Category Archives: Features

Oscar Short Films – Double Header

In coordination with the Crested Butte Film Festival, the GAC presents a monthly film held on the 4th Friday of the month. This March is a double header! View the best of the best of the Oscar nominated Action Short films on Friday, March 24 and the best Animated Shorts on Saturday, March 25. Popcorn and full bar available. Admission: $10. Doors open at 6:30, film begins at 7 pm. Tickets available for pre-purchase. Box office at gunnisonartscenter.org, 102 S. Main St or by calling 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.

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.

 

Western community begins to move mountains

Students and faculty showed up to SGA’s Inclusion Walk

Roberta Marquette-Strain / Senior Staff Writer

For the past two months, the Student Government Association (SGA) has been preparing for the Inclusion Walk to kick-off their new student-led program, Moving Mountains. The Moving Mountains Initiative aims to create a stronger community on campus by focusing on inclusivity and acceptance, while also challenging students to partake in tough conversations dealing with race, sexual orientation, and other topics.

The Inclusion Walk did just that.

Inclusion 4 – The crowd poses for a photo after the walk. Photo by Roberta-Marquette

Held in the Mountaineer Field House on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 22, around 100 students and faculty members showed up to stand for inclusion on campus. Following an introduction and explanation of Moving Mountains by SGA President Flynn Guerrieri, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Melanie Hulbert gave a speech focused on the importance of understanding one’s identity as well as accepting others’ identity. “Western, it is wise to see people for who they are, to acknowledge that people’s experience may be different than yours. It is wise to feel uncomfortable and push yourself into place, with people that look different than you, that speak different, that think different.”

Hulbert touched on her own experience with learning to push herself to be more understanding of others’ backgrounds and open to difficult conversations. She referred to herself as a “recovering racist.”

Inclusion 5 – Bobbie Hamblin signs her name to the One Western poster. Photo by Roberta Marquette-Strain

“I’m still trying to unlearn those messages that whether consciously or not, got deep into my brain as a little child,” Hulbert said honestly. “I’m still trying to learn what it means to think in a diverse and inclusive way.”

Hulbert ended her speech by asking the crowd what kind of ancestor they want be, and what legacy they want to leave behind for future Western students. For Hulbert, she hoped that the Inclusion Walk would set the foundation for the future of a more inclusive, diverse, and accepting campus.

When the time for the inclusion walk came, where the attendees walked twice around the track, Hulbert asked them to talk and walk beside someone they didn’t know and most importantly, didn’t look like them.

When discussing the purpose of the Inclusion Walk, Hulbert said, “(We will walk) to give expression to our desire that at Western, we will work everyday to fight hate and encourage open conversation about race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, political identity. We will walk because we are a community committed to inclusion and respect and that we will do anything we can to break down the walls or barriers that stand between us. That’s an inclusion walk.”

After the walk, the attendees got to have some fun on the inflatables SGA provided. Some students went head to head on an obstacle course while other, more daring students went for a ride on a mechanical bull.

Clubs like Spectrum, which is the LGBT+ group, and Program Council had booths at the event to talk to attendees about what their clubs do to support an inclusive campus.

Students Ethan Menzies and Ariana Sorensen were interested in the event because of its focus on inclusivity, but also to come together to help build a stronger community. “It’s an event that has meaning, and the goal is to get people together to create a better environment we want to live in,” Menzies said.

Sorensen agreed, adding, “I feel like this is a good step towards making progress.”

SGA member Ashley Nguyen was required to come, but said she would have come anyway if she wasn’t a part of SGA to meet new people and help set the foundation for a more inclusive campus. Nguyen is also a member of the Asian Pacific Islanders club, which is associated with the Multicultural Center (MCC). For her, inclusion is incredibly important, and she has had personal experiences of being excluded, “I went to an all-white high school, so growing up I always felt not included, and honestly not important. But coming here and starting fresh and being a part of the MCC, I feel like I belong and have a place on campus. I’m very excited to see what (Moving Mountains) will do.”

Inclusion 7 – Members of the Pathfinder magazine painted a mural during the event. Photo by Roberta-Marquette

Following the impressive turnout for the event, Guerrieri is looking forward to what comes of the program in the future, and hopes to see it continue for many years to come.  

The Inclusion Walk was considered successful by the SGA members, but they recognize that this is just the first step. In her own speech, Hulbert acknowledged this as well, and pushed the students to continue to lend their voices to fight discrimination, color blindness, and so on. Because before the Western community can move mountains, they have to move stones first.

Transportation Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Students in Southwest Colorado ride buses across the state to get to their sporting events.  Business owners travel miles and miles on our highways to haul goods and visit other regions. Tourists depend on safe roads to drive to our scenic towns. Moms and dads are spending more and more time on the road just to get to and from work.

While Colorado’s population has grown by 53 percent since 1990, highway lane miles have grown by just two percent. At the state legislature, everyone seems to agree that we need to do something about Colorado transportation, but the solutions differ. Some legislators are pushing the conversation toward bonds, while others have focused on new revenue.

Bonds can be an important tool, but we have to make sure we can pay back that debt. The problem with bonds is that without a clearly identified funding stream to pay off the bonds, we could end up robbing our schools to pay for our roads. Club 20, a collection of businesses and communities on the Western Slope, has made it clear that they will not support bonding legislation unless there is a dedicated source of revenue to pay for it.

A gas tax has been recommended as a revenue stream to pay for projects and maintenance. The gas tax, which has been set at 22 cents since 1991, makes up the largest portion of revenue from within the state.  

Unfortunately, changes in vehicles have made this tax less fair and less uniform in effect. The popularity of alternative fuel vehicles in the city means that drivers who depend on more traditional vehicles for agricultural and industrial work end up paying more. A Prius and an old Dodge pickup both tear up the roads they use, but only one of the drivers is really picking up the bill.

Some transportation gurus offer up a more precise road usage tax. This would involve collecting data and information about every driver’s habits in the state. Without a 24/7 GPS transmitter in every vehicle you can’t discount out-of-state miles, and that’s obviously an issue for Durango. But such a system raises serious privacy concerns.

An increase in the state sales tax may provide a reliable revenue source that doesn’t leave rural Coloradans paying more for less. But sales taxes are regressive, meaning they hit low-income families the hardest. And we must consider the impact this could have on our businesses and tourism industry.

If and when we have to vote on a new source of transportation funding, we will have to weigh all the costs and benefits of our different options. Bonds, the gas tax, and sales tax have to be understood not just in terms of what they do, but how they work in relation to each other.

We need dependable transportation funding so that we can address our broad array of needs. It’s not just about highways and safe shoulders for mountain roads, but about bike paths and public transit. We need the kinds of transportation that give people access to jobs and make our choices more sustainable for the environment.

I’m interested in what you think!

Barbara.mclachlan.house@state.co.us

Western Students Stand with Standing Rock

Thirteen students join the Sioux tribe and water protectors against the DAPL

Roberta Marquette-Strain/Senior Staff Writer

The group at Standing Rock. Photo courtesy of Dustin Crowner
The group at Standing Rock. Photo courtesy of Dustin Crowner

One cannot ask any of the students who traveled to Standing Rock Indian Reservation what the experience was like and expect a simple answer. There isn’t one. “It was a full range of emotions,” said group member Dustin Crowner. “We experienced truly beautiful things as well as terrible things sometimes within an hour. It’s hard to convey a sentence or a simple conversation.”

The 13 students, Crowner, Cody Bontecou, Delaney Adrian, Landan Schaller, Bailey Stewart, Chris Doucet, Uma Costanza, Jodie Howard, Jessica Howard, Madison Manning, Lozen Miller, Jared Allen, and Louissa Rozendaal traveled to the North Dakota reservation November 19-22 to join forces with the Sioux Native American tribe and protesters, who call themselves water protectors, who are standing against the planned construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The DAPL would be built half a mile from Standing Rock, and would require digging up sacred Sioux land and could contaminate the reservation’s water.

The front line following Backwater Sunday. The barrier was built to protect them from the water and rubber bullets. Photo courtesy of Dustin Crowner
The front line following Backwater Sunday. The barrier was built to protect them from the water and rubber bullets. Photo courtesy of Dustin Crowner

The pipeline and the implications it could have for the land are not solely what influenced the group to go. “It’s about all of the people who have been oppressed,” Costanza explained. “All of these people are fighting for others to recognize their worth that we have ignored for years and years. The oppression of these people and oppression of the Earth go hand in hand.” During their time at the reservation, the group saw the oppression first hand, but also encountered beautiful moments of community, love, and trust.

The group did not know exactly what they were going to encounter, but any negative thought passed as soon as they arrived in North Dakota as they were setting up their camp the first night in frigid temperatures. A car drove by and the driver offered for them to stay in their kitchen tent they had set up. “It was the first thing we were really hit with, the generosity,” said Schaller.

Their first night set the tone for the rest of the trip. They were no longer just a group of college students from Colorado. They were members of this community, all gathered together for a larger cause – to stand with their brothers and sisters. The unity was felt across the camp, as Schaller explained. “The love and unity in the camp is kind of like a wave, a giant current that you can resist, but it takes everybody with it.”

The Standing Rock community operates like a “well-functioning commune” as Howard explained it.  Everyone took the time to help each other, whether it was watching someone’s children, washing dishes, or doing chores. The students also contributed to the camp by helping them prepare for the winter by chopping wood and building structures. They were also able to donate clothing, firewood, propane, and other supplies some, of which were donated by the Gunnison community.

A camp elder Joe holds a rubber bullet that hit him the night before. Photo courtesy of Delaney Adrian
A camp elder Joe holds a rubber bullet that hit him the night before. Photo courtesy of Delaney Adrian

Their entire trip was not spent completing these responsibilities however. It was only the second night when half the group found themselves in the middle of an extreme protest between the protectors and law enforcement. The two group’s tensions have run high throughout the months of the DAPL protest. This specific event, referred to as Backwater Sunday, is just one of the many clashes the groups have had.

Water cannons were shot off, tear gas was used, and rubber bullets were targeted toward the protectors. Half of the students found themselves in the middle of the group of about 400 protectors. “As soon as we exited the camp and went over the hill, we immediately saw the lights, the water, the chaos,” Crowner said. “As a group, we kept inching up, growing more and more curious and before we knew it we were right within it all.” Bontecou said they inched so close, that they themselves were teargassed. The group documented the event through photos and videos and watched as people around them vomited and passed out from the gas.

Despite the pandemonium, the large community did not falter. The 400-some group worked together as team. They warned people not to run as the tear gas was shot as it would cause more chaos, and those injured were carried out. The community never stopped looking out for their family. “It’s like everyone viewed the people around them more important than themselves and it helps create this unity,” said Costanza.  

The unity of the community within the Standing Rock Reservation and its supporters world-wide is ultimately the biggest thing that Schaller has taken from the experience. He believes that the DAPL has stirred many to think more about the importance of the environment, people from all walks of life, and of course, community. “At the end of the day, this battle is going to be won in people’s hearts and minds. Not at the front line. (If the DAPL is approved) everything is stacked against us, but this movement has taken a life of its own. In that sense, we’ve already won.”

For those interested in joining the battle, the group meets Tuesdays and Thursdays in the library’s mural room on the first floor at 5 p.m. They have also created Go Fund Me pages, one Donations to Standing Rock Protest goes directly to the reservation, and the other Send Western to Standing Rock raises money for possible future trips, which has already sent a second group out to North Dakota December 2.

However, the biggest thing one can do to help out the cause according to the group and  the Sioux elders, is to educate oneself on the topic, putting one’s heart in the right place, and understand that while anyone is welcome to join the cause, this is the Sioux’s fight and protectors need to do it in their way.

Even though we’ve had a victory recently, we must continue to be vigilant and to support the protectors and stand for Standing Rock.

Western Young Life Takes Part in the First Ever College Weekend in Colorado

Morgan Aragon / Special to the Top

WSCU Young Life embarked on a road trip with 20 Western students to Crooked Creek Ranch, joining over a dozen Colorado and Utah colleges for a few days of rest and fun.

On Oct. 21, five cars lined up outside the Pinnacles apartments, waiting for students to arrive. Patagonia jackets on and Chaco’s packed, Western Young Life members were thrilled for a weekend getaway to retreat and grow deeper in their faith with Jesus Christ.

Young Life College, a national organization focused on building relationships and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, traveled four hours to Fraser, CO, where the prestigious Crooked Creek Ranch resides. Dozens of schools traveled far distances to this ranch for College Weekend. This is the first ever College Weekend in Colorado since Young Life was started in 1941 by Jim Rayburn.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in my college experience so far. By being here, I’ve been able to get to know the other girls better, and through that, experience God in a deeper way that I hadn’t before” said Western freshman, Madison Northen.

Activities such a ziplining, rock climbing, singing, games, volleyball, ping pong, a Halloween dance, the Young Life store, and so much more awaited the college students as they drove into the gates of camp. The retreat lasted only three short days, but the sight of familiar faces and relationships developing with others and their Heavenly Father left students with an eternal impact.

The Western students, along with hundreds of others, gathered before “club,” playing games and singing songs. As the doors swung open, students came rushing in to sing songs and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. San Diego State Young Life Director, John C. Byard, flew from Southern California to share the story of Jesus in three club sessions. His enthusiasm and love for Christ served as a vessel to students’ hearts.  

“Camp was so much more than I expected it to be. It gave me the opportunity to take a serious look at my faith while also giving me endless opportunities to build relationships with tons of new people,” said Western freshman, Lindsey Herman.

Students from UNC, CSM, UCC, WSCU, and more parted ways once again on the last day back to their schools, refreshed and with a strengthened relationship with Jesus, radically changed and motivated to make a difference on their college campus.

Young Life College meets every Monday at 8:01 p.m. at Webster Hall: 107 N Iowa Street. Small groups, for deeper conversation about faith, meet every week. Girls meet at 8:01pm on Wednesday nights at Brushfire Coffeehouse. Guys meet every Thursday at 8:01pm at 910 Sunny Slope Drive. For more information, visit Western Young Life’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Film Review: The Magnificent Seven

Film provides action and characters, but is lacking polish needed for long-term appeal.

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

the-magnificent-seven-international-poster-2

The Magnificent Seven proposes an amazing adventure with unforgettable characters, but is ironically nothing special. A reimagination of the classic 1960 Western of the same name, the film stars an ensemble cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Haley Bennett. The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua and was released on September 23, 2016.

Set in 1879 during the Wild West, a California mining town is terrorized by corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue and his gang of hitmen. Angered after a raid claims her husband, townswoman Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) recruits a band of seven outlaws from varying backgrounds to train the town’s civilians and drive out the bandits.

Among its strengths, The Magnificent Seven manages to provide some decent characterization to its titular seven heroes and makes them all distinct in appearance in and personality. From Denzel Washington’s stone cold bounty hunter to Chris Pratt’s charming trickster Josh, all of the seven are a unique and colorful bunch that are fun to watch together. While this characterization is nothing more than surface level archetypical behavior, the viewer is never confused as to which character is which during the run time.

In addition, while nothing spectacular, the actors do a commendable job in their roles. Denzel Washington comes across as convincing in his role as hardened bounty hunter Sam, while Chris Pratt is simultaneously charming and funny. In addition, Vincent D’Onofrio plays an over the top, but endearing role as wild man Jack Horne, and Byung-hun Lee steals the show through the fighting prowess of Billy. In fact, the actors and their talent assembled together is good enough that one might be convinced they are too good for this sort of film.

If there is one thing the film does right, it’s the action scenes the Magnificent Seven get into. Gunshots rebound and spread all over the place as the characters fight to survive, along with a healthy dose of dirty fighting that allows the fights to switch from gun duels to brawling at will. The added creativity, combined with the steady and focused camera work, make for some entertaining sequences that will catch the audience’s attention.

While these sequences and characters provide a great foundation to build on, The Magnificent Seven does not do much with its interesting characters. Notably, Haley Bennett’s Emma has the potential to have an engaging character arc rivaling the presence of the band of heroes, but largely stays out of focus once they arrive. Considering the Seven are assembled based on her desire for revenge, it seems like the movie forgets why she was even there until the climax requires her to battle the bandits alongside the band of heroes.

Another issue is that aside from the battle with the bandits, the Seven do not face any real hardships or developments that force them to change in character. Rather, they get along rather well with everyone and have no dark secrets or traits that could make them distrust each other or make them consider not helping the mining town. Considering the diverse heroes include an African American bounty hunter, an exiled Comanche warrior, a Mexican bandit and an ex-Confederate soldier to name a few, the film could have gotten more mileage by having the heroes be in conflict with each other over their differing backgrounds.

Finally, the film plays rather too close to traditional Western and action conventions to be its own thing. The plot is little more than the same basic steps followed by the original Magnificent Seven, to the point that some dialogue matches up. On top of it, the film contains the old familiar ride off into the sunset and a rather one-dimensional evil villain too common among formulaic action films.

Overall, The Magnificent Seven isn’t quite as magnificent as its title suggests. It’s too formulaic and suffers narrative problems while simultaneously offering some fun action moments. It’s not terrible, but not outstanding either. It is the type of film that will be good for a single viewing, but not strong enough to engage viewers on repeat viewings.

Press Release: Gunnison Valley Wellness & Health Guide Emerges from OVPP

The Gunnison Valley Wellness & Health Guide launches online on Oct. 27, offering a comprehensive listing of services to the people of the Gunnison Valley.

The online directory ( www.gvwellnessguide.org) is housed on the Gunnison County Public Libraries’ website. Because the idea of “health” is so broad, and so personal, the team working on the guide realized that it needed to include multiple categories. These categories include physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual well-being, as well as basic needs such as where to find food, exercise/recreation, education, and companionship. “The last category was especially challenging,” said Maryo Gard Ewell, project coordinator.  Ewell is director of programs at the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley (CFGV). “We knew that an important predictor of health is whether people feel they belong in a place.” As a result, the “Get Connected” category identifies support groups and clubs, as well as suggestions on how to locate other places to connect that might not be listed.

The team also recognized the diversity of approaches within each category. There are almost 600 listings in the Guide, the result of months of research and verification.  The Guide had its roots in two initially unrelated projects. The first was the “Health Equity” committee of CFGV in which a group of volunteers studied ways in which equitable access to health care could be achieved.  The second was the One Valley Prosperity Project (OVPP), where people identified “Community Health & Equity” as an action area – with a resource guide as an objective.  The two committees merged, and the Guide is the result.

Pam Montgomery, Executive Director of CFGV, noted that some volunteers, like Emergency Medical Technician Arden Anderson, contributed as many as 200 hours gathering, validating and organizing information.  “It was a total team effort,” she said.  “Healthcare providers, Western students, representatives of the League of Women Voters, nonprofits, government representatives, ministers, County Public Health staff, and so many more helped. It will be updated quarterly.”

Cash and in-kind support for the Guide has been provided by El Pomar, the Gunnison Country Times, the Gunnison Country Shopper, the Gunnison Public Libraries, and The Colorado Trust.