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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

Pathfinder’s 2023 favorites

The best of movies, music and the Pathfinder itself
A scrapbook-style graphic that reads Pathfinder Favs.
Lauren Holcomb
As 2023 comes to a close, it’s time to celebrate the many cultural developments made throughout the year.

Dozens of important world events happen every year, yet frequently we find years less defined by political developments but instead by cultural ones. The 1920s, in most minds, aren’t associated with things such as the Wall Street Crash, Benito Mussolini or the 19th Amendment but instead cultural icons like Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong and Josephine Baker. One hundred years from now, 2023 will likely be remembered the same way: for its many contributions to arts and culture. There were many incredible movies, albums and Pathfinder articles this year, and here are some compilations of our favorites. 


Movies

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Many movie fans of the pretentious persuasion feel as though cinema is a dying art, but it was alive and well in 2023. However, six in particular stood out amongst the rest. (Lauren Holcomb)

“Barbie” 

As a girl who grew up in the 2010s, I had a bin full of Barbies, Skippers and exactly one Ken. I was never a “girly girl,” but any sort of qualms I had about gender roles disappeared the minute I began to play with my Barbies. The adventures and journeys these woman-shaped hunks of ethylene-vinyl acetate had would put Shakespeare to shame. Now, as a decidedly “girly girl” 17-year-old, “Barbie” represents so much more than just playtime.

Written by superteam director Greta Gerwig — director of “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” — and Noah Baumbach — writer of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Frances Ha” — “Barbie” released on July 21, 2023, and soon grossed over $1.4 billion globally, making it the highest-earning Warner Bros. film of all time. This movie had everything, a talented cast, a stupendous soundtrack and enough pink to cause a global shortage

All of Greta Gerwig’s prior directorial pursuits have been about themes related to girlhood, but Barbie is by far the most notably female-oriented movie. The movie started with just a comedic script with marketably safe feminist undertones, but it soon tackled difficult themes like motherhood, aging, patriarchy, self-esteem and equality, which are all major components and are handled with the care they deserve. This movie was described by many as a “love letter” to women, a description that I feel is indisputable.

Gerwig’s ingenious and devoted screenwriting featured small yet notable details that made me feel as though I was watching a film about my own childhood Barbies. Details like Barbie being 23% bigger than everything in Barbieland, how she takes a completely dry shower fully clothed and my personal favorite, the way she floats between floors because no girl ever makes the Barbies use the stairs.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse”

In a world where “superhero movie” has become synonymous with “mind-numbingly stupid blockbuster that cost $50 million to make,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse” stands alone.

The long-awaited sequel to the 2018 film “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” Spiderman is the second highest-grossing animated film of the year, beating out animation giants Disney and Dreamworks. Though the movie boasts a two-hour-and-20-minute run time, it doesn’t waste a single second of it. New and dynamic characters are constantly introduced, and the fast pacing allows for plenty of action.

The sequel continues using the beautiful, colorful, style of animation that originally set “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” apart for many. The animators blended 3D animation with geometric shapes, surreal colors and a gouache style of painting in a way that makes it feel like a comic book come to life. The production also delved into other media, including legos, to portray various other “spider-worlds.”  

In every rendition of Spider-Man, whether it be comics, movies and television, Spider-Man is a jokester. But if the traditional Spider-Man is funny, Miles Morales is a regular George Carlin. Hopefully, other major studios start taking a page out of Sony’s book and understand that creativity and earnestness are the keys to any audience’s heart.  

“Asteroid City” 

Comedy-drama “Asteroid City” is the Wes Anderson film to end all Wes Anderson films. Perfect symmetry, saturated colors and fast cuts make this movie seem like a mélange of every Wes Anderson movie to hit the screen. Yet, it never feels like a parody of itself but rather an homage to his titular style. Anderson has perfected his craft and is no longer holding back.

Coming out in the same month as “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie,” this charming film was not necessarily set up for a booming box office success, and against all odds — but not really since it was great — still grossed a grand total of $50 million

In a retro-futuristic 1950s setting, a TV host presents a live documentary within a play. The deliciously colorful play “Asteroid City,” was written by fictional playwright Conrad Earp, portrayed by Edward Norton. The play depicts the Junior Stargazer Convention, a competition for youth geniuses with an interest in science, in the fictional town of Asteroid City, where characters like widower war photojournalist Augie portrayed by Jason Schwartzman, his precocious son Woodrow portrayed by Jake Woodrow and actress Midge Campbell portrayed by Scarlett Johansson gradually find community amidst mysterious events. 

Interwoven with the play’s events is the documentary, featuring black-and-white behind-the-scenes creation led by Earp, who forms relationships with the cast, including a romantic one with Augies’ actor Jones Hall, still portrayed by Jason Schwartzman. The play progresses with challenges, including Hall’s recurring uncertainty about his role as Augie.

Through stunning cinematography and charming dialogue, the film explores themes of life, limits of control and what our roles in our own lives are. 

“Priscilla”

The biopic “Priscilla” was in every way like the woman it was about: glamorous, yet tragic. Director Sofia Coppola, the genius behind other cinematic portrayals of girlhood like “Marie Antoinette” “The Virgin Suicides,” created a beautifully delicate film that contrasts Baz Lurhman’s loud, chaotic “Elvis” in an interesting yet fitting way. 

As opposed to “Elvis”’ complicated if not flattering portrayal of the King of Rock, “Priscilla” exposes the dark underside of one of history’s most misunderstood musicians. Through the lens of its title character, the film blatantly points out the abuse Priscilla, portrayed by Cailee Spaeny, was forced to suffer at the hands of Elvis, depicted by Jacob Elordi. 

The acting was splendid, and Jacob Elordi didn’t even need to isolate himself from his family for three years for it, so there’s an added bonus. Cailee Spaeny’s sincere portrayal of a vulnerable, doe-eyed Priscilla was perfect, capturing in its truest form a young girl trapped in a toxic relationship with a much more powerful man. 

“Eileen”

A psychological thriller á la “Misery” or “Donnie Darko,” up-and-coming director William Oldroyds’ “Eileen” will leave even the sanest in the audience questioning what’s real.

Based on and named after the iconic Otessa Moshfegh novel “Eileen,” the psychological thriller movie follows Eileen Dunlop, portrayed adeptly by Thomasin McKenzie, a socially awkward woman still living with her abusive father. Eileen works at a boys correctional institution, disillusioned with the dreary monotony of her day-to-day life until beautiful and intelligent Rebecca Saint John, brilliantly portrayed by Anne Hathaway, joins the faculty as a psychologist. Eileen develops a disturbing and tender obsession with Rebecca, but it seems that she may be hiding something from everyone that lands Eileen in a world of trouble.

A good choice for any 1980s horror movie fan, “Eileen” blends classic horror elements with more subversive choices and a healthy dose of female rage. As a long-time fan of Moshfeghs’, I knew the twist before I even walked into the theater, yet something between the talented cinematography, the heartfelt acting and the emotionally charged script still left me feeling shocked. 

Oppenheimer

“Now I am become Chris Nolan, destroyer of CGI.”

Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster epic biographizes J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man thought of by most as responsible for the atomic bomb. A treat for history fans and drama fiends alike, “Oppenheimer” portrays the rise and fall of one of history’s most remorseful figures.

“Oppenheimer” begins as a simple biopic covering the eponymous Oppenheimer’s sympathy for socialism, shady personal life and development of the nuclear bomb. Each aspect of the production was impressive, from the set design to the sound production and period-accurate costumes. Every acting performance was incredible, but Cillian Murphy, who played J. Robert Oppenheimer, Emily Blunt, actress of Katherine Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr., who portrayed Lewis Strauss, went above and beyond.  

Famously, there was no CGI used at all, an impractical choice that really showcases Nolan’s dedication to artistic integrity. The sophisticated script presents a lot of thought-provoking conundrums like man versus himself, man versus man and man versus technology. 

If Oppenheimer is an American Prometheus, Christopher Nolan must be an American Apollo for his seemingly mythical ability to produce increasingly compelling films with every release. 


Music

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Music is one of the most subjective mediums of art, but there are some things that people from all backgrounds agree on, and one of them is that good music makes you feel something. Here are six albums that made us feel anywhere from pumped up to hopelessly melancholic. (Lauren Holcomb)

Chappell Roan – “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess”

Chappell Roan, whose real name is Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, is from Willard, Missouri, but you wouldn’t know she wasn’t a Californian native looking at her vibrant red hair and go-go boots. Her debut album, “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess” tells a vivid story of a midwestern girl disillusioned with men and entranced by the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and gay bars. She knows what she wants, is that such a crime?

The article includes incredible subversive dance-pop bangers reminiscent of icons like Caroline Polachek such as “Femininomenon” and “HOT TO GO.” The album touches on numerous topics personal to Roan, particularly her sexual orientation and her choice to move from her small town to California, as seen in “Pink Pony Club” and “Red Wine Supernova.”  

From her performances to her vocals to her charming lyrics, Chappell Roan is a singer to look out for. 

Sufjan Stevens – “Javelin”

What’s a better way to be memorialized than through music? This is the question Sufjan Stevens poses with his latest album “Javelin,” a heart-wrenching tribute to his late partner Evans Richardson.

The album opens with the song “Goodbye Evergreen,” a beautiful and deeply vulnerable song clearly lamenting the loss of Richardson. The first verse is very emotive, with lyrics like “Goodbye, evergreen/You know I love you/But everything heaven sent/Must burn out in the end.” The song is lyrically stunning, and sets an extremely high standard for the rest of the album — a standard Steven exceeds with every single song. 

Other songs that stood out were “My Little Red Fox,” a gentle ballad that is almost reminiscent of a children’s fable yet carries a lot more to it than anything Aesop could ever dream to write. “The eponymous song “Javelin (To Have And To Hold)” is a metaphor for the tragic feeling that results from unintentionally hurting someone who you love. It’s such a beautiful song that even explaining it feels like destruction to its’ poetic cadence and lyrics.  

Stevens has a number of influences, but the one I felt was most prominent on this album was Elliott Smith. Stevens’ single “Will Anyone Ever Love Me?” would not have felt lyrically out of place on Smiths’ album “Either/Or,” or in a book of classic poetry for that matter. 

Olivia Rodrigo – “GUTS”

2023 was the year of the teenage girl, and singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo was our leader with her latest album “GUTS.” Released in September, I personally listened to it so much that Rodrigo reached my fifth-most-listened-to artist on Spotify in just two months. And though I am not typically a fan of pop, Rodrigo’s album transcends the genre. 

Complete with screaming and drums, the album was much “grungier” than “SOUR”. Many of Rodrigo’s influences, such as Fiona Apple, Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morrissette were much more obvious here. Rodrigo also demonstrates a new sense of maturity, particularly in terms of the album’s themes, which include topics such as being a victim of grooming in “vampire”, social isolation in “ballad of a home-schooled girl”, body dysmorphia in “pretty isn’t pretty”, and unhealthy relationships in “logical.” 

These are perfectly balanced out with a healthy dose of more tonally-upbeat songs, like one about continuing to see someone she knows is bad for her, titled “bad idea right?.” Another, “get him back!,” is about not knowing whether she loves or hates her ex-boyfriend, and a relatable song about how embarrassing feelings can be is “love is embarrassing”.

It’s refreshing to see such authentic and raw music from young musicians. The album covers many situations familiar to teenagers, but at no point do they feel “juvenile” or any of the matters trivial and insignificant.

boygenius – “the record”

The band boygenius itself, as a concept, is alluring. A supergroup composed of singer-songwriters Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker? It seems almost too good to be true. Their debut album released this year, accurately titled “the record.”

The first track is “Without You Without Them.” The song is simple in its production — just Dacus, Bridgers and Baker singing together. Their harmony is almost messy at times, but it’s no less beautiful, the value lying in its innocent and sensitive feel. Then comes “$20,” a great track perfectly capturing what it feels like to not have $20. 

Emily I’m Sorry” and “True Blue” were both enchanting ballads. The former is a song dedicated to the titular Emily, an apology for having not been in the right headspace throughout the course of their relationship. “True Blue,” on the other hand, tells a cohesive and tragic story of a relationship turned stranger. The most remarkable thing about this song is its ability to be so specific yet still so personally relatable

Cool About It” and “Not Strong Enough” were both relatable songs for anyone unfortunately human. “Cool About It” is a song covering what it feels like to pretend to feel happy around a person you still love, definitely being the greatest breakthrough in “anti-cool girl” art since Amy Dunnes’ monologue in “Gone Girl.” “Not Strong Enough” is about one of the most universal experiences of all, not being enough for someone, a heartbreaking experience made all the more heartbreaking by this song’s characterization. 

The album closes with “Letters To An Old Poet,” an ode to toxic relationships and the empty feeling they bring. Such an emotionally heavy song brings the perfect resolution to probably the most emotionally shaping 42 minutes and 18 seconds I’ve ever spent. 

Lana Del Rey – “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd”

To the uncultured eye, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” may seem like an awkward ice-breaker, but to anyone familiar with pop icon Lana Del Rey’s expansive career, this is a game-changer.

Continuing the pattern of vulnerability in her recent albums, Del Rey writes about family and growing up in her newest —and some fear her last— album, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.” 

The first song “The Grants,” is about Del Rey, whose legal name is Elizabeth Grant, taking characteristics and memories from her ancestors and family with her. The track is a beautiful sentiment and an equally gorgeous melody. But the themes of growing don’t end there, as illustrated by the song “Taco Truck x VB.” The song is a remix of “Venice B***h,” one of Del Rey’s most famous songs.   

The single “A&W” depicts what it was like growing up the way she was, a free and wild teen. While her earlier songs, no matter how unintentional, glamorized this lifestyle, “A&W” touches on the darker side of it. An interesting contrast to the whole of her career, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” gives the listener a look into one of America’s most divisive pop stars. 

Mitski – “This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We”

Despite what she told us in 2013, it’s clear Mitski will never retire from sad, and “This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” proves that. 

Mitski forces her listeners to feel with her, and each track is like a new figurative punch in the face. The album opens with “Bug Like An Angel,” an ode to a bug stuck to the bottom of her glass. As a lovely sentiment, the song ends with the lines “I try to remember the wrath of the devil/Was also given him by God,” which perfectly characterizes Mitski. No matter how simple the premise of a song may be, she channels emotion into everything she does. 

The song “Heaven” is like a brand new emotion. The melody features a poignant orchestra with Mitski’s voice, clear as a bell, lilting. Still, if any song can be dubbed vocally tender, it’s “I Don’t Like My Mind.” The desperation in her voice, the cracks as she moves between octaves are not the mistakes of an amateur but the choices of a genius. 

“This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We” is a roller-coaster of genuine emotion and the intersection between the poignancy of song-writing and the desperation of personhood. An indescribably gorgeous album, Mitski is the modern day paragon of a tortured artist.  


Articles

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Student journalism is just as important for community culture as any other medium, and the Pathfinder released dozens of articles this year. All of them were good, many of them were great and some of them were mind-blowing. Of these, here are the top six that were outstanding in their category in some way. (Lauren Holcomb)

Serena Liu -“Silent pandemic”

There is nothing silent about the clear skill Editor-in-Chief Serena Liu demonstrates in her latest opinion piece “Silent pandemic.” The article brings to light the stigmas Asian-Americans face both at a community level and a national level.

A truly moving piece, the work includes personal accounts from Asian-American students, channeling their voices in a way not often done even in professional journalism. It was a topic that required grace, nuance and delicacy, and Liu provided all three. If anyone was to cover such a heavy subject as mental health and how it intersects with race, it’s Liu. She’s an undoubtedly skilled opinions writer, and her history of articles such as “Photography through a racial lens,” “The Pros and Cons of Military Recruitment in High Schools” and “Close to home: How the Ukrainian-Russian War impacts us” prove that she is able to handle anything she likes.   

Mikahlah Owens – “Nobody likes you when you’re 23”

Pathfinder’s resident music lover, senior Mikalah Owens put out an incredible piece looking over several albums that turned 23 this year. The diverse choices ranged from alternative bands Radiohead’s “Kid A” and Deftones’ “White Pony” to boy band *NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached” and rap group Outkasts’ “Stanktopia.” It’s a wonderful commemoration of the many industry-changing albums that were released in the year 2000. Coming up with a list such as this is not easy, but there’s not a single out-of-place or undeserving album in this article. 

In a staff saturated with Swifties, Owens adds a desperately needed alternative edge. She’s consistently put out high-quality pieces covering bands like Metallica, Pearl Jam and blink-182, but “Nobody likes you when you’re 23” stands out in terms of quality and premise. 

Audrey Ghosh – “Origami artisans”

It’s easy to be unaware of just how many creatively gifted students attend Parkway West, but never fear, because opinions editor Audrey Ghosh is here. In “Origami artisans,” Ghosh brings attention to two extremely talented students, freshmen Cole Barton and Preston Priest, skilled in the niche and delicate art of origami.

A seemingly simple hobby, there is much to be learned from Ghosh’s extremely informative article. But what I took away from this article is that there are students at this school doing amazing things that I would’ve had no idea about had it not been for this article. Ghosh’s article serves as a necessary reminder of the importance of school newspapers, that it’s a great tool to recognize outstanding students. Ghosh remains unstopped as an editor, and now she’s proven that’s true for her as a writer as well. 

Cindy Phung and Samir Shaik – “Cultural immersion in motion”

Visionaries, innovative icons, multimedia geniuses. What do these things have in common? They all describe juniors Cindy Phung and Samir Shaik, the most culturally important duo since Simon and Garfunkel, who also dropped an amazing video covering the St. Louis Festival of Nations.

The Festival of Nations, an annual celebration embracing St. Louis’s rich diversity, receives practically professional coverage from Phung and Shaik. The video doesn’t just demonstrate brilliant editing, but demonstrates artistically thoughtful cinematography throughout. Featuring food, music and interviews from those involved with the festival, “Cultural immersion in motion” depicts the chaotically fun festivities of this beautiful and important ceremony. 

Esta Kamau and Sakena Lajkem – “Best of Homecoming Spirit Week”

Senior and Humans of West editor Esta Kamau along with senior and staff writer Sakenah Lajkem brought the vibrant Homecoming spirit to life in a truly hilarious series of videos. Kamau’s real-life charm and infectious energy shines through in each video, which is only amplified by skillful editing. The coverage is a perfect mix of endearing and hilarious, capturing the essence of Spirit Week with humor and style.

The series captures Parkway West’s dedicated school spirit in a lively and unforgettable manner, a style of coverage familiar to seniors Kamau and Lajkem. Their commendable work over time has showcased a consistent commitment to highlighting the diverse staff and student bodies of Parkway West. 

Kamau holds prestige as our Humans of West editor and Lajkem has brought recognition to many of the different Parkway West teachers through her Flashback Friday series. It’s easy for people to feel unrecognized and unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of daily life, so Kamau and Lajkem’s respective work is just one of many important functions of the Pathfinder. 

Elizabeth Franklin – “Twenty-five years later: ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’”

Rapper and singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill once said wisdom is better than silver and gold, and senior Elizabeth Franklin’s article “Twenty-five years later: ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is a shining beacon of once in a lifetime talent’” is better than all three.  

An obvious passion project, Franklin goes in-depth on her fascinating analyses of the meaning behind each song. The album, from an objective standpoint, is fantastic and has received plenty of critical acclaim in the 25 years since its release. Yet, it’s rare to see such genuine appreciation as in Franklin’s article.

While Franklin has been a long-time gem of the Pathfinder, her masterful writing has never been as clear as in this piece. Any artist’s true potential shines through when they’re working on something they love, and this article is a perfect example of this. 

The beautiful thing about 2023 is its great diversity of creativity. It’s impossible to know how much innovation and art we never got to experience because of the suppression of so many voices, particularly female and minority ones. Millions of important songs, movies, books, television shows and articles came out, from so many types of people. It could never be possible to list out every cutting-edge album or each masterpiece of a movie that came out in a year. 

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About the Contributor
Lauren Holcomb, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath. Who is your hero? Either Joan Didion or Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
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  • W

    Will GonsiorJan 4, 2024 at 12:36 pm

    THANK YOU LAUREN!!!
    A brilliant recap of a year that brought us amazing articles, great movies, and maybe most importantly, “Kintsugi,” “Cool About It,” and “Ballad of a Homeschool Girl.”

    Reply
  • S

    SerenaJan 3, 2024 at 10:12 pm

    !!!

    Reply
  • M

    Mikalah OwensJan 3, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    such a great piece!! you’re so talented <3

    Reply