Archivo de la categoría: Mixology

Neon lights: the illumination of adolescence in movies

The loss of inocence and the “Coming of age” stories are one of the most used trope often depicted by Hollywood on the mainstream cinema. It’s not uncommon to find movies that circle around that specific moment on every teen life when they transition from being an innocent child to become an empowered adolescent.

Being such a significant time in someone’s life, this rite of passagehas  a lot of symbolisms embedded right into its core. Symbols that some movies like to represent in numerous ways, like with a loss of virginity, or with a big, introspective and literal journey across the country, or even with a Prom dance. You see, the coming of age is something inevitable and very profitable for Hollywood, and this year wasn’t the exception.

From a handful of movies that premiered in 2016, I think that three of them really stand from the others: The Neon Demon, Nerve  and The Closet Monster, not only because I consider them to be actually  good or because I’m pretty sure they harnessed excelent narrative techniques to tell their story, but mostly because their deep understanding  on adolescence and the transition through this rite of passage.


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Of course, each one of them treats different and interesting subjects. Whereas The Neon Demon made a strong argument against the beauty culture, Nerve tried to talk about the dangers of technology and Closet Monster stood against homophobia. But they also depicted certain elements of the coming of age very similarily: using neon lights as a narrative and symbolic tool to reference it.

All of three of them have an innocent character living on a bubble as a protagonist. It isn’t until later when they have to face reality when the loss of innocence happens, along with the appearence of perfunctory neon lights on the scene as a part of their environment to aknowledge it.

The Neon Demon presents the perfect epitome of innocence and virginity with Jesse (Elle Fanning), a young model from a small town  navigating through the difficulties and superficialites of Los Angeles. When we first met her, we see a teen struggling to cope with the reality she is living in while trying to accomplish her dream in order to succeed on the beauty bussiness.

Nerve has the incorrupted Vee (Emma Roberts) as its protagonist. An A-grade student looking  for some emotion that can help her to break free from the routine she has put herself into for the last years, trying to be the perfect girl she always imagine would be whilst making an effort to get the attention from the boy she is in love with.

Finally, Closet Monster introduced us to Oscar (Connor Jessup), a guy who has always lived under the shadow of his homophobic dad, that is trying to understand what his role in the world is and where does he fits in it.

They, like every other teen in the world, are looking for meaning  and substance in their lives. The three of them are facing adulthood like fishes out of water: navigating through a sea of emotions and insecurities, but with a lot of curiosity to push them forward.

The Neon Demon is, by far, the most blunt approach to adolescence by using neon lights as a device to understand the coming of age experience. Its director even blatantly compares this blossom in life with a demon transformation. The more Jesse becomes part of this “adult” world, the more demonized her look and her attitude is. She surrounds herself with neon lights with each step she takes ahead.

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Jesse’s first confrontation with her own beliefs -a very innocent ones, I must say- happens when Ruby (Jena Malone), one of the makeup artist she works with, takes her to meet another models to a party. There, she realizes what really she is getting herself into, when the girls start to criticize her. From the very beginning, she feels overwhelmed but decided to triumph on that city that constantly puts beauty and lust before humanity. Of course, the scene ends with Jesse watching with an offish glare a model show surrounded by neon lights.

But its not until her first runway when she fully embraces her demon-ness . As the industry begins to consume her inner light, she slowly starts to feel that she belongs there. She feels empowered and purposeful to be the best model in town, and she doesn’t care about anything or anyone. This realization comes along with a  beautiful scene where Jesse watchs her reflection looking right at her in fully neon lights.

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Nerve, on the other hand,  approaches to teen angst and insecurity by tackling it with technology obsession. Vee it’s the typical adolescent looking for an adventure and a change of routine. This, of course, appears in form of a daring app that challenge its users to do risky things in change for money and a bunch of memories to gloat over.

Vee’s curiosity comes across like something natural and organic as all her classmates are experiencing the same feelings and excitement of using the app. At the beginning of the movie, she is often surrounded by dim lights and obscure environments, but when she’s ready to accept her first challenge, the illumination changes.

As she enters a restaurant to kiss a stranger, the neon lights that decorate the place begin to shine. In fact, each and every one of the dares  that Vee and Ian (Dave Franco) perform, are surrounded by bright neon lights, getting brighter and brighter as the challenges increase their difficulty.

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To Nerve the coming of age means not only to embarce and confront your worst fears, but to live through them and not under the shadow they could cast above your life. Curiosity is, after all, the fire that ignites the neon lights of adolescence.

Closet Monster reflects a lot upon acceptance and sexuality on teenage years. Oscar has always known that something is off in his life, that something’s missing. Living with a homophobic dad and with the awful idea of an absent mom is not easy for him. All of the scenes with his dad are surrounded by opaque illumination that casts a shadow on both of them.

It isn’t until he meets Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) when his surroundings start to change. As Oscar begins to accept his inner thoughts, his character commences to walk through bright places, and when he is finally ready to accept who he is and confess his love to his friend, the neon lights appear in form of party decorations. This type illumination is, after all, the representation of his desires.

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If this odd cinematographic technique has something to teach us, is that the key to turn on the neon lights that could surround our life, we need to be in contact with oneself and one’s needs. In order to achieve our goal of moving from childhood to adolescence, we must embrace curiosity to outgrow our self-imposed limits.

The powerful narrative behind Idina Menzel’s acting choices.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Idina Menzel (apart from Adele Dazeem)? For me it must be the certainty to embrace oneself. It’s no coincidence that the singer/actress has been carefully selecting through all these years her acting choices to match a certain type of character: the Other.

Menzel has been depicting for long a handful of individuals that can only be described as the Other: a well-thought character which is immerse in a constant state of being different from the common and very shared social identity. her representations, though, are not victims.

If there is one thing that could define Idina’s singular portrayal of Otherness over the past years is her distinctive and constant refusal to be victimized. She has singlehandedly managed to depict a wide variety of colorful characters  that always have refused to lose their unique qualities in order to be accepted. They, instead, try to do something about it.

Just think about Idina’s most iconic characters to date: Elphaba from Wicked  and Elsa from Frozen. They are both strong and powerful women searching for their true self while coping with a society that values passiveness more than authenticity and independence.

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Both Frozen and Wicked revolve around the idea of embracing oneself, of accepting who you are, of not letting anyone to define you, and of taking the Otherness as something that you own and not as something that is not in your control.

Elphaba, on one hand, is a young girl who struggles to cope with the very idea of being a powerful green witch in a place where is not common to have colored people with magic around. Elsa, on the other, is a conflicted woman living with magicals powers whilst trying to do her best as monarch on a kingdom that is not used to have only a queen as their leader.

What’s really daunting about this characters is not just their Otherness, but the way they embrace it as an essential part of who they are. Both Elsa and Elphaba are constrained to fit into a box imposed by the ones around them, but because of their difference, it’s something they don’t want to achieve. They want to be who they are, without any limitations.

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Just as Idina’s life, her characters mostly use music as a way to communicate. Songs in  her movies are often used by her characters as a performative device, where inner thoughts, and identity traits, only become real when they are sung.

If you are familiar with pop culture, you should know that ‘Let it Go‘ and ‘Defying Gravity‘ are ones of the most powerful and empowering songs to date. If you are familiarized with Idina Menzel’s work, you’ll know that they are her go-to melodies when talking about the importance of her career. Within their narratives, these songs function as their hymns to Otherness and their way to embrace it. They are Elphaba and Elsa’s ultimate statement.

Idina’s other famous character, Maureen Johnson, has plenty of ways to express her Otherness in the hit Broadway show, Rent. She is a free person that doesn’t understand life as something that could be either black or white, but something more big in between, an outcast that stands for what she believes and a woman that doesn’t like to be put in a box.

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Unlike Elsa and Elphaba, she doesn’t have to push through a long and hurtful path before embracing her Otherness. She is who she is and she doesn’t care what any other person could think about her or her actions. She is not defined by people nor does she is a victim of their actions. She even has a Tango named after her that really sums up the way people perceive her, making it her ultimate statement.

Even her brief, but stellar, appearance in Disney’s Enchanted as Nancy Tremaine could easily be described as an empowered woman sidelined by her Otherness. Her role within the narrative is to act essentialy as the Other of the Princess Giselle (Amy Adams). She is, after all, the girlfriend of the protagonist’s love interest.

Portrayed by other actress, her arc in the movie could easily fall over the antagonist place. Instead, on Idina’s hands, we got the perfect Otherness arc for a secondary character: she is a succesfull and confident woman looking for love that eventually ends up marrying a charming prince not because the story told her to, but because she decided to.

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There’s something quite exciting and admirable about Idina Menzel’s narrative based on her acting choices: in order to embrace oneself as the Other one must make Otherness visible.

The TV-obsessed-guy’s guide to enjoy Peak TV

We live on an incredible era, one era where audiences  have the opportunity to navigate through countless channels and streaming platforms for them to choose from a innumerable amount of shows that are constantly delving through important issues, like mental illness, gender, race, consent, identity and love, along a great variety of genres and situations. Yes, we are living in one era  that many people are calling ‘Peak TV’.

These days —mostly thanks to the elevated costs of movie tickets and the so called “lack of originality on Hollywood” that is been going on— people are consuming and relying much more in TV shows than in cinema.

Each new year we get a handful of new  (and interesting) shows waiting to be devoured by its audiences. Naturally,  it’s physically impossible for an actual human being to consume so many hours of  new and old TV whilst succesfully managing to maintain a job and a social life.

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There are so many TV shows and not enough time to weigh in on all the options. Every day I constantly find myself asking a lot of questions: Is this show gonna be worth of my time? Am I going to enjoy it? The premise looks fine, but, is it original enough? Does the characters look interesting?

If you ask yourself the very same questions every time you want to catch on with a TV show, then we share the same problem, but fear no more! I have some useful tips for you! Follow me through and by the end of this post you will be able to decide which show is worthy of your time and which one isn’t.

  1. Spring, summer and fall TV

The first thing you need to know before picking up the shows you are going to watch is that TV scheduling is really weird.  You either could wait for one or two, even three, years between season or you could watch two seasons of the same show on the very same year, something that happened with Shameless US this year.

Much of the time this has to do with network budgets ans the actor’s free time to wrap up a season. Benedict’s Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s busy schedules are the reason why Sherlock’s seasons have so many years of separation within each other.

But some other times this often happen due season’s scheduling. Typically, the networks distribute their shows between spring, summer and fall. The latter is always destinated for the most watched and rated shows, whilst the former and the one in the middle are more prone to be used to premiere risky shows. That way, you could only catch American Horror Story  on fall TV and Girls on spring TV.

My advice here is to never forget this scheduling, that way you could watch tons of different shows between seasons without missing the ones you are more interested about. Search for awesome new options and prioritize them between each season.

2. TV previews

If you follow any platform that is dedicated to write about pop culture, TV and movies you already should know that they usually post their TV previews before the beginning of each new season. Seize it.

What I tend to do is to look after this lists to search and select the shows that will draw on my attention. Entertainment Weekly and Filmschoolrejects are the ones that I am more prone to check and the ones that are most likely to be very helpful with their shows summaries.

3.  Helpful apps

I know, keeping up with a lot of shows could be a bit overwhelming and it could turn out to be a really difficult  task to accomplish. Notwithstanding, there’s a really useful life hack that has made my binge-watching experience a lot easier: Apps.

There’s actually a full catalogue of helpful apps made with the sole purpose of organizing and scheduling the shows you’re watching currently. My personal favorites are iTV Shows for apple users, and Next Episode for Android users. In them you can look for the synopsis of each episode, the day and time of the premiere and, in some of them, a list of the shows that are trending right now.

But the most important feature, at least for me, is the notifications. You can personalize your app to alert you when your favorite show is going to start, when it’s cancelled and even when it gets a premiere date. This will help you to follow each episode and to prevent you to miss out on a new one.

4.  The three episodes rule

Even if you already have selected a handful of shows to watch, you must prioritize the ones that you really want to keep on watching and discard the ones that you don’t. Otherwise, you will find yourself in the middle of a tricky situation between a lot of episodes to catch on and no time to do it whatsoever.

I have the theory that if a show doesn’t manage to captivate you and capture your attention in the first three episodes it will never manage to accomplish it in the near future.

Typically, the first three episodes of a show must give their audiences enough information, character-wise, story-wise and arc-wise, to really know what kind of show they’re getting into and what they can expect of it. Three episodes, in my book, are more than enough.

So, with that in mind, you either keep on watching it after episode three, because you like it, or you don’t, because you didn’t like what you saw, or you didn’t get enough information to enjoy the show by episode four.

Don’t waste your time on shows that doesn’t fulfill your needs as a viewer and stop doing senseless hate-watching. If you do this, you’ll see how easy will be for you to get rid of a show you felt obligated to watch and how rewarding will be to keep the ones you really loved on the first three episodes.

5. Enough is enough

Look, I love to watch a show from the very first season through the last  like the next person, but sometimes we have to accept, and then realize, that some shows could, and would, lost their way, and that’s fine. We don’t have to stick around until the very end of a show.

Precisely this very year I had to stop watching Pretty Little Liars because it became so tiresome and predictable that I ended up not enjoying it at all,  and I don’t even feel bad about it. I had my time loving it and I got some pretty good episodes, but that’s it.

So, if you feel like a burden to wacth  one of your favorite shows, then stop doing it. It will make you some room to enjoy a new one and you will feel much better with yourself by stopping all that hate-watching you’ve been doing lately.

6. Enjoy the experience

There’s nothing better than finding a great show to hang on to. Enjoy it and embrace it. Peak TV is really upon us and the best way to honor it is by consuming all the great things that are airing and streaming out there.

Have a great day and an awesome binge-watching season!

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Transgender visibility on Transparent

Warning: This post might have minor spoilers of the third season of Transparent ahead. If you haven’t seen it or don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading.

Just this week Amazon dropped off the new season of its award-winning show Transparent, the amazing serie that revolve around the Pfefferman family’s lives after their father (portrayed by the always magnificent Jeffey Tambor) comes out as a transgender woman named Maura. As you can imagine, this TV show’s main concern has always been to tackle important subjects and themes concerning the transgender community.

If there’s something I must celebrate about this show is its hability to put me through a handful of situations that had made me feel uncomfortable more times than I’m able to admit. For three seasons, Transparent  not only have  singlehandedly managed to confront and transform all my paradigms, ideas and notions -even the ones I didn’t thought I had- about gender identity.

Thus, it didn’t came as a surprise when I felt this way again last night when I was watching  episode 6 of this season: The Open Road. In it, Josh (Jay Duplass), one of the Pfefferman’s siblings, makes a road trip with Maura’s transgender friend, Shea (Trace Lysette), a woman who dances on a strip club as a way of living and with whom he has a crush on.

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Naturally, the road trip rails off the road (pun intended) when Josh manage to singlehandedly insult Shea and make her feel awful after she gets honest with him about being HIV positive, as you can read on the quote below:

Shea: There’s something I need to talk you about.

Josh: Ok.

Shea: Look, I’m totally healthy and it’s really nothing to worry about, but I just have to tell you that I’m HIV positive. I have to. I just don’t want you to find later and hate me or murder me or something.

Josh: Well, we were just kissing, I mean, you can’t get it from kissing, right?

Shea: No, you can’t get it from kissing.

Josh: Ok, I’m not going to murder you, I’m not going to hate you. It’s cool.

Shea: So, are you Ok?

Josh: Yeah.

Shea: I have some condoms in the car.

Josh: Are condoms are like a 100%… they work?

Shea: Look, there’s this pill that pretty much eliminates the chances of you getting it.

Josh: Uhm… Pretty much?

Shea: Well, they’re still researching it.

Josh: Ok, do you have it here? With you?

Shea: No; I don’t have it here. It doesn’t work like that.

Josh: Ok.

Shea: If you want to slow things down… figure out where this is going. Maybe we can go and see a doctor when we come back, to explore this in a long term.

Josh: Long term? It’s just a lot of build up.

Shea: Let’s just go.

Josh: Are you mad?

Shea: Yeah, I’m mad!

Josh: At me? Why?

Shea: Why?

Josh: Yeah! I’m, like, I’ve been totally cool with everything.

Shea: Yeah, you know, you deserve an award. What a hero!

Josh: Ok, you were just about to fuck me and told me that you probably would not give me HIV. I’m not aloud to ask some questions? I’m not aloud to, like, pause? And feel weird?

Shea: Why the fuck did you bring me here?!

Josh: I brought you here because it seemed fun. This is fun.

Shea: Fun?! Like a sex-worker-good-time fun?!

Josh: Ok, now that you mention it, I pay for all of this.

Shea: Fuck you, Josh! You needed a fucking date to go tell your son his mother kill herself? I see right through you and I’m not your fucking adventure! I’m a person! I’m not your fucking adventure!

This particular scene kept me awestruck not only by its raw bluntness but also by what really lies beneath this conversation: transgender visibilty and the social imaginary behind transgender people.

Nowadays, most TV shows and films have succesfully managed to introduce some transgender characters into their worlds,  but not for the right reasons. Much of them just have been doing this in order to check their transgender quota and to pat themselves on the back by consider themselves so diverse and inclusive, not for actual representation.

Precisely this week Modern Family ‘s producers made a lot of fuzz when they told several people they were going to have a transgender child playing an important part in an episode. Along came Tom, a transgender boy (who was also known as Tina) who befriends Lily, Cam and Mitchell’s little daughter.

Tom’s important part in the episode was esentially reduced to act, and function, as an example of tolerance and inclusion from this family, He played the part alright, but not only his character hadn’t had lines and no important participation in the story whatosever, he also didn’t have the chance to portray a full-fleshed character. He wasn’t a person.

It’s easy to see when a transgender character it’s added into some story to let people pride themselves about their tolerance and diverse casting, like in this case. These people are all the Joshes that consider themselves to be “totally cool with everything” and expect to receive a badge or recognition for their level of acceptance and their rejection-free conscience when dealing with another human beings.

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And that’s the real problem, they don’t see transgender people  as normal human beings. For them, transgender people are individuals to take care of and to befriend in order to feel good with themselves, when, in reality, they are not their “fucking adventure” to sink their teeth into. Each and every one of them are real persons, with feelings and their own stories to tell.

If Transparent‘s main goal is to make people feel uncomfortable by confronting them with their own realities and the way they understand and transform their life, I’m up for it. It’s really hard to find TV shows that make you question everything you think and thought it was right, and that’s something we must celebrate.

If you want to get a closer look of this particular scene and what the actrees who portrays Shea felt, don’t miss out the fantastic interview Esther Zuckerman made to Trace Lysette for A.V. Club.

The problematic approach of This Is Us

If there’s something that television loves to rub on our faces is that they truly do understand families, real and proper “American families”. From Married With Children to Modern Family  we have had our fair share of modern depictions of what truly means to belong to a family.

I must admit that, in spite of everything, Television Networks had made enormous efforts to represent and transform accurately the family structures that have been evolving along with society’s constructs and paradigms of what a family is. Now, it’s possible to see a family formed by a gay couple or even a trans matriarch.

So, it really strikes me that, knowing all of this, there’s still networks betting for shows that, instead of proposing something new, they’re still playing safe whilst using really dated and problematic tropes as  NBC’s new show, This Is Us.

The premise is simple: Three different families, formed by a married couple with three children, a pair of two adult twins and another couple with two children, are linked by something more (that I won’t say in order to save you from a possible spoiler) than their shared narrative.

The first thing that came to my head when I watched the first two episodes (the only ones that have aired yet, there is) was that all three families has their fair share of men and women participating as important members.

The first family is formed by Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) a thirtysomethings who just happen to have three children. The second one it’s made by twins Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley). Finally, the thir family is formed by Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson).

However, there’s a tenuous, but problematic, difference in the way their roles and characters are depicted. Whilst men are concerned with their jobs outside their homes and being positive role models for their children, women are preoccupied  about their look and taking care of their families inside their houses.

Now, I know that at least one of these families are from 1944 and the construction of this concept on that era was totally different from ours, notwithstanding, would it be too much to ask if one of the other families doesn’t perpetuate the already worned out, and tiresome, “concerned mother” trope?

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How many times do we have to put women trapped between the four walls of their house on TV? How many more women do we have to portray as the selfless wife that waits patiently for her family to arrive home to have at least one story within their narratives? How many more private spaces are we allow to use in order for a woman to have a place to belong to in our shows?

I would like to know why these people still thinks that women are not aloud to have ambition or goals in life beyond their kitchens and why these very places are still considered as the inherent place for women to live in.

It’s worrisome to think that women’s only motives in life are their families and the way society sees them, because it does not only reduce them to become cheap tropes, but also they pale in comparison to the full and well-rounded men characters whose interests are much more than that.

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Which brings me to my second concern: men’s objectification. It’s really confusing to me that, if this show’s main concern is to shine a light on its men why do they keep showing Jack’s butt and Kevin’s abs more than once in only two episodes? It’s even more incoherent when the latter’s main concern its the fear to lose his credibility as an actor when his career choices are compromised when he is asked to take his shirt off on the show he’s working on.

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Does the show is really aware of its meandering and inconsistent narrative? Is it on purpose and, if so, what for? To make a statement? To make a meta comment on how the entertainment industry exploits men and women’s bodies for its own benefit? Maybe I’m just overthinking it.

Whilst This Is Us  has a lot of good ideas around the concept of a modern family to dig into, they usually fall apart when they are portrayed by its characters. So, In order to portray them accurately, and reflect on the conflict that they have with each other, the writers need to get through their dated stereotypes and start to think on new ideas to help their stories to follow through.