By Emma Drzala (V)
With limited access to movie theatres over the past year, one must rely on the one thing nothing can seem to beat: streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, and HBOMax have all gained immense popularity this year; so, maybe it’s a sign to go back and rewatch an old classic. My movie of choice: Superbad. Directed by Greg Mottola and written by comedic geniuses Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, Superbad is a raunchy comedy that keeps you laughing for 1 hour and 59 minutes. The movie follows two inseparable best friends, Seth and Evan, who are hoping to get in one last “hurrah” before the conclusion of their senior year. The two friends, however, are only to be considered “super” unpopular. With two weeks to go in high school, the odd pairing, along with their sidekick Fogell, are finally invited to a high school party by the prettiest and most popular girl in school – but there is a catch. They must find a way to supply alcohol for the party. The three boys hope to impress the girls and eventually become their “headaches” of boyfriends. Fogell attains a fake ID under the name “McLovin,” but his attempt to buy alcohol quickly goes south. He becomes buddies with two lackluster cops and engages in some not-so-legal activities with them. Meanwhile, Seth and Evan are still trying to find ways to procure alcohol before the party begins. Superbad captures the awkwardness of the high school experience and dives deep into Seth and Evan’s comedic friendship. It is not just a movie that lands some random jokes, but the whole concept behind this masterpiece is where all the comedy lies. With stars like Jonah Hill (Seth), Michael Cera (Evan), Bill Hader (Officer Slater), Seth Rogan (Officer Michael), and Christopher Mintz (Fogell), a Rotten Tomatoes score of 88%, and a spot on Empire’s 500 best movies of all time, Superbad is not a movie you will want to miss. The crude and inappropriate jokes make this movie what it is, and I must say that Superbad was nothing less than comedic perfection.
By Rohan Prabhu (V)
If you’ve watched the movie Inception, you probably thought it was either a masterpiece or a complete waste of three hours. How can a movie that has absolutely nothing to do with our reality be so polarizing?
If nothing else, this is representative of the beauty and effectiveness of Christopher Nolan’s film-making. Since the very beginning of his career as a filmmaker, Nolan has taken seemingly uninteresting concepts and made them intriguing. In 1999, Nolan directed his first major film, Following, about a man who follows others with the intent of using their lives as inspiration for his novel. This film showcases the nuances of his filmmaking, and many even regard it as his best work.
Nolan’s originality and creativity in the art of filmmaking has followed him in each of his movies. He modernized Batman, a character that typically remained relatively unchanged. He adapted a Danish film to U.S. and British audiences, titled Insomnia, which follows a police officer into Alaska to investigate the murder of a teenage girl.
Although Nolan certainly likes to switch it up in his films, he retains several constants that contribute to his success. For one, he still uses 16mm film to shoot all of his movies. Nolan explained his love of film cameras: “For the last 10 years, I’ve felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I’ve never understood why. It’s cheaper to work on film, it’s far better looking, it’s the technology that’s been known and understood for a hundred years, and it’s extremely reliable.”
Nolan also uses many of the same actors in his movies, including Cilian Murphy, Michael Cane, Tom Hardy, and Christian Bale. Additionally, he does most of the effects in his movie practically. For Inception, he created a set that spun on an axis for a scene in which Joseph Gordon-Levite’s character fights the subconscious of another person’s dream. The set simulated a zero-gravity effect. In Tenet, Nolan’s latest film, which is based on the inversion of the entropy of certain objects, Nolan’s actors had to speak backwards with accents that they didn’t have in real life. Stuntmen also had to learn how to do regular maneuvers backwards.
Undoubtedly, Christopher Nolan’s filmmaking style is unique, but his most important skill is his ability to make the viewer think. He not only achieves this through his inherently distinctive screenplays but through his storytelling ability. Where most directors structure their story around a series of three major plot points, Nolan often adds a fourth. Like other writers and directors, such as Martin Scorsese or Ridley Scott, Nolan uses his third major plot point as a resolution to their stories. However, he takes it one step further and introduces another miniscule plot point that creates a figurative “fork in the road” and plants a seed of doubt in his audience’s minds.
In Inception, Nolan’s main character, Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo Dicaprio), is wrongly charged with the murder of his wife and forced to become a fugitive. He retreats to Europe with a team of dream workers, hoping that he would be able to see his children again. When he receives an offer to break up the empire of a business giant through inception, or dreams within dreams, to regain his freedom, he reluctantly takes it.
Viewers see Cobb succeed in his endeavor, and when Nolan portrays him embracing his children, he zooms in on a shot of a spinning top. This top, introduced earlier in the movie, is a token to tell Cobb if he’s still dreaming. If the top eventually stops spinning, Cobb knows that he’s in his own reality, and if not, he knows that he’s dreaming. Nolan ends the movie just as the top looks like it is going to stop spinning, but viewers never really know if it does. This is the seed of doubt that Nolan likes to plant.
He explains in a commencement speech at Princeton University, “I feel that, over time, we started to view reality as the poor cousin to our dreams, in a sense… I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with, they are subsets of reality.”
So what makes Nolan’s movies so polarizing? It’s his desire to make his movies subjective to interpretation, and this quality is what makes him the best director of his era.
By Zara Jacob ’21
The class of 2021 eased into their sophomore year with a trip to New York City, exploring exhibits in the Museum of Natural History and and seeing the Tony Award-winning “Best Musical,” Dear Evan Hansen.
With not a single textbook or laptop in hand, the grade split up onto four buses and headed on a 90-minute ride to the city. After reaching the museum, they were divided by advisories, perusing the various exhibits at the museum. Unlike previous years, when a scavenger hunt was assigned, the students had the freedom to pick which exhibits they wanted to visit with their advisories. Many of the students appreciated this change; Meghan Durkin (IV) explained, “I enjoyed the museum more than I anticipated because I got to see exhibits that I thought were interesting, as opposed to a plan created by our advisors.” From fossils to dioramas filled with cavemen, the first segment of the trip maintained a good balance of fun and education.
After eating lunch in the museum, the students made their way back to the buses and headed to the theater. Despite a slight accidental detour, all 150 sophomores eventually made it to the correct theater, where they watched the 2 o’clock showing of Dear Evan Hansen. As the students crowded up the stairs, many stopped for snacks, waiting anxiously for the musical to begin.
Dear Evan Hansen tackles themes of bullying, loneliness, and suicide — daunting topics that many teenagers face today. Sanjana Biswas (IV) said, “The musical was relevant to the modern times we live in, and the portrayal of social media and its platform was very accurate.”
The musical begins with showing two teenage boys who struggle with depression and anxiety. Evan, the protagonist of the musical, desperately seeks to step out of the shadows and be noticed. We see Evan’s yearning for true care and appreciation through the passionate performance of his song, “Waving Through a Window.” His mother, juggling school and work, struggles to be there for Evan, and his therapist suggests he write letters to himself to help his self-confidence (hence the name Dear Evan Hansen). The other teenage boy, Connor Murphy, is briefly introduced to the audience before committing suicide.
Through a series of unfortunate events, one of Evan’s letters to himself, which discusses his troubling thoughts and anxieties, is with Connor on the day he commits suicide, and is misconstrued as Connor’s last words being addressed to Evan. Stuck in an impossible situation, Evan hopes for everything to blow over, but ends up meeting with Connor’s family almost every day and pretends to have known Connor as a best friend. All of Evan’s dreams begin to come true – he lands the girl of his dreams, feels the warmth of a loving, present family, and becomes famous on social media. To know how Evan fares throughout the rest of the musical, you will have to go and see it. From the actors to the captivating music, it is no wonder that Dear Evan Hansen has won so many awards.
After the show, the sophomores headed back to Pingry, their first day of school having come to an end.
By Martha Lewand ’20
Ever since the movie Mamma Mia was released, fans (including myself) have been anxiously waiting for a sequel. Ten highly-anticipated years later, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! is finally here! Directed by Ol Parker, the film had my friends and I singing joyously and dancing out of our seats in the movie theater.
The movie includes two concurring storylines, one of young Donna Sheridan (played by Lily James) and the other of her daughter Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfreid) in current times. Circa late 1970s, young Donna has just graduated from university and is eager for adventure. The story details how she meets young Bill (Josh Dylan), Harry (Hugh Skinner), and Sam (Jeremy Irvine) trekking through Europe and ultimately makes her way to the Greek island of Kalokairi. In present day, Sophie grapples with her mother’s (Meryl Streep) recent death, the responsibility of reopening the hotel her mother started, relationship troubles with her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper), and an impending storm potentially preventing her two fathers, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), from attending the reopening.
No doubt, the best part of the film is the musical numbers. Covers of songs from the first movie are beautifully sung with their own twists while still respecting the original versions. Classics such as “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia,” and, most notably, “Waterloo” all come to life again under the new direction. In the first version, the ABBA tune “Waterloo” was played during the closing credits as the cast danced and sang along. In the sequel, the song is revised in a scene that takes place in a local Parisian cafe with young Donna and Harry. The song is performed in an elaborate fashion, with berets, baguettes, cartwheeling waiters, and French Revolution-esque costumes stealing the show. The corniness of the new “Waterloo” adds an amusing, engaging charm the older version did not possess.
While acknowledging the musical foundation of the first film, Mamma Mia 2 is able to create new songs that fit seamlessly in the plot and are remarkably catchy. When young Donna graduates from college, she performs “When I Kissed the Teacher,” a song that represents the provocative, audacious, and spunky side of Donna’s character to which we are just being introduced. Lily James superbly embodies young Donna’s free spirit throughout her quality vocal performances.
To offer a point of criticism, although I respect Ol Parker’s decision to take on the massive plot, the constant back and forth between time periods is confusing to follow at times. With that being said, however, what I admire most about Mamma Mia 2 is its goal to not attempt to recreate the plot and success of the first movie. For example, most people disagree with the inclusion of Meryl Streep-as-Donna’s death and argue that the exclusion of the actress hurts the movie. But after viewing the film, I conclude that it was a shrewd decision. Even though it was risky to remove an icon like Meryl Streep, the entire movie pays homage to her; the retelling and glorification of Donna’s life story is the most prominent and sentimental element of the whole movie.
The amazing collaboration of the new and old casts, catchy music, and a complex plot with twists and turns throughout make Mamma Mia 2 a hit. If you are ever in the mood to dance and sing along to some classic, uplifting tunes, I strongly recommend seeing Mamma Mia 2 as soon as possible.