Posted in Television and Film

Too Many Sequels, Too Little Time

As of this year’s release of Ant-Man and the Wasp, there will be 20 mainstream Marvel movies.

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And that’s not even counting the two extra Spiderman series or any of the X-Men movies. Or Deadpool.

Marvel’s not the only powerhouse in the cinemas. Star Wars just hit its tenth movie, with an eleventh on its way. DC has been trying to ride on Marvel’s coattails for a few years now, and while their movies may be turning up sub par at the box office, their set of series on the CW have virtually taken over the entire channel.

Which means that anybody who wants to dive into these fandoms without any prior experience has a lot of catching up to do. So, in the spirit of science, I decided to share with you the ultimate list of hits, skips, and hope you didn’t miss.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

When the Marvel movies first started coming out, I remember feeling excited. MORE content? YEARS of scheduled storytelling? Sign me up!

But as the years have dragged on(and on), some of the quality of these movies have dipped. And I’m sorry, Marvel executives, but there are quite a few movies that the average watcher could skip and have absolutely no problem watching one of the Avengers.

So, without further ado, here are my official recommendations if you’re someone who’s looking to cash in, catch up, or just relive Marvel’s glory days.

Hits

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Avengers (2012) – I think this movie was one of the first times the entire audience realized how fun these movies could be. All of the jokes were intricately placed within the narrative, instead of tossed around left and right. It was also the first time we really felt the crossover effect of the franchise, and with our limited number of characters, it actually felt worth it.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – I might be a little biased since Cap is my favorite Avenger, but to me, this film was a total game changer. MORE NAZIS? It felt like the perfect turning point for the franchise, where everything we knew about SHIELD and the good guys turns upside-down.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – With the exception of the Thor movies, this movie features the most out-of-this-world settings. Plus, this film is so good, it could stand alone without any connection to the Marvel franchise. And the soundtrack; don’t forget the soundtrack.

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Black Panther (2018) – Again, you know what made this movie a success? Another new and interesting setting. We’ve never seen a place like Wakanda on the big screen before, not in Marvel, at least. Add compelling characters and cultural undertones and boom! You’ve got a box office baby.

Skips

Iron Man 3 (2013) – In my opinion, there really was no need for a third Iron Man movie. All of Tony’s major personal storylines tied themselves up at the end of the second movie. Not that there aren’t a few interesting plot points(namely, Tony’s struggle with PTSD), but overall, audiences receive the same basic elements as Pixar’s The Incredibles, without the magic of the childlike film.

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Captain America: Civil War (2016) – Most of this movie could just be summarized in a voice-over: “Steve and Tony had a falling-out after the Age of Ultron.” That’s it, that’s really all the audience needs. The only reason to watch this movie is to catch a little of Spider-Man’s and Black Panther’s backstory, plus a little interaction between Vision and Scarlet Witch. Otherwise, it’s just a bit of an overdramatic waste.

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Doctor Strange (2016) – I have no words for this one. Still haven’t seen it. Literally has left zero plot holes in my life.

Hope You Didn’t Miss

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Ant-Man (2015) – An honest delight from beginning to end. Does it connect to the Marvel universe in the grand scheme of things? Not a chance, he’s not even a real Avenger. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Paul Rudd alone makes this movie worth watching, and with the sequel hitting theatres this summer, I highly recommend you watch(or rewatch) the first one.

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – This is one that people either love or hate(I obviously fall in the former category). True to some people’s criticisms, there might be a few laughs too many packed into this film, but I still think that this is what the Thor franchise should have looked like the beginning. Plus, I think that the character work in this movie could stand on its own as one of the strongest in the MCU.

Star Wars

I don’t really think that Star Wars has a sequel problem yet, but I can understand those who may say so. Especially if you count the Rebels and Clone Wars series. Which I do, I just choose to blind myself to all of Star War’s potential faults.

Hits

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The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – Face it, we all know this is a masterpiece. The settings, the characters, the big reveals – it’s the perfect recipe for a Star Wars film. AND this one did it first. Also, first film appearance of my boy Yoda.

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The Force Awakens (2015) – I don’t care if it’s exactly like A New Hope, I think this film was a perfect bridge between the new franchise and the original trilogy. Even the scene transitions are nostalgic! I love every character regardless of their story line; that makes it a win for me.

Skips

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The Phantom Menace (1999) – Listen. I love Qui-Gon Jinn. I love clean-shaven Ewan McGregor. But there really is no reason for this movie. Audiences could just as easily start watching at Attack of the Clones and lose none of the proper context for the prequel trilogy. Plus, think of how much less we’d have to deal with Jar-Jar!

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The Last Jedi (2017) – It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this movie. I did. My biggest problem with the film, however, is that for the majority of the story, it doesn’t feel like Star Wars. To me, it deviates too far from the audience’s invested interest in the central trio, though to be fair, I don’t think we can judge too harshly until the last film comes out. In the meantime, maybe just watch Episode V on repeat.

Hope You Didn’t Miss

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Attack of the Clones (2002) – This is not me saying that this a good movie. But, I think it’s an extremely important movie for understanding the way that the Star Wars universe used to work. We learn way more about the Senate and the Jedi Temple and the Clone Troopers in this movie; it gives backstory in an interesting and colorful way. The writing is horrible, but the costumes and the settings are fabulous.

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Rogue One (2016) – Not everyone loved this movie, but I certainly did. Every character felt alive to me. I enjoyed every Easter egg, but also appreciated how those inside jokes didn’t push the boundaries too far. I even loved the inevitability of it all – Star Wars is such an interesting franchise because the audience jumps around in its timeline almost constantly, but it still tells a whole story. This film is an excellent snapshot of one moment in time.

DC Television(CW Style)

I have to be honest: I’ve fallen behind on my DC television, mostly due to disappointment. Some of these early seasons were truly great, only to lose their shine at the midway point. Will any show ever compare to Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman? The world may never know.

Hits

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The Flash (2014) – I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. This show shoots every other CW reboot out of the water. It’s interesting, because I actually started with watching all of Smallville, then the first few seasons of Arrow, before I dived into this show, which was my end goal all along. As with every good show, the heart of it lies with its characters. But the tone of the show is what enchanted me in the first place – gone are the customary DC gritty overtones of noir fiction. It’s bright and shiny sci-fi, which is just my thing.

Skips

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Arrow (2012) – This series has never been my favorite for one reason alone: Oliver Queen should not be Batman. In the Cw predecessor Smallville, Oliver Queen is a goofy, lovable playboy, known for his charm and womanizing ways. Arrow plays up this image in the first season a little bit, and in its flashbacks, but by and large it’s an Oliver Queen we almost never see. I miss him. He would never stand for the dark and gritty undertones of the set around him; he’d put on some club music and get to work!

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Legends of Tomorrow (2016) – Too many characters, not enough plot. Next.

Hope You Didn’t Miss

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Supergirl(2015) – Really, I’m only talking about Season 1 here, which is technically cheating, because that was when it aired on Fox. But their writing formula far outshines the ones of the later seasons: I felt like every character received their own episode to create depth, rather than keeping up the predictable pattern of a villain-a-week the way the other CW series do. Also, my boy Jeremy Jordan is in it, which means it’s worth a watch.

In other words, don’t feel bad about skipping out on something you used to love. I’m someone who loves the feeling of completing projects, and that includes what I watch! But in retrospect, sometimes the quality really is more important than the quantity.

Don’t even get me started on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

 

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Posted in Television and Film

Soft Around the Edges: When You Can’t Take the Dark Stuff Anymore

It took me almost two months to finish watching Netflix’s The Punisher.

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Which is characteristically unlike me. Not that I’m constantly binging shows now that I’m an official adult or whatever, but when it’s a good show, especially a “dark” one, I used to be able to polish that stuff off in a week with a couple of episodes a night.

But then something changed.

Or, more importantly, I changed.

My “big girl” job has a tendency to play out every week like a daytime marathon of Law & Order. It leaves me sad, drained, and like all I want to do is roll myself up in a little burrito blanket until I wake up the next day at 5:30 am, ready to do it all again.

So forgive me if it takes me a few days to get through an episode or two.

And the thing is, I still love dark shows. Criminal Minds, Mindhunter, Westworld, Black Mirror, I dig it all. On top of that, I believe these stories are necessary to build culture because LIFE IS DARK.

No amount of Disney movies can combat that.

But I can’t stay in a burrito all day, especially when Netflix is just a mouse-click away. Here’s what I’ve been watching to lift my spirits after a long day, and a long existence, of being General Buzzkill(which is what I call myself because I’m just a buzzkill, you know, “in general”).

Sitcoms

Laughter is and always has been the best medicine.

The first of my absolute favorites of the moment is The Good Place, which if you haven’t been watching, you need to go do right now. The plot is simple: Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, dies and ends up in a generic “good place” afterlife; the only problem is, she wasn’t really that good.

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Next up is Superstore, because there aren’t enough shows that truly show the absurdity that is working retail. Basically, this show is about a group of people who work at the equivalent of Wal-Mart; besides being hilarious, it features a diverse cast and finds ways to talk about ethnicity that don’t include crass jokes about skin color or eye shape.

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The last of this perfection trifecta is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, another one that’s pretty simple to explain: Saturday Night Live with cops. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

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What earns these three sitcoms a special place in my heart is the fact that almost every character really likes each other. There’s no one person who is teased or tricked or duped every episode; no Kramer, Dwight, or Joey that feels humiliated every week. Everyone is supportive and friendly even when they make mistakes.

Comedy Specials

In case it wasn’t already abundantly clear, I really like comedy specials.

Here’s a quick recap for anyone who’s still in the dark: they’re easy to follow, easy to pick up, and usually shorter than your average movie.

Unless, of course, you’re watching a episode of Big Fat Quiz of the Year/Everything. This special trivia show from across the pond only ever features comedians as its contestants, and they almost never care about winning. They are genuinely just there “for a laugh.” My personal favorite contestants include Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, and Jack Whitehall.

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And speaking of Jack Whitehall, this isn’t technically a comedy special so much as it is an episodic series of specials. Jack Whitehall: Adventures with My Father features comedian Jack Whitehall finally getting to experience a gap year with his stuffy old father. Also, there’s an anthropomorphic doll.

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And finally, Fred Armisen of SNL and Portlandia fame has a new special out: Standup for Drummers. This delightful hour features the comedian doing a surprisingly sweet routine with lots of(you guessed it) random drumming. Honestly, I had no idea that Fred Armisen was so talented; plus, it’s rated TV-PG, so if you’re looking for clean comedy, this is the one for you.

Reality Shows

More than anything, I have recently dived back into my love of B-level reality shows.

Let me clear about one thing: any reality show I watch has to have a prize at the very end so that there’s a new cast the next season. I’m not here to watch people live in Alaska; I’m here to watch people get mad.

First up: America’s Next Top Model. Tyra’s back! There’s no more age limits! You could literally look like Jabba the Hutt, but if you took a good picture, you still might be model-material. I love the tears, I love the drama, and I love how many weird people always end up auditioning. What a gift to humanity.

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Next comes Project Runway and its teeny-bopper child, Project Runway Junior. My favorite thing about every season has to be the in-depth look at the creative process and how different people find inspiration. It’s entirely fascinating, and when it goes well, it’s amazing; when it goes bad, frankly, it gets even better.

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And finally, the jewel in my crown, what sometimes consumes my every waking thought.

Survivor.

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Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Most reasonable people stopped watching this show back in 2003. But trust me, it’s still going strong.

To be honest, I’ll probably have to write a full post in the future about just how and why I came to love Survivor so much. For now, let it suffice to say that the lengths the production team goes to produce captivating stories from a bunch of bums on a beach astounds me(plus, everyone is BEAUTIFUL? I am in awe).

The newest season started up a few weeks ago, and it’s actually been pretty good right off the bat, even with the weird Ghost Island gimmick. If you’re looking for something mindless, I highly suggest this season as a good place to start.

Once my brain is turned to mush, maybe I’ll watch something good again. Until then, catch me ten seasons of Survivor deep in my blanket burrito every night at 7pm.

Posted in Television and Film

The Herculean Task: My Top Ten Star Wars Characters

You can almost smell it in the air, the culmination of a year’s worth of anticipation. It’s everywhere, on the radio, on commercials, like a song you can’t get out of your head, and wouldn’t want to even if you could.

It’s Star Wars season.

Okay, so maybe it’s not technically as culturally(definitely not religiously) relevant as Christmas. But there are a lot of similarities: redemption, corruption, the all-reaching power of an empire, the journey of the chosen one.

Anakin’s no Jesus, but at least in terms of timing, George Lucas knows what he’s doing.

Pretty much anybody who has known me for any amount of time knows how much I love Star Wars. I was reading Star Wars novels at 9. I dressed up as a Jedi Padawan for multiple Halloweens. I have tiny Star Wars figurines hidden throughout my bedroom, my car, even in the pots of my plants.

Man. This is turning out to be quite the therapy session.

Anyway.

I thought that since this is a Star Wars second weekend(though I still haven’t seen it so if you spoil me, I will do unspeakable things in revenge, don’t even try), I would give you my official countdown of the best characters in the movie franchise(not counting anything else, because that would take a million years).

And don’t worry, there’s no Jar-Jar on this list. Meesa not an idiot.

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10. K-2SO

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Regardless of your stance on whether you thought Rogue One was good or not, K-2SO has cemented his place as my all-time favorite droid. Even if the promise of Alan Tudyk walking around in a robot suit wasn’t enough for me, he went far and beyond expectations with that improvised slap. The saltiness of C-3PO with the innocence of BB-8 gives him the first slot on this list.

9. Rey

Please remember that I haven’t seen the newest film yet, so based on the first of the new trilogy, this is where Rey falls. I love her can-do spirit and her ability to both work alone and with others – def reminds me of Luke that way. Plus, her hair is so cute! And she’s so brave! And Han Solo loves her!

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8. Finn

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Again, haven’t seen the new film yet, but I’m hopeful he lives up to the promise of the previous film. He’s got a redemption arc! He’s sassy! He doesn’t understand why anybody wants to go back to Jakku, and neither do I! Plus, he’s a really good and loyal friend – we all need more Finns in our lives.

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7. Every Ewok Ever

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So technically not *a* character, but look at how cute they are! Does it matter which one is my favorite? Heck no! They’re like aborigine teddy bears! Half of them are played by Warwick Davis! What’s not to love?!?!

6. Princess Leia

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The sass alone is legendary. Walking carpets? Only liking nice men? Minus two points for a slave outfit, plus 1,000 for cinnamon bun hair. If your fav’s hair doesn’t look tasty, then what are you even doing with your life?

5. Han Solo

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What makes Han Solo rank about Princess Leia? The fact that Harrison Ford made up about 95% of his lines. There’s really no other reason. He just single-handedly saved George Lucas from his own curse of wooden dialogue.

4. Padme Amidala

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Queen with a capital Q. As the highest-ranking female on this list, I consider Padme to be highly underappreciated by the general public. Have you seen her outfits?? AND she prefers diplomacy to swinging around little laser sticks?? My kind of girl, I’m telling you(plus, she’s the only person who knows how to deal with yousa-know-whosa).

3. Qui-Gon Jinn

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Long-haired Liam Neeson = mentor goals. My favorite thing about him? He LIVES for drama. Go ahead, throw around the words “chosen one” all over the place. Let a child podrace for his freedom. Die in somebody’s arms. One thing’s for sure, Qui-Gon never does things by halves.

2. Yoda

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The Methuselah of the SW universe. Who doesn’t love a hungry old hermit who lives in a swamp? And he’s so small?? He could fit inside a sweatshirt like a baby kangaroo. Also, he’s a Jedi who’s seen the downfall of the republic and lived in hiding for years, and instead of being bitter and mean, he’s just gotten really, REALLY weird. Speaking cryptic crap all over the place.

Basically, when I grow up, I want to be Yoda.

1. Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Anyone who knows me fairly well will have realized who’s at the top of this list.

Light of my life. Keeper of the high ground.

Hello there.

What makes Obi-Wan my favorite Star War character? Similarly to Yoda, he’s someone who has SEEN things. His master murdered. His apprentice and best friend turned to the dark side. And yeah, he does his own little stint in hermitage, but you can tell that he never gives up hope. After all, he’s still willing to take on the whiny son of his even whinier enemy.

Can’t ever say that the man held a grudge.

Plus, throughout it all, he keeps his dry sense of humor.

Obi-Wan, we do not deserve you.

 

Posted in Television and Film

13 Reasons Why It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

And now, in an astounding feat of bravery, I will attempt to touch this topic with a ten-foot pole.

If you’ve hip to the jive within the past few weeks, then you remember when Netflix released the first season of 13 Reasons Why, and you also remember the controversies that follow.

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If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the gist: the television series is based on the premise of what happens when a teenage girl commits suicide and then leaves cassette tapes detailing the reasons why to the people she says caused her death. The cruz of the controversy lies within the question of whether the show glorifies suicide or sets up this scenario as a revenge fantasy for high schoolers.

Let me clear: I’m not here to change anybody’s minds about anything(though, to be clear, I will almost always agree more with the freedom of speech over censorship, and this show is no exception). Also, I watched the show with full knowledge of the characters and the plot; I read the book it was based on, by Jay Asher, when I was still in high school.

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What I do want to talk about is why it’s important to speak up if you or someone you love is struggling with bullying, harassment, or mental health issues. One of the things that I think the show did accomplish well was show how many people would have been willing to help the main character, Hannah Baker, if she had only told them what was going on.

I won’t sugarcoat things for you: issues like rape, drug abuse, and self-harm are incredibly relevant to today’s teens. And no, I’m not just talking about “normal kids” or “public school kids;” I’m talking about all of them. Over the years, I’ve met people from all walks of life who have struggled through their teen years, including myself. It doesn’t matter where you come from, or whether or not you think these issues “relate” to you. They do, or they will, and you need to be prepared to talk about them.

So, here are my 13 Reasons Why it’s okay not to be okay.

1. Your Feelings Matter

I know it feels like a joke now to say that someone’s feeling are “valid,” but that doesn’t make it any less true. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from a super surprising source: comedian Louis C.K.

Whatever you’re dealing with, whether it’s personal, or even caused by other people, you can recognize your feelings for what they are. You don’t have to hide them, or brush them off. In fact, that usually makes things worse.

2. You Don’t Have to Tough It Out

They tell us that nobody likes a complainer. But letting people know what’s going on in your life, especially if it’s difficult enough to threaten your happiness, shouldn’t be called complaining. Admitting that you need help is nothing to be ashamed of.

3. You Can Take a Moment

If something or someone is stressing you out, you can step away from the situation. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to reflect on you and your emotional state. Don’t make it a habit, but also don’t construct a prison of your own making.

4. It’s Not Your Fault

Even if everything you’re feeling is completely internal, no external forces involved, you still shouldn’t blame yourself. It might be what we call a “heart problem,” or it could be something you need medication for. The point is, you don’t need to feel like a bad person for not being completely in control.

5. You are Not Weak

This isn’t an issue of strength, either. You are not weaker or lesser for the way you’ve been feeling. You’re human, and there should be no loss of pride or value concerning that fact.

6. There’s Nothing “Wrong” With You

This isn’t something to “fix.” You are not broken. Again, you are human. This is a season of your life, and in all of its difficulty, you are still you. Sometimes, you need help, but that’s not a reflection on you or your character.

7. No One Can Tell You How to Feel

Even me. This post isn’t supposed to be a diatribe; it’s meant as a comfort, to say that whoever you are, if you’re struggling, I believe you. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned since working with kids, especially at-risk kids, is that if they tell you anything that is remotely suspect of trauma or abuse, your immediate response should be: “I believe you.” I’m not going to negate your feelings. I’m here to listen, and if you need, help.

8. That Doesn’t Make This Okay

Don’t let someone demean your feelings by saying this is just a “growing experience.” What you’re going through sucks. Actually, it more than sucks, but at the risk of sounding too vulgar, I’m going to leave it at that.

9. You are Not Your Emotions

You are not a “sad” person, a “troubled” person, or a “difficult” person for what you’d dealing with. As I’ve said before, you’re still you; emotions do not change anything. You are you feeling sad, feeling troubled, having difficulties.

10. You are Not Alone

I hate to say it, but I’ve been there, too. Most people have. For me, it was anxiety, and some days, it still is, though I’ve now graduated past the bit where I’m afraid to leave my dorm room/apartment(not the best time for me). We all have struggles. We all have burdens. We’re here to help, not to judge.

11. You Have a Voice

Speak up. You don’t have to suffer in silence. People are here, and they’re willing to listen, as long as you’re willing to talk. They say the first step to feeling better is admitting you have a problem; if you can talk about it, you’re already halfway there.

12. There’s Always Hope

As Annie says in a roundabout way, tomorrow’s only a day away.

Things will get better. How you feel now does not dictate how you will feel in the future. You can’t change your emotions, but you can change your attitude.

13. Take It One Step at a Time

Don’t take any drastic measures. You don’t have to change your life in a day. If you want something in your life to change, whether it’s you or the way you’ve been treated, it’s okay to take it slow. Going to fast can make things feel even less in your control, and that’s not a good feeling. The goal is to make you feel at peace with yourself, not like it’s up to you to “fix” or “be fixed.”

So I hope that if you’re struggling, you talk to someone about it. It doesn’t have to be. You might not even now me. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching and reading things like 13 Reasons Why, it’s that everyone has something they’re working through, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.

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Posted in Television and Film

You Only Had to Follow Three Rules, Billy!

Don’t you hate it when somebody does the complete opposite of what you asked them to do?

It’s annoying enough when it’s a coworker. Or a friend. But a kid with a seemingly harmless exotic pet that has the potential to cause chaos, ruin, and mayhem?

Welcome to Gremlins.

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Monsters and Mayhem

For those of you unfamiliar with the film from 1984, let me break it down. When a young man in a sleepy small town receives a strange animal from his father for Christmas, he accidentally breaks the creature’s three rules for care taking, and inadvertantly creates a host of ugly, evil monsters that try to take over the town. Both hilarity and horror quickly ensue.

These monsters are, of course, the titular gremlins, but they start out that way. The first form of the animal is introduced as a “mogwai,” which is a cute little creature in a Jim Henson, big-eyed, slightly-less-possessed-than-a-Furby kind of way.

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The misspelling of the word “furby” I think only further cements my point.

According to the internet, “mogwai” means “ghost,” “demon,” or “evil spirit” in Cantonese, which plays a prevalent role in Chinese mythology. The word “gremlin,” however, is much newer one, coined in times of war.

Gremlins rose to popularity in Great Britain’s Royal Air Force sometimes in the 1920s. Pilots and air crew would often blame mechanical failures on strange, mischievous creatures that could cut wires and grease floors to sabotage important missions. Though naturally unfounded, these stories proved invaluable support to troops morale even into World War Two, as airmen went up head-to-head against the German Luftwaffe.

It’s a lot easier to blame your failures on a mythical creature than it is to take responsibility for your actions.

Which bring us back to the movie. On the one hand, you can’t blame poor old Billy for the havoc he’s caused. He didn’t know what was going on, and most of it was an accident. On the other hand, isn’t that what brought gremlins into the world into the first place?

It’s interesting to me that gremlins seem to represent mistakes. They are careless, thoughtless actions that hurt the people around you. For those of us familiar with the terminology of sin, it strikes a pretty clear comparison.

There’s no small coincidence in the fact that, in the Cantonese translation of the Book of Job, the translators use the word “mogwai” instead of Satan.

Obviously, Steven Spielberg didn’t intend for this movie to be a metaphor for the sin in someone’s life, but the similarities don’t stop there. Consider the nature of the gremlin: they multiply quickly, without any chance of covering them up. They start out small, unassuming, even cute, only to quickly take over your life.

The ending for Billy turns out differently. He doesn’t need some messiah or savior; he learns how to erase his mistake. But there’s something powerfully symbolic in how he uses bright light to kill the gremlins. Again, the imagery might be unintentional, but it’s still there: darkness, as always, is conquered by the light.

Add this to the fact that the film takes place during Christmastime, and there’s something very powerful about it.

Of course, this is also one of the two films in 1984 that prompted the MPAA to conceive the PG-13 rating; apparently, some viewers were shocked to watch a scene where a gremlin is set on fire in a microwave.

Now that’s what I call a TV dinner.

All this to say: sometimes movies aren’t that deep. But sometimes, beneath the surface, they really are.

 

Posted in Television and Film

They Laughed First, We Laugh Last

I scroll through my Netflix queue and look at all the shows I want to watch. But I only have an hour to spare; do I really want to commit to a full episode of Luke Cage?

Instead I watch John Mulaney’s New in Town for the thirty-fourth time.

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I think that the first time I heard a comedian who had not starred in a sitcom was on a car ride to the dollar store with my older sister. It was Demetri Martin’s special, These Are Jokes. I was probably about 14 at the time.

And thus began my stand-up addiction.

Favorites of mine include Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, Donald Glover, Bo Burnham, Demetri Martin, and yes, John Mulaney(Be advised – watch all at your own risk. Comedians are famously uncensored, and some of these are no exception). Netflix’s taping of live specials has also produced never-ending fuel for my need to be entertained, and over the past year and half, I’ve watched too many of them to even name.

And with the more-recent influx of comedian-related news(yes, we are still looking at you, Bill Cosby), I started wondering when funny men and women had the funny idea to tell jokes for a living.

Like most forms of art and entertainment, the first real comedians came from Greece. One of my favorite examples of this is from a play called The Cloudswritten by Aristophanes. This ancient piece of literature reads more like a Harold and Kumar film than something written by a stuffy-old Greek. My favorite piece of dialogue -“I am amused at a lizard’s having pooped on Socrates.”

Classic(al).

After that, the art of comedy gets a little lost, as do a lost of the arts before the European renaissance. Even as theatre and literature caught up with the rest of history, stand-up comedy as we know today did not exist for a long time.

The earliest resurgence of stand-up comics that I could find was in Great Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. These acts, however, were so heavily censored that they required no improvisation from the comics and very little room for creative freedom.

Americans, meanwhile, had found freedom in entertainment with their popular vaudeville acts. Most of their jokes were based on stereotypes, often centered around ethnic groups or social standings. From here until the 1960s, comedians like Bob Hope and George Burns started appearing on the television, leading into the golden age of comedy.

New York City was and is a comic’s paradise. Names like Joan Rivers, Woody Allen, and Bob Newhart started in the city only to reach international fame. These days, comics still go to NYC in search of fame and, well, at least the rumor of fortune.

And these days, international comics are what we need. The freshest voices on the rise are as diverse as their jokes: Aziz Ansari, Nasim Pedrad, Leslie Jones, and those are just in America.

That’s really what a comedian is, when you think about it: everyday observations spoken in a different voice. It takes all people, with all viewpoints, to make a good joke.

And couldn’t we all use a little more laughter in this world?

 

 

Posted in Television and Film

All My Friends are Heathers, Take It Slow

9-heathers-quotes

I recently watched Heathers for the first time. Keep in mind, I obviously knew the story: after all, it’s a cult classic. Girl meets boy, girl kills friends, boy goes nuts, the whole shebang. Half the quotes were already ingrained in my memory by the Internet. Still, the film stayed new enough to keep me interested as I watched it.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the premise, let me break it down for you. At a high school in suburban Ohio, a group of girls known as the Heathers act like they rule the world. They’re mean, seventeen, and ready to crush your dreams. Everything starts going downhill when their new friend, Veronica, starts feeling discontented with their lifestyle. She meets a boy named JD, whom she describes as a “dark horse,” and the story violently unfolds from there.

I think what surprised me the most was how innocently it all started. Yeah, Winona Ryder’s Veronica is no saint, but she isn’t a murderer. She’s just a girl with a divided moral compass, too decent enough to follow the Heathers blindly, but dark enough to wish they were dead. JD doesn’t seem to be a bad influence at first: he’s funny and cool and knows how to spin a phrase. It’s only as the movie goes on that both she and the audience begin to realize that she’s literally living in a nightmare.

So for most of the movie, I chose to watch it like a horror film. A girl, enchanted by the charms of a beautiful boy, watches as he destroys her entire life. “Our love is God,” JD says at a turning point in the movie. “Let’s go get a slushie.”

Let’s get back to Veronica. Never mind the fact that Veronica’s former best friend is named Betty(which I think is hilarious), Veronica seems stuck in between two worlds. She’s smart, she’s popular, she’s somehow an expert handwriting forger even though she writes in her diary like a psychopath. For me, this is where the story gets the most interesting.

The question remains: “Did Veronica mean to kill those people?” Some would say she was led astray by JD and his perfect hair, but I still wonder. At the beginning of the movie, she grabs the wrong cup “by accident,” but because there’s a lid on one cup and not in the other, the audience is left feeling doubtful. Later, when JD tells Veronica that the bullets in her gun are fake, you can tell she doesn’t believe him, but she ends up shooting someone anyway.

Which perhaps explains the residual guilt that Veronica feels throughout the movie. I don’t think she knows if she meant to kill them, either, but she certainly wanted to. She admits it herself, that she wanted them dead. But is that the same thing?

According to the Bible: yes. Jesus said it himself, that hating someone and wishing they were dead was the same thing as killing them with your bare hands. Perhaps, then, Heathers should not be considered a psychological thriller, or a dark comedy.

It’s wish fulfillment, pure and simple. Instead of Aladdin, where a boy dreams of winning someone’s heart, this is a story where a girl gets everything she wants only to discover that it’s not what she wanted at all. In fact, for someone who takes such drastic measures to change her life, she finds that nothing really changes after all.

Again, that’s human nature in action. The culture of Veronica’s high school fills the void she creates when the first Heather dies. It takes Veronica the entire film to realize that the only way to change things for the better is to take positive steps, not negative ones.

So, next time you’re tempted to off your best friends, remember what Heathers taught us: murder solves no problems, it only creates them.

On a side note – Heathers is now a pretty fantastic musical. Check out a song here.