Colleges Should Permanently Adopt Test-Optional Policies

by Sally Jamrog

Opinion

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,
https://offices.depaul.edu/enrollment-management/test-optional/Documents/HistoryOfTOinHigherEd_EMatters3-18-11.pdf.

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

Reviews

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

Reviews

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

News

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

Reviews

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,
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/theater/west-side-story-steven-spielberg-movie.html.

Morbius Review

by Allie Vasserman

Reviews

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.

The Dangers of Idolizing Zelensky

by Therese Askarbek

Opinion

March 31, 2022

The most recent invasion and attack of Ukraine in February have sparked protests around the world against the war waged by Russian President Vladimir Putin. As cities such as Mariupol are relentlessly bombed and invaded by Russian tanks, the escalating war has been on the minds of many in the US. Concerns over rising gas prices, relatives and friends living in Ukraine, and the consequences of Russia’s power grab are just a few of many that have been plaguing the country and news outlets since the war officially broke out. Aside from the muddle of anxiety and concern, liberals and conservatives alike have begun idolizing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Memes of him in uniform with other soldiers in the trenches or sitting around a table compared to Putin sitting alone have been trending online as an alleged testament of his groundedness and courageousness. Some, on social media platforms such as TikTok, have gone as far as making fan-edited videos of him, the comments filled with remarks on his physical attractiveness and their infatuation with him. There are several things wrong with this type of rhetoric. 

When looking at the state of post-Soviet countries, a major commonality between them is a near universal issue of corruption. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus has been run by a dictatorship under Alexander Lukashenko, who is known for jailing his opponents and censoring the press.1 Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has kept Turkmenistan firmly under his control, with no one allowed to dissent or contradict his policies. In Kazakhstan, citizens have become increasingly discontented with their reduced rights and the wealth gap, with the elite clutching tightly to most of the country’s wealth. Ukraine is no exception to the corruption plaguing these countries since 1991. Under the oligarchic regime in which Zelensky is president, Ukrainian officials and parliament members have been plundering money from the state budget. They were reported to have stolen a fifth of the country’s output per year from 2010 to 2014.2 Though many were hopeful that, if voted into the presidential office, Zelensky would put an end to the corrupt government practices, he proved to be corrupt himself when the Pandora papers were leaked. These papers suggested that Zelensky had a stake in an offshore company that he had transferred to a friend just weeks before being elected.3 He appointed loyalists and his friends to high posts in the government and was backed by a billionaire who owned the network Zelensky worked on as an actor for the hit show “Servant of the People.”4 His promise to tackle corruption was left unfulfilled, with the same issues still prevalent in the country as before. 

Though he has proven to be steadfast, brave, and unwavering in the face of an onslaught of Russian attacks, he is not exempt from criticism. By solely focusing our attention on these qualities he has exemplified, we become dangerously close to complacency, not only with politicians abroad, but in the US as well. As we have seen with Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and “the Squad,” idolizing any politician causes us to lose our objectivity and to find ourselves unable to hold our “favorite” politicians accountable. 

In this particular instance, the ramifications of indulging in passionate displays of affection for Zelensky or treating him like an infallible hero are also profoundly insensitive to the Ukranians suffering from the war. Recently, the New York Post reported that US “fans” were begging for Jeremy Renner to portray Zelensky in a future biopic—as Ukranians were being bombed in their homes.5 In idolizing him, a real, traumatic war is effectively sensationalized. It is turned into trivial fodder for people to entertain themselves with. Whatever one may think of Zelensky, we need to apply mindful, critical analysis to politicians and their policies in order to consciously work our way through the chaos that is today’s current events. 


1 Justin Burke, “Post-Soviet World: what you need to know about the 15 states,” The Guardian, June 9, 2014,
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/09/-sp-profiles-post-soviet-states.

2 Oliver Bullough, “Welcome to Ukraine, the most corrupt nation in Europe,” The Guardian, February 6, 2015,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/04/welcome-to-the-most-corrupt-nation-in-europe-ukraine.

3 Luke Harding, “Revealed: ‘anti-oligarch’ Ukrainian President’s offshore connections,” The Guardian, October 3, 2021,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/oct/03/revealed-anti-oligarch-ukrainian-president-offshore-connections-volodymyr-zelenskiy.

4 Anna Myroniuk, “Opinion: I did not vote for Ukraine’s president. His courage has changed my mind and inspired millions,” The Washington Post, February 27, 2022,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/02/27/ukraine-russia-zelensky-president-changed-my-mind-inspired-millions/.

5 Andrew Court, “Fans cast Jeremy Renner as Zelensky in fantasy Ukraine invasion film: Too soon?,” The New York Post, February 28, 2022,
https://nypost.com/2022/02/28/fans-beg-jeremy-renner-to-play-president-zelensky-in-biopic/.

Relic of a Bygone Era: Russia Invades Ukraine

by Matthew Volfson

News

March 31, 2022

In 1919, a war between the Soviet Union and Poland broke out, as well as a war between the Soviet Union and a short-lived Ukrainian independent state.1 It was the end of World War I, a time of suffering for the world and chaos in Eastern Europe, where a communist Hungarian revolution attempted to take root and Polish nationalists fought off the Germans in Poznan. The newly founded League of Nations was bumbling through it all. Meanwhile, the Americans, British, Japanese, and French were invading Russia, ostensibly backing the Russian imperialists in favor of their own interests. 

2022 is very different from that era. Europe is no longer in a state of chaos. Europeans have learned the consequences of starting two World Wars both in their hearts and minds. However, it does not seem that Putin has a heart and a mind as he seeks to repeat Soviet power plays from that era. In his speech rationalizing Russia’s recognition of the rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, and the movement of his troops into Ukraine on a “peacekeeping mission,” he said that Ukraine was an artificial state created by Lenin in 1922, even though the history of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, far predates that of Moscow.

In spite of the millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine and thousands of Ukrainian war casualties, the people of Ukraine have stood up to the challenge. President Volodymyr Zelensky is rallying his people and the nations of the world to condemn this invasion. The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have responded to Zelensky’s call and sent an artillery barrage of sanctions to the open underbelly of the Russian economy.2

The people of Russia have paid a high price for the invasion that many of them did not even want. Russia drafts conscripts aged eighteen to twenty-seven into its army. If this reporter, for example, were in Russia right now, in one year, assuming the conflict lasts for that long, he could be conscripted into the Ukrainian invasion. It is true that Russian forces have captured Kherson, Melitopol, and some other Ukrainian cities.3 However, thousands of Russians are taking to the streets to protest the violence in Ukraine and have been detained for it.4

In addition, these Ukrainian cities have been captured by Russian troops who are low on morale, in the face of a protracted resistance prepared by the citizens against the Russian attack.5 Ukrainians have already begun protesting against Russian occupation. Russia has also not yet captured the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, the two largest in Ukraine, which they initially intended to do so in just a few days.6 There has been documented evidence of Russian conscripts refusing to fight.7 The Russian economy has taken a huge hit; the Moscow stock exchange has dropped so low that it has been forced to close. In addition, there has been reported panic-buying all over Russia, further evidence that the war has punctured Russia hard.

Because of Ukraine’s resolve, the Russians have made little to no progress in recent days. The war has evolved into a stalemate, a humiliation for supposedly the world’s second most powerful military; in comparison, Ukraine isn’t even on the rankings.8,9 This stalemate is mostly due to the fact that the operation was planned very suddenly; Russian soldiers were unaware that they were going to fight on foreign soil right up until the moment the war started. 

In addition to having miscalculated the capacity of his logistics, Putin has badly miscalculated the popular beliefs of Ukrainians and Ukrainian troops. He expected Ukrainians to greet Russian soldiers as liberators when, in fact, the opposite occurred. He expected that it would be the Ukrainian soldiers who would have low morale and decide to overthrow the government when, again, the opposite has happened. Ukrainian soldiers have risked their lives for their government. Morale is higher than ever in Ukraine, and 90% of Ukraine’s people stand behind their president, whom Putin has dismissed as a neo-Nazi, even though Zelensky is a Jew.10,11  

What is even more interesting about Russia’s stalemate status with Ukraine is that in January, analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a premier foreign policy center, predicted the whole situation from afar.12 They stated that, from the perspective of morale, Russia’s military establishment, including both soldiers and upper-level management, has been acting similar to the way they acted before the Soviet Union’s botched invasion of Afghanistan in 1989. 

The CSIS article assumes that Russia would struggle even without external aid to Ukraine, not to say that the aid is not important. Maps in the article state that the Russians would most likely roll over the Ukrainians and link with Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway state on the western border of Ukraine. That currently has not happened, and Russia is struggling even more now that the West has in fact aided Ukraine, just as the US aided Afghan insurgents when the complacent Soviet command invaded the nation all those years ago.

This prediction exposes the Russian process as flawed from the start. Putin didn’t have to get bogged down in this war if he had listened to the experts who predicted Russia’s struggles. Putin’s brash behavior has led to such an invasion, and with this invasion, he has exposed those in the West who support him.13 And also, the PR campaign on Russia’s end has been an absolute disaster; the only thing people in the West have seen is pro-Ukraine post after pro-Ukraine post about this war.14

Because Putin didn’t listen to those who warned him the invasion would be rough and not worth the effort, those who were in his inner cabinet and those tacticians playing out the wargames, he paid the price, which includes the tanking of Russia’s economy, the wavering of support from what has been the superpower most friendly to Russia, China, and another humiliation of the Russian military. It does not seem that Putin has learned from 1989. What happens next is only a guess, but Putin has the end of his reign within the radius of possibility. The war has been a wave of embarrassment for the Russian nation, changing the country and even the world forever. 


1 Kazimierz Maciej Smogorzewski, “Russo-Polish War,” Encyclopædia Britannica,
https://www.britannica.com/event/Russo-Polish-War-1919-1920.

2 “U.S. Treasury Announces Unprecedented & Expansive Sanctions against Russia, Imposing Swift and Severe Economic Costs,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 24, 2022,
https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0608.

3 BBC Visual Journalism Team, “Ukraine War in Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion,” BBC News, March 25, 2022,
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60506682.

4 RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, “Thousands Detained at Anti-War Protests across Russia,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, March 7, 2022,
https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-1000-protesters-arrested-ukraine-invasion/31738786.html.

5 Jim Garamone, “Russian Forces Invading Ukraine Suffer Low Morale,” U.S. Department of Defense, March 23, 2022,
https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2975508/russian-forces-invading-ukraine-suffer-low-morale/.

6 Naveed Jamali, David Brennan, and Tom O’Connor, “Exclusive: U.S. Expects Kyiv’s Fall in Days, Ukraine Source Warns of Encirclement,” Newsweek, February 25, 2022,
https://www.newsweek.com/us-expects-kyiv-fall-days-ukraine-source-warns-encirclement-1682326.

7 Niko Vorobyov, “Fearing Front-Line Deployment, Some Russians Resist Conscription,” Al Jazeera, March 18, 2022,
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/18/fearing-front-line-deployment-some-russians-resist-conscription.

8 Martin Armstrong and Felix Richter, “Infographic: The World’s Most Powerful Militaries,” Statista Infographics, January 14, 2022,
https://www.statista.com/chart/20418/most-powerful-militaries/.

9 Monique Beals, “War in Ukraine at Stalemate, Research Group Concludes,” The Hill, March 20, 2022,
https://thehill.com/policy/international/598960-war-in-ukraine-at-stalemate-research-group-concludes.

10 Robert Mackey, “Zelensky Posts Defiant Videos from the Streets of Kyiv as Putin’s Forces Close In,” The Intercept, February 26, 2022,
https://theintercept.com/2022/02/25/putin-floods-airwaves-lies-zelensky-punctures-social-media/.

11 Afiq Fitri and Kirstie Canene-Adams, “How President Zelensky’s Approval Ratings Have Surged,” New Statesman, March 1, 2022,
https://www.newstatesman.com/chart-of-the-day/2022/03/how-president-zelenskys-approval-ratings-have-surged.

12 Seth G. Jones, “Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 25, 2022,
https://www.csis.org/analysis/russias-possible-invasion-ukraine.

13 Victor Jack, “Putin’s European Pals Have to Eat Their Words,” Politico, February 26, 2022,
https://www.politico.eu/article/vladimir-putin-european-pals-eat-their-words-marine-le-pen-eric-zemmour-matteo-salvini-milos-zeman-alex-salmond-gerhard-schroder-boris-johnson-jean-luc-melenchon-francois-fillon-viktor-orban/.

14 Ian Garner, “How Is the War Going for Putin on Social Media? Not Great,” The Washington Post, March 6, 2022,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/03/04/russian-social-media-ukraine-vk-propaganda/.

The Batman Review

by Allie Vasserman

Reviews

March 31, 2022

The Batman (2022), directed by Matt Reeves, is the latest Batman reboot. It stars Robert Pattinson as Batman or Bruce Wayne, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman or Selena Kyle, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin Ferral as the Penguin, Jeffery Wright as Lieutenant James “Jim” Gordon, John Tururio as Carmine Falcone, and Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth.

Unlike Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, this version of Batman does not start with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, but rather with Wayne doing a monologue as criminals run away in fear and the Bat-Signal lights up in the sky. At the start of the movie, Batman has been fighting crime in Gotham City for two years. The plot kicks off when Lieutenant Jim Gordon brings on Batman to help the police solve the murder of Don Mitchell, the mayor of Gotham City. Bruce Wayne uses his home, Wayne Manor, as a base where he reviews the evidence of the mayor’s murder and determines, with the help of Alfred, that the villain is the Riddler. Batman ends up working with Catwoman, who has her own agenda, to help Jim Gordon and the police solve the mystery.

Robert Pattinson’s Batman is different from Christian Bale’s Batman; in this movie, Batman is more like The World’s Greatest Detective, which is one of his titles from the comics.  Also, this Bruce Wayne is a recluse, not a billionaire playboy. He does not care about how the world sees him and pours all of his time and energy into being Batman. Other characters appear differently in this movie as well. The Penguin, for example, does not look like a comic book character; the prosthetics on his face make him look more realistic. Unlike other Batman villains that have been on the big screen, Paul Dano’s Riddler does not instill fear in many of the citizens of Gotham; rather, he recruits them through social media by exposing and murdering the most corrupt of Gotham. The Riddler is actually portrayed as a sympathetic villain in this movie, compared to the “good” and “dutiful” government officials. Also, this version of the Riddler does not wear a bright green suit with purple tie, a cap with question mark, or carry a cane with a  question mark like his comic book counterpart, but instead has a more realistic appearance. Jeffery Wright’s Jim Gordon is shown to be one of the good men in Gotham, trying to root out corruption in the city even if it means putting himself in danger and tarnishing the Gotham City Police Department’s reputation. Zoe Kravitz and Andy Serkis do a good job portraying Catwoman and Alfred. Like in the previous Batman movies, this one has a memorable and intense chase scene with the Batmobile, although we don’t see a lot of “bat gadgets” that we see in other Batman movies. And in this movie, the music plays a key role, setting the tone and adding to the suspense. For instance, Batman’s footsteps sound heavy to show that he instills fear into others around him.

The Batman is three hours long, but to me, there was not a single slow moment. This may be my favorite live action version of Batman. I enjoyed watching Batman basically run around Gotham City trying to solve a murderous scavenger hunt set up by the Riddler. I also thought that the fight scenes were well coordinated. I could have done without the romance between Batman and Catwoman, but since Catwoman is a major love interest for Batman in the comics, I expected to see some sort of a romantic storyline between them. And I thought the monologues at the beginning and the end of the movie were unnecessary. But overall, I enjoyed The Batman, which is less of a traditional comic book adaptation and more of a murder mystery. I recommend it for fans of Batman and detective stories.

Russia-Ukraine Crisis: How Will the World React?

by Matthew Volfson

News

February 25, 2022

After British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement in 1938, he said, “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”1 After a press conference with Joe Biden in 2021, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany stated, “We are cooperating with our allies in NATO and [the European Union], and with the United States, on the question of how to react to this threat to Ukraine that is coming from Russia.”2

At first glance, these quotes seem quite different. The first claims peace when a German autocrat musters preparations for war; the second implicitly pledges that a nation shall work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to protect Europe from Russian revanchist claims. However, they share striking similarities. Both Chamberlain’s and Scholz’s claims are fragile. Both were and are wishful thinking. Chamberlain thought he could bring to peace a continent preparing for war. Scholz thinks that he can wage war with Russia, in cooperation with NATO, when half of his country depends on Russian gas.3

That’s all well and good, but why focus on Germany? Scholz’s Germany is the nexus of NATO’s European wing against Russia. Germany is the nation with the largest economy in Europe. If Germany stands to lose on crucial energy reserves, NATO’s energy would be sapped, both literally and metaphorically. Germany is a crucial building block for American forces to assemble their full force against the Russians.

Scholz’s claim is fragile, but Russia’s war-making abilities are also severely limited, which bodes well for Scholz, NATO, and Ukraine. If Putin decides to do a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he would most likely have to deal with a protracted guerilla war with Ukrainian insurgents sponsored by Americans, ruining the Russian military and economy. 

 It is more likely that the conflict will be localized and similar to a civil war, where Russian-backed separatists are given more aid by Russia against Ukraine. Brandon Drapeau ‘23 agrees, saying, “[There would be a] much bigger cost for Russia to invade Ukraine than [to invade] Crimea; war would be a detrimental situation for both sides.” Of note, Russian ambitions to invade Ukraine have predated the current conflict: in 2014, Russian troops moved into Crimea with few casualties, successfully invading the peninsula that had been part of Ukraine.4 Russia’s success here was most likely due to the fact that a majority of Crimeans, fifty-eight percent, were ethnically Russian even before the Russian occupation, so they were more likely to welcome Putin.5

It is far from clear that Russia is really preparing for war. Most men in Russia who would be conscripted in the war effort hold favorable views toward Ukraine.6 In addition, Russia is too dependent on gas revenues it makes from European markets, which provide forty percent of the money in Russian coffers.7 The economic tolls for Russia would be high, although Putin would most likely be indifferent to those, as Russia has gone through plenty of recessions and suffering already.8

Even if Putin ignores Russian suffering, invading Ukraine would confirm Russia’s foes’ expectations and constant warnings of attack, which would expose the Russian foreign office’s denial of invasion as a lie and cover-up.9,10 Essentially, the most likely scenario, with the least negative effects on Russia, might be for Putin to increase aid to Russian-speaking regions in Ukraine, though one never really knows what will happen until Putin makes his next move.


1 Patrick Corkery, “Peace for Our Time,” The Irish Times, October 8, 2013,
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/peace-for-our-time-1.1552965#:~:text=This%20quote%20came%20from%20a,the%20bottom%20of%20our%20hearts.

2 Quint Forgey, “Germany’s Scholz Warns Russia Would Pay ‘Very High Price’ for Invading Ukraine,” Politico, February 7, 2022,
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/07/germanys-scholz-warns-russia-will-pay-very-high-price-for-invading-ukraine-00006119.

3 Kate Abnett and Vera Eckert, “Factbox: How Much Does Germany Need Russian Gas?” Reuters, January 20, 2022,
https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/how-much-does-germany-need-russian-gas-2022-01-20/.

4 Jonathon Cosgrove, “The Russian Invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, 2014-2015,” Johns Hopkins University, 2020,
https://www.jhuapl.edu/Content/documents/RussianInvasionCrimeanPeninsula.pdf.

5 Ivan Katchanovski, “Crimea: People and Territory before and after Annexation,” E-International Relations, June 4, 2016,
https://www.e-ir.info/2015/03/24/crimea-people-and-territory-before-and-after-annexation/.

6 Victor Jack, “How do young Ukrainians and Russians feel about another war?” Al Jazeera, February 7, 2022,
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/7/not-worth-fighting-for-young-ukrainians-and-russians-shun-war.

7 Christophe-Alexandre Paillard, “Russia and Europe’s Mutual Energy Dependence,” Journal of International Affairs 63, no. 2 (2010): 65–84,
http://www.jstor.org/stable/24384335.

8 Marshall I. Goldman, “Russia: A Petrostate in a Time of Worldwide Economic Recession and Political Turmoil,” Social Research 76, no. 1 (2009): 55–70,
http://www.jstor.org/stable/40972139.

9 Vladimir Isachenkov and Yuras Karmanau, “Russia Denies Looking for Pretext to Invade Ukraine,” AP News, January 17, 2022,
https://apnews.com/article/russia-officials-ukraine-invasion-f58cbbd7eca51cccf74ebd4be68484e8.

10 Caroline Nyce, “The Atlantic Daily: America Sounds the Alarm on Russia-Ukraine,” The Atlantic, January 19, 2022,
https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2022/01/russia-ukraine-white-house/621319/.