Transparent: New World Coming Review

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Dec. 19, 2015

New World Coming9.5/10

“Transparent” is not just a show, it is a piece of political activism. The opening frames of “New World Coming” has put three transgender characters in the same scene and it has portrayed their conversations as normal human ones. They are proud women who have found the courage to live their lives according to who they really are and then it smashes to the opening credits.

“New World Coming” reminds those who have followed the show since the first season that Maura was once a stuffy academic by the name of Mort. Maura is also reminded of her past as she finds a new struggle in facing what her sexual and physical desires are.

When she takes Alt to accompany her to meet her academic friends, they run into Leslie, a lesbian poet who is a member of the faculty. Maura discovers that they have a past from when Mort encapsulated the Reagan ‘80s when she was at Berkeley.

Meanwhile Sarah has begun to feel ostracized by the people at her children’s school, though this may just all be in her head. Amy Landecker has taken this role and made wonders with it. Her appearance at Len’s house to pick up her yoga mat was so haunting that it was borderline horror.

When she looks through Melanie’s bag and finds the eye shadow pallet, she slams it shut which creates a cloud that eventually stains the carpet. This has to be the funniest moment in the episode as Sarah summons her inner Larry David and scrambles to clean the stain before frantically running out.

At the school gala, she is confronted by Len about the stain and at this point Sarah should be renamed Sarah David because this was painfully hilarious.

Aly and Syd are together but this is far from a true love. Aly is only exploring herself as a woman and her gaze on Syd is simply the epiphany that she would be the easiest to sexually explore with. Eventually Aly is going to break Syd’s heart and when that happens I will not be prepared.

Transparent: Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump Review

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Dec. 14, 2015

Flicky Flicky9/10

I remember a conversation I had with a friend regarding their parents’ divorce. When I asked them if their parents still loved each other, they answered, “Of course, they just can’t be together anymore.”

For some relationships, whether romantic or otherwise, love goes beyond the three dimensions that are presented as the only ones. There is a grey area between all three that is stronger because though two people continue to love each other without being in love. Shelly’s love for Maura is one such love and it is clear in the second episode of Season Two.

Some time (but not too much) has passed since the wedding and it appears that Sarah’s life is crumbling before her. As she sits in a room with Len and a lawyer to discuss how to bring their children as close to normality as possible, she is framed in the style of “The Passion of Joan of Arc.”

At this point in the character’s development, she understands the amount of damage that she has caused in her recklessness yet at the same time she is ignorant of the fact that she is deliberately trying to avoid any form of responsibility. Mid-life crisis perhaps?

The selfishness of the Pfefferman children that Maura described in the pilot is not a constant as seen in Josh’s growing maturity. Sarah is filling the void that Josh has left which is apparent when she says that she has to start thinking about herself.

Speaking of Josh, Kathryn Hahn as Rabbi Raquel is an enlightening addition to the cast – mostly because Hahn can play anyone from Margaret Thatcher to Margaret of Anjou. She is a beam of light in a world of insanity, during Tammy’s crashing of Josh’s power party™, Raquel is the only character who is actively trying to comfort Tammy out.

This genuine care for others is what makes Raquel and Josh’s relationship raise a few red flags. Josh has not fully gained my trust at this point and a timer has been set in my psyche for when they finally break it in a destructive bound.

I remember reading somewhere that Piper in “Orange is the New Black” was simply a Trojan horse that would introduce the audience to the world of the prison before pushing Piper farther and farther away from our interests.

With that in mind is appear that Maura may be the same. She has been pushed away from the main storylines so far and this approach to welcome transgender people into mainstream society is ingenious. The wow factor of the first season has been disregarded to become a full show.

This can all be linked back to Jill Soloway who is a unique showrunner in that she has made her show a study of the Schreiber theory. Soloway introduced herself last year as a voice of transgender rights, now that she no longer has to stand on a soap box, she is experimenting with her own visual and literary aesthetic which has consistently been pleasing in both regards.

NOTE: I know I said that each review will be posted to open and close the weekend, but I think it’ll be much more manageable to post Friday and Monday. See you then!

Transparent: Kina Hora Review

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Dec. 11, 2015

Kina Hora.jpg9.9/10

Since the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that gave the right to marry to all people regardless of sexual identity throughout the land, the lives of millions (including my own) have changed for the better.

For too long the LGBTQ+ community has been viewed by the rest of society as an exotic exhibit at the World’s Fair. But since June 26, in the eyes of the law we are now seen as equal. Now comes the healing. The next few decades will focus on the community’s assimilation and normalization into the mainstream.

No longer will a kid somewhere in rural Indiana have to forever live in the closet. No more will a transgender woman never be able to see who she really is. The acceptance that the community has yearned for is almost here. One of the great examples of our assimilation is Jill Soloway’s “Transparent” which is now in its second season.

Of course “Transparent” is a show about a transgender woman trying to navigate through life with grown kids. Yet this season has presented that perhaps it is more about a family. The Pfeffermans have tried and failed at presenting themselves as a “normal” family last season and now they are beginning to accept that they are different from everyone else and in this difference they find normality.

This is clear in the opening minutes of the “Kina Hora” which is set at Sarah and Tammy’s wedding. The family has gathered to take wedding photos complete with a flamboyant wedding planner and the obligatory bickering that comes with trying to get an entire family in one place. It’s chaos of the early Spielberg kind. Mora is asking the photographers questions while the wedding planner is screaming in his ear. Tammy and Sarah keep adding people with the most random edition being the Rabbi Raquel. But when they finally take the picture it becomes a memory stuck in time. Then comes Tammy’s family who include both of her ex-wives.

Sarah and Tammy’s relationship has been moving too fast ever since the first season and only now is Sarah realizing that she actually does love Len. Throughout the entire series, Sarah has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Does the rest of her family think that her and Tammy’s relationship is some sort of screwed-up? Like most other families, it’s never mentioned because they all support her decisions, even her developing one to end the relationship.

The most irritating and selfish character in “Transparent” is Josh, but since his discovery of Colton being his son, he has shown some clear change and a need to settle down and become a true father. He and the Rabbi are pregnant and he wants to do fatherhood right, though his past says otherwise. It is legitimate however, he’s so excited of the prospect that he breaks the news to his twin sister Ali early, who soon breaks it to Sarah, who tells her mother who tells everyone.

And speaking of Ali, she has grown in an artificial sense. Her immaturity is still there yet there is a yearning to finally grow up. She only has to take one more class to get her bachelors before she goes to grad school to do… what? It doesn’t matter because she’s still trying to figure that part out. But aren’t we all? Ali has also taken the role of comforter. During Sarah’s breakdown, she knows exactly how to handle the situation and does so without flaw. Good job, Ali!

Moving on from the kids, creator Jill Soloway is still aware of how hard life is for transgender people and other members of their family. Maura is stunned to find out that her sister, who has hated her since she was a man, is at the wedding. Though she tries her best to make amends with her, her sister refuses to accept Maura for who she is and even goes as far as to forbid her from seeing their mother.

Maura now has to let her sister — and as a result, her mother — go even though she still loves them. Why else would she want to see her mom?

Speaking of mothers, Shelly has always been such a treat in this show as their neurotic mother. That isn’t to say she’s not accepting of her husband’s coming out. She is so supportive of her loves her with all her heart. Though they may never sleep in the same bed, she knows that her love for her husband goes beyond that. That’s why she says to her, “You are beautiful.”

“Transparent” came out strong this week which is always a good sign for a series.

Note: Due to the nature of the series, I will be posting episode-by-episode reviews twice a week to open the weekend on Friday and close it on Sunday.

Modern Family: White Christmas Review

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Dec. 10, 2015

White Christmas10/10

I’m one of those people who love this time of year. There’s something about ornaments and platters upon platters of food that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (of course the warm cocktails sure play a part). As a result of my Holiday giddiness, I’m a sucker for Holiday themed television. When the Rankin & Bass specials take over ABC Family and the tweets about how Christmas has been commercialized begin taking over, I reach for a mug of wassail (eggnog is so mainstream) and turn on the latest mid-season finale. “Modern Family” just so happened to be on at that moment.

The clan was brought together for the mid-season finale to celebrate, as Gloria describes it, a “white Christmas” in a cabin in the woods. But what is assumed to be the white Christmas that Bing Crosby dreams about turns out to just be a good ole’ fashion Southern California Holiday complete with warm weather and wild fires. For those who are from Southern California, “first snow” is akin to one’s first kiss or first cigarette. It’s just a California thing.

Cam and Mitchell are still trying to find a way to break the notoriety of their last Christmas duet that was ruined by alcohol and have been practicing “Silent Night” since then for their return. Speaking of the Pritchett/Tucker branch, Lily is back! She’s been absent for so long that her hair has grown, but the sass is still there. The Luke/Lily feud of seasons’ past has found new footing in playful teasing. Luke tries to convince Lily that the cabin is haunted but of course Lily sees right through the ruse. Speaking of ghosts, “White Christmas” makes an odd reference to “The Shining” that most film geeks will notice with glee.

The Haley and Andy saga continues as Beth is finally taken out of the equation. The future of this plot is still up in the air due to Andy’s disdain in discovering that Beth too has been cheating on him with two other people. That’s all on that.

Jay has also announced that he will be retiring from the closet industry. But during a test of fealty for Clare, it is revealed that she finds the closet industry to be incredibly boring even though she believe that she is the best choice to take over the company. There isn’t much else on that front either.

In the end, “White Christmas” has found a way to recycle already stale tropes and make something fresh.

I’ll be back in January.

American Horror Story (Hotel): Flicker Review

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Nov. 21, 2015

Flicker

If I was held at gunpoint, and forced to choose a show that has set itself apart from all other shows by having the most outrageous plots per capita, I would choose “American Horror Story” in a heartbeat.

To this day it is still mind-boggling that the man who created “Glee” also created a show where a woman ate a brain, a Nazi doctor experimented on mentally ill patients, zombies summoned by voodoo practitioners attacked an all-girls school for witches and a freak show is shot up by an inbred brat.

I wonder how everyone at the table read for “Flicker” reacted when they realized that they were going to do an episode about how director F.W. Murnau once approached Rudolph Valentino with the intent of turning him into a vampire-like creature which resulted in Valentino turning his lover Natacha Rambova into said vampire-like creature.

Also, was there enough disbelief to suspend when in addition to all of that, they would also end up turning the countess into a vampire which causes James March to hunt them down and lock them up in a corridor of his hotel for all eternity until Cheyenne Jackson’s character decides to renovate the hotel which leads to the discovery of said corridor and results in Valentino and Rambova escaping to once again live like gods.

If that was a lot to process, that’s because it is. “AHS” has spent half the season introducing its large cast only to introduce two more characters and a new plotline in a crowded hour.

In addition to Rambova and Valentino (and I’m also assuming Murnau), there is also an entire middle school’s worth of vampire children roaming about Los Angeles turning whoever dare to cross their paths into vampires themselves. Yet we hear absolutely nothing about this huge issue.

Aside from the vampires, “Flicker” is also an ode to the silent era of Hollywood. The sequence when Murnau presents himself to Valentino is so filled with love for the movies it’s almost surprising that Mark Cousins isn’t narrating. The frame rate was even lowered to match the “flicker” of the early films and has clear influence from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and other German films.

But back to the episode.

Meanwhile, Detective Lowe’s story has finally gained some momentum after he checks himself into a hospital so he can get closer to a suspect of the Ten Commandments murders.

This turns out to be a vampire girl – at this point it should be safe to assume that Los Angeles is 80% human and 20% blood-sucking creatures (insert Harvey Weinstein and/or Ari Emmanuel joke here) – who is somehow a witness to all of these murders. The plot thickens but will it be thick enough for the finale?

Modern Family: Phil’s Sexy, Sexy House Review

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Nov. 19, 2015

960

9/10

After struggling to feel fresh for the past few episodes, “Modern Family” has finally gained some clarity in what the seventh season holds in store. Completely jumping over making a Thanksgiving episode, the show has instead decided to intertwine the branches of the clan towards a house that, by all intense and purposes, is damn sexy.

The Andy/Haley storyline comes to an exciting end of a chapter as Haley literally jumps into Andy’s arms and kisses him. The “will they/won’t they” is a conclusive “they will” as Dylan has made is final exit last week and now Andy has to find the cojones to tell his girlfriend that he wants to be with Haley. At least there will be some spice in this season with that going on.

Cam and Mitchell have been lagging this season and for them to have a bigger role this episode was much needed as their cattiness coupled with their tendency to judge people worked well when Luke enters with a few friends and beers.

Sexual trouble is sensed in Phil and Claire’s marriage as she feels that she is focusing too much on her work and not enough on Phil who has apparently finally connected with the ducklings.

The only branch of the family that lagged this week were the Pritchett-Delgados. Manny had, once again, a good-looking study partner but somehow Joe was a dog. There you go.

Next week, “Modern Family” will be breaking for Thanksgiving (as will I for this beat). Hopefully the Christmas spirit can bring more of what was experienced this week.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: A Love Letter to Paris (from the Movies)

Originally posted on outloudculture.com on Nov. 14, 2015

NOTE: The movies love Paris so instead of pulling images from the AP and other news outlets, I have decided to include images that show how much the movies, and the world entire, love the City of Lights.

Ratatouille (2007)

On a planet where people are killing each other over who is right and who is wrong, it is easy to believe that the world is filled with terrible people who believe in terrible things.

This past Friday in Paris, a few bad men killed a lot of innocent people who were simply trying to make the best out of an autumn night in the most beautiful city in the world. At soccer games and concert halls and the cafes that Paris is so famous for, 129 people lost their lives.

It is clear now that The Islamic State is the perpetrator of these attacks on humanity. For the past few years, they have ravaged the lands of Syria and Iraq with the intent of creating a new Caliphate. Historic sites have been destroyed and thousands of women have been forced into slavery in the areas that they control.

The media have covered these vicious crimes against humanity with great zeal and as a result have lost a few brave souls who dare to reveal the monster under the bed. ISIS is truly one of the greatest threats to humanity at this moment in time and they represent the worst of us.

The 400 Blows (1959)
The 400 Blows (1959)

But people forget that they are only a few angry men. Humanity, believe it or not, is inherently good. Even during a time when the world mourns a great loss in her most cherished city, there are somehow still those who are willing to open up their homes to complete strangers because it is the right thing to do.

Currently, Paris is experiencing what New York went through just 13 years ago. After the World Trade Center fell and thousands of lives were destroyed, either directly or indirectly, Americans from across the country kept their chins up and rallied to clear the rubble. They risked their health and person for the safety of others. With almost nothing but their hands and a few buckets, they cleared the poisonous debris and when they were exhausted, went back to being anonymous. Because of them there are a few more families who still have their loved ones.

Midnight in Paris (2011)
Midnight in Paris (2011)

Nov. 13, 2015 will be an unfortunate turning point for the French people. But there is no use in stating that they will overcome. It’s a given. The French have always fought for what is right and they have a track record of standing up for the underdog.

When the United States was in its infancy, France stood next to her against the rest of the world. They contributed weapons and men and sent them 3,000 miles away to fight for a cause that was never theirs until they decided it was.

These are the people that, in one swift motion, declared that the aristocracy were only human. They acted like men and disbanded the very foundation of European society before declaring that they stood for liberty, fraternity and equality.

It was a Frenchman who reinstated the Olympic Games with the intent of uniting the world under the philosophy of striving for athletic excellence and whose maxim is simply, “Citius, altius, fortius.” Faster, higher, stronger.

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

If there is truly magic in the world, then all of it is in Paris. It’s not called the City of Lights just because it’s pretty. No. It is the City of Lights because the best and the brightest from around the world have called it home. Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Francois Truffaut and hundreds of others from across time helped light the city and declare it a beacon for humanity and ingenuity.

What happened in Paris must not be the downfall of our two great nations.

The next few years are going to be rough for everyone. A lot of people are going to die and a lot of parents are going to cry. We’re going to drop a lot of explosives and it will be sad. Yet even during these trying times, we cannot forget what makes us all the same.

As President Kennedy said, “Our most basic common link is that we inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures and we are all mortal.”

So to close, the calls of the world must be, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” and “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” Faster, higher, stronger.

Vive la France!