I’m late! I know I’m late. But Black Mirror season 3 happened, and it was everything I feared and hoped for. Six episodes. Six, whopping, episodes. And can you believe I watched four and a half in one night? Let me tell you, it was stressful. But oh, was it worth it. Before Nosedive I didn’t know you could rate your uber driver. Let me tell you this has ruined my life. I tried to bump this lady that took me to work the other day down, like it would actually change her life. She was a 4.7 y’all and I don’t know how she got there but let me tell you I wasn’t having it. I’ve told everyone I know to watch San Junipero; who’d have thunk that the most depressing, unsettling show would have a wonderful and wholesome interracial women love women relationship- WITH a bisexual and a lesbian no less. This show is a blessing and a curse and by the time I finished episode six I didn’t know what to do with myself (and that one was so good guys, even Kat got caught up in the DRAMA of it all). If no one listened to my last nonsense post about this show, please listen to this one and watch. It’s great: well made, well written, well acted, and very very real considering the subject matter. I kind of want to watch it all again already.
Note: if you have a fear of spiders maybe skip Episode 2- Playtest, they play (get it??) a major part in it. It’s pretty gross. It changed me in a bad way.
Black Mirror is now a Netflix original, all three seasons and the Christmas episode are available now!
Simply put, The Get Down is a little bit of everything I love. It’s a musical, but not where everyone breaks out into song- not that I would mind. It is a musically driven drama relying heavily on hip hop in its earliest stages, at a time when disco was at its peak. Seeing minor characters like Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc appear on-screen, and hearing Donna Summer hits play in the background, make for a fun music appreciation lesson. Throw in some funk and latin jazz and I’m sold.
The Get Down opens in 1996 New York City, at what appears to be a huge rap concert by a performer we only catch in brief glimpses. The Netflix show was co-created by Baz Luhrmann, whom I loved before most folks (Strictly Ballroom is a family fave). While I’m not head over heels for any other Luhrmann project except William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, I love his aesthetic. There are nods to both Ballroom and R+J as well as others throughout the first episode, which Luhrmann directed. I mean come on, “You had me at ‘hello!’”
Somehow while I was chillin’ under a boulder, I didn’t know much about The Get Down when a friend asked me if I’d seen it yet. Luhrmann’s involvement was the only thing I knew about it when I finally started watching, so imagine my surprise when the rapper on stage opened his mouth and sounded exactly like Nasir Jones. To hear Nas’ voice as the rap-narrator (the lead character, Zeke, as an adult) made my heart smile. By the way, you will want to take heed the lyrics as they help set up certain episodes and key scenes. I didn’t realize who was lip syncing to Nas’ voice until they showed him again at the end- yes, that was Tony winning Daveed Diggs (from Hamilton!). I’m not wild about the lip syncing, but the fact that I love Nas and Diggs makes me forgive it.
The show takes us back to 1977 in South Bronx, where it focuses on a neighborhood that is broke and falling apart by the second, as its citizens struggle to cope. While trying to escape the reality of life, a group of teenagers find peace in music and other art. The show’s lead is the young version of the future rap star; a quietly bright Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero (Justice Smith), whose parents were killed when he was young. He lives with his Aunt Wanda (Judy Marte) and her overly vocal boyfriend, Leon (Brandon J. Dirden), who comes off as borderline abusive. It turns out they both just want to challenge Zeke to work hard. Zeke is a poet and a romantic, in love with his friend, Mylene, who seems to underestimate what he has to offer. You root for Zeke at every turn, in spite of the many mistakes he makes; he’s a kid who has to experience life on his own.
Zeke’s best friends are brothers: Ra-Ra, Dizzee and Boo. They each have very distinct personalities of their own. Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks) is the idea man who can rattle off facts about random topics. Dizzee (Jaden Smith) is the “weird” graffiti artist who sees the world through a whole different set of glasses from the rest of the crew. Dizzee actually drops a Strictly Ballroom line that is very true to his spirit: “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” Boo (TJ Brown Jr.) is the youngest, but seems like the oldest, as he is cautious about every move they make. Their sister Yolanda (Stefanée Martin), is one of Mylene’s best friends.
Mylene Cruz (Herizen F. Guardiola) is the apple of everyone’s eyes, especially Zeke. She is in denial of his love for her because she has such high hopes for her life, but isn’t sure about his own ambition. She lights a fire in him in more ways than one. She has the voice that makes everyone stop and listen, especially when she performs a solo at her father’s church. However, her conservative father, Pastor Ramon (Giancarlo Esposito) is not as excited about her dreams of secular stardom. Ramon wants so badly to distance himself from the colorful ways of gregarious and charismatic brother, Francisco (Jimmy Smits) that he keeps a tight hold on his daughter.
Smits plays the uncle we all want, let’s be honest. Francisco, a city councilman, cares deeply about the community and his family, and he will do anything to protect them and bring them happiness. His willingness to do almost anything causes him to be at odds with Ramon at times. He plays a major role in Mylene getting closer to her dream of being a disco star.
Then, there’s Shaolin Fantastic AKA Shao 007 (Shameik Moore, Dope), who’s a bit of a mystery in the eyes of Zeke and his friends. We’re introduced to Shao through Dizzee’s clear awe of his graffiti work. We don’t know much about him right off, but as the first episode develops you learn there will be an eternal connection between Shao and Zeke. Shao rocks a fresh pair of red Pumas and he parkours almost everywhere he goes. More importantly, he knows the streets, the dark side, and he knows the one and only Grandmaster Flash.
Shao becomes a guide for Zeke, showing him how to make his poetry into music. Between the two of them, there’s apparently nothing they can’t do. Shao is street smart and Zeke has his head in the books; Shao even dubs Zeke “Books,” which he uses as a stage name throughout his career. They both fall deeper in love with music and what they are creating, but no one in Zeke’s life understands this new hip hop movement- no one even calls it that yet! Shao doesn’t have a family so he’s free to give his heart to the music, but Zeke’s loved ones want him to focus on his education and being successful in the community. As Shao and Zeke get closer, and Zeke gets closer to Mylene, Shao becomes a bit Mercutio-like; jealous of her role in Zeke’s life. The Shao-Zeke-Mylene storyline has strong dramatic potential in Part 2 of the season.
Plenty of other characters contribute to this world: Mylene’s mother, Lydia (Zabryna Guevara, Gotham) who is torn between letting her daughter be free and obeying her husband; Mylene’s other best friend, Regina (Shyrley Rodriguez), whose experience reminds us just how naïve and sheltered Mylene really is; and washed-up music producer Jackie Moreno (Kevin Corrigan), who promises to create a hit for Mylene. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Fat Annie (Lillias White) and her son Cadillac (Yahya Abdul-Maheen II), neighborhood drug dealers who run the night club, Les Inferno. These actors played the hell out of those roles; Fat Annie is scary!
The characters are rich and lively, but the themes are what make you keep coming back for more. It is truly 1977; black kids who idolize Bruce Lee and are excited about an upcoming little movie called Star Wars. The threat of gangs, the presence of drugs and the knowledge of mayhem at a local club, keep these otherwise innocent kids on their toes. The show borders on corny in some scenes with dance battles and nods to martial arts movies, but I love it for nostalgia’s sake. The setting makes The Get Down feel like home to me; something about it is strangely familiar. I’m an ‘80s baby and I’d never been to New York City until I was an adult, but it feels like I know it so well.
Like many people, I grew up watching plenty of movies and TV shows set in NYC, and this show was all of those stories in one: The Warriors, Beat Street, Fame, even I Like It Like That, along with so much more. In 1977, NYC went through major transitions, leaving people of color, especially those outside Manhattan, with little to nothing. We see footage, both real and dramatized, with images of the Son of Sam, Gerald Ford, Ed Koch and the madness all over the city at that time. It’s beautifully shot, and serves as a dramatized history lesson. When we see Ed Koch campaigning to a crowd off angry New Yorkers, talking about getting rid of graffiti and removing the “delinquents making racket,” they were in a space that looked desolate and depressing. The scenes that took place near dilapidated, even demolished housing projects, remind me of scenes from R+J, where Romeo would hang out with his friends; it even uses similar score.
The first episode plays like a feature length movie that can’t decide on its plot, but when you start rolling the story completely envelops you and you’re stuck. For a person who doesn’t normally binge watch, I was in a zone. It wasn’t like with HBO’s The Night Of, where I felt pressure to finish it so I could be ready for the water cooler talk; no one I know even watches The Get Down. I voluntarily gave this show my all. I wasn’t ready for the finale. I didn’t realize it was the end until the credits rolled, and I’m not sure how I felt about it. It may seem odd for me to say, but it felt too “wrapped-up.” I wanted another episode simply because I enjoy watching it, not because the story felt incomplete. I don’t particularly prefer cliffhangers, but the way it ended felt so final. It came off like there may not be more, although there is much more story to tell! There is certainly one major burning question: How does Zeke stay true to himself while chasing his own dreams?
As much I enjoy it, The Get Down is admittedly imperfect. Whenever I turn it off, I start asking questions I want it to answer and I tell myself I understand why people don’t like it. I even feel reluctant to recommend it. Then I turn it back on and I’m sucked right back in, and confused on how everyone I know hasn’t dropped everything to make this a priority viewing! I’m already watching the entire thing all over again, and seeing points I had missed the first time around. It’s interesting that a few other shows have come out and are praised for the feelings of nostalgia, but this show is being knocked by people who barely gave it a chance. I realize my reluctance to suggest the show is due to the expected skepticism from others. Shows featuring people of color are not allowed to be artsy, or drop knowledge, or be anything outside the box. I say give us more like this; I can’t wait for more!
I’m gonna take a moment here and expose myself. There are two fundamental truths about me: 1. I will watch anything for cute people, and 2. I’m scared of a loooot of stuff. The big three probably is manipulation of technology (AI, hacking, detrimental advances), space, and cults. Somehow I’m always watching stuff that will freak me out. So what happens when you put Fran Kranz in a trailer that features people in a cult-like environment screaming, “not a cult!”? You get Mint scrambling to watch Netflix’s Rebirth.
I need y’all to know that I love me some Fran Kranz; Topher Brink will forever be my smart baby (Dollhouse is my FAVORITE show) so I was already sold seeing him in it. Watching the trailer, I kind of back tracked because cults really squick me out. I just don’t understand how people join them. I always fear I’m like secretly susceptible and will derail my life for some Elvis impersonator that wears sunglasses at night. Yet, I can’t escape cult stuff: there’s a cult episode of Dollhouse, I was intrigued by The Path, I watched most of The Following. It’s always vaguely interesting and you get some great acting out of it, but it does frighten me.
So Rebirth follows Kyle Madison (the ever adorable Fran Kranz), a “corporate drone” who falls into a monotonous rut. He’s the social media something or other for the bank he works at, has a pretty wife, and an adorable daughter. He lives in routine: go to work, come home, play games with his daughter, rinse repeat. Then, one day his college buddy Zack (Adam Goldberg) visits him at work to get him on board to a Bro’s Weekend at a seminar called Rebirth.
From the jump, getting access to the place is difficult. It immediately was more work than I personally would have put in, with lots of reading between the lines. Still, Kyle prevails and gets to the shuttle to the Rebirth center; this is where things get cult-y and weird. They have these half masks on the bus- I’ll just say now I’m not going anywhere that requires I put on a creepy mask, but Kyle’s a trooper. They get to the center and the plot thickens.
Now, this is a movie that plays on frustrations. You’re with Kyle on this journey so you get just as confused and angry as he does when characters deflect with vague questions or get brutally antagonizing. There’ a lot of weirdness and wondering what’s going on, and it’s excellent. It’s almost as if you’re going through the rebirth too and you vaguely hope that everyone’s right: at the end of the line it is worth it.
The movie probably won’t end the way you expect it to, which isn’t spoilery, just fact. You’ll have so many theories while watching that the end will be a surprise either way. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know if I think it’s a good one. But nonetheless, the acting is amazing. Adam Goldberg was phenomenal; every choice he made was effective. He made you feel what he wanted you to feel and it’s honestly amazing. Fran Kranz gives off a perfect frantic energy throughout keeping you in this wary, almost terrified space which really works for the thriller moments. Also, shout out to Andrew J West, his scene is stressful, he’s very convincing with this dark, mocking air (he was Gareth on The Walking Dead so are we really surprised here?).
Across the board, there were stellar performances, and the movie really does make you feel something. I think at the very least, it did what it set out to do in the best way it could. And, I’m definitely steering clear of bro weekends, so now that I know to beware I count that as a plus.
Have you ever met a handsome stranger (a bouncer) in some shadowy place (a bar you frequent) and on one magical night he changes your life? I have, and the most wondrous part is that we still talk! “What’s this fantastic life change,” I hear you all wondering, but I have bad news: I still don’t know if the change was a good one. You see, he got me hooked on something. A little UK show called Black Mirror. So I’m gonna talk about it today, and I hope you all watch it and hate me a little bit for this thing I’ve done. You’re welcome.
So, Black Mirror. It’s a show with some downs, some ups, and a lot of WTF moments. It’s set up like a miniseries– three hour and a half episodes per season– but none of the episodes are directly related. Each has to do with the general theme of technology being the end of us all, which, isn’t that fabulous? Each episode falls into one of three categories: technological advances, the power of social media and the internet, or the downfall of viral fame. They all have a kind of creepy voyeuristic quality and is ultimately made worse by the fact that most of it seems to take place in a not so distant future.
I was going to try and go ahead and write out about each episode and….I guess review? But two things ended up happening: I, first off, realized that this show is something that has to be experienced. I could not, in good conscience, ruin some of the great thinking moments of the show because let me tell you, a lot of deep introspection happens. The other thing, is that I started screaming into a pillow because there’s literally no way to explain what happens on this show. I think about it all the time; it stresses me out. Sometimes I want to text the guy who told me about it and say “Look here, ya jerk,” and thank him for ruining my life. (Real talk though, we have conversations about it every few months because I literally am always thinking about it).
This show is a wild ride, and I need for the next season to happen immediately. Has it shaken my worldview? Yes. Do I not completely trust my own cell phone? Yes, of course. But am I also feening for this show? ABSOLUTELY. I’ve got the shakes y’all. I’m scratching. I need it in my life. Come over to the dark side, we know how technology will turn on you and we have bomb shelters.
Two seasons and a Christmas episode are currently on Netflix. (I beg you, talk to me about this show if you go ahead and watch it, we can wear matching tinfoil hats!)
For more information on Black Mirror and show creator Charlie Brooker, check out Channel 4.
“Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man”
Caution Ye Who Enter Here: Spoilers and Feelings Abound!
It’s coincidentally my favorite line of Mercutio’s: a hint of humor to a grave (ha, get it) situation. It’s light-hearted, yet you can tell something is truly off. So imagine how I felt when Alex tweeted it as his farewell to life.
Before I start this…er…article? I must say that I felt am immediate kinship with the lead character of “About Alex”. It’s…odd, wanting to kill yourself. At first I didn’t know the movie was gonna be about that. I saw Max Greenfield with a beard and was immediately in. But reading the synopsis, I realized there was going to be substance.
So the movie starts with a house, and a man, Alex (Jason Ritter), sorting his affairs. A bathtub is running in the background. It seems in movies slitting your writsts while in the tub is the Way To Go, it almost makes me curious how many people actually take that route, as morbid as that is. He gets in the tub, fully dressed, and sends out a tweet: “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”
This is when his friends are alerted to his suicide attempt. You first meet Ben (Nate Parker) looking stressed at work, who deflates at the news. He then calls Josh (Max Greenfield), who then calls Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), who calls Isaac (Max Minghella) in a standard “these are your characters, nice to meet you” scene; later on you also meet Siri (Maggie Grace) Ben’s longtime girlfriend and Kate (Jane Levy) Isaac’s “plus one”. They all fall into the categories “the ways people react to your almost death”
Ben is the one with his own issues, he can’t focus solely on helping his friend; Josh is the no-nonsense “suicide is ridiculous” character that is almost cruel in how he tries to get Alex to just admit it was a dumb idea; Sarah is the doting mother hen, a one woman Suicide Watch; Isaac is the one who doesn’t know what to do so he brings a plus one to further separate himself; Kate is an outcast, an outsider looking in; And Siri is the only person that treats Alex like a person.
When the friends arrive at Alex’s place they take it upon themselves to tidy up his living space. But they never touch the bathroom. I think that’s my favorite thing about the movie. They never clean it, they openly avoid it, and it’s very much how people react when someone they know tries or mentions wanting to kill themselves. So when everything goes bad, Alex takes it upon himself to finally take care of it. The scene is poignant, it reads as if he realizes everything is in shambles and he’s simply trying to regain control of his life because he’s the only one that can do it. It’s probably something that will always scratch against the back of his head but he’s making the moves to ignore it. Hearing Kate help someone on the suicide hotline, I think that made him take a step in the right direction and try to ignore the thoughts telling him things are too hard and to go ahead and do it.
While the scene with Josh attempting to force Alex to open up about what he was thinking is a tough one to get through, his ultimate point: that they were ignoring Alex, is profound. Considering Josh is a bit of a prick, recognizing that he was part of a larger problem is ultimately quite big. Alex’s admittance that he realized he didn’t truly want to die is also pretty big. Basically, even with him taking the steps –including actually slitting his wrists– it is ultimately always scary to feel like you want to be dead.
The film does a good job of showing that depressed and/or suicidal people are not solely concerned about their own personal issues, contrary to popular belief. Alex is such a sweet character, he always asks after his friends, and he openly cares what’s going on in their lives. Even after everyone is doting on him and “trying” to be extra careful he pays attention to their issues and tries to be a helpful ear. I like to think that Alex and Kate are at the center of this movie. They’re both dreadfully kind characters surrounded by a bunch of tools and they’re just trying to deal, given the circumstances. Their exchanges together, while they seem charged with negativity, are actually pure. Her assessment of his fragile mental state is taken gracefully.
At it’s core, this movie is about a bunch of people, and the different ways they try to deal with their situations, i.e. Alex trying to kill himself. They sleep with the wrong people, they dodge their friends, they try to put too much into one person, they lie by ommission to their significant others. I feel the point is, nobody’s issues are “unimportant” even in the wake of a friend trying to kill himself. In a way it’s missing the point of a character reaching his “end” but it’s also true to form because everyone always misses the point.
Meet the most beloved sitcom horse of the ’90s – 20 years later. BoJack Horseman was the star of the hit TV show “Horsin’ Around,” but today he’s washed up, living in Hollywood, complaining about everything, and wearing colorful sweaters.
This quirky Netflix show needs to be on everyone’s radar! Meet Bojack, the eponymous “horseman”, a burdgeoning alcoholic trying to get used to life outside of the spotlight. He was the star of a 90’s sitcom “Horsin’ Around” based on a horse character that adopts human children. This show is absolutely hilarious, filled with dark witty humour and kitschy 90s nostalgia. As you watch you’ll be taken through a journey on this broken man’s life and find yourself feeling a certain kind of way about your own. It’s a roundabout experience that will keep you feeling fulfilled throughout the two seasons. And the theme song is FIYAH. So get on it, punks!
Specific episodes: Bojack Horseman: The Bojack Horseman Story: Book One, Bojack Hates the Troops, Our A-Story is a D Story, The Telescope, Downer Ending.