[Series] Strong Female Leads to Follow on Streaming Giants: Self Made, Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker

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IMBD Score: 7.6

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

Self Made (2020) is a limited web series that recently premiered on Netflix in March 2020. It is made of 4 episodes that overpass the life of Madam C.J. Walker. The premise of the series is very straight forward: search of identity. Before she is Madam Walker, our protagonist is an abandoned widow who washes laundry to keep the stove running in the house. The hardships of life return her… hair loss. Shortly after, a mulatto saleswoman shows her a product that makes her hair grow. It works magic because then Madam “C.J. Walker” has a boost of self-confidence and she meets her second husband (C.J. Walker) that gives her the iconic name. The rest of the story illustrates her struggle to start her own hair business and exist with this new independent identity between the 1880s and 1890s. Spoiler alert—Madam becomes America’s first Black, self made female millionaire; she also has had a mansion next to John D. Rockefeller’s! (Thank you OprahMag.) Continue reading

[Series] Strong Female Leads to Follow on Streaming Giants: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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The next few entries on the blog will explore streaming shows that center their stories around strong female characters. This week, we’ll start with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-) on Amazon Prime Video.

IMBD Score: 8.7

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

When God granted me a free Amazon Prime Video account, I took it without hesitation. I have not watched anything else on the platform other than The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-) since. Probably because nothing seems to catch my eye on Amazon and the company is weak on the advertising front. Nonetheless, here is why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is different than your average streaming production—You cannot binge it. I can hear some of you disbelievers already; Believe me when I say I tried, but the content is too rich to shovel it down your brain that quickly. Continue reading

The Ultimate Covid-19 Resource List (Updated Regularly)

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Credits: DanarArt on DevianArt.com

Dear habitants of earth,

Unless you are a space cowboy, you should be aware of the latest pandemic that we are all affected by equally—Well, that is a first. I hope you are all staying safe from the COVID-19 virus by staying in and battling with creeping diabetes at the same time. I know, I am. Kudos to those who work out and avoid baked goods at home; please do share your secret. I was home for a total of 7 days, self-quarantining (and, I mean who is counting?).

Here is how it went:

Day 1 – Workout done, cooking done, cleaning done, reading done

Day 2 – workout nada, cooking nada, cleaning nada, reading yes, watching tv YES, laying down like a sloth YES.

Rest of the week – same as before. I am sure I was more productive during the occasional times that I felt depressed in university.

While I can talk about the hardships that people of the earth suffer daily and I think we never hear enough of that, I will try to lure the left side of your brain today. If you are home today, you are an awesome individual who cares about the people around you; I want to thank you, friend. I also want to help you with unleashing your creative energy during this unusual time (for some of us). I will try my best to write a couple articles for the next while to keep us, the privileged folk sane. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

[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