Posted in TV

“The Four” Fergie’s spins, white girl dreads, and black excellence

This season on “The Four” has been wild, to say the least. The judges kept things interesting, the challengers were impressive, and the Four were intense. The first season of the show is certainly promising, but there were ups and downs on the journey to stardom. Be that as it may, the show has definitely earned its time-slot.

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I loved Fergie as the host- she’s charming, charismatic, warm, and generous. Also, spinning as the rings come up blue is hilarious, I have no idea how she does it in those heels but I respect it.

For the most part, I love the panel. Khaled is intense and hilarious, Meghan is warm but tough, and Diddy plays bad cop faultlessly, while showing his approval when someone makes muster. Charlie Walk is on leave, due to harassment allegations, but it’s no great loss. I actually found him to be an ineffective member of the team. As a record executive, he’s supposed to be looking for someone he can market, but he definitely prioritized thin, attractive, white contestants. Diddy was unequivocally my favorite thing about the show- we really got to get to know him and how he thinks. His interactions with his fellow judges were hilarious and honest, and he just took everything to the next level.

I think the structure of the show is effective, it gives the audience a chance to connect to the singers and I love watching the Four sit up and judge the challengers. The contestants are mostly hopeful and full of passion. There were some uncool moments, specifically when Jason Warrior got in Meghan’s face and made an ass of himself. He was previously a favorite of mine, he seemed devoted and willing to go the distance, but losing brought out something ugly in him. He was ungracious in defeat, and that takes the shine off of his charm. Warrior is clearly a rare talent, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him. Saeed was definitely robbed, he deserved more time on the show, and I hope to be seeing more of him, too. I loved Tim’s energy, hopefully his multiple talents will keep him working and we’ll get to see more of his sweet moves soon. Lex Lu and Vincent also deserved more time. Vincent’s performance of “Creep” shook me all the way through.

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The winner, Evvie, was a real revelation. She has the kind of voice that only comes around once in a generation, and she was a no-brainer to win. I almost cried listening to her sing “Glory” and her performance of “Proud Mary” was the best thing I’ve seen all season. She’s wonderful, and I believe she’ll be incredibly successful. I hope we see some of her next season, working on her album, just because she’s so charismatic and such a presence. Evvie has the star power the judges were looking for, and her win sets a great precedent for the show.

dj khaled congratulations GIFNow, let’s talk about Zhavia. She is incredibly talented, and clearly has great potential. She was the first challenger to really wow the panel, and she has mad love from the fans. However, she presents a lot of problems we need to address. To state the obvious, she is a white girl with dreadlocks. This is inappropriate for a variety of reasons, but the first is that she has exploited the black community. The community is very accepting of light-skinned people, which occasionally means that a white person can appropriate blackness like it’s a cool accessory. (See Rachel Dolezal.) Zhavia has never made clear what her racial background is, but it’s pretty safe to say that she is white. People who are ethnically ambiguous or propagate an image of racial ambiguity seem to think it’s okay to be black when convenient, but this is clearly wrong. Add Zhavia’s blaccent, and I’m angry. While everyone is praising her big, beautiful voice, no one is talking about how unacceptable it is for her to present as black. And she does have a gorgeous voice- I love listening to her sing- but she needs to get learnt. She is only sixteen, so she has plenty of time to switch gears in her career. The thing is, you don’t have to be black to sing soul, and R&B. Adele is amazing, Amy Whinehouse was fantastic. There is no excuse, even though she’s young. She clearly has some familiarity with the community, and it should be clear to her that the way she is portraying herself and acting is not okay.

In particular, Zhavia is invading a space not exclusively for people of color, but a place that is safe and welcoming to artists of all ethnicities and races. There were some amazing black artists on the show who deserved a seat over her, and they didn’t have the opportunity. It is about race, but it’s also about perception- Zhavia is white, thin, young, and beautiful. We have the responsibility to hold her accountable for her actions regardless of her ability. I hope she does come to the realization that what she has done is wrong, and I wish her all the success in the world, but not at the expense of other equally talented artists.

In short, I’d say this first season deserves a B+. Charlie Walk and Zhavia are definite negatives, but the show made a strong beginning, and will hopefully be entertaining us for seasons to come.

dj khaled popcorn GIF by Diddy

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Posted in Books, Movies

“Crazy Rich Asians” Series

In the spring, I finally got my hands on Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s 2013 best-selling book about Singaporean and Chinese millionaires and billionaires. It was a true revelation, as clearly evidenced by its wide-spread success, and the book is getting a film adaptation in 2018. I loved the book, it was charming and funny and gut-wrenching, with twists and turns and biting wit that kept me reading until I had consumed the book whole. Seriously, if you have yet to read it, you must. It is mandatory.

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One of the most interesting part of the book for me was the cultural immersion the reader experiences. Phrases in various east Asian dialects are interspersed naturally in the dialogue, cultural norms are clarified, and food gets the special treatment of elegant, sumptuous description that would make even the most picky eater salivate. This complete immersion into the culture of the protagonists would probably require a lot of googling, but the author has wonderful footnotes that explain phrases, events and honorifics that the average reader (such as myself) might find confusing. The author has a freshly knowledgeable voice, and delves into an intense social structure with gusto. I have a detailed and farcical culture of my own, which I barely understand, and diving into this book was a breath of fresh air, to be honest. It is a book in which one can completely submerge oneself.

I read the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, which, to my great delight, did not jump the shark. A lot of sequels fail to live up to expectations, but this one was a standout. Kitty Pong, a morally dubious side character from the first book, is made actually sympathetic in the second, and lots of other new characters are introduced without awkwardness. Focusing this book’s main trajectory on Rachel’s family was the right call, as opposed to continuing on with Nick’s family drama, which remains important but periphery. Nick is much more likable too, his honesty with Rachel and their working as a team in this book is satisfying for those of us who were cheering for them. The dissolution of Astrid’s marriage was expected, while money does a lot in this world, it can’t fix everything. Plus, we love Charlie with Astrid. His unselfish love for her is what she deserves, especially when sudden success makes Michael into someone Astrid can’t abide. There is excellent foreshadowing regarding Colette Bing’s true temperament when we see the way she interacts with her family and her servants. The book ends in Nick and Rachel’s families accepting them (with the exception of Nick’s grandmother, who I think we’ll be seeing more of in the next book) giving them both an excellent foundation for marriage, based on strong support from their families, who have accepted the match, and in Rachel’s case, her presence in their family.

There is a movie coming out next year, of which I have high expectations. It is frustrating that there are so few actors and actresses who are Asian who have had the opportunity to be successful, but I anticipate that the success of this movie will make way for more media focused on Asia and Asian-Americans, a severely underrepresented group. In the mean time, I eagerly look forward to getting my hands on the third book, which will only make me hungrier for more.

 

Posted in Miscellaneous

“Life of Boris” YouTuber on the rise

My SO introduced me to Life of Boris on YouTube earlier this month, and it has slowly become an intense addiction. While the channel appears weird and niche upon first glance, it only gets weirder and more incomprehensible as you fall down the rabbit hole. However Boris and his slavness only grows on you, and his true Slav charm is clearly enchanting thousands of viewers flocking to his channel to see his hilarious cooking videos and satirical travel logs.

Boris started on Youtube in 2015, and in two years has carved out a little place for himself online, making videos in multiple genres and bringing his own unique sense of humor along. My personal favorite videos are Boris cooking his Babushka’s recipes, I have watched his jam video more than a dozen times. Another personal favorite is Boris’ travel videos, documenting his visits to Slav countries where he reviews their beer, mayonnaise, and general Slav content. He recently uploaded the first half of a Prague video, and his fans eagerly anticipate the rest of his travels in the Czech Republic, including me. Boris’ channel received a lot of attention in the last month for his collaboration with DJ Blyatman, Slav King, a music video filled with hard bass, glorifying the hard and fast Slav lifestyle. My SO and I have been known to blast the song in the car, especially when driving to McDonald’s in the middle of the night, to remind the world what world class Slavs look like.

Boris’ subscriber base is only growing, and it seems likely he will reach the one million mark by the end of 2017. If you want to get in touch with your inner Slav, your Slavic heritage, or simply appreciate the slavness in another, I would suggest checking out Boris’ channel. Come squat with us, my friend, as long as you’re not a western spy.

Posted in Movies

“Wonder Woman” Kicked Ass

We all saw Gal Gadot onscreen as Diana, princess of Themyscira, demigoddess and Amazonian warrior, in Man of Steel 2: Batman vs. Superman last year, but she didn’t really get to shine until she got her own movie this summer. The box office revenue speaks for itself, Wonder Woman is set to be the highest grossing film of the summer, it’s breaking records like gangbusters, and it’s still in theaters. Still, the impact of Wonder Woman is possibly as of yet unknowable- it’s pretty amazing seeing a Jewish woman playing the warrior princess of legend, and a woman taking center stage in any superhero movie.
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The beginning of the movie is just beautiful, Themyscira is an untouched island of pure magic, populated by strong, powerful Amazons. This picturesque setting provides a perfect contrast to the smog-filled London streets and western front, which show the difference between the morally black-and-white world of Diana’s origin and the world of men and women, where there are gray areas. Diana’s character arc is partially based in her acquiring the understanding of a moral spectrum, and of the complications inherent in humanity. She sees Steve Trevor, and she sees an unquestionably good man, but his decisions confuse her, his choices seem out of character to her. She sees the gang of misfits they employ, and she sees that they contain their share of good, and does not understand how they can be so dissolute. In getting to know them as a proxy for all of humanity, she sees that they are morally complex, existing on a continuum of good and evil, not a binary. Selling goods at the war front, acting, and shooting people from behind are at first inscrutable to Diana, but she grows to understand. Her ability to empathize with others is her greatest asset, and she grows so much during the course of the film, as she takes on the world.
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The supporting actors are no less extraordinary than Gadot or Pine, both of whom are obviously wonderful in their roles, Robin Wright in particular being a standout. She conveys the love and concern of an aunt, while mentoring her young charge with the necessary pragmatism. Sacrificing her own life to save Diana is entirely within character, and her loss is a moving moment in the film. The inclusion of actors and characters of color is clearly deliberate, and it works. I have almost no complaints about the film, though it seems as though it could have easily been written by a female, rather than a male screenwriter. I know seeing the movie with my mom was an amazing experience, and I don’t doubt thousands of little girls out there had the same awe-filled reaction as I did.

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Posted in TV

Sam B’s Badass “Not the White House Correspondence Dinner”

I’m an outspoken fan of Samantha Bee, who has been best known as an outstanding correspondent on The Daily Show back when our dear Jon Stewart was at the helm. However, she embarked on her own television journey in early 2016, and has been our feminist crush of the month for the last fourteen consecutive months that the show has been airing. Bee is brilliant in Full Frontal, which is in its second unapologetically awesome season, and last night Sam and her staff (along with some special guests) put on what they call The Not the White House Correspondence Dinner, an hour-long event broadcasted on TBS at the same time as the White House Correspondence Dinner.

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The cold open with Alison Janney was perfect, she owns any room she enters and we all love her. The main goal of the evening was to draw attention to the plight of journalists in the post-facts society we appear to be inhabiting, and Bee certainly put the press on blast while raising money to protect journalists. All of the profits of the event went to the Committee to Protect Journalists, so that attacks on journalists can remain online where they belong.

Special guest Will Ferrel as former president George W. Bush certainly brought some star power to the event, but his impression was a tad rusty and he appeared for around five minutes. His appearance wasn’t the strength of the show, it’s the amazing Full Frontal staff who provide the backbone. I wish we could have seen a bit more of the wonderful Ashley Nicole Black, but I guarantee a few of those zingers were hers, as was a good deal of the applause. Steve Buscemi’s cameo was adorable, he almost never gets a chance to be the funny guy these days, but he nails it. A few other notable guests were the comedians who got all of fifteen seconds each to speak. They’re all wonderful and talented, but they didn’t even get three minutes total between them. I’m a huge Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher fan, Kumail Nanjiani is brilliant, and Patton Oswalt is a treasure. They all got their little digs in, but you have to wonder what they could have done with a bit more airtime.

While the show’s timing was certainly flawed, overal, the biting tone of Full Frontal shined through in the way we love to see. Let’s just hope that Sam can stay on the air long enough to cover a president on her intellectual level.   

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Posted in Movies

Netflix Gems: Rom Coms

We all love Netflix. It’s a service a lot of people use, which provides an excellent product and allows us to binge on television and movies in an easy and fun way. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find things to watch that you haven’t seen a million times, so I thought I would make a few lists of great things to watch on Netflix. So, without further ado, here are the best romantic comedies you can watch on Netflix.

  1. The Decoy Bride: This is a great movie, starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald. It’s set on a small Scottish island, where the beautiful Alice Eve portrays an actress trying to get married in secret, and the whole island gets totally turned upside down. Kelly Macdonald is lovely and sympathetic as the protagonist Katie, and the music is awesome.Image result for the decoy bride
  2. The Switch: Jennifer Aniston has her time and place, but the real strength of this movie is the cuteness between the father, Jason Bateman, and their son. This movie is not super profound, but it is a cute love story about falling in love with family.
  3. Practical Magic: Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are both always a win, but as witches they are fun and sweet. The movie is about love, but also about sisterhood, Image result for bridget jones diaryand family. 100% would watch again.
  4. Bridget Jones’ Diary: The whole Bridget Jones cannon is brilliant, but the first film is always fun to come back to. You may have even forgotten some of the funniest bits.
  5. The Last Five Years: The songs are a bit hit or miss, but this movie-musical is beautifully romantic and terribly sad. Anna Kendrick continues to be a promising talent, and Jeremy Jordan is a great leading man. Don’t watch this if you want to be reassured of the reality of love, because it doesn’t end well.
  6. While You Were Sleeping: Wow, two Sandra Bullock movies in one list! This movie is just some sweet ’90s fun.
  7. After the Ball: A young woman gets kicked out of her family’s clothing company. What else is there to do but dress as a man and prove herself? She also happens to fall in love along the way. Very sweet, very Canadian.
  8. 10 Things I Hate About You: Another classic ’90s movie with a cast of some future famous people and some future nobodies. Funny, sweet, sex-positive and full of poetry.

That’s eight to get you started, comment your favorite rom-coms, specifically ones you can stream.

Posted in Movies

“Bridget Jones Baby” A Labor of Love

We haven’t had a new Bridget Jones in more than ten years, so it’s about time Renée Zellweger got back to charming the pants of me. The original is a classic, the sequel is hilarious, and this film, released in 2016, is a riot. A very worthy finale to a tremendous franchise, and one with a female star over forty! What a win.

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Bridget Jones is perpetually single, and having her back in the metaphorical saddle is just the best part of 2016. Her delivery continues to be perfect, and her two co-stars are the best pairing in a rom-com I’ve seen in a while. Patrick Dempsey wears so many cable knit sweaters. He’s great as the lonely billionaire our Bridge falls into bed with and yet not in love with. As a possible father, he is supportive, kind, and accommodating. By far his best moments are pretending to be Mark’s husband, and him being way too nice and kinda new age-y. The math guy wants a family, and one appears to him. His longing for a family makes sense, and his being a nice guy makes him do the right thing. He was a perfect replacement for Hugh Grant, whom all of us loved to hate as Daniel Cleaver.

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Emma Thompson is another pedigreed actress, and she brings the movie some much-appreciated brilliance. You probably need a sense of humor like that to be an OB-GYN, but she bounces off of the other characters with her good sense in a way that is both charming and ridiculous. I love her in everything, but she’s lovely in this, marrying her usual dry wit with kind sensibility.
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Colin Firth is his usual brilliant self, and I couldn’t get enough of him. He so desperately wants to be with Bridget, but he respects her and her choices and wants to do what it takes to make her happy. When he thinks that Jack is what will make her happy, he steps back. Mark loves Bridget enough to commit himself to another man’s son, while Jack isn’t quite that selfless. Also, Colin Firth breaking a window calmly is all I needed from life. I’m not sure if getting bitten or punched directly in the face is worse, but we all knew it was going to be Mark. It has always been Mark for Bridget. The film was excellent, made even better by a stellar soundtrack. It’s a fitting end to a great series, and it gives the first two films a great resolution. Also, Bridget bouncing her son on her hip one-armed is a move all moms have had to master. Good on you, Bridge.   Bridget Jones hot fabulous renee zellweger milf GIF