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What to watch in the Eagles’ nest: Take #1

What’s it all about?: “What to Watch in the Eagles’ Nest” is a column written by Opinion Page Editor, Alex Armbruster, which reviews television shows and movie recommendations to Eyrie readers.

How the scoring system works:

Each show or movie is scored on a 1 to 5 scale of “talons” (similarly to how one might score them with 1 to 5 stars):

1 talon = meh 

2 talons = okay, decent

3 talons = good

4 talons = great

5 talons = fantastic

This scoring system is used across four categories: Plot, Acting & Directing, Creativity, and Impact.

  • Plot: Is the plot intriguing, interesting, imaginative? Is the story well written? Is the story flat or are there distinct plot points, twists and turns, etc.?
  • Acting & Directing: Are the actors reading words off a page or are they creating a believable story? Does the director effectively emphasize key perspectives or storylines of the story? How is the quality on both ends?
  • Creativity: Is the story new, innovative, and original? If the story is not a completely original idea or concept, then what unique spin does it take?
  • Impact: Is the story relevant to its intended audience? Can the audience relate to the story or take away anything from viewing it? Do the story’s themes or ideas impact our community?

Finally, each show or movie is given an “Overall Rating” from 1 to 5 talons, taking into account the ratings of each of the individual categories.

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TV Show: “Grand Army” (2020, TV-MA)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Genre: Teen Drama

Scoring:

  • Plot: 4/5 talons
  • Acting & Directing: 3.5/5 talons
  • Creativity: 4/5 talons
  • Impact: 5/5 talons

Overall Rating: 4/5 talons

“Grand Army” follows the lives of students at Brooklyn’s Grand Army High School, a public high school for kids gifted in all facets of the arts and sports. Across each episode, perspectives shift from one student to another, depicting real life financial, social, and racial conflicts they face, as well as various other interpersonal and societal issues. 

One of the main focal points of the show, where many story lines branch off from, is the sexualt assault of a girl named Joey, a popular girl with progressive views and a close-knit friend group who are among some of the show’s primary characters.

Though her harsh and disturbing storyline unfolds very abruptly and surprisingly, it expresses adamantly what the show is about, that everything and everyone are not always what they seem and that issues deeper than just simply homework penetrate the lives of modern day teens.

Taking place in a school community situated in urban Brooklyn, New York, “Grand Army’s” story may seem a thousand miles away. Though in actuality, its characters, issues, and messages are universal to teenagers and school communities nationwide. 

Similarly to teens at Grand Army High School, all high schools, including Godiwn, have students who struggle with identity, connection, and “fitting-in” on top of struggles at home, battles with substance abuse, mental health issues, racial prejudice, and even internal wounds inflicted by sexual assault. 

Like in “Grand Army,” social media only tends to fuel these issues, publicizing the personal and painful experiences of peers and creating doubt and self-hatred in many of our students. 

From Joey, we catch a glimpse of the reality of sexual assault and substance abuse. We see that these issues are not exclusive to one group or another, but that anyone can be affected by them. Joey’s story, along with those of the other students at Grand Army, expresses a raw and true reality that has been void of our television screens thus far. 

Often with new shows, especially those casting novice actors, there is the possibility of less than satisfactory performances, or on the other hand, possibly awe inspiring acting. In “Grand Army,” talent seems to win out, with the majority of its actors spewing with potential for industry greatness. 

While “Grand Army” may act as a wake up call for viewers who are unaware of the wide reaching conflicts within present-day high school communities, it is also a story of friendship, connection, and unity within a confusing and combative world and a must-see for teens and adults alike.

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Movie: “Speak” (2005, PG-13)

Where to Stream: Hulu

Genre: Drama

Scoring:

  • Plot: 4/5 talons
  • Acting & Directing: 4/5 talons
  • Creativity: 4/5 talons
  • Impact: 5/5 talons

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 talons

“Speak” is a movie adapted from a book of the same name which details the story of a high school freshman named Melinda. 

Through snippets of a summer party shown throughout the events of the present-day, “Speak” depicts the aftermath of Melinda’s sexual assault by the school’s star football player and her struggle to find courage after months of silence and social ostracization. 

Though Melinda’s story could be pinned as another case of teen sexual assault, it is the expression of her pain through silence and the way she utilizes her growing relationship with art in her healing process that makes her story so captivating, poignant, and uniquely expressive of something that is not so uncommon in and of itself. 

Even as an older story, “Speak’s” message transcends its 20-year time gap with the present-day. 

This story shows how girls like Melinda, girls in our community, can and have been victimized in the same way, fighting their own quiet battles of survival. 

Melinda’s occasional blunt and witty insights on the world around her also highlight how young people today often cope with their own personal tragedies through comedy, making light of their struggles in order to distract from the deep seeded pain they are experiencing.

Capturing all of this in her performance, Kristen Stewart is inspiring as Melinda, expressing so much of what her character is feeling in such little words. Michael Angarano, best known for his role as Will Stronghold in “Sky High,” is also an inspirational force as Dave Petrakis, a tenacious peer who acts as a beacon of hope for Melinda.

“Speak” is a powerful story of healing and expression which delves deep into a cultural conflict that is still prevalent in our society today. Though only depicting a singular story of struggle, “Speak” reflects the experiences of many teens and the courage of so many survivors.

Melinda’s story is an eye-opening, emotional experience which I believe young people as well as adults need to see. Though “Speak” may leave you crying, it will also leave you with new perspectives of the people, peers, friends, and family that surround you everyday.

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