Category Archives: book

January 2020 Book, TV, and Film Roundup

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It’s been a minute since the last time I did one of these roundups. So, I decided to welcome February with one! Now that I am a person who has the occasional free time, I get to write a little more. I still have an academic project I am aiming to finish within the next month so, I will juggle between that and the blog.

The Shelf

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The Disney Fetish (2014) by Seán Harrington

How do I dare critique this book when there’s such deep research put into the psyche of Walt Disney the man, Disney the company, and conclusively, the influence on the society he (or it) aimed to effect? Let me first give you a back story. I ordered this book online in August for the sake of exploring a study similar to my scholarly project (analysis of several films made by a franchise in a way that challenges the hegemonic view). The premise of the book is interesting however, shortly after I started reading it, I pushed it as far away as possible.

I came back to this book in January, hoping that I can observe how the author structured the selected topics and introduced them in his book. This may be personal—I felt that the author, Seán Harrington, solely based his arguments on the Oedipus complex, aka the psychoanalysis that I think, has no connection to the feminist theory whatsoever. According to Freud’s Oedipal view, the mother does not have a phallus which denies her the adoration of self-image. I do not understand the logic, nor do I think arguing solely through this one deficient theory is enough for this book. I like the never heard of insights about the formation of the Disney company as well as Walt Disney’s potential psychologically damaging family experiences (which mostly entails Chapter 2 to 3). However, I think the author could have made his point in 40 pages easily.

Putting aside my disagreement with the author’s findings here is what I think: Overall, there is some good research and interesting facts about Walt Disney himself. However, the book is repetitive and seems to go back and forth between targeting academics versus average pop-culture geeks; there is some confusion about the audience. Sadly, I pushed through The Disney Fetish but, I do not recommend this book.

The Small Screen

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The Goop Lab (2020)

Dear women everywhere, watch The Goop Lab! Rumor (or the paparazzi) has it, Gwyneth Paltrow ended her acting career recently, and is focusing her energy on her lifestyle brand “Goop”. Paltrow started the brand back in 2008, which connected with women through weekly email newsletters. I say women because I do think it initially started with the idea of targeting and helping women about their psychical and mental wellness. However, Goop also has a small men’s section on their website that talks about stress-release, helpful recipes and much more. Alright, now that I am done with what seems like brand promotion, I’ll get to the gist of it (I promise I recently discovered about this lifestyle brand just like many of you and I do not have enough readers to promote a brand).

In The Goop Lab series, Paltrow and a powerful set of women try mushrooms, different and potentially risky diets as well as cosmetic applications. They also talk about the uncomfortable like female pleasure. There have been several criticisms about the show– specifically ones claiming it gives “bad health advice”. As the beginning of the show indicates, there is information that needs to be taken with caution in The Goop Lab. The way I viewed the show was similar to the way I watch vloggers. I watched women trying things and sharing their experience with us ladies who are curious. The content is a little different than your typical YouTube video though. The Goop team stayed vulnerable and shared relatable experience. Not every episode was great, but I found the series worthwhile for us ladies who may not spend much-needed time on their wellness. The Goop Lab is a great treadmill companion or a sleepover watch with good friends.

The Big Screen

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Jojo Rabbit (2019)

The very first time I watched Jojo Rabbit I thought it is an excellent film because it shows Nazi Germany from a satiric point of view. Taika Waititi most definitely tackles a topic that has been done many times before and considering the fact that Hitler ruled 70 years ago or so makes the film a risky choice. While the racist practices are engraved within the minds of many, identifying with the struggles that had happened during the Third Reich’s rule could still have been problematic for younger viewers. Taken these into consideration, Waititi accomplishes a hard task making Jojo Rabbit a hit.

I hardly have negative things to say for this production, but I also struggle to praise it too much. I think the brutal realities that the Jews had to go through are not reflected enough in this film. However, at the same time, this is okay because the premise of the movie is about the Nazi Germans, how the youth idolize and even adore Hitler and the adults who fight for peace while existing inside the system. To recap Jojo Rabbit quickly, Jojo is a Nazi German boy who is a member of Hitler’s young army. Quite frankly the story isn’t limited to that; Hitler is Jojo’s best friend (or imaginary friend). All Jojo wants is to work for Hitler until he finds out his beautiful mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Jojo Rabbit is truly about the power of propaganda. The film provides an insider’s view about how the redneck, uneducated, or naïve youth view the war, which is something we are not necessarily used to seeing on screen besides the heart-wrenching dramas.

In terms of the acting, there isn’t much to say—Jojo Rabbit has a talented cast. However, Scarlett Johansson truly shines and even steals the show during her limited appearances in the movie. If I say so myself, 2019 was the year of Johansson (See my review for Marriage Story (2019) which Johansson shares the spotlight with a thought-provoking performance alongside Adam Driver). Since Johansson ditched the pretty girl stereotype, her acting skills are at the forefronts. Rosie (Johansson) is a beautiful woman whom the men watch out for on the streets. However, her portrayal is complex—she is a mother who wants her son Jojo to turn around with his own will as she tries to support his young army involvement while showing him that peace is the solution.

You might like Jojo Rabbit because it has a different angle, or you might hate it for the same reason. I’d suggest you see the film and decide for yourself. While my criticism is limited and I cannot find much fault in Jojo Rabbit, it may not be one of those compelling films simply because it trades the dramatic effect with satire.

Comment below what you think or suggest a movie, tv-show, or a book you’d like for me to review! If you like reading posts like this one, consider getting me a Ko-Fi here. Thank you for reading and see you next time.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Water Dancer”: The Power of 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.

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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.

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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. Continue reading

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

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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

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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

 

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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. Continue reading

June 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup

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June was a quiet month for screen exposure. Well, at least the second half of it. I have a special someone visiting me so, I assure you that there will not be any complaining. This also makes up my much-needed excuse for posting a June roundup on the second day of June, rather than the first of it. While I thought these roundups would keep the blog alive when I did not know what to write about, I also realize now that they also keep me somewhat accountable. I love deadlines. I am past my deadline. Well, let’s talk about all the great things in life. Books, TV, and film. Here we go.

The Shelf

I have been mainly busy with reading research articles, extending my own research article, and editing my thesis. I managed to get my hands on a second-hand copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005). It is an excellent read that is beyond a “how-to” book so far. I never got to finish it so, I’ll postpone the review to the next round up. What I did finish though, is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on Black Panther, A Nation Under Our Feet (2016).

 

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Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (2016) By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I remember reading an article by the ex-Atlantic journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates prior to making the decision of picking up this comic book (Note that I have not read his take on Captain America, yet). The article talks about the mixed-feelings of producing a story that has been created by a predominantly White team of comic producers, Coates finding his purpose through taking the challenge, playing with a new voice and potentially making that voice sound better for many. I was curious to see how Coates re-introduced the previously primitive Black Panther (see, Fantastic Four #52) and whether the same criticisms made for the movie (2018) could also be traced back to this comic. Coates’ Black Panther actually received all of those criticisms in the comic itself: T’Challa was selfish, he was not heard by his nation, and he, perhaps, hurt his nation because he saw them as a burden rather than an honor.

The main plot revolves around the people of Wakanda attacking their own King. On the surface, they are controlled by a woman with supernatural abilities, however, Coates’ sets up the greater problem underneath, that is caused by the heaviness of T’Challa’s crown. While the enemies plot against overthrowing T’Challa, he fears his greatest challenge of failing Wakanda. Coates’ way of telling this story is beautifully poetic, complex, and one that houses an interplay of many messages. His take of the Black Panther is not actually a book of physical war but the fearful war within the King. It is nowhere close to a primitive representation, but psychological warfare that pushes T’Challa for reconsidering his ideology. It is Black Panther refreshed, yet not one that forgets history. I suggest you get your hands on it and read it. Then, read it again to truly appreciate the story behind every word.

The Small Screen

 

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How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) (2019)

I don’t know why I will stamp this show as mediocre yet but… I will anyway. Netflix caught me on its main page trap when the show was first released, I did not have anything to watch at some stressed point in my life and pressed play. I did not binge watch this show, rather, went back to it whenever I was desperate. Don’t get me wrong, it is wasn’t a bad show per se. It was just a real-life, coming of age story that had minimal sickening events (see, episode 8… I think), and not so sickening references to the dark web (I was forced to watch a YouTube video talking about the dark web so, I hate talking about the dark web).

The plot is about Moritz, whose girlfriend just got back from an exchange program from the US and questions the meaning of life (thanks to the drugs, hence the title of the show). So, Moritz decides to sell drugs to win her back and surprisingly makes a lot of money to fuel his greed. I don’t think the growth of Moritz’ online drug business is so typical, but the show accurately represents the German young-adult culture and the effects of the wide use of drugs. The show also deserves an A+ for its use of simplistic cinematography and tech-inspired graphic components. Overall, is it a waste of time? No. Is it an amazing show? No. Continue reading

May 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup

Welcome to the first Roundup of Hazal’s Camera. I’ll try to keep this as a monthly ritual. Let’s dive in.

 

The month of May can only be described as a blessing and a curse. I finalized an intense period of summer courses, followed by an intense period of free time. The North American culture subtly rewrites your DNA and convinces you that you need to be busy all the damn time. So, my free time called for a lot of binge-watching, and it was beautiful.

Let’s start the roundup with books, shall we? I promised myself that I would be reading one book a month. The apple era took this pleasant activity away, and my thesis research gave it back to me. I started with Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type (2017). It was my every bus read from school or internship. It became my companion when I laid down on the grass. It had many stories that literally pulled you in, and some that didn’t but nonetheless, it is was a nice companion for May.

In the TV zone— I started with Defenders (2017) hoping that I could revisit my love for the series Jessica Jones but definitely loved the plot despite the fact that it mainly revolved around the Iron Fist. Next, I went through a series of emotions watching Jane the Virgin (2014-). It is definitely a cheesy romance show or “telenovela”. I regretted wasting the vast of the plot away all so quickly once I found out that the series was set to finish this year. I honestly loved this show. I guess I am a hopeless romantic, after all.

None of the film productions really wowed me this month. I watched the live action Aladdin (2019), it had a couple problematic representation patterns. In fact, they weren’t problematic, but rather, clearly wrong. I won’t get into it again in this post, but you can see my full review here. Next, much anticipated (and advertised) Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019). I watched the film on the first day of release. I am one of those young adults who watched Zac Efron in chick flick blockbusters in the past, but his portrayal of Ted Bundy really wowed me. The film did not though, and I will explain why. Finally, I watched what seems to be Jon Favreau’s passion project Chef (2014). Sadly predictable, and an okay movie. Continue reading