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. Continue reading

The Age of Streaming Services: Then, Now, and Beyond [Exclusive Interview Inside]

Previously published on The Artifice.

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SOURCE: Vidooly

“My family are huge TV watchers. We will, unfortunately, subscribe to everything”, states an anonymous comment made by a viewer in a public survey.* It is common to feel impotent towards new movies and tv shows releasing online every week. The Internet made content accessible for the public, but the catch is that the viewers feel the need to keep up with it all both financially and otherwise.

Streaming is replacing the beloved TV in the average household. Whether it is Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, (or all three!), there is a guest in the house who will literally cut the cable, and, it may be here to stay. So, how did the average consumer welcome streaming without a visible transition? It started with a live internet video by some tech company nerds in 1993. It was a poor attempt that used up half of the available bandwidth of the entire internet. In 1994, the New York Times referred to the Rolling Stones as “the first [major] rock band in cyberspace” to promote their music to millions of streamers. As you can imagine, there was some controversy about who was first and what should’ve been written in Rolling Stones’ press releases. Fast forward to 2005, Saturday Night Live (SNL) released its first video short on Youtube, right around the time that the service started becoming popular. In 2007, Netflix (NFLX), previously known to be a mail-order service, introduced its on-demand platform and became an influencing figure as both a content-producer and provider. Today, the same company has 24 Oscar nominations (2020).

The Inevitable Death of Television

The Universal TV Problem is perhaps rooted in its adaptable nature. In the 40s, the black chunky boxes found their place in the American home and made their debut a little later internationally in the 70s. As Media Theorist Neil Postman discussed foreseeingly in the 80s, the average family (despite their income) started positioning their couches to face the television. And the television found its purpose as the entertainer, silence-filler, and now, a mere accessory.

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[Underrated Mondays]: The Zodiac (2007)

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There is a new section on the blog: Underrated Mondays. In this section, I will review movies that are filmed between the years 2000 and 2010, and that I think are underrated. For the sake of clarification, movies that make it to this section will be ones that do not double their budgets (reflected as ‘gross box office data’). I expect to update this section twice: the first and third Mondays of the month.

“It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest, because man is the most dangerous animal of all.”

The first film that has the honor to start this section is The Zodiac (2007) directed by David Fincher. Despite its intriguing topic and hall of fame cast, it barely surpassed its budget of 65M USD, grossing 84.8M in the box offices. It is fairly surprising that this film did not gather greater public attention. Nonetheless, here is my limited critique of the film—do not let it blow you off; it is a film guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Zodiac is a film based on the true crimes of a Bay Area killer, active between the 1960s and 1970s who is known as the zodiac killer. For nearly five decades the police were not able to identify the killer. What makes the film so interesting is its loyalty to the real events, as well as its well-crafted ending. While much of the public criticism was due to the unsatisfactory ending that does not reveal the status of the killer, I would argue that it only places information on a fair ground in terms of storytelling—Afterall, how fair would it be to project a success that the police, reporters, and victims were not able to experience for your at-home entertainment? Continue reading

[Review] Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is set to score multiple Oscars.

Baumbach’s Marriage Story had the film festival audiences compelled before it dropped in the movie theatres and Netflix. The response of the general audience has been equally positive, Baumbach’s diligently written screenplay and picture as a whole are expected to score a number of Oscars, along with Johansson (as Nicole) and Driver’s (as Charlie) performances.

The story is about a talented couple who decides to go through a divorce. How does divorce make such compelling screenplay? It seems to happen instantly when the audience realizes that Charlie wants to continue living in New York for his theatre company, and Nicole desires to relaunch her once-alive Hollywood career in Los Angeles. The film is about existing together as a couple and having the freedom to occupy individual spaces. It is about sharing a living and having a special space that is your own.

As the theme settles into the film heavily when Nicole moves to Los Angeles with their son, Baumbach builds his climax on this new life by channeling how this move affects Charlie. The couple initially to agree to go through a divorce without lawyers, in the hopes that they will remain friends. However, the affair of Charlie likely changes the direction of the events; as a result, lawyers are involved and things get nasty. Initially, the blocks are meant to sit in an unusual way, representing a happy divorce. As the events shift, the audience sees the blocks fitting just right. In a particular scene, Charlie tells Nicole he wishes she was dead, reflecting both love and hate at the same time and revealing the beautiful toxicity of the relationship as Nicole hugs him. Continue reading

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.

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.

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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

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

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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. Continue reading

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.

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“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.

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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. 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. Continue reading