Thursday, October 22, 2020

What's Next On My List? Baby

I need to have a special mindset to be able to watch something that was made in Italy. I have a connection to it, being raised in Rome and having visited the country almost every single year before the pandemic hit. There is something about the culture, the city... something I do not believe I will ever be able to explain in words, but maybe this show can help me. There is a feeling throughout the whole show, the colors, the music, the fast or slow paced scenes, the characters and the setting... all of it brought me back there and it will bring everyone else there too.
Be careful, this review is full of spoilers!

Baby (Season 1-3, 2018-2020)

Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli) and Ludovica (Alice Pagani) become friends and out of a wish to break out of the everyday monotonous routine of high school. After a night of partying they make influental friends, who introduce them to a life of money and corrupt morals. In the second season both Chiara and Ludovica decide to sleep with men for money, many of whom have no idea that they are underage. Their friends at the school start to suspect that something isn't right, and Chiara's boyfriend at the time, Damiano (Riccardo Mandolini) gets involved with the same shady people, and becomes a direct cause for their secret to be blown. What is left is for them to face the authorities, but the events that unfolded until that point left its mark on everyone involved.

My best friend showed me the trailer for this show and I had no idea what it was going to be about, but there was something about the colors and the music that I just knew had to see it. And I am so thankful to him, did because I was blown aways by this show. Before I head into anything about the story, let me just say that I was astonished by this cast of young actors. I know there are good young actors out there, but they are truly like hidden gems in the rough. I want to applaud the casting director, and then the creator of the show for the decisions they took. That said, let us first talk about the first protagonist we see in episode one of season one: Chiara. From the beginning of the show she feels empty inside, and even when she finds Damiano and falls in love with him, he is not enough. For Chiara, nothing will be enough. I really liked her character development, because at the end she did not blame others for the decisions she made, and she did not even ask others to take a bullet for her. She had faults and she had committed several mistakes, but even if admitting that her circumstances might have lead to what she did, she was still the one to step over those lines. Same with Ludovica, our second protagonist, who might have been punished by society more than she deserved. In a heartwarming scene she tells her mom that she was told that she is a little slut so she ended up believing that there is nothing else out there for her. Slowly she fills the emptiness in her with self-love. She and Chiara find each other because they both crave to feel something other than what life has been giving them, but they come from a different place and their roads lead to different paths as well.
One of the best things about the show is that you cannot help but just love these two girls. Despite whatever they do, I care for them and I want them to be OK. There was a fine line in the show, where they could have easily fallen to the other side of difficult moral issues and be no longer likable, but they never did cross it. There are so many things I could say about this brilliant brilliant show, but the greatest thing that I can bring up is that the whole series followed its own pace and they wanted to tell a story in 18 episodes and they did. They did not rush, they did not throw in unnecessary cliffhangers or unexpected changes to the characters that would make the ending enraging. The great thing about this show is that it is logical how the show will end, but you still cannot predict it in the beginning. And I find that those are the best kind of stories. I could go on for hours now about why this was just the highlight of 2020 for me, but I do believe I have said enough already, and I hope it will inspire others to see it as well. 

Watch it? It was an incredibly deep story, that was actually based on real events. I did not mention them, because altough inspired from it, it did not bare a lot of resemblance to it, aside from a couple of things. I do advice you to look up the real story, but only after you have seen the show. I think it is better in that order. Not to mention that the moral lessons learned in this show need to be experienced in person. And I haven't even mentioned the soundtrack... just mind blowing. I am very lucky to have found this show and I will surely re-watch it in the near future simply because the writing is that good!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

What's Next On My List? Tootsie

For this summer season, I am going to go back to old movies. The quarantine left many looking for new content, I, on the other hand, went back and wanted to re-watch some movies that I was fond of but never got around to seeing again. A story can be very different if you grow up, if you experience life, if you are no longer just looking for a "happy ending" but for the story that leads there. I decided to talk a bit about all those movies that I re-watched during the quarantine, and will keep on watching this summer. Yes, it is good to have new content to watch, but certain films really merit another look.

Tootsie (1982)

In an attempt to revive his career Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) decides to dress up as a woman and he gets a job in a medical soap opera. As time passes, he starts to care for people around him, and it gets harder and harder to pretend. As his character is not known for blending into the background, he decides to come out in similar loud fashion. 

This is another family favorite. I do believe that the main issue I had never found a problem with man being in drag, or actors doing all kinds of characters is thank to this movie. I always think of the influences that popular culture has had on me and well, it is a great deal, but I am fairly certain that it is the reason I grew up to be patient with others and be more accepting with whatever nightmare people are going through in their life. Michael was in a difficult situation, but he did believe in himself long enough to try whatever he can to make it. At the same time, he did live a lie, and instead of running away from the consequences he faced them head on. I think that is a really good lesson to be learned from this story. There are plenty of jokes in the story too, not to mention the disgusting male gaze and how men think of themselves as above the women in Hollywood. It is almost sad how this movie portrayed this toxic behaviour back in 82... hopefully finally some things will change with #metoo movements and people speaking out. Yet, another reason to see this movie, to use it as an example.

Watch it? I can tell you that there are a great deal of movies that people my generation - and the ones after - have absolutely no idea about. There is something to be learned from the movies made in the 80s. First, they say stories that are still very much relevant. Second, the remakes add a sort of political correctedness to is, that, even if appreciated, also end in forgetting the main message of the story. We need to see old movies especially because of the lack of censorship on certain topics, and the white-wash casting. Make sure you add this to your list of movies to discuss in your book club!

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

What's Next On My List? You've Got Mail

A story can be very different if you grow up and you are no longer just looking for a "happy ending" but for the story that leads there. I decided to talk a bit about all those movies that I re-watched during the quarantine, and will keep on watching this past summer. Yes, it is good to have new content to watch, but certain films really merit another look. An example would be this adorable romantic comedy that I like to re-watch every year around October, as it begins with fall in New York.

You've Got Mail (1998)

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is the owner of a big bookstore that ends up bankrupting several small businesses, like the one owned by Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan). The two, however, know each other from a chat room, and have been emailing back and forth and getting to know each other well enough to want to meet. However, their rivalry in real life might jeopardize the future of their relationship. 

"Don't you love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

This movie was written and directed by the wonderful Nora Ephron, who has been one of my absolutely favorite authors of all time. She has written some of my favorite movies, and in general I have not been disappointed by one single script that came out of her hand (and her sister's Delia Ephron). I am right now reading I Feel Bad About My Neck, a book by Ephron from 2006 that I want to recommend to everyone, and right after the book I wanted to make sure to put in my DVD and just get lost in New York again.
Coming back to our actual review: I just love this movie.
Is it perfect? No, especially because the male lead decided to somewhat manipulate the female lead into giving him another chance... but I do believe that this movie comes from the period in the 90s where man making any kind of effort was considered to be incredibly romantic. I personally have not thought about how Joe decided to deal with the situation until I showed it to my partner, a strong feminist, who highlighted how some of the decision in the story could have been done differently. That said, I do still enjoy the story of how first impressions are not everything. When we talk to someone online we open up in a different way and we also show a side of ours that will never be obvious upon first meeting. I cannot imagine caring for my enemy the way the movie brought these two together, but because they had those interactions through mail, I understand also how they connected. Even today I love exchanging written messages with people, there is something therapeutic about facing your thoughts on a blank page. And this movie got me wanting to walk around New York, to get a coffee at Starbucks, to go to small shops, or a book store specifically and smell the books. It is one of those stories that you want to be a part of and that is what makes it unique.

Watch it? I definitely recommend it in October and November, as it also has Christmas and it ends with Spring. I have friends who would argue that you could watch it anytime, but the feeling of those freshly sharpened pencils got me hooked from the first song to the last one. I cannot count how many times I have seen this movie, but I will definitely watch it countless more times. 

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

What's Next On My List? City Hunter

Summer is over, but I am not done writing about all the movies I re-watched. The quarantine left many looking for new content, I, on the other hand, went back instead. A story can be very different if you grow up and you are no longer just looking for a "happy ending" but for the story that leads there. I decided to talk a bit about all those movies that I re-watched during the quarantine, and will keep on watching this past summer. Yes, it is good to have new content to watch, but certain films really merit another look.

City Hunter [Sing si lip yan] (1993)

Ryu Saeba (Jackie Chan) gets hired for a private eye job with his partner Carrie/Kaori Makimura (Joey Wang). They have to find a girl who ran away from home, Kyoko (Kumiko Goto), and because of it they end up on a cruise ship that is about to be taken over by a terrorist organization lead by Col. Macdonald (Richard Norton). The City Hunter teams up with undercover cops on the boat and along with his partner find Kyoko as well as stop the terrorists.

When I saw this movie for the first time I had absolutely no idea what it was adapting, my family and especially my uncle was a huge Jackie Chan fan so we just watched anything that was dubbed in Hungarian. A few years later, however, I got the manga of Tsukasa Hojo's City Hunter in my hands and I couldn't put it down. The story of this unlikely hero got a special place in my heart. So many years have passed since, and I still take it off my shelf and read it. I have seen many episodes of the anime, but there is something about the characters, and the story, and the love and the incredible yet possible adventures that they have, that always takes me back to wanting more. I even brought one of the manga covers to one of my school presentations, you can read about it here! That said, when I realized that this movie is the adaptation of my favorite series of all time, I decided to re-watch it with different eye.
I was very critical, and indeed, this movie is very far from the original series, but I understood the changes simply because of the casting. Jackie Chan is not only a great actor, but after Bruce Lee, probably the most skilled fighter and stunt man that has ever been recorded on camera. Ryo Saeba can fight, but he is famous for his shooting, and although this version had a few scenes with him and guns, really, they focused more on the fighting, as that is what Chan is good at. I did not mind this change because if they did not want him to perform cool stunts, they would not have cast him in the first place. Of course, I wish there had been more connection to the original, but I cannot be mad at this movie, because it make sense in its own way, in its own universe. It was both funny, scary at points and just full of action, which is exactly what we want from a Jackie Chan movie. The main characters were well established, their motivations and story arc was clear, and the villain just stepped out of a 007 movie, they had their back story, but they were just their to be beaten by the hero. 

Watch it? I think it is a classic, when it comes to Chan movies it is a definite must watch. Again, this is a good action movie. It is a good adaptation if we consider all the nods it made to the original, but it also works without you knowing where it came from (like I didn't back then) and that proves that it stands out on its own. Most importantly, it has sooo many Easter eggs and popular culture references that I could write a dissertation about it right now. This film has something for everyone in the audience.

Until the next item on my list!

Friday, September 25, 2020

What's Next On My List? Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

 Along with a series of old favorites, I am also trying to keep up with new things coming out. I am already a year late watching this movie, but oh my, I am so happy I finally got around to it. And I highly disagree with the rating of the film so I am gonna get you all to watch it again!

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) dream of getting into the Eurovision Song Contest and winning it fo Iceland. Thanks to a series of lucky, some unlucky events, they end up getting into the contest to represent their country, but Lars grew up wanting to win while fearing to be laughed at. When it seems that the whole world might think ill of him, he decides run away from it, but his father reminds him that not having given up until now shows character. He has one chance to perform or to save his relationship with Sigrit, but it is an easy decision.

I just loved this movie sooo much, I cannot tell you how happy I am that this exists. First of all, yes, Eurovision is bananas, I am European and I am still not one hundred percent sure about what I watch when it is on. There are some good songs, of course, but the whole thing is just insane. I do not like singing competitions, but at the same time, I cannot help but agree that music is the only thing that connects people in a way that is hard to put down in words. But there is something about this stupid song contest that really does draw in a lot of viewers, and I find it wonderful how the movie both pokes at its absurdity while really writing a love letter to it at the same time. Second, Will Ferrell: he is just amazing. I can tell you that any movie of his that I did not like, am sure had some producer in the background who ruined something. I knew this movie would just be a fun feel good story and it really was. I loved the casting, the idea, the lesson, and it was both predictable and surprising. Not to mention that the songs were just awesome. 
Three, speaking of the story, our villains: first, I loved that there was no real villain. Viktor Karlosson (Mikael Persbrandt) killed a lot of people, but we kinda forgot that he wanted to look out for the economy of the country, and really, he did not intervene in the love story between Lars and Sigrit. That said, the only intervention was that of Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens), the hottest Russian out there, let me tell you, and even he admitted that he cannot come between something so honest and pure. Lemtov has to suffer the consequences of a communist regime that denies homosexuality, and having a talented partner would have been great for him, but overall he preferred to step aside. Not to mention, that he really was friendly and genuinely sweet with Sigrit and was not just driven by his plans for fame. He makes it hard to not be adored and loved!

Watch it? Oh, most definitely. This year we had Eurovision through this movie, and not in real life. The virus ruined a lot of good things for us peasants out there, and I am very thankful for Netflix for putting money into this project. I think that the quite strong and honest criticism of Americans is the best part of this movie. And I happy to have received this movie at a time in life when the world is just such a pool of shit. I'm sorry, but we all know it is true. 

That said, watch it, love it, laugh, enjoy, and sing along with this great movie!

Until the next item on my list!