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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Play Review: Superior Donuts (2008), Bromances and Male Friendship

By On 12:21 AM
Though it is a play about donuts, Tracy Lett’s Superior Donuts is far from revolving on sweet talk alone. Delving deep into in the play will reveal that a touching and highly refreshing take on the way that males bond. Sebastian Bobik of Taste of Cinema explains that “Male friendships have some elements to them that kind of distance them from female friendships. Often things go unspoken and affection is underplayed. Often enough this dynamic can make for very interesting films” (Bobik). However, this can often lead to a lot of them feeling underwritten, underdeveloped or just plain sexist and riddled with inklings of  toxic masculinity. ATTN describes the idea of the a positive depiction of male friendship as “bromances,” or very intimate, close friendships between males.” In their video titled, The bromance is helping end toxic masculinity, they discuss the way that film and television previously stigmatized physical and intimate relationships between men who weren’t in relationships with one another. And this was primarily done because most men feared coming across as homosexual. The bromance initially began as a stereotypical, running joke in film and television, but as gender normatives began shifting, the idea that men could be intimate and stay friend became seemingly normal. However, this is isn’t to say that the media is completely devoid of any problematic depictions male friendships currently, even though things are getting better. 
In Superior Donuts, the “bromance” we’re presented is neither wholly underwritten or underdeveloped, but frankly, the complete opposite. However, even so, there is an inkling of something problematic underlying as, in the end, one of our leads ends up finding his bliss while the other is reduced to a mere plot device. Our main protagonist, Arthur, is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He’s strict, serious and he lacks any sort of decent relationship with his wife and daughter. He runs a donut shop, but, for the most part, he leads a monotonous, mundane existence. However, that is until a young man named Franco Wicks stops by his little shop to shake up his tedious actuality. Franco Wicks is the complete opposite from Arthur. Putting skin color aside, Franco is an optimistic, open-minded writer looking for work and after a little banter between the two, Arthur decides to hire him. Throughout the play, we’re constantly bombarded with the Arthur’s inability to move forward in his life. He’s stuck and it’s through his interactions with Franco that inspire his newfound self-discovery. Not only is their friendship unconventional because of their racial differences, which is highlighted in some of the conversations that they have on the topic, but because of their age differences as well. Franco is young, optimistic and striving to do his best, while Arthur has seemingly just given up, but it’s Franco that reminds him just how much life has to offer if you let it. 
Although this is seemingly sweet because ultimately, we’re subjected to root for Arthur, it feels as if his self-growth can only be expelled at the extent of the minority characters around him like Franco. Falling somewhere in between the concept of the “magical negro” and the “pixie manic dream girl”, Franco is not only Arthur’s crutch for self-growth, but this is done to the extent that his existence becomes almost miniscule to Arthur’s as we near the end of the play. And as not only is his precious manuscript burnt to a crisp, but three of his fingers are brutally cut off and he’s left jobless as Arthur sells over his shop after paying off Franco’s debt. Therefore, while Franco is seemingly the driving force for Arthur’s retribution, he’s left with little to nothing to say for all that he’s done while Arthur gleams with hope for the promise of a new day.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Short Film Reviews: What Men Fear Most (2016) & A Guide to Indulgence (2017)

By On 9:08 AM
“Masculinity is something that people kill and die for.”
What Men Fear Most is an elaborate and intricately spoken, tale that revolves around the psyche of a young man who fears something that he quite can't express to his father. We all have our own insecurities and emotional reactions to them, but then there's this concept of masculinity. Men are advised to be tough and strong and to not let these emotions show it to be depicted as masculine to the world. However, the concept of masculinity is so deeply ingrained in most men that they feel like the emotions that they experience could disrupt this facade, so they swallow their feelings to appear strong, but what most people forget is that they will eventually have to go somewhere. The filmmaker even reiterates this statement when he says, "What about when you're vulnerable, scared? Those feelings are never aired, but they have to live somewhere. And the question is where?" And it's in though provoking questions like these that the author transcends a simple exploration of toxic masculinity into something more-so in the realm of a poetic, hard-hitting, world shattering critique.
Watch the film here. 


A Guide to Indulgence offers a satirical and somewhat frightening look into the world of beauty and femininity. British photographer and filmmaker, Nadia Lee Cohen, uses a multitude of masked, made-up women who are more than comfortable in their own skin as the backdrop of this wonderfully crafted, modernized take on the vintage advice, beauty and grooming technique videos of the 30s, 40s and 50s. The stylized situations in the film not only reflect on how a woman's role has been built and transformed over time, but they also prompt many questions that ponder the minds of many. What does it mean to be beautiful? How is true beauty achieved? Who is really in charge for all the trends and styles that we pick and choose to recreate and embody? Is it us or does it come from somewhere else, somewhere unrecognizable? Though we may never find out, Cohen believes that it's time that we do.
Watch the film here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Film Review: When Harry Met Sally (1989), Exploring Chick Flicks and Genre Conventions

By On 2:04 AM
 "I'll have what she's having."
Starring: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Written By: Nora Ephron
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Release Date: July 21, 1989

Buy the film here.
Directed by Rob Reiner and written by the wonderfully talented, Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally is a film that has topped numerous "Best Chick Flicks for Men" lists for the last 28 years. But what makes this award-winning film a "chick-flick" rather than just your average romantic comedy? Or vice versa.
I want to start off by explaining that not all "chick flicks" are romantic comedies, just like not all romantic comedies are "chick flicks." Romantic comedies are just that: films that are comedic, yet also romantic in nature. Their plots revolve around some kind of romantic entanglement and are centered on romantic themes and ideologies, but they're still funny. "Chick flicks" are simply films that are geared towards women and although these genres have traditionally been categorized as one in the same, they aren't. Consider the way that films like Clueless and Mean Girls are categorized as "chick-flicks" and just comedies, even though they feature elements of romance. This is similar to the way that any Nicholas Sparks film is labeled a "chick-flick" and a drama because they aren't typically comedic and are instead, fully romantic in nature. Contrastingly, also consider the fact that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and (500) Days of Summer are just labeled romantic comedies and never really "chick flicks" because they're geared towards everyone. A majority similarity in relation to why these films are all labeled "chick-flicks" is not in their content at all, but in their intended audience, which is women. 
When Harry Met Sally features some, if not most, of the staple conventions that have categorized films as romantic comedies for ages. The basis for a romantic comedy involves the two leads meeting and then subsequently parting for some reason or another. Upon them parting from one another, it's traditionally established that the two believe they are not right for one another romantically, but both the filmmaker and the audience know that, secretly, they are. Eventually, they do meet again; however, there is usually some obstacle in the way of them being together, such as one or both of them being involved with someone else or other social pressures. In the end, one of them seeks out the other to put forth some sort of grand gesture or proposal of their love, and they come together to get married. This is essentially the plot of When Harry Met Sally. However, even though the film virtually subjects itself to following the stereotypical formula of a traditional romantic comedy, it subverts many of the various genre conventions it depicts by way of its dialogue and character development. And not only does it do that, but it also asks us questions about our own relationships and how we view society. Can men and women really be friends? Can a man compliment a woman without it being a come-on? Do most women fake their orgasms? Why does Ingrid Bergman really get on the plane at the end of Casablanca? While these questions and many more have plagued my mind since I saw the movie back in 2008, the more important question that remains is: Why doesn't it feel like other seemingly titled "chick flicks" are doing the same thing? 
Of course, there are always variations to any generic formula and many films have gone about flipping many of the stereotypical conventions of romantic comedies throughout the years. In (500) Days of Summer, our leads do not end up together. Instead, Summer leaves Tom and they both end up seemingly finding love elsewhere. In My Best Friend's Wedding, our lead female protagonist ends up alone and her love interest gets married to someone else. The reason that both films work so well is because they subvert our expectations about what's supposed to happen. Michael Tucker of Lessons from the Screenplay talks about genre in his video essay on When Harry Met Sally and from his reading of Robert McKey's Story, he concludes that: 
"The genre sophistication of filmgoers presents the writer with this critical challenge: [He or she] must not only fulfill audience anticipations...but...must lead their expectations to fresh, unexpected moments, or risk boring them." 
"The challenge is to keep convention, but avoid cliche."
Meaning that the conventions themselves are not the issue. The issue lies in how they're presented. The winning aspect of When Harry Met Sally over other "chick flicks" similar to it is that while the film follows through with these repetitive conventions, they don't feel tired. The film is giving us everything we've seen before without straying away from its contrived plotline and it does this for a very specific reason. Not much happens in When Harry Met Sally and this is so that we're able to dissect characters and their relationships via what they say to one another. 
When Sally and Harry first meet, Harry has a long monologue about how he feels like he's a dark person because he reads the last page of every he encounters in case he dies before he can finish it. This directly ties to the deep depression he goes into when his wife cheats on him when they meet again five years later. As for Sally during her and Harry's first meeting, we ultimately find out that she's a generally happy person, unlike her male counterpart. Also unlike Harry, she takes her breakup with her significant other much better than he does and sees it as more of transitional period than a dramatic loss. Comparing their words with one another not only reflects the differences and similarities that occur in their future actions, but also in the differences and similarities between men and women in general. When Nora Ephron initially released the script, she also included an 11-page introduction with it. That introduction included the many conversations on love and relationships that Ephron had with the film's director. And it turns out that all of this is what's reflected in the film's dialogue. Every piece of dialogue seems to be working to showcase who these people are and how they fit in both our world, as well as the one that Reiner and Ephron have crafted based upon it. 
"Chick-flick" or not, When Harry Met Sally has a lot to say. It's a film that's caused quite a bit of debate on many different topics, most importantly including the question as to if men and women can be friends. While we may not have a lot of answers to these questions, it's more important to discuss these things and relate them to how differently men and women are in how they think about things and operate daily. Though this is quite mundane, especially since nothing really happens in the film, it's real without having to do much, which I can't say a lot about many other films of the genre. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TV Review: Bojack Horseman Season 4 and The Struggle to Find Meaning

By On 1:24 PM
"Oh my god, I'm the problem!"
Starring: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, Allison Brie
Created By:  Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Streaming/Airing On: Netflix
Original Release: September 8, 2017
Content Warning: 
This post contains discussion on suicide, suicidal ideation, and mental illness.
For the last couple of years, Bojack Horseman has been a show that never fails to send me sailing into another depressive, dissociative episode. However, even though I know the consequences to delving into a show like this one, I keep watching because I don't think I've related to a character as much as I have to Bojack. And that's honestly what worries me the most...
 Set in the world of Hollywoo, a world filled with anthomorphic animals and humans alike, the show's titular protagonist is a horse named Bojack (Will Arnett) that is just trying to figure out who he is and what the hell he's doing. For the past three seasons, Bojack's has gone through hell trying to reclaim the fame he once had in the nineties as a famous TV actor. However, through starring in the movie of his dreams and even becoming nominated for an Oscar for that performance, Bojack still finds that he feels nothing. Season Three began with him stating that if he was to win that Oscar, he finally would have meaning in his life, but he soon realizes that there's much more to life than fame because before he's an award-winning, television star, he's Bojack and having to deal with yourself and the things that you've done is honestly one of the hardest things to accomplish, especially when you feel like you're not that great of a person. During Season Three's episode "That's Too Much, Man", Bojack and Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal), who is also a famous actress/singer that Bojack views as a daughter-figure, come together to acknowledge their faults and ponder their existence after a drug-fueled bender where she eventually dies in his arms. This was Bojack's breaking point and Season 4 picks up during the aftermath of her death.
Choosing to begin the season without Bojack was a smart decision. Even though we're caught up with everyone else's endeavors in the wake of his absence, we're still met with so many more questions. The first thought that always crosses my mind with every season premiere rolls around is about if Bojack has killed himself. I was almost very certain that he'd actually done it this time, but when he appeared he was the still the same narcissistic, self-obsessed horse-man that he's been for the last three seasons. However, I was all-too relieved and excited to see a familiar face that I could directly relate to amongst the likes of Diane (Allison Brie), Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and Todd (Aaron Paul). But even though we meet Bojack again as the same man he's always been, this time he is on a different mission: to become a better person. The largest challenge for Bojack over the course of the last three seasons was comprehending the ramifications of his actions and fully feeling remorse for them. Whether your coping mechanism to feeling bad is by heavy drinking or drug use like Bojack's or self-destructively pushing everyone away via hostility and reveling in your own sadness and succumbing to self-harm like mine, doing any of those things always seems to be much easier than admitting your sorry or that you're wrong because, in turn, that admission would make you a bad person. Julia Alexander of Polygon writes that:
"BoJack is obsessed with himself and his own sadness, desperate to figure out why he feels so hollow. He wants to be both loved and left alone, adored by millions while sitting at home, stewing in his own self-hatred and wallowing in his paralyzing self-doubt."
And the thing that is so different about Season 4 from any other season is that even though everyone around him, including the audience, has already realized this about Bojack, he's finally realized and accepted this fact himself. During an episode ironically titled "Stupid Piece of Shit", Bojack says this to himself. "You're a piece of shit, but at least I know I'm a piece of shit, that makes me better than those other pieces of shit who don't know they're pieces of shit." Though the quote didn't really resonate with me the first time I watched it, it finally clicked yesterday. 
Yesterday, I sat in my car with the windows rolled up for a very long time. As I usually do when I get depressed, my first instance was to Google "how long does it take for you to suffocate in a car with the windows rolled up." That, unfortunately, takes quite a while, so my thoughts then moved to crashing my car into a tree, slitting my wrists in a bathtub, or burning myself with cigarettes. Though these thoughts may be alarming to most, they've become quite a comforting normality to me, but this time, they felt so comforting I almost went through with them. After hours of contemplating how I planned to end my life, I dialed the Crisis Hotline. Though I've never done this before and I don't know what prompted me to do it in the first place, I don't regret doing so. After describing my predicament and chatting for a couple of hours on the phone with a delightful young man who I will not name, he told something very similar to what Bojack says to himself. He told me that the best step forward in managing your mental health issues is recognizing that you have them in the first place. I've always been very self-aware when it comes to my mental illness and the instability of my emotions that come with it. However, until yesterday, like Bojack, I've always related them to myself and people like me, but not to everyone else around me who has to deal with me. And even more so, even though it's easy to recognize when I've entered a state of reveling in my own self-hatred and self-doubt (and even Bojack's), it's very hard to see just how I got there in the first place; how the mind braces itself for the fear of abandonment, loneliness, and disappointment with self-destruction instead of clarity or hope. Bojack finally realizing this is the first step in the right direction. However, meeting Hollyhock and reuniting with his mother, while he is attempting to better himself sends him spiraling back down the rabbit hole he's been trying to climb out of for the last three seasons.
The introduction of Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla), a girl who presents herself as Bojack's daughter, was also an interesting turn of events, not only for the show itself, but for Bojack himself because now he's found something to give him meaning. Though she states that she's only come to Bojack to confirm his paternity and find her mother, some of the show's best moments come from the time that these two spend together on-screen. The similarities they share are almost uncanny. Not only are they both lazy and insecure about their own cosmic existence, but they both find something in each other, regardless of their faults. The only times that we've ever seen Bojack display any sort of organic happiness is when he is playing a father-figure to someone, even though he's not the best at it. The difference between him being a father-figure to Sarah Lynn and him being a father-figure to Hollyhock is that Sarah Lynn is bound to him of her own volition alone. Like Hollyhock, she also chooses to be around Bojack, regardless of his faults. She can leave him whenever she wants and often does. While Hollyhock is bound to Bojack in a comparable manner as well, she is also bound to Bojack by blood which he finds comfort in. This is especially since she's the only member of his family that's accepted him for who he is and more importantly, relates to him. Right before "Stupid Piece of Shit" ends, Hollyhock asks Bojack if the "tiny voice" in your head that tells you that you're worthless, stupid, and ugly goes away when you're older. Even though Bojack lies to her and tells her that it does, it's a very quiet and refreshing moment that highlights the fact that not only are these two characters one-and-the-same, but it resonates the idea that, regardless of whatever you're going through, you're not alone. 
Putting Hollyhock aside because they're so similar, this season really spotlights the fact that Bojack isn't alone in his struggle to find happiness. Although most of the other characters' struggles to find purpose appears have often just felt like filler episodes that almost fade into the background. This time around they're revealed to be some of the most beautiful and devastating parts of the show when you compare them to how these characters were portrayed in previous seasons. For example, Todd has always strived to rid himself of his toxic friendship with Bojack. Though we've seen Bojack hurt him time-and-time again, it was only last season that Todd had finally had enough with Bojack's selfish actions. However, Bojack only does this out of the fear that Todd will leave him. In his final efforts to stop Todd from leaving, he unironically does the very thing that hurts Todd the most and Todd says this: 
"You can’t keep doing shitty things, and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay! You need to be better! … No! No, BoJack, just stop. You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career, or when you were a kid. It’s you. All right? It’s you."
This hurt my feelings! While this probably stems from my own narcissism, it really hit home for me because every time I've ever hurt someone, it is my own fault for not acknowledging that I've done whatever it is. It is my own fault for doing the things that I've done and letting the past control my life, but it's so goddamn hard not to. However, someone can only keep being abused by someone they love for so long. Once Todd finally let's go of Bojack in Season 4, he's free to begin his own life and even though he's struggled with doing his own thing and being himself in the past, it's even harder now that he doesn't have Bojack to blame for bringing him down. All along, he's never really known who he was and dealing with Bojack not only inhibited him from being able to do so, but it's ultimately revealed that it was also an excuse for him to not have to. 
This also applies to Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter, who have their share of marital problems as well as their own internal issues that they have chosen to ignore for other external problems like those involving Bojack. Diane struggles not only with her own cosmic existence like Bojack, but she struggles with being understood by everyone else around her. She's frustrated with how the world treats women, it's gun laws and even the environment and though she voices her frustrations constantly, she still feels like she's not being heard, most importantly by her husband, Mr. Peanutbutter, who is solely focused on pleasing everyone else. Although Mr. Peanutbutter hasn't reached his breaking point yet (though I fear he will soon), last season both Todd and Bojack hit their's and this season, Diane has hit her own. In "Underground" after Mr. Peanutbutter's starts supporting fracking, which results their whole house collapsing, trapping everyone, including Bojack, Diane, Mr. Peanutbutter and a whole gaggle of various celebrities (such as a hilarious version of Jessica Biel, played by herself, and Zach Braff) underground. By being stuck underground without the likes of anything to distract her from her problems, she is confronted by everything she's both feared and been frustrated with thus far and it is then that she has her breakdown. Even though she's tried so hard to feel otherwise by thrusting herself into her work and marriage, similarly to Bojack's attempt to find solace in his fame, it hasn't worked and that's primarily because she would rather live in denial and pretend to be happy instead of just doing so. For example, the real reason her and Mr. Peanutbutter's relationship hasn't worked thus far is because they're fundamentally different. Even though she uses denial and busy work to keep herself busy, she also simultaneously trying to find meaning in everything, which is much more harmful than not. Mr. Peanutbutter's only purpose is to make everyone else happy, which is why his character is a dog, but because they only find despair in trying to find their own reason for existence, he remains unsatisfied as well. He finds comfort in his own uncertainty and accepts it. No one else around him is capable of that just yet and after spending the past few seasons, trying to help everyone become as happy as he is, it's only now that he realizes that's the one thing out of his control. With or without Bojack around, everyone is fundamentally one-and-the-same. Bojack, however, represents the end-all-be-all for all their emotional problems. They deal with their issues in certain ways because they do not want to end up like him. However, without him there as a reminder on how not to act, they all begin to fall down the same twisted rabbit hole that he has thus far.
Looking past all the witty, pop culture references and the intricately woven jokes that contain social/political commentaries on things like mass shootings, sexuality, and abortion, Bojack Horseman is one hell of an emotional roller coaster. The main reason that I always go back to this show is that Bojack never learns and not only does that send him spiraling downhill, but everyone else as well because they keep going back to him, fully knowing what will happen. But even though each season consists of him hurting the same people time-and-time again, even I go back to the show each season, thinking he will change. Deep down, I don't really think he will ever change nor do I think he's even capable of change, but at least he's trying now. I can only hope that if he does eventually change, so can I. 
For any of you or your loved ones that may have thoughts of committing suicide, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255
You won't regret it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Play Review: Two Trains Running (1990) and The Ambiguity of One's Desires

By On 11:58 AM
Though the Black Power Movement and their various rallies and protests are only mere background elements in the work, August Wilson’s Two Trains Running is a refreshing depiction of white exploitation, racial conflict, oppression, hopelessness and the humor and love that’s used to counteract all of that within an urban black community. The plausibility behind all Wilson's characters' hopes and desires lies in not only conviction in their dialogue, but also in each of the character’s ability to keep pushing for what they want, even if their logic is not always rational.

Regardless of whether it is love, money, success, respect or ham that they want, everyone has something to strive for and it is something they’re consistent at doing. Our lead, Memphis, is fighting a system that he doesn’t quite know that’s there to get the money he deems is acceptable for his restaurant. The mentally-challenged, Hambone, has been striving for ham for questionable reasons from the local white butcher for the last nine-and-a-half years. He seemingly acts as a foil to Memphis as they both are actively demanding what’s due from white people in higher positions of power. Though Hambone’s need for ham acts as a bit of a comedic relief to the play, after his death, all of the activism done in the name of ham is illustrated to be not so different than Memphis’ in regard to the situation with his money and his restaurant. Similarly to Hambone’s persistence in getting his ham, Memphis’ overtly driven personality is also what pushes him forward in his struggle against the white city developers that want his restaurant. However, it’s also the added ambiguity in different elements of their many of their rationalizations in accordance to their desires that also ties them together. For example, we don’t know why Hambone strives for ham from the white butcher nor is it ever revealed even after his death. As for Memphis, he believes that people are free agents that can do as they please. However, he cannot comprehend just how institutionalized racism still inhibits and limits specifically black people from doing what they want to do. Even though he acknowledges that white people owe him certain things, it is solely due to his own sense of entitlement, rather than one from a political standpoint that sees the higher, white forces working against black people like him.

A young, politically-curious, ex-convict named Sterling wants the love of Risa, one of Memphis’ workers, along with copious amounts of money. The same goes for his comrade, Wolf, who runs an illegal lottery service from Memphis’ restaurant. Wolf’s work brings him some uneasiness due to the unfairness in how the winnings are distributed rather than its illegitimacy or the fact that it contributes to the exploitation of the impoverished people of his town. Sterling just wants a job. Though men like Memphis might assume that men like Sterling can’t find work because they’re lazy, the play itself insinuates that it’s quite hard for black people to find work, which is true during the time in which the play is set. Though Sterling's unbalanced nature which lies in both his spiritual and political convictions on top of his criminal record also inhibit him from being able to hold down a stable job, the harsh reality of the matter is that white business weren't hiring black people. But, of course, he doesn’t realize this even though he chooses to advocate for the Black Power Movement while simultaneously listening to the likes of both Prophet Samuel and Aunt Ester, who preach conflicting spiritual convictions.

 As for Risa, the object of their affection, it is later revealed that she cuts herself to protect herself against men from viewing her in a sexual light and for the most part, it works. Though both Sterling and Wolf’s infatuation with her seems to stem from something other than her body, they still reduce her character to solely her femininity by their constant utterances of sexism. Sterling continuously pines after without giving Risa so much as second in between his rapid flirtatious dialogue for her to get a word in edgewise, while Wolf stays silent when he can see the other men demeaning her. Risa’s part in the play in minimal, but it does expose another intersectional level of oppression in their world as not only does she have to deal with the problems that come with being black, she also must deal with the problems that come with being a woman. Though she believes that mutilating her body is an easy fix for the issue that she has with men sexualizing her, she still must deal with men reducing her character to sexist stereotypes involving her gender. A large issue that I have regarding this issue with Risa is the fact that doesn’t seem to see many of these problems as genuine issues. For most of the play, not only does she ignore many of the sexist statements that are regarded towards her, she ends up getting together with Sterling even though he is the one who made most of the sexist statements towards her. However, Risa's ignorance of her own female oppression could reflect Wilson's inability to conceptualize the struggles of womanhood and the oppression that comes in hand with it from a female perspective. Wilson enabling Risa to voice her opinions about her own mistreatment works in his favor because it resembles that of the silent women that have come before her, but it does restrict

Though all these things that these characters are striving for what seems like very straight-forward desires, it is the way that these characters view the world around them and societal institutions that are inscribed within that world, that inhibits them from fully stepping up to the plate to take ahold of their dreams. Though they seem to really know what they want and ultimately keep repeating it to themselves and others, it is hard to decipher whether they’re trying to prove something to themselves or someone else through these achievements. It's only through them realize just exactly what they're fighting against and for what reasons that they can realize this, but unfortunately for Wilson's characters, they have a long way to go.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Play Review: Three Tall Women (1991) and Finding Yourself by Looking Into the Past

By On 11:44 PM
Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women is a play that explores the generational differences of femininity in the form of three women. While these women are very different from one another, they do come from the same entity. The play revels largely in the concept of nostalgia and self-reflection. The play's dialogue exposes the various cultural and generational differences between these women as they come to terms with how they lived their lives and how it's affected them in their current states. However, it is because all of this is to an autobiographical sense that we're truly able to understand who 'A' is and how she came to be. And not only that, but it's also how she's able to understand herself. 
‘A’ shines in the work as a bitter, old, senile woman. Though her speech is riddled with the repetition of various phrases that tie into the harsh realities of the time in which she lived, they are not inorganic in nature as it is subtly revealed that A is struggling with Alzheimer’s. However, 'A' is looking back on her life in a way that is much more thorough than attempting to do so on her own. Both 'B' and 'C', the other two women in the play offer sympathy, slight revelations, and even comfort as they all touch on the darkest parts of 'A's memories, like her son leaving her for her affair and her blatant homophobia. All of this occurs even though they have various generational viewpoints on things like sexuality, love, race, and marriage, all of which have been experienced to the fullest by 'A'. However, whether her dated views are seething in “arrogant complacency [or] fearful disorientation” (New York Times, Brantley), they all have something to reveal about ‘A’, whether she would like them to or not. Her blunt and complacent homophobia and racism mark her as a product of the time in which she was born. The reason why she is this way is revealed later when 'C' mentions the way her mother groomed her to be this way because of how she grew up. 'A’s characterization, as well, as her mother's, is just one example of just how deeply ingrained these societal norms were. However, while ‘A’ reflects the older generation and how things were, ‘B’ and ‘C’s reactions these statements reveal a lot about them as well, especially in relation to how their views differ greatly from ‘A’s because of when they grew up.
Though ‘C’ is initially introduced as a fruitful young lawyer, ‘C’ also represents the youthfulness, innocence, and naivete of a young woman trying to navigate the real world for the first time at the age of 26. She’s curious, not only about ‘A’s past and how she came to be, but in the future as well as how she’ll avoid becoming like her. She’s impatient with ‘A’s traditionalist, intolerant views on race and sexuality and often challenges them, which is on par with that of a millennial mindset.  And even more so, she has a deep-seated fear of her own morality which directly reflects the same views that a lot of young millennials today have. Though Albee was probably not trying to reflect a modernist society in ‘C’s character, as times have changed vastly since the 60s when the play was initially released, Albee captures the universal essence of youth, naivete and the strive for individualism and most people that are ‘C’s age tend to have.
‘B’ stands in as not only ‘A’s caretaker, but as a referee between ‘C’ and ‘A’ as she simultaneously reprimands ‘A’ for her intolerance while calmly reminding ‘C’ of ‘A’s senility and of the fact that inevitably she is what ‘C’ is going to become. Though she’s not much different from both ‘A’ or ‘C’, she represents a calmer median between the two. She is much more mature, educated and accepting of the future than ‘C’ and she is more rational and coherent and less cynical than ‘A.' ‘B’ understands allows her to enjoy the good things that happen to her, without living in regret or sadness over what's to come or what has happened already.
Though all the characters' opinions differ when it comes to reflecting on different elements of their lives, a sizeable percentage of the play focuses on them coming to terms with what they will eventually become and what's already transpired. 'C' worries about the impending future as the doddery 'A'. While 'B' reminds her that the 'now' is the most important. 'A' reminds them both that, in the end, the now or the future won't matter because we'll only be clinging to the past to fully comprehend how we got where we are and how to accept it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Film Review: It (2017), Pennywise Mythology and Facing Your Fears

By On 11:19 AM
"If you'll come with me, you'll float too."
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis
Written By: Chase Palmer, Cary Funkunaga, Gary Dauberman
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Directed By: Andy Muschietti
Release Date: September 8, 2017

Pre-order the film here.
Like most "good" horror movies of today's time, evil is typically personified into something supernatural, like a ghost, or a sexually contracted disease if you've seen the film, It Follows. In Its case, a demonic clown epitomizes evil. However, the real evil is not in any of these supernatural entities. It is rooted within something more mundane and quotidian that effects each and every person on this planet. Putting Its stunningly, bleak cinematography aside, the real feat that It also accomplishes is its ability to have its audience revel in the nostalgias of the 80's while simultaneously exposing us to the dangers of childhood trauma.

It follows the story of a group of young children who are terrorized by a demonic, shape-shifting clown named Pennywise who resurfaces every 27 years to feed off the fear of the children of their town. The biggest change in the film from its original source material is its time jump from the 50's to the 80's. Not only does give its audience members something to relate to as most of them would remember this period, but it also makes the thought of a sequel much more appealing as it would take place in modern day society, literally 27 years later. In the film, all the kids fear something. Regardless of whether it involves a real fear like Beverly's (Sophia Lillis) fear of her pedophilic, abusive father or a completely idiosyncratic one like Eddie's obsessive fear of sickness (Jack Dylan Grazer); It proves that as a child, every fear that one has, whether they're organic or not, feels real and they should not be ignored or invalidated. Though the film sadly only illustrates what these real-life fears are during some of the scenes, the film does makes it a point that it is important to tackle fears like these during one's youth so that they'll be able to conquer the bigger and more ambiguous fears that come with adulthood. Pennywise's character not only symbolizes the fear our own mortality that only frequents adulthood, but his character's actions also reflect what will happen if we indulge in our fears, in general, too much. This is because in doing so, we won't be able to deal with the problems of adulthood because we'll be so consumed with the ones lingering from our childhood. Being consistently afraid of something has been scientifically proven to inhibit growth mentally, but even though Pennywise stunts physical growth by way of fear, the film symbolically exemplifies this point by making them synonymous with one another.

According to It, when it feasts on scared humans, all the chemicals of fear flood the body and salt the meat, which makes them better for his consumption. He also taunts them with the unnerving threat that "they'll all float, too", which simply means that once they're dead, they will float in his underground sewer home as dead bodies float tend to float in water. When Pennywise kills people, they do not go to Hell or Heaven. They float in a limbo-esque area forever with their souls still attached to their unnerved unconscious bodies and they seemingly stay children forever, meaning that the simplistic fears that these children have that are actually inhibiting them from growing physically if Pennywise gets ahold of them. Although he is not opposed to eating adults, it is much easier to take advantage of a child's fear than that of an adult's. Adults fear more ambiguous things like the inevitability of their own death and those fears are much harder for Pennywise to manifest into a physical form.

Towards the end of the film, Pennywise takes of the leads captive, he tells the others that if his friends allow him to take him, they'll be able to "grow and live happy lives until old age drags [them] back to the weeds" (i.e., death). While the children probably do not realize this about Pennywise's threat because they're so young, he is exemplifying the idea of dying of old age as something to be afraid of. Although he is allowing them the peace to do so, he's taunting them with the fact that even if they let him take their friend to die, they, too, will die at some point as well. Many people cannot handle the idea of their own mortality and as with the children and their fears; they attempt to try to live their lives simply avoiding it until they must come face-to-face with it. However, after they have overcome Pennywise subjecting them to their greatest fears, the children no longer have anything to be afraid of, except the fact that they'll still have to die eventually. Since it is quite hard for Pennywise to manifest the idea of one's mortality into a physical form that he taunts them with those words. Moreover, even though this does not phase the children because they're so young, the line works because it gets to us as this is seemingly what most of us fear.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the film is about children and they simply do not think about things like this. I can only hope that the sequel will touch on themes that of mortality one as the kids will have grown the mental capacity to think about things like this. As for It, it's the bond the loyalty and love that these children have for one another that aids them in defeating Pennywise. It is also what makes transcends this film beyond just another horror flick and more into the realm of an offbeat coming-of-age film. During the scenes where our leads are frolicking in the water and battling bullies together simply being kids, the film shines. It's the warm-heartedness of these moments that highlights the innocence of these characters. It also is what reminds of a time when we didn't have to worry about existentialism and being aware of our own mortality. While it's what gives us comfort while we watch these children battle their own demons, we must realize that the only reason that we're at this point is because we faced our own fears when we were their age. Often when we have children in an R-rated setting like this one, we forget that they're children and even though they're going around battling demons and swearing left and right, it is through these moments that we remember who and what we're watching and how we're not much different from them.

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