Tag Archives: comedy

[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.

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The show is set in the 60s and it follows the loving housewife (Midge Maisel) who finds out her husband has been cheating on her with his empty-headed secretary, and the rest of the plot easily peels away. While Midge tries to navigate being single in the world, her life changes completely: She moves in with her wealthy parents, starts working low-paying jobs on top of her occasional comedy performances. Season 1 is a testimony that it is faith that brings her to the stage; Midge holds the reigns and stays to succeed.

Season 2 (the best season in my opinion) is about the theme of change; Midge happily juggles between her old life and the new one, while the audience visits not one, but two scenic locations. Rose (Midge’s mother) realizes she might not be as happy as she put out to the world and moves to… France! These episodes provide the audience with an opportunity that shows them a different side of the stone-cold Weissman Family. It turns out that they are funny and lovable, too. Season 2 takes a small step back from Midge and shows the audience the people who influence her shows, and in return, she influences them (as observed in Rose’s sudden move to France in S-2, and Abe’s career decisions in S-3).

After a few episodes in France, The Weismann Family (Midge’s parents) take their annual trip to the Catskills, a popular American-Jew destination between the 1920s to 1970s. In a way, the episodes show Midge in her comfort zone, but she is forced to move on by a new love interest played by Zachary Levi (who most definitely stole my heart), and Midge’s agent on the clock to get her career on track. The plot is always striking and unpredictable; it does not follow your typical protagonist arc.

Another reason to praise this show is for its Creator’s (Amy Sherman-Palladino) ability to organically pay her respects and lift the communities who have long been disregarded on TV. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a breakthrough for the Jewish presence on screen. In both seasons 1 and 2, Sherman-Palladino comically describes to the viewer what Jewish weddings should look like and shows them the tragic turnouts, too. In season 3, the viewers experience a typical circumcision ceremony gone unappreciated by other family problems; the result is very funny as expected. Finally, the Rabbi might be the most popular character whom we don’t get to see enough on screen. The Jewish jokes are definitely the highlight of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Moreover, Sherman-Palladino does not think it is only Jews who can showcase their talent in the series. Season 3 distracts the audience with Shy Baldwin (played by Leroy McClain) who almost steals the light with his charisma. McClain portrays an African American male singer with an angelic voice. Midge nails a job to open for Baldwin and they become close friends. The plot twist reveals that Baldwin was gay all along, and the audience gets to imagine the hardships of Baldwin’s inner trauma as a gay man of color in the 60s. Again, Sherman-Palladino so gracefully blends an intimate topic with the rest of the feminist agenda of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and gets an A+.

Charisma is the word that defines this show. Rachel Brosnan is a charming actor who can have chemistry with a garbage can on the screen—just like her character Midge Maisel. And luckily, it runs on the family! Abe and Rose Weismann are equally fun to watch on screen and the audience might involuntarily find themselves wondering about what the Weismann’s do while the audience is busy watching Midge perform (I could happily watch a show solely based on the pair).

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a must-watch for many reasons, but for the sake of narrowing down the long list I talked about a few above: It is not a binge-worthy show. It requires your full attention to appreciate the blend of its advocacy driven platform with comedy. Plus, it has a charismatic ensemble.

[Review] The Lion King: How Simba Changed the Fate of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes 

In case you live in a cave and did not notice—Disney is on a roll with the live-action remakes of our favorite stories. It all started with Alice in Wonderland (2010) which had its strong cast bring over a billion to Disney’s thick wallet, entered a decline phase with The Jungle Book (2016) due to its odd tone and mixed reviews, and in my personal opinion, Disney hit rock bottom with poor casting and several other issues by releasing Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Aladdin (2019)The Lion King (2019) directed and produced by Jon Favreau, however, helped Disney’s magic to reach our hearts, again, just like the 90s. Here, I will explain how Disney finally stopped failing the audiences.

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Realism. Once I wiped off my tears coming out of the theatre, I decided to pay my respects to The Lion King (1994) at home and figure out why this animated documentary-like feature film worked so well. The first thing I noticed was Favreau’s attention to detail, and I assure you, he made sure we, as the audience knew about this. Favreau spent valuable effort to walk us through our surroundings, identify the appearance of species of all kinds, and appreciate one of the best (and likely leading) Virtual Reality production techniques within the film industry. Compared to the 1994 version, I could easily appreciate the 2019 feature for its identical yet heightened visuals. As Favreau explains, realism is what makes the film so unique. Ironically, it also produces the magic the previous films missed.

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Music. Better yet, the voice actors have done exceptional work: Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) gave us the hurt and careless Simba at the same time. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s vocals (as Scar) were the closest thing to a brilliant Broadway performance. But, the real star in the voice work was Seth Rogen who made us all adore a warthog. Despite the never-ending coverage about Beyoncé’s casting on top of her new album inspired by The Lion King, her voice did not shine in the production. I think we are so used to hearing Beyoncé’s strong vocals that Disney music seemed a bit toned down for her vocals. Nonetheless, Favreau managed to awkwardly insert a short section of Beyoncé’s new original, “Spirit” in the film. If you catch the scene, I am sure you will agree that it just seems like a poor editing job rather than an integral part of the movie. 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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All images belong to the rightful owners.

 

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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All images belong to the rightful owners.

 

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