Who’s Next In Line? (Television Thoughts: Next In Fashion S01 E01-E02, Netflix)

5BZTA5N2I4NjAtMG@._V1_Since I have been watching the new season of ‘Project Runway,’ I was inspired to check out the similar show on Netflix, called ‘Next In Fashion.’  And what do I think? I still think PR is the gold standard when it comes to fashion designer competition shows, but something about Karlie Kloss being a Trump supporter is really leaving a sour note for me, so I am really trying to get into ‘Next In Fashion.’ (I am eagerly awaiting the Amazon Prime show with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn) After watching the first episode of this, though, I almost gave up. First, I am not too fond of Tan France, the host of the show, and he is given too many hats here – he is also kind of a mentor and a judge. Alexa Chung shares the same duties as he and she is kind of cute, and sure, peppier than Heidi and Karlie. I did notice that the slate of contestants for this show is rangier – they come from mostly all over the world as oppose to more USA-centric of PR. And the conflict here is much more muted – the contestants are broken down to teams of two people and there’s no rhyme or reason to the teaming: some of them know each other previously and some do not, so it doesn’t seem like that was done to create ‘conflict.’  And we really don’t get to know much about the contestants – we get plunged into the contest right away.  The pacing of the show is weird. I don’t know why, but I almost felt it was slower. But by the second episode, though, I got used to the groove, and marveled at the clothes. While I don’t think the talent has been diluted on all these shows now, I do think some of the clothes are very nice. So I will keep on watching – I read that by the fourth episode it gets much more interesting.

Seconds To Tears (Film thoughts: 37 Seconds)

37-Seconds-PosterWell, look at me. I was just bemoaning that there isn’t much to see nowadays, and we are in the doldrums of movie releases, when I see a film that is so good that it has invigorated my interest in seeing more films. Hikari’s ’37 Seconds’ is now streaming on Netflix and I cannot think of a better film to watch right this very minute.

The film is about Yuma (Mei Kayama) who is twenty three years old, and is suffering from cerebral palsy. She is mostly confined in a wheelchair, but she can use her upper body, and is in fact working as a manga illustrator, blind ghosting her cousin’s content. She knows her limitations in life, but yearns for more, and this movie explores her journey, and is a unique coming-of-age film, one that humanizes disabled people.

Yuma is stifled by her overbearing and overprotective mom, and the interesting dynamic when it seems like the mother feels emotionally dependent in her child. When Yuma tries to hawk her art to an adult manga company, she is told that her work is impressive, except for the sex scenes, which do not feel authentic. This sets off Yuma in an exploratory journey, which leads her to an experience that not only makes her know herself better, but physically takes her to Thailand.

The film takes a slower pace than usual so you have to be a little patient with it, but when ti does get moving, you will feel instantly engrossed. This is a frank film with adult themes, but it never felt salacious. You won’t be able to resist identifying with Yuma, and when she gets her revelation in the end, I was solely with her, copious tears and all.  This is an emotional film that will get you to feel, and feel you must.

You Found Love At A Hopeless Place (Television Thoughts: A Fresh Start, You S02 E01, Netflix)

screen_realm_77103724_548043389151671_3045263192257241630_n-696x870‘You,’ is back, and it’s now on Netflix. Or I guess the first season was also on Netflix, where it garnered such a huge following. In the beginning of the first episode of the second season, we see that Joe has moved to Los Angeles, and we wonder why when you know he is probably one of those New Yorkers who loathe LA, and everything it stands for. We realize that of course, he moved there because it is the last place where one expects him to be. Sure enough, he is hiding. From Candace, the one he loves, or the one he loved too much and now is out to torture him by letting him know she is alive, even though he attempted to kill her. So he is disavowing love now – it only brings him trouble, we listen to him in his internal monologue. Of course, we knew he would never , could never resist love – he lives and kills for it (like, literally) and he cute-meets a girl at the supermarket, and her name is Love (like, literally)  And then as the episode ends we find out that nothing in his new life is accidental, that is all pre-planned as only Joe can, and there are no secrets here, and everything is a secret.

Again I am hooked. I was hooked watching the first season and it looks like I will be hooked again watching every episode of the second season. And the good thing? I can binge watch it, and I can’t wait to do it.

It’s Just Another Sad Love Song (Television Thoughts: Soundtrack, Netflix)

1MV5BMDIyMDI2OGQtY2JmZi00YI was drawn to see the new Netflix series ‘Soundtrack’ because it was created by Joshua Safran, who was an executive producer of Smash. And just like the title suggests, ‘Soundtrack’ has music in the show. I didn’t know to what extent it was, and then I found out – the music here is lipsynched by the actors. And they are pop songs shoehorned into the situation. And you know what? It took just a bit of getting used to, but I didn’t mind it. I wish I was more acquainted by some of the songs, to be honest, but that’s just because I am less in tune with modern pop music.

However, one thing about the series kind of turned me off. There’s this ‘twist’ at the end. And it is a little bit of a rip off from the premise of NBC’s ‘This Is Us.’ So is this show also going to be grief porn just like that? I watched the first episode, and I had to pause for a bit. I don’t know if I want to invest myself in this show now.

Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina (Film Thoughts: The Two Popes)

the-two-popes-600x889Talk about mixed feelings.  On one hand, as a film, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Two Popes,’  directed by Fernando Mereilles. It’s a great story – Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, played by Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce – who succeed each other. It’s a celebration of what’s great in humanity, about two people agreeing even enjoying each other’s company even if they disagree about fundamental things in life. One is a conservative who wants things to stay the same, the other wants to adapt to the changing world. It shows how we can all agree to disagree and live peacefully, and could be a great metaphor for all the political divisions in the world. It is certainly a great example of fine acting by both actors – Pryce has the meatier role and have gotten more attention but I think Hopkins more than holds his own. It certainly can make you feel good, and as someone who was raised a Catholic, it gave me a sense of pride in the Catholic faith. As a film, it sets out successfully what it was meant to do.

BUT…

Its message is dangerous. It’s total fiction, and one should really read this great article in order to fully comprehend its negative impact. First of all, we need to give weight to allegations that Pope Benedict could be a Nazi sympathizer. Plus, the movie makes it seem like he is resigning to give way to more progressive leanings. The truth is probably closer tot he fact that the church, under his leadership, is guilty of several crimes, including hiding sexual assaults from Catholic priests. In this case, one might accuse the film of whitewashing these sexual harassment allegations. And of course, the two Popes talk about the church helping the poor, but at the same time the film shows us all the opulence of the church – can you imagine how much food can be bought if they sold one of their precious paintings?

So this leaves me in a dilemma – should I laud the film as effective entertainment? Or expose the impact of its untruths?

And So This Is Christmas (Movie Thoughts: Last Christmas/Let It Snow)

last-christmas-italian-movie-posterI guess ready or not (I am so NOT) the Holidays are coming. I wrote about the first Holiday album this year for me yesterday, and now comes the Holiday movies.

The trailer for Paul Feig’s ‘Last Christmas’ seemed to be everywhere this fall. It felt like it was loaded with every movie I saw and there came a point I was so sick of it I didn’t want to see the movie. But who the hell am I kidding, you knew that I would be first in line to see this – it’s my kind of movie – rom com, holiday themed, George Michael. I mean, no wonder it followed me everywhere I went. And I wasn’t expecting this to be good – something about it felt cheesy to me. It’s part romantic comedy, part mystery, part jukebox musical, and while it’s not the most delightful thing in the world, I left the theater humming the song, and with a slight smile on my face.

And not because of Emilia Clarke. I had never seen Game of Thrones so I do not know who she is, but to me, she was the weak link of the film. Her character Kate is not the most sympathetic thing in the world, but Clarke has no charm to pull it off. I hated Kate from the beginning, and even towards the end when I shouldn’t, i still did. Thank God Kate was surrounded by some of the greats: Henry Golding has charms to the wazoo so the romance comes close to believable, and Emma Thompson is wonderful as her overbearing mother – so good, in fact that even if her character is meant to be disliked you root for her.

Now about the ‘twist.’ It wasn’t as surprising if you know the lyrics of the song, and of course, I didn’t think it would be that literal. And the last part of the film is solid feel good enough that I suspect most won’t mind. As far as London-themed Christmas movies go, this isn’t as good as ‘Love Actually,’ but come Christmas time, this would be a nice escape from whatever Yuletide hell you will be going through.

MV5BYmM0NzRiODEtMTIzNS00MTgwLWFjZDQtNjUxZjI0MDdjZWQ4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_I guess, while I am here, I should also write about the Netflix film ‘Let It Snow,’ which is not exclusively a Holiday movie but more of a winter one. A lot of people have described the film as the ‘Love Actually’ for teens. While I wouldn’t necessarily totally agree with that statement, I found the film charming enough, as far as Netflix teen movies go. I liked Mitchell Hope’s puppy dog eyes and Matthew Noszka’s cute screen presence, but aside from that, this felt by-the-numbers. That’s fine, as I wasn’t expecting anything earth shattering anyway, and one could probably do worse watching something else if you are stuck in a snowstorm with just your television and Netflix subscription.

Her Son (Television/Stage Thoughts: American Son, Netflix)

MV5BMDk1Y2UyMTgtNGQyYi00OGViLWFlODUtMDY3ZmYwYmQ4MWVkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I am really liking this ‘Broadway on Netflix’ trend, and want to support it.  Kenny Leon directed ‘American Son’ on Broadway at he has now also directed the Netflix adaptation of the production of Christopher Demos Brown’s work. All in all, I think this is a pretty good effort, but I also had problems with it. I still recommend seeing it, as I thought the play itself has some things to say, even if at times it feels like the messages are bludgeoned. Kerry Washington is the main draw here, as she plays Kendra, who son has gone missing. She goes to the police station  to find out what is going on, the only information she has is that her son has been detained by the police. Washington plays her role without fear, and damned if her character doesn’t come across as likable. TO be honest, I had some trouble with sympathizing with her character. Kendra acts with so much entitlement at times that it clashes with the idea that she understands the ‘black’ experience.There is fine support with the rest of the cast but it’s Washington front and center here. The play feels very claustrophobic and Leon films it that way – you get the sense of panic and urgency waiting for the ‘inevitable’ here. At times, it really did feel that the action was closing in, and perhaps that was the director’s intent. All in all, I thought it succeeded in what it wanted to do, and hope we get more similar fare from Netflix.