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Review: ‘The Goldfinch’ fails to live up to novel’s standard

(09/17/19 6:00am)

When word broke that Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Goldfinch” would be adapted into a movie last year, I sighed and dreaded the worst. There is something sacred that is destroyed when a much-beloved novel makes its on-screen debut. Movie adaptations of novels rarely do their written counterparts justice. Instead, they bury them in piles of scathing reviews and Rotten Tomato ratings that sully not only the film’s reputation but also that of the novel (for example, “The Hunger Games”). Similarly, while “The Goldfinch” as a film failed miserably in recreating the vivid characters and atmosphere of Tartt’s imagination, it partly redeemed itself by creating a standalone experience that did not feel derivative of the novel and managed to preserve the novel’s enduring beauty. 


Review: HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ presents a diagnosis of Generation Z

(08/09/19 6:01am)

In the Drake-produced HBO series “Euphoria,” Generation Z is diagnosed and deified. Drawing attention to teen sex lives, drug abuse, family troubles and identity crises, “Euphoria” defines a generation by its most dramatic manifestations. The show’s narrator, lead and Gen Z translator Rue Bennett, played by former Disney Channel star Zendaya, is a biracial teenager struggling with drug addiction and the loss of her father. Self-aware yet unstable, Rue is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Rather than offering her audience righteous honesty or a critic’s presumed purity, Rue makes a show of the archival and analytical process. Just as drugs allow her to edit and enhance her own experience and perception, Rue, as narrator, takes liberties in her storytelling and invites us to trip alongside her. Through her constant battles with relapse, she teaches us what it means to actively recover and revise oneself. In doing so, she suggests that she is, in fact, a representative of her generation — those young adults born in the late ’90s and early 2000s who’ve been shaped by a constant surveillance and demand for self-narration. Where this generation is concerned, “Euphoria” argues that the revision of society and self is, perhaps, Gen Z’s birthright. 


Review: "The Bachelorette" finale ends on a problematic note

(08/02/19 6:00am)

 This isn’t necessarily something I’m proud of, but over the past few weeks, I have joined a group of my friends to hate-watch “The Bachelorette.” Together, we screamed at the screen, laughed at the absurdity of limo exits and cringed at the corny pickup lines. It was a ritual that I enjoyed for the community aspect of it; the television show just happened to be there. However, it became increasingly evident to me that the popular “romantic” and long-running reality T.V. show’s portrayal of gender dynamics is extremely concerning, as it celebrates contestants disrespecting boundaries and using violence and deceit in the pursuit of love. 



Review: Aretha Franklin’s musicality astounds in ‘Amazing Grace’

(07/19/19 6:00am)

“Amazing Grace,” the 2018 movie about the two days spent recording Aretha Franklin’s bestselling live album of the same name, showed at the Hopkins Center for the Arts last weekend. The movie is a true feat, resurrecting footage taken at the event in 1972 but unavailable until now due to technical problems in which video failed to sync with the sound. Finally, in this incredible film, we are able to see the Queen of Soul perform her album “Amazing Grace” at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles.


Review: 'Stranger Things 3' is an electric revival of the series

(07/12/19 6:00am)

On Fourth of July weekend, I powered up my laptop, logged into Netflix and clicked on the big, bright banner advertising the release of “Stranger Things 3.” My expectations were low. After a lackluster second season, I missed the excitement that surrounded the series when it first premiered — back when the #ImWithBarb campaign trended on social media, memes about Eleven’s name went viral and Eggo waffles surged in sales. I wanted the third season of the sci-fi-horror series to bring the same magic it had created with its 2016 launch. One weekend-long Netflix binge later, I am confident that the magic of “Stranger Things” has finally returned to Hawkins in what may be its best season yet.


Review: ‘Ma’ fails to be a horror film, let alone a good horror film

(07/05/19 6:00am)

Typically, disappointment has shaped my experience with horror movies. I watch them expecting to be scared and they wind up making me laugh more than some top-billed comedies. Incohesive plots, stupid characters and cliché twists are far too prevalent in most commercially successful horror films. I wish I could say this spring’s latest horror film, “Ma” was any different, but the most credit I can give the film is for its self-awareness — “Ma” knows just how campy it is. 


Review: ‘Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé’ is illuminating

(05/23/19 6:01am)

We have all seen it: a huge sensation, a star burning brightly and boldly. But then, the star crashes down, never to resurface except in commercials for yogurt and the occasional magazine shot that boasts a collection of “Hollywood Has-Beens: Where Are They Now?” Beautiful poetry, films and plays have been written on the idea that there is an upper limit to the number of stars our world can worship and, thus, some must fall. But not Beyoncé. Never Beyoncé.


Review: Netflix’s series ‘Bonding’ is derivative and unnuanced

(05/21/19 6:06am)

BDSM is a topic of fascination that has been rising bit by bit outside of the shadow of stigma in recent years. With videos like Buzzfeed’s “Couples Try Bondage For The First Time,” released two years ago, and “I Became A Dominatrix To Control My Anxiety,” released just a year and a half after — with plenty of other tangentially related videos in between — it’s clear that BDSM is no longer something people are ashamed of talking about. If anything, kinky has become cool, and there’s a large market of people who want to know more. 


Review: ‘Father of the Bride’ is dark despite bright melodies

(05/21/19 6:00am)

It’s a recurring theme in discussions amongst Vampire Weekend fans that their albums correspond to seasons. Their self-titled debut album, full of perky strings and New England imagery, is reminiscent of a collegiate fall. Their sophomore effort, “Contra,” with its bright synths and upbeat tempos, brings to mind a sunny summer day. And “Modern Vampires of the City,” their third album, is the definition of wintry, with its black and white cover and its existential, morbid themes.


Review: ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ is not quite surreal enough

(05/14/19 6:05am)

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is without a doubt one of the most bizarre ideas for a mainstream, Hollywood family film that I’ve encountered in recent memory. To be clear, I’m not referring to the basic notion of adapting the hugely popular Japanese multi-media franchise into a live-action American film. “Pokémon” is so ubiquitous at this point that even if you’ve never really experienced it –— as is the case with me — you’ve almost certainly at least heard about it through cultural osmosis. Moreover, that ubiquity practically transformed into notoriety with the 2016 release of the augmented reality game “Pokémon Go,” of which, again, you’ve almost definitely heard. 


Review: Taylor Swift’s new single ‘ME!’ is uninspired but catchy

(05/07/19 6:10am)

With the release of her new single “ME!” this past April 26, Taylor Swift has evolved once again. A bubbly and bright pop song, “ME!” marks Swift’s departure from the mood of her previous album, the inspired and aggressive “reputation,” and her persona’s transformation to the glaringly upbeat and pastel imagery of “ME!” 


Review: ‘Gloria Bell’ is a new take on the coming-of-age story

(05/07/19 6:05am)

The film “Gloria Bell,” written and directed by Sebastián Lelio and starring Julianne Moore as the eponymous main character, is a meandering slice-of-life film beautifully unfolding what can only be called a coming-of-age film, only later in life. Gloria, the titular protagonist, is divorced, has an ordinary job and entertains herself by dancing in various nightclubs across Los Angeles and having unextraordinary interactions with her adult son and daughter. All of a sudden, a new romance blossoms for Gloria when Arnold, portrayed by John Turturro, picks her up at a nightclub. The two spend the night together and, at first, the relationship seems over just as quickly as it started — infinitely unimportant to Gloria. Her life is interesting with or without a lover, laced with subtle and grand disappointments such as her son’s wife abandoning him and their son, her daughter’s relationship with a Swedish big wave surfer, her work best friend’s imminent firing and her own mother squandering all the money left by Gloria’s father. The film treats such events with mundanity, as they are, after all, just parts of life. When Arnold calls Gloria to invite her on a date, it is clear she has forgotten him as much as the audience has, since she is caught up in her own life. We see Gloria answer the phone and respond, softly puzzled, “No, I’m not mad. Why would I be mad?’ Her nonchalance demonstrates her own self-contentment in life, based on a self-worth not rooted in someone else’s love or approval. 


Review: ‘Minimalism’ convinces audiences to focus on happiness

(04/30/19 6:10am)

At the beginning of this term, I noticed just how much stuff I had accumulated after several years of dorm life in a boarding school. I have used all of my closets and other storage spaces to the fullest, yet, I still have many books, jackets, random electronic devices and documents on the floor. Sometimes, I struggle to dig out the t-shirt I want to wear because my closet is literally full of clothes; other times I am tripped by the Amazon boxes on the ground or I cannot find the right cable among millions of cables all of which have become so intertwined that they may never be separated from each other. This is what a pair of filmmakers called the “Minimalists” refer to as “clutter.”


Review: cult-classic sci-fi film ‘Alien’ remains relevant 40 years later

(04/30/19 6:06am)

Reaching its 40th anniversary this year, “Alien,” directed by Ridley Scott, is widely regarded as one of the most influential sci-fi/fantasy films of all times. The film’s symbolism, grand setting, relatable extraterrestrial horror and the metaphysical questions it raises all contribute to a complex and thrilling viewing experience. Forty years since its release, the movie’s profound message still echoes with human identity and remains relevant today. As a devout “Alien” fan, I will review “Alien,” the first movie of the namesake series, but I will also provide a brief guide on the correct sequential order in which to watch the iconic movie franchise. 


Review: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ delivers a satisfying conclusion

(04/30/19 6:00am)

“Avengers: Endgame” is one of those odd films that everyone wants to talk about, but, in a sense, no one does. Fans fear that critics will spoil the experience for them, and critics fear the wrath of these fans, resulting in a cycle that does its very best to curtail any actual conversation about the film or its content. Thus, while I will certainly strive to avoid spoilers throughout this review, I always want to talk about some of the thematic and narrative implications of the film. To paraphrase video essayist Dan Olson, if you don’t want spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame,” don’t go see “Avengers: Endgame” because it is wall to wall with spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.” 


Review: ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ finishes strong through reprises

(04/26/19 6:00am)

The CW Network’s show, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has been my favorite TV show since I binged the first three seasons of it last term, which is also when I learned that the next season to my newfound favorite would be its last. My experiences with last seasons for personal favorites in television have not been great, so I was nervous and disappointed about the end to a TV gem that I had just discovered. Luckily, the fourth season of the show was yet another strong addition of a chapter in the protagonist’s journey of self-acceptance and learning to navigate personal relationships, while also fulfilling its role as a final season well by tying the story together in a satisfying conclusion. 


HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ begins its final season with a blast

(04/23/19 6:09am)

Before winter break, I had never seen a single episode of “Game of Thrones,” let alone read one of George R.R. Martin’s novels. By the time break ended, I had seen almost the entire HBO fantasy series, not just because I was enrolled in the winter class, ENGL 53.6, “Game of Thrones: Reimagining Medieval History as an Allegory of the Present” with English and creative writing professor James Dobson, but because it’s the type of show that once you start, it’s near impossible to stop. Once I finished season one, I started season two. Before I knew it, I was one of the many eager fans anticipating the release of season eight.


Review: ‘Outer Peace’ expresses youth disillusion through music

(04/19/19 6:00am)

This past January, Toro y Moi (also known as Chaz Bear) released his sixth album, “Outer Peace.” Inspired by the electronic dance music of Daft Punk and Wally Badarou’s synthpop, “Outer Peace” is a breezy 10 tracks, spanning just over 30 minutes. As a whole, the album is very easy to listen to — the tracks are generally composed of low-fi, low energy, yet upbeat beats and melodies — and none of them are longer than four minutes. On the surface, Toro y Moi has produced a fun, and at times quirky, album full of hits that can be played at a wide range of events, whether it be at a party that’s about to hit its peak or at a study table that needs a pick-me-up. A deeper dive into the album with closer listening, though, reveals that Toro y Moi has also subtly inputted his own little touches of tongue-in-cheek ironic flair and his sense of pessimistic disillusionment to which millennials and Gen Zers can definitely relate.


Review: ‘Dumbo’ is an aimless live-action remake of a classic

(04/16/19 6:10am)

In his essay “What is Digital Cinema?” media theorist Lev Manovich notes that cinema ultimately began with animation. Magic lanterns, phenakistoscopes, zootropes. They all relied, in a sense, on a form of hand-drawn animation. Whereas many of his fellow theorists posit that cinema is the “art of the index,” defined by its ability to record reality, Manovich contends that its very origins position cinema as “the art of motion.” Thus, for Manovich, the dominance of computer-generated imagery animation in “live-action” films in recent years is not some existential threat to the very essence of film but rather the medium returning to its roots. 




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