Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mountaineer Media attends Moab International Film Festival

Students represent Western media organization at film event in Utah

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

 

Students from Western’s Mountaineer Media program traveled to Moab to attend the Moab International Film Festival that ran from Mar 4 to 6. Currently in its fourth year, the film festival accepts experimental and documentary independent films that serve an educational value to their viewers. The film festival was rescheduled from a previous fall time slot.

The students, Mountaineer Media Student Directors Elesa Petit, Skyler Stanley, and Samuel Thornley along with student Lane Castro, left for the event on Mar 3 before returning to Gunnison the following Sunday. The students alternated their time between watching films at the festival and exploring the town of Moab.

The students ended up watching three films at the festival on the first day of the event. The films that were showcased were Gun Runners, Antarctic Edge 70° South and Martin’s Boat. All of the films were documentaries, with Antarctic Edge 70° South being the recipient of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Lighthouse International Film Festival.

Directed by Anjali Nayar, Gun Runners follows the story of two Kenyan warriors who trade in their guns for amnesty and to become professional runners. The film focuses on the friendship and rivalry between the two warriors as their lives branch into different directions where they are caught in the pull between their differences, the struggles of poverty, tradition and glory.

Antarctic Edge 70° South, directed by Dena Seidel, originally premiered in Spring 2015 in New York’s Quad Cinema. Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, Antarctic Edge 70° South follows the staff of Palmer Station in Antarctica as they study the ecosystem of the ocean surrounding the continent. An insight into the daily lives of these scientists is showcased as they study the warming Antarctic waters in an effort to understand the effects climate change has on the ecosystem.

The last of the films, Martin’s Boat, was directed by Pete McBride, and serves as a means of honoring the late Martin Litton. A protector of the environment, Martin Litton was known for advocating against the construction of dams in the Grand Canyon during the 1950’s and giving boat tours on the Colorado River. The documentary follows a group of people close to Martin that construct a boat in his honor to sail the Colorado River with on its maiden voyage.

The students were pretty enthusiastic about the films they saw. “They evoked emotions I wasn’t expecting from people I didn’t even know. That’s how good they were,” said Petit on the films.

“They were all well-done. I really liked Antarctic Edge. That was my favorite. That had some cool time lapses,” Castro said. For more information on Mountaineer Media activities, meetings are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30 in Taylor 124 and contact can be made through email at mountaineermediaproductions@gmail.com. Student directors also have office hours on Tuesday-Friday from 1:30-2:30.

Film Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

Computer animated comedy offers laughs and a fun tribute to Caped Crusader

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

The LEGO Batman Movie is an animated comedy that serves as not only a spin-off to 2014’s The LEGO Movie, but a surprisingly competent addition to the Batman franchise in its own right. Directed by Chris McKay, the film was released by Warner Bros. Pictures on Feb. 10, 2017. The film features the voice talents of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, and Ralph Fiennes among many others.

The story begins as Batman follows his usual life of fighting crime in Gotham City and living alone in Wayne Manor. When orphan Dick Grayson and new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon enter his life and disturb his solitary habits, Batman must question what kind of life he wants to live while his arch-nemesis The Joker cooks up a new plot that threatens to destroy all of Gotham City.

What really makes the film work is the rather eclectic and witty sense of humor it carries throughout. From the opening credits, the film snarks at typical movie conventions and does so all the way through with a rather amusing self-awareness. Additionally, there are plenty of visual cues that provide a lot of humor along with the snappy dialogue traded between characters.

On the subject of characters, the film does a fantastic job making Batman and the rest of the colorful cast entertaining to watch. Batman is hilariously over the top in his egotistical manner while his sidekicks are equally fun to watch with their various quirks playing off each other in humorous and even heartwarming ways. While most of Batman’s rogues gallery is side lined in favor of the always comical Joker, many of them still provide memorable moments through cameos and the few lines they possess.

The characters are brought to life with especially well done voice acting. Besides Will Arnett reprising LEGO Batman, Michael Cera is surprisingly unrecognizable as the adorably shy Robin, while Ralph Fiennes and Rosario Dawson bring all the wisdom and daring determination expected of authority figures Alfred and Barbara Gordon. Finally, the villains provide amusing performances from unlikely casting choices, with Zach Galifianakis’ Joker standing out for his entertaining homoerotic interactions with Batman.

A large part of the film’s appeal lies with its relentless amount of affection and parody towards the mythos of the Batman franchise. A large number of nods to different eras of the series appear in the form of visual cameos and gags that range from the obvious to the obscure, such as Batman keeping all of his suits and vehicles from the different live-action adaptations. This parodies the low points of the franchise just as much as it affectionately mocks them, showing the creators have a good appreciation and understanding of the franchise in a way that feels appropriate.

Another high point in the film is the rather sincere theme of questioning whether Batman can live a happy life with his usual habits. While done in a mostly humorous manner, the film does raise serious questions about Batman’s tendency to live alone and reject help from others when he needs it. It marvelously accomplishes this through simple efforts such as showing Batman doing mundane activities in solitude, along with several other characters and threats popping up that challenge him to go outside of his comfort zone and break his usual routine.

Finally, the film has some rather impressive animation and lighting. Despite being a computer-animated affair, the characters are animated in a photo-realistic manner very akin to traditional stop-motion animation that gives it a fun visual flair. The Dark Knight’s tradition of operating at night and hiding in the shadows also gives rise to some well-done lighting compositions that feel very comic book-esque, which is aided by the bright color scheme and appealing character design.

Despite all the fun to be had, the film still has some noticeable flaws. Namely, the fast-paced humor will not appeal to everyone’s senses, as much of it is unloaded upon the viewer at once. The film has a habit of throwing out one joke before delivering another in the span of several seconds, causing some jokes misfire.

The film can also feel somewhat formulaic, which is especially noticeable since it borrows from both The LEGO Movie and the Batman franchise at the same time in story beats and character types. While the film does make fun of these clichés, it also feels overly indulgent in them due to their abundance.

Additionally, besides The Joker, most of the other villains do not have much personality. Although some have their moments, most of the villains are background characters and the film could function with generic thugs taking their places. Considering how memorable most of Batman’s rogues gallery is, this makes their treatment even more disappointing.

Nevertheless, The LEGO Batman Movie still serves as a very entertaining animated adventure. Packed with humor and nods to the franchise it’s based on, the film tackles Batman’s long history in a way that feels equal parts parody and adaptation of the legendary series. With a broad appeal to multiple demographics, the viewers can expect an entertaining ride with the Caped Crusader’s latest cinematic adventure.

In Memoriam: John Peterson

Professor of Computer Science John Peterson, 61, passed away Sunday, March 5 following a climbing accident. Peterson began teaching computer science at Western in 2005.

Peterson was not simply a professor to his many computer science students. He was their mentor, dedicated to helping them succeed in all his classes. It was common for him to stay long after his office hours to assist them with their assignments. Outside of the classroom, Peterson was a friend and even a tour guide to his students, as they were always willing to tag along with their professor on his many adventures.

Greg Haynes, assistant professor of music and longtime friend of Peterson’s, said that he was an incredibly authentic person with a “larger than life personality.” His infectious charisma made it easy for people to put their trust in him, even when out of their comfort zones.

Peterson was an avid climber and often took his friends, family, and students along on his adventures. Prior to meeting Peterson, Haynes was unfamiliar with rock climbing and didn’t think it was something he would do. Soon enough however, he found himself scaling the flatirons in Boulder alongside Peterson. “He could always make an experience happen for you,” Haynes said.  “Everyone has this story about John. Where they never would have tried this thing but John brought them into it and created an experience.”

These shared experiences were not limited to his love of the outdoors. Peterson was also deeply passionate about classical music and played the trombone in the Western Symphony Band. He never hesitated to travel long distances to experience a live symphony performance, usually with a group of people in tow.

His love of music and computer science led him to co-create the music technology minor alongside Haynes. The music technology minor was added to the Western catalog in 2015. With the inclusion of other math and music professors, the pair built a successful program that has continued to gain student’s interest, according to Haynes. “He was able to accomplish such incredible things by bringing the right people together to do them and with an attitude that all things were achievable in some respect,” Haynes said.

Peterson is survived by his wife Marti and sons Eric and Jay.  

Dr. John Peterson, professor of Computer & Information Science, teaches programming at Western’s summer Computer Camp.

Wood Workshop

During this Saturday workshop on Mar. 18, students will get to make a six-pack bottle caddy while learning about project planning, measurements, sanding, staining, and safety. Using these skills students will create projects out of wood in the GAC Clay Studio from instructor Jessica Noelke. Wood comes precut to project specifications. Pre-registration required by 3/11. $40/person includes all supplies. 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. Bring a sack lunch. Pre-register at gunnisonartscenter.org, 102 S. Main St or by calling 970-641-4029.

SonofaGunn “National Buffoon’s Staycation”

The joys of taking a picture perfect family vacation… the wide open road, new adventures, and family togetherness… What could go wrong? Come find out and enjoy the annual SonofaGunn production of “National Buffoon’s Staycation.” Watch Lark Growsbald and his wacky family run into many surprising obstacles. Oh, the places they will TRY to go… Be sure to get your tickets early for this funny GAC benefit. Running March 2-4 and 9-11 doors open at 7, curtain at 7:30 pm. Written & Directed by Shelly Pierson. Tickets: $20 Thursday Nights and $25 Friday & Saturday Nights. Join us for Dinner & a Play on closing night provided by The Blue Table Restaurant beginning at 6 pm. Tickets are $43 includes play ticket, dinner and dessert. Box Office: gunnisonartscenter.org, 102 S. Main St or 970-641-4029.

Improv-aganza!

Peak Out Shows Off Their Improv Skills

Marisa Cardin / Senior Staff Writer

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Western’s improv troupe “Peak Out” showed off their skills and impressed their audiences. Their three-day Improv-aganza had a different theme for each night. The first night, dubbed “Love and Turmoil Night,” and the games focused on and celebrated the recent Valentine’s day, even going as far as to call up a couple from the audience to recount their first date for two of the improv members (Bella Lewis and Maya Jones) to reenact. The second night was called “Good Ol’ Fashioned, Standard, Run O’ The Mill Improv Night,” which featured a selection of games, including a “long form”, where Peak Out members began with a place and a profession, and had to spin an entire story based on it. The final night was “Do or Die Night,” and included games with the audience voting for which member would go on to the next “level,” so to speak. The game ended with Roberta Marquette-Strain having to reenact what was originally a five person scene, with herself playing all five characters at once.

Needless to say, Improv-aganza was a success, and left the audience members on all three nights in tears from laughing. If you’re interested in joining the Improv Troupe, contact Benjamin Pressnall at benjamin.presnall@western.edu for more information. Tune in towards the end of the semester for an upcoming play, Woyzeck, which will be performed in mid-Apr.!

Film Review: Moana

Computer animated musical offers laughs and heart for all ages.

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

Moana is the latest animated musical feature released by Walt Disney Pictures and offers entertainment as wondrous as the ocean the titular heroine travels. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the film stars the voices of Auli’i Cravahlo and Dwayne Johnson with Temuera Morrison, Rachel House, and Jemaine Clement rounding out the cast. Filled with music by Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Opetaia Foa’i, the film was released in theaters on Nov. 23 and will arrive on home media platforms on Mar. 7.

The film revolves around Moana, the teenage daughter of a Polynesian tribe’s overprotective chief, who is about to pass the title on to her. When the life on the tribe’s island starts to decay, Moana is sent on a quest by the gods and her dying grandmother to find the legendary demigod Maui and restore balance to the ocean.

What really makes Moana work is the phenomenal voice acting that drives the film through the main protagonists. Newcomer Auli’i Cravahlo is excellent as Moana, capable of hitting the entire emotional and musical range required of the character, along with having some great chemistry with Dwayne Johnson’s Maui. Dwayne Johnson does an equally commendable job as Maui with a careful application of his trademark wit balanced out with some tenderness during the more emotional scenes of the film.

The supporting cast of the film also delivers some great performances that help power the film’s emotional core. Temuerra Morrison and Rachel House in particular convey a lot of pathos as Moana’s father and grandmother respectively, making the most of their screen time in the film. Finally, Jemaine Clement delivers an over the top and enjoyable performance as the thieving coconut crab Tamatoa and provides a catchy musical number to match.

The most excellent part of Moana is the music, which is bound to remain with the viewer long after they leave the theater. In particular, the songs feature an excellent combination of English, Samoan, and Tokelauan lyrics that are catchy and simultaneously awe-inspiring, which manage to make the film feel more dramatic and sweeping.

Another excellent part of the film is the animation, which involved the development of new rendering technology to create the hair and water featured prominently throughout the film. The sand and water are rendered in incredible detail, along with the hair of the characters as it gets wet and blows in the wind. Additionally, the film features some well-done hand-drawn animation work for Maui’s sentient tattoos that add a creative flair to the computer animation.

Finally, the film has a wonderful amount of humor and emotion all mixed together. The film features funny interactions between Moana and Maui as they try to work through each other’s differences before exchanging pep talks and advice. Often, the film does this within scenes and succeeds at it marvelously thanks to the excellent voice acting.

If there are any real flaws with the film, it’s that the plot doesn’t stray too far from the usual Disney formula for their musicals. It still retains an animal sidekick and the villain has more to them than it seems at first sight, along with a saving-the-world plot and optimistic outlook. There are also some minor moments of repetitive humor that may get tiresome for some viewers.

Additionally, while remaining a funny character throughout the film, Moana’s pet chicken Hei Hei feels somewhat superfluous to the narrative. Since he cannot speak and has the intelligence of a rock, he mostly just sits around in the background while occasionally popping up for a quick joke. Considering he does not have much of a personality or arc behind him, he feels a little tacked on to the film in contrast to previous Disney sidekicks.

Overall, Moana is an excellently made animated film that will charm both adults and children with its emotion, music and, humor. While it has some flaws, its strengths more than outweigh them, and it manages to be an all-around strong film worthy of standing with the best that Disney has to offer.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort Instructor First to Win National Award

Photo courtesy of CBMR

Rachel Hartman Honored with Top of the Course Award

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is proud to announce instructor Rachel Hartman was recently honored with a national award from The Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI). Hartman is the first-ever winner of the Top of the Course Award. This new award is given out to PSIA members who score in the highest percentile of skiing/snowboarding, teaching, technical knowledge, and who demonstrate exemplary willingness and ability to empower others to achieve success.
“PSIA has inspired me to push my limits to new heights and make the butterflies in my stomach fly in formation,” Hartman said. “I love sharing the passion [for skiing and instructing] with other members and passing it along to my guests. I am honored to receive this award, and can’t wait to see where else skiing can take me.”
Rachel grew up as an aspiring alpine ski racer in Alaska, collecting a gold medal at the Arctic Winter Games. All along, it was her goal to move to Colorado to become a ski instructor, and she is now in her fifth season as an instructor at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
“Year after year, the talent and passion of our Ski & Ride School Instructors continue to impress me,” exclaims Erica Mueller, Vice President of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. “With Dusty Dyar qualifying for the PSIA National Demo Team last spring and now Rachel Hartman receiving this award from her PSIA level III examiners, the resort couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments and what they bring as role models to the rest of the team.”
For guests interested in improving their skiing or riding, or for first-timers who want to pick up a new sport, Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers a wide range of lessons tailored to all ages and ability levels. By featuring some of the nation’s top ski instructors and emphasizing small class sizes, CBMR’s Ski and Ride School sets itself apart from other programs ensuring that participants get the most out of their day on the slopes.
To inquire about lessons, instructor availability and rates, guests may contact our Skier Services Department at 970-349-2211. With fresh snow and sunny days in the forecast, there is no better time to Inspire Your Passion.

Borick Scholars Weekend

Potential Mountaineers come to Western for a chance to earn scholarships through the Borick Innovation Project.

Staff Writer/ Grace Flynn

Prospective business students listen to a speaker. Photo by Grace Flynn

During the three day weekend of Feb. 17- 19, students were brought in from all over the nation to work together to create an idea and present it to faculty of the Borick Business building. This is the third year the event has been put on by the Business School.

“This year we had a total of 17 students attend this scholarship event, and this is the largest group we’ve had since starting. The question that they’re working to answer is ‘How might we reimagine the classroom experience to improve learning outcomes?’” said Annie Westbury, who was working the event.

Students started their weekend by learning some key ideas from Western professor Dr. Christopher Green during his Innovation Design Bootcamp Workshop. These ideas helped them to accomplish the task at hand, and allowed them to use their time to the best of their advantage.

A scholarship contender works on his project. Photo by Grace Flynn

“Steve Borick and Pete Sherman wanted to create a scholarship for the School of Business. We pitched to them the idea of the innovation weekend. We wanted to create something fun for students that was more than us just lecturing to them,” said Dr. Green.

The students are divided randomly into groups, and work together to design their project. The students have a full night to work to create a prototype to present to a board of judges. The next day, these creators present their ideas and then move on to preparing for individual interviews.

Working in the School of Business, these students also have a chance to talk and work with previous winners of this event. Current business and ICE students help to give these new students’ ideas to enhance their projects.

“During the last hour the group had to work, our project finally came together. It was a pretty stressful project but it was fun,” said Ashley Stewart, a business administration major with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, who attended this event – and won a scholarship last year.

The students recruited for this weekend need to have a 3.0 GPA at their current high school, received a 22 or higher on their ACT, and have applied and been accepted into Western.

If these students receive either first, second or third place on their group presentations, they will each receive a certain amount of money. The amount will differ for each place and for each event.

After the two days of hard working and scholarship earning, the students were given the chance to explore the valley by skiing at Crested Butte or cross country skiing with Wilderness Pursuits. Last winter, 80 percent of students who attended this event attended Western in the fall.