Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Review by Noah Foster-Koth

Fun Fact: When I first heard the title of this movie, I assumed it would be some sort of tabloid documentary exposing the flaws of revered celebrities.

As it happens, The Fault in Our Stars isn’t anything remotely like that (and it’s much better for it). In actuality, The Fault in Our Stars is the story of a teenage couple who have terminal cancer and draw love and support from one another as their physical condition slowly deteriorates. The film is based on a book by author John Green (the Judy Blume of the iPod generation) but the plot is easily accessible for those who haven’t read the YA novel.

Shailene Woodley has been on the fast track to superstardom ever since her breakout role in The Descendants. In The Fault in Our Stars she plays Hazel, a young woman who’s struggled with cancer for most of her life. It’s not an easy role, but Woodley does a great job conveying both Hazel’s frustrations with her medical conditions and her desire to live life to the fullest.

Woodley’s performance is strong, but it’s newcomer Ansel Elgort who makes the biggest impression as Gus, a teen who’s lost his leg to cancer. Elgort succeeds in filling the character with charisma without making him seem like a slick charmer. Gus projects positivity and self-confidence, but he has a fragile side too. The movie is at its most heartbreaking when Gus is at his most vulnerable.

Gus and Hazel eventually decide that they’re star-crossed lovers, and the chemistry between Elgort and Woodley is so strong that you can almost believe it. They make for one of the most compelling romantic couples I’ve seen in any recent movie.

The Fault in Our Stars isn’t afraid to tell a sad story, and dry eyes were scarce in the theater where I saw the film. Yet rarely is the story trite in its depictions of love and loss, and the movie’s melancholy tone is a natural extension of the subject matter rather than a ham-fisted attempt at pathos. Indeed, the film rarely indulges in melodrama, in large part because the script (which is based on Green’s book) keeps giving the characters interesting things to do. At one point Hazel and Gus bond over a book about cancer, and go on a trip to Amsterdam to find it’s reclusive author. It’s a tangential part of the plot, but it’s also an intriguing one that shows us new sides of the central couple. There are times when I wished The Fault in Our Stars was shorter, but that has more to do with the tragic nature of the story and less to do with my usual gripes about a film going on too long.

Some will be quick to label The Fault in Our Stars as a simple tear-jerker, but that would be doing the film an injustice. This movie provides a nuanced look at how a relationship develops between two people facing terminal illness.

Grade:  B+

Four RHS Cliches That Need To End

Sarah Koseff

The dwindling days of my high school career have put me in a mood of reflection. Over the past four years, I wouldn’t say I was a heavy participant in RHS events, however I did have a decent time adopting the role of an impartial observer to our high school’s ecosystem. I’ve spent some time intensively observing the expressions and mannerisms that are recycled with each new wave of freshman. It must be noted, that after four continuous years, the following expressions have become excessive and tiresome.

 1. Remarks about our school being filled with rich white people…

Perhaps the most trite expression you will hear from a Roosevelt student.  It appears our observation skills are stellar, at least in terms of skin color. The wealth factor is arguable, despite our demographics. Either way the statement has become cliché and ignorant to the multitude of efforts our ASR and various clubs have put into promoting cultural diversity. I’m sure that adding more cultural diversity would be beneficial to our school; I believe this is a working progress for our administration. Therefore, there is no need to walk into the school assuming a pretentious complex and exclaiming that there’s “hella white people.”

  2. Excessive and unnecessary usage of slang…

I think it’s fair to say poor language usage is an inevitable trait among adolescents.  Profanity and I have personally formed an unbreakable bond. That being said, bearing the daily chorus of “hellas” and “f**ks” in the hallways has become hackneyed over the years. Or better yet, indicated that you are conversing with students who cannot produce a single aesthetically sound sentence.

  3. Crude terminology referring to females and/or female body parts…

There needs to be a giant cage for eighteen-year-old boys who still use the term “titties” fruitfully.  A significant pet peeve of mine over the years has been listening to the way the majority of teenage boys talk when they are referring to a girl they find attractive. I’ve had a misfortune of getting to know too many “ignorants,” as I call them: the ones who categorize girls and ignorantly place them onto a ridiculous and generally unfair numerical scale. For example: “Her face is like a seven. But her ass is like an eight-point -five.” “I f**ked that bitch over there. Awwh yeah she got fat titties.” You know who you are. You sicken me.

4. Pre-formulated opinions from previous RHS students…

I occasionally feel bad for our cheerleaders. The poor spirit-enthusiasts can’t wave a pom-pom without someone commenting on their supposed lack of skill or revealing attire. The same cliché opinions about the cheerleaders have circulated every time I have sat in the back row of the bleachers. Actually, the same cliché opinions about everything have circulated year after year. I was told that the cheerleaders supposedly sucked, the dance team was supposedly better, and also which teachers to avoid before I even stepped in through these doors. The sad thing is we think we’re being original and witty by recycling these opinions. Whether or not these expressions are true is debatable. But it is less tiresome to approach things with an open and questioning mindset.

An Honest Update on Kiss Me Kate

By Julia Hower

I was met with outrage when I wrote a very mild review of Kiss Me Kate several weeks ago. I padded my strong opinion with ample (and obviously deserved) praise for the actors, but now I want to state that no matter how talented you are, the material you are performing is much more important. In fact, what many performers tell me is that their motivation is telling a story and making an audience happy.

I was shocked to see that my peers at Roosevelt could not step back and look at the flaws in our school musical; I was even more shocked that those who participated in it had not noticed the problematic themes, as they did not seem prepared for any kind of critique. It is problematic to get too comfortable, even when you are in an organization as amazing as the Roosevelt Drama program. To be blindly devoted to Drama enough to feel justified in ignoring flaws can have a huge impact on viewers, especially in a community that puts so much stock and pride in our spring musical.

I heard many people say that I must have reacted the way I did because I didn’t understand the satire- that I don’t have a sense of humor. Would you ask someone to have a sense of humor about rape or racism? Because many of you have asked that of your peers. I hope we can all see that it is wrong to ask for a sense of humor about abuse. I understand that it was satire, but that was why I was offended so deeply. I will not ask someone who has been a victim of abuse (one in six people) to sit and watch a woman being whipped and laugh along with the crowd. I will not ask a woman who has been told that her opinions are invalid because of her gender to sit and laugh at a female character as her conviction and fiery spirit are made into a punch line. I will not ask someone living with an abusive relationship to smile when the ‘happy ending’ of a woman losing her conviction and going from an abusive fiancée to an abusive ex-husband finally occurs. I will not sit silently, grin, and applaud when I hear a beautiful voice warble out the words, “wife, hold your temper and meekly put your hand ‘neath the sole of your husband’s foot, In token of which duty, if he please, My hand is ready, ready, May it do him ease.”

I want to remind everyone that seeing these things can trigger anxiety attacks in people who have experienced these horrors, and I want everyone to know that seeing an abusive relationship laughed at normalizes terrible things in the minds of potential abusers and rapists. And before you say that the abuse and violence was two sided, consider this: does that really make it any better? 40% of abuse is experienced by men, something that was also sensationalized as a meek attempt at self defense in this musical.

This was written in the 40s and reflects widely accepted views at that time, but we all must realize that it is being performed in a high school in 2014 where it is being received and presented in the same way as it was then, with no apparent discussion of the serious issues expressed in the story. These problems need to be discussed in our media, but not in a way that trivializes them. This musical was performed in front of elementary-schoolers, and nothing was changed – not even the bullwhip one character uses to beat his wife; not even the fact that a woman’s desire to not get married is given no thought and is considered funny and trivial.

This musical impacted many minds, and if you can’t acknowledge that, care about it, or take responsibility for it, you are a part of the problem.

Kiss Me Kate Review

Julia Hower

Kiss Me Kate was an amazing production. The sets were intricate and beautiful, the dance numbers were exuberant, and as always, the acting was superb. Almost every actor played more than one part throughout the show, and the distinctions between roles were clear and well done. Lucy Given, Liam Keenan, and Alexi Lewis gave especially great vocal performances.

However, I feel that a different play would have better showcased the actors’ talents. The plot line of Kiss Me Kate was confusing, and unfortunately revolved around an abusive and sexist relationship.

Of course, these issues need exposure, but in the context of this play they were presented as comical and trivial, and even went so far as to say that women ‘secretly enjoy’ being beaten. The final romantic ballad declared that women must be meek and place their hearts under the heel of their man’s boot.

For many in the audience, the scenes of domestic violence must have been difficult to stomach, as many families have a history of similar abuse. I was personally shocked to see a woman being repeatedly hit on stage while people around me in the audience laughed, either out of discomfort or just plain insensitivity.

Perhaps it is a testament to how far we’ve come that some can view these issues as trivial, but the truth is that violence and sexism are still huge issues today, and it was somewhat offensive to see them presented as a legitimate viewpoint on the Roosevelt stage.

Movie Review: Godzilla

Review by Noah Foster-Koth

Sometimes watching a broadly silly movie can be just as fulfilling as watching a meticulously well-crafted one. I appreciate movies grounded in reality like Lincoln and  Captain Phillips, but sometimes all I want from a movie is the chance to indulge my inner five-year-old’s fascination with dinosaurs and dragons. Watching Godzilla, an American remake of the Japanese B-movies of the 1950s, may be a guilty pleasure for us monster geeks, but it does provide real pleasure.

Godzilla is at its weakest when it focuses on the puny humans. Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston plays Joe, a nuclear scientist whose wife died in a power plant malfunction. Joe has set out to prove that the accident that killed his wife was caused by a visit from a radioactive leviathan and not an earthquake, as the plant’s owners claim. For the first 20 minutes of the movie, Cranston’s character seems to be the film’s protagonist. Then, oddly, the story takes a u-turn. Joe’s quest gets surprisingly little screen time, and it’s disappointing that we have to spend the rest of the film with his son, Ford, a marine trained in disarming bombs. Ford is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, an Elijah Wood look-alike who doesn’t have an ounce of Cranston’s acting chops.

The script is weak, with lengthy exposition monologues and dialogue about as subtle as the bellow of a tyrannosaurus.  I wish the screenwriters had worked in some levity amidst all the apocalyptic carnage – - the story sometimes takes itself too seriously.

But does any of that really matter? Nobody expects rich characterizations and snappy dialogue in a Godzilla movie. You’re buying a ticket to see a gargantuan salamander tear up densely populated coastal cities, and if that’s something that appeals to you, this movie mostly delivers. The human characters may be cardboard, but that just makes it more fun when Godzilla knocks them over.

For a movie called Godzilla, we actually see precious little of the big lizard himself. Instead, we’re treated to the spectacle of the MUTOs, giant radioactive butterfly creatures that can only reproduce in the presence of radioactive waste. Their mating ritual, which involves gifting each other with an atomic bomb, is unintentionally hilarious.

The visual effects are all well done, even if Godzilla’s physical appearance is somewhat comical.  Director Gareth Edwards has clearly taken his inspiration from classic monster movies like Jurassic Park. He doesn’t reveal Godzilla right away, but instead builds our anticipation by shrouding the big lizard in the shadows for the majority of the movie. The soundtrack, written by Alexadre Desplat, is reminiscent of the tunes from BBC’s epic Walking With Dinosaurs miniseries, and a fight between a MUTO and a monorail evokes the original King Kong. Granted, Godzilla isn’t anywhere near as good as King Kong. Or Walking With Dinosaurs. Or Jurassic Park. But if you like the idea of seeing a portly stegosaurus duke it out with a pair of horny, ornery butterflies, then this is the movie for you.

Grade: B-

Opinion: Administration needs to rethink dress code

Isabelle Galus

Temperatures outside are heating up, and that means the debates over school dress codes are as well. In America, girls are a frequent target of attack, being told what is okay and what is not okay when it comes to their bodies. This is not to say that there aren’t any rules in the book that are directed at males, but let’s break it down.

At Roosevelt, shorts, skirts, and dresses have to go below the point where a person’s fingers land when resting their arms. A popular test is for teachers to look at a student, tell them that their skirt is too short (and scornfully remind them that this is NOT school appropriate), and finally humiliate the student by sending them home to change their clothes.

Other rules include no halter tops, spaghetti-strapped shirts, or tube tops. You might as well say “sayonara” to your education if your bra is visible, and cleavage cannot be shown so as not to disturb the peace of the classroom environment. “Plunging necklines” and “bare midriffs” are the devil’s work when it comes to dressing on code, and even worse are those satanic see-through shirts.

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