TIM BURTON’S “ALICE” FALLS FLAT
Hannah Frishberg ’13
The ‘Very Important Date’ that was the premiere of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has come and gone. However, the movie did not live up to the excitement and commercial time that ushered in its theater release.
Judging by the inordinate amount of Alice-themed clothing, jewelry, makeup, ceramics, furniture, toys, and bedding (anything sellable, really) I suspect that more profit has been made from Alice merchandise than from all of the film versions combined. Of course, the combined fan bases of Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland set high standards for this remake of Disney’s 1951 version of the movie.
While definitely darker than past portrayals, Burton’s Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has more character than the bland mid-20th century version. Nevertheless, she still fades into the background among her cast-mates. This adaption of Alice in Wonderland, like its predecessors, does not capture the subtleties of Carroll’s original Alice. Rather than letting her personality shine even in the colorful chaos of Wonderland (or “Underland,” in this new twist), directors nearly always depict her as an empty canvas shaped by Wonderland’s whimsicality.
Alice clashes with the sheer madness of the supporting characters. Deathly pale Ms. Wasikowska is more like a typical Tim Burton Goth-girl than a character in one of his films.
Alice is not the least of Mr. Burton’s motley problems. Brilliant color schemes brighten the movie, allowing those wearied by the drawn-out plot to simply watch the grayscales, pastels and primaries swirl by. Sadly, the 3D effects are more distracting than anything else; the film is trying to grab the audience’s attention rather than explore the intricacies of the classic novel.
Despite the commotion of computer-generated imagery, the movie has moments of undeniably striking, and classically Burtonian, cinematography. Burton indulges his imagination and reveals his thought process in “Underland.” He emphasizes the contrast between the White Castle and the Red Queen’s Castle, while the pathways in between are only shown briefly.
The cast succeeds in making Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter look brilliant. Although Harry Potter alumni Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, and Alan Rickman add some edge to the voicing, if not to the characters, and Anne Hathaway plays a wonderfully irritating White Queen, no one in the cast bothers to try stealing Depp or Carter’s thunder.
Carter’s bobble-headed confidence and booming presence rock the film, while Depp’s awareness of his glorious insanity adds a new twist to the Hatter’s persona.
That these two characters stand out so forcefully in an atmosphere as vibrant as Underland is troubling evidence that the other actors—and the CGI animation—are not up to par.
THE COLISEUM, GRANDDADDY OF SPORTS ARENAS
Maverick Cummings ’13
The Roman Coliseum was originally named the Flavian Amphitheater because it was built during the Flavian Dynasty.
The construction started in 70 A.D., under Roman Emperor Vespasian’s command. It was built near the Colossus statue, which gave the coliseum its current name. Its purpose was to provide entertainment for everyone, from the common man to the emperor. It took ten years to build, and the inaugural ceremony, which was open to the public, lasted 100 days.
Building the coliseum took 100,000 cubic meters of marble and 200 bullock carts. The final product was a 144 foot tall stadium with an area of 3,821 feet. It’s incredible to think that that the coliseum has 80 entrances, 4 of which were designated for the emperor, gladiators, and nobles. It was designed to hold 50,000 people, and had four tiers to separate the nobles from the rich. In modern jargon, the nobles were in the seats right by home plate at Yankee Stadium and the common people were in the nosebleed section.
Another feature of the coliseum was that people could be dispersed within five minutes—just in case the lion escaped! The floor was covered with sand, which is why it is known as an arena (in Latin, arena means sand). Sand was actually the best blood absorber available, since drainage systems had not been invented.
Although the events that took place at the arena were technically sports, they showcased animals and slaves being tortured, and eventually killed for amusement. The coliseum raised Rome’s local criminals to the status of gladiators. Because of the danger of the fights, only slaves and criminals could experience the thrill of being a gladiator.
For the next issue I will review some of the Olympic stadiums for the summer games in London, and find out what they are using to build the arenas.
RYAN MCGINLEY BRANCHES OUT
Sierra Pittman ’12
On March 18, Team Gallery hosted Ryan McGinley’s new exhibition, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. McGinley’s usual focus is young adults running freely in open fields or in cavernous rock caves.
This exhibit takes a detour from his body of work. The black and white pictures, featuring young, beautiful people nude—McGinley is know for photographing nude models—were taken in a studio. The photographs are also much more controlled than his others. The exhibit also features four photographs from his previous exhibits, Moonmilk and I Know Where the Summer Goes.
Most of the portraits captured the personality of each model; others were not as successful. It was nice to see a different genre of photographs from McGinley. The portraits were beautiful, but nothing special. Some seemed like studio photographs that any other photographer could have taken. His other, large scale photographs were much more beautiful. The iridescent cave and starry night scenes had much more feeling and character then the portraits. Overall the exhibit is only worth seeing if you have seen McGinley’s previous works.
DR. HSU: PSYCHOLOGIST AND PROFESSOR
Nika Sabasteanski ’12
Dr. Daniel Hsu, originally from Taiwan, moved to the Unites States to pursue advanced education in psychology. He became interested in psychology when he reflected on his life and the struggles he had faced. He wanted to learn more about himself and about how to resolve his problems.
Dr. Hsu is trained as a counseling psychologist and has treated both adolescents and adults. His education helped him understand himself as a person and as a professional. He began to understand who he was, how his behavior affected others and how he was affected by the world and society.
He calls this ability “psychological mindedness,” the “capacity to understand your own behavior and others’ behavior from a psychological perspective.” Psychological mindedness is technically defined as “the disposition to reflect upon the meaning and motivation of behavior, thoughts, and feelings of oneself and others.” (Faber, 1985, p. 170).
As a psychologist, Hsu tries to help clients understand what is contributing to their suffering. He helps them become more psychologically minded by learning about their conditions and how they developed. Dr. Hsu points out that for depressed adolescents, exploring their experiences and how they interact with their parents can help them see how “the relationship [with their parents] has affected his or her suffering.” When teenagers realize that their parents send them contradictory messages, they can identify the pressures and strains on their lives by “reducing one’s expectations and grieving the sadness of not having ideal parents.”
In Hsu’s course “Introduction to Psychology,” he tries to inspire his students to be more psychologically minded and to “reflect on their lives.” He even shares his observations of human nature and hopes that his students gain more than a surface level understanding of the course material. The class covers developmental psychology as well as personality, mental disorders and social psychology.
He is particularly interested in how different cultures and socioeconomic factors contribute to a person’s overall psychological mindedness. In American culture, he observed, people “emphasize individuality and how to express themselves and think about themselves.” He noticed that at Bard, self reflection, an important part of psychological mindedness, is encouraged. Dr. Hsu hopes to continue researching psychological mindedness and finding new ways to teach psychology.
MTA METROCARD CUT: JUST A PLOY
Amelia Holcomb ’12, Nora Miller ’12
This January, the MTA announced that it plans to discontinue student Metrocards beginning in the fall of 2010, in addition to across-the-board cuts of bus and train service, as well as paratransit (Access-A-Ride). Understandably, students, teachers, and parents are outraged. Many students live more than an hour away from their schools, and parents protest that they can’t afford Metrocards for their children. Others are concerned that discontinuing student Metrocards would encourage students to jump turnstiles. At a public hearing to discuss the issue on March 3rd, four arrests were made for “disorderly conduct” as people expressed their frustration with the proposed cuts.
According to figures, the state and city have paid the same amount for student Metrocards over the past ten years despit fare inflation, leaving the MTA to pay the estimated $70 million difference per year. Now, faced with a deficit of nearly $800 million, the MTA says that it cannot continue to make up the difference as the gap continues to widen. Why should the MTA allocate its funds for something the city has not deemed important enough to help pay for in full?
However, there is some skepticism about just how broke the MTA really is. Recently electronic arrival time signboards were installed in select train lines. This $213 million system seems unnecessary, especially given that the subways have been running just fine without them for 45 years.
The fact is, the MTA needs city funding, and targeting students is the perfect way to get it; the influx of angry letters and noisy protests will alert the government to the MTA’s financial crisis. Students, parents, and teachers are vocal, make up a huge population of the city, and have a good point: invest in the future. If the MTA removed a single train from each line, causing minute-longer waits, the cuts would be almost unnoticeable. Few would take the time to complain. But by making huge cuts in one carefully chosen area, the MTA almost guarantees that the government will be forced to give it financial help. These seemingly unjust budget changes are actually a tactical ploy.
Furthermore, the cut isn’t legally plausible. According to New York state law, “Sufficient transportation facilities…shall be provided by the school district…for all children attending grades nine through twelve who live more than three miles from the school which they legally attend and shall be provided for each such child up to a distance of fifteen miles.” (New York Education Law Section 3635 – Transportation-Section 1-a.) All New York City residents and high school students who meet these requirements should receive compensation for transportation from the Department of Education.
There is no reason not to do exactly what the MTA wants and expects us to do: protest. The MTA may have been bluffing in its initial proposal, but if it finds that there is little resistance to the cut, it won’t hesitate to cut out the expensive student Metrocard and leave the state to pay for our transportation.
BHSEC ENTERS OBAMA’S COMMENCEMENT CHALLENGE
Juliet Glazer ’12
As part of his Race to the Top program for educational funding, President Obama has created a contest for schools across the country to compete to have him as their 2010 commencement speaker. Of course, BHSEC entered.
The program and contest are part of President Obama’s mission for the nation to have the highest high school and college graduation rate in the world. BHSEC meets both these goals at once, and is an urban high school with strong academics. Dr. Steven Mazie, whose seminar was involved in the contest, noted, “This is the type of high school he’d be interested in.”
The application required four essays based on four different essay prompts. Each sophomore seminar divvied up the essays, and a few Year IIs responded to each prompt.
The prompts focus on how the school encourages student attendance, participation, academic excellence, and graduation. Three of the prompts were 200 words, and the fourth, which was more specific, was a 500 word essay. “Many people promised to write each prompt, Dr. Mazie explained, “But it turned out we had two or three essays for each.”
Sam Levine, who responded to the prompt “How is your school academically unique?” said that he tried to describe the passion for learning at BHSEC. “[BHSEC’s] non-competitive passion for learning—beyond grades, exam scores, SAT scores etc.—is something extraordinarily unique in American education,” Levine wrote in his essay.
Principal Ray Peterson was in charge of putting the application together to send in. Instead of picking one essay for each prompt, he ended up including pieces of all of the essays that students wrote. “When I got them all together it seemed like a good idea to include all the students,” he explained.
The essays were all written in different voices, but displayed different points of view about BHSEC. “I didn’t want to edit,” Mr. Peterson said, “I wanted it to be student writing. I didn’t want to be dishonest.”
The application also included an optional two-minute video. Students from Dr. Elisha Miranda’s documentary class made five videos portraying BHSEC. The videos were based on interviews with students, mostly Year Is and Year IIs, as well as a few teachers, about their experiences at BHSEC, especially in the college program. “I tried to capture BHSEC,” said Jack Jenkins, ’12, who did the filming for one of the videos.
On the final application, Mr. Peterson named one video for the White House to consider. He included the links to the other four videos on YouTube, in hopes that whoever reviews the applications wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to watch them all.
Many videos included clips and audio of President Obama’s NAACP speech earlier this fall, in which he mentioned BHSEC as an educational model for the country. Dr. Mazie pointed out, “We’re on the White House radar, but I don’t know whether that would be a help or hindrance.” On the other hand, BHSEC has already gotten its fair share of attention, and Mr. Peterson commented that “maybe other schools deserve [to win].”
On April 9th, six finalists—not including BHSEC—were announced on the White House website. During the next few weeks, the finalists, schools from Kansas, Ohio, Colorado, California, Michigan, and Florida, will be featured on the site and the public will vote for the top three. Finally, President Obama himself will select the single high school he will speak at this year. He is already engaged to speak at the University of Michigan and the Hampshire University commencement ceremonies this spring.
Without President Obama as speaker, BHSEC is considering inviting the director of the Posse foundation, a scholarship organization that many BHSEC students benefit from. This year’s commencement will be held at NYU’s the Skirball Center for Performing Arts. The Great Hall at Cooper Union, where graduation is usually held, isn’t big enough for the fifty additional graduates from BHSEC II, and their families.