Midnights Review

by Therese Askarbek


On October 21, 2022, Taylor Swift released her highly anticipated Midnights album at — you guessed it — midnight. Unsurprisingly, many of her fans stayed up late that night, patiently awaiting more content from the prolific artist, who has released an impressive total of 229 songs throughout her career.1 As I scrolled through my Instagram feed that day, I saw countless reposts of her album announcement, which was a picture of her album cover captioned with a cryptic, intriguing, and all too enticing message: “Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life, will be out October 21. Meet me at midnight.” Swift, known for her penchant of exploring a variety of genres, has clearly left a lot unsaid here. And so, with very little idea of what is to come, I will be diving into this album and seeing if it will beat out folklore and evermore in my fall listening queues. 

  1. “Lavender Haze” – The production of the song and the background vocals give it a very dreamlike quality. Nothing too out of the ordinary compared to what Swift has done before. Really interesting significance behind the phrase “Lavender Haze.” Reminiscent of “the lakes,” a bonus track from folklore, mainly because of the context (it is about being in love with her fiance). 7/10
  2. “Maroon” – The song has a much darker mood than “Lavender Haze,” which causes a quick shift in tone. Possibly the best imagery in the album, and has some good lyricism. 6/10
  3. “Anti-Hero” – I would say this song has better lyricism and more reliability than Maroon. It is the first song that looks inwards with a tone of self deprecation. The “sexy baby” lyric has been received controversially, but even if I hadn’t known it was a 30 Rock reference, I still kind of love that Swift isn’t afraid to be unconventional, especially with such a large fanbase. The song is, as many of hers are, for lack of a better word, “cringe.” But, with her music, you have to kind of lean into it, and once you do, it can be a very fun time. The song is catchy, but I’m still waiting for a genuinely and solidly good song. 7.5/10 
  4. “Snow on the Beach” – I had very high expectations for this song because of the Lana Del Rey feature. Cue: the song. Cue: Me, growing increasingly confused as to when Del Rey is featured. I can still definitely hear her influence in the lyrics though, but where her singing could’ve made the song work, Swift’s couldn’t. Del Rey’s voice has a certain depth that Swift’s lacks, as hard as she might try. The production is less noticeable in this song, which is problematic because the track really needs that support. 6.5/10
  5. “You’re On Your Own, Kid” – It reminds me of one of her previous albums, Red. This song invokes feelings of nostalgia and childlike innocence. Overall a solid “middle of the album” type song. 7/10 
  6. “Midnight Rain” – I can start to see a lot more experimentation in the production of the song. Although, in terms of melody, it is almost exactly the same as “my tears ricochet” from folklore. My only qualm with this song is that I cannot take the muted part seriously; it really sounds like the bear voice filter on Snapchat. 6/10
  7. “Question…?” – I really liked that she had a bit more fun with this song, and you can detect a certain cheekiness and coyness. I do wish it was less mellow because, at this point in the album, I was hoping for something intense and catchy that fits this definitively pop album. The clapping sound effect at the end, although it made me laugh, knocked it down a point. 6/10
  8. “Vigilante Sh*t” – This is my least favorite song. Can it even be considered a song? I think my main issue, besides it not being very catchy, is that it’s not edgy in the fun way that songs from Reputation were. 4/10
  9. “Bejeweled” – I love the way she says “shimmer.” I’m noticing her experimenting more here and she’s really fulfilling the overall vibe of the album; I actually think this song best encapsulates the atmosphere she was going for. It has a much more unique, discernable quality than the previous songs. 9/10
  10. “Labyrinth” – This song also fits the vibe in a similar way that “Bejeweled” does. It feels like a prelude preparing the audience for “Karma” (kind of the “Cruel Summer” of Midnights). So, while this song might not be the best, it serves a very important purpose in the arc of the album and in creating buildup for the listener. 7/10
  11. “Karma” – This song is so fun. The lyrics are quite simple, which works really well here. Swift can often get caught up in long sentences or complex words in this album, which creates a disconnect and confusion. 10/10 
  12. “Sweet Nothing” – Joe Alwyn’s influence on this song is very apparent. It is piano driven and has charming, endearing lyrics about the subtle parts of romance and love. It is much more emotionally effective after a song like “Karma.” 8/10
  13. “Mastermind” – It’s catchy, with a lot of emotion and variance in tone while moving at a good pace. I have very few thoughts on this song aside from the fact that I think it was a good end to the album. 7/10

Favorite lyrics: 

“The mark you saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones / The lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was maroon” (“Maroon”)

“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless” (“Mastermind”)

“I picked the petals, he loves me not.” (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”)

“On the way home / I wrote a poem / You say, “What a mind”

This happens all the time” (“Sweet Nothings”)

Favorite tracks:  “Karma,” “Bejeweled,” “Sweet Nothing,” and “Lavender Haze”

Overall, this album had some really good songs, but the overt similarity to Lover, along with her other more recent albums, made my listening experience generally passive. With a few exceptions like “Bejeweled” and “Labyrinth,” I don’t feel like she really explored past what she has already done before. I was really optimistic about the concept,but I think she failed to create a cohesive set of songs that really worked together. Her cryptic, vague lyricism contradicts her simple pop song melody and I wish she would lean more into simplicity sometimes. There wasn’t much of a variance in song quality, and I think that they were all slightly above average. I did enjoy the production, which was mostly done by Jack Antonoff, and I noticed a lot of 80’s influence. Some of the production felt very unserious, which made the album feel unserious, and honestly, that was one of my favorite qualities. Shoutout to “cat eye sharp enough to kill a man.” I liked Reputation, but I do not think Taylor Swift has an edgy bone in her body. Maybe she does, but the way she tries to show it never fails to make me laugh just looking at her. Although this album didn’t come off as personal or genuine like I expected, I still enjoyed listening, and will be listening many more times in the coming weeks.

1 Sheffield, Rob. 2022. “All 129 of Taylor Swift’s Songs, Ranked by Rob Sheffield.” Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/taylor-swift-songs-ranked-rob-sheffield-201800/.

Don’t Worry Darling Review

by Allie Vasserman


December 8, 2022

Don’t Worry Darling is a psychological thriller film directed by Olivia Wilde. The movie stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as the married Alice and Jack Chambers, Chris Pine as Jack’s boss Frank (who is also the head of the Victory Project), Olivia Wilde as Alice’s best friend Bunny, Kiki Layne as Alice’s old friend Margaret, and Gemma Chan as Frank’s wife, Shelly.

The movie opens up with Alice and Jack Chambers hosting a dinner party with their friends. The next day, when Alice says goodbye to Frank while he drives to work at the headquarters of the Victory Project, it becomes very clear that Alice and Jack live in a utopic 1950s-style town in the middle of the desert. As Alice goes about her day as a housewife, cooking and cleaning in a very 1950s way, we learn that the town is supported by the mysterious Victory Project. When Alice attends a dinner party hosted by Shelly and Frank, with the latter giving an incredibly convincing speech on the importance of the work that the men in this community are doing without revealing the details of their work, Alice’s friend Margaret says that The Victory Project is a lie. Shortly after, Alice begins to lose faith in the Victory Project, questioning her sanity and the reality she is living in.

With all of the drama from behind the scenes of Don’t Worry Darling, one of the biggest questions that I had was: is the actual movie any good? I went in with almost no knowledge about any of the drama except that Florence Pugh did not show up to most of the movie promotion events. 

I personally really liked this movie. It is a suspenseful film that gradually hints that something is off about the town and the people in it before Alice realizes. The characters themselves have some sort of dimension to them. The movie has some fairly dark twists and themes, but I won’t mention anything so as not to spoil it. The movie’s soundtrack, in my opinion, is well executed. The diegetic music (the music that the characters hear) is what you would expect for a 1950s utopia-like town and the nondiegetic music (the music that the audience hears) definitely fills you with anticipation and does an excellent job tipping you off that something is off about the town before the characters realize it. Florence Pugh’s acting is great, as usual, and I think that Harry Styles definitely has skills and potential as an actor, although he is not as talented as his costar. In my opinion, both actors definitely sell their roles as a married couple. There are several scenes in the movie that don’t make sense at all and feel as if they don’t exactly fit, but the reveals at the end of the movie really tie those scenes back in. This is definitely one of the movies where it’s best to pay attention to all the details. Without revealing any spoilers, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the clothes that Florence Pugh wears as Alice throughout the film.

After I watched the movie, I read up on the behind-the-scenes drama. I am certain there will not be a sequel, seeing as it’s rumored that Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde got into a screaming match on set, possibly because of the romance that Wilde and Harry Styles began during the filming of this movie. This romance took a lot of attention from the movie itself, which is unfortunate because, in my opinion, the film is suspenseful, entertaining, and definitely worth watching.

The Fight for Democracy During a Rise of Authoritarian Rule

by Jack Conway


December 8, 2022

Over 8 months ago, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.”1 The invasion came after years of Moscow alleging that there has been genocide of Russians in Ukrainian territory without presenting any sound evidence to back their claims. Putin has also claimed that most Ukrainians want to be part of Russia, pointing to the referendums taken in recent weeks in occupied regions of Ukraine, which his critics have claimed are fraudulent.2 Many outside of Russia believe the Russian government invaded because of concerns about Ukraine’s growing ties with the west. This view is shared by Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, who said, “It looks like Putin is committed to preventing the deepening cooperation between Ukraine and the US/the West, which he views as Russia losing Ukraine.”3

Russia found success early on in the war, surrounding several major Ukrainian cities and catching unsuspecting Ukrainians completely off guard. By March 2, Russia had taken over Kherson and surrounded Mariupol, reaching the outskirts of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, just nine days later.4 Regardless, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused a US offer to flee, saying, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”5 Valiant comments such as this one are part of the reason why Americans give President Zelenskyy the highest approval rating among international leaders.6 After the early Russian blitz and the initial phase of the invasion slowed, Russia turned to long-range missile strikes which caused substantial damage to Ukrainian military assets, urban residential areas, and communication and transportation infrastructure.7 

In late March, Russia announced they would “reduce military activity” near Kyiv and Chernihiv following a thwarted attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital. Many believe Russia planned to take Kyiv within weeks, but one of the world’s strongest militaries was embarrassingly stopped by the extremely resolute Ukrainian army. With morale very low, Russia began a new phase of the war, beginning to seize and secure control of eastern Ukraine, also called the Donbas region. By May, Russia had finally gained control of Mariupol, a strategic port city that had been under siege for months. Drone footage revealed the brutality of the Russian attack on the city. Most of the infrastructure was reduced to rubble, and a massive humanitarian crisis ensued.8 

Throughout the summer of 2022, Russia used cruise missiles, bombs, cluster munitions, and thermobaric weapons (bombs that use oxygen to create an explosion) in an attempt to take over the eastern regions of Ukraine. In early September, Ukraine tried to seize momentum as it started a major counteroffensive. It was largely triumphant, this time catching the Russian military off guard. Ukraine was able to reclaim a great deal of land in the northeast. Russia still controls much of Ukraine’s southeastern territory, but to the surprise of Russian forces, Ukraine claims to have recovered significant territory in the Kharkiv region.9 

Following these Ukrainian counteroffensives that liberated towns previously under Russian control, several accusations have surfaced regarding heinous acts committed by the Russian soldiers against Ukrainian troops and civilians. These war crime allegations led the United Nations Human Rights Council to set up the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. Erik Møse, head of the commission, said, “Based on the evidence gathered so far during the Commission’s existence … we found that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.”10 In addition, United Nations investigators found evidence of bombings in civilian areas, numerous executions, torture, and sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers, stating, “We were struck by a large number of executions and other violations by Russian forces, and the Commission received consistent accounts of torture and ill-treatment.”11

Another concern held by experts around the world regards the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is one of the ten biggest atomic power plants in the world. Russian troops took control of the power station on March 4, Russian engineers were unable to operate Zaporizhzhia due to recent equipment upgrades. In response, Russians held Ukrainian personnel captive in order to operate the plant. Despite the risks of a nuclear disaster, shelling continued around the plant, with both sides blaming each other. Due to major safety concerns, the plant was switched to a “cold shutdown mode” on September 11.12 However, this does not eliminate the risk of a nuclear accident. Like any other nuclear power plant, ​​Zaporizhzhia requires electricity to cool its reactors. If electricity were to be cut, the plant would have to turn to emergency diesel generators; Zaporizhzhia only has enough fuel to sustain the cooling system for ten days.13 To this day, shelling continues around the plant, even as independent agencies have called for nearby fighting to stop.

Recently, following several defeats during the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed plans to enlist 300,000 men with prior military experience to bolster Russia’s invasion.14 The surprise announcement sparked rare anti-war demonstrations across Russia, with arrests taking place across the country due to draft and war-related protests. In addition, more than 200,000 Russians have left their country for Georgia, Kazakhstan, and the European Union in just the first week of the drafting.15 Some believe the draft was another miscalculation by President Putin in a desperate and frenzied attempt to turn the tide of the war.

On October 8, Ukraine made the unpredictable move to blow up the Crimean Bridge, the only bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, which was formerly part of Ukraine but annexed by Russia in 2014. Ukraine did not initially claim responsibility, but the explosion was later revealed to have been a Ukrainian intelligence operation.16 While Ukraine may have harmed Russia strategically, this decision did not come without a cost. Beginning on October 10th, Russia retaliated by launching its most vicious attacks on Ukraine in months, striking military and energy facilities as well as several purely civilian areas during rush hour.17

Over 8 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their country during the war, a number that will only grow as the fighting continues. While the war’s wrath has clearly impacted both armies, it has also affected civilians in countries throughout the world. For example, blockades of Ukrainian grain exports have worsened food shortages in East Africa, adding to an already dire situation and causing mass starvation for over 3 million.18 Before the conflict, Ukraine had been the largest supplier of commodities to the World Food Program, which provides food to vulnerable populations. Since the war started, however, the country has been unable to contribute as much.19 In addition, the war has caused tremendous economic pain by fueling already high inflation in America (over 5,000 miles from the conflict), causing Americans to pay more for anything and everything. Russia also exports crude oil and electricity to places all around the world, but above all, to Europe. In response to the invasion, many countries have stopped using these Russian imports to show support for Ukraine, which has also driven up prices, despite being the morally right thing to do.During a time in history in which authoritarian governments are replacing democracies at growing rates, this war represents more than just the fight for Ukraine: it is a microcosm of the dynamics of the wider world. A dictator-led military superpower previously could not conquer a smaller country without major cause. After 16 straight years of decline in global freedom, these tensions were bound to reach their breaking point.20 And this might be it. We are currently experiencing a crucial time period in human history, and that should be recognized and kept in the back of our minds. So while this war may be half a world away, there are still a multitude of reasons for people at BUA to care, even if they don’t think they are directly affected.

1 https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine

2 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/28/fake-referendums-in-ukraine-pave-the-way-for-annexation-and-escalation.html

3 https://theconversation.com/why-did-russia-invade-ukraine-178512

4 https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/6/3/timeline-the-first-100-days-of-russias-war-in-ukraine

5 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/24/timeline-six-months-of-russias-war-in-ukraine

6 https://www.axios.com/2022/03/30/zelensky-approval-rating-internaitonal-leaders-pew

7 See 1.

8 See 1.

9 See 1.

10 https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/09/1127691

11 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/23/russia-has-committed-war-crimes-in-ukraine-say-un-investigators

12 https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/why-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plant-mattersfor-whole-world

13 https://www.npr.org/2022/09/11/1122245406/ukraine-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-reactor-stopped

14 https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-says-over-200000-drafted-into-army-since-putins-decree-2022-10-04/

15 https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/19/europe/russia-mobilization-ending-ukraine-intl

16 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_Bridge_explosion

17 See 1.


19 See 1.

20 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2022/global-expansion-authoritarian-rule

Rising Inflation in America: What Does it Mean?

by Nathan Robbins


December 8, 2022

The holiday season is upon us, bringing colder weather, awkward family gatherings, and… rising prices. As this year’s inflation ticks up towards the double digits, Americans have found themselves struggling to afford essentials like food and energy. But why have prices risen so steeply, and can we expect things to change in the new year?

Most prices are driven by the interaction of supply and demand. Accordingly, the causes of inflation are generally broken down into two main categories: cost-push and demand-pull. Cost-push inflation occurs when costs to manufacturers and suppliers increase, reducing the amount of goods and services they supply. When consumer-driven demand for goods and services increases, demand-pull inflation results.1

Over the past two years, a cascade of global crises have been the catalysts for both cost-push and demand-pull inflation. The coronavirus pandemic in particular has caused a flurry of compounding inflationary pressures, and the war in Ukraine has thrown a fragile world economy even further into chaos. 

First in the tangled web of Covid disruptions were widespread lockdowns and stay-at-home advisories. As health mandates and shifts in demand put new pressures on manufacturers, the production of many goods was severely impeded. Semiconductor chip manufacturers in Taiwan and South Korea, for example, faced facility shutdowns and demand surges, which kickstarted the global microchip shortages we’re still experiencing today. Food prices rose as labor turnover and additional safety investments drove up production costs.

As consumer demand shifted suddenly from services (like restaurants and travel) to goods (like computers and medical equipment) during Covid lockdowns, global shipping lines into the U.S. were overwhelmed by the influx of imports. Outdated software, a lack of crucial infrastructure and equipment, and chronic understaffing exacerbated the problem. Freight companies are still struggling to correct for compounding bottlenecks, hampered by their long standing shortcomings. The result? Crucial goods—some already facing production shortages—are getting stuck in warehouses, far away from manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.2

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown another massive wrench into the already unsteady global economy. Both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and other grains, together representing 30% of global wheat exports.3 According to Ukraine’s government, its grain exports have fallen by more than 50% since the start of the war. Sanctions on Russia have restricted its ability to export oil and gas, contributing to catastrophic shortages in Europe, which relied heavily on Russian exports, and increasing global energy costs.4

Scarcity isn’t the only thing that has driven prices up. Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. government has spent roughly $5 trillion on Covid relief funding to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments—more than double the global average as a percentage of GDP.5 It stands to reason that, on top of an already recovering economy, the money placed in consumers’ pockets (including $1400 checks direct to families) would drive up demand, and therefore prices.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, has faced especially intense scrutiny for its effects on inflation. Republicans blame “Biden’s massive deficit spending” for the current inflationary crisis. Biden has rebutted that it is due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, not “because of spending,” that prices are rising. Though experts disagree on exactly how much the ARP has contributed to inflation, the general consensus is that it has added a few percentage points over the past year. In a report from March 2022, the San Francisco Federal Reserve produced an estimate of 3%, but cautioned that the economic effects of no stimulus—like economic slowdown and deflation—may have been harder to deal with.6

If one thing is clear, it’s that clarity is hard to find in analyzing inflation. From factory closures to fickle consumers, inflation’s causes are myriad and densely intertwined. The sheer complexity of the global economy makes it difficult to pick out any one thread in the enormous patchwork—and the reality is that it isn’t any single thread, but the multitude that coalesce to create the huge price movements we’re seeing today.

While the causes of inflation are dizzyingly complex, the solutions are surprisingly straightforward. Two bodies are responsible for managing inflation in the U.S.: the Federal Reserve and the federal government.

The U.S. federal government uses fiscal policy to affect economic activity in the United States. Fiscal policy includes changes to taxes, transfer payments (like Social Security and Medicare), and direct government purchases. When the government decreases taxes, or increases transfer payments or purchases, it’s called expansionary fiscal policy, and when the government increases taxes or decreases spending, it’s called contractionary fiscal policy. Expansionary fiscal policy (like the Covid stimulus bills) tends to spur economic activity, which is useful in a recession (like that caused by the Covid pandemic), but increases inflation; in a period of already-strong economic growth, contractionary fiscal policy can help to slow down the economy, tamping down inflation.7

While the federal government has fiscal policy tools at its disposal, most of the short-term action to control inflation is undertaken by The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. The Federal Reserve enacts monetary policy by controlling the supply of money in the U.S. It regulates inflation by adjusting the Federal Funds Rate, a baseline interest rate that sets the standard for the rest of the market. The Fed can’t just wave a magic wand to change the Federal Funds Rate; instead, it does so mainly through open market operations (OMOs). To conduct an OMO, the Fed buys or sells U.S. treasury bonds. When the Fed buys treasury bonds on the open market, it injects money into the economy, increasing the money supply. Conversely, when the Fed sells treasury bonds, the money used to buy them is taken out of the economy, reducing the money supply. As the money supply increases, interest rates fall; as the money supply decreases, interest rates rise. This makes sense, since interest rates are essentially the price of borrowed money; when money becomes more scarce, lenders charge more for the limited supply.8

From 2020 to early 2022, the Federal Reserve adopted a policy of aggressive bond purchasing in the hopes of easing pandemic fallout by encouraging lending and investment. By May 2022, it had more than doubled its holdings of treasury bonds, from $2.15 trillion in March 2020 to $4.98 trillion.9, 10 The steady influx of money into the economy kept interest rates very low; from May 2020 to February 2022, the Federal Funds Rate hovered between .05 and .1% (Figure 1). However, as inflation has crept steadily up to unsustainable levels, the Fed has reversed course to counteract it. In March 2022, the Fed approved the first sale of treasury bonds since December 2018. Since then, it has continued to raise interest rates in the hopes of tamping down inflation.

Figure 1: Chart showing the Federal Funds Rate11

After nine consecutive months of rate hikes, the current Federal Funds Rate target sits at 3.75-4%. The effects are higher interest rates across the economy, slowing economic growth, and, hopefully, lowering inflation. Indeed, the Fed’s strategy does seem to be working; inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) is down from a high of 9.1% in June to 7.7% in October, thanks in part to reduced demand from rising interest rates.12 However, many are worried that the Fed’s aggressive policy is shortsighted, and will result in worse economic problems than inflation should it continue—some even warning of a looming recession. While Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledges that a soft landing free of recession grows less likely with more rate hikes, he told reporters on November 2 that “[the Fed has] some ground to cover with interest rates before we get to that level that we think is sufficiently restrictive.”

As with everything in economics, interest rate hikes represent a tradeoff; to counteract inflation, we must make economic sacrifices. Both recession and high inflation are unsustainable in the long run, so the best thing we can do right now is find a healthy in-between. While the future remains uncertain, it is far from hopeless.

1 https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/111314/what-causes-inflation-and-does-anyone-gain-it.asp

2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2021/supply-chain-issues/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=acq-intl&utm_campaign=eng-cpcpayrem-biz&utm_content=supplychain

3 https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/why-are-food-prices-still-rising/#:~:text=Energy%20prices%20rose%2023.8%25%20from,contribute%20to%20food%20price%20increases.

4 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2021/supply-chain-issues/?itid=lk_inline_manual_3&itid=lk_inline_manual_7

5 https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/03/11/us/how-covid-stimulus-money-was-spent.html

6 https://www.factcheck.org/2022/06/stimulus-spending-a-factor-but-far-from-whole-story-on-inflation/

7 https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R45723.pdf

8 https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/111314/what-methods-can-government-use-control-inflation.asp#:~:text=Contractionary%20monetary%20policy%20is%20now,reduces%20consumer%20and%20business%20spending.

9 https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/20220526/

10 https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2022/06/the-federal-reserve-will-begin-reducing-its-holdings-of-treasury-notes-and-bonds#:~:text=Longer%2Dterm%20Treasury%20notes%20and,trillion%20on%20June%208%2C%202022.

11 https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FEDFUNDS

12 https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi

Colleges Should Permanently Adopt Test-Optional Policies

by Sally Jamrog


May 28, 2022

Since the spring of 2020, the number of colleges and universities in the United States that have adopted test-optional policies has rapidly increased, “nearly doubl[ing] (from 713-1350) as of February 2022.”1 While many of these policies, which allow applicants to choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores, were designed to be temporary and were initially implemented to mitigate student exposure to COVID-19 at standardized testing sites, record admission booms and more diverse applicant pools resulting from these policies have caused many colleges to reconsider their longstanding standardized testing traditions.

As of today, more than 1,400 higher education institutions have already extended test-optional policies for rising seniors applying for 2023 college admission.2 Boston University (BU), for example, after experiencing a 24% increase in applications in 2021, has extended its newly-adopted test-optional policy for the third consecutive year, stating that this shift has made BU’s admissions system more comprehensive.3 “While the admissions process at Boston University has always been holistic and decisions have never been based solely on one single factor, such as an SAT or ACT score,” an article in BU Today reports, “the move to test-optional over the past two years has improved our process by adding considerable weight to the important qualities and characteristics that focus more on you and your academic and personal accomplishments.”4 In addition to BU, many of the nation’s more selective colleges have announced test-optional policies moving forward, such as Harvard University, which has extended this choice through to the incoming class of 2026 in order to research the effect of the shift on the Harvard student body. The University of California is a more extreme example, having recently announced a permanent test-optional policy for all ten schools in its system.5

Despite this test-optional trend, certain institutions hesitate to break away from the near hundred-year tradition of using standardized testing in the college admissions process. Some colleges value the inclusion of SAT or ACT scores in an application as a means to create a more streamlined and standard metric with which to evaluate the academic aptitude of an ever- increasing number of applicants. For instance, in an interview with CNN, Dean of Admissions for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Stu Schmill argued that standardized test scores are particularly useful to MIT in determining student fluency with mathematics. “There is no path through MIT that does not rest on a rigorous foundation in mathematics,” Schmill says, “and we need to be sure students are ready for that as soon as they arrive.”6

Regardless of the possible merits of these tests, the problems with requiring SAT and ACT scores lie in that they are not necessarily effective at predicting academic performance and can be too easily gamed by members of higher socioeconomic strata. It appears that the SAT and ACT do not actually contribute unique information. According to a presentation by Bates College at the 2004 National Association of College Admissions Counselors, “graduation rates between [standardized test score] submitters and non-submitters [at Bates College] varied by only 0.1%, and average Bates GPAs varied by only 0.05%. In addition, non-submitters had slightly higher graduation rates.”7 Besides lacking predictive power, these tests also fail to control for external factors. Tanay Nambiar ‘22 comments, “Standardized testing like the SAT or ACT will never portray an objective truth about a student’s ability. With so many variables affecting students differently, it would not be fair to compare test scores.” Moreover, for many colleges, grasping who a student is as an individual is equally as important as understanding their academic prowess in determining whether an applicant is a good fit for their institutions. Requiring standardized test scores during the college admissions process runs the risk of excluding or deterring lower-scoring applicants who could thrive in a certain college community.

Furthermore, more financially-privileged test-takers can also have an unfair advantage in being  able to afford professional tutoring through private test-prep companies like Princeton Review and Kaplan Test Prep, which can cost thousands of dollars.8 Popular one-on-one, personalized sessions with a practiced tutor can cost even more, with prices ranging from $40 to $800 per hour or more. These kinds of opportunities create starkly unfair advantages for wealthier test-takers compared to those who cannot afford a preparation plan or even spend time preparing for the SAT or ACT. Oftentimes, more affluent students can afford to take these tests multiple times (registration for the SAT and ACT costs around $60 without a fee waiver, which only covers two attempts), which has been proven to increase scores on average. Because financial status and race are often closely tied, the SAT and ACT have also been found to discriminate against minorities, putting Black and Hispanic Americans at a disadvantage. According to data collected by the College Board from the test results of the class of 2020, “Over half (59%) of white and four-fifths of Asian test-takers met the college readiness math benchmark, compared to less than a quarter of Black students and under a third of Hispanic or Latino students.”9

As colleges place more value on viewing applicants holistically, they should implement permanent test-optional or test-flexible policies to even the playing fields for low-income applicants and more effectively evaluate students’ academic abilities, giving more weight to personal essays, GPA, recommendations, and other components of the application. Additionally, colleges could supplement the application process by adding opportunities for students to prove themselves in a variety of more applicant-customized ways. For instance, Vassar College allocates space in their application for students to submit anything of additional academic or creative value that might contribute to their profile: a blank page for them to utilize as they see fit. Tanay also mentions that Brown University has recently implemented a video portfolio submission opportunity for its application in place of an optional interview. Like the Vassar application’s blank page component, creating this two-minute video portfolio is another way for applicants to present themselves in their own unique light, a short introduction including the applicant’s name and high school being one of the only content requirements for the video.10

These additional methods to more comprehensively evaluate applicants should, however, be coupled with a mindfulness of the time and work applicants will need to put into these applications, as more application components could add more stress to the college process for applicants. However, while removing the straightforward rubric of a standardized test score may lengthen the evaluation process, expanding applications to allow for more student self-expression would be a more equitable and ultimately more effective solution to determine a student’s readiness for a particular college. As Katie Kara’a ‘22 says, “Lots of colleges talk about their ‘holistic review process,’ and I think that removing the standardized testing portion of it makes it more holistic and allows [colleges] to focus more on the applicant as a person than as a test score.” Though certain colleges may have data-driven reasons for requiring standardized test scores, as in the case of MIT, extending test-optional application policies for years to come is a significant step forward in making the college admission process as equally centered on applicant authenticity as it is on numeric evaluations.

1 Darrel Lovell and Daniel Madison, “How Test-Optional College Admissions Expanded During the Covid-19 Pandemic: An Essay For the Learning Curve,” Urban Institute, February 2022, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/how-test-optional-college-admissions-expanded-during-the-covid-19-pandemic_0.pdf.

2 “1,835+ Accredited, 4-Year Colleges & Universities with ACT/SAT Optional Testing Policies for Fall 2022 Admissions,” Fair Test, April 20, 2022, https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional.

3 Rich Barlow, “BU Is Making Standardized Tests Optional for Undergrad Applicants for Third Consecutive Year,” BU Today, January 20, 2022, https://www.bu.edu/articles/2022/standardized-tests-optional-for-third-consecutive-year/.

4 See 3.

5 Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, “University of California Will No Longer Consider SAT and ACT Scores,” The New York Times, May 15, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/us/SAT-scores-uc-university-of-california.html.

6 Eric Levenson, “MIT will once again require applicants to take the SAT or ACT, bucking the anti-test movement,” CNN, March 29, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/29/us/mit-sat-act-standardized-tests/index.html.

7 “A Brief History of the Test-Optional Movement in Higher Education,” DePaul University, March 18, 2011,

8 Ann Carns, “Another College Expense: Preparing for the SAT and ACT,” The New York Times, October 28, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/your-money/another-college-expense-preparing-for-the-sat-and-act-.html.

9 Ember Smith and Richard V. Reeves, “SAT math scores mirror and maintain racial inequity,” Brookings, December 1, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/12/01/sat-math-scores-mirror-and-maintain-racial-inequity/.

10 “Video Introduction/Alumni Interview,” Brown University, https://admission.brown.edu/first-year/video-introduction-alumni-interview.

Summer 2022 Movie Release Calendar

by Theo Sloan


May 28, 2022

The summer movie season is, in many ways, the most important time of the year for Hollywood. It’s the period of time when the majority of each year’s large, expensive blockbusters are released into theaters and, if all goes according to plan, is the time when movie theaters make enough money in order to stay afloat for the following year. While the summer movie season does not always have a lot to offer in terms of high quality cinema and smaller, artsier films, it does feature a lot of high-profile crowd-pleasers and plays a frustratingly important part in a movie theater’s economy. The summer movie season runs from the first blockbuster of the late spring to the last blockbuster of late summer. Usually, this means that it runs from May to September, although mileage certainly can vary depending on the year. In this article, I will give all of you what I have been giving myself for several years: a semi-comprehensive rundown of what this year’s summer season release calendar looks like, as well as some brief thoughts on which of these movies I am most excited for.

Author’s Note: This article was initially written in late April, and two of the predictions I made have already turned out to be incorrect. I have left them as is to prove that I am not infallible and am very capable of just straight up being wrong about whether a movie is good, but I will also add a brief paragraph pointing out whether my predictions were right or not for the movies that have already been released.

May 6—Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

In a shocking turn of events, this year’s summer season is being kicked off by yet another entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Multiverse of Madness is being billed as involving more horror elements than most Marvel movies do, and even has Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) signed on as its director. It is maintaining the PG-13 that Marvel is known for, however, so I wouldn’t exactly go in expecting something on the level of Raimi’s other work in the horror genre, and especially nothing as graphic as his NC-17-rated The Evil Dead.

Am I excited for the Multiverse of Madness? Not really. If a weekend rolls around in which I have nothing else to do, there’s a small chance I might go see it, but there’s nothing that I’ve seen in the marketing for this film that does anything to set it apart from your standard Marvel formula, which is a formula that I am more than tired of at this point. I’m sure Benedict Cumberbatch will be good in it, as will his co-stars, but unless I hear exceedingly good things about this one, I’ll probably just wait for its digital release.

As it turned out, I was dead wrong about this one. I saw it in IMAX and had a great time. It’s one of the best movies the MCU has seen in a long time, and even though that’s a field with some exceedingly flaccid competition, it’s also enough for me to recommend you see it on the biggest screen you can access. The visual spectacle is truly worth it for this one.

May 13—Firestarter

Firestarter is the latest Stephen King adaptation, and I have to admit that, despite my better judgment, I’m pretty excited for this one. Stephen King adaptations have been fairly hit or miss as of late, with some turning out fantastic (IT, Doctor Sleep), and some falling flat on their stupid faces (Pet Sematary (2019), It Chapter Two). What makes me excited for Firestarter is a combination of a premise that I really like—a dark twist on the concept of superpowers—and its trailer doing a really good job selling me on it.

The movie’s main star is Ryan Kierra Armstrong, who has been good in a variety of projects in the past, and it’s director Keith Thomas’ second feature film. While it’s certainly possible that the end project will be an enormous misfire, I’m a sucker for this kind of horror premise, and it’s very likely that I’ll check it out opening weekend.

Once again, I was dead wrong. This movie is currently sitting at a staggering 13% Critic Score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 48% Audience Score. Pretty much everyone agrees that this movie sucks, and I will not be seeing it in theaters under any circumstances.

May 20—Men

Men is A24’s latest horror offering, and even before I did some basic research, seeing A24’s logo on the trailer in the movie theater was reason enough for me to be excited. The trailer also looked really interesting, and all of that will likely be enough to get me to see it. This movie is directed and written by Alex Garland, the brilliant film-maker behind Ex Machina and Annihilation, two of the best thrillers I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. He can do the introspective thinking and theme, he can do the thrills and the scares, and I am so very excited to see what he’ll bring to the table this time around.

Early critic reviews suggest that I’m probably right about this one. I’m really excited for it!

May 27—Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun is a mediocre 1986 action flick starring Tom Cruise, so naturally it’s getting a sequel more than thirty-five years later. This movie will likely be terrible, and it will likely make an annoyingly large amount of money, thus perpetuating Hollywood’s endless cycle of pumping out soulless continuations and reboots of anything that existed more than ten years ago and was moderately profitable. As is the norm for these things, the director is a nobody with nothing successful or good to his name, as are the writers. I will certainly not be going to see this, and I would recommend that you all stay away from it too. If you want some mediocre Tom Cruise action, either watch the original or Mission Impossible 2.

June 3—Watcher

The weekend of the third of June is a pretty sleepy theatrical week, but of the few things coming out, Watcher is by far the most interesting-looking one. It appears to be some sort of psychological thriller about a woman who feels as though she’s being stalked by someone who lives in an apartment building adjacent to hers, and presumably thrilling situations ensue. I doubt I’ll go see it, but it looks moderately entertaining, and maybe I’ll check it out on digital once it leaves theaters. This film is Chloe Okuno’s directorial debut and stars nobody who’s a household name. Check it out if you have some spare time.

June 10—Jurassic World Dominion

On the tenth of June, whether we like it or not, we will once again return to the world of Jurassic Park. Colin Trevorrow is returning to the director’s chair and will attempt to bring the Jurassic World Trilogy to a conclusion. All the big stars are returning this time, including Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Will this movie finally crack the formula for making a good Jurassic Park sequel, or will it take a further dump on the already mangled legacy of Spielberg’s original masterpiece? Either way, I will most definitely not be buying a ticket to find out, because as far as I’m concerned, the only way we can get the studio to stop pumping out these godforsaken sequels is to stop going to see them.

June 17—Lightyear

Pixar’s newest animated children’s film is hitting theaters on the seventeenth of June, and I’m moderately excited for it. Everything I’ve seen makes me think that it’ll be a fun, if unnecessary, science fiction romp, and I’m excited to see how Chris Evans holds up as a voice actor. With that being said, I doubt it will live up to the heights of Pixar’s all-time classics and am expecting a movie more on par with Monsters University and A Bug’s Life rather than another Soul or WALL-E. Still, I’ll probably take my younger brother to see it, and I’ll likely have a reasonably fun time with it.

June 24—The Black Phone and Elvis

There are two interesting-looking movies hitting theaters on the twenty-fourth of June, so I figured I’d just cover them both. The Black Phone is a horror film about child abduction starring Ethan Hawke. It looks pretty gritty and creepy, and it’s directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister, Doctor Strange), so it’ll likely at the very least bring something to the table.

Elvis, on the other hand, is a biopic about Elvis Presley starring Tom Hanks. It’s about as far from The Black Phone as you can get in terms of tone, but it looks like it’ll be reasonably fun. It’s yet another offering from writer/director Baz Luhrmann, who has worked on a variety of interesting projects in the past, many of which have a fair bit of critical acclaim, so I’d say this has a reasonable chance of being good.

July 1—Minions: The Rise of Gru

Winning the 2022 most unnecessary film of the year award (barely beating out Jurassic World Dominion) is this Minions sequel! This movie will likely be terrible and will also probably make an ungodly amount of money if the first one is anything to go by. I will, of course, do everything in my power to protect my younger brother from this movie, as Minions is the rare movie that has the capacity to make anyone who views it a stupider and less critical person, and… I have nothing else to say. End my suffering now, please.

July 8—Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder is Marvel’s second blockbuster of the year, and I’m looking forward to it far more than Multiverse of Madness. Taika Waititi is back in the director’s chair, and from the looks of things, he will probably deliver another well-made action comedy. He gets to play with the Guardians of the Galaxy this time as well, and the result will probably be a fun romp in the Marvel Universe, directed by one of my favorite directors working today.

July 15—Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank and Bed Rest

In a week in which literally nothing interesting is coming to theaters, I’ve selected the two least uninteresting movies I could find to talk about. The first one is an animated flick created by Nickelodeon (among other animation studios) and it looks like hot garbage. They somehow got Samuel L. Jackson to sign on as a voice actor, among an ensemble cast of people I’ve never heard of (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing when it comes to voice talent), and everything about the movie leads me to believe that the end result will be nothing short of terrible.

Bed Rest, on the other hand, is an indie psychological thriller, created by first time writer/director Lori Evans Taylor. This movie probably won’t get a wide release, nor will it pick up all that much traction, but if it does come out in an area near you, it could be worth checking out. It will certainly be better than Paws of Fury.

July 22—Nope

Nope is Jordan Peele’s (Get Out, Us) next horror movie, and it’ll apparently have sci-fi elements incorporated into it. That is literally all I need to know to be sold on it, and that’s all you should need as well. Peele is a genius, and this movie will probably be spectacular.

July 29—Bullet Train

Bullet Train looks to be a fun action-thriller set aboard a train. It involves some sort of fight between five assassins, and it looks like it’ll be a fun romp. Will it be good? This is still a long way from release, but there are normally one or two low-profile action thrillers that come out each year which turn out to be secretly brilliant, and this could be one of them—who knows? It’ll be more entertaining than DC League of Super-Pets, that’s for sure.

Since first writing this, Bullet Train was delayed by a week. It will now be opening on August 5.

August 5—Secret Headquarters

Nothing much of note is coming out this week, but of the ones currently listed, the one that interests me most is Secret Headquarters. It’s apparently a sci-fi/adventure movie about a kid, and it has Owen Wilson in it, so maybe it’s a good movie?

Bullet Train’s release has been moved to this week also.

August 12—The Man from Toronto

The Man from Toronto appears to be an action/comedy/thriller about a deadly assassin and an idiot who are mistaken for each other at an Airbnb. It honestly doesn’t sound great, but it’s literally the only thing releasing on the weekend of August 12, so there it is.

August 19—Beast

Beast appears to be a thriller, starring Idris Elba, in which a man and his two kids go to a game reserve in South Africa and are hunted by bloodthirsty lions. There’s very little information out about the movie besides that, and just judging by the premise, it will probably be rather bad.

August 26—Samaritan

Samaritan looks to be a non-corporatized superhero flick starring Sylvester Stallone, and if his other recent movies are anything to go by, it will probably not be very good. I would advise not going to theaters to see this movie, unless the reviews roll in and it is secretly incredible, in which case I will apologize to both Stallone and to director Julius Avery.

September 2022

Not much worth talking about is coming out this September, but one notable theatrical event that will take place is the rerelease of James Cameron’s Avatar. It will hit theaters on the twenty-third of September, and it is presumably rereleasing to get people excited for the upcoming Avatar: The Way of Water, which will hit theaters this December. So keeping all of this in mind, this year’s Summer Season will run from May 6 to September 23.

My Most Anticipated Movies

A lot of my most anticipated movies of this summer fall in the earlier portion of the season. Firestarter and Men are both early contenders, and I bet Thor: Love and Thunder will be a ton of fun. I am also incredibly excited for Jordan Peele’s Nope, and I think Bullet Train has the potential to be a fine thriller. All in all, there have most definitely been summer seasons with more to look forward to, but this one isn’t too shabby either.

My Least Anticipated Movies

As you could probably tell from my commentary on some of these releases, there are some movies coming out this summer that I really don’t need to see. Minions: The Rise of Gru may very well end up being the worst animated movie of the year, and Jurassic World Dominion will likely be every bit as soulless and mediocre as the previous two movies in its trilogy. Beyond that, Top Gun: Maverick is another movie with no objective reason to exist, but I’m not as angry about that one because I have no prior investment in the original Top Gun.

I hope that you enjoyed this rundown on this summer’s theatrical release schedule as well as some of my thoughts on the big names, and if nothing else, that you have more potentially interesting movies on your radar than you did before. I hope you all have a fantastic summer, and I will be back with you next year with some more movie reviews.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Review

by Allie Vasserman


May 28, 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), directed by Sam Raimi, is the second Doctor Strange movie and the latest movie installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, Benedict Wong as Wong, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer, and Jett Klyne and Julian Hilliard as Tommy and Billy Maximoff.

The movie opens up with a dream sequence of a teenage girl and a darker version of Dr. Strange running through a dimension toward a mystical artifact while fighting off a demon. As soon as the dream sequence ends, Dr. Strange wakes up and attends his ex-girlfriend Christine’s wedding. Dr. Strange leaves the wedding in order to fight a demon and quickly figures out that the demon is hunting the teenage girl from his dream. With help from Wong, the two sorcerers defeat the demon and learn that the teenage girl is America Chavez and that someone is trying to kill her for her interdimensional traveling superpowers. Dr. Strange and Wong agree to help America and protect her while also learning about the multiverse from her. After accidentally seeking help from the wrong person, Dr. Strange and America must navigate through the multiverse while Wong holds off a deadly enemy looking to kill America.   

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes place after the limited series WandaVision came out on Disney Plus, and the events of that show directly impact the plot of this movie. Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch) has now discovered additional powers and has grown darker in nature, which is reflected in her costume. Throughout the movie, Dr. Strange continually interacts with people who have dealt with other versions of himself and reveal to him that in other universes he is a villain instead of a hero. These revelations set up potential for his character to change from hero to villain in future MCU movies. The character deaths in this movie are darker compared to other MCU movies and have more of a horror feel to them.

As a huge fan of Marvel comics, I loved seeing the Easter eggs incorporated into this movie. I really enjoyed seeing the Illuminati for the first time on the big screen and as well as new characters who have been previously in Marvel-related projects but not in the MCU officially. Some of the jump scares definitely gave me horror movie vibes. At several points in the movie, I thought that the soundtrack matched the scene perfectly. America Chavez had a fairly predictable character arc, but I also enjoyed seeing it play out on the big screen. I found it interesting to watch Dr. Strange interact with other versions of his friends, enemies, and even himself, but I wish we got to see more versions of Dr. Strange or even other characters. It was nice to see more of the Christine Palmer character in this movie than in the first Doctor Strange movie and to get a better understanding of her relationship with Dr. Strange. Elizabeth Olsen does a fantastic job portraying an evolved version of the Scarlet Witch, and I really hope we see the return of the Scarlet Witch in future MCU projects. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job portraying alternate versions of Dr. Strange, and I enjoyed watching his friendship with Wong on screen. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and recommend it for fans of MCU movies, especially those who have seen WandaVision.

The New Hybrid Structure of Admissions at BUA

by Anna Augart-Welwood


April 29, 2022

With the exciting return of partially in-person admissions, students have observed the arrival of shadows, tours, and revisit day All-School Meetings. The community is curious about statistics and the admissions process regarding the notable increased interest in BUA. As the school continues to develop and shift to meet the needs of incoming students, helpful insight from Ms. Hakimi and admissions ambassadors addresses the community’s questions.

The incoming freshman class totals fifty-six students, and four new juniors have also been admitted. According to Ms. Hakimi, no new sophomores were admitted with the intent of preserving the “tight-knit and personalized experience for all classes” in the already-large grade. Nearly four hundred students applied to BUA this year, breaking last year’s all-time high. The biggest difference from the all-virtual admissions last year is that the admissions process this year was hybrid. BUA hosted in-person tours and on-campus events, as well as virtual events including Zoom interviews, information sessions, MasterClasses, and other programs. The benefit of the hybrid admissions process was the flexibility that families had to choose the most comfortable and convenient option, whether they were concerned about the coronavirus or found it difficult and time-consuming to travel to many schools. For example, information sessions were hosted in the evenings for families who were unable to take time off work or drive to BUA. However, it was challenging for the admissions team to coordinate two different processes at once, though they worked diligently to provide prospective families with many choices and opportunities. Conducting all interviews over Zoom also comes with an advantage; families can participate in interviews from any location, which fostered greater equality for all applicants. Ms. Hakimi stated that applicant numbers and interest have been increasing for many years, but that the past two years especially have brought dramatic spikes in interest. The hybrid admissions process was a result of Ms. Hakimi’s and the admissions team’s goal “for the process to feel equitable for all families and to provide all the opportunities so that people could choose what they’re most comfortable with.”

Over four hundred families signed up for in-person tours and virtual information sessions this year. Several events were hosted per day between late September and late February. Approximately two to three families attended each tour and three to six were present during information sessions. The large number of events would not have been possible without the admissions team as well as the student ambassadors. One tour guide, Joie Liu ‘23, enjoyed meeting and connecting with various prospective students throughout the year. She believes that “the admissions team did a great job regulating tours to not be too big,” saying, “I was able to talk with every student and family that I gave a tour to.” One of the most gratifying parts of her week was engaging with possible future BUA students. Audrey Xiao ‘23, another tour guide, appreciated meeting families of many varying backgrounds. She observed the large number of prospective students and noted that “BUA’s presence seems to be growing.” With the help of the dedicated admissions ambassadors, BUA provided an engaging insight into the unparalleled student life and outstanding academics of a high school within a large university, prompting many students to apply.

The admissions process at BUA has undergone major adjustments and developments within the last few years as part of the school’s adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many changes, such as Zoom-only interviews, will likely continue into the future. BUA admissions have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic; the resourceful and creative admissions team has thought outside the box to develop new ways to host events. The new hybrid process has allowed more families to explore and consider BUA as an option because of the convenience of virtual events combined with engaging in-person tours. Ms. Hakimi believes that prospective families admire the “academic rigor and opportunities to take classes at BU,” BUA’s “significant resources,” and the “tight-knit community.” Ultimately, the unique opportunities that the school offers as well as the supportive and open students and faculty are what draw students to BUA.

West Side Story: A Broadway Re-Adaptation That Is More Than Just a Rehash

by Theo Sloan


April 29, 2022

What is West Side Story?

West Side Story (2021) is a remake of the 1961 classic movie of the same name, which is itself an adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name, which is an adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. You might expect a movie that is so many levels of derivative to just be a rehash of other, better ideas, with nothing new to bring to the table, and in many cases you would probably be right. Modern remakes of classic films tend to fall flat, as do many Broadway-to-big screen adaptations (just look at the train-wreck that was Dear Evan Hansen), so it seems like this movie was doomed to failure from the beginning. However, in a shocking turn of events, not only is Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) the director of the movie, but it was apparently something of a passion project for him, and not just something studio executives conceptualized to turn a profit. So how is the final product? Does it live up to Steven Spielberg’s expert direction and fantastic record, or does it fall into the trash pile of vapid, garbage remakes that only exist to make a quick buck off of people’s nostalgia? That’s what I’m here to talk about today. But first, let me give a bit of context regarding my take on previous iterations of this story.

West Side Story: The Broadway Musical

West Side Story, for those who don’t know, is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in the streets of New York City. It chronicles the story of Tony, the ex-leader of a gang of young white men called the Jets, and Maria, the younger sister of the leader of a gang of impoverished Puerto Rican American immigrants called the Sharks. The two meet at a dance and instantly hit it off, and when their connection is discovered, it sends the Jets and the Sharks on a direct path of war against one another. The rest of the show follows the attempts of Tony and Maria to pursue their budding romance, the conflict between the Jets and the Sharks, and, well, if you know the story of Romeo and Juliet, you probably have a decent idea how the story ends. While the musical is certainly not an exact translation of the play, the influence is particularly clear. Other important characters throughout include Riff, Tony’s best friend and the current leader of the Jets; Bernardo, Maria’s older brother and the leader of the Sharks; and Anita, Bernardo’s partner and something of a moral compass for Maria.

West Side Story is also notable for having a score composed by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics written by Steven Sondheim, two of the most famous, influential, and talented creatives to ever grace Broadway with their presence. Needless to say, the result is one of the strongest Broadway soundtracks of all time with impeccable orchestration, an often operatic aesthetic, and lyrics that do a perfect job integrating with the themes of the story, while providing the audience with insight into the story and characterizations that move throughout the show. Even for people as talented as Bernstein and Sondheim, the music in West Side Story stands out in both of their careers as some of the best music they have ever put together.

Although controversial for its grappling with racism and the depictions of the effects of poverty on US youth, West Side Story was a smash hit with both critics and audiences. It had an enormous influence on musical theater, especially in the way it made its spectacular choreography a central focus of the show, but it also had, as noted above, a simply incredible soundtrack and received lots of recognition for that.1 Since then, West Side Story has gone on to become a musical theater classic, and it is generally considered to be as influential as it is good. Many of the musical conventions that define musical theater in this day and age can be traced back to West Side Story, and it’s safe to say that this show has since paved the way for equally visionary and innovative productions that have come out in recent years, such as Hamilton and Hadestown. The original production won several Tony awards including Best Choreography, and every Broadway revival of the show since then has also been nominated for several Tony awards.

Now, full disclosure, I have not seen West Side Story on Broadway. I have listened to the soundtrack for the purposes of this review, and it’s excellent, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see the show live. However, it is undeniable that West Side Story is an influential piece of musical theater that shaped Broadway for decades to come. So how did it fare when adapted for the big screen?

West Side Story (1961)

While I will grudgingly admit that West Side Story’s first adaptation to the big screen is influential, I have a strong distaste for it. To put it simply, everything that is good about it was taken from the Broadway show, and everything that is bad about it is the result of the people making it, putting their feet in their collective mouths and gumming things up in the adaptation process. So, for instance, the songs are all excellent, because they’re all lifted from the show. Bernstein and Sondheim’s excellent respective composing and lyricism remain intact, so it’s no wonder that the songs resonated with movie-going audiences at the time. The singers all sound good, because they’re all talented people, and the story remains compelling, because the people who wrote the book for the Broadway show knew what they were doing. 

Unfortunately, although the singers are talented, I feel like pretty much everyone in this adaptation is miscast. Riff looks more like a preppy kid trying to “dress gangster” rather than an actual leader of a gang, Tony’s actor can’t pull off either side of his character, the sappy romantic or the vicious ex-leader of the Jets, and Maria is played by a white woman wearing skin darkening cosmetics to try and appear “Puerto Rican”—that was racist when the movie first came out, and has only gotten worse with age. And it’s not just Maria either; it’s every Puerto Rican character in the movie. To give an example, one of the actors who played Riff on Broadway was cast in the movie to play Bernardo. Are you kidding me? I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s problematic. Now to be fair, I am all for judging things in the context of their time period, but at the same time, it is my judgment that this was incredibly racist, even in the context of the early 1960s. It’s not even like the show had a particularly racially diverse cast, but that’s because characters often don’t play their race (or their gender) in live theater, and even though it didn’t look great at the time, Broadway these days has actors of color portraying white characters, white actors portraying a variety of different non-white characters, men playing women, and women playing men. So the casting of the musical just doesn’t stick out the way the casting of the movie does. It’s a different medium, and it plays by different rules, not to mention that the vast majority of the revival casts have had racially diverse casts, and the show was made in the 1950s, not the 1960s.

Another issue I have with the first West Side Story movie is that the cinematography is uninteresting, and I feel like the movie’s musical numbers don’t often integrate into the environments very well. In other words, I consider it to be a very overrated adaptation of a phenomenal musical. It is yet another movie that butchers its source material, the only difference this time being that the source material is so profoundly good and well-written that it sometimes overcomes the painful failure of the movie. I may very well write a full review of the 1961 West Side Story at some point, but that day is not today, because I am far more interested in talking about the 2021 movie, and I think I’ve provided enough context to dig into my thoughts on it. So, did West Side Story (2021) live up to the stage show? Or does it get to join the original in its place of honor right next to Cats (2019) and Into the Woods (2014) in the overrated trash-heap of history?

West Side Story (2021)

The first thing that I noticed when I began watching this film is that the cinematography is impeccable. This is a movie containing a lot of complex choreography, and not only does Justin Peck do a fantastic job adapting the original choreography to the big screen, but Spielberg also makes every single shot in this movie pop out of the screen. Even simple pans across the streets of New York are often exciting to look at, and this is all accomplished without sacrificing the grimy feeling that this movie is supposed to have. The juxtaposition of the dirty, drab streets with the colorful, vibrant choreography makes for a unique and entertaining visual canvas for the story to unfold onto. A few highlights in which the choreography and cinematography come together in particularly noteworthy ways include “Jet Song,” “The Dance at the Gym,” “America,” and “Gee, Officer Krupke,” but I truly cannot overstate how every sequence in this movie is impeccably crafted. Just from a technical standpoint, I think this movie manages to justify its existence better than the 1961 version ever did, and that’s before I get into all the stuff that actually matters from a storytelling standpoint.

The 2021 West Side Story has a cast that is diverse in both a racial sense and in the ratio of stars to newcomers. There are some fairly big names attached to this project, such as Ansel Elgort (Tony), Mike Faist (Riff, known for playing Connor Murphy in the original Broadway cast of Dear Evan Hansen), and Rita Moreno (Valentina, played Anita in the 1961 West Side Story), but one of its main stars, Rachel Zegler (Maria), is a complete Hollywood unknown, as is the case for several other major cast members. Speaking of Rachel Zegler, she is simply incredible, and I do not say that lightly. This was her first time ever appearing in a movie, and she out-competed over thirty thousand other applicants to get the role. After seeing her in the movie, I completely understand why she got the part. Not only can this woman sing like few others, but she gives what would be a career-defining performance for any A-list star while doing so. She has to pull off so many different emotional extremes throughout the film, and she moves between them with a nuance that brings a lot of resonance to her character. She and Elgort also have very good chemistry, and even though their romance has a couple story problems that I’ll touch on later, their dynamic does a great job selling me on them as a couple. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, I’ve seen him get a lot of flack on the internet for his performance, but I really don’t see the issue. He has a beautiful voice, he pulls off the incredibly demanding vocal part required of any actor who plays Tony, and he has the acting chops to pull off the wide range of emotions and character beats that Tony has to move through as well. Of the two, I think that Zegler’s performance is noticeably stronger, but that is in no way a condemnation of Elgort. I was sold on him the second he started singing “Maria,” and he only exceeded my expectations as time went on.

The next two important characters to go over are Riff and Bernardo, and both actors do a very good job in their respective roles. Mike Faist has a difficult job in that he needs to straddle the line between menacing and likable, and he knocks his portrayal of Riff out of the park. It is always obvious why he is a leader, both when he’s being the charismatic figure who the the Jets look up to in “Jet Song” and when he’s brutally beating the snot out of his enemies during “The Rumble.” He’s a tough character, because he’s in the wrong a lot of the time, yet I couldn’t help sympathize with his plight at the same time. Part of that is the chemistry he has with Elgort, which does a lot to bring Riff’s relationship with Tony to life, which in turn grounds Riff’s character and keeps him feeling complex and sympathetic. Bernardo is also good, but unfortunately, David Alvarez is given less to work with in the writing department, and this is evident in his performance. There’s never a moment when he does a bad job, and in fact he does an outstanding job during sequences such as “The Rumble,” but I also found his character a bit forgettable at times. This is in no way a critique of Alvarez’s work, but simply a byproduct of an unfortunate writing problem.

Finally, there’s Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno. DeBose plays the character of Anita, who is Bernardo’s partner and acts as a foster mother for Maria. The ideological conflict between Anita and Maria makes up a decent portion of the finale of the movie, and a choice that Anita makes directly and intentionally brings about the ending. DeBose has an enormous job on her hands, as she has to convince the audience that she was driven into making the choice she did and that by the end she both stands by that decision and feels guilt over it. She’s also an incredible singer and is given an opportunity to really shine in “A Boy Like That / I Have a Love.” She recently won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in this movie, and she definitely deserved it. In the 1961 adaptation, DeBose’s character was played by Moreno, and the character Moreno plays here, Valentina, was invented for the 2021 adaptation specifically for her. Valentina, a Puerto Rican widow who owns a drugstore, grounds Tony in reality from the very beginning. There isn’t a ton to her character, but it’s a very sweet part, and I’m glad Spielberg added her in. If anything else, she adds a tad more depth to Tony’s character and gets a chance to sing a nice song near the end.

The music in the movie is still really good. The orchestration is beautiful, the singers sound fantastic together, and Spielberg absolutely succeeds in bringing together the beautiful composition, lyricism, and choreography onto the big screen. Really, my only complaint music-wise is the song “I Feel Pretty,” which is not only compositionally boring, but also does very little to advance the themes, plots, and character arcs in the movie, not to mention that it looks especially weak following “Tonight (Quintet)” and “The Rumble,” which are two of the best sequences in the movie. Unfortunately, this right here brings me to my biggest point of conflict in regard to this movie: the plot.

As I’ve mentioned, West Side Story was originally a modernized musical retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it plays heavily into similar themes of destined tragedy and love at first sight. It executes these themes perfectly well, and the actors do a good job portraying their love for one another. My issue here is just that I don’t find that kind of story compelling. It feels as though the romance is driven by external factors, rather than the characters themselves, and I know that’s the point, but it’s just not really my cup of tea. If this kind of thing is what you enjoy, then it’s likely that you’ll resonate deeply with this movie, but for me, the closest I can get to that is recognizing that everything here is written very well, even if my personal taste prevents me from fully clicking with it.

At the end of the day, West Side Story is a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It preserves everything that’s great about the music in the stage show, every cast member does an absolutely incredible job, and the choreography and cinematography are both breathtaking. Unfortunately, I still find the narrative to be a bit weak, and the themes that it explores don’t resonate particularly well with me. Nevertheless, I think it is fair to say that this movie more than does justice to the original Broadway show, and that’s really great to see. I am beyond happy that so many quality musical adaptations were released in 2021, and I think that this version of West Side Story will go down in history as the definitive version for the majority of audiences. Most importantly of all, when combined with In the Heights and Tick, Tick…BOOM, West Side Story (2021) might just be good enough to allow myself and fellow musical theater fans to forgive 2021 for giving us the trash fire adaptation that was the Dear Evan Hansen movie.

West Side Story is well worth renting on Amazon, or streaming on HBOMax, if you prefer, and it’s an absolute must-watch if you’re a fan of musicals, modernized Shakespeare, Steven Spielberg movies, or any combination of the above.

1 “The Great ‘West Side Story’ Debate,” The New York Times, December 1, 2021,

Morbius Review

by Allie Vasserman


April 29, 2022

Morbius (2022) is the most recent superhero action movie that is part of the Marvel-Sony movie collaboration, featuring a lesser-known character. It is directed by Daniel Espinosa, and it stars Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius, Matt Smith as Milo, Adria Arjona as Dr. Martine Bancroft, Jared Harris as Dr. Emil Nicholas, Tyrese Gibson as FBI agent Simon Stroud, and Al Madrigal as FBI agent Rodriguez.

The movie opens with Dr. Michael Morbius as he travels to a cave in a jungle in an effort to capture a species of bats, which he hopes to use to cure his rare blood disease. The movie then jumps to flashbacks where young Morbius is living in Greece while being cared for by Dr. Emil Nicholas. This is where Morbius meets his lifelong friend Lucien, whom he nicknames Milo. The movie then jumps back to the present day, where Dr. Morbius’ colleague, Dr. Martine Bancroft, finds out that he has been experimenting with the bats’ DNA. After Morbius uses the bats’ DNA to create a cure for his rare blood disease, he tests the cure on himself. The cure does work as expected, and he officially becomes Morbius, the living vampire. Morbius now has certain superhuman powers. With the help of Martine, Morbius has to fix the problem he created because now he needs to drink blood in order to survive. Some synthetic blood that he has created satisfies him for the present, but he does not know how long it will be until he needs human blood.

This movie is one hour and forty-five minutes long, but it still feels short and unfinished. The plot feels predictable. The phrase “we are the few against the many” is a key line that recurs from the beginning to the climax of the movie that establishes a theme of the movie but didn’t need to be repeated so many times for viewers to get the point. Morbius’ origami bats, which point to his new identity as a vampire, are another recurring symbol that feels overused. I especially dislike the ending of the movie; I feel like the movie was cut off just before it could have a proper and satisfying ending. The movie has one plot twist, but it’s so obvious that you see it coming. I also have some mixed feelings about Morbius’ vampire superpowers. The superpowers look cool, but they remind me of the animated film Hotel Transylvania. I think that the Marvel-Sony collaboration that brought us the latest Spider-Man trilogy and the two Venom movies could have done better. 

I did enjoy watching Morbius’ struggle between his morals as a doctor and his desire to feed on human blood to stay alive and maintain his enhanced physique. I also liked the relationship between Morbius and Martine. I think that the two characters have chemistry between them that will possibly be explored further in future sequels. I also liked the post-credit scenes because they seem to foreshadow a Sinister Six team-up against Spider-Man coming sometime in the future.

Out of all of the Marvel-Sony superhero movie collaborations we have had so far, I think this is the weakest one.  But I look forward to seeing future movies featuring more obscure characters in this new multiverse.