Category Archives: Movies

Gen Z finds its voice in sublime ‘Eighth Grade’

By Lauren Herandez

Palm Harbor, FL

Imagine a 13-year-old girl vlogging to ultimately no viewers without a stitch of makeup. She talks about how to solve life issues and navigate daily struggles. This is not an uncommon trend among the younger generations; vlogging can help young people feel a sense of togetherness even when there may not be anyone else. ‘Eighth Grade’ is one of the first films to accurately represent what happens in many young teenagers’ lives instead of romanticizing them.

This is a nuanced coming-of-age story similar to those of John Hughes movies—with a 2018 spin. It thoughtfully captures what it is like for Generation Z, raising an important lesson not taught in other movies: It displays sexual misconduct between the main character, Kayla, a 13-year-old girl, and an older boy. That scene is hard to watch, but it was necessary: The feeling of her shame resonates because it is a realistic portrayal of the real world situations many women have experienced.

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) evokes the emotions many teenagers feel and captivates the audience with her portrayal of a teenager who experiences the effects of social media and anxiety. The character’s radical empathy juxtaposed with that of her peers makes her stand out—which illustrates how the younger generation is part of a disengaged culture. This is apparent when Kayla hands a note to her peer, who does not look up from a phone.

This movie also displays the dynamic of a father-daughter relationship. The movie displays not only the child’s difficulties, but the parent’s struggles raising a child. The film explores the ultimate bond with a heartfelt talk many children experience.

The director, Bo Burnham, a famous YouTuber, was well-equipped to direct this movie. The rhetoric used throughout the movie and the vlogs conveys Burnham’s understanding of the age demographic. Burnham made a movie about the struggles of vlogging—which he also knows—from an adolescent perspective while incorporating real life generational issues many struggle with.

‘Eighth Grade’ lives up to expectations, demonstrating its cultural awareness far better than typical movies.

‘BlacKkKlansman’ reinforces unfortunate stereotypes

By Auhjanae McGee

Detroit, MI

In his work, Spike Lee, an African American filmmaker, tries to straddle the line between accurately portraying the black experience and making those experiences palatable for a larger audience. His most recent film, ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ skillfully does both, hitting the viewer over the head with symbolism and real-world allusion to blackness while also appealing to a demographically diverse group of people.

‘BlacKkKlansman’ has an interesting and unique premise: A black detective in 1970s Colorado goes undercover with the help of his white partner to expose potential dangers in a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. John David Washington, the actor who portrays Ron Stallworth, also known as the Black Klansman, calls his local chapter of the Klan and uses his “white voice” to pretend to be a racist white man in order to set up an undercover investigation to expose the wrongdoings of the organization. While the film expertly grapples with ideas of black assimilation in a white America, it is also littered with problematic black stereotypes.

The most prominent issue of ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is the reinforcement of stereotypes that contribute to the exploitation of African Americans in film. The idea that certain races speak in particular dialects and that “white” dialects are the most acceptable permeates throughout the entire film. One could argue that Stallworth pretending to be white over the phone is crucial for him to have gotten his foot in the door with the KKK. But by the ending, when he reveals his “black voice,” it’s clear that his eloquence and diction are supposed to be seen as an act—a white act.

Furthermore, Patrice, a black female activist and president of the Black Student Union at a local college, is an exceptionally flat and static character. Her only role is to stand for “black power” and oppose the police force, perpetuating yet another stereotype: that black people hate all cops. Lee’s exploitation of these assumptions is harmful to black people who see their race being reduced to overly-defined clichés, and simultaneously beneficial to white people who can feel comfortable hanging on to potentially problematic views they may have on the black race.

‘BlacKkKlansman’ does make the effort to depict Stallworth as a sort of mediator between two polarized sides. While that’s much needed in our current political climate, the effort could have been stronger. And the underlying issues hold this film back from realizing the type of true-to-life nuance that other movies that deal with the black identity in America — like Get Out — achieve.

Although Lee is an African American who can be said to be “of the culture,” he does not have a free pass to exploit the black characters whose stories he chooses to represent. The film is great for patronizing white liberals who want to champion the defeat of horrible racists at the hands of people of color. But if black audiences expect to see the trials and dynamics of being an African American cop undercover as a Klansman, they will be sorely disappointed.

“The Big Sick” tells a tale of love and immigrant families

By Kevin Song
New York City, NY

Based on the real-life experience of actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, ‘The Big Sick’ tells the story of Kumail’s struggles living as a comedian and part-time Uber driver in Chicago. Kumail meets a girl named Emily at one of his shows, and the two embark on a turbulent relationship.

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“The Big Sick” earns an 8/10

By Kiana Hunter
Chicago, IL

Based on the clash of traditional and modern Pakistani culture in American society, ‘The Big Sick,’ directed by Michael Showalter, touches on the themes of love, tradition, and stereotypes. The movie begins with the protagonist, Kumail Nanjiani, and his love interest, Emily, meeting at his stand-up comedy show. The pair starts dating, but Kumail’s family, strongly rooted in Pakistani cultural traditions, pressures him to marry a Pakistani woman.

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A new twist on a romantic comedy

By Aleksandra Wicko
Chicago, IL

Drifting away from traditional Hollywood romance, ‘The Big Sick’ takes a refreshing and hilarious approach to a conventional form and does justice to complicated real-life relationships. Based on the true story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, the issue of interracial relationships provides a compelling narrative that includes a big secret and a medically-induced coma.

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Cynical tale spoils sparkling cinematography

By Xuan Truong
Springfield, MA

Woody Allen opens the curtain once again to unveil his latest work, “Café Society.” He takes us back into a world filled with jazz, expensive wines, and wealthy socialites set against the backdrop of the raging ‘30s.

“Café Society” is the product of Allen’s finest cinematography, with a blend of vibrant colors and brilliant composition that create a dazzling mask. But behind the mask lies something much darker. Continue reading

Flat characters deflate Woody Allen’s latest

By Angel Santana
Pennsauken, NJ

Woody Allen’s new film, “Café Society,” features some of the most flawless actors in Hollywood today: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell. Allen is a highly respected director and is one of the most experienced directors alive. While the film has a lot of potential, it falls short.

Taking place in the 1930s, Eisenberg plays an awkward, ambitious young man named Bobby Dorfman who leaves his bickering parents, gangster brother and loving sister in New York to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. His uncle, Phil, played by Carell, is a major talent agent who hires Bobby to do odd jobs. Bobby meets Phil’s secretary, Vonnie, played by Kristen Stewart, and falls in love with her. However, Vonnie has a boyfriend. Continue reading