Tag: TV/Movies (Page 1 of 12)

Recently viewed: Stranger Things, Moonlight, and Lion

“Recently” is a relative term. I keep starting blog drafts, getting interrupted (#momlife), and then forgetting to finish. So my thoughts on these aren’t as fresh anymore, but I liked all of them and thought they were worth discussing.

Stranger Things is a Netflix darling, and with good reason. Every aspect of the series is top-notch. Writing, cinematography, acting, etc. I think it’s particularly impressive given how many of the main roles are played by kids.

That said, I was most affected by Winona Ryder’s portrayal of a fragile mother desperate to save her son. Probably in part because we watched this just a couple months after IB was born. I also thought her character’s trick with the Christmas lights was clever, and cool-looking.

Andy and I watched this one together, which I always enjoy doing, because (1) bonding time, and (2) discussion. With Stranger Things, I think what we debated most was whether Steve was a good guy, and whether the various stuffed tigers were the same, and if so, coincidentally or on purpose.

Subtleties and mystery. Stranger Things was full of both.

In some ways, this movie reminded me of Boyhood, another former Oscar winner. Moonlight too follows one young man through the formative years of his life. But the two films are like inverses, with Boyhood showcasing a “typical” white middle-class coming-of-age, and Moonlight focusing on the experience of a queer black kid in the projects.

Moonlight’s breakout star has been Mahershala Ali, who I first knew and liked from House of Cards. Ali does a fantastic job with his role here, but considering all the hoopla, I was surprised he wasn’t actually in the movie more.

To me, Moonlight felt like a literary novel brought to life. What I mean by that is, the story has structure, and a narrative progression, but it unfolds quietly, in poetic vignettes. It’s not a book that you stay up late at night to read, tearing through pages to find out what happens next. It’s one that you take your time with, savoring each word, each scene, because they’re rich with flavor and significance.

Also, it doesn’t answer all your questions, because it’s the asking that matters most.

Some of the other movie posters for Lion drove me mad, because they made it look like a romantic drama, which it most certainly is not. Lion is the true story of an impoverished boy in India who becomes separated from his family, survives the streets of Kolkata through a mix of luck and scrappiness, gets adopted and moves to Australia, and eventually searches for his birth family by trying to match his foggy childhood memories to images on Google Earth.

The main themes are identity and belonging. Saroo can’t let go of the family he was born into, but his adoptive parents and country have become a part of him too. I thought actors Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman mined that emotional territory beautifully.

And although the scenes of Saroo’s online search dragged a little bit for me, it was refreshing to see technology depicted as it really is: a tool. Not inherently good, nor inherently bad. Just powerful.

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Quotes on love and writing

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“Love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful. [That] has to mean something.”

“Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it yet.”

“I want to write. I want to write stories that make people feel less alone than I did. I want to make people laugh about the things in life that are painful.”

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Unexpected delights

A couple years ago, Andy and I decided to get season tickets to our local Broadway series, along with another married couple we’re friends with. It’s the perfect excuse for all of us to take a step back from our busy schedules and catch up with one another, enjoy some good food, and support and appreciate the arts.

In that time, we’ve seen a lot of good shows — and a couple not-so-good ones — but there are two that I can easily single out as my favorites so far.

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Like the band Death Cab for Cutie, the musical Kinky Boots has a name that intimidated me. I was bracing myself for something very provocative and in-your-face. Instead, I found myself quickly charmed by a story about shoes, fathers, friendship, and being true to oneself.

The musical numbers are clever and catchy, and personally, I can relate to Charlie’s struggle between following his own path versus taking over the family business.

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Apparently there was a movie version first, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, who I love. It was available on Netflix, so I watched and liked it, but still prefer the musical.

And the whole thing is based on a true story, one that might be particularly relevant to today’s political climate: A small shoe factory in a working class English town, reluctantly partnering with a group of drag queens in the hopes of weathering an economic downturn. Hmm, what parallels could we possibly draw from that…?

The other show I’ve loved most so far is Something Rotten, a hilarious satire of celebrity culture, the writing process, and musicals themselves.

The show is full of inside jokes for a theater- and literature-loving crowd. I laughed nearly from start to finish. Shakespeare as the ultimate douchebag celebrity is hysterical, and trying to identify all the shows spoofed in the song “A Musical” is quite the game.

As lighthearted as it sounds, Something Rotten also has heart. I appreciated the brotherly bond, the sweet little romantic subplot, and the shoutout for feminism.

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Here’s to the fools who dream

Over Christmas, my parents came to visit, which meant that Andy and I were able to sneak away for a few hours while they watched the baby. First we dined at our friend’s new restaurant, which was amazingly delicious, and then we went to see La La Land, which I really enjoyed.

  • The colors. From the opening scene to the final montage, the film makes really good use of vibrant color. It’s a refreshing choice for a “serious” film, particularly in contrast to the dark tones that seem to dominate current popular media. I especially loved the visual of Emma Stone’s character dancing with her roommates, each in a different brightly hued dress, the four women moving in prismacolor around their apartment and through the street.
  • The chemistry. I was already a big fan of both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and this film really underscored why. Ryan is naturally suave and radiates charm. Emma’s doe eyes captivate. She’s also in that special category of actress whose face can convey a hundred subtle things without her having to speak a single word. In every movie I’ve seen with either of these two in it, they manage to inhabit their roles in a way that somehow makes me forget who they really are, and yet simultaneously feel like no one else could play the part so well.
  • The theme. Most of all, I loved that this movie was about the ups and downs of creative life, and the costs and rewards of pursuing your passion. Obviously that is a topic that hits quite close to home. I found myself in tears, not over the love story, but over the hopes and hurdles that the two characters face throughout their careers.

It wasn’t a perfect film, but it was fresh and ambitious and intentional. I can only hope that people would say the same about my work.

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays

And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make

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Small protests

Sorry, more politics.

Actually, not that sorry. Politics are personal. Politics impact us all. And lately, politics have been weighing on me heavily.

I’m not normally a march-in-the-streets kind of person. Heck, I’m not even a bumper sticker or yard sign kind of person. But these days, I cannot in good conscience do nothing.

My protests may be small, but they are full of good will, determination, and hope.

  • I am calling my representatives. This is reportedly one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways to have an impact. If you’re interested in doing the same, I highly recommend the site 5calls.org. It offers a brief overview of various issues you may care about, as well as the numbers of your representatives, and sample scripts to use when calling.
  • I am donating to causes and organizations that champion my beliefs. For example, tonight I donated to the ACLU in celebration of their success in halting the immigration ban. (There is much more left to go in that particular fight, but the court’s decision offered a swift jolt of hope.) There’s a lot of money going toward things I don’t support; it’s going to take a lot of money to counter them.
  • I am reveling in art that honors my experiences and my values. Because art reminds us of our humanity. Art broadens our humanity. Because art strengthens our empathy.

Tonight, in a stroke of serendipity, I happened to be watching Brooklyn, the quiet, moving story of a young Irish immigrant making her way in America.

I don’t know if this is enough. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as enough, right now. But I think that if we all do whatever we can, it will make a difference. I have to believe that.

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