#BingeWatch: WESTWORLD season 2 – An Appreciation

One of the positive things about being quarantined is you’ve got the luxury of time to catch up on some of my favorite shows. I LOVED the first season of WESTWORLD when it premiered in 2018. My hubby and I finally finished season 2 Thursday night and of course I’m still thinking about it. I’m surprised I didn’t have nightmares of Halores, ahah. If you’ve seen season 2 you know what that means!

It’s truly one of the most bizarre, inventive, meta, enthralling, and addictive shows I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. It’s perhaps the trippiest show, which is made all the more discombobulating given the non-linear timeline. In fact, one of the most fun things after binging shows like Westworld is consuming ALL of the articles, theories, explanations, etc. because truly, this is the kind of shows you want to pick apart and discuss endlessly with fellow fans.

Thanks to this Insider article, I can make some sense of the timeline of the show, I said some because everything is still trippy AF and you never really know which part is real. I also love how the show keeps us guessing who’s actually human and who’s a host, aka robot.

If you haven’t caught up with season 2 yet, here’s the trailer to wet your appetite… it took me waaay too long to finally catch up with it, but it’s so well worth the wait!!

There are SO many things to appreciate about this show… so consider this an appreciation post.

The Score & Opening Credits

I absolutely love is Ramin Djawadi‘s haunting score and this stunning opening credits! TV shows have really upped their game in creating truly beautiful and memorable opening credits, but I consider Westworld’s music and graphics one of the most innovative. It truly fits the tone and eerie, mystical vibe of the show itself.

 

Genre-crossing brilliance

We’ve seen countless human vs robots movies/shows but I think Westworld still sets itself apart because it can bridge multiple different genres – this season it shows there are other parts of the theme park explored, there’s the Raj as in the British Raj period in the Indian subcontinent, Ghost Nation with the Native American tribe and Shogünworld that’s modeled after Japan’s feudal Edo period.

I was just in Disney World in early March (yup, right before there was any COVID-19 cases reported in Florida!) and it’s eerie to imagine if a theme park like this exist… man, even just thinking about it gives me the chills!

The Production Values

This show has got to be a dream not just for the cast to work with, but the crew! The ultimate sci-fi western mixing gunslinging & futuristic, lifelike androids. In every episode I’m constantly in awe of the production design that sometimes it’s distracting! I love the juxtaposition between the desert landscape of the Old West and the super high-tech, space-age technologies with its cutting edge gadgetry, weaponry… and of course the ‘host’ aka robot-building mechanisms. After all, most of the technologies and concepts explored in the series are not only totally plausible in the near future (check out this Venturebeat article), some like 3D printing, intelligent machines, etc. are already here.

I love the BTS featurettes on how the filmmakers built the stunning world of Westworld, and these two on the sets and how they created those creepy-looking drone hosts (which are actually costumes that actors wear)… fascinating stuff!

Thought-provoking concept

The show-runners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have really upped the ante and took this show to a whole different level from the 1973 movie version, directed by its own writer Michael Crichton. I haven’t seen the movie but I can’t imagine I’d enjoy it after seeing this phenomenal series. But the idea of a futuristic theme park where visitors can live out their wildest fantasies without any consequences is inherently intriguing… of course we all know everything comes with a price, and not all of it is monetary.

The running theme of ‘what is real’ and of course, ‘what it means to be human’ is at the core of every good science fiction… and that’s why I love this conversation between Dolores and Bernard, further blurring the lines between fantasy & reality, constantly flipping the roles between the creator and the creation… these scenarios that could potentially make one question one’s own existence!

What separates humans from robots is our mortality. Most of humans vs droids stories usually focus on the bots wanting to be like humans, to break free from the codes and human control as they’re often created to serve us. But what if there’s a twist? The series explores a grandiose concept that perhaps it’s the humans who want to be like the bots, to be able to live forever.

The Riddle of the Sphinx is an especially eerie one with plenty of philosophical speeches to ponder. Immortality is an often-told concept and seemingly a constant humans’ obsession with trying to cure death. I guess this is a ‘disease’ for the wealthy… I mean, no matter how much money one has, they still only have the same normal life span like the rest of us. Of course that doesn’t stop many companies in reversing the course of aging and offering us ways to ‘cheat death.’ We certainly don’t need any tv show, no matter how brilliant, to tell us it’s futile and playing God has dire consequences.

Great actor Peter Mullan as James Delos

Humans aren’t meant to live forever, let’s drink to that, shall we?

Speaking of living forever… reading this Vulture article where a futurist discuss the plausibility of AI developing consciousness in our world today is pretty eerie. Now, since we are all now living under a global pandemic and self-quarantining to save our lives, I thought about if something like Coronavirus were to happen in Westworld and spreading throughout the vast areas of the park… well, wouldn’t it be the end of humanity as we know it? I mean, as humans would start dropping like flies, the bots would live on as they’re obviously immune to organic viruses. It would be catastrophic not just for the park, but the world beyond.

Westworld Season 2 MVPs

I might do a separate blog just to talk about the cast. Man it’s really tough to pick just one as this show thrives on a talented, eclectic ensemble of phenomenal actors! It’d be too easy to pick

Ok for the sake of an argument, I’ll go with these two.

Thandie Newton – Maeve

It’s always clear from season one that Maeve Millay, a brothel madam in the local Mariposa Saloon, is much more than meets the eye. I knew she’s a special host, but just how special is she? Well, season 2 explores that brilliantly, boasting Thandie’s best performance yet. The kind of host never to trifle with and in the Akane No Mai episode in Shogünworld she proves just how mighty Maeve can be. I’m not going into details for spoiler sake, but when it happened I literally gasped! There’s also a scene where she finally get to humiliate one of her creators for constantly degrading her fellow robots, it’s one of the show’s funniest moments. Let’s just say he finally got his comeuppance.

Zahn McClarnon – Akecheta

While some sites have said the Kiksuya (which means “remember” in Lakota) is the best episode of season 2. That might be debatable, but I’d think it’s the most emotional one, which is quite a feat considering the episode consist almost entirely of expository flashback. Zahn McClarnon delivers an absolutely moving performance as Akecheta, delivering a monologue to a young child (in Lakota language no less), telling his story of his lost love and how he came to figure out just what kind of world he’s been living in. That whole bit of ‘take my heart when you go’ could’ve come out so mawkish and schmaltzy, but his performance holds it together and really made you care. It seems the show, just like the park’s creator Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), is pro-host, and when you have character like Akecheta, it’s easy to see why.


Season 3 – beyond the park

Season 3 has started on HBO, and boy the trailer looks freaking amazing!! I’ve been waiting to see just what would happen if the hosts goes into the real, human world that they’ve been forbidden to enter. I’m salivating but I’d rather wait until all episodes are available as I prefer to binge on shows, I mean I find it torturous to have to wait a whole week to see what’s next!

Right now, I’m actually still reading all kinds of stuff about season 2! So if you have some great articles about it (NO SPOILERS for season 3 please!), please do share!

Have you seen WESTWORLD season 2? Let me know your thoughts!

11 New Movies Available to Stream Early

Wow, I have to admit, though I knew things would probably get worse before it gets better, it still feels surreal. Who knew I’d live through a pandemic in my lifetime… seriously, life is definitely as strange, if not stranger, than fiction these days.

I just got an email from my manager that my company’s mandatory WFH (working from home) has been extended through April 24, about a month from the original March 27 date. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Well, surely we are not going to our local cineplex anytime soon. I read this article on THR today that this is the weekend when box office hit zero for the first time. Wow! I think this marquee on Minneapolis Uptown Theater says it best. #wellplayed

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Awesome FB page

But not everything is all doom and gloom. If you enjoy watching movies in the comfort of your home, plenty of movies that are currently in theaters, some even forgoing theatrical release altogether, are/will be available to stream early.

To make it easy for you, here is a list of 11 movies (this number will likely increase in the coming weeks) that you can watch either now or in a week or so.

Note: Some of them are available for purchase only, not rent.

The Gentlemen (my review)

Original Release Date: Jan. 24
Digital Release: March 24

I enjoyed seeing Guy Ritchie‘s star-studded crime thriller back in February, I just might rewatch it again once it’s available for rental.

Birds of Prey

Original Release Date: Feb. 7
Digital Release: Available for purchase March 24, rental in early April.

This movie grossed close to $200 mil worldwide, though with a budget of $84 mil, they likely could use a boost from digital release sales. This is one of three female-led, female-directed comic book movies coming out in 2020, the two others are Wonder Woman 1984 directed by Patty Jenkins and Black Widow directed by Cate Shortland. I sure hope we’ll get to see Wonder Woman in June, though it just might be postponed just like Black Widow that’s supposed to come out in May.*

* Wonder Woman will now be released on August 14! (updated Wed, 3/25)

Anyway, I had missed this one in the theaters, so I can finally watch it in a few weeks!

Sonic the Hedgehog

Original Release Date: Feb. 14
Digital Release: You can purchase this video game adaptation on March 31.

Surely those with kids will be all over this one, surely G and PG movies will be super popular since the kiddos don’t have school to go to, some likely for the rest of the year!

Emma (my review)

Original Release Date: Feb. 21
Digital Release: March 20 – Available as a 48-hour rental through numerous providers: Apple, Amazon, GooglePlay, Vudu, DirectTV, Fandango, etc.

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen or period drama in general, this rom-com offers a delightful escape–to the lush English countryside–from self-quarantine (even if you do live in an English countryside, I think it’s still fun to watch this, ha!)

The Invisible Man

Original Release Date: Feb. 28
Digital Release: March 20 – Available as a 48-hour rental through numerous providers: Apple, Amazon, GooglePlay, XFinity, DirectTV, Fandango, etc.

This film based on H.G. Wells’ classic was originally going to be a part of the Dark Universe, with Johnny Depp starring as the titular character, but the whole idea was reworked after the box office failure of The Mummy (2017). I barely remembered Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon in the titular role, but this one got a pretty decent review so I might check it out at some point.

Onward

Original Release Date: March 6
Digital Release: Available on VOD March 20 & streaming on Disney+ April 3

Some people have called this Frozen for boys, ahah. That seems rather sexist to me since plenty of girls would enjoy stories about brothers, but whatever. The trailer of Pixar’s latest, featuring the voices of fellow Avengers Tom Holland and Chris Pratt looks pretty charming. We all could use something fun and uplifting given the dire state of the world we’re living right now.

The Way Back

Original Release Date: March 6
Digital Release: March 24 – Available for digital purchase download

This film did have a couple of weeks theatrical release before the pandemic forced states to close cineplexes. Sounds like a personal film for Ben Affleck who plays a high school basketball coach dealing with alcoholism.

The Hunt

Original Release Date: March 13
Digital Release: March 20 – It’s currently available to rent in 48-hour viewing windows for the price of $19.99, via a wide variety of on-demand services, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and FandangoNow.

This satirical horror movie has gone through pretty extensive delays. It was supposed to come out on September 2019, but its theatrical release was delayed all the way to March 13 in the wake of several mass shootings and political controversy. I just might rent it just to see what the fuss is about.

Bloodshot

Original Release Date: March 13
Digital Release: Tuesday, March 24.

You might have to wait a whole year to watch Fast and Furious 9, but if it’s any consolation for you Vin Diesel fans out there, Bloodshot will be available to purchase today for the retail price of $19.99.

I Still Believe

Original Release Date: March 13
Digital Release: March 27

I’m actually familiar with Christian music star Jeremy Camp and remember that he lost his wife to cancer. This film chronicled his journey of love and loss that looks to prove there is always hope. It stars New Zealand actor KJ Apa as Camp and Britt Robertson as his young love Melissa Henning. I haven’t seen I Can Only Imagine which is about Mercy Me’s frontman Bart Millard, so it’d likely make a perfect double feature viewing!

Love Birds

Original Release Date: April 3 (theatrical)
Digital Release: April 3 (Netflix)

Per The Verge, this comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae, marks the first time during this period that a studio movie (Paramount) lost its theatrical release and will head straight to a third-party streamer — Netflix. I wonder how many other movie will follow suit and head straight to a streaming platform.


Which of these have you seen and/or planning to watch soon?

Trailers Spotlight: Radioactive + Mr. Jones

Hello everyone! I know the mood is grim as the world is grappling with the Coronavirus outbreak. As disappointing as seeing films we’re anticipating getting canceled, when put into perspective, it’s a small inconvenience for us filmgoers… though of course my heart goes out to filmmakers/festival organizers/artists and  businesses affected by this pandemic.

But hey, they can’t stop me from still being excited about films that would get to our screens eventually… and both of these are based on real historical figures AND directed by female filmmakers.

RADIOACTIVE

The first film I’m highlighting here is actually pretty timely and relevant given Marie Curie’s instrumental discovery in cancer treatment.

A story of the scientific and romantic passions of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Polish scientist) and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century.

I’m immediately sold on this based on the two leads, Rosamund Pike and Sam Riley (who’s so criminally underrated!) as Marie and Pierre Curie. I love the role choices Pike continues to do, she’s definitely got the chops to play brave, headstrong, intelligent women in male-dominated fields. She was terrific in A Private War, interestingly it’s also based on a real life war photographer that’s also named Marie, Marie Colvin to be exact. I’m so glad to see Sam Riley in a prominent role (it breaks my heart to see him wasted as a silly raven in those Maleficent movies!!).

Per IMDb, this film is based on the graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. It’s Iranian director Marjane Satrapi‘s first film based on a graphic novel that she didn’t write herself. Two of her films Persepolis and Chicken with Plums are both based on her own graphic novels. That fact alone made this film all the more intriguing!

I don’t know much about Marie Curie’s life aside from her legacy in science and being the first female scientist to win a Noble Prize in Physics (albeit a shared prize with her husband), and later in 1911 she won another Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I can’t wait to see this one and hopefully it’ll arrive in Amazon Prime soon as Amazon Studios has bought the distribution rights.


MR. JONES

Here’s another based-on-a-true-story about a topic I’m not familiar with. Though there are numerous films about WWII and the Holocaust, I don’t think I’ve seen a film about the Holodomor genocide, a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932- 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians (per Wiki).

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (James Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.

 

 

I’m not familiar with Polish director Agnieszka Holland but she has quite an extensive resume in film and TV, including acclaimed series such as House of Cards, The Killing, etc. I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that its screenwriter, Andrea Chalupa, has been inspired by her own grandfather who’s from eastern Ukraine to write about Stalin’s genocidal famine (per Guardian‘s rave review). So there’s definitely something deeply personal in the part of the filmmakers.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of British actor James Norton for some time, I’m glad to see him in the lead role! He’s a terrific actor and looks pretty convincing as an idealistic journalist. Nice to Vanessa Kirby in a prominent role here as well. As a big fan of journalism movies, especially those based on real-life events, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this.


What do you think of these two trailers?

[Toxic Chemical] Double Feature: Dark Waters + The Devil We Know (doc)

I know lots of people have been watching all kinds of epidemic-related movies lately given the Coronavirus outbreak. Apparently Contagion, Outbreak, etc. have gained popularity in rentals, as well as in torrent downloads!

Well, my hubby and I actually decided to watch something equally grim and also proven to be quite lethal. It started with my husband who watched parts of the documentary The Devil We Know with his co-workers, so we decided to make that and the feature film version, Dark Waters as a double feature.

Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, The Devil We Know documentary uncovers one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time. It focuses on a group of citizens in Parkersburg, West Virginia taking on a powerful corporation, DuPont, after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical known as C8 into the local drinking water supply. PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) chemicals is found in Teflon and many other products that have become a staple to Americans, so obviously it’s a hugely lucrative business for DuPont. Workers at the DuPont plant had given birth to deformed children, suffered from cancer caused by the toxic chemicals, AND local farmers lost many of their herds because of it. The scariest part is, C8 is apparently found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans!

It’s scary that the term ‘the devil we know’ is actually in one of the documentations in regards to the scandal, as DuPont knew how dangerous C8 chemical was to humans for decades. In fact, even after 3M informed DuPont that PFOS causes liver cancer in rats, and 3M began phasing out PFOS and PFOA in 2000, DuPont still refused to do likewise.

One of the most heart-wrenching individuals featured in The Devil We Know is Bucky Bailey, whose mom worked in the Teflon sector of DuPont when she was pregnant. Bucky was born with one nostril and one eye lower than the other, enduring multiple surgeries since he was an infant. It was so devastating to watch him fearing that his own child would be born the same way, that’s just one of the shocking stories of victims impacted by this horrifying chemical contamination.


We actually watched Dark Waters first before we watched the documentary the next day. The film centered on Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate defense attorney who took on an environmental lawsuit against DuPont. Starting in the late 90s, the film chronicled Bilott’s relentless legal battle despite being initially reluctant to do so. A farmer from Parkersburg, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), who knew Bilott’s grandmother, came into his law office and gave me numerous VHS tapes of his recording of his cows all dying mysteriously, suffering from bloated organs, blackened teeth, and tumors.

There’s such a consistent dread in the film that almost made you feel sickened by the toxic chemicals and the audacity of the DuPont executives. Bilott is also featured in The Devil We Know documentary, and though Ruffalo’s mannerism don’t seem to resemble the real attorney, I think he captured his passion and tenacity. Bilott risked a lot to take on this project for about 20 years, including his own job and his family. The strain in his marriage is palpable as he began to get dragged deeper and deeper into the case while DuPont remained defiant. Anne Hathaway played his wife Sarah, and Anne is quite effective here in a memorable supporting role.

As with many dramatizations, there are some things the film embellished, you can read more about the truth vs fiction here. The film is directed by Todd Haynes, who I have to admit is an interesting choice, but I think he did a pretty good job. It’s more of a slow-burn drama that shows the arduous David vs. Goliath battle. I certainly came away feeling furious that such a thing was allowed to happen, amazed that such dangerous substance wasn’t regulated by the EPA, and horrified how companies like DuPont managed to get away with practically everything. I mean, the $16.5 million fines from EPA, even the hundreds of million in case settlements, are really just a drop in the bucket for a company that earn tens of billions a year selling products with PFOA.

Both the doc and dramatic feature are eye-opening and unsettling, but both get the message across about this environmental scandal. Dark Waters isn’t quite as gripping as Michael Mann’s The Insider however, which carries a similar theme about a whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (played brilliantly by Russell Crowe) going against the huge tobacco companies. Still, I highly recommend these two films and they work perfectly as a double feature!


Have you seen either the film or the documentary? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter review: EMMA. (2020)

Jane Austen never dies… from theater adaptations, TV shows to feature films, the demand for Austen-related content remains strong. I am perfectly ok with that. I don’t count myself an Austen purist, so I welcome new interpretations/visions, even crazy mashup like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies can be highly enjoyable (hello Colonel Darcy! 😍)

This new Austen adaptation has already broken grammatical rules with adding a period at the end of the title, and it immediately looks visually-distinctive from the moment the film opens. The setting and production design is very much Georgian–Regency England, but yet it feels decidedly modern. Set in a lush country village of Highbury where our protagonist Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) has lived all her 21 years in comfort, the mood is appropriately frothy. What does a young woman living a relatively practically stress-free life to do? One must stir up “troubles” of course… and Emma happens to have a knack for matchmaking, or so she thought.

Anya Taylor-Joy with Bill Nighy

The object of her matchmaking is Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). After she influenced Harriet to refuse the hand of a young farmer, Robert Martin (Connor Swindells), Emma’s set to match up her friend with an ambitious local vicar Mr. Elton (Josh O’Connor), against the wishes of her close friend Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn). Let’s just say Mr. Knightley’s instincts proves correct… things do not go according to plan. That’s all to be expected in Austen’s comedy of errors. Emma is filled with fun characters, and though not all the casting work to my liking, for the most part the ensemble is quite agreeable.

Mia Goth as Harriet

Let’s start with what I enjoy most about this adaptation… I’ve mentioned the visuals, which is definitely a strong point. Director Autumn de Wilde is a commercial photographer and music video director by trade, and here she works with DP Christopher Blauvelt to create a visually rich and strikingly beautiful. The opulent world the Woodhouse’s and Knightley’s estates are appropriately opulent and lavish, with meticulous attention to details to their costumes, carriages, interior design, etc. The lovely music by Isobel Waller-Bridge keeps the mood constantly upbeat.

Anya Taylor-Joy with Callum Turner

Anya Taylor-Joy is delightful as Emma (I actually like her more than Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 version). At times she feels a bit more modern in the way she behaves, but that could be because of de Wilde’s direction overall. Bill Nighy is always fun to watch and he’s quite hilarious as Emma’s obsessively-concerned-for-his-health father. I also adore Josh O’Connor as Mr. Elton and he’s such a great comic relief (at least in the beginning) and not quite as creepy as Alan Cumming was in the ’96 version that made my skin crawl. Now, perhaps I like him too much as I’m supposed to abhor Mr. Elton, but it’s so fun to watch him in such a different role from the more brooding Prince Charles in Netflix’s The Crown season 3.

Josh O’Connor as Mr. Elton

I think de Wilde’s direction definitely injects something fresh to this popular adaptation that it felt like I was watching this Austen story unfold for the first time. When I left the theater, a patron mentioned that this film feels a bit too ‘sitcom-y’ and I can see his point. I read in an interview that de Wilde, who grew up in New York, actually wanted to ‘…bring American screwball comedy as a style into the making of the film,’ The story itself is a bit of a situational comedy when you think about it, so the light & frothy tone is appropriate. The nimble pacing is definitely a plus as the film does not overstay its welcome, and there are definitely plenty of gorgeous visuals to distract us during the slower parts.

Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley

Now, there are things I’m not too fond of about this adaptation… one of them is Johnny Flynn‘s casting as Mr. Knightley. He just looks too much of a rock star (apparently Flynn is a rock star), complete with his blond bedhead hairstyle that is so ill-suited for that era where the upper-class is supposed to look so buttoned-up. Despite a nice chemistry between him and Taylor-Joy (particularly in the exquisite dance sequence), this Mr. Knightley doesn’t make me swoon the way oh-so-dashing Jeremy Northam did in the 1996 version. Oh, and what’s with the brief nude scene as Knightley’s about to get dressed. Is it supposed to rival Mr. Darcy’s wet-shirt scene?? I don’t know, but I just think it’s kind of silly and unnecessary. Now, I’m not a prude and the scene is not exactly sexual (he was being dressed by his servant), but it was distracting and took me out of the story a bit. I also have an issue with the nudity in 1999’s Mansfield Park, an odd choice in an otherwise wonderful adaptation.

Another meh casting is Callum Turner as Frank Churchill who comes across as extremely pompous. Yes he’s supposed to be immature and self-absorbed but Turner turns up the snobbery so much it’s utterly irritating. Fortunately he’s a minor character, he’s not on screen so much as to ruin the entire experience for me. There’s also a scene towards the end that leaves me scratching my head. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s also another moment that took me out of the movie. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a comedic scene but it comes out really peculiar and not particularly romantic.

The social class commentary is an essential aspect in the novel, and I think de Wilde is able to capture that here. The moment Emma flippantly insults Miss Bates during a picnic which she then gets scolded by Mr. Knightley is a good example. The boarding school girls, including Harriet, hold Emma in such a high regard, following her around in awe the way fans would to a celebrity, shows the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The despicable snobbery of Mr. Elton and his wife (Tanya Reynolds), and their poor treatment of Harriet further exemplifies this theme. The setting, costumes, etc. also do a great job informing us of different social structure.

Overall, I enjoyed this adaptation, but Emma always feels a bit too frivolous for me. Even with the social commentary that Austen is known for, the story doesn’t carry the kind of pathos the other novels have that are so emotionally-moving. Plus, the character herself is tough to relate to… after all, Emma is someone who’s handsome, clever and rich, nothing has vexed her in her 21 years of living comfortably and without rival. I lost my mother at 16 so I identified with two of Austen’s protagonists who lost their mother at a young age. But unlike Persuasion‘s Anne Elliot did, it’s never mentioned that her mother’s loss hit Emma particularly hard. I do appreciate that the character does grow up in the end, so the transformation is there. Just because her journey to ‘happy ever after’ is perhaps not nearly as poignant as other Austen heroines, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t earned.


Have you seen EMMA.? Well, what did YOU think?

Portrait of A Lady on Fire (2019)

Written & Directed by: Céline Sciamma

Winner of last year’s queer palm at Cannes, Portrait of a Lady of Fire creates something new. By using the form of a period piece, Sciamma was able to create something contemporary. Set in the late 1700’s on a remote island, Marianne (Noèmie Merlant) is commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel).

While the age of Enlightenment is taking place, women remain tethered by convention whether in painting, servitude or marriage the women of this film find themselves propelled by outside/social forces. For a time, these women are seemingly protected, isolated from the mainland and patriarchal society before being forced to confront the reason their lives have come together in the first place. The women of this film learn to depend on each other, finding a sense of companionship and balance only to have it abruptly end.

Hailed as a post me-to0, LGBTQ and feminist masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a film most concerned with the artist and the idea of the gaze. This theory can be used a bridge between art as a medium and social theory, integrating politics and art history. While a gaze can be used to confer meaning upon a piece, the relationship of the viewer and the viewed are always in negotiation.

As best stated by [French historian and philosopher] Michel Foucault while studying the function of the gaze in the painting Las Meninas the “observer and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange. No gaze is stable…subject and object, spectator and model reverse their roles into infinity.” This communication is the exploration of director Céline Sciamma. The relationship between the two main characters blurs until it is unclear who is looking at whom. Through the film, the gaze becomes their mode of interaction. Intimacy and attraction grow as they share in this collaborative act and the painting’s completion serves as tribute.

Héloïse’s journey goes from being an object/the muse to someone who observes the subject and thus becomes the Marianne’s collaborator. This is a really amazing technical performance by Adèle Haenel, which destroys the traditional idea of art as a horizontal relationship to a horizontal one of give and take, or as in painting, layers of alternation.

This film also challenges the assumption that we have progressed as a society as well as in art, or at least that progress happens in a linear fashion. Choosing to place the film in the time of the late 18th century, a time known for a huge rise in female artists who were later censored and removed from art history is a very intentional choice. It is the perfect time to place a critique on the backlash female filmmakers are currently facing. This goes back to the idea of the gaze and one’s in ability to control how one is perceived by others, specifically due to culture and society. As Michel Foucault states “insofar as I am the object of values which come to qualify me without my being able to act on this qualification or even to know it, I am enslaved.”

A truly beautiful and cerebral film that will give you an exciting and new perspective on art and love. It’s a hopeful as well as critical film that offers insight into ideas of identity and personhood.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen Portrait of a Lady On Fire? Well, what did you think? 

We’re going to Disney World!!

Hi everyone! This is going to be a short post as I’m about to leave to the airport in a few minutes… en route to Disney World!! It’s my husband and my birthday gift to each other, as our birthdays is about a month apart.

We’re going to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, and the two rides we cannot wait to get on is the Rise of the Resistance at Galaxy’s Edge and the Avatar’s Flight of Passage, respectively.

Photos courtesy of VisitCalifornia.com

I’ve heard so many amazing things about the Rise of the Resistance ride and I’ve watched all kinds of videos from Disney blogs out there. Per Wiki, the construction of the attraction posed unprecedented technical challenges. Not only does the ride contain 65 Audio-Animatronic figures, but the ride building itself required the largest concrete pour in the history of Disney Parks. More than five million lines of code control the various aspects of the ride. It has been called a “technical masterpiece”


I’ve also been curious about Pandora – The World of Avatar, esp the Flight of Passage ride. It’s a 3D flying simulator attraction that allows guests to take flight on a native mountain Banshee and soar across the landscape of Pandora.

Per Wiki, Avatar’s executive producer Amy Jupiter said “Everything you see in the attraction’s main show was original to this production. We were fortunate to be able to use the model and texture assets from the first film during our templating/visualization process. We were also able to use animation cycles for our [background] characters.”

There’s also the Na’vi River Journey that I’m hoping to ride on… I remember being in awe of the world of Pandora when I first saw Avatar a decade ago, so it’ll be fun to revisit that world in a whole different way!

I can’t wait to be a kid again for a few days. I won’t be posting anything until Wednesday… hey it’s my vacation, so I’m leaving my laptop at home.

Disney World, here I come!!!!


Have you been to Disney World, or taken either of these rides? If so, let me know your experience and if you have any tips, do share!