Tag Archives: review

Indians on TV- Aziz Ansari’s Master of None (2015)

10 Nov

master of none posterHas Netflix been hounding you to add it to your queue already? Well, you should.

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None has that Louie vibe that I love, mixed in with some High Maintenance; it combines a sarcastic and deadpan sense of humor with musings on relevant and often complex issues. Four episodes in, and I am already loving how Ansari tackles race issues with couth (in episode 4, “Indians on TV”), sex issues with realism (in episode 1, “Plan B”), and the ever-pressing question that society pushes on 30-somethings like me, “am I a kid person?” (also from “Plan B”).

Plot: Aziz Ansari is an actor, making his way through auditions and life. The episodes tell a continuous story, but not in such a strict way that you need to necessarily watch them in order. A main theme is tackled in each episode, societal woes are solved, drinks are drank, dates are gone upon.

Each opening scene, accompanied by credits, is straight up cinematic; each episode title is teased in at the beginning with vintage font that gets you guessing where the episode is going to go; and the cameos don’t disappoint, either (Busta Rhymes, H. Jon Benjamin, Ansari’s parents, Orange is the New Black‘s Taystee?!). Some of the acting is not so great, but you have probably noticed that I love Da vid LynchHarmony Korrine, and mumblecore so…yeah, that doesn’t bother me so much.

04-master-of-none-1.w529.h352

Ansari as Dez, with on-again off-again love interest Rachel, played by Noël Wells Photo: K.C. Bailey/Netflix

Master of None definitely earned at least another hour of my attention simply by using Aphex Twins’s “Come to Daddy” in episode 1. And don’t stop episode 3 before the tititular track comes on- Beach House’s “Master of None.” And don’t you love it when you realize about a celebrity, “aww he’s just like me?” because thats kinda how I felt when Aziz refers to Mark Morrison’s hit 90’s classic, “Return of the Mack” by saying, “well, this is maybe the most amazing song that has ever been created. Would you be opposed to dancing?”

Master of None gets a solid A in my book so far. As far as I’m concerned, if you laugh out loud at least once an episode (and you are watching it by yourself) it is a clear winner. I couldn’t wait any longer to write a review because I hope that this can convince at least another person or two to watch it too.

Advertisements

Whores’ Glory (2011)

24 Mar

Whores'_Glory_(US_dvd_cover)Any documentaries involving real sex are going to draw in and intrigue viewers. Rather than being a gratuitous nudy romp, Whores’ Glory, directed by Michael Glawogger, shows the human side of the sex industry in three international cities: Bangladesh, India; Reynosa, Mexico and Bangkok, Thailand. The film focuses mainly on the women involved in sex work, their lives inside -and in some cases outside of- the brothels, and their motivation for working in this dangerous and usually degrading work. This movie is an interesting counterpoint, or perhaps more of a missing puzzle piece, to The Great Happiness Space, which focused on male escort clubs instead of female brothels.

I have studied about women in sex work before, (see Sex at the Margins by Laura María Agustín), so I was not surprised at the various factors that led these women to the sex industry. Nonetheless, the movie is a great sociological exposé about the men who receive their services, and the society that creates the contradictory climate where sex work is stigmatized and shunned, yet in high demand, as it has been since the beginning of civilized society. This film is a geographic and social dissertation in movie form, and yes, that means it gave me an academic boner. (Pun intended).

I found India to be the most eye-opening chapter in this three-part documentary. The caste system at play and the words of the informants in this chapter highlighted some key societal elements that lead to prostitution, at least in the case of Bangladesh. Though I would argue that the message extends far beyond those borders and sheds light on not only prostitution, but on a prevalent rape culture in many nations across the world. You may have noticed that we are beginning to open up dialogues about rape culture, most recently in the fore due to the Steubenville, Ohio rape case that has made headlines across the world.

At the Fish Tank, a brothel in Bangkok, Thailand, prostitutes sit and chat behind glass while clients take their pick from the lot by calling upon them by their assigned 2-digit number.

At the Fish Tank, a brothel in Bangkok, Thailand, prostitutes sit and chat behind glass while clients take their pick from the lot by calling upon them by their assigned number.

The madame of one of the Indian brothels talks about the vicious cycle that befalls women in sex work there:

This is our whole life. What else do we have? Think of my daughter. Because her mother is a whore, no one will marry her… When I am very old, I won’t be able to support her. She’ll have no choice. She’ll become a whore. The outside world pushes us out of the way to make room. Those people are our clients. Outside they are disgusted by us; in here, they love us and our bodies.

A barber in Bangladesh speaks out as an advocate of the brothels and an apologist for rape culture in India:

Without the… brothel district women couldn’t go out in the street without being molested. Men would be so horny they would rape them. Without those women, men would be screwing cows and goats.

A fascinating slew of vignettes make for an enlightening documentary for those viewers who still have an image of a crack-addicted street walker when they hear the word “prostitute,” Whores’ Glory is certainly worth the watch.

Django Unchained (2012)

6 Jan

ImageI am pleased to announce that, for this girl, Quentin Tarantino’s newest flick did not disappoint. Though can I really call a two-and-a-half hour cinematic romp through the Antebellum US a “flick?” Don’t go expecting anything other than a Tarantino flick, though, as would be my recommendation for all of his films forever and ever, amen. His budget gets bigger, the cinematography gets more lavish, the gore gets messier, but Tarantino films will always undeniably bear his seal of excellence and ridiculousness. You might find yourself getting swept away in serious moments of this spaghetti western revenge story, trying to convince yourself of its historical accuracy, but Tarantino always brings it back with crass or inappropriate humor, modern music, outrageously unbelievable violence and brazen characters. All of these I want, no, need, in his films. 

It’s no secret that Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave, Django (played by Jamie Foxx), who is on a mission to find and free his wife (name: Broomhilda!) from a Mississippi plantation. I feel as though I have been waiting for a movie like this: A US Civil War revenge tale that, while hyperbolically fabricated, gives a sense of victory, at least in one microcosmic sphere, over the disgusting history of slavery in the US. If only they could have cast Levar Burton as Django, we could have seen the real revenge of Kunta Kinte as I would have liked to see it. Image

I was positively enchanted by Dr. King Schultz, Django’s German “partner-in-anti-crime” throughout the film. It was also nice to see Christoph Waltz playing the role of a hero rather than a villain (see: Inglourious Basterds).  My inner graduate school student problematized the patronizing relationship between Django and Dr. Schultz (among a myriad of other issues). Nevertheless, just as important as my suspension of disbelief was my suspension in social commentary regarding their relationship.

ImageSamuel L. Jackson’s character, Stephen, was also a delight. This is not to say he was a lovable character, he was actually quite despicable, very comparable to Uncle Rukus from The Boondocks. But he played his despicability brilliantly (with the help of some makeup that rendered him practically unrecognizable as Samuel L.)

Django delivers on the cheesy and unrealistic violence you expect. It incorporates anachronistic tunes from Jim Croce, John Legend and others (à la Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette), which is a soundtrack strategy that I absolutely love. 

The strangest part of my whole Django Unchained experience was watching it in the South. Asheville may be an enlightened bubble here in North Carolina, but it still has its fair share of backwards-thinking good ol’ boys. I found myself cringing at the snickers of some of my fellow moviegoers at quite inappropriate moments. But it gave me great pleasure to see the representations of their racist ancestors slaughtered to pulpy bloody piles, so I hope that sentiment wasn’t lost on them. 

Loved the movie and would love to see it again. It is not for everyone, not even all seasoned Tarantino fans, but with a strong stomach and a sadistic desire to see a Roots revenge story as gory as the injustices that spurned the vengance, Django Unchained is worth shelling out the cash to catch at the theaters while it’s out.

A!

 

American Horror Story (2011)

4 Nov

I’m going to start writing on this again. Spoooooky! Scary!

For how much I write about horror and thriller movies, you would think that I love those genres even more than I actually do. It obviously seems to inspire me to write an awful lot. I am never the person at the movie theater nagging my neighbors for the answers to such questions as, “who is that?”, “what is he doing?”, “wait, so she has been sleeping with her fiance’s twin brother this whole time?!” But horror and thriller movies often push me to ask some questions, even long after the credits have rolled. In any case, hopefully this will kick-start me back into writing again, along with the long, cold winter months ahead.

American Horror Story is a new series on FX, meaning that I watch it on Hulu as I do not have cable. It is my belief that the internet should not be held to the stringent censorship laws of cable television, and I wish that it made this series even more grotesque, profane and horrifying. We still get TV-MA, though. Yeah, buddy.

The image at the top of this entry was what caught my interest in the show. Freaky BDSM shit and a half-naked redhead in some kind of tiny red room? I’m there! I’m already feeling a Lynchian vibe coming out of that. (Speaking of, please note that David Lynch has a new album out for your creepy soundscape pleasures- Crazy Clown Time). The opening credits reminisce of a Nine Inch Nails electro-industrial grinding of gears and pulsing of machinery, while a stockpile of unsettling old-timey photos and blurry camera shots of dusty mason jars full of body parts go in and out of focus on the screen. I am a sucker for opening and closing credit sequences (think Breaking Bad or The Sopranos), and this is one that gets me in the right head-space for the story that is about to unfold.

American Horror Story could not have come out at a better time, that is to say, Halloween. It follows the lives of the Harmon family who recently moved into a house with an unsavory past of homicides, suicides, arson and more. Each episode showcases a previous grotesque experience that has befallen its previous occupants (or trespassers), but mostly focuses on the lives of Vivien, Ben, and Violet Harmon; their maid, and a few unsavory and creepy neighbors (including Jessica Lange) who seem to know a little bit more about what is going on than the Harmons (but then again, perhaps not)?

I have to say that my expectations were low, and perhaps it is because of this that I have not been disappointed. I am not saying to get your hopes up if you are craving anything akin to the spectrum of Lynch classics, but I guarantee you that you will at least feel the touch of a Lynch fan-boy trying to reach out to a broader audience. American Horror Story  adds its own bizarre and unsettling events and characters we have come to know in Lynch’s work to a town that is similarly quaint and storybook on the surface, much like those in Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and so forth.

American Horror Story is a little easier to swallow than Lynch’s work for most people, but still offers an array of unsettling characters whose sanity and motives are constantly questioned. These twisted personas are the dark underbelly of a candy-coated society, but the deeper we go into the rabbit hole we discover that no one is as saccharine as we might think, including ourselves.

At this point I would give the show an A-, and I hope that things do not go downhill as the show progresses. With Lynch meets Rosemary’s Baby meets Nip/Tuck, only time will tell.