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Review: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ is a nostalgic debut novel

(02/12/19 7:35am)

I grew up in the south, and some of my most vivid childhood memories took place on the sandy shores of the Atlantic or in the pristine saltwater marshes on the Carolina coast. I was always captivated by the raw beauty in these environments: sunlight bending through Spanish moss, the great arc of a blue heron in flight, hundreds of fiddler crabs scuttling across the mud flats and the gentle lapping of waves at low tide. The sheer abundance of life clustered within the marshes always astounded me. They were their own little sanctuary, sheltered from concrete high-rises and boisterous tourists, having just the right conditions to foster an entire ecosystem. 


Review: ‘Tangerine’ parallels a relationship with a revolution

(02/12/19 7:30am)

“Tangerine” by Christine Mangan transported me beyond my world. I felt like I knew how the ghostliness, both the good and bad tangles of history, feels in Tangier. The book brought the feeling of standing on top of Phoenician tombs, gleaming white against the azure of the intersection of the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans alive; I felt like I could feel the layered history beneath my feet and the physical manifestations of syncretic culture present before my eyes.



Review: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ reveals the goodness of humanity

(02/05/19 7:30am)

There was a moment of collective solidarity on the Internet — which is really rare, considering it’s the Internet — when Fox announced the cancellation of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in May of 2018. Fans of the show, from Lin Manuel-Miranda to Guillermo del Toro, all tweeted their outrage, leading to the show’s resurrection at NBC a mere 31 hours after the announcement of its cancellation. 


Review: ‘Fyre’ explores the consequences of willful ignorance

(02/05/19 7:35am)

It was one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time: a pristine launch video showing supermodels swimming in bikinis on an island once owned by Pablo Escobar, a series of cryptic orange tiles posted online by celebrities and Instagram influencers and the promise of an immersive music experience in the Bahamas called Fyre Festival. In reality, it was an utter disaster; gourmet meals became two slices of cheese on soggy bread, luxury villas became disaster-relief tents and Fyre Festival became a colossal failure of the millennial age.


Review: ‘The Undressing’ is a powerful reflection on time and love

(01/31/19 7:35am)

The first poem I remember loving was “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. I memorized its soaring verses, each one a dedication to peaches, and would recite it at nearly every lunch period to the chagrin of my classmates. I was a girl obsessed. That was the first time I had seen a poem that was unapologetically jubilant; Lee eschewed everything I thought I knew about poetry in “From Blossoms.” There was nothing depressing, pejorative or traumatic. It was simply an exalting review of some really good fruit and a really good summer’s day — and it was in that simplicity that Lee found the nuance and depth that marks interesting poetry. 


Review: ‘Polar’ is a disappointing yet entertaining mess of a movie

(01/31/19 7:30am)

It’s an understatement to say that Netflix has a bad history with its original movies. Sure, they might make one decent movie every now and then, but for every “Roma,” there are at least three films like “The Cloverfield Paradox.” “Polar,” regrettably, won’t be joining “Roma,” “Mudbound” or “Beasts of No Nation” in the lofty pantheon of decent Netflix movies because, depending on your definition of what makes a movie good, it’s either some of the worst trash to ever grace the “trending now” section of Netflix, or a glorious hot mess that’s incredibly entertaining by virtue of how bad it is.


Review: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' surpasses all expectations

(01/29/19 7:00am)

Let’s begin this review with the following two statements: 1. Spider-Man was the first superhero to whom I was introduced. 2. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is hands down the best Spider-Man film ever made. Full stop. No qualifications. I mention these two things in conjunction because even though they initially appear to be unrelated, they are, in fact, intrinsically linked. I never read comics as a child, and when I finally did find myself immersed in the world of superheroes, my favorite was always Batman thanks to Tim Burton’s bizarre, stylish 1989 film adaptation. Nevertheless, my first proper experience with anything superhero related was watching Tomo Moriwaki’s “Spider-Man 2” at the impressionable age of 7 or 8. Thus, even to this day, I have a special fondness for everyone’s favorite web-slinger. 


'Circe' is a new take on traditionally misogynistic Greek mythology

(01/25/19 7:00am)

At once a stunningly evocative retelling of Greek mythology and a commentary on mortality, motherhood, resilience and female agency, “Circe” by Madeline Miller intertwines the fantastic with the familiar, shaping a narrative whose supernatural exterior ultimately serves to tell an altogether human story of a woman’s life.


Review: "Aquaman" is two-and-a-half hours of dumb, frothy fun

(01/22/19 7:35am)

“Aquaman” is the sixth film in the DC Extended Universe, following on the heels of four films that range from mediocre to atrocious (“Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” “Justice League”) and one of the best superhero films not just of the last decade but of all time (“Wonder Woman”). Unsurprisingly, the overall abysmal quality of the franchise has led countless think pieces to ponder how it might be fixed. While I profess to be no authority, I’ve always found that solutions demanding the original director’s cut of “Justice League” or advocating for an alternate-universe reboot both miss precisely what made Wonder Woman” exceptional.


Review: The third season of "True Detective" is back to its roots

(01/22/19 7:30am)

Here’s a disclaimer: the first season of “True Detective” is my favorite season of television ever made. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the first eight-episode iteration of HBO’s crime anthology series is a near-perfect evaluation of human character in the face of death, evil and chaos. Though the writing is at times heavy-handed and the subtle undercurrent of complicated mysticism never really comes to fruition, that first season is still an engrossing masterwork of intrigue and filmmaking. McConaughey and Harrelson give career-best performances, Nic Pizzolatto’s writing takes brilliant, unexpected turns, and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s sumptuous filmmaking pulls viewers into the Louisiana bayou and doesn’t let them go. After the first season’s final episode left me clutching my head in awed disbelief, I eagerly awaited the show’s second season, only to be left in utter disappointment.


Marie Kondo’s new show doesn’t have to do more than ‘spark joy’

(01/18/19 7:35am)

When I returned home for the winter holidays this past November, my parents announced on the drive back from the airport that we were moving out of the home we had lived in for the last 14 years. I reacted as anyone might after an abrupt announcement that they were losing their childhood home: nervous laughter, and then an incredulous “What?”



In 'The Mule,' Clint Eastwood is an old dog sticking to old tricks

(01/17/19 7:30am)

For a movie about drugs and cartels that was inspired by a New York Times article by Nick Schenk, Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” is surprisingly dull, revealing nothing new with surface-level characters far below the capability of their actors.. Eastwood plays Earl Stone, a down-on-his luck former daylily horticulturist who becomes a drug runner, or mule, for a cartel in Illinois. Bradley Cooper plays Colin Bates, the FBI agent tasked with tracking the massive shipments of drugs into Chicago. Taissa Farminga plays Stone’s granddaughter, Ginny. Farminga’s portrayal is sophomoric, and her emotional scenes are unconvincing. When she calls Stone to tell him that his ex-wife is dying, Farmings uses acting class-techniques to touch her face and exasperatedly say, “I can’t believe this.” 


Review: "Vice" is a dramatic, complex look at an American villain

(01/10/19 7:35am)

Adam McKay seems to have something of an obsession with the American culture of corruption and excess. After his masterfully quirky 2015 film “The Big Short” about the 2008 financial collapse, the writer and director has now turned his sharp, sardonic eye toward former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney. The aptly titled “Vice” is something of an exposé on the infamously secretive Cheney, revealing how president George W. Bush’s VP connived his way into becoming one of the most powerful vice-presidents in American history. While the film doesn’t quite match the sheer brilliance and impact of “The Big Short,” “Vice” is still an impressive piece of filmmaking that displays McKay’s distinctively strange and sarcastic style of writing and directing.


“Neapolitan Quartet” is an immersive look at a female friendship

(01/08/19 7:25am)

Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s operatic Neapolitan Quartet, a series that spans four volumes and six decades of friendship, traces the intertwined lives of characters Lila and Lenù. The series begins with Lenù and Lila’s childhood as they grow up in a poor Neapolitan neighborhood and traces their subsequent lives as wives, mothers and ultimately lonely old women. The quartet is a series of cyclical events encapsulated in a larger cyclical narrative structure. The first book of the series, entitled “My Brilliant Friend,” opens at the fourth book’s close. Rino, Lila’s son, telephones Lenù to tell her that his mother has gone missing. At the end of the final book, entitled “The Story of a Lost Child,” there is no answer as to where Lila has disappeared. However, Ferrante writes such a thorough description of Lila’s character and psyche throughout the series that, in the final book, it makes sense as to why she erased herself. It seems not to matter where she’s gone. Lila is mean, whip-smart and down-trodden — how could she not want to disappear, how could she not want to melt into what she calls the “dissolving boundaries” of her complicated world?


Review: ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ cannot have it all

(01/08/19 7:35am)

Last June, Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby released her Netflix stand-up special “Nanette.” The show received critical acclaim and an entire literature of think-pieces, not because it was especially funny or because the jokes were radical (although they were), but because Gadsby used her special to question what it means to use self-deprecating comedy as a woman, a queer individual and as an “other” who exists in the margins.


‘Mary Queen of Scots’ wastes potential due to choppy writing

(01/08/19 7:30am)

In his video “Ludonarrative Dissonance,” film essayist Dan Olson advocates the use of the term “Cinemanarrative Dissonance.” The term describes when an aspect of a film flounders because two or more creative departments did competent work that was nevertheless contradictory due to the lack of a strong, unified vision for the overall product. “Mary Queen of Scots” is full of competent, occasionally even inspired, moments that nonetheless collapse because the film is the new poster child for cinemanarrative dissonance. The film is never truly terrible because everyone in front of and behind the camera is trying; they just never seem to be on the same page.


Review: 'Bandersnatch' opens up new possibilities for stories

(01/06/19 8:51pm)

I’ll be the first to admit it — I am not a gamer. I don’t know much about any specific kind of game, about the world of gaming or of gamers in general. In my rather narrowly-construed mind, video games have been limited to the chaotic fantasy reality of multiplayer games such as “World of Warcraft,” or the brutally one-note first person shooting games à la “Call of Duty.”




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