Category Archives: Commentary

Water Battle of Colorado

When it comes to the water battle in Colorado, the divide is much stronger between urban and rural than Democrat and Republican.  

We continually encourage urban areas to start conserving more and using less; we hope they make plans for water storage, then follow through on those plans. The last thing we want is for anyone to abandon those plans, stick a straw through the mountain and start siphoning our Western Slope treasure.

Be assured that Sen. Don Coram, Rep. Marc Catlin, both experts in the field, and I (Barbara McLachlan) are working together to make sure that doesn’t happen. Western Slope lawmakers know how important our natural resources are and we are committed to protecting our way of life.

The state’s Water Plan, a result of an ambitious two year consensus building process among stakeholders, also moves water policy in the right direction. Conservation goals have been created for cities, while greater leeway has been provided for agricultural producers. This is critical because of the way that conservation goals as a blunt instrument can divert water rights and access away from our crop producers and endanger the business of making our food.

A bill I am cosponsoring with Rep. Jeni Arndt, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, earned initial approval from the House this week. It is one of several bills designed to give the Water Plan a kick-start, providing a method to reuse and conserve water. It expands a pilot program in four basins–the South Platte, the Arkansas, the Rio Grande, and the Colorado–that permits farmers to fallow their property and lease the water rights to municipalities. The farmer wins by letting the land recover from years of the same crop, maintaining his or her water rights, and being reimbursed.

The municipality wins by obtaining a temporary water right to serve its citizens. Our ranchers and farmers are key to conservation efforts. They think long-term about water, they provide habitats for birds, and they know the land better than anyone. Providing them voluntary and flexible options to take off the pressure to overuse or lose is prudent policy.

 

Film Review: Logan

Action flick is dark and serves as an emotional farewell to Hugh Jackman’s X-Men tenure

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

Logan promises a final ride for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and delivers in this dark and violent neo-western. In addition to Jackman, the film also stars Dafne Keen in her first major film, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, and Patrick Stewart in his last appearance as Charles Xavier. Written and directed by James Mangold, the film was released on March 3, 2017 by Twentieth Century Fox.

Set in the year 2030 where mutants are all but extinct, Logan and Charles Xavier struggle to make a living while their bodies are decaying in their old age. When a young mutant girl named Laura enters their life, Logan reluctantly decides to become a hero one last time as he and Charles escort her in a journey that offers the promise of a hopeful future.

A major strength of Logan is its grounded setting in contrast to other superhero films. Besides the mutants and some cyborg henchmen, the film is largely free of science fiction and fantasy tropes aside from a few token elements to make it slightly futuristic. The story looks as if it could take place in the contemporary world, which makes it more engaging through the lack of fantasy elements.

Going with the grounded setting is the film’s dark mood and serious stakes. The violence is gory and not stylized, as ruthless mercenaries get chopped to pieces while they relentlessly chase the heroes, who are not in the best shape to defend themselves. Needless to say, the film is an edge of the seat affair that makes it clear lives are at stake, which makes it easy for the audience to stay engaged in the trio’s efforts.

The film is competently directed in the action department, as camera movements are steady and not too frenetic while giving the audience a clear view of what’s happening. The action is usually focused on hand to hand combat that ends with henchmen sliced up in a variety of bloody manners by mutant claws, while Logan’s age means his healing powers do not work well and force him to be careful. This causes the action to be low-key and full of tension, which offers a break from the over the top, explosion filled mayhem typically associated with blockbusters.

Not surprisingly, the film has quite a bit of emotion and heart wrenching moments for a story that concerns the end of an age. Both Logan and Charles are in quite the pitiful state when the audience meets them with equally broken bodies and minds, which makes their situation even more dire. There are also several scenes devoted to character development between the two and Laura, which offers some tender moments as their bond grows and they come to terms with their lives in a somber way.

While the film offers Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart delivering their best for their characters’ grand finale, the real star of the show is Dafne Keen as Laura. As a troubled mutant child with no social skills and most of her lines in Spanish, Keen gives an endearing performance that focuses mostly on body language over dialogue while commanding attention. Considering this is only her second acting credit, this makes her performance all the more powerful due to the amazing amount of restraint she exhibits by showing instead of telling the audience how her character feels and thinks.

There are some problems in the film despite its impressive attributes. Namely, the dark and depressing mood can be a bit of a turn-off, as not a lot goes well for the heroes throughout and they have to go through quite a bit of pain and effort to accomplish anything. Additionally, the story makes the X-Men films feel pointless as the efforts of Wolverine and Charles were all for naught when all the mutants died off.

Finally, the third act feels somewhat out of place with the rest of the film. Namely, some more hard science-fiction elements are introduced that clash with the more realistic atmosphere it had set up. As a result, they can feel out of place and make the viewer feel as if they are watching an almost entirely different movie.

Nevertheless, Logan is a well-directed action flick that manages to compensate for these flaws. With a large amount of character development and a low-key setting commanded by powerhouse performances, the film provides a thoughtful and smaller scale type of adventure than the superhero blockbuster typically offers. Overall, the film ends Hugh Jackman’s acting tenure as Wolverine on a high note that will leave viewers satisfied knowing he chose an appropriate story to end it with.

Relay for Life, locally!

Support our local cancer organization Living Journeys at Western’s 5th Annual Relay

Make a relay team and come enjoy a night full of games and fun, all dedicated to showing support to those who are fighting or have fought cancer. All event profits will be donated to Living Journeys.

April 1st, 2017

2:30-8:30 at the Mountaineer Field House

$3 per person, children under 6 free

Contact: maria.lopez@western.edu

Set collapses during theater rehearsal

Incident in Taylor Studio Theater leads to injuries and canceled show

Kennedy Sievers/Senior Staff Writer

A platform collapsed on stage during a rehearsal for Woyzeck Saturday, Mar. 4 in the Studio Theater. Five students—Noah Grutel-Hoyt, Lance Jones, Bella Lewis, Zack Prall, and Spencer Shiplett—were all standing on an eight-foot platform when it collapsed under their weight. Four of the students sustained injuries and went to the ER.

“Honestly, I still can’t believe it happened, though, all the signs were there. We’d been breaking steps on that stage for quite a while, hearing foreboding cracks and moans when we stepped in the wrong places. Still, it’s hard to imagine something like that happening until you’re right in the middle of it,” Lewis said.

Jones received a tetanus shot and staples in his hand, Lewis bruised her tailbone, Prall injured his knee, and Shiplett fractured his spine. All students involved were not severely injured and are recovering.

“There was a warning shot with the initial crack. Then, suddenly, I was on my back, and everyone was surrounding me, telling me to stay down. I’m lucky I didn’t get a spinal fracture with how I fell, and I’m glad no one got severely injured. It was scary, and, had they built the stage again, I probably wouldn’t have stepped on it,” Lewis said.

Western will be paying the students’ medical bills in full.

The cast and crew held a meeting Monday, Mar. 6 to discuss the accident. During the meeting, director Scott Little, Director of Theatre and Technical Director, claimed that the accident was most likely due to malfunctions with the materials used to build the set.

In the same meeting, the cast and crew resoundingly chose to work on a new show in place of Woyzeck called All in the Timing, a set of comedy one acts, which is set to premiere sometime in mid-to-late April.

 

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.

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.