Event Recap: Symphony In The Cities

On Saturday, July 27th, the City of Mission Viejo hosted The Symphony in the Cities at Newhart Middle School. I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the symphony, being stationed at the “Instrument Petting Zoo.” I helped teach children how to play a variety of instruments, including violin, viola, trumpet, flute, and a few types of percussion instruments.

Although it was an extremely hot, the even was really fun. There were horse drawn carriages, bountiful stands and booths for entertainment, and ice water so that everyone stayed hydrated. The entire event was free (excluding ticket costs) and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra also performed at 7 PM.

All of the volunteer coordinators were super knowledgeable and kind, and they answered any questions we had. It was extraordinarily well-organized, and the kids loved our booth! (At least, they seemed to.)

Additionally, the Symphony was an incredible opportunity for me to make friends. The volunteers are my booth and I all got super close throughout the course of the extreme heat of our 4-hour shift. We are actually making plans to volunteer at more evets like this already!

Overall, Mission Viejo’s Symphony in the Cities was a really fun, albeit boiling, event. I enjoyed volunteering and teaching children about one of my passions, and I loved watching the orchestra perform. I ardently recommend this event, and if you didn’t go this year, you should plan to go in 2020. It really is a treat!

-Arushi S.

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

There are a number of reasons for which this book is famous, but my favorite is that The Bell Jar is the only novel ever written by Sylvia Plath, who has only published two other works (both are books of poetry). In fact, Plath took her own life about a month after The Bell Jar was published, famously putting her head into the oven and turning it on. Her novel is semi-autobiographical, as it follows her life story, changing only the names of her acquaintances and the mental health treatments that the main character, Esther, endures.

While the plot of the novel is intriguing, the most important aspect for me was psychological. The main character, Esther Greenwood, compares life to a bell jar, suffocating her when it covers her completely, and letting her breath when lifted. The bell jar’s meaning has been debated, but I believe that it symbolizes the box that society and Esther’s own perfectionist ideology create. Esther actually spirals into a depressive state, and this peaks when she attempts suicide via overdose in her other’s basement, almost exactly like Plath did with her mother’s sleeping pills under her house in 1953.

After her suicide attempt, Esther spends some time at a mental institution, where she is prescribed electroshock therapy, which was a form of therapy for depression used in the 1950s, in which electric shocks were administered until the patient had a seizure. Guess who else was prescribed electroshock therapy for years? Sylvia Plath- the sheer number of details that match between the novel and its author are the reasons for the novel being called semi-autobiographical.

Overall, this novel is absolutely fantastic, and I would certainly recommend it or anyone looking for a mental and psychological eye-opener. Plath’s detailed insight into mental illnesses that women suffered through during the early to mid-1900s as well as the treatments for these illnesses is truly awakening to the mind. A true work of art, The Bell Jar is a perfect novel for someone looking for psychological semi-fiction.

-Arushi S. 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Avengers: Endgame

As all of you probably know, Marvel Studios just released the record-shattering finale to the ‘Avengers’ movie series. It is the only film in history to make over $1 billion in its debut, breaking the record previously held by its prequel, Avengers: Infinity War. Furthermore, it broke the record, which was also previously held by ‘Infinity War,’ for most money made opening weekend in the United States. It managed to score a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an A+ on CinemaScore. Needless to say, this movie was groundbreaking and has definitely scored a place in the cinematic hall of fame.

I don’t even know where to start with this movie, but I can warn you that there will be spoilers in this review. I think I’ll begin with the groundbreaking female empowerment exhibited in the film. It’s been well known that women will play a strong role in the next movement of Marvel’s plotlines after the release of movies like ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Captain Marvel.’ But ‘Endgame’ really went above and beyond in this area- there was a moment during the final battle which I loved. Spider-Man questions Captain Marvel, and all of our favorite female superheroes, such as Shuri, Okoye, Gamora, Nebula, Pepper Potts, The Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Valykrie, rally behind her. The movie also touches on core female character from the past, such as Frigga and Peggy Carter. Additionally, Marvel gives Natasha Romanov a beautiful heroic send-off, with Clint Barton and Wanda Maximoff paying respects to her sacrifice.

To add to the wonder of the movie, the story-line was perfect. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed and cried at the same time. One of my favorite pieces of the movie was Tony Stark’s new family. He married Pepper and had a beautiful daughter. I have wanted to see Tony flourish as the perfect father he never had for what seems like forever. Even though Tony ends up dying after using the infinity stones to defeat Thanos’ army, I cherished the scenes featuring the Stark family. Additionally, I loved the character development for Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, and Thor. Steve finally opened up and let loose, starting a post-snap therapy group and letting loose a little bad language here and there. Bruce Banner finally came to terms with his other half, introducing Professor Hulk to the MCU and becoming an instant sensation with the Avenger fanbase in New York. Thor’s development, on the other hand, was not exactly positive. The viewer sees him spiral after the immense losses he has suffered- the deaths of his brother, mother, father, and half his people. He has become a drunkard, pot-bellied and lazy. The viewer finally sees the hidden side of Thor, the one he always covers up with his relentless positive attitude.

Overall, I thought this movie was perfect and served its purpose (to transition from Phase 3 to Phase 4) excellently. I would really recommend seeing this movie to Marvel fans, since you do need some background to understand what is happening. However, if you have not seen the movies, I would suggest that you do, just so that you can understand this one. This movie was absolutely amazing, it satisfied me and made me feel all sorts of wonderful feelings.

-Arushi S.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice is regarded as one of the most romantic stories of all time. Published in 1813, the plot centers around Elizabeth Bennett, who mistakenly makes hasty judgments and must come to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential. Her father, Mr. Bennett, is the owner of a large estate, but it is entailed, meaning that none of his five daughters can inherit the property. Since Mrs. Bennett is not wealthy, one of the daughters must marry into wealth to financially support the family, should Mr. Bennett pass away. Eventually, the famous Mr. Darcy enters the scene, and he and Elizabeth fall into a passionate, albeit begrudging love. A story of the complexity of romance ensues, much to teenage girls’ delight.

I, personally, love this book. I find it amusing and intriguing, what with its layered characters and carefully developed plot. The novel has been famed for centuries and it is definitely easy to see why. Pride and Prejudice is one of the most critically acclaimed novels that has ever been written. I have read this novel countless times, and it never ceases to appeal to me. If you are ever looking for a beautifully written novel, make sure to give Pride and Prejudice a try. Simply put, it is truly a piece of art- Austen’s carefully crafted characters resonate within the reader, and one can’t help but become ensnared in the intricately woven story.  Pride and Prejudice is definitely a lovely read, and, as Caroline Bingley would say, “After all, there is no enjoyment like reading!”

-Arushi S. 

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Theater Review: Dear Evan Hansen

The Tony-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is currently on tour around the US, and I was lucky enough to snag tickets for a show in Costa Mesa. I had already listened to the soundtrack more times than I could count, but I was ridiculously excited anyway. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time, and it is the second musical ever that I have seen live. And, let me tell you, it was a treat.

This musical addresses one of today’s biggest issues: teen suicide and anxiety. The main character, Evan Hansen, has extreme social anxiety, and his therapist tells him to write positive letters to himself. However, when he prints a failed version one of these letters (it was very pessimistic) out in his school’s computer lab, Connor Murphy, a fellow student, snatches it from him and shoves him. Later, the characters find that Connor has committed suicide, and they find Evan’s letter in his pocket. They think that the letter is Connor’s suicide note, addressed to Evan, and them Evan and his family friend, Jared, get dragged into a huge mess of lies and deception. Evan and Jared write fake emails to Connor to “prove” that they are friends, and they start a huge project to spread awareness for Connor’s death. Evan even gets together with his long-time crush, Zoe Murphy, who also happens to be Connor’s sister.

However, nothing this perfect can last, especially if it is based on a lie. Evan’s mom finds out about the Connor project and how he has been spending almost every night at the Murphys’ home. The whole charade falls apart, Evan eaves the Connor Project, and he and Zoe break up. Although he and Zoe do make peace at the end of the musical, I was still in tears throughout the entirety of Act 2.

Although the soundtrack was very differet from the actual live musical, both are thoroughly enjoyable. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time for its storyline and beautifully written characters, and seeing it live is not something that I will ever forget. This musical is truly fantastic, and I would definitely encourage seeing it if possible.

-Arushi S.

Film Review: Mary Poppins Returns

I was utterly ecstatic when I heard in 2017 that there was going to be a Mary Poppins sequel. My excitement tripled when I heard that it would star not only Emily Blunt, but also Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, In the Heights, and 21 Chump Street, three of my all-time favorite musicals. So one could say that I had a lot of anticipation for this movie.

However, I was not without my doubts. I was afraid that this new sequel might not fully capture the magic that was definitely present in the first film. Perhaps, I thought, they might use modern special effects to create real-looking penguins for Mary Poppins to dance with. Now, while some would not mind this type of movie, it would ruin the film for me, as the animations in the original Mary Poppins are part of what makes it so special to me.

Yet the movie was perfect. The producers kept the animations of old, and, while there were a brand new cast and an entirely new collection of voices, the spirit of the soundtrack remained the same. They even managed to get a hold of Dick Van Dyke and Meryl Streep for a special appearance. I cried, I laughed, and I related to many of the characters. The plot was fantastic, and while I will try not to spoil, the resolution that Mary Poppins and Jack came up with was the cherry-on-top of the film for me.

Overall, this movie couldn’t have been better, and I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t already seen it to go do so right now. The beautiful London scenery, the enticing plot, and the cheerful characters are guaranteed to give Mary Poppins Returns a special place in your heart.

-Arushi S. 

Film Review: The Grinch (2018)

Recently, I saw the new remake of The Grinch, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, I have to admit that Cumberbatch was one of the main reasons I decided to see the movie since I have been a big fan of his for some time, but I was also curious to see what the movie industry has managed to come up with since the iconic Jim Carrey version. I was not in the least bit let down.

This remake was, I daresay, a cinematic masterpiece. Not to be dramatic, but every aspect of it went beyond my expectations. It was funny, emotional, and the Grinch himself was ridiculously relatable. I’m going to do my best to keep this review devoid of spoilers, but I can’t make any promises. I’m not usually a fan of themed stories, but Dr. Suess’ works lit up my childhood, and The Grinch has always been one of my favorites.

First of all, I adored the advertising for this movie. The producers’ slogans were aimed directly at millennials and Generation Z. Now, I am part of the infamous “Gen Z,” so I found all the publicity absolutely hilarious, and have been drawn to the movie because of it.

Furthermore, the movie itself enraptured me. Some of my favorite bits were (SPOILER ALERT!!) Cindy Lou Who loyal group of friends, Frank the reindeer’s adorable family, and the Grinch’s Christmas gift for his dog, Max. Also, I really appreciated how there was a narration throughout the movie, and that it was made up of lines from the original book by Dr. Suess, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Overall, this remake of The Grinch was, in my opinion, absolutely fantastic, from the advertising to the little details within the movie itself.

-Arushi S.