A Friendly Rivalry – By Zach Mirsky

Over the span of being here for three years, I’ve learned Village School has the best traditions out of any school I’ve attended. Out of my top 3: the canoe trip (which was ruined — thanks Jared Gomberg and Sam Director); IHOP and Bowling and the Pizza Taste Testing, which is my favorite. The pizza trip consists of being dropped off by the Brooklyn Bridge. Next, the plan is to walk through Manhattan and hopefully get to the original ice cream factory in Chinatown, and then back over to DUMBO. But the best part of the whole trip is the pizza taste testing two rival pizza places named Grimaldi’s and the other one named Julianas.
But perhaps, besides tasting both of these legendary pizza joints, the most interesting part of the contest is the backstory behind the rivalry and why it all started. The founder of Grimaldi’s pizza, Patsy Grimaldi, was taught to make pizza when he was 10 by his uncle, Patsy Lancieri, who owned a pizza joint in Italian Harlem in 1941. Decades later, Grimaldi decided that he was going to open up his own pizzeria in Manhattan.
Before he even opened, he found out that those coal fired ovens he would use were illegal in New York. Grimaldi knew that using a coal fired oven was the best way to cook a pizza. All things considered, Grimaldi opened up a pizza shop in Brooklyn, New York under his own name called, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in 1990.
In 1998, Grimaldi retired and sold his name and franchise, excluding the locations in Hoboken, to a man by the name of Frank Ciolli. In 2011, Ciolli’s lease was declined a renewal, so he renovated an old bank and moved a block away from the original location, now landing on 1 Front Street in Brooklyn.
Very shortly after the initial move, Patsy Grimaldi made a triumphant return from retirement at age 80. After months of constant bickering, complaints to the state and a lawsuit or two, Patsy Grimaldi was able to open a new pizzeria. Since Grimaldi already sold his name to Frank Ciolli, he had to change the name of his restaurant. Now we have Juliana’s, named after Patsy Grimaldi’s mom.
The victory? Patsy Grimaldi got the original location where his old pizzeria used to be, 19 Old Fulton Street.
The trip was a success. We ended up not having enough time to go through the fringes of Chinatown, and crossing the Manhattan Bridge, due to heavy traffic on the way to Brooklyn. Plus, the Brooklyn Bridge is much more enjoyable to cross. The students and teachers both seemed to like Juliana’s pizza better than Grimaldi’s. Going on this trip once again confirmed why it is my favorite trip. It is sad that this was my last time doing this trip with Village.

Album Review: Dear Evan Hansen

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

You’d initially think the answer is yes, but what if I asked you to search for a deeper meaning? What if the tree represented a person? Does it matter whether it makes a sound or not if no one’s there to hear it?

That’s the premise of the new Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen. With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, it tells the story of Evan Hansen, a high school senior with social anxiety disorder who gets himself involved in a tragedy that he has no right to be part of. When his classmate, Connor Murphy, kills himself, Evan lies to Connor’s family about having been his friend. His lie leads him to develop a close relationship with the Murphys (especially their daughter, Zoe, who he has a crush on), achieve popularity, and feel loved and self-confident for the first time in his life… until everything comes crashing down before him, forcing him to fix the mess he’s made.

Poster for Dear Evan Hansen, which was just nominated for 9 Tony awards, including Best Musical.

Poster for Dear Evan Hansen, which was just nominated for 9 Tony awards, including Best Musical.

The songs are remarkable. The orchestra consists of guitar, strings, drums, and piano, giving the soundtrack a contemporary feel. The heartwarming ballad “If I Could Tell Her” seems like it is just that, but it’s actually pretty manipulative–Evan essentially uses Connor’s death to admit his feelings for Zoe. He tells her all the things he loves about her, but claims that Connor was the one who said them. Still, it’s a sweet song, and it gives us insight on both who Zoe is as a person and just how infatuated Evan is with her. The Act 1 finale “You Will Be Found” is a soaring anthem for anyone who has ever felt alone or unloved. It tells us that there is always a way to find light if you are stuck in darkness. All you need to do is ask for help, and someone will hear you and reach out. Then there’s “Good for You,” in which Evan finally gets admonished for everything that has happened, primarily by his mother, Heidi. Heidi lashes out at Evan for rejecting her to spend time with the Murphys. As a single mother, she has worked so hard to support herself and her son, and she deserves more than for him to make her feel like she’s not good enough. Meanwhile, Evan starts to realize that his lie has spiraled out of control, and he wonders frantically how he can fix the situation, fearing there is no solution. Other great songs include “For Forever,” in which Evan tells a false account of a day he and Connor spent together; “Requiem,” in which we see each of the Murphys individually react to Connor’s death; “Only Us,” a love song between Evan and Zoe; and “Words Fail,” in which Evan finally confesses the truth.

But the true standout of the album is “Waving Through a Window,” which takes place at the beginning of the show. In it, Evan reflects on how he’s spent his life watching from the background, always observing and never experiencing. He never speaks up lest he get noticed and judged by others. But now, he starts to realize that because he never gets noticed, very few people know he even exists. Evan broke his arm by falling out of a tree before the events of the show (hence its logo of an arm in a cast), but what we don’t know yet is that the fall was actually a suicide attempt. The fact that no one want to sign his cast only worsens his loneliness. “When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?” he sings, and repeats, until he escalates to, “Did I even make a sound? It’s like I never made a sound, will I ever make a sound?” To question whether you matter to people is one of the most depressing things one can experience, and this is a question that has been circling around in Evan’s mind for months at least. It’s heartbreaking and honest, but also hopeful. The musical truly understands what it’s like inside the minds of people who feel lost and unseen, and so it reaches out to them and reminds them that they are not alone and that they matter.

The amazing thing about the show’s soundtrack is how much you can empathize with the characters. What Evan does is definitely wrong, but he isn’t portrayed as a completely bad person; rather, he’s shown as a teen who longs for understanding and connection and who finds himself in a situation he feels he can’t get out of. He still isn’t excused from what he’s done, but one can understand why he does it: he doesn’t want Connor’s family to know how isolated their son was, and he’s never gotten this kind of attention and affection from anyone before. Ben Platt, who plays Evan, perfectly captures the character’s inner turmoil and yearning for being heard. His performance feels authentic; oftentimes it seems like he’s not playing Evan, but he’s being Evan. And Rachel Bay Jones, who plays his mother, has incredible range. She displays so much strength in her performance that it’s a pity she’s not in more songs. The entire cast is superbly talented; though it only consists of eight people, everyone fits their role perfectly and together they make a great ensemble.

My one complaint about the soundtrack is that there’s a lot of information that it leaves out. If someone listens to the musical but can’t afford Broadway tickets, there’s a lot that they will miss out on. Nowhere in the album does it mention that Evan tried to kill himself, and it leaves out several other important plot points as well. While the soundtrack is 57 minutes in total, the full show lasts two and a half hours, so we miss out on more than half of the show’s content, which is unfortunate. But the content that we do get to listen to via the album is quite memorable and there’s no doubt it’ll get stuck in your head.

Dear Evan Hansen is a perfect starting point for people who are interested in listening to Broadway soundtracks but don’t know where to start. It doesn’t have as many songs as most other musicals, the music is catchy, and it’s incredibly relatable. If you’ve ever felt like an outsider longing to fit in, this is a great musical for you.

Rating: 9/10

La La Lands many influences

Federico Fellini:

The first scene in La La Land is an homage to Federico Fellini’s masterpiece . In the first scene of the lead character Guido is stuck in a traffic jam and everyone is staring at him, creating a trapped feeling. Guido then begins to daydream of him flying until he is forced to snap back into reality. We see something very similar in La La Land, a traffic jam turns into a large musical number about the Hollywood dream  and then it snaps back into reality. We see our lead character Mia and witness her reality, her frustrations and struggles. Like La La Land, is set in the movie business (in Italy though, not Hollywood).

La La Land also takes influence from the musical Sweet Charity, which is based off Fe161212_BB_something-better.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2derico Fellini’s 1957 realist film Nights of Cabiria. The number in La La Land “Someone in the Crowd” takes inspiration from the number “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” in Sweet Charity. As you can see in the photo, Mia and her friends whip their colorful dresses around the same way Charity and her friends do in Sweet Charity.

Jacques Demy:

Perhaps the film’s most obvious influence comes from the musicals of the French director Jacques Demy. Jacques Demy was one of the most prominent directors of the French New Wave, which is considered by most film historians, film critics and filmmakers as the most important film movement of all time. The French New Wave is known for its rule-breaking techniques and its post-modernist style, which is rather than trying to make the audience forget they are watching a film, it tries to remind them that they are. You can see this in La La Land in that while the characters emotions all feel real and we can relate to them and feel for them, it still never forgets that it is a musical and creates a world of its own.

The world that is made in La La Land is very much influenced by the world that Jacques Demy created in many of his films. The most obvious connection is the bright colors and buildings. In Jacques Demy’s magnum opus The Umbrellas of Cherbourg there are also titles telling us the time of year just like in La La Land. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg also has a bittersweet ending with the lovers split apart seeing each other for the first time in years.

Vincente Minnelli:

Vincente Minnelli is the director of many classic musicals such as An American in Paris, Gigi, and Meet Me in St. Louis. La La Land borrows his style of surreal feeling song and an-american-in-paris-1108x0-c-defaultdance sequences. The musical numbers feel as if they are stepping away from reality and when they end, they are going back into reality just like in La La Land. It borrows this as well as many visual references to An American in Paris.

 

Singin’ in the Rain:

The most obvious reference to Singin’ in the Rain is in the number “A Lovely Night” when Ryan Gosling’s character swings around a street light just like in the famous sequence in Singin’ in the Rain when Gene Kelly jumps up on a street light singing “Singing in the Rain”. Many of the scenes ila-la-land-22-1024x576n the “Epilogue” are reminiscent of the “Broadway Melody” ballad in Singin’ in the Rain.

 

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

The best place to start watching the movies that influenced this film is with the films of Fred and Ginger. Damien Chazelle had the cast and crew of La La Land watch Top Hat before filming to understand what style he was going for. Chazelle also wanted to have the chemistry be like the chemistry between Fred and Ginger. Chazelle has also cited Fred and Ginger as an influence on the dance sequences in La La Land.

The films of Audrey Hepburn and West Side Story:

Damien Chazelle, the director of La La Land said that in many of his dance sequences he was going for a “Jerome Robbins-style”. Jerome Robbins is the director of West Side Story. Emma Stone follows a similar acting style to Audrey Hepburn. She also has a similar sounding voice to her. She did this to try to capture the 50s-60s musical feel more. Also in the “Epilogue” sequence the colorful balloons are reminiscent of the Audrey Hepburn musical Funny Face.

A Shifted Stance – by Zach Mirsky

Earlier on Monday, April 24, 2017 Trump’s stance on his long-standing campaign promise on building a wall and Mexico paying for it hadn’t changed according to a White House correspondent. On Monday, he posted this to Twitter: “The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!”
Now, as of April 25, 2017, the day after his unwavering view, Trump is hinting that he might be willing to wait until September or even 2018 to secure the funding of his wall on the border of Mexico. He will do this to avoid a government shutdown.
White House Correspondent, Trey Yingst said in a tweet “On funding the border wall, Trump said he could get it this week or the administration could come back to it in September.” Even White House press secretary, Sean Spicer who said “We feel very confident the government’s not going to shut down,” couldn’t even officially say there would not be one.
Given the fact that the deadline is Saturday, the only way both sides will get away without having a government shutdown is if they come up with a ‘temporary spending plan,” would buy them a week. For Democrats, there’s a catch — they can keep the pressure on Trump by opposing him, but that would only leave the party to blame for a shutdown. Budget analyst Stan Collender says “I don’t think there is a relationship between Trump and congressional Democrats yet, I don’t see them doing anything to help him at all.”

March for Science

April 22nd marks Earth Day, a holiday dedicated to encourage respect for life on planet Earth, to bring to light the concerns about the dangers of pollution, and to commemorate Mother Earth. This year, a new purpose came to light when thousands of scientists and nature preservation supporters protested in Washington. Following in the steps of the Women’s March that caused an uproar worldwide, the March for Science was not only in the U.S. but in other countries as well such as France, England, Ireland, South Africa, Germany, and Japan.

Ralliers that demonstrated at the White House weren’t worried about the downpour ruining their signs, but rather the the possibility of losing their jobs due to the president’s negligence towards environmental issues. Trump stated in a Fox interview in 2015, “Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations.” He plans to cut the EPA’s budget by 25% from $8.1 million to $6.1 billion. Along with that he is targeting to
cut their workforce by 20% from roughly 17,000 to 12,400. Not only is the EPA under fire but the National Institute of Health as well. Trump plans on cutting the NIH’s budget by 18%, which means taking away $5.8 billion. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA under Trump, believes that CO2 (carbon dioxide) is not a contributing factor to global warming. Many are in disbelief because countless numbers of studies have proven the dangers of CO2, the second largest greenhouse gas.

“Protecting the government’s investment in science, particularly when that includes funding for public engagement, is incredibly important. Science is not just for scientists, and I believe that all of us, whether we work in a lab or not, should have a voice on its future,” said Katherine Mathieson, the chief executive of the British Science Association. Mathieson, along with many others, are hoping that this protest will bring to attention the magnitude of how important the environment and programs designed to protect it is.

 

The Harsh Reality of Depression

Life is supposed to be happy. People should be able to feel good about themselves. If they get sick, they should have hope of getting better. But there are many people who can’t have this good life. They spend every day of their lives miserable about their existence. They lose hope in the world. This is the harsh reality of depression.

Depression never comes up randomly. There’s always a reason, even if it may be hidden. By far the most common one is a traumatic experience, or a series of traumatic experiences, that wind up affecting a person’s life permanently. The trauma could be anything from a physical injury, to the death of a loved one, to sexual abuse. This causes a chemical imbalance in the brain, usually of reduced levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemical imbalances are what cause depression.

Often times this trauma will implant a trigger in the victim’s mind. That trigger could be something really insignificant or inexplicable, like penguins. But the triggers all have reason. What if penguins were their abuser’s favorite animal? Bringing up the trigger causes the person to recall memories from the trauma. It makes them experience the trauma again mentally and makes the depression worse.

Depression is very unpredictable. Sometimes it will take days to set in, sometimes months. One day you could be feeling like the happiest person in the world, and the next day you could be miserable in bed all day. Sometimes it’ll get better in weeks, sometimes it takes years. But no matter how unpredictable it may be, it always takes a major toll on people’s lives.

The worst thing depression brings is the lack of motivation to do anything. Without motivation, someone is likely to stay in bed all day, not eat or bathe, stay in the same clothes for weeks. They won’t want to do work. They may not even want to do the things they usually love.

There comes a point when someone is so depressed, they may want to end their life. They feel that they don’t deserve to exist in this world, and that nobody would care if they left it. If someone is close to attempting suicide, they may seem unusually happy, because they have their plan concocted and are ready to execute it, and end their misery. If you ever see a sudden mood change like that, talk to them about it, and get them to call a suicide hotline.

The point of all this is that depression is bad. If someone you know is depressed, try to comfort them and help them through it. The times are hard, but it always eventually gets better. Just keep pulling through.

TCM Theater Showings

Every month, TCM shows a classic film in theaters for two days to show them to people who never got the chance to see them on the big screen. They are not at every theater, but they are not that hard to find.

At the start of every film there is always a host that will introduce the film and say something about its impact and reception. There are only nine more showings this year, but they are definitely worth it. On April 23rd and 26th, Mike Nichols’ groundbreaking classic The Graduate will be showing to celebrate its 50 year anniversary. The TCM host that will be presenting is Ben Mankiewicz. The film is known as Dustin Hoffman’s breakthrough role and one of the most important films in the New Hollywood film movement (also known as the American New Wave). On May 21st and 24th, Smokey the Bandit starring Burt Reynolds will be playing to celebrate its 40 year anniversary. Ben Mankiewicz will be hosting for this one as well. This film is what established Burt Reynolds as a star in Hollywood

On June 4th and 7th, Francis Ford Coppola’s tour de force mobster epic The Godfather will be playing. Often cited as one of the greatest films of all time from critics and audiences alike, The Godfather stars numerous acting legends, from Marlon Brando to Al Pacino to Robert Duvall to Diane Keaton, and the list goes on and on. This will also be hosted by Ben Mankiewicz.

On June 11th and 14th, Some Like it Hot will be playing. Directed by one of the great film directors of all time, Billy Wilder, and starring two of the screen’s best actors ever, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, this is surely to be enjoyed by anyone of any age or taste in film, a must-see. This will be hosted by TCM host Tiffany Vazquez.

On July 30th and August 2nd, Fast Times at Ridgemont High will be playing. While very silly and cheesy, Sean Penn’s breakthrough role is still a fun watch and worth seeing. It will be hosted by Ben Mankiewicz.

On August 13th and 16th, the classic Bonnie and Clyde will be playing. The film is well known for launching the New Hollywood movement, which I mentioned before. Starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, this classic should really be seen by everybody. This will be hosted by Tiffany Vasquez.

On September 17th and 20th, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial will be playing. Everyone has seen this Steven Spielberg classic. It will be great to relive this adventure on the big screen. It will be hosted by Ben Mankiewicz.

On October 15th and 18th, Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride will be playing in theaters for its 30th anniversary. A film everyone could enjoy, this will be great to see in theaters. This will be hosted by Tiffany Vasquez.

On November 12th and 15th, the classic film Casablanca will be playing to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Everyone loves Casablanca! This classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, and Peter Lorre is a globally renowned classic that is often considered one of the best films ever made. It will be hosted be Ben Mankiewicz.

On December 10th and 13th, the Sidney Poitier classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner will be playing. This film was very groundbreaking at its time because it is about an interracial couple. It is one f Sidney Poitier’s best films. It will be hosted by Tiffany Vasquez.

Memorium of Those Lost In 2016 – By Zach Mirsky

Though not physically here anymore, these legends have each left us behind with their legacy. Their voices and musical contributions will always live on.
Here’s a list of the most influential artists we’ve lost from 2016 to now:

  • January 10: David Bowie – Best known as “Ziggy Stardust” and for his gender bending artistry and pure talent. Nothing short of a legend.
  • February 4: Maurice White – Best known as the leader and founder of the group Earth, Wind and Fire. They had a legacy as being a funk and R&B band.
  • March 11: Keith Emerson – Co-Founded the progressive rock supergroup, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The band was best known for their live performances and pyrotechnics. They were also considered the first prog rock supergroup.
  • April 21: Prince – Possibly one of the biggest guitarists/artists ever. Flawlessly mixing genres between rock, pop and funk, beloved by generations. Dead at 57, his songs and influences in pop culture will live on.
  • November 10: Leonard Cohen – Another extremely influential singer/songwriter and a beautiful poet. At 82, Cohen released his last album, entitled You Want It Darker, which explored the concept and questions of god and mortality.
  • December 25: George Michael – British star and gay icon, George Michael mixed his progressive social commentary with danceable pop music. He was considered to be very controversial.

Honorable mention:
The 23rd anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death was on April 5th this year.

Manchester by the Sea review

Manchester by the Sea was one of the best movies of last year. I cried twice both times I watched it, truly one of the most realistic films I’ve ever seen. The characters literally talk over one another and don’t hear each other at times. From the first scene I was gripped. The relationship between Casey Affleck and his nephew really grabs you from the start. We learn more about it as the film goes on through flashbacks and also watch it developed whilst learning about it. Each and every reveal about the characters is told to us in an emotionally intriguing way and at the perfect time. This was one of the best character studies I have seen in years. I truly felt for Casey Affleck’s character every second along the way and understood why he did everything he did even when I did not want him to do it. I even felt with characters that were barely in it. Many people complained about the film’s pacing and its ending, but I thought they were both perfect. While the pacing was very slow, it really was fitting and needed for its subject matter. Things don’t really get any better for our protagonist, but with everything else that happens to him in the film and with his reactions to it, a happy ending would have been unfitting and totally would not have worked.

Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams give beautifully powerful performances. Affleck actually gives one of the best performances of the 21st century. Affleck subtly dies inside while still showing us his misery. Michelle Williams was robbed by Viola Davis at the Oscars. She does not have much screen time, but is devastating when on screen.

The film was wonderfully directed, but I won’t deny its flaws. While the atmosphere felt very very real at times, there were still flaws in the cinematography that keep it from perfection. While the cinematography was great, there were two or three scenes in the beginning where I felt that it was a bit too simple with boring straight on shots that kept cutting exactly 90 degrees from one another. In the more emotional scenes it couldn’t have been better. In the emotional scenes, there was chaos going on all around our lead character and we were being shown his reactions first through wides, then it would often cut to close-ups of Affleck and we would see his reaction in more detail. The costume design was simple, but real and fitting. The film just overall felt alive throughout.

Another little nitpick I had was that the editing felt a tad bit choppy. I thought some of the shots could have ran for a bit longer at times. The film has a great score, too. It really matches every scene. The songs were playing in my head for days after I saw it, making all the sadness even heavier. It really should have been nominated for Best Score at the Oscars.

All in all, Manchester by the Sea was one of the best films of last year that is totally worth your time. Though I had a few nitpicks with some of the technical aspects of the film, the acting and script were both some of the best this decade and it will break the heart of anyone who sees it. A must-see.
9/10

“Too” by FIDLAR review -Zach Mirsky

Band Members

Band Members

The name FIDLAR stands for “F*** It Dog, Life’s A Risk,” and the name seems quite fitting for the music and lyrics. To sum up their latest album, “Too” is about getting sober and all the struggles and setbacks that come with it. Zac Carper, who has recently become sober, got the worst phone call in his life on May 18, 2013. “I was with this girl, and we were both drug addicts,” says Carper. “She was pregnant, and she overdosed on heroin while I was on tour.” She died from a staph infection, presumably from a dirty needle. “That day, I found out that my girlfriend was dead,” he recalls, covering his eyes with his hand. “I felt such guilt and shame over it. I was the one who introduced her to getting high. She had a miscarriage with my kid. I didn’t know what to do besides drink my life away.”

Carper’s addiction almost ended the band and his life several times. When talking about the new record “Too,” he says, “Dude, life for me is … hard and I use drugs to get over that. Now you take the medicine away, which was drugs, then I’m like a crazy person. I’m like psychotic now. I have mood swings. The only way I can deal with it is to write.”

FIDLAR IP Cover

FIDLAR IP Cover

Enough background, let’s talk about the music. This album has grown on me in such a short amount of time, to the point where for the most part, there are not many complaints about it. This album opens up with a banger, “40oz On Repeat,” a song that really paints a picture of an awkward kid with horrible anxiety and who is just isolated, painted by lines like “I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me talk to somebody I don’t know/Well I tried to ask you out about a thousand times/But in my head you just always say ‘no.’” The song title shouts out Sublime with their track “40oz To Freedom.” Then the song “Punks,” a song with intense screeched vocals, a (VERY) catchy and fuzzy guitar riff, and even a super bluesy organ sandwiched in there somewhere. That then leads to the song “West Coast,” a super fun and catchy skate punk song about skipping school, failing, and having fun. The classic subject: teenage debauchery. My favorite song on the album is “Bad Habits,” which is super relatable and very dark, lyrically. That was the first song written for the album and was sketched out when Carper was in rehab.

Favs: Bad Habits; Leave Me Alone; Sober; Overdose

Least Favs: Bad Medicine; Drone

Album Rating: 8/10