, “Moonglow” and “Besame Mucho” because the choirs hardly ever perform jazz style pieces, she said.

Whitworth choir member junior Emily Huston and Whitworth choir member sophomore Marguerite Ainsworth have been singing since they were children, they said. Both were involved in choir all through primary and secondary school, so continuing in college seemed like the natural thing to do, they said. Music is a form of self-expression for Ainsworth. Music is important to Huston because she views it as a way to begin to get on the inside of God’s beauty, she said.

Ainsworth appreciated this concert in particular because she enjoyed getting to do something that was different then the choir’s usual Christmas concert, she said. Huston really enjoyed this concert because it seemed more casual and relaxed. She also appreciated the audience’s involvement and excitement, she said. Ainsworth performed a trio with two of her close friends at the concert.

“It was exciting getting to act with people I’m so comfortable with,” she said.

 Members of the Whitworth choir performed several pieces, including two jazz pieces: "Moonglow" and "Besame Mucho".

Members of the Whitworth choir performed several pieces, including two jazz pieces: "Moonglow" and "Besame Mucho".

Ainsworth really enjoyed “Moonglow” because it was a vocal jazz tune and the choir doesn’t usually perform jazz pieces. Huston still favored the more classical approach.

“My favorite piece was “A Red, Red, Rose”because the chords and the harmony were really beautiful, it was very flowing and lyric, and I appreciated the message of unconditional love that [the piece] expressed,” she said.

The choir's next concert will be at 7 p.m. on March 6 at St. John's Cathedral, free of charge.

Movie Review: "Black Panther"

Will Carsh | Staff Writer

Oftentimes, the hype surrounding a movie before release can be its undoing. Audiences form their own expectations, and trailers have to be careful in not being misleading lest it leads to outrage. Last year’s Star Wars film is a notable example of a movie with simply far too many assumptions and theories carried by audience members before the film’s release, resulting in controversy amongst audience members over whether or not the film delivered when it ended up being, for good or ill, a far different film than most expected. “Black Panther,” helmed by Ryan Coogler (“Creed”), is the 18th addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a film that carries an unbelievable amount of expectations. It’s the first Marvel superhero film to boast not only an African superhero, but a predominantly black cast. The trailers certainly made it out to be something special. And early responses lauded it as one of the best superhero films ever made. So, the question is this: does Black Panther live up to the hype? To put it bluntly, yes, and then some.

The story takes place in Wakanda, a hidden African country untouched by colonization. The country’s monopoly on a substance called “vibranium” (the substance in Captain America’s shield) has allowed it to develop technology surpassing any other country on earth. One of the first things we are told about Wakanda is that it has remained isolationist throughout its existence; the interactions between it and other countries have been incredibly limited. The film’s hero, T’Challa/ Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), becomes king of Wakanda following the death of his father in “Captain America: Civil War.” Right off the bat, T’Challa is faced with  myriad challenges: should Wakanda remain isolated in this day and age? What does a globalist Wakanda look like? And what should one do about Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), an outsider vibranium thief, and Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), Klaue’s accomplice, who seems have an agenda of his own?

T’Challa’s story boasts an absolutely excellent cast all around. The supporting players—Nakia (Lupita Nyong’O), T’Challa’s former lover and spy for Wakanda, Okoye (Danai Gurira), the bodyguard of the king, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s sister and leading scientist, and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), a CIA agent in pursuit of Klaue—are perfectly cast and played. There isn’t a weak member in the bunch; every character gets at least a scene or two where they’re given some depth thanks to Coogler’s smart scripting. Serkis also gets to have a ball as Klaue, finding the perfect blend of being both entertaining and despicable. Much of the weight of the film, however, rests on both Boseman and Jordan. I won’t spoil the plot—it is far different than what one would expect from a superhero film—but both of the actors are simply brilliant with the already fantastic material they are both given to work with.

The story itself is a timely and well-told one, running at a brisk pace without leaving character or clarity behind. A great deal of time is spent wrestling with difficult political topics, and the issues are presented in a way that’s interesting and completely relevant to the plot. The film doesn’t take any easy shortcuts with presenting controversial topics such as isolationism and globalization, either. Both T’Challa and Stevens are given intricate backgrounds and moments that make it easy to empathize with both even when they do butt heads. Stevens is a rarity amongst the Marvel villain lineup, a complex character with justifiable motives even as he goes about things in a violent, murderous way. This isn’t just a flat character for our hero to fight; he is essential to the story. This is a character who challenges the very essence of what the hero believes, making their conflict far more than just exchanging CGI blows.

On that topic, there’s no denying that “Black Panther” is a visual treat. Coogler is seemingly incapable of having an uninteresting shot as director; the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Wakanda from a design standpoint is brilliant, borrowing from many different aspects of African history to give the film a unique and eye-popping aesthetic. Technically, the film is virtually flawless. The soundtrack is also lovely, mixing traditional African music with hip hop beats and grooves that always compliment the scenes and give them energy without ever being distracting. This becomes especially noticeable during the film’s numerous, yet never repetitive action sequences. A standout scene towards the midpoint of the movie features a car chase set to a track off of Kendrick Lamar’s album inspired by the film. The beats give the chase a sense of rhythm and power, making it one of the most exciting action scenes to come out of a superhero film in awhile.

In terms of flaws, the film is almost miraculous in the way that it avoids the normal pitfalls of the superhero genre. Even the comedy is well-placed and never too excessive. Really, it all boils down to nitpicks: the CGI in a shot or two that could look better, a joke that didn’t quite land as well as it should have, a scene that maybe goes on just a little too long here and there. I really am having a hard time coming up with objective criticisms beyond just tiny, tiny things here and there.

Because, at the end of the day, this movie just works in every single way. The characters, acting, visuals and soundtrack are all excellent. There isn’t really any outstanding weakness, an achilles heel of any kind. Those who aren’t normally fans of the superhero genre may not be won over, but I would also argue that if any film displays the value of the genre, it’s this one. Not only is it a timely, relevant and thoughtful film, it’s also one of the best films Marvel has produced to date, if not the absolute best. The film is an achievement of artistry and writing within film. Blockbusters don’t really get much better than this. “Black Panther” is every bit an effective political drama as it is a superhero film. I give it the highest recommendation that I can.

10/10

Movie Review: "The Shape of Water"

Will Carsh | Staff Writer

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is a truly bizarre film. It’s also an undeniably great film that finds the visionary director producing some of his best work since 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Del Toro’s latest film is a visual journey that’s few flaws do little in the way of spoiling the remarkable whole. While many viewers will likely find themselves put off by strangeness of the story, few will be able to ignore the level of creativity and artistic freedom on display in the picture.

The story follows Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who cleans at a government facility in the 60s. Hawkins delivers a powerhouse of a performance, forced in the position of acting without speaking, with the film’s provided subtitles sometimes feeling unnecessary. You know exactly what she’s feeling and communicating without needing the words, and every action that Elisa takes in the story feels justified and sensical no matter how strange things ultimately get. Because it’s at her job that she comes into contact with the film’s visual centerpiece, the Amphibian Man.

The film takes an odd turn at this point, focusing on the interspecies romance between Elisa and the Amphibian Man. This peculiar on-screen relationship between woman and fish is paralleled throughout with del Toro’s relationship with cinema. The film’s soundtrack evokes French romantic cinema, setting the tone for a modern-looking film that in many ways feels like it belongs in a different era. Highlights include a stunning opening shot set in an underwater apartment, an orchestrated song and dance between Elisa and her stranger lover, and the creature standing in an empty theater. Del Toro’s visual talent is rarely not on display, each frame intentional in its composition, its editing seamless. The story is central to the picture, but “The Shape of Water” is equally a visual exercise, the sort of piece that views the medium of film as unique in its tension between writing and images.

The writing itself is strong, opening with a fairytale-style narration before delving into content that quickly earns the film its R rating. It’s a bit tonally jarring, but certainly the sort of tension that del Toro is intentionally seeking. A maestro of the dark fantasy genre since “Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro’s story draws strength from its usage and subversion of fairytale and romantic drama tropes. A strong supporting cast rallies around Hawkins, including Richard Jenkins as Giles, Elisa’s lonely, lost, and lovestruck neighbor, Octavia Spencer as Zelda, her co-worker, Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, a scientist assigned to the study of the creature, and Michael Shannon as Colonel Richard Strickland, the film’s demented villain. Events towards the halfway point of the film almost push it into thriller territory without fully committing, and del Toro is perfectly content with letting the picture breathe without sacrificing brisk pacing. Every major character gets some sort of subplot or arc that ties them to the film’s major events, and rarely is a scene wasted. If I’m being a bit vague in my descriptions it’s only only to preserve the element of surprise. There’s no massive plot twist or anything incredibly out of left field, but it’s still a film that benefits largely from not knowing exactly which direction it’s headed. Strickland especially seems to veer dangerously in several different directions while only becoming more and more evil as the story grows, while Giles adds a reflective and personal touch to the narrative with some truly emotionally resonant scenes. The film never loses sight of Elisa as its primary focus, however, and the way that del Toro brings her arc to its conclusion is both satisfying and unexpected. The film’s familiar story never feels stale due to the uniqueness of the premise and its characters, and only grows more investing as it unfolds.

There are, unfortunately, a couple of flaws to sort through. Much of the content that pushes this film into its MPAA rating feels unnecessary and even distracting in some cases. Regardless of how one feels about sex and violence in film on a moral level, it’s hard to make a case that this film’s usage of both improves the world, character, or story in most cases. More often than not, it feels gratuitous, and while del Toro is clearly creating an adult fairytale, much of these moments come across as trying too hard to push it into the “adult” category in fear of it being perceived as too tame. The film always remains beautiful, but it’s hard to praise everything that ends up in front of the camera as “artful” when it sometimes appears needlessly excessive. Furthermore, a more pertinent issue lies with the briskness of the romantic plot. The film does develop the relationship to a point, but in some ways it feels surprisingly rushed, losing some of its much-needed believability in the process. Hawkins manages to carry the film when the script doesn’t in this regard, but one can’t help but escape the feeling that it just isn’t as well-handled as it could be. Once the sparks fly between Elisa and her aquatic beau this becomes less of an issue, but getting the two to that point does feel slightly mishandled.

I should note, however, that while these flaws and the overall bizarreness of the premise may turn some viewers off, the film nonetheless remains an abnormal and unique film that manages to balance imagination and storytelling in equal degree. The concept of a woman falling in love with a sea monster may be too big a pill to swallow for some, but it’s hard to deny that del Toro tells a good story. Bolstered by a stupendous cast and featuring some of the best imagery in a del Toro film to date, “The Shape of Water” may not achieve the heights of its director’s best work, but it comes remarkably close and stands out as an achievement in its own right.

8.5/10

Ten Valentine's Day ideas for the low-budget college student

Marisa Palazzo | Staff Writer

With Valentine’s Day today and a student's budget, you’re probably wondering what you could do to make this a special day with your significant other. Well, you’re in luck: this list is full of wonderful ideas.

1.  For  a classic romantic dinner out with a lower price tag, dress up and go to Five Guys for burgers and milkshakes, or Mod Pizza. These restaurants are popular, not too spendy and a lot of fun. Dressing up will make the occasion special, and besides who doesn’t like to dress up every once in a while?

2.  Want more of a sit-down option? You could try going to Shari’s for a slice of pie. Dress up, sit down for a while, and enjoy some amazing desert.

3.  If you don’t have a car, you could always make dinner together in the dorm. Not only is this a bonding experience, but it’s also a great break from the food at Sodexo.

4.  Still want dessert?  Bake your favorite cookies together. This option allows for quality time, cookie decorating and a sweet dessert.

5.  Watching a romantic movie together is never a bad way to go. Romance, cuddling and quality time all in one. Classics like “The Princess Bride” are always good.

6.   Spend the night playing your favorite board or card games together. This option is fun and will bring out your competitive side.

7.  How about going for a walk around the Back 40? Talk, spend some time together and enjoy the fresh air.

8.  Going ice skating together could also be a really fun experience. You get to leave campus for a little while and spend some quality time on the ice with your significant other talking and holding hands. Try the ice ribbon downtown, it’s bound to be a memorable experience.

9.  Watch the sunrise or the sunset together. This is a wonderful way to either start or end the day. It’s both beautiful and super sweet.

10. Long distance relationship? No problem. Have a coffee date via Skype. Take some time out of your day to let your significant other know you care.

Whether you want to spend your Valentine's Day in the traditional fashion, or in a more unique way this list of ideas should get you started. Valentine's Day only comes once a year, so make this one count, and be sure to spend some quality time with your significant other.

Dead feminists in living color

Jordan Coleman | Staff Writer

The Bryan Oliver art gallery contains a new exhibit that opened on Feb. 6 called “Re-Sisters: Books and Broadsides Exhibition.” The local artists from Tacoma, Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring, research dead feminists of different ethnicities and nationalities and use their famous words to create works of art.

The exhibition contains 26 limited-edition broadsides displayed around a circular room, with images of dead feminists whom O’Leary and Spring found influential and worth displaying.  

The artists make each broadside with a roller and requires different amounts of layers to create the living colors that are displayed.

 Professor Gordon Wilson, head of the art department, views the gallery at the opening reception. The exhibit is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until March 23.

Professor Gordon Wilson, head of the art department, views the gallery at the opening reception. The exhibit is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until March 23.

“Every color on the print is a separate plate and layer,” O’Leary said. “Sometimes it takes two layers and sometimes it takes six layers. Each one has several editions and you have to do it by hand. It’s very labor intensive, especially for the large pieces.”

The artists make two new works of art for the Dead Feminists series each year. Each piece takes about 100 hours to complete, which can be up to a month of work. Although they have created a large collection of pieces, they did not originally expect for this collaboration to form.

“We started during the 2008 presidential election and never planned on doing the series,” O’Leary said. “Obama was potentially going to be the first African American president and we wanted to be a part of that. We wanted to include women and highlight them because usually the voices that are represented are from white men.”

During the election, Spring was also concerned and offended by the discussions regarding candidate Sarah Palin, compared to what was being spoken about regarding the male candidates.

“There was a lot of news about Sarah Palin and her glasses, but no one was talking about the male candidates and their accessories,” Spring said.

Multiple people involved in the Whitworth art department advocated for O’Leary and Spring to display their art in the gallery by recommending them to friends and coworkers in the Whitworth community.

 Many students attended the event, as well as faculty and community members.

Many students attended the event, as well as faculty and community members.

“They’re pretty amazing because there aren’t a lot of women artists,” library director Amanda Clark said. “They’ve mastered a skill that’s impressive. They are a dynamic duo and out of all of the printmakers in the northwest, I thought they were the real deal.”

The gallery administration looks for art that supports the art department and also relates to what students are doing such as graphic design, gallery director Lance Sinnema said. The administration also aim to thematically connect to current events and to work that is relevant today, which is what O’Leary and Spring are displaying through their Dead Feminists series, he said.

About 40 people came to the gallery opening and listened to O’Leary and Spring’s lecture on how they create their pieces.

Students, professors and community members came to support the local artists.

“I’ve always wanted to see more female literary authors, scientists, and philosophers in our canon in schools,” senior Hannah Howell said. “I’ve always noticed a lack of women and ethnic diversity and I’ve gone out of my way to consume information from external sources.”

The Dead Feminists art “uses old techniques, but the art is very edgy and the artists are very down to earth,” Clark said.

The exhibition will be open until March 23.

STAR WARS: Will "The Last Jedi" deliver or disappoint?

Will Carsh | Movie Critic

 

The current “Star Wars” films are the third trilogy of the franchise, following three originals and three prequels. The original and prequel trilogies followed a formula in the organization of each film. Both “The Phantom Menace” and “A New Hope” start with an introduction to the cast of the trilogy and it's world, providing straightforward films that tend to function the most as standalone in the trilogy. “The Force Awakens” followed the format of original director George Lucas, setting up a very familiar Star Wars story while introducing the audience to the new cast of key players and laying down the foundation for future story developments. Many audience members found the familiarity overbearing, pointing out numerous homages and themes from previous films. With “The Last Jedi” set to be released, fans are left wondering whether or not the latest installment will provide a new story or simply a rehash of the old. The film’s director, Rian Johnson, has clarified on Twitter that he has had “as much creative ownership as on any film” he has done, but the trailer of the film still shows signs of heavy structural homages to to the original trilogy’s second film, “The Empire Strikes Back”.

At the conclusion of “The Force Awakens”, the First Order’s Starkiller Base was left destroyed by the Resistance. The final act of the film borrowed heavily from the structure of “A New Hope”, with a beloved character’s sacrifice, an epic space battle, and the destruction of the antagonist’s superweapon at the hands of heroes being repeated. It also stepped a little bit into the territory of “The Empire Strikes Back” with Rey splitting off from the rest of the cast in order to pursue her training. Fans of the original trilogy will remember Luke leaving Han, Leia, and other principle characters as he traveled to Dagobah to train with Yoda. In the trailer for “The Last Jedi,” we see the process being repeated with Luke now being the master and Rey his apprentice. Another key plot point of “The Empire Strikes Back” is the eponymous revenge of the defeated Empire, resulting in a tragic ending for many of the film’s heroes. In the trailer for “The Last Jedi,” we see villains Snoke and Kylo Ren mounting large scale and damaging assaults against the film’s heroes. We see Chewbacca flying the Millenium Falcon through a large cave structure, another callback to “The Empire Strikes Back.” We see a snow-covered planet and Rey in a mist-filled cave, possibly hallucinating a figure, both also borrowed from older film. Snoke urges her to fulfill her destiny, mimicking Darth Vader’s words to Luke. These homages are so consistent that they practically make up the entirety of the trailer. It is understandable that fans who were left jaded by “The Force Awakens” would be skeptical of these clear similarities. Do these movies have anything new to offer at all?

While this lack of originality in plot may be disappointing to fans, the trailer also hints at an overlooked point in “The Force Awakens.” Luke Skywalker at a states in the trailer that “This is not going to go the way you think,” words that are every bit directed at Rey as they are the audience. A defensive argument for the homages in “The Force Awakens” rests in their ability to create intentional contrast through their implementation. Luke and Rey, for example, are on a surface level very similar characters in their first films. Both are orphans on a desert planet, both are mentored by an older hero from the previous trilogy, and both discover that they are destined to be Jedi. The key difference, however, is in the details of these situations and how the characters react to them. Luke may be an orphan, but he lives with his Aunt and Uncle who take care of him. Rey is completely alone, forced to scavenge supplies and live in the husk of a destroyed Imperial vehicle in order to survive. Luke wants to be a Jedi, but Rey initially has no interest in such a life. Both characters are gifted with an almost supernatural understanding of technology, but Rey’s piloting skills are questionable. On the other side of the fence, Luke’s mastery of the force is shown to be far more gradual than Rey, who was capable of defeating Kylo Ren in her first lightsaber battle. By putting these characters in similar situations but letting those situations play out differently, “The Force Awakens” accomplished something a bit special. It managed to give fans of the originals a sense of familiarity lost in the prequels while developing a distinctly different protagonist. Several cases of this sort of intentional contrast can be found throughout the film, leaving viewers with a familiar, yet distinctly different cast of heroes than previous entries in the franchise. While some viewers may criticize the overt sense of sameness, others would jump to defend it as an intentional choice done for the sake of character development.

The challenge “The Last Jedi” faces is arguably far greater than what “The Force Awakens” faced in that it is now at a place where it needs to push the new trilogy in a fresh direction. Whether or not “The Force Awakens” lived up to the hype may be debatable, but it did succeed as an establishing point for the next two films. While it does carry a lot of homages to “The Empire Strikes Back”, the trailer also shows signs of new directions for the franchise. Perhaps the most intriguing point of the trailer occurs in ts final moments, where Rey states that she needs “someone” to show her where her place is in the universe. It is revealed that she is speaking to Kylo Ren, who then extends to her his hand. The possibility of the foes joining forces is tantalizing tease, as it leaves plenty of room for speculation. Has Kylo Ren turned good? Has Rey turned bad? Have both been left disillusioned with their respective factions? What sort of events have pushed these characters to this point?

While it is possible that “The Last Jedi” may end up being an uninspired rehash of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the trailer almost seems constructed to play off of this expectation in order to defy it in its final moments. “The Empire Strikes Back” is often considered the greatest of the “Star Wars” films by fans and critics because of the way it served as a turning point for the franchise. Gone was the black and white morality, the straightforward narrative, and the sense of a film aspiring only to be an escapist piece. These elements were replaced instead with ambiguous heroes and villains, an experimental story structure, and film designed to provoke thought as much as a sense of fun. If “The Force Awakens” worked because it understood why “A New Hope” was a success, then the success or failure of “The Last Jedi” will hinge on whether or not it understands why “The Empire Strikes Back” is the franchise’s high point. The homages are necessary for the sake of contrast, but this is the point in the trilogy where the story needs to forge new ground. While the film may end up falling short of this goal, there are indicators in the trailer that director Rian Johnson is up to the challenge. In any case, “The Last Jedi” should prove to be an interesting watch when it arrives on Dec. 15.

STAR WARS: New to the galaxy far, far away? Start here!

Joshua Worden | Staff Writer

Star Wars is a franchise that needs no introduction, and yet ironically, a surprising number of people have never ventured out into a galaxy far, far away. To the uninitiated viewer, there is a single, all important question to be answered: where, oh, where to begin? There are three competing schools of thought, which I will present in ascending order of correctness.

The first is to follow the in-universe chronology, that is, to watch Episodes I-VII in numerical order, with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” falling between Episodes III and IV. The folly of this school is apparent to anyone familiar with Episodes I-III: those three films are really, really bad. Episode I: “The Phantom Menace” features a maximally dull premise about galactic trade disputes, a premise that could still have been made interesting if George Lucas had not chosen to target the film at young children. Since kids age 5-10 have little interest in politics and the implications of macroeconomic systems on a galactic scale, we hear nothing about those things, and instead have to deal with legendarily unfunny comic relief character Jar-Jar Binks stepping in poo and numbing his tongue on currents of electricity. Almost anyone viewing Episode I with fresh eyes will have no desire to continue through to the rest of the series (and even if they did, they would then have to contend with two films-worth of Hayden Christiansen’s atrocious line delivery). Of the eight currently-released Star Wars films, Ep. I is easily the poorest representation of what Star Wars really is, and the prequel trilogy is weak as a whole. As such, Ep. I cannot be the first film a new viewer is sent to watch.

The next school of thought advocates viewing the films in chronological order of release. This argument is much stronger. The original film, 1977’s Episode IV: “A New Hope”, which upon release was simply titled “Star Wars”, is arguably the best possible representation of what Star Wars is. It’s a classic ‘hero’s journey’, it’s fun and charming, the characters are likeable. Most importantly, though, Ep. IV literally defined the Star Wars universe, setting the rules that all subsequent films would follow. Ep. IV (unlike Ep. I) also had a fantastic sequel; in fact, Episode V: “The Empire Strikes Back” is widely considered to be among the best sequel films ever made, not to mention the best Star Wars film to date. Another benefit of watching in release order is that a new viewer would have no need to watch through Ep. IV’s prequels; if they wanted to, it would be up to them, but they would arguably lose very little in opting out. Furthermore, if a viewer didn’t like Ep. IV, they could even stop there and still be said to have a proper understanding of what Star Wars is. The argument for this school of thought is good, and hard to refute, but this is still not the most correct way to begin watching the Star Wars films. If you are a newcomer to the Star Wars universe, the one you want to watch is Episode VII: “The Force Awakens”.

Purists, who typically subscribe to the second school of thought, will immediately disagree with this notion, and their skepticism is understandable; after all, they have quite a strong position. However, this approach fulfills the same purpose as the release-order system, but does it much better. The chief benefits of starting in release order are, a) Ep. IV defined Star Wars in concept, and so perfectly represents its essence, and, b) Because it perfectly represents Star Wars, you can watch only Ep. IV and still understand what Star Wars is. Ep. VII can do this better for one simple reason: it copies all of the general elements of Ep. IV’s plot. In doing so, Ep. VII becomes a naturally fantastic representation of the Star Wars universe. What little ground Ep. VII loses as a conceptual icon, it easily makes up in its presentation and modernity. Ep. IV was and is a great movie, but it was made on a budget of only 13 million dollars (which was low even in 1977), and in some ways, it shows its age to modern eyes. Compare that with the 300 million dollar budget of Ep. VII, and it should be no surprise that every part of Ep. VII’s presentation is more appealing. While this is of no consequence to purists, it often will be to the uninitiated viewer, and the most important thing is to draw that viewer into Star Wars’ world as much as possible.

While Ep. IV-VI have aged well enough (notwithstanding Lucas’ later ‘adjustments’), Ep. VII was loudly and proudly made as a modern film. The humor and the language are contemporary, as is the cast, and this matters when trying to get a modern viewer to connect with the Star Wars universe. By far the most important feature of Ep. VII’s modernity, though, is that two sequels are soon to be released. There is an undeniable magic to the experience of following a series in the present moment, to the long buildup of anticipation before a movie you’ve been waiting for is finally released. This sort of investment in a series, engendered by these long periods of expectation, cannot be emulated. That investment is also by far the best way to turn a new Star Wars viewer into a long-term fan, and that is biggest advantage that this method has over watching in release order. Ep. IV may be the better representation of Star Wars as a whole, but Ep. VII is far more effective at making a new viewer care about the series itself.

STAR WARS: Things you should know before seeing Episode VIII: "The Last Jedi"

Ike Emeche | Staff Writer

 

It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan. A new trilogy of films was announced, and it’s said to be set in a previously unexplored corner of the galaxy. There will be a Han Solo film out next year. Most importantly however, “The Last Jedi” arrives in theaters on Dec.15! This article will tell you what you need to know heading into this highly anticipated film!
First, if you haven’t already, watch Episode VII: “The Force Awakens”!

What about Leia?

Carrie Fisher, who plays General Leia Organa, died last December. Lucasfilm has decided against using CGI for Fisher, so this will be a send-off for the character as well as a swan song for the beloved actress. Leia is confirmed to have a major role in the film. In an interview with ABC,John Boyega, who plays Finn, said the film sends her off in “an amazing, amazing way,” and that through these films “she lives forever in a sense.”


Will Episode VIII follow the basic story of Episode V: “The Empire Strikes Back”?

As one who was disappointed that “The Force Awakens” was unoriginal and took no risks, I was glad  Director Rian Johnson confirmed via Twitter that this film will not be a remake of “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?

In an interview with Empire magazine Snoke actor Andy Serkis said Snoke is “definitely not a Sith, but he’s certainly at the darker end of the Force.” Also, director Rian Johnson warned that we shouldn't expect any big reveals in the sequel with Snoke, that but we'll learn more about the villain.

Will Rey turn toward the dark side?

On Good Morning America, Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, said "I think the thing about this film is it's not so... the lines are less clear as to, like, good and bad…. Rey's trying to find out about herself and about the universe, and those questions don't entirely fall to the good, nor do they entirely fall to the bad."


What about Luke Skywalker?

"I only know one truth. It's time for the Jedi to end."
These are the words Luke says in the teaser trailer for Episode VIII. Where does Luke stand? Mark Hamill, who plays Skywalker, didn't originally agree with Johnson's direction of his character when he read the script.

What are Porgs?

Yes, Porgs are a thing. They are native to the islands of Ahch-To, the planet that Rey finds Luke on at the end of Episode VII. They are bird-like creatures that have been featured heavily in the movies marketing. This is the biggest question: Will Porgs be the new ewoks?

Who is the last Jedi?

In an interview with The New York Times, Johnson cleared this up once and for all by saying the title referred to Skywalker, but said that there might be "wiggle room" for other interpretations.

Will it start right where The Force Awakens left off?

Yes. This is a major change from Star Wars tradition, where the distance in time between films in the main series has always been measured in years rather than seconds.

Who are Rey’s parents?

There have been many theories, from Luke Skywalker, to Han and Leia, to even Admiral Ackbar. What if Obi-Wan’s the grandfather? That question will be answered in this movie, though maybe the answers might not matter as much as fans hope.

Did Captain Phasma die in the trash compactor?

No. She will actually have a bigger role in this movie, rather than standing around looking cool.
Are there new Characters?
Laura Dern plays Vice Admiral Holdo, an officer in the Resistance, and Benicio del Toro plays a "shady character" named DJ .Kelly Marie Tran plays a Resistance mechanic named Rose, who interacts with Finn a lot during this film.

Will I get all my questions from The Force Awakens answered?

Too bad! Episode VIII won’t answer them all, even though this is the longest Star Wars movie to date, and 2 hours and 33 minutes!

Voices of the undocumented

Jordan Coleman | Staff Writer

 

The student diversity, equity and inclusion department is taking matters into their own hands, hosting events like the Invisible Neighbors Conference to provide outlets and resources for undocumented students during these times of change within the community.

The Invisible Neighbors Conference was an opportunity offered for undocumented high school and college students, intended to connect them with resources to access scholarships, teach them how to work without DACA because it was recently revoked and how to apply for grad school, sophomore Lacy Nguyen co-president of the Spokane Dream Project said.

The conference included workshops regarding how to be an undocumented ally, organizing events at local high schools or campuses and also how teachers or educators can support their undocumented students, Nguyen said.

As of Sept. 5, President Donald Trump terminated the DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – program that shields young undocumented immigrants from being deported, according to PBS.

Several Whitworth students are working to educate the community about the process of immigration and how students are directly affected without the DACA program.

“It was more about creating a change because it directly affects me and other people,” freshman Abranna Romero-Rocha said. “I know that a lot of people don’t have a lot of empathy toward it and that people should know what’s happening in people’s lives. It’s about educating people who are not aware of it.”

Some students struggle with removing themselves from their own bubble and take the perspectives of others, Nguyen said.

With the controversial topic of the conference, there is opportunity for conversation, but sometimes people treat it like a competition, Romero-Rocha said.

“I hope that people will come learn what it’s really like to be undocumented,” sophomore Sara Trujillo said. “There are so many myths out there about our situations and the way we live and apply for citizenship. This process is a lot more complicated and intricate than people could expect.”

Although the conference was an outlet to learn more about undocumented students and how to get involved, many students are involved in supporting this movement in other ways on and off campus.

“I do my best to show up to rallies, to call my local legislators and articulate what I’ve heard from the Spokane Dream Project about policy changes that need to be made,” senior Hannah Howell said. “I also have a lot of undocumented friends who I care about deeply. I am there to listen and stand with them when they are sharing their story, which is a pretty scary thing for them. This is something that matters to me as an ally.”

The Spokane Dream Project is working within the Spokane community to bring a sense of security among the students, Romero-Rocha said.

“Currently, the Spokane Dream Project has been going to middle schools and speaking to them about what it means to be undocumented, sharing our stories,” she said. “This would make them aware about what is happening and talking about things that some people may not be comfortable talking about.”

It was previously not as easy or safe for many students to express their opinions and stories about being undocumented, said Trujillo. Now, they are taking the chance to share their experiences and unite the community through education and awareness.

“I continue to support events around the community to advocate for undocumented students,” Trujillo said. “In the past, it was hard to be involved for fear of being seen. My voice could never be counted. Now that I have residency and I am able to step out and have credibility I push myself to advocate.”

Those who are experiencing the process of being undocumented students express their desire for others to take the time to listen and understand their situation through the dynamic of the conference and the information that was shared.

“I hope that people will approach this issue with open minds,” Trujillo said. “Because the fact of the matter is you won’t ever be able to understand it unless you are affected by it. Therefore people should try their best to grasp this concept from the voice of undocumented people.”

At this time, no new DACA applications are being accepted. However, current DACA permits remain valid until their expiration dates. According to President Trump’s movement to rescind the program protecting young undocumented immigrants, the last authorization will end on March 5 in 2020.

As of now, “the crisis of over 11 million undocumented Americans not having access to a path to citizenship isn't going to solved anytime soon,” senior Kamau Chege founder of Spokane Dream Project said. “Passing the Dream Act this year would, at best, only provide citizenship to about a million.”

If students want to help and support the students who are experiencing the struggle of losing DACA, there are opportunities for them to get involved.

“They can contact Spokane Dream Project and start organizing their own phone-banks and office visits to Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers to urge her to co-sponsor a clean Dream Act,” Chege said.

Although Chege is graduating this year and passing the club onto other students to coordinate, he has no hard feelings as he feels secure in the leadership team.

"I feel great, because it's never been about me - it's always been about the work,” he said. “And, at this point, Spokane Dream Project is probably the most politically powerful on campus, led by kick-ass freshman and sophomore women like Abranna, Lacy, Sara, Cat, Morgan, and so many others.”

As the student leaders of Spokane Dream Project stood up and led the workshops for their fellow peers, vulnerability and strength were displayed as they shared their heart wrenching stories while simultaneously teaching others how to be involved and aware of those being discriminated against.

Let's end the mental health taboo

Jordan Coleman | Staff Writer

Junior Lexi Chvatal hosted a mental health panel and discussion called “The Mind and Heart of Whitworth.” This name came from the idea that mental health is based from the mind and the heart because it takes compassion when talking about mental health, Chvatal said. The discussion intended to help students cope with their mental health struggles and become more educated about what mental health looks like. Chvatal experiences her own difficulties with mental health, and is voicing her story.

Throughout high school, Chvatal experienced depression, and at Whitworth she also realized she had an eating disorder, she said. However, she did not realize that this was going on inside of her as she was not aware or educated about what eating disorders look like.

“This hindered a lot of my classes and my social life,” Chvatal said. “And, it caused a lot of pain for me because I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I just knew something was wrong with me.”

  Junior Lexi Chvatal Discusses the importance of students taking care of their mental health while in college. Photo credit: Ian Busik

Junior Lexi Chvatal Discusses the importance of students taking care of their mental health while in college. Photo credit: Ian Busik

She became aware of exactly what she was dealing with when she fell sick last April from a stomach ulcer caused by her eating disorder. Yet, she did not want to believe it and tried to push the truth out of her head.

Chvatal struggled with body image, self-worth and a low appreciation for her own mental health, she said. She felt isolated and alone.

“I pushed everyone away and my brain had been convincing me that no one liked me, no one wanted to be my friend, I'm weird and I have nothing good to say,” Chvatal said. “I didn't feel the need to interact with others.”

Mental health issues are one of the most prevalent struggles that affect academic success among college students, according to Active Minds, a leading nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health.

Untreated mental illnesses such as the ones Chvatal experiences like depression, anxiety and eating disorders are associated with lower GPA and a higher likelihood of dropping out of school, according to Active Minds.

Chvatal was advised to leave school at the end of her sophomore year, yet stuck with it because the pressures from her family to push through and finish her last month of school, resulting in a harder experience.

“At that point, I felt the lowest I had ever felt in my life,” she said. Although treatment is beneficial, many people experience unnecessary shame as mental health issues are seen as uncomfortable or threatening to the community, according to Psychology Today. Mental health is not typically discussed, causing many students to suffer alone, yet many college campuses are working to expose the issue.

“I really hope that people will be able to see that there are others who are struggling like they are and that there is someone out there who will always care for them,” Chvatal said. “All I can hope for is that they eventually see that the Whitworth community will open up to them and support them in the same way that they have to me.”

Chvatal’s panel consisted of four Whitworth students who spoke about their mental health, along with information about self-care during times of struggle. Panelists also discussed how individuals can be support systems for those dealing with the distress of mental illness. Representatives from the counseling center were present to provide resources and answer questions along with the panelists.  

Chvatal came up with the idea for the mental health panel and discussion from her own experience of not feeling like there was enough support for those in her situation.

  Junior Lexi Chvatal,  Junior Mikayla Schneider, Junior Carly Klassen, Senior Connor Bruce Share their stories on dealing with mental health issues. Photo credit: Ian Busik

Junior Lexi Chvatal,  Junior Mikayla Schneider, Junior Carly Klassen, Senior Connor Bruce Share their stories on dealing with mental health issues. Photo credit: Ian Busik

“I was trying to think of how I would personally want to be supported at Whitworth and it spiraled into having students reach out to me and talk to me about their mental health stories,” she said. “We all came together and thought that we should have something at the university to break mental health stigmas and start a conversation.”

Removing the stigma that surrounds mental health issues will help create a comfortable environment for an open conversation about mental health issues on campuses nationwide, according to Active Minds.

“It’s important to talk about things that you struggle with in your life that people would never know about otherwise,” Chvatal said. “Mental health is really taboo and it likes to be shamed and hide, and the more that we talk about it, the more we can do something to fix it and help people.”

Although Chvatal led the event and is trying to become a support figure for those who are struggling with their mental health, Chvatal continues to have a difficult experience as well.

“It’s definitely been challenging with my anxiety coming back to school,” she said. “But, it’s also been really rewarding because I believe that the Whitworth community has surrounded me and supported me in a new way that has made me feel comfortable to be open about my experience and heal from that.”

After experiencing tough times of loneliness and coming to terms with who Chvatal believes she is, she came to the understanding that she is tougher than before and is ready to face her depression, eating disorder and anxiety head on.

There's a hero in all of us

Jordan Coleman

Staff Writer

Jennifer Stuller gave a lecture at Whitworth on Nov. 1, presenting her expertise on the representation and quality of “superwomen” within movies, television shows and comics. Stuller is a writer, editor and pop culture critic and historian.

Her presentation focused on the representation of female heroes within cinematic productions and how the journeys they take are connected to women in real life. Her mantra is that “there is a hero in all of us,” and one of the questions she uses to guide her study is “if there’s a hero in all of us, why are all of the heroes in media men?”

Stuller is the co-founder and former director of programming and events for GeekGirlCon, an organization that celebrates every geek and honors the legacy of women who contribute to science and technology; comics, arts, and literature; gameplay and game design, according to GeekGirlCon.com.

Anyone can adopt a geek identity, Stuller said. “It’s obsessive about technology and popular culture.” They combine their passions with their identity politics and are claiming space in spaces where they were not previously allowed within the community.

Geek culture is using its obsession and identity culture politics to push social change, she said.

“They are using the meanings from the stories and applying them to real world issues,” Stuller said. “People are looking for ways to actually do things but they don’t know what to do, so they are getting engaged through these stories that are such a big part of their lives.”

One of the examples she provided is Harry Potter and the leadership qualities he encompasses, initiating people within society to write letters to congress.

Her presentation focused on the representation of female heroes within cinematic productions and how the journeys they take are connected to women in real life. Her mantra is that “there is a hero in all of us,” and one of the questions she uses to guide her study is “if there’s a hero in all of us, why are all of the heroes in media men?”

Female superheroes like Wonder Woman are less prevalent within media than male superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Thor, Batman and more, Stuller said.

“When I started studying women heroes in mythology, I noticed that there aren’t many of them,” Stuller said. “They are usually the mothers, stepmothers and less important roles.”

Stuller also addressed the type of women that are typically displayed as superheroes.

“It’s not just the lack of woman superheroes, it’s the lack of diversity in the type of female superheroes we see,” Stuller said. “They are usually seen as one-dimensional and lacking substance or we only see one type of superhero. She is white, thin, able-bodied and heteronormativity culturally attractive.”

Some students who went to Stuller’s lecture found her openness to talking about the female body enjoyable and new.

“I found her opinion on the female body really interesting and intriguing,” junior Sarah Haman said. “I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about female bodies in general, and especially all body types. Her openness and celebration of the body was very refreshing.”

Both senior Phillip Bax and junior Michaela Mulligan said that they have a lot to take away from the lecture and the information they learned from Stuller.

“I think it makes me more critical of media that has female superheroes and analyzing how they’re presented,” Mulligan said. “Learning more about different ways women tend to be presented in cinema and television will help me to be more critical of the media I consume,” Bax said.

Although students had positive reactions to the information that was presented, Haman was concerned about the representation of the school within the audience.

“I found it interesting that Whitworth has an approximate population of 60% women and 40% men and the demographic group that showed up last night did not reflect that percentage,” Haman said. “I think at one point I counted like around 10 or so guys there and all the rest were women.”

Although Whitworth is attempting to diversify the speakers that are brought onto campus, Haman does not think that the entire student body on campus is taking advantage of the opportunities that are being provided.

“I think that’s what’s wrong with this world. That’s what adds to a lack of women being represented correctly because the men don’t show up to these things. I sincerely applaud the men that did show up last night because it was really important for them to be there. Women already know and experience these issues, but I don’t think men do to the same degree and, I saddened to see a group of mostly 85% women there.”

Stuller believes that the movies that incorporate women superheroes need to accurately reflect women because “these stories aren’t just lessons, they serve as potential mentors to us. We deserve to see images of us doing just that.”

In order to improve the situation of pop culture and media distorting the reality of women, Stuller provided advice for how individuals can avoid this phenomena.

“We can’t escape culture but we can have different relationships with culture,” Stuller said. “This is why media literacy is so important because you can understand what we are seeing and think critically.”

As Stuller displayed the handful of superwomen on the screen, the room lit up as the audience was provided with examples of powerful, strong women. Media does not equally reflect or accurately display women in reality, and Stuller proved them wrong. Like Stuller said, “women kick ass.

President Taylor holds colloquy to promote civil discourse on tough issues

Jordan Coleman

Staff Writer

Controversies regarding civil discourse between groups of difference has been, and will continue to be relevant within the community until efforts are taken to produce effective communication.

Oct. 19 is the first discussion within a three-evening series of the President’s Colloquy on Whitworth’s campus. The colloquy will provide an outlet for students and faculty to discuss prevalent issues occurring within society in order to create a healthier way of conversing about important topics.

“One of the things that our campus seems to be interested in talking about are the challenges and opportunities we face when having dialogues on issues about which we disagree,” President Beck Taylor said.

President Taylor has specific goals in mind when it comes to the outcomes of the discussions during the colloquy and what it will do for the identity of Whitworth.

“The inability of our campus to have discussions of these issues cuts into who we are,” he said. “Rather than having these forces continually affecting our campus, I hope that this colloquy is a way to chase this problem, name it and talk about its causes, and a way for our campus to have constructive conversation around how we can create a place with more constructive discourse.”

The overall production includes 12 speakers from different disciplines and fields to bring together the idea that Whitworth is united and needs to talk about the pressing issues of differences and current events.

“No discipline is equipped to figure out all the answers on its own,” philosophy professor Nathan King said. “That’s why I’m especially grateful that colleagues from many different departments have agreed to speak.”

Each session covers a topic relating to the way individuals communicate about differences.

The first evening regards to how Christians reflect on civil discourse. The second evening approaches the question of whether or not people can disagree without being disagreeable. Finally, the third evening surrounds the idea of free speech and the degree of freedom it implies when looking at protesting and discussion.

“I’m excited about these topics,” King said. “As a nation, our discourse is broken and graceless. I think a lot of people are looking for a better way to engage each other over difficult topics. To find a different approach, we need to think hard about the purposes of speech, and to master the skills and virtues needed to disagree without demonizing our opponents. I am glad that we will get to spend some time thinking about these issues as a community.”

Along with the importance of the discussions, organizers of the events are also worried about how the information and discussions are perceived by the students.

“First of all, I would hope that in our very manner of engaging in these colloquies, we would model the sort of discourse we hope to cultivate,” visiting assistant professor of theology Joshua Leim said. “That is to say, it’s not just the content itself, but our mode of engagement at the actual colloquy that is so important; in the very things we say we need to model what we hope to cultivate across our campus. Second, one never wants to falsify, but simply to tell the truth. As simple as that sounds, learning to tell the truth in just the right way and just the right time is a Christian discipline that takes a lifetime to cultivate.”

Through these gatherings, there is a common goal among those who have put time and effort into producing these discussions for the campus.

“I think we’ll exit the discussions with a better understanding of good rules of engagement for talking about tense topics, along with some models of what good engagement looks like in action,” King said.

“I hope that it will provide some resources to our campus that might enable us to have a healthier level of discourse about issues that we disagree on,” Taylor said. “This isn’t about creating agreement out of disagreement, the level of disagreement on issues is an asset to the mission of the university. It’s about how we handle the disagreements.”

With the planning and effort that is being put into this campus-wide event, those involved are hoping for a strong turnout by the student body.

“I really hope people will take time out of their busy schedules to come to these events,” President Taylor said. “I think they have the opportunity to shape our campus.”