Author Archives: hazalse

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer: Freedom Hidden in Memory

Book Rating: 9/10

Warning: Light spoilers below.

I’ve followed Ta Nehisi Coates’ articles on The Atlantic and read his work for Black Panther (2016-) comic series. The comic has been traditionally developed by Caucasian authors; hence, the comic’s success says a lot. Coates is an extraordinary storyteller who can make a book readable to a wide range of audiences while commemorating the history of the Black Peoples of the USA gracefully. I ordered Coates’ latest book, The Water Dancer a while back and waited months for it to come out. The book was advertised to be yet another superhero genre product. However, you can see it for yourself that it is built open the power of memory, which is based more on reality than fiction.

His latest book, The Water Dancer, is inspired by agents of the underground railroad network (specifically, stories of the Still family in the book, The Underground Railroad Records by Quincy Mills). Hiram Walker is the child of a white plantation owner and a tasking mother. The readers observe Hiram’s struggle to grow out of the task in the fictional Virginia plantation, Lockless. Tasking comes too easy to Hiram because he has no memory of his past.

Structure of Water

What better way to create an imagery of slavery other than the unstable yet calming nature of water? The whole book is in fact inspired by the water. After he leaves Lockless, Hiram’s journey is taken over by water. He trusts a free Black man to save himself and his girl, and he finds himself locked in jail. He is later sold to a psychotic Black hunter group who release Hiram only to catch him every single night; soon, he realizes, months of running every night is simply a lie. Hiram’s journey after Lockless is never stable. Whenever the reader decides to take a breath, surely, they need to hold it back for twice as long. Coates does not want the reader to fantasize about happy endings (although he gives us one); He wants the reader to see the unstable nature of freedom amidst a nation ruled by slavery. Hence, slavery is the waves of water. It drowns Hiram at times but only to push him to the shore. For some of the other characters, they lay deep down in the water, never to escape.

6a85cce7-029d-4f66-b56a-7315d3a60978.__CR0,0,1200,1200_PT0_SX300_V1___

The Power of Memory

It is true to say Hiram’s journey never follows a straight line— up until he remembers. Every time Hiram escapes slavery, he gets pulled back into it. Tasking means comfort, tasking means doing what he knows, and tasking is also an escape from remembering his traumatic past. Hiram’s brain sets free sparks of his memory when life leaves its heaviness on him. In fact, the author never tries to gather sympathy for Hiram, the brutality tactfully speaks for itself. Harriet, (inspired by the underground agent Harriet Tubman), is a force of the underground with the ability to channel her memories is a strong guiding figure for Hiram. He meets Harriet in the free state after his conception by the Underground. In Chapter 25, both Hiram and the readers experience what conduction means. It is magical and stripped from physicality. Conduction has an element of turning the other cheek; it repairs what has been stolen from the tasking folk beautifully. Read more

Disney Plus’ Highly Acclaimed “The Mandalorian” Breaks the Internet

_106455658_themandalorian.jpg

The internet has been talking about The Mandalorian (2019) for weeks. The stakes are high that Disney+ attracted its many subscribers due to the long-awaited Star Wars rather than its promise of the extensive library of the classic tales. With Jon Favreau in the creator and writer seat who had a driving influence on the formation of Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems like there won’t be any second thoughts on the success of The Mandalorian. 

The first episode sets up the facts very subtly for the avid Star Wars fan and those who turned their devices on for the extensive publicity of the show. Favreau says in an interview, “When a universe is filled with chaos, you have tough characters emerging”; this is exactly what happens in The Mandalorian. Specifically, for those who are unfamiliar with the Star Wars Universe, the empty deserted streets, disturbing quietness, bars full of the good guys and the bad guys are not hard to catch. This is a world ignoring the painful aftermath of the chaos. The world needs a hero, but scene one never tells the viewer whether the Mandalorian is one. Instead, it gives off the idea that he is a bounty hunter. Is he a good one? The suspense builds up as the viewer navigates through the story to uncover his true identity. The series slowly yet so effectively introduces the viewer to its leading character. The Mandalorian is not a thriller, but it surely has moments that make the viewers hold their breath.

“You are a Mandalorian. Your ancestors rode the great Mythosaur. Surely you can ride this young foal.”

While understanding the sub-genre of the Star Wars series as we know to be sci-fi may take some processing, the soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson is a great help. My initial thoughts throughout episode one are mixed; there seems to be too much emphasis on tribalism, which at first did not add to the story. Before Mandalorian begins his search for an intriguing target, he needs a ride. Not a particular spaceship, but a creature called blurg. The Mandalorian establishing control over the creature is a moment to cherish for those the Star Wars fans. It reveals a piece of Mandalorian culture and mythology. Read more

On Writing: A Letter About Socks and Finding Inspiration

A couple of housekeeping notes before we start,

  1. If you like the content on this blog or simply want to buy me coffee and you are too far to do that in person, visit my Ko-Fi page.
  2. Take this 1-minute survey for my curiosity. I am working on a new article on streaming services for this blog. It will be a little different because it is research-based. I want to write about what you think about the fathers of the streaming services like Netflix, and the newcomers like Disney+. Please note that if you leave a comment, they may be published on this website. Feel free to leave your name in there if you’d like a shout. The survey link is here.
  3. Here’s is an additional 30-second survey on Disney Plus. If you’ve already purchased a membership (or not) let me know your thoughts.
  4. It seems like the blog will be quiet until the end of December. Please bear with me until I go through this transitional season of life. Read more about it below.
dancers-in-blue-c-1895_u-l-o3vuo0

A painting we had in our old house. Dancers in Blue, c.1895 by Edgar Degas.

 

 

Dear Universe and its lovely people,

You might have noticed that Hazal’s Camera has been quiet lately… not because I stopped filtering life, but because I didn’t have time to personally deliver what’s been going on in my head to you. This morning something was off. I put on a pair of sparkly teal-colored socks that my grandma gave me during a time of holidays that I was surprisingly home. I named them the Tinker Bell socks, just this morning, and promised myself that I’d make some magic. So, here we are forcing the sparkles of inspiration to enter the room and break the blocks. 

Some may call this the writer’s block but I will call it the last thirty days before graduation, mercury’s millionth retrograde, juggling to keep a home happy, and neglecting my only meditation. A good friend once told me I was a good writer because I kept writing. I kept doing what seemed so hard for her. Then, I realized I quit this very paragraph to watch a film with my significant other and check a list of errands for tomorrow.  

On this particular day or in this particular time of my life words don’t flow freely on the water. They are collected by the seaweeds, accumulated for what seems like an eternity. Things haven’t been always this way. Hence, I don’t have a clear head nor a clear physical space. It might explain the metaphors that I tried to hide behind.

The moral of the story is simple. In a month, I will have a degree. I will also be unemployed. I will wait a little for my Tinker Bell then. But, who knows? The teal-colored socks might make some magic on their own.

See you in a month, friend.

-H

“Batwoman is the best in the franchise”: Holly Dale on Filmmaking as a Female, Director-Actor Chemistry, and the Rise of Batwoman

At a time that builds upon the momentum of movements like Me Too and LGBTQ Pride, female filmmakers are finally starting to get the recognition they have always deserved. Holly Dale, the award-winning director, producer, writer and editor(!), gets up from her seat within the audience and faces them as she enters the Vancouver Film Festival’s (VIFF) stage. As her long-time colleague and friend Norma Bailey says proudly, Dale has a perfect record of five plots proposed, and five directed. On top of this, she has directed 200 hours’ worth of screen productions.

You probably already viewed many of Dale’s works: Durham County, Mary Kills People, Flashpoint, Being Erica, Dexter, The Americans, The X-Files, Law & Order True Crime, Limitless, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Falling Skies, are some of the most popular ones. Dale is currently working on the highly anticipated Batwoman (2019) series, in which she is producing and directing. Batwoman aired on CW just last week, and already has the internet people talking! It currently sits at a high 73% on Rotten Tomatoes; however, it has also been a victim of the toxic fan culture because of its nonapologetic characters.

It seems that Dale will gather a lot of attention while the Batwoman debates catch fire. Meanwhile, I had the privilege to attend Dale and Bailey’s masterclass in October and meet her personally. Unlike someone who has so much experience as Dale, she was very humble; she wanted to connect with every single person in the audience. Hence, why she stayed for another hour or so to answer questions and guide aspiring filmmakers in their individual journeys.

1571696b22f4157ccad16c2c8229fa68

Holly and Norma Kill People

As the moderator and co-director of Mary Kills People, Bailey cheerfully states, she and Dale met at a time when both directors decided to move away from documentary filmmaking and into drama. When filming documentaries, Bailey felt she was exploiting people to do what she creatively wanted to accomplish, and that was to tell stories. On the other hand, documentary filmmaking was never Dale’s intention either. However, through drama, Dale rightfully obtained the title of being an actor’s director; someone who knows how to approach an actor’s needs.

As Dale states, setting up the visuals truly set up what Mary Kills People (MKP) stood for. Camera angles, colors, location and all that you could see on the final screen product aimed to service the characters. As an example, the visuals of dull-colored tunnels in MKP were intended to walk the actor through the tunnel of light, often associated with death. The entire piece was made to relate to life and death in various ways.

FullSizeRender-1

Norma Bailey and Holly Dale at the VIFF Masterclass.

 

Drama in the Industry: A Female Perspective

“When I first started directing”, Dale says, “there were only 5 female directors in the industry”. Dale made sacrifices and traveled a lot. Her hard work paid off, especially when she shot a documentary on female filmmakers, Calling the Shots in 1988. As she reminisced those days, Dale exclaimed, “I met so many great males in the industry, too—they were sons of single mothers”. The audience burst out laughing.

“Women tend to collaborate and nurture more, but they also need to be careful,” says Dale. Through her experience in the industry, Dale realized there are people on set who definitely won’t want her to succeed. At the end of the day, she suggests the important skill aspiring filmmakers need to obtain is to use their energy only when they need it. A director’s job is to make decisions. Dale exhales, and gives a piece of valuable advice, “you don’t want to make a decision quick”. According to Dale, there is a delicate line between helping the producer in terms of cost and convenience, and the look and feel of the final product. She adds, “you need to filter ideas and use them for your benefit”.

 

FullSizeRender.jpeg

Holly Dale and myself at the VIFF Masterclass.

 

Director-Actor Chemistry

When talking about times she is mostly involved in the process of selecting an actor, Dale states, “firstly, the actor needs to be a reactor”. In other words, actors need to be reactive to what’s going on around them in the scene. For Dale, another important factor is that the actor needs to know their lines. Specifically, “casting for TV is very fast,” she says; hence, seeing these two qualities stand actors out from the hundreds of tapes that are viewed every day.

Dale continues on about the ideal director-actor relationship, “Actors are very nervous most of the time. You need to tell them your processes and do not stand away”. Dale says that a director’s job is to go ahead and tell the actor, “Hey, that’s a great job”; simple as that. If a director wants the production to succeed, Dale argues “[they cannot] talk to an actor in results”. A director needs to tell the actor what causes the happiness or sadness and let them walk through the emotion. When Dale was asked about the best way to set up an emotional tone to the production, she stated, “it is best when they (the actor) wants to work with you”. When the actor and director understand each other, the character starts telling her story.

Insights from Dale: Marvel vs. DC

Marvel (Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D.)– Executives are very hands-on during production.

DC (Batwoman) – Finally has the best superhero on-screen for the franchise! 

batwoman-logo-600x336

The rise of Batwoman

Dale defines Batwoman as “a groundbreaking series” that welcomes a lesbian superhero on screen, and adds, “it (Batwoman) is the best in the franchise”. She says she is on set a lot these days; she practically “live(s) there now!”. But Dale seems to put her heart out directing Batwoman, as she “always excels to be beyond the script”. And, we are beyond excited to see where Batwoman’s journey will take her; because we want to go there with her, too!

September 2019 Book, TV, and Film Roundup

As October is welcomed with its sweet rainy weather, I cozied up at home drinking coffee and watching films. Hence, this roundup is a longer one. Before you get reading, I just want to mention that I may have to stop writing the roundups for the next few months. I am getting closer to my highly anticipated graduation and things have been busy in a nice way. I will, however, keep writing reviews for individual intermedia products that I like.

If you like reading posts like this one, consider getting me a coffee here. I write a lot faster with caffeine.

The Shelf

51F1J5QRFFL._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_

Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) by Neil Postman

I have read snippets of Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death numerous times for classes throughout the university. I never had the chance to read the full book until I came across it in a second-hand bookstore this summer. It is a foundational book from Postman, the media theorist, and educator, that takes both Orwell and Huxley’s predictions about the techno-future and shows them under a clear lens for our eyes.

Part I sets up the importance of epistemology; in other words, the information about how media come to our lives is just as important as how we engage with it. There is invaluable information about the history of typography here. Postman wants to make sure we know the difference between how things were, and how things are. While we retained important information then, we get trivial knowledge that is worthy of a few quick seconds now. Hence, the news does not mean anything; people die on TV, and we get over it. In Part II, Postman digs deeper into the social components of our lives and how they are represented on TV. He talks about religious shows that are drained out of their spirituality to entertain a wider audience and keep their attention for long periods, too. He, then, talks about politicians as actors on TV and strongly despises it. He argues, TV strips the political content out of its history and ideology. Lastly, he argues that TV as an education gadget cannot work simply because it lacks interaction. When education becomes an entertainment toy, it stops educating.

In the final chapter, Postman decides it is time we stop flipping the pages and gives us the answer to the following question: Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? He does not suggest we eliminate TVs altogether, but de-mythologize them, break them apart and be aware of their purpose as the amusement objects that they are. This book is one that needs to be read a few times because of its information-heavy nature. It is, in fact, a holy book for anyone interested in media.

The Small Screen

image-2-580x327.png

Great News (2017-2018)

This is a very sweet, sweet sitcom that I came to love. I eventually clicked play simply because I was hoping to get a somewhat realistic look into a newsroom setting. I did not binge-watch the whole thing at one sit, but I could easily see myself doing that, too. The story seems to be about Katie but truly, it is about her relationship with her mother (Carol). Carol decides it is time for her to follow her dreams and starts going to journalism school while interning at the newsroom. The series tackles the workplace dynamics, power structure, and also the patterns of Katie and Carol’s mother-daughter relationship and how this looks within a workplace setting.

Season One mainly deals with Katie’s dilemma about having her mom around. We get to know all of the characters and decide who we like and who we probably won’t within the coming seasons. It is set up very well. On the other hand, what drives the story of Great News is the mother-daughter relationship, which actually may choke you up quite a lot (especially in the first season). In season two, we realize that Katie may have a love interest: Greg, the British producer. With that, there are numerous awkward scenes and anticipation that one of them will open up. Another bonus in season two is the guest appearance of the brilliant Tina Fey. Let me stop before I give too much away– in summary, this is a cute show to cheer you up but you may be sad to know that it is not cleared for another season with Netflix.

The Big Screen

 

rambov

Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

With its significantly larger budget of $50 million, Rambo could not attract enough viewers to fill the theatre seats (Box Office $60.3M). The question of whether Sylvester Stallone will retire from playing Rambo flew around for years. However, the vague interest wasn’t enough to find Rambo appealing once he was out of the war zone, as seen in Last Blood.

Why was Rambo simply bad? The legendary Stallone’s acting was not enough to hold a poor screenplay together. The screenplay of the fifth Rambo film has been a hot topic of Stallone’s interviews in 2018. Morrell and Stallone previously worked together on a soulful story for this last journey. Little did they know that the producers would prefer going with the version we saw on screen today. Hence, the human trafficking plot resulted in Stallone announcing his retirement from playing Rambo. You can read more about Morrel’s interview on the topic here. Read more

Szczecin: Beautiful and Forgotten

Author: Simon Roman
Editor: Hazal Senkoyuncu
Castle 2
For those who do not know that a city called Szczecin even exists–, We will jump into a little history lesson along with helpful geographical facts to get you up to speed. Szczecin is a city located in Northern Poland with access to the Baltic Sea.* To its West, Berlin stands 138 km away from Szczecin, and to its East, a port city called Gdansk is located 333 km apart. With a population of over half a million citizens, Szczecin is the capital of the West Pomeranian voivodeship (or region). It is ranked to be the third city that occupies the largest land area (in square meters) in Poland.
The city was founded in 1243, thanks to Prince Barnim I. However, there is information about various tribes settling in the once-abandoned area, dating back to the early middle ages, approx. around 700 A.C. From the middle ages to the modern-day, Szczecin belonged to the Pomeranian Princedom. It was the capital that housed the ruling dynasty, an independent army, and the fleet. The Pomeranian Griffith dynasty ruled for 500 years. The ruling families had children, who later became kings of neighboring countries like Denmark and Sweden.
Indeed, Szczecin did not belong to Poland for a long while. It has been a Polish city only for 74 years now. Before the Second World War, the city called Stettin was a part of the Third Reich. After Germany capitulated its Allies, they decided to transfer several German cities inside the new borders of Poland. Thus, Stettin took a Polish name, Szczecin. It only took a few days after this settlement, and the lives of the once-residents were forever changed. Several hundred thousands of Germans were interned by the Russians off of the city. The whole community was replaced by Polish citizens.

 

The Paris of the North
The current shape of the town comes to our day from the XIX century. Most of the housing units are richly encrusted tenement houses built before the First World War. When the city belonged to Germany, it was referred to as the “Paris of the North”. One must admit, there is truth to this statement. The historical frontages are blessed with wide streets, allowing for astonishingly well-organized traffic (Hat tip to the XIX century German urbanists!)**. With every hundred meters, you can find a park, accompanied by great coffee shops in each corner.
Let’s not forget to mention the places you must visit:
White Eagle Square showcasing its baroque fountain, Globus Palace where the Russian Tzar Pawel I’s wife was born; Jasne Blonia Park with its astonishing alleys of old trees. You ought to spend hours in the Central Cemetery or the biggest city necropolis in Europe; in fact, it is bigger than Père-Lachaise in Paris. Then, there is the Breakthrough Museum, a building disguised as a public square that holds a collection of changes in the 20th century Poland. Let’s not forget Szczecin’s infamous port and shipyard… with a bloody history. The dock saw the unarmed workers strike against the communist party until the police shot many, and killed them in the 70s. Lastly, the Karłowicz Philharmonic, a.k.a. my favorite place in this town (Jump to “Szczecin in the Current Day” for detailed information).
Castle 1

Szczecin at night

Fingerprints of the Communist Party remain
 The city of Szczecin is as beautiful as it is forgotten. During their stay in Szczecin, anyone can notice that the place is underfunded; not because of bad governing, but due to the decade long history of communism. The Communist Party was afraid that Germany would not be staying silent upon its loss in WWII– That sooner or later, Germany would want Szczecin back. The solution was simple! They would spend only a small amount of money for the town. And, they did for the next 60 years. Funds were sent to the shipyard and port maintenance, only some worker housing in the new suburbs and other essential expenses to keep a large city functioning. The era of poverty ended with the collapse of the Iron Curtain as well as the end of Communism in the 90s.
Fingerprints of this era remain on the face of Szczecin– Tenement houses have not been renovated since the war. Some of them were deconstructed to their bricks in 1946. The bricks were then sent to Warsaw for the rebuilding of the town, while the deconstructed houses were left undone. Oddly enough, Szczecin maintained better communication with Berlin than it did with Warsaw to this day. Hence, Berlin is more accessible via transportation; you can find a way to get to Berlin any minute! ***

Read more

August 2019 Book, TV, and Film Roundup

If I didn’t mind everything to appear as orderly as they really aren’t—I would call this roundup, August: The month of half doing everything. I did not particularly go crazy about anything I watched, read, or listened this month. It was deeply saddening because it seemed like I was wasting my time while running away from wasting my time, especially in terms of my book choice, Caramelo. Next, I began watching The Protector(or ‘Hakan Muhafız’, 2018) a superhero series, but with a Turkish twist. The big screen was rather safe with a late catching up with The Lion King (2019) and a re-watch of an all-time favorite, Coco (2017), at home. I cannot recommend Coco enough; I cry every time I watch it. Lastly, The Red Sea Diving Resort(2019) was a painfully lifeless movie to watch; the plot wasn’t tragic but the movie itself was.

The Shelf

51TEfVis3bL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Caramelo, Or, Puro Cuento (2002) by Sandra Cisneros

The Vancouver Public Library has an amazing system that asks about your intermedia favorites and comes up with an extensive list of books just for your taste. I was recommended this sweet book about a Mexican family that lives in Chicago. They take one of their famous trips to the awful grandmother’s house in Mexico, where the literal definition of a whole family meets every summer. The book is written from the views of Lala, the young girl who watches her mother and grandmother’s power struggle, her quiet father, funny uncles and tormentor cousins. She seems lonely and out of solutions in the middle of it all. She becomes our eyes in the family and navigates through what seems to be a map of family history and shows us why things are the way they are.

Now that you have an idea about the plot, let me tell you about all the reviews I read prior to picking up this book. The readers preach the award-winning author’s poetic way of storytelling and especially Mexican readers, state that they have found a piece of home in it. I am writing this review because I could not get past the first 150 pages of Caramelo. Cisneros is, indeed, a master of words, and you can tell that it comes easy to her. She is extremely descriptive, but it becomes overbearing and unnecessary at times; it even spoils the story. The point she is so eager to make so beautifully diminishes as she runs on different tangents. The chapters are very short, they can be called short stories which have a hard time to intertwine. With all due respect, I am a stranger to such a different literary approach to storytelling. I tried to love Carameloand really wanted to relate to the enthusiasm of the other readers—It did not work. Hence, I do not recommend it. If you read the book, let me know what you think below.

image

Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light (2019)by Stan Lee and Kat Rosenfield

A Trick of Light was the very first audiobook I ever listened; as you might know, I am more of a paper person. Hence, it caught me by surprise to hear Yara Shahidi’s excellent narration. Her voice is very neutral and timeless yet keeps the story exciting. It is also the door to Stan Lee’s world. In A Trick of Light, we follow the origin story of Cameron who accidentally gains super-techno-powers. He, then, meets Nia, a hacker who is overly protected by her father. They take on a journey to find what happened to Cameron’s lost father. On a side note, while the plot builds up toward a love story, we never really get one.

While Stan Lee’s brand is within this book, I have a bit of a hard time believing he has more than a small touch on the details. I believe the story is very timeless because it embodies the long for human connection in an internet-connected world. However, it does not go very far from Ernest Cline’s book that inspired Spielberg’s Ready Player One(2018) in terms of setting up the story and its characters. It is very far from the Marvel plots we are used to in terms of its softer tone and action scenes. Overall, a good little book to listen to when you cannot read a better one. It is a mediocre story though, which makes me refuse to believe that Lee had much of an influence in A Trick of Light.

The Small Screen

DuXdyfrX4AMBhYd

The Protector (2018)

Review based on the episodes 1-3

Before I dive into this review, I want to remind you, the new readers, that I grew up watching Turkish tv series. If you are one of the viewers who watched The Protector  with a dub, now you know that it is produced and filmed in Turkey. I find this bit of information very important because while there is an Oriental feel to The Protector, the Netflix team was able to add a global touch to it. Or, was it Joseph Campbell? (I’ll link an article here about The Hero’s Journey if you haven’t heard about it yet. In essence, it is a global approach to myth-building). Read more

« Older Entries