The Silver Screen is Back

This article was originally published in the October, 2020 edition of the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion”.

By Ian Clark

Since March, everything has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the film and theatre industries are no exception. Many movies – including No Time To Die, Black Widow, The Green Knight, and Dune – were supposed to be released in 2020 but have had their release dates moved to 2021. As a result, theaters have been hit very hard.  AMC missed bankruptcy by a hair, while Regal Cinemas fully closed their doors.  Worst of all, privately owned indie theaters have been devastated because they do not have the luxury of a large chain behind them. Though some movie productions such as Jurassic World: Domination and The Batman have pushed through, they still were halted due to the cast and crew contracting the virus. 

So with the film industry struggling, what movie options do people have while at home? The obvious answer is streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and other similar services. Some well regarded new releases include Da 5 Bloods, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Shirley, The Devil All The Time, and Palm Springs.  In many ways, being stuck at home never seemed more appealing. 

Among the delays and releases going straight to digital, one movie that was determined to have a theatre release was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Tenet was seen by many as the movie that would reopen cinemas, and in a way it did. As COVID guidelines became looser, theaters began to open up again by either showing screenings of older films along with newer ones. EBHS Senior Jessie Lieberman was one of the few brave souls willing to venture into theatres to see the new Nolan film.  “I was a bit uneasy about it. Though, I was shortly reassured … everyone was required to wear a mask … all the reserved seats were spaced out to ensure social distancing protocols were followed. They also … thoroughly clean[ed] the theater after each show … it was a lot different … but I still got to enjoy the movie and feel safe while doing it.” 

Like Jessie, many people have been seeing Tenet after it’s delayed September opening, as it garnered $45.1 million domestically and $307.7 million worldwide. Even with Tenet’s surprise success given the theatre scene these days, many people are still hesitant to go to theaters.  EBHS junior Marco DeBellis said “it doesn’t seem natural to me … maybe not able to eat your popcorn and sip on your soda, it’s not the same. The cinema used to be an interactive experience within the audience as well as with the picture. If it was dead silent during a horror, you’d sure be scared. If the audience was booming with laughter … For now, I’ve found comfort streaming movies from my living room.” 

With each day, the movie industry and life in the US is slowly getting back to normal.  While there are many entertainment options available to people in their homes, nothing can top the excitement of seeing a highly anticipated movie in the theater.

Image of the article as published in The Clarion

Parasite

This article was originally published on the front page of the March, 2020 edition of the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion”.

By Ian Clark

Few films have been able to captivate worldwide audiences the way that Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite has. The film first premiered in May, 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the festival’s highest award, the prestigious Palme D’Or. From there, it has garnered critical acclaim and momentum that continued through the traditional ‘awards season’ and culminated at this year’s Academy Awards.  As it has gained mass critical acclaim, the film is also being regarded by many to be one of the best of the decade if not one of the best ever made. Recently at the Oscars, the film capped off its stunning year by winning 4 awards including Best International Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and a historic win for Best Picture. In the 92 years of the Academy Awards, Parasite was the first foreign language film to ever win the Best Picture award.

Parasite tells the story of the destitute Kim family, who, fueled by greed, and through an  elaborate con, slowly invade the home and life of the wealthy Park family. Since its release at Cannes, critics and film fanatics have been talking about the film non-stop. The love for Parasite has even reached the halls of East Brunswick High School. Mita Das, a junior, says that “Parasite is a film that speaks volumes through its simple yet profound messages. It completely broke the standard of American films by seamlessly introducing a new, hybrid genre of humor and suspense. It kept me on the edge of my seat during the whole movie and left me wanting more at the end.”  Mita commented on Bong Joon Ho’s boundary breaking filmmaking style which is clearly shown within the film, as he demonstrated an outstanding mix of drama, comedy and suspense that made the film intriguing up until the last second. Mr. Cibrian also had comments to share about Parasite, saying that he was “pleasantly surprised that Parasite won so many awards, including Best Picture.  Director Bong Joon Ho’s films are so creative and often take a right turn halfway through the picture. It’s hard to define the genre of his films because he often breaks the rules of whichever genre he’s exploring”. Mr. Cibrian continued, saying that he “[hopes] these wins for a foreign film will convince people who traditionally avoid subtitled films to search them out”.

Parasite is a milestone in the history of foreign language films and cinema in general, and one can only hope that this acclaim will attract more people to foreign language films; “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”. That quote came from Bong Joon Ho himself, during his acceptance speech for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. Many incredible foreign films have come out in these past few years, including: Roma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Pain and Glory, I Lost My Body, Climax, Cold War and Shoplifters. If you are interested in discovering more of Bong Joon Ho’s other films, you can currently find Snowpiercer and Okja on Netflix.

Bandersnatch

This article was originally published on the front page of the March, 2019 edition of the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion”.

By Ian Clark

After nearly a year long hiatus, the popular British anthology sci-fi series Black Mirror has returned with an experience that is very different than previous seasons. Instead of a typical ‘anthology’ season containing several stand alone episodes, this time viewers were greeted to a movie called Bandersnatch. In typical Black Mirror fashion, they re-think the movie watching experience by making it an interactive movie, similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) video game.  As the story progresses, the viewer can make choices about which path the story takes, which in turn alters the overall story. Bandersnatch arrived on Netflix mostly as a surprise, as it was officially announced on December 27, 2018 with a trailer and was then released the following day.

Bandersnatch takes place in 1984, where we follow a video game programmer, Stefan, as he tries to adapt a choose your own adventure book titled “Bandersnatch” into a computer game.  Along the way, he encounters challenges that warp perception and reality. Throughout the film, a compelling and vast story unfolds that maintains the same dark Black Mirror charm along with subtle and obvious “easter eggs” referencing previous episodes.

Black Mirror fans are spread all around the country and the world, with several found here at EBHS. Sophomore Jordan Baker said that “as a huge fan of Black Mirror, this episode definitely didn’t disappoint. It was incredible how the littlest of choices affected the entire plot. I get that the … “I’m from Netflix” or … the action-like scenes were meant to be funny, but it took away … from the whole experience. The CYOA format was great, I really hope to see more like it.” When Jordan refers to the “I’m From Netflix” element, she is making reference to certain options where the viewer can break the fourth wall and actually tell the character Stefan that he’s being watched and controlled by the viewer through Netflix.  This results in scenes that have a campy or non serious tone to them, since many fourth wall breaks are usually used as a comedic gag. EBHS sophomore Hailey Schaffer explained that “Bandersnatch was an experience unlike any other on Netflix, and it was something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Making choices for the characters … made for a thrilling movie that will hopefully spark other young writers and filmmakers to make their own Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Although some of the choices were unsatisfactory and led the characters to imminent doom, it takes the viewer multiple tries to get the ‘good ending’. I will definitely be on the lookout for more CYOA films … on Netflix, and I am happy to be back in the tumultuous universe of Black Mirror.”  Fans here at EBHS and around the world are happy to be back in the universe of Black Mirror and are already looking forward to the next season, rumored to come out sometime this year.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

This article was originally written for the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion”.

By Ian Clark

Since Tobey Maguire first hit the silver screen as Spider-Man in 2002, several more film iterations of the iconic wallcrawler have come soaring off the pages and into theatres. None however, change up the Spider-Man movie formula more than the recently released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Spider-Verse is an animated take on Spider-Man but instead of following Peter Parker as our main character, we instead follow Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), an Afro-Latino Spider-Man created in 2011 as a part of the alternate Ultimate Marvel Universe.  Morales is being mentored by an old and jaded Peter B. Parker (the main Marvel Universe Spider-Man, played by Jake Johnson), while grappling with his new spider powers and also trying to take down Kingpin before his interdimensional collider destroys the multiverse.

The story very loosely adapts the 2014 comic event “Spider-Verse”, though it only stays true to the aspect of alternate Spider-People in the form of Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and Peni Parker with the robot SP//dr.

The film uses a unique animation style, using techniques found in comic books such as lines or Benday dots (to simulate shading), motion lines, expression words like POW! when a character hits or animating ‘on twos’ in order to give each tiny movement feeling and importance.

Needless to say, this film has garnered stunning reviews commending it’s art style, music, writing, acting and more. It has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and even earned the Golden Globe for and an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Picture.

Students here at EBHS feel similarly about this film.  Sophomore Andrew Petrocelli noted that Spider-Verse “was absolutely amazing to say the very least. From everything to the pacing of the film to the character development throughout, there isn’t a dull moment. This movie gave me an emotional thrill from a Spider-Man movie that I haven’t received since Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man 2”. Petrocelli compares this movie to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 released in 2004 which is/was regarded by many fans to be the greatest Spider-Man movie ever and one of the best superhero movies ever.

Another sophomore, Jade Enna, calls Spider-Verse “one of best movies I’ve seen in years. It was so good that I needed to see it twice. The animation was so beautiful and made the movie feel so alive. I would 100% recommend watching it” Enna talks more about the animation, commenting on how it brought a sense of livelihood to the movie that rivals the styles found in movies from Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks.  Where some animated movies strive for hyper-realism, Spider-Verse is able to use a style that seems true to its comic book roots that aids in conveying a compelling story.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman and is produced by the duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street fame.

This groundbreaking animated movie featuring unique visuals, an amazing soundtrack and a star studded cast is definitely a must see for any fan of the webhead.

Stephen Hillenberg: An Appreciation

This article was originally published in the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion” in December, 2018.

By Ian Clark

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? For many kids of a certain generation – and maybe just as many parents – the answer is Spongebob Squarepants, one of the most beloved, iconic and unique characters in the history of children’s television.  The character and the television show of the same name was the brainchild of Stephen Hillenburg, who sadly passed away on November 26, 2018 due to ALS, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.

Hillenburg path to developing Spongebob was a unique one. He was originally a professor at the Orange County Marine Institute and it was there where he created a comic book entitled “The Intertidal Zone” that he used to help teach marine biology to his students.  This drove his interest in art and animation and from there, he left teaching and started taking animation classes at California Institute for the Arts (CalArts), a school known for producing other famous animators. After making several short films at CalArts, he joined Nickelodeon and worked on some shows there including Rocko’s Modern Life.  While working at Nickelodeon, he continued to work on his original idea – “The Intertidal Zone” comic – creating and developing the characters that would eventually inhabit Bikini Bottom.  Hillenburg pitched his show idea to Nickelodeon in 1997, and a couple of years later, in June, 1999, Spongebob Squarepants premiered. Since then, Spongebob and his friends Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Plankton and Sandy (along with many other colorful background characters) has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.  

Over the 19 years since its premier, the series has run for 12 seasons on Nickelodeon, there were two Spongebob movies and it even made its way to Broadway in 2018. For a show to last that long and to become so well known in modern culture was a testament to its ability to appeal to kids, parents and everyone in between.  

For students at East Brunswick High School, Spongebob was a defining part of their childhood. For Sophomore Matt Gonzales, the show was always there for him when he was younger. “I love the Spongebob series…it was something I would watch everyday.” For Sophomore Ian Artenstein, Mr. Hillenburg was an inspiration that has influenced him for a long time. “Stephen Hillenburg is an incredibly important inspiration in my life…From a young age Spongebob was my favorite show to watch. The crazy and memorable characters were always hilarious and made each episode so unique. The show was completely different from anything else. The show also has an unforgettable soundtrack, and most of the songs from it are some of my favorite in the world. The show also taught me so many life lessons, like learning how to tie my shoes, and it made everything interesting.”  

Stephen Hillenburg’s work was some of the most innovative and important work in the history of animation and entertainment overall. The characters he created were so unique and fun, and they helped a generation of kids learn true life lessons. Mr. Hillenburg will be missed but Spongebob will continue to live on for adults and kids alike.

Excelsior!

This article was originally published in the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion” in November, 2018.

By Ian Clark

On Monday, November 18, the world lost a legend with the passing of Stanley Martin Lieber, or as most people knew him, Stan Lee. Lee created and co-created some of the most iconic characters who filled the pages of comics and movie screens alike, and helped define pop culture from the 1950’s well into the 21st Century.  Some of the characters developed by Mr. Lee include Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Black Panther, and Iron Man.

Mr. Lee rose from an intern at Timely Publications to become the creative director and driving force behind what eventually became Marvel Comics.  Working with equally legendary editors such as Joe Simon, artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and publisher Marin Goodman, this team single handedly created the ‘golden age’ of comics in the 1950s-1960s, and established a whole new way to create characters and tell stories.  Mr. Lee was key in the development of the “Marvel Universe” where all the characters lived in the same ‘world’ with normal humans. This was a new yet exciting concept.

Lee’s work has touched millions around the world, whether you are a die hard comic fan or have only seen a Marvel movie or TV show.  It was the unique way Mr. Lee’s characters related to the audience that helped them become some of the most important characters ever created. Avid Marvel fan and EBHS sophomore Andrew Petrocelli is one of these people, recounting how Lee “provided me  the greatest gift I could ask for, an endless imaginative playground that allowed me a place to escape. These characters he invented even taught me lessons such as the value of standing out and being different.” Indeed, Lee’s timeless characters inspired children, artists, and writers for decades and is a testament to the personalities behind the characters Lee developed.  Lee’s work was able to push ideologies that carried on throughout time. He was instrumental in pushing boundaries in the early years of comics, enabling Marvel to develop more realistic and emotional stories, like Spider-Man saving a drug addict or Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) battle with alcoholism. These storylines helped the characters become more relatable and realistic. EBHS sophomore Spencer Longo, notes that he’s “thankful that Stan Lee’s comics were able were able to emblazon the ideologies of humility and compassion into my father’s mind, so he could teach me the same principals. It is truly heartbreaking that such an influential man passed.”

Stan Lee was a creative force of nature, creating some of the most recognizable characters in fiction. His influence on society will be felt forever more as his characters will continue to flood the pages of comics, as well as TV and movie screens. Stan Lee redefined superheroes and is arguably one of the most important creative figures ever. Excelsior!

Venom Review: What do EBHS Students think of Venom?

This article was originally published in the East Brunswick High School newspaper “The Clarion” in October, 2018.

By Ian Clark

Venom, the Spider-Man villain from Marvel Comics has received his own solo movie to join other superhero films. Venom was met with negative reviews from most critics, earning 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and 35% from Metacritic.  Marvel and Spider-Man fans were not surprised by this as several Sony produced Spider-Man projects have had similar abysmal reviews.

EBHS Sophomore Casper Godlewski backs these reviews, saying “the only person who cared was the guy who played Brock.  There was potential, but it was wasted”, criticizing it for points like how “the first time Venom took Eddie over, [Eddie] should’ve lost control, allowing for Venom to properly maim and maul people like the comics”.

Another EBHS student, Ian Artenstein (Sophomore) says that he “liked it a lot but [didn’t] think it was a good film”.  He thought the comedic aspects were admirable but also that “too much time was spent developing the antagonist rather than strengthening Venom’s connection to human life”.  Artenstein’s comments demonstrate the mixed opinions of the film. People excuse the inaccuracies to the comics and flaws of the movie but focus on the positives: comedy, special effects and the Venom/Brock ‘relationship’.

Overall, opinions are decidedly mixed, though the more positive reviews shine though. With more positive reviews and a domestic box office gross of $175,314,542 (as of October 24, 2018), rumors have begun to spread about a sequel. Director Ruben Fleischer has hinted about plans for a sequel but no official announcement has been made.

For fans looking for more Venom content, some of the best storylines in the comics include Spider-Man: Birth of Venom, Venom: Lethal Protector, Agent Venom, Spider-Man #300, Maximum Carnage, Venom: Planet of the Symbiotes, Venom: Space Knight and Venom: Dark Origin.