Diversity of 2018 first-years

“Our communities, our workplaces, our country, and our world is diverse,” Vasiloff said. “As an institution of higher education, we seek to prepare students for success in myriad facets of their lives, and if we do not provide them with engagement with diversity and relevant issues of diversity and equity, then we are failing in that mission.”

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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