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 “June 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup”

[A Review] How to Recover After Avengers: Endgame

The following review is spoiler-free, but my comments may get you thinking about possibilities, I suppose. Read at your own risk.

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Patiently sitting through the end credits, being handed over tissues, sobbing a little more, waiting for the post-credit scene that I know is, definitely, not happening.  I wish I hadn’t seen the movie for a while longer.

Avengers: Endgame is Russo Brothers’ best work yet. A majority of the viewers would agree that we were heartbroken, but not disappointed. Marvel Studios have given us what we asked for: The end of a hero’s journey. So gracefully representing what it means to be a hero: Selfless and brave, as mythic as it can be, but also vulnerable and honest about their fears.  There is also a touch of Disney’s magic as the movie drove the overall notion, “I will die trying if it means I am serving the ones I love”.

Endgame completes the Infinity War, yet, is a distinct, special, emotionally-charged experience. In a way, it puts more sense into the rollercoaster ride of the Infinity War. The three hours are absolutely made use of, well-transitioned, and necessary to unravel the narrative.

The film does a good job of digging deeper into character development which is so different from what we are used to within the origin stories and follow-ups. Our superheroes change, they are broken, and finding their way back doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll showcase their punches and kicks, but rather it is a journey that almost fixes their brokenness, and gives us, the viewers, some relief at the same time.

There’s so much more I would like to address in terms of cinematography and representation, however, I’ll let this experience sink in a little more until I get to it. And the question of how to recover after the Endgame? –I suggest appreciating what the franchise had given us for the past 10 years and the Endgame experience as a whole. Keep in mind, the MCU has a history of great resurrection and we could only hope for one last one.

This may be my love letter (back) to Lee, Feige, The Russo’s, Favreau and Downey. Thank you for gracefully fixing our broken parts. I cannot see the Endgame projected onto the screens any other way.

Lee’s Legacy and Feige’s Vision Hits the Box Offices: Captain Marvel

The following article was first published on Mars’ Hill Newspaper (Vol. 23, Issue 10) under the title of “Captain Marvel”.

Captain Marvel just dropped into the theatres of the earth from the Kree Empire. Mind you, she is from the 90s—so get ready for the nostalgia-packed soundtrack while you watch Brie Larson kick ass!

Since its opening night March 7th, Marvel’s newest release, Captain Marvel, has received a variety of criticism. Some say she is the embodiment of a male prototype in a desirable female body, others claim Carol is the superhero they never knew they needed more of on the silver screen, especially after the debut of Wonder Woman.

The mastermind Kevin Feige, whose vision built the Marvel Studios from ground up (thanks to Iron Man!), spent a budget of $152 million on Captain Marvel’s production and doubled the studio’s profit with a record-breaking $455 million worldwide in its first weekend. This is a grossing more than the totals of any three-day opening of a motion picture this year.

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There is a question worth answering: To what does Captain Marvel owe its success?

Unlike Stan Lee’s legacy of comic book inspired continuity, Captain Marvel welcomes newcomers with Carol’s origin story and doubles that with cues about Fury’s past as well. On top of the complexity of his character, the young Samuel L. Jackson is a delight to watch on screen (thanks to the blockbuster’s make-up artists!). Even though Fury is not the tough authority figure we are used to seeing as the leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D., he still plays a crucial role in stirring the storyline, and he is a living reminder that the actor has a huge role in creating a legendary character.

A common criticism and a generalization was that Carol Danvers, and the rest of the female superheroes, were created on the basis of “girl power” and while doing so, the character was still masculinized. Masculinization might be a way to empower female superheroes, but it is definitely not the only way. I see Marvel’s Carol Danvers as a success because as powerful as she is, she is also emotional. She is a woman who is confused about her past, where she stands in a fight, and what she believes is right. Through her journey of self-connection, she navigates her confusion about what she stands for, and she regains her faith in her own strength. She is a powerful embodiment of what women go through today. Brie Larson’s character certainly does not deserve the harsh criticism she received upon the opening weekend.

Captain Marvel is also the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s response to the demands of the public. We are more concerned about diversity than ever in an era that grounds itself on acceptance. Whatever the reason may be, be it for publicity or expanding their audience, the women in Captain Marvel are fully-clothed, colorful, and beautiful yet vulnerable. These are the stepping stones for a long-awaited perception change for Marvel’s cinematic audience, and we are excited and in it for the long haul.

 

Captain Marvel Doodle: Thanks to Sierra Ellis.

Spiders on the Silver Screen: Venom and Into the Spider-Verse

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Venom

Rating: 8/10

Tom Hardy’s performance is so powerful in Sony’s Venom that it almost makes you overlook the other half of Eddie Brock (Hardy), the much anticipated, and animated Venom. Hardy’s performance is almost too good! At times it is tough for his character to blend in with the storyline that is running ahead of him.

Moreover, you can tell that Director Ruben Fleischer is meant to work on the film if we reference his previous work with Zombieland (1 and 2), the Gangster Squad. Fleischer takes the film to a different level which I am still uncertain if I really like. Venom is one of the tougher Marvel comics to present on the big screen—Portraying the corky/laid-back (Wait. Deadpool, is that you?) journalist and an alien that acts like He’s from a horror movie housed on the same body –in somewhat of harmony— is tough business. 

Venom is definitely different (and better) than your typical superhero action movie. The movie could pass as an intense thriller with numerous slapstick scenes here and there, which resembles Fleischer’s work as a director. Overall, it is a uniquely (take the word as you wish) directed film with an excellent performance from Hardy. I would not have given Venom such a high rating if it wasn’t for the actor’s performance.

 

 

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Rating: 7/10

The production quality of the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse screams so much more than the movie itself. The visuals are vibrant, captivating, and different in such a good way. Hats off to the animators for showing us guys the comic world through a new set of lenses—What an experience!

The representation of Miles Morales’ ethnicity is genuine and real—The choices of the soundtrack, the family dynamic and the conversations in between the characters deeply represents the world of this new teenager we are all meeting for the first time on screen. There are so many ‘yes!’ moments in the movie: Clever monologues, the representation of Peter Parker as a role model (anyone else notice the difference to the Comic Code?), an appearance of Stan Lee, and the overall message: “Anyone can be Spider-Man”. Beautiful… groundbreaking. I love it.

Why didn’t it get a 10/10 rating from me? I think featuring all the other Spider Marvel characters took the spotlight away from Miles Morales. Yes, MCU—Now that you introduced them, you have material to produce. But, could I have had some more quality screen time with Miles? Yes.

The MoPOP (Museum of Popular Culture) where Sci-Fi meets Fantasy

I dreaded writing again today even though the creative Hazal was knocking on the walls of my brain. That is the girl with long wavy hair who wears a nice shade of pastel mint t-shirt and a violet pleated skirt. She is very bubbly and wants to play. She didn’t have any space at all to exist in this fairly large room in me, it’s been occupied with a load of black and white documents. It hasn’t been fun. But it feels great to have a little more space to be me, again. Let’s welcome the creative girl, and let her tell you why she has been so happy and excited the past few days…

I found myself sitting in a car, being driven to Seattle, WA, for no reason that involves me directly. I will not get into any detail on that. However, because of this trip, I was looking for Christmassy things to do while we were there and came across the annual Seattle Winterfest. Set the GPS, and here we went. The Winterfest as a whole was nothing fancy, all I saw was—a very talented orchestra of high school students playing festive songs and a small indoor skating facility. I was not impressed by what they called a festival as a whole, but the building right across this festival was the MoPOP, meaning the Museum of Popular Culture.

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A view of MoPOP, taken from the courtyard

Let me tell you how excited I felt purchasing my ticket (with an additional charge of $5 to see the Marvel Exhibition), and what a treasure this place was for a Media and Communications student to spend not only 3 hours (as I did), but a whole day (as I wished I did).

Looking from the outside, the maroon-purple building is compelling and makes you wonder what could actually be inside. Is it a circus? A venue? That is practically how I ended up walking in without reading any signs at all. Later, I found out that the riveting building was designed by the one and only Frank O. Gehry. Entering in, I quickly realize I was meant to be here. The 80s pop music, the minimalistic black/brown décor (if I recall it right still), and the kind staff who seem to like their job, pull you in fairly quickly.

Giving my ticket to the attendant, I enter the main lobby: A gigantic screen that covers the whole width of the main wall, and I watch Michael Jackson trying to convince this chick next to him that the movie they are watching is actually not that scary. Ahh… Thriller is about to play. A classic. I place myself on a comfy red-round seat and relax, watching the whole music video since I spent the whole day walking. Feeling content, I walk towards my right, see a set of stairs, and walk down the stairs instead of seeing the first floor first. By the time I finish the first half of the stairs, I read the words “to those who have looked to the stars, and wondered” … I keep walking, then read, “your journey begins here”.

Ah… Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction, the other side of the door looks very dark. Here we go!…? I walk around in an atmosphere that is similar to the inside of a spaceship that is in power saving mode, of course (meaning, there were very minimal lighting across all platforms). The exhibit is home to illustrations and texts written by the authors of Sci-Fi legends as well as iconic pieces from their on-screen adaptations. The pieces are from many stories we are familiar with, such as the Star Wars series, Star Trek series, the Fifth Element (1997), Dune (1965), H.G. Wells’ the War of the Worlds (2005) and the Blade Runner (1982-2017). One that stays with me the most is looking at the life-sized T-800 endoskeleton from the Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), it is definitely challenging to stare at the figure more than 20 seconds in the dark room even though I know there are a bunch of people walking around me. I am certain if I stared at it long enough, I would be able to see its red eyes moving, not to mention that the Terminator was a childhood nightmare as it was one of my parents’ favorite movie. I am surprisingly relieved as I take a couple more steps to my right to see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leather jacket, right next to the T-800.

The exhibit revolves around the idea that the initial purpose of the Sci-Fi worlds is to let the author express himself bluntly through an outside world and its outsider-creatures. Through creating these worlds that seem so different than the earth, the author(s) is able to illustrate the negative aspects of humanity without offending the readers. So, all the disgusting aliens that we read about… actually, mirror us.

Although seeing the familiar pieces and being able to read the progression of the stories through the personal notes of the author’s had been more than enough for me, the interactive component of the exhibit is also valuable to the experience. I was able to choose any imaginary planet from the Sci-Fi world and examine a holographic vision of it 360 degrees all around, I also explored what it felt like to be sitting inside a spaceship, staring at the zillion buttons I would not know what to do with.

Wishing the Infinite Worlds exhibit had more pieces to observe, I walk away feeling content. I try to find my way around the building until I come across a gigantic wooden door. I read the text that has the very same font as a childhood book of Snow White I can easily recall: “What awaits you on the other side of the door? An enchanting forest. A sleeping dragon. A silver-scaled tree. A giant dragonfly. Unlikely heroes and dark forces.” Oh, that feels home! I realize that I make it to the exhibit, Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic.

Before seeing all the pieces from the movies, I adore, I read through the Archetypes of Fantasy. Later along the exhibit, I realize how useful knowing the archetypes is to deeply understand the components of a story of magic. The archetypes form the pieces of the puzzle that create the riveting story. The Unlikely Hero? Ronald Weasley? Yes, sounds about right! The atmosphere in the exhibit feels right in all the ways possible. A sound effect that reminds me of magic, almost like stars shining and birds chirping at the same time, and subtle lighting that reminds me of a thousand candles being lit, creating space for me to stare at a witches’ ball on a corner of the room.

Moreover, the exhibit contains props, costumes and figures from our silver screen favourites such as the Princess Bride (1987), Conan the Destroyer (1985), Harry Potter (1997-2017), the Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), Narnia, the Legend of Zelda (1986-2018) and a favourite of my best friends—an ancient copy (1974, to be exact) of the iconic game, Dungeons and Dragons!

A favorite moment is seeing Judy Garland’s iconic costume from the Wizard of Oz. Ah, and the black pointy hat that melted right after Garland poured a big bucket of water on the green lady… that was there too! The lady? She was the wicked witch. What a moment of joy seeing Garland beat her up (theoretically, with a bucket of water), and she was able to go back home, to Kansas. I remember watching the very same movie at the age of 5-6 at my grandmother’s house. It was the only movie that would play constantly in one of the channels. Wouldn’t matter the time you turn the TV on, the Wizard of Oz would always be airing. You see it was like Netflix without the choice click cancel, and I would watch it over and over and over again.

Another highlight of the exhibit, again, is seeing the creative process of the authors. A book series that I enjoyed as a 13-year-old middle schooler was the great story of Eragon. I’ve read about the author still being a teenager when he wrote the books, but I never imagined him being 15 years-old. The exhibit shows hand-written notes of Paolini as well as a selection of edits from his publisher. It was a privilege to be able to observe the text so clearly and closely and become a part of the artistic process.

I walk out of the same wooden door. I am sure there is a proper way to exit, but I really want to go through the door again, taking me back to the world without magic. I leave, with my heart feeling full.

I would recommend visiting the MoPOP to all ages (with a parent’s assistance for certain exhibitions) and support the museum financially if you are able to do so. My creative-self was so happy to be present in the moment surrounded by all the things that could possibly inspire me the most. I hope to go back for a longer visit and experience this all again. I was also able to see the Marvel Exhibit, that was extraordinary, and it would require me to write another blog post for such a well-presented exhibit. Let me know if you would like to read about it, and comment below if you have any questions about your upcoming MoPOP visit!

The MoPOP Guide

Address: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: 10AM – 5PM Daily

Admission Rates

Adult: $28
Student: $25
Child: FREE

Tip: Save $2 if you buy your tickets online!

Reconnecting with an old friend: Anxiety, with CBD Oil Review

Anxiety was a new friend that I could easily understand it came to stay a while. It became an old friend that visits a little too often, too quickly. I have read about it, and I thought “this is not a mental illness, they are over exaggerating”.  Stress comes and goes, but when it starts to show up a little too often than usual, it drags you down and introduces you to its good friend: Anxiety.

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Anxiety must have many forms that I have not experienced, but here are a few that I have:

Wake up. 1 a.m. It’s okay. Close your eyes. Wake up. 1.30 a.m. It’s okay. Wake up. 2.20 a.m. It honestly is fine. Close your eyes. Wake up. 3.10 a.m. I am getting worried. But. It’s fine. Close your eyes. It’s fine. 3.20 a.m. It’s okay. 3.25 a.m. My heart is pounding. It’s okay. 3.30 a.m.… 

I need to be alone right now. He/she keeps talking. I’ll leave in 2 minutes. This topic of conversation is something that I really don’t want to listen. It’s been a while now, I can leave. My stomach really doesn’t feel good. I really don’t want to hear it, it makes me feel bad. I’ll leave now. I don’t want to come off as rude. My heart is pounding. I can’t stand it. It’s okay. My stomach really doesn’t feel good. I’ll leave now. It’s okay. I don’t know how to say it.

It’s been 3 hours. I cannot sleep. My body is so tired I just really need a little bit of rest. My heart keeps pounding. Why doesn’t it stop? I just really feel like crying. It’s dark and I don’t know what to do.

 

I assure you, this is not an easy business. I have been through emotional eating, periods of crying and locking myself in my room so I wouldn’t have to deal with it, and It has been a long time until I realized that a lot of the behavior was caused by anxiety, the bad friend.

Here is something anxiety likes, at least my individual friend, and that is CBD Oil. Since Canada legalized Cannabis last month and it took over the news pretty rapidly, I was hoping to experiment with the Cannabidiol Oil and write a blog review. So, here it is.

I searched CBD Oil on Amazon and picked up the Amazon’s choice product (CB2 Cannanda). As usual, it was shipped to my doorstep within 2 days (I am not advertising anything whatsoever, all humanity will agree that Amazon is the best at their game). Opening the product, I was sketched out because it did not have any how-to-use guide or recommended dosage, so I had to do my own research. Later, I found out that I could trust the brand as I checked their website.

I started with 1-2 drops every time that I felt the anxiety. Common signals that said, “take it!” for me was feeling angry, clashing my teeth, inability to sleep (those usually happened around exam times). I would say that I was taking it once a week to 2-3 times a week at the most.

The Result: It helped me significantly. As someone who has never taken medication for anxiety relief, I came to be very thankful for using CBD Oil. It is important to be mindful that it is not a magic cure and individual responses will vary, however, I was able to receive a calming response from it. It seems to lower the heart-pounding effect of anxiety, and clears my mind, taking it away from the negative thoughts that regularly race in my brain leading up to important events.

Side Effects: I personally did not experience any side effects after the first couple of uses. However, during your first couple days and/or if taken higher dosages here are a couple things you might experience.

  • Cloudy feeling/brain fog (or as some may describe, drowsiness)
  • Indifference in facial muscles ONLY in higher doses (I wouldn’t know how to describe this, I experienced a tingly feeling on my mouth when I smiled, weird, hey?)
  • Tingly feeling (If applied on the skin for pain relief)

Ratings:

Taste: 1.5/5

Anxiety Relief: 3.5/5

Response Time: Approx. 15 mins

The Takeaway

I called Anxiety a friend because I learned it the hard way that if you don’t come to love and accept the parts of you that do not necessarily do good to you, they start taking up a lot of negative space in your mind and body. Anxiety is my friend that I am trying to help right now. Friends come and go, and Anxiety won’t stay for long once we take care of what’s been making it a little more sad than usual.

CBD Oil seemed to be working for me, and I recommend giving it a try if you are looking for a natural way to relieve anxiety. Let me know on the comments below how you deal with anxiety and your review of any CBD oil.