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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.

[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.

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The blocks (or events) lead both characters to arrive at the climax of the movie—Driver’s solo performance of “Being Alive” from the Company Musical. Baumbach jokingly states in an interview, “the whole movie is just me reverse engineering Being Alive”, and it does not seem untrue giving the fact that it indicates such a powerful moment in the film. The whole movie is set up to defend the importance of existing as an individual, being alive to fulfill individual dreams. In Charlie and Nicole’s relationship, the audience sees the love in the middle of unfulfilled dreams. When Charlie finally sings Being Alive, it seems too late to recover the events they both go through. However, the song is his confession that Nicole was his way of being alive, and his sacrifices were worth it and his dreams did not compare. 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

[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.