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.

 

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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

Posted in TV

“Big Little Lies” Finale

We all knew the end was nigh, but the end of this series still brought me sadness- this show has been a dramatic and intense journey, and I know it had a finite life, but it still makes me melancholy. The ending was everything I expected.

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Just to start at the beginning, Celeste lying on the ground as Perry beats her, her in her underwear and him fully clothed, is a powerful image. Her going to her therapist shows that in the beginning of this episode, Celeste knows that she is going to leave her husband. Her finding out that her son is the bully that has been turning the school upside down is just another slap in the face, but it makes the most sense  Max observed abuse in his home, by his male role model. Jane and Ziggy being vindicated is just a side effect, and Renata’s redemption is easy to swallow she apologizes to Jane and accepts the truth with grace.

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Jane gets closure in this episode, she discovers the identity of her rapist, and defends Celeste from him before he is pushed to his death by Bonnie. All of the women trying to protect Celeste is also important we see these different women, all moms but fundamentally so different, banding together to guard one of their number from a force of evil because Perry is evil in the end. He isn’t a good father, or husband, or a provider, he is, unequivocally, a monster. And he gets the end he deserves.

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The singing was one of my favorite bits, because (aside from the great voices- wow!) it does remind us that the posturing doesn’t end with the women on this show- the guys are just as much drama. In fact, I would argue that the physical threat the husbands present to each other is more worrying than the social threats the women actually carry out. The aggression the husbands, specifically Ed, Nathan, and Gordon, display toward the women and each other, is alarming. Leaving out entirely the central conflict between Perry and Celeste, Gordon threatens Jane and Madeline, Ed and Nathan threaten each other on multiple occasions. Ed and Nathan are openly hostile, which is understandable, they are both insecure. Ed feels insecure in his relationship with Madeline, and Nathan feels inadequate as a father to his oldest daughter. It makes sense that they display animosity to each other, but the violent aspect of their quarreling is disquieting.

Overall, Big Little Lies has been a triumph. The leading ladies are all established actresses, but I think the kids and Kathryn Newton (Abigale) just made a great resumé builder, and can definitely write their own tickets for the next few years. Alexander Skarsgård was incredible, although I don’t know that he will ever be able to play a sympathetic role again. I see some awards in the future, and at least one of them better be for the music, because oh my god was it amazing.

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Side note: I just realized that Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley last worked together playing mother and daughter in The Fault in Our Stars in 2014. Woodley, at 25, is playing a very challenging role at a young age. I’d assume, as with Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, that Woodley is playing Jane as slightly older than she is in reality. Assuming Jane was 21 when she was raped by Perry, as she met him in a bar, she’d be twenty-seven in the show, which is only two years older than Woodley. I’m going to let myself believe this, since the alternative is that Jane was raped at nineteen and became a mother at twenty, which feels somehow worse. The rest of the actresses in the show play slightly older mothers, all but Kravitz are over forty, and having Woodley, who has played primarily teen roles, work alongside them only emphasizes her youth and vulnerability. That is to say, it works.