Since opening in December 2016, Turner Theatre has provided Elon University with an on-campus movie theater experience available to all students, faculty, staff and families. Films ranging from documentaries to blockbuster features are screened on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and are decided by Turner Theatre management with the help of the Student Union Board Cinema Committee. Elon Watches is where Elon News Network previews the films to be screened the following weekend, offering insight into the moviegoing opportunities available.

“Eighth Grade”

Following in the steps of Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) and John Krasinski (“A Quiet Place”), Bo Burnham joins the ring of comedians to make directorial debuts outside the comedy genre. And what an entrance Burnham makes. “Eighth Grade” stars Elsie Fisher — previously known for her role as Agnes in Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me” — as Kayla Day, a young girl trying to survive the last week of her eighth grade year and working through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. 

Regardless of whether the viewer is currently in eighth grade or is a few decades past it, “Eighth Grade” is a coming-of-age film that hits every audience on a powerful, emotional level. Fisher delivers an incredibly charming and relatable performance as Kayla, who struggles to connect to her peers, embodies what it’s like to be a shy, awkward teen in the age of social media. Kayla makes YouTube videos where she talks about subjects such as “How to be Confident” and “Being Yourself,” in conjunction with spending copious amounts of time on social media, editing an Instagram post or crafting the perfect SnapChat. But while she maintains a brave persona online, her real-life personality falters to that of a quiet, shy girl. 

While his character may not have been the most developed, Josh Hamilton as Kayla’s father, was a shining, optimistic light in the harsh expectations Kayla placed on herself throughout the film. While much of the film deals with how isolated Kayla feels as an awkward adolescent, Hamilton’s performance as her father was perfectly dorky and heartwarming as he gave her constant feel-good talks and unconditional support. 

Fisher’s performance combined with Burnham’s spectacular writing added a layer of credibility to the film that makes it seem more like found footage than a film. “Eighth Grade” feels startlingly real and authentic in a way that will have audiences flashing back to their own experiences, pleasant or not. Maybe it was that Fisher’s age matched that of her character that contributed to such an honest performance, or maybe it was how attuned Burnham is with today’s younger generations. Either way, “Eighth Grade” was equally as cringe-worthy as it was hopeful. “Eighth Grade” is a remarkable writer-director debut for Burnham that will leave audiences of all ages waiting to see what the comedian will come up with next. 

“Schindler’s List”

Turner Theatre continues to pack on the emotional punches with a screening of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” And while many might automatically associate the film as a reimagining of World War II, the Holocaust admittedly acts more as a backdrop and character of its own rather than the central plot. The film tells the story of catholic businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) and embodiment-of-pure-evil Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). 

Neeson delivers a wonderfully charismatic performance as Schindler, a man who never gives away his true intention under a disguise of charisma and faulty business tactics. Fiennes’ character of Goeth might feel shallow in nature but perfectly counteracts the complex layers of Neeson’s character. At the end of the day, “Schindler’s List” was Spielberg’s way of exploring the events of the Holocaust through the eyes of endlessly fascinating characters, using more popular or commercial movie techniques to tell an otherwise haunting and heartbreaking story. 


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