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I rewatched Friends..

I have to admit I did not like Friends as much this time around since I watched it for the first time 3 years ago. I had forgotten most things that happened aside from some memorable one liners (We were on a break!!!). So after rewatching all 10 seasons again, I realized that while it is a good background show to have you’re doing laundry or whatever and does have moments of great depth and relatability but there are definitely some cons that I just couldn’t ignore. Here are my stray thoughts upon rewatch.

The humor

While I absolutely adore comedy today such as The Good Place and Parks and Rec, there is something about the blunt sarcasm in Friends and other sitcoms that I totally love especially when Chandler is talking to Joey or Ross. I missed that from today’s comedies. It is especially apparent in Friends considering the characters are pretty sarcastic personality traits themselves. The jokes become pretty repetitive and formulaic but I didn’t expect anything radically different when it comes to sitcoms.

Rachel

I would argue that this show revolves around Rachel. The show begins and ends with a big decision that Rachel has to make. I really like her character growth throughout the seasons especially when it came to her career and I wish it had continued during the later seasons. I have to admit, I have a much better appreciation for her now growing up though I wish I could say the same for Ross.

Themes of Friendship!

The greatest thing about Friends is how it so accurately portrays the nature of friendship and big life events that happen when you’re in your late 20’s and early 30’s. Things like quitting your job to pursue something you actually love. Getting fired from your job. When your deepest relationship is with your friends. Trying to get pregnant. Deciding whether to commit to a relationship or even marriage. Deciding if you want kids etc. A lot of their feelings and love and devotion between friends and SO’s, these themes of finding your one true love is of course is as universal now as it was in the 90’s. I truly believe this is what makes Friends really work, the chemistry and bonds between the characters. I absolutely love the episodes when they’re doing things together such as the episode where Ross is trying to hurry everyone up for the paleontology banquet and everyone is taking their goddamn time or all the Thanksgiving episodes.

Problematic Jokes

I understand this show was written in the 90’s but I had no idea how pervasive the “gay” jokes were and it got really annoying after a while. There were whole episodes dedicating to making fun of the guys and whatever feminine habit they adopted. For example, in the episode where Joey carries around a bag, all of the friends make fun of him for carrying a purse. Or the time when Joey’s roommate who is a woman decides to spruce up the apartment and teaches Joey how to arrange flowers and Chandler furiously berates him. Or the time when Chandler plucks Joey’s eyebrows and soon after they insist they have to do something manly in order to idk continue being men? There are also way too many jokes about Ross using lotion (how that’s hilarious I don’t know). Even Monica is implicit in this, often calling Chandler and Joey girls after she does a masculine coded trait. For example, in the last episode of Season 10 she breaks Chandler and Joey’s game table, she says “I’m going to go check on the twins, see ya girls!” You could argue that these male characters do not fit stereotypical male characteristics and that makes it ok that they make fun of each other for not being “manly” cause none of them are anyway. However, it’s clear to me that in the end, the male characters continue to dig themselves deeper into the masculine stereotype they so rigidly define and never get out of it.

On the flip side, I have to give credit where credit is due although I have to admit for every credit, there is a counter..credit?. This show arguably revolves around a female main character who used to be the popular girl and is sexually promiscuous and is not punished for it (even though the show makes too many references to her being slut). Ironically, though, Rachel continues to call Ross’s female love interests sluts or whores.  The female friendships between the female characters are so wonderful and there’s numerous episodes revolving around Monica’s and Rachel’s friendship which was great to see.

The prominence of lesbian jokes also became grating. There are so many jokes about Carol being a lesbian for none other than her being a lesbian. But they did at least show Carol and Susan in a caring relationship which is something. The only thing Friends can’t be considered really is racist although how much credit should be given to them considering there were very, very few POC in the show itself? Friends does not quite stand up to the test of time but I do understand it was a product of its time.

Way too many relationships with people who you know they’re going to break up with

There are so many random extras in the show that serve as love interests that last no longer than an episode! It came to a point where I knew something had to be something wrong with the love interest. For example, Ross finds a love interest who was interested in his paleontology book in the library. She seems to be perfect: she loves paleontology and is also very good looking but come to find out she has a disgusting apartment and is a hoarder. I was frustrated at the number of “filler” love interests that came in that stood no real chance and that kind of took the fun out of it for me. I really like that Phoebe ended up with someone outside of the group, plus her and Mike are the real OTP to me.

Ross and Rachel storyline

Obviously this storyline is very hit or miss with audiences. While I found them entertaining, I never understood the appeal especially near the end, when people would come in and out of their lives and you knew they were going to break up because of course Ross and Rachel were going to end up together. Honestly, if I had it my way, I would have paired Ross with Julie from Season 2 or Charlie from Season 10 and Ross would have been with Gavin though admittedly maybe these options would not have provided enough tension? I did like that through this on and off relationship though we get to explore Ross and Rachel’s insecurities and flaws from Ross’s fear of Rachel cheating on him to both of their respective possessiveness. It would have been nice if some of those flaws had been addressed before you know, Rachel gave up a dream job in Paris for him but who cares about that when you have a hot on and off relationship with Ross right? There is a definite appeal to their story but I got tired of it very easily.

Chandler and Monica

Chandler and Monica have some very sweet moments. I especially loved Chandler’s speech to the mother about adopting her kids when Chandler tells her I’ll learn to be a good dad once the baby is born but Monica? She’s already there. She’s a mother without a baby. But I did not like their relationship dynamic after the initial stages, it just made it seem like Monica was a mom and Chandler was her kid. Chandler had so much character development from his commitment issues to opening up about his feelings and being more emotionally mature but Monica? her character development went to a standstill after she broke up with Richard which on this rewatch, I’m forever bitter about it. They were so freaking good for each other. I was also bothered by the fact that hereafter whenever Richard was mentioned, Chandler got really, really insecure about it and Monica had to convince him that he was better than Richard (even though in what ways I cannot tell you) considering Monica basically spent the entire relationship tutoring Chandler on how to even be in a relationship. Chandler did get better near the end though.

Conflict

The biggest issue I have with Friends is the constant usage of lying to build conflict. Every single episode is built on someone telling a lie to another friend and by the end, the truth is revealed. It made it really hard to understand why they were even friends and made it hard to distinguish their motives from one another. It does do very well setting up drama though. I was reading this one review about Friends and he stated that Friends was basically “a soap opera disguising itself as a comedy” which I have to agree with.

Stray Thoughts

– I think the Vegas episodes after Season 5 were among the best of the entire series. I completely love the Rachel and Ross dynamic (among the best of their acting) and their little marriage storyline was so funny

“Heelllooooo Mrs. Ross, Hellloooo Mr. Rachel!! LOL

-lots of filler storylines near the end – like Ross wearing a girl’s shirt, Joey not liking sharing food, Monica’s hair problem at the beginning

– ross and rachel storyline is sooo overdrawn. It should have ended at least 3 seasons earlier. literally everyone was better than them for ross and rachel than either of them.

-those computers and cellphones look so much older and bulkier after 3 years of not watching this show

-how awkward must it be if you say someone else’s name other than your betrothed at your own wedding? I’m looking at you Ross..

-is it just me but did Joey just get dumber and dumber with each season?

-it was so funny when the friends made fun of Ross for how many marriages he’s had

 

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TV Review: The Haunting of Hill House

Image result for the haunting of hill house netflix

Title: The Haunting of Hill House

Director: Mike Flanagan

Based on the book: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Season: 1

Episodes: 10, ~42-71 minutes each

Rating: A-

 

I am so happy I found The Haunting of Hill House. I sincerely wish all horror was made this way and it really proves not only how versatile horror is but also why I love the TV form more than movies. I read the book this show was based on a while ago so I had forgotten a lot of what happened but from reviews I’ve read I understand that the show differentiates significantly from the book. In the show, the story follows 5 siblings of the Crain family in their adulthood as they cope with the aftermath of their childhood at Hill House. Their childhood was filled with strange occurrences and mysterious sightings of evil ghosts. On their last day at the Victorian Hill House, they left with the father in a hurry, only knowing their mother had died. As the story continues, it is revealed through flashback what exactly happened or didn’t happen all those years ago.

The first reason this show is so awesome is the way that jump scares are placed. They are placed in moments after achingly slow buildup and slow camera pans across dark rooms, ratcheting up the suspense and tension from one episode to the next. Funnily enough, the camera basically shows you what the scare is going to be but the real scare comes when you look back again and find the person or  the ghost is not what you thought it was at first glance. This, of course, makes the scare even more psychologically scary as the show does not rely on the violent or absurdly grotesque to tease out scares. In fact the real scares are whether or not these ghosts are the manifestations of the siblings’ inner demons. In fact, it is a relatively slow moving show taking the time to slowly lay down the important pieces of character and story over putting scares down. It is still perfectly paced and the cinematography is so masterfully slow and deliciously tense.

As Steven Crain states, “a ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see.” Steven, the oldest Crain sibling, is an author who writes, he believes, fictional tales of Hill House. He is sick of the fictional voices that his youngest siblings see. They should have gotten mental help for their delusions and figments of imagination a long time ago. Shirley, the second oldest and my least favorite, is a mortician and a control freak having witnessed 4 of her kittens die mysteriously at Hill House. She refuses to say these ghosts exist. Theo, the middle, struggles with emotional intimacy and then, the last two siblings were the ones who saw the most of Hill House’s ghosts. In adulthood, Luke becomes a drug addict and Nell is still haunted nights by the mysterious Bent-Neck Lady. The story shifts timelines going as back as six years ago all the way back to their childhood, each episode focusing on a sibling until it refocuses back to present events and what they will do moving forward. I was honestly surprised I got really emotional during Luke’s episode. He is quite gullible and trusting and genuinely wants to help his younger sister and the people he cares about but through his own naivety and drug addition, he is unable to. This show loves its characters and does not stray too far from its central characters’ development which is still so rare to see in horror but ultimately what I enjoyed most about this show. The siblings are all tied by their unique perspective on death and grief and even represent a deeper metaphor for depression, schizoprenia, migraines, and other mental conditions.

I love how much the show focuses on the house. The Victorian house is an entity on its own and I love each detail on its antiques, its expansive halls and rooms with mysterious treasures. With each episode, more of the house’s history and it’s original inhabitants are revealed. It really built up the suspense and mystery of the house, each sibling having a different relationship with it. It was fully integrated into the story. The story itself did delve a little bit into horror cliches, you know, with children drawing pictures of unsettling things to the age-old “mother is going crazy and hysterical” which only perpetuates the stereotype of female hysteria. The dialogue also leaves something to be desired although I didn’t really notice until the last few episodes. The ending also leaves something to be desired. I was happy we got answers but the ending was so cloying that I felt it didn’t match with the previous episodes. I wanted an uncertain ending but I suppose it does stay true to its characters and the family dynamic. Because the family has been threatened to be torn apart by this house, the ending is fitting that they start to face the demons they’ve been hiding from and come together as a family.

It was really interesting to see the family’s  fractured interactions with one another and their different relationships with or lack of with the others from what they experienced as a child. It definitely added an interesting way of telling each sibling’s perspective and the way each perspective is different because of what they experienced. For example, sheltered by their father and told to close his eyes on the fateful night their mother died, Steven did not see anything supernatural and refuses to believe that Hill House had any ghosts. Their mother died because their father was neglectful and didn’t get her the mental help she needed, causing resentment towards his father. Nell bore the brunt of seeing all these strange ghosts but no one believes her and she starts to believe she’s going crazy, still haunted by her dreams and sights. No one believes Luke either, thinking he is just a heroin addict, and although he wants to become clean, the only way to escape the ghosts he sees is to take drugs. And ultimately, that is what the show was about, the broken hopes and dreams of these siblings, how their tortured past continues to haunt them, but ultimately their inability to face their demons continues to stalk them into their adulthood. Their ghosts are the people they love, the people they have failed, their family, and even themselves. As they each cope and dodge their problems, it becomes apparent the ghosts have not left them. At the heart, it is not about people haunting the house or a scary entity wreaking havoc on lives. It is about the lies we tell ourselves, the denial, and the intimacy of a family that has had a horrible past connecting them for better or worse.

The Haunting of Hill House is so much more than typical horror fanfare and proves that horror can be done just as well for TV as a movie. I loved the exploration of character and mental health throughout and don’t think I have seen anything quite like it.

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Mini Reviews: Period Pieces

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Historical Comedy-Drama | Amazon | 1 Season – 8 episodes (40 minutes) ea. | A

Thank you, thank you, thank you to this show for getting me out of my TV slump. It is so charming and witty, and as a show about stand up comedy should be, funny. Miriam Maisel is the perfect 1950’s housewife with a perfect husband, two little kids, and an Upper West side apartment. In her free time, she supports her husband, Joel’s, comedy side career.. until he confesses he has had an affair. On one drunken night, she does a stand up routine and she slowly starts to realize that she wants to perform comedy on her own. I am liking this trend of exploring feminism and social issues through TV shows set in different time periods. In the 1950’s, this show would have looked very differently. It would have looked down on Miriam’s movement away from family and instead doing things for herself. But it is a great topic for today. The show is very polished with brilliant use of bright, solid colors. It is definitely a happy go lucky portrayal of the 1950’s but is not cloying nor insufferably cheerful  as it does not shy away from the darker side of this era exploring the ’50’s constraining limits on perceptions of women and what women can do.  It explores how women were discouraged from pursuing their interests. The first time Miriam announced she was not accepting her husband back, her mother and father immediately implored her to return to her husband despite the fact that he cheated on her. And although, you, of course, side with Miriam, the show paints effort into the secondary characters, especially the ones you were meant to side against such as her father, mother, and Joel. In true Gilmore Girls style, there is whip fast dialogue and  characters coming up with a perfect comeback as soon as the other opens her mouth.  Though you know they do what they do for Maisel with good intentions, you see where they are misguided in giving Maisel counsel and advice. The one secondary character that makes the show is the inn’s owner, Susie Myerson, who becomes Miriam’s business partner and has a no nonsense and sarcastic personality.

Their blossoming friendship from skepticism to friendship is a joy to watch. The show does get a little repetitive because part of the show is slowly building up Maisel’s revelations, but it is so worth the watch and the 14 Emmy nominations. The editing is seamless, flitting from scene to scene, flashback to present in the most polished way as if it has no time to waste.

The writing is so smart and the jokes written for Maisel’s stand up routine is so relevant to her life and so funny. The first season sort of leaves off on an emotional cliffhanger so I will patiently wait for the second season. It should be noted as well that this show has been nominated for 14 Emmys. A perfectly bingeworthy and heartwarming show.

Anne With An E Season 2

Historical Drama | Netflix | 2 Seasons – 17 episodes (40 minutes) | B+

I completely adored Anne with an E so I was so excited to watch Season 2 when it came out. Though not as compelling as the first, it does present new avenues for the characters without relying as much on flashback. The second season is also different in the sense that it follows two characters for its majority: Anne and Gilbert. While we follow Anne in Avonlea going to school and making new friends as usual, the most notable of which is delivered by a spectacular performance by Cory Grüter-Andrew as Cole Mackenzie. Bigger than life, the kids at https://78.media.tumblr.com/cfeb2fac9a4ccf72a6d0498cc4c4442d/tumblr_pbh5q20aXi1rtvheio2_400.gifAvonlea struggle to find their identity amidst social pressure to deny who they are. This prevalent and circular theme allows the show to break away from having their characters be the “token gay” or the “token black” because everyone in the show is struggling to be their true self despite heavy social and lawful oppression. No one person is isolated in their problems with their identity. While Anne tries her best to revoke feminine standards of the era, it directly juxtaposes with Cole’s desire to blend into the background and the toxic masculine standards he is forced to uphold but has no desire to. There was one particularly inspirational and emotional episode where this theme comes to head. Anne, Diane, and Cole are invited to Aunt Josephine’s party and they  accept who they are as a person despite their own skepticism. If they were born in this day and age, they would have a much easier time, but in 19th century, it was suffocating. I’ve seen a lot of shows try to tackle feminism and racism but I’ve never seen it done quite like Anne with an E. The screenplay capsizes on the microaggressions suffered that take a huge toll on the characters and it is an overt analysis, but it cleverly weaves different aspects of the -ism for a complete and full picture.

I also completely adore Gilbert’s timeline. While Anne is growing to trust her intuition while going through the embarrassing stage of puberty (“What is a kiss?”), Gilbert is on a steamship trying to find his own ambition after his father died. He meets Sebastian whom he quickly becomes friends and learns more about the world than when he was in the little town of Avonlea. He meets different people and he figures out more of what he wants to do out of life.

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A decent amount of story is given to Sebastian, the only POC in the show and as you might imagine, the show takes the time to explore racism through his character though he has a fleshed out story for himself especially near the end. Showing his struggles through Gilbert’s privileged eyes accentuates his struggles.

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And of course, you have Marilla and Matthew who deal with growing old while still taking care of a child. The episodes still follow a sort of episodic formula but the stories tend to span 2-3 episodes instead of just one. I do think some of the storylines dragged on for too much longer than they were meant to last especially with the teacher. I was also sad that we didn’t have any Anne and Gilbert moments! There was literally only a few scenes with them but at the same time they were trying to amp up the tension between them?

Also, compared to Gilbert’s storyline, Anne’s problems feel more trite so I felt they were growing at different paces. And for those who complained about the show’s darkness in Season 1, I think will be more pleased with this season as it does not have as many flashbacks to Anne’s orphanage times and it feels more wholesome. So this season was not quite as developmentally on point but it still feels very inspirational as it was meant to be.

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TV Review: Search Party

Image result for search partyTitle: Search Party (Seasons 1-2)

Genre: Comedy, Mystery

Episodes: 20

Created by: Sarah-violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael Showalter

Starring: Alia Shawkat, John Early, John Reynolds, Meredith Hagner, Brandon Michael Hall

Rating: A-

 

A lot of articles have described Search Party as the millennial Nancy Drew and that was pretty much all I needed to hear to start this oddball of a show.

Search Party is the type of dark absurdist comedy that I normally don’t get. The absurd is usually too absurd and the comedy too black for me to really enjoy. But Search Party, Search Party is something special and likewise wholly original from what I normally watch. It features Dory Sief, who at the beginning of the show, sees a missing person flyer of Chantal Witherbottom who went to college with her. Dory has only bumped into her once when she dropped her teddy bear while moving into college. But somehow Dory becomes obsessed with finding her believing Chantal to hold a greater purpose in life for her than running mindless errands for a rich, lonely housewife and coming back home to a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Drew Gardner. She sets out to find Chantal, stringing along Drew, and her friends Elliot Goss, cliche in his flamboyance and Portia Davenport, ditzy and a little naive.

Search Party is a satire of millennials, of self-obsession, and of the social media that perpetuates this self-obsession. These themes are hidden underneath characters who seem harmless at first but as they are pushed to their limits, (especially in season 2 where they have to keep up with the repercussions of their actions in Season 1), they slowly show their true layers underneath. Although Drew is passive, in Season 2, we see him do whatever it takes to get the job he desires dragging down anyone and everyone he can; he reveals himself to be just as cunning and clever as the other characters. We cheer and clap when these characters are given their due but we also feel a little guiltily sympathetic. Although we know that Dory has an ulterior motive to finding Chantal Witherbottom whom she believes is in danger, we at first think it is either amusing or slightly absurd but we go along with it because what’s the harm? We laugh at the dry humor and the character’s harmless attempts at trying to find Chantal but it quickly devolves into something more sinister.

Our four main characters are incredibly unlikeable. They are entitled, selfish, and unapologetic and unaware of both.  When Dory announces Chantal’s death to her group of friends, Elliot immediately dismisses it but then pulls out his phone to tweet about his sorrow at her disappearance. It is a testament to this show that the moment is disturbing but also incredibly funny and oddly enough, relatable.

The show never demands us to like them as so many shows with despicable characters do.  But instead the show lays the onion on the table, and slowly peels back the layers one by one until the core character is revealed. You don’t have to sympathize with them and yet they are so oddly relatable without someone demanding that they be relatable to us. In fact, tragic backstories are never revealed so there’s not an automatic stake for sympathy. Their few moments of vulnerability are less touching than desperate and frustrating. The ending of Season 1 was incredibly satisfying, surprising, and most importantly, original from so many murder mystery plot twists.Search (1)

Even though this show is definitely a character study, the mystery is just as compelling and gripping especially in Season 2. In both seasons, the progression of the mystery serves to amplify who the characters already are. What will happen if desperate Dory does not find the answer she is looking for in finding Chantal? What will happen when the carpet of privilege and wealth is swept under Elliot Goss’s feet? I think Season 2 is actually better than Season 1 because the stakes are higher. Plot twist after plot twist is revealed. The characters do crazier things because the stakes are higher but their actions are so true to their characters. What’s also compelling is that the side characters including Julian, Dory’s ex-boyfriend who is very blunt, Chantal, ditzy and spoiled, and most notably, Dory’s and Drew’s next door neighbor, April who i certifiably crazy and unpredictable. It is great that they become so fleshed out as they inadvertently become more and more embroiled in Dory’s affairs.

Search Party does not fit the mold of the usual TV show I watch but it is incredibly brilliant in its portrayal of its characters combined with a sharp script and breakneck pacing, it is something I’m wholly glad I gave a chance.

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Reviews: A TV Show, A Movie, A Drama

For Beginners

Stranger Things season 2 was an inevitable thing considering the enormous popularity of the first season. As a whole, I think it succeeds but I have a few qualms. First of all, my feelings about the side characters are two fold. On the one hand, I struggle to see how they stand on their own throughout the season; I even question some of their significance such as Maxine’s stepbrother who is a dick for basically no other reason than being a dick. With that said, however, some of the success of Stranger Things is the fact that it juggles so many characters but gives each one their moment in the spotlight. It takes a while for some of the characters to show their true deal and sometimes I feel the side characters are just used to create tension in the plot like Bob.

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As conflicted as I feel about the side characters, I do like that the show continued to expand our core cast of characters with the exception of Will and Joyce. I wish Will hadn’t spent the entire season unconscious or confused or seeing visions. I think there wasn’t enough time for him to really develop as a character what with him being entirely missing in S1 and unconscious for much of S2. I also wish Joyce didn’t spend all season screaming. However, I feel as though the dynamics of the group are ever evolving in a good way. They are each trying to find their own identity outside of the group and because of that they spend a significant amount of time away from each other. Dustin discovers a new creature that he wants to keep despite the group’s skepticism. Mike is still trying to get Eleven back. Lucas is grappling with his feelings for Maxine. I’m very pleased with Eleven’s story arc as well even though the storyline with finding her mom was a little tedious. She finally figures out what her powers mean to her and how she wants to use them.

I have to say I was so very happy about what happened between Nancy and Jonathan, my OTP of this show. I like that Nancy really got to shine on her own. It was somewhat marred by the fact that Steve did not get any closure from this but I’ll take it and hope he gets some more development next season. And let me just say, I did not know I needed Steve as an unwilling babysitter till now. I completely love Steve as a character this season. He is an incredibly funny character and he plays it just right.

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The cliffhanger was unsatisfying to me because I thought the entire season was about just this thing (that I won’t spoil). The plot continued to be compelling and it definitely got pretty gruesome at parts for a family show but I’m all for it. But side note, what is up with all the cliche one-liners? B+

For Beginners (1).png

Lady Bird is only one of a slew of coming of age movies that I’ve had the pleasure to watch in the past couple of years. It’s about a girl named Christine, or as she dubs herself, “Lady Bird”, in her final year of high school. I have to say it’s one of the most stylistically unique. It moves in vignettes and mere snapshots of Lady Bird’s life with no sense of beginning, middle, or even end. It just feels like you’re watching little video clips spliced together as she tries to figure out to get out of California and get into college to a school on the East Coast. She is misunderstood but that misunderstanding is as much a result of her own perception of herself as those of the perceived perceptions of her from the people around her such as her father, her brother, her friends, her love interests, and especially her mom. A hodgepodge of juxtapositions herself, she is romantic but crass, she is delusional but also very grounded in reality, she is an outcast but wants to fit in.

Image result for lady bird movie gif

She has a frustrating relationship with her mom and I like that they spend an equal amount of time focusing on all her relationships, romantic, familial, and friends.

No scene really begins with a clear purpose; no scene ends with a clear resolution. It could just be a clip of her and her mom shopping at the mall and then cutting to a scene of her at school. It is beautifully acted, often feeling more improv than scripted which is only a testament to the natural dialogue. Everything feels just well balanced. A lovely coming of age movie. A

For Beginners (2)

It is rare for me for me to have completed a kdrama and give it a B. Usually, I know it’s a B from the first few episodes and just quit it. You can see from my previous reviews of Descendants of the Sun, Age of Youth, Signal, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo that I gave all of them A’s and if I didn’t, such as Tomorrow with You, I have already stopped watching by the 3rd episode. Despite the cons of the drama, I loved the poignancy of this drama and what it has to say about the institution of marriage. Ji Ho is a quiet, mousy 30 year old who wants to make it as a writer. She desperately needs a room while she is looking for jobs after quitting her first one as an assistant writer. She finds a room with Se Hee who just wants a roommate who will recycle and look after his cat and pay the rent so he can pay back his debts. They don’t ask for much from life, just a place to stay, food, and the ability to watch soccer games in their spare time.

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They fall in love, obviously, as one can only expect in a kdrama. This will not be the first time there is a marriage contract based korean drama nor will it be the last. It is, however, unique in many ways. Even though Ji Ho and Se Hee are the main characters, they are not exactly the type of main characters I usually gravitate towards and they are not charismatic enough to hold the storyline together. It’s a good thing then that the show focuses also on Ji Ho’s two best friends, Ho Rang and Soo Ji and interesting opposite studies on their own. Ho Rang goal in life is to get married, have kids, and be a good housewife. Soo Ji works at a big male-dominated company and dreams of becoming a CEO of her own company. The drama directly explores gender dynamics in a relationship such as proposals, sexual harassment in the workplace, and patriarchy in the family head on. The very subjects that Korean dramas never, ever, ever explore.

It’s even better that the drama does not take any sides on these issues but instead portrays the characters to the best of its ability and allows viewers to make their own opinion. It does not take Ho Rang’s side or Soo Ji’s side or even Ji Ho’s side although it could be said that it supports all these characters equally in their endeavors. On top of that, I will always support a drama that supports their female friendships. It asks us if she can live her life even if she doesn’t become her life-long career of being a writer. It tell us how complicated but how simple it is to love someone. And most importantly, it asks these characters what it means to live a meaningful life to them.

Image result for because this is my first life

The main reason for my B rating are the last few episodes. I think it’s a shame that the previous explored these issues so deeply and carefully that the rushed last episodes felt like a bow slapped onto an almost finished present. I was especially dissatisfied with Ho Rang’s ending. I think what hurt the drama was that the writers thought, as with all kdramas, that there had to be an HEA when it would have been perfectly fine and even more emotionally enriching to have a more ambiguous ending. However, its poignant moments and its thoughtful dialogue on what it means to live a meaningful life make this worth watching. B

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TV Review: Master of None Season 2

Image result for master of none season 2 poster

Title: Master of None

Season: 2

Created by: Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang

Episodes: 10 (S2)

Starring: Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe, Kelvin Yu, Alessandro Mastronardi

Rating: A

MILD SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1

 


I’ve never seen a comedy quite like Master of None. I don’t even know if comedy is the right way to describe Season 2. It still feels like a comedy albeit in a very dry and sometimes satirical way but it’s barely even funny. However, it was definitely not afraid to push the boundaries of TV style and combined with its incredible sense of intimacy and its wise notes on relationships and connection, it comes out all the more unique and better for it.

We left Season 1 when Dev and Rachel ended their relationship and Dev makes the split second decision to go to Italy to learn more about pasta making. Right off the bat, we see a unique change in TV style. The entire first episode is shot in black and white, lending itself to old vintage films and the stereotypical romance of Italy. And subsequently it follows him as he goes back to New York to resume his acting career and his search to find a connection with someone. What continues to strike me about MoN is how much it meanders. There will be several scenes in one episode of him sharing good food with good friends. It’s most likely just them saying how good the food is. Usually, I hate it when shows lack focus and have no sense of where they are going but that aspect was oddly charming in MoN. It felt authentic and confident. It felt like a coming-of-age that just shows you how much you can grow and change even when it seems you’re a 30 some year old man who is adulting and suppose to have all your shit together.

Dev gets a gig hosting Clash of Cupcakes (a satire of cooking shows) and while it pays the bills, he struggles to find emotional fulfillment from it. Similarly he tries to find fulfillment in his relationships as well even when dating in the social media world is messy, weird, and overly complicated for its own good. In the first episode he meets someone who he has a connection with but unfortunately gets his phone stolen and cannot contact her again. In a standout episode with a wonderful editing style, Dev is on a date with someone he met on a dating app and he asks the question “How many siblings do you have?”. She answers and then the scene seamlessly cuts to several other first dates he’s had answering the same question conveying the rote dryness of first dates but also the feeling of euphoria when you have found someone you have an automatic connection with.

Many of the episodes focus on Dev’s pursuit of love but it also doesn’t gloss over his friends’ lives as well. In another standout episode and probably my favorite one of the entire season, was “Thanksgiving” which chronicles some Thanksgivings in Dev’s life from 1990-2017 which he always happens to celebrate at Denise’s house with her mother, aunt and grandmother. The growth that Denise goes through in this half hour is something else. Her relationship between her mom and grandmother, her relationship with Dev and her relationship with her girlfriends are all flawlessly woven throughout this episode. They have definitely shown an original coming-out story. When Denise comes out to her mom, it is so intimate and emotional but it is not an all consuming event. It does not feel like an ultimatum, a do or die, but an expected confession made in a diner. Even if you don’t like this show, I guarantee you will like these two episodes.

As with Season 1, Season 2 eventually starts focusing on Dev’s relationship with this one woman that he has a connection with. It does deal with infidelity and I was worried it was going to fall into cliche territory but, without giving away spoilers it didn’t. I think most of that has to do with how Dev’s and Francesca’s relationship progresses. It wasn’t obvious, at least to me, who Dev’s “Rachel” was going to be this season. I think it sometimes veers into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory but it’s still respectful to its characters and their point of view.

Still from Master of None's season 2 on Netflix

I love the show’s ultra dry humor that you sometimes can’t tell is suppose to be funny or not. The show also an ode to the place he resides in which is the one and only New York with all the celebration of the diversity that exists in NY. These 10 episodes span from half an hour to an hour and a half flawlessly stylizing its cinematography to match the tone of each episode.

He has made so many relatable observations about what it’s like to live in the modern world. It’s really the uncertainty that Dev feels that really carries this show. The uncertainty of his feelings for Francesca and when he knows it, the uncertainty of how to continue a relationship with her, the uncertainty of his friends’ romantic lives (shouldn’t they be married by now? they wonder) and this uncertainty over this need for a connection with someone amidst the superficiality of small talk and the like. At the end of “The Dinner Party”,  Dev and Francesca are taking an Uber back to their respective places and after Francesca departs, we spend 3 minutes just on Dev as the Uber takes him home with only the sound of the car as noise and a curt “bye” as the only piece of dialogue. It is instantly relatable and fiercely intimate at the same time.

MoN was, if anything, even better than Season 1 because it was discusses the same topics of Season 1 but expresses them in riskier ways that just work. It’s a must watch.

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movie reviews · tv review · Uncategorized

Mini TV/Movie Reviews: Animation

So I’ve noticed I’ve been watching a lot more animation lately. Usually, animation is not something I normally gravitate towards especially animated TV and anime but there are always exceptions (See Voltron: Legendary Defender). I do tend to like animated movies more just because there are studios like Disney and Pixar that are always making really good content but even then I usually they don’t have quite as much emotional impact on me as they seem to on other animated fans but again there are exceptions (See Zootopia). And the ones I’ve seen recently are as expected a hit or miss.

Tangled Before Ever After (TV Movie) & Tangled: The Series

Starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi|Disney Channel | Currently 4 episodes released

Image result for tangled the seriesI’ll admit I was pretty excited but also really hesitant about watching these two. I didn’t know how well the 3D CGI would translate to 2D. The movie animation was absolutely stunning and I was worried the TV show would lose a lot of the feel of the original. But I was totally surprised. At first look, the 2D looks juvenile and a little sloppy but after watching it, it is absolutely stunning in its own way. The background and scenery are so bright and vivid but really detailed at the same time. They look like drawings in a picture book. It also helps that the voice actors for Eugene and Rapunzel are the same as in the movie and they do an equally good job in this one. The TV movie and TV series take place after the events of the 1st movie but before the Tangled short film where Eugene and Rapunzel get married. The first few episodes that have been released follow Rapunzel as she learns how to be a princess after being locked up in a tower. The relationship between Rapunzel and Eugene is just as cute and cheesy but there are worse things to show in a relationship than being cheesy. It is very healthy and respectful and I do like that they are getting separate storylines as they each figure what they want to be. There’s also a new character that’s introduced, Cassandra, who is Rapunzel’s lady-in-waiting and she’s awesome. She’s fearless and adventurous and a great foil for Rapunzel. She has an interesting hate relationship with Eugene which is fun. The storylines aren’t terribly original and I can forgive that because the show is very clearly targeted towards very young children (8-12) but they are refreshing in many ways and just solid storytelling. Fun and easily bingeable. I have a feeling shows based on popular Disney movies are going to continue being a thing in the upcoming years. I am particularly excited for the Big Hero 6 show coming out this Fall (again 2D) and the voice actors for most of the original cast will be the same which is exciting.

Trollhunters

Created by Guillermo Del Toro | Season 1: 26 episodes | DNFed: Episode 7 |Netflix

It’s very clear to me from seeing Pacific Rim and now Trollhunters that Guillermo Del Toro has such an imaginative and epic visionary style but I wish he paid as much Image result for trollhuntersattention to his stories. The world of the Trollhunters is riddled with interesting trolls and troll lore. The city that the Trolls reside in is beautifully animated (in the same CGI as Tangled) but as beautiful as the animation is, the story is lacking soooo much. It is overly cliche with by-the-book humor and one-note characters. It has the bare bones of an underdog-turned-hero story. Our hero, Jim Lake, is living in the suburbs with his doctor mom. He is kind of the outcast of the school and is bullied by the blonde-haired jock at school. His best friend, Toby, is the fat and lovable sidekick who is obviously fodder for a bunch of fat jokes. And to add on top of this mountain of cliches, he has a crush on one of the girls at school but of course does not think he is good enough for her attentions. But he’s a special snowflake so he finds this jewel and turns out that he is the savior of the trolls. Do you see where this is going? Much like the Kaijus and the Jaegers, the Trolls are extremely well-designed and varied. I really wanted to like this show because it seems like a show that I would like but 7 episodes in, I just couldn’t get past the bland storytelling. I’ve heard it gets less cliche as it goes on with the side characters getting their own development separate from their association with Jim but I don’t have enough patience to stick around.

Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)

Directed by Makoto Shinkai | Based on the manga: Your Name by Makoto Shinkai

This is one of those unfortunate instances where I’m wondering if everyone is watching the same Image result for your namemovie as me. I won’t deny that the animation and directing is beyond gorgeous. Much like Hayao Miyazaki’s films, the animation is hyper realistic and detailed especially in its scenery. But the storyline falls so flat for me. I think my biggest problem with the story is the fact that they were trying to insert 3 whole storylines into 1 movie which was too much and each storyline suffered because of it. What I thought I was getting was a body swapping storyline and eventually a romance but then halfway through, that sort of changed and went into more fantastical explanations for why this was happening that felt contrived. And to be honest, I didn’t really need to know why the body swapping was happening. And because of this deviance in plot, the characters never get past the stage of typical high school teens. In fact the things that happen when Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies are completely forgotten the next time they go back to their own bodies which makes me wonder how the fuck they could fall in love. And the parts where the relationship is being developed is filmed in a montage which is just annoying. This might just be me, however, I don’t like “they are bound by fate” storylines but I still felt like these storylines were not integrated well enough and felt like they were totally separate storylines. And then that random plot point at the end??

Image result for why gif
And at the end, I just didn’t care about these characters and I was just bored. There are two reviews that explain my thoughts in a more well-written manner, however be warned they both contain spoilers.

Review #1 | Review #2

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought of them (especially Your Name). And if you have any animated recommendations for me, I’d love to know 🙂

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