In 2017, writer and historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar published the biography “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit Of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.” Attempting to accomplish an ambitious feat, Dunbar imagines the life of Judge, a young woman who was enslaved by America’s first family but managed to escape from bondage. The book reconstructs the course that Judge took on her journey to freedom from enslavement in 1796. By harnessing her skill for research, Dunbar reconstructs Judge’s world, telling a story that has never been explored in such detail or with such tact. Through this biography, Dunbar also honors the life and humanity of a woman who was denied niceties at birth.
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This was not part of the plan.
On Jan. 3, Freeform debuted the first two episodes of “grown-ish,” the highly-anticipated spin-off of ABC’s “black-ish.” “grown-ish” follows Zoey (Yara Shahidi), the eldest Johnson daughter, through her freshman year of college and journey into adulthood. The show is fresh, colorful and fun, featuring a diverse cast of characters and strong writing. “grown-ish” manages to build on the success of “black-ish” while asserting itself as distinct and worthy of anticipation. The show retains many of the core elements that allowed “black-ish” to rise as a critically-acclaimed sitcom on ABC. For example, “grown-ish” also stresses audience education, offering brief insights into character background and historical context, a practice which takes on new meaning as Zoey is tasked with learning who she is, where she comes from and how she wants to exist in the world.
Watching the opening scene from the new Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” I knew immediately that the titular character would get cheated on. A woman does not happily bounce through her daily, homemaking chores that seamlessly in the first few minutes of a feature without foreshadowing the demise of that perfect, happy routine by the end of said feature.
For some writers, dialogue is lyrical. For others, it is realistic, capturing the rambling cadence of everyday speech. And for still others, it is purely utilitarian: Characters must speak, so they do. But for Aaron Sorkin, dialogue is the beating heart and soul of the enterprise of writing.
The start of 2018 means the beginning of #NewYearNewMe routines and looking forward to new beginnings, but there’s also no better time than now to reminisce on the year that just ended. Even if 2017 wasn’t a particularly amazing year, it definitely saw the release of some amazing music and the rise of great new artists. Here are my top songs from 2017 for you to nod (or shake) your head to.
In “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Black feminist writer Audre Lorde critiques the ways in which Western patriarchal societies have suppressed and falsely encouraged women’s sexual expression. In the piece, she asserts that “the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who doesn’t fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.” With these words, Lorde calls for a full-bodied praxis regarding the body, one which acknowledges sexuality as a basis for reclamation and degradation.
If I had to bet on a song that every Dartmouth student knows, I would pick “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. What they may not know, however, is that “Mr. Brightside” came out over a decade ago in 2004. Along with “Human” and perhaps “Somebody Told Me,” it seems like people are more than happy to sing along to the Killers’ old songs, which means that either the music is really good or that the band has not followed up with anything better. With The Killers, it may be a little bit of both, but their new album “Wonderful Wonderful” stands to change that and hopefully give their fans some new songs to enjoy.
I know that Taylor Swift is a bad person. She lied about Kanye West, she tried to fight Nicki Minaj via Twitter and she probably voted for Donald Trump. Furthermore, I know that her music is bad. You don’t have to tell me that “I can’t say anything to your face / Because look at your face” is not a good lyric. I am an English major. I have picked up on this already.
A few weeks ago, my editors acquiesced to my request to drop the numerical ratings system in my reviews. I felt the ratings were becoming increasingly arbitrary. Not just arbitrary in the sense that one number is a rather weightless way of expressing an opinion, but also in the sense that the distinction between “good” and “bad” cinema was becoming more and more blurry to me. Thanks to some of my film studies courses, I began to appreciate how limiting these categories were. Of course, I wouldn’t write film criticism week after week if I didn’t feel that discussing the quality of films had some value. I’ve come to realize that the way I define “quality” is somewhat complicated.
An ode to former first lady Michelle Obama, “Courage is Contagious: And Other Reasons to be Thankful for Michelle Obama” takes on the task of memorializing and honoring the legacy of Obama as a cultural icon through a collection of written reflections. The book’s editor, Nick Haramis, compiled essays by actors, writers, fashion designers, activists, high schoolers and others in order to participate in the process of unpacking the Obama family’s legacy in America and the significance of Obama’s navigation of the first lady position.
On Saturday night, I trekked down to the labyrinthine nether-realm that is the Nugget Theater to see “Marshall.” Ten minutes before, I had left the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ screening of Taylor Sheridan’s problematic, complicated yet engaging “Wind River,” which played to a mostly packed theater. In contrast, I watched “Marshall” with a grand total of two other people. To everyone who could have filled those extra seats but didn’t: Y’all missed out.
On Sunday, Oct. 29, Upper Valley television channel CATV’s sixth annual Halloween-o-thon took place on Dartmouth’s campus from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Loew Auditorium located in the Black Family Visual Arts Center, partnering with the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Halloween-o-thon showcased films made by students spanning in age from middle school to college from all across the Upper Valley who registered to commit three weeks of their time to writing, directing and casting their very own short horror films. On Sunday, their work was displayed on the big screen to celebrate the creative endeavors of local youth and embrace the Halloween spirit.
In last week’s review of “The Snowman,” I encouraged readers to skip that dreadfully dull film and instead watch “Battle of the Sexes.” As it happens, I saw the two films over a week ago, and the contrast could not have been greater. When I walked out of “The Snowman,” my head was reeling with confusion. When I walked out of “Battle of the Sexes,” I felt buoyed, eager to return home and research the real-life story that had inspired the film. This is one of the year’s best films and the more I think about it, the fonder I grow — which is significant considering I was already fond of it when I walked out of the Nugget Theater.
The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by acclaimed flutist Luciano Tristaino, will perform its annual fall concert at the Spaulding Auditorium in the Hopkins Center for the Arts on Saturday. With this performance, the ensemble intends to celebrate its upcoming collaboration with the Conservatory of Siena.
In one of my favorite memoirs, “Negroland,” acclaimed critic and professor Margo Jefferson offers an account of her life as a Southern upper middle-class Black woman in the 50s and 60s, reflecting on the confounding nature of racial categorization as a process which has saturated the lives of Black Americans. Jefferson asks a weighty question to the masses: “What manner of man and woman are we?” It is a query that has remained in my head since I finished reading her memoir. With this question, Jefferson addressed the ways in which the otherness imposed on Black Americans necessitated conflict by defining our existence as inherently divergent from the norm of humanity. In Toni Morrison’s newest novel, “The Origin of Others,” this question is asked and expanded to challenge the habit of “othering” altogether — taking history, psychology and literature to task in a way that uncovers the vast offerings of Morrison’s mind.
Tonight the Hopkins Center for the Arts will show “Dawson City: Frozen Time,” a documentary about a Canadian town in the Yukon region that became a hotspot during the Klondike Gold Rush. Additionally, Dawson City rose to fame within the film industry in 1978 when old prints and reels were discovered. Directed by Bill Morrison, “Dawson City: Frozen Time” delves into the rich history of this forgotten town.
I watched “Detroit” over a week ago, and I’m still not quite sure what to say. It is, without a doubt, the hardest film I’ve ever had to review. In retrospect, this is not a shock — director Kathryn Bigelow has shown a steadfast willingness to tackle controversial topics in her previous two films, “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Similarly, “Detroit” is based on the Algiers Motel Incident, although the film acknowledges that Mark Boal’s tense screenplay takes certain factual liberties due to conflicting or incomplete testimonies about what actually occurred in the 1967 incident of police brutality against three black teenagers. Thus, the plot details described in this review will be based purely on the events as the film describes them; if you want to know more about the real-life incident, I highly recommend looking it up.
In my review of “Arrival,” I wished director Denis Villeneuve luck for his next endeavor, a sequel to my favorite film of all time: Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.” To be clear from the outset, the original “Blade Runner” is far from perfect. It is a flawed masterpiece, as influential as it is imperfect. And that’s probably why I love it. It is a slow, poetic and evocative film that never asked for or needed a sequel. But here we are 35 years later and “Blade Runner 2049” actually exists. Is it as good as the first film? Of course not, but I didn’t really expect it to be. Is it, at least, a worthy successor? By and large, I think so.
In many ways, “Dunkirk” is the film Christopher Nolan was meant to make. This is not to say that it’s his best film, though it is certainly among the best. While watching the film, one senses that it is the payoff for all his efforts to simultaneously become commercially successful and critically beloved over the last 20 years. After watching “Inception,” which is undoubtedly the most Nolan-esque of all the Nolan films, I feared that the director had reached his pinnacle. His unique and thrilling combination of labyrinthine narratives, philosophical themes and nuanced characters seemed to have been pushed to its limit. After reaching the top of Mt. Everest, there simply was no other peak to summit. His next two features reflected this fact; “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Interstellar” are both decent films that fall short of greatness because they are so overstuffed. Nolan’s ambition, previously his greatest asset, was slowly becoming his primary weakness. Until “Dunkirk.”