Now That You’ve Seen All of Russian Doll…..

Posted on February 12, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Copyright 2019 3 Arts Entertainment
I totally binged “Russian Doll,” the new Netflix series starring Natasha Lyonne, who also co-wrote, co-produced, and directed the last episode. And when I was done watching the story of a 37-year-old New Yorker who dies repeatedly only to find herself resetting back to her birthday party at a friend’s apartment, I wanted to understand more about it. If you’ve seen it and are ready for some in-depth (and I mean DEPTH) discussion, start here:

Comparing the time loop rules of Russian Doll and Groundhog Day

No Easy Answers

Russian Doll Easter Eggs You May Not Have Noticed That Will Make You Want to Watch it Again

Russian Doll Used Men in the Supporting Roles Usually Reserved for Women

Interviews with Charlie Barnett (Alan), Nadia’s stunt double, and writer/director Leslye Headland, and mastiff-pup-lover Lizzie

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture VOD and Streaming

Native Americans on Film

Posted on February 4, 2019 at 8:00 am

It wasn’t that long ago that Native American characters in film were played by actors of other races, including Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Quinn, Burt Reynolds, Johnny Depp, and Elvis Presley. Depictions are often wildly inaccurate, from the most basic details of dress, ceremony, culture, and history.

It was just four years ago that Native American actors walked off the set of the Adam Sandler film, “The Ridiculous Six.” The fact that the movie was offensive to Caucasians and every sentient life form on the planet did not justify what the actors were being asked to do.

This week’s “Cold Pursuit” has real Native Americans playing Native American characters, and the one of the movie’s high points is when one of them uses their ethnicity — and the prospect of a withering Yelp review — to pressure a snooty hotel clerk into giving them a room. Most of the Native Americans in “Cold Pursuit” are criminals, but so are most of the rest of the characters.

Putting actors of Native American heritage in the movies is not enough. Letting them play characters who are not stereotypes, even better, letting them play characters where their ethnicity is not a defining characteristic– is a step forward. Best of all is the stories they tell by and about themselves, as in the endearing Smoke Signals.

Sierra Teller Ornelas writes in the Hollywood reporter that when she worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, many of the visitors asked for more information about what they had seen in the movies and it was almost entirely inaccurate.

We’re so invisible. And we’re so sick of explaining to people that we’re invisible. We have an abundance of great stories to tell. And even when we get to tell your stories, we make them so much better (see Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok). If traditional network and cable structures are about to straight-up implode, if people are finally desperate enough to try anything, then try me, or Sterlin Harjo and The 1491s, Sydney Freeland, Azie Dungey, Lucas Brown Eyes or all the other Native creators who are grinding and capable. Because if all content is indeed going the way of the streaming algorithm, I’m worried about what happens when you — and your voice and your stories — have never occurred to that algorithm.

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Film History Race and Diversity Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Guillermo del Toro on “Roma” — One Amigo Pays Tribute to Another

Posted on January 24, 2019 at 9:02 pm

Copyright 2018 Netflix

They are called “The Three Amigos” — three Mexican directors who have risen to the top ranks in Hollywood and world cinema, all Oscar winners, Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu two years in a row for “Birdman” and “The Revenant,” and “Roma” director Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity.” He’s now the front-runner for up to four Oscars this year for “Roma.”

I love what del Toro wrote on Twitter about “Roma.”

10 personal musings about ROMA.

1) The opening shot suggests that earth (the shit-infested ground) and heaven (the plane) are irreconcilably far even if they are joined -momentarily- and revealed, by water (the reflection). All truths in ROMA are revealed by water.

2) These planes of existence, like the separation within classes in the household cannot be broached. The moments the family comes “closer” are fleeting… “She saved our lives” is promptly followed by “Can you make me a banana shake?”

3) In my view, Cleo’s “silence” is used as a tool for her dramatic arch- that leads to her most intimate pain being revealed, by water – again- after the Ocean rescue: “I didn’t want her to be born” Cleo surpasses and holds her emotions in silence until they finally pour out

4) One key moment, precisely crafted is Cuaron’s choice to have Cleo’s water break just as the violence explodes and her boyfriend breaks into the store holding both a gun and a “Love Is…” T shirt. The baby will be stillborn.

5) In every sense, ROMA is a Fresco, a Mural, not a portrait. Not only the way it is lensed but the way it “scrolls” with long lateral dollies. The audio visual information (context, social unrest, factions & politics / morals of the time) exists within the frame to be read.

6) It seems to me that the fact that Cuaron and Eugenio Caballero BUILT several blocks (!) of Mexico City in a giant backlot (sidewalk, lampposts, stores, asphalted streets, etc) is not well-known. This is a titanic achievement.

7) The Class stratas are represented in the film not only in the family but within the family and the land-owning relatives and even between Fermin and Cleo- when he insults her in the practice field.

8) ROMA cyphers much of its filmic storytelling through image and sound. When viewed in a theatre, it has one of the most dynamic surround mixes. Subtle but precise.


9) Everything is cyclical. That’s why Pepe remembers past lives in which he has belonged to different classes, different professions. Things come and go- life, solidarity, love. In our loneliness we can only embrace oh, so briefly by the sea.

10) The final image rhymes perfectly with the opening. Once again, earth and heaven. Only Cleo can transit between both. Like she demonstrates in the Zovek scene, only she has grace. We open the film looking down, we close looking up- but the sky, the plane, is always far away.

And the great ending of Gravity… The studio was pressuring Alfonso to “show” helicopters in the sky, coming to rescue Sandra Bullock’s character. He said “no”. Emerging from the water was the triumph, touching the earth-standing…

The studio then said: “Ok what about hearing the helicopters?” Alfonso, once more, said “no”. The studio then suggested adding a radio giving her coordinates, promising help. Alfonso said “no”. Once more an ending made of Air, land and water.

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Directors Understanding Media and Pop Culture

One of the Best Screenplays of 2018 Free Online

Posted on January 6, 2019 at 9:53 am

Copyright 2018 Sony Animation
The best surprise I had at the movie theater last year was “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and I am delighted that the filmmakers have made the screenplay available online.  Take a look at the fresh, clever, jubilant writing that made this movie such a delight.

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Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Understanding Media and Pop Culture Writers

The Apartment — Without Lemmon and MacLaine

Posted on January 4, 2019 at 10:18 pm

This fascinating video essay shows us what the Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film “The Apartment” would look like without the actors, revealing the role that the setting plays in telling the story.  After all, that is the name of the film.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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