Archivo de la etiqueta: Netflix

One Remake At A Time

There is no rulebook for a perfect time to premiere a TV show, but, if it were, then the new Netflix series One Day At A Time would’ve ticked all the boxes. In an era where remakes are around the corner, this particular TV show, even though is a remake of the 1975 classic, feels particularly fresh and very aware of the context its living in.

I don’t think that the showrunners, Gloria Calderón Kellet and Mike Royce, would have pictured this particular show as a remedy for the Post-Trump election audience, but it sure feels like it. In this day and time, there’s nothing more radical than a TV show starring a cuban veteran nurse of Afghanistan living in Los Angeles and trying to raise her two kids with the help of her mother, as the life of Penelope Álvarez in One Day At A Time.

Granted, the very idea of the selfless single mother navigating through the challenges of life, has been made countless of times both in movies and TV shows, but, and this is what it makes this serie so profoundly adequate, they have never focused the attention on the challenges of being a woman, specially an immigrant.

Focusing the narrative only on the problems of motherhood without understanding what’s like to be a woman, and on the essence and construction behind a woman’s perspective, has always been an usual problem on stories like this. They have been telling us that motherhood (and especially single motherhood) is something inherent to womanhood, something to suffer about, to embrace as something women must own.

Netflix’s One Day At A Time understands this particular issue and depicts it on a whole new view, by building their characters from scratch. Yes, Penelope is a single mother of two, but in no way the series confines her to portray only that role in her arc. She also is a nurse, a veteran, a divorced woman, a daughter and a single lady looking for love.

Of course that she has problems raising her kids by her own, but what’s really meaningful about this show is that her role as a mother is not the one that is carrying the story along. Her collected experiences as a woman living in the USA are the real focus, motherhood just happens to be one of them.

The same thing happens with the depiction of her mother Lydia and Penelope’s daughter Elena, they are both full and well-rounded characters with their own opinions and agency, trying to understand what does it means to be a woman nowadays. Thus, the more profound and enjoyable episodes are the ones that keeps challenging each and one of their personal opinions with the ones around them, and specially with each other.

Lydia is a catholic woman who migrates to USA in the midst of Castro’s goverment looking for a new place to call home, Elena, on the other hand, is cuban girl born in the United States with a particular interest on social challenge and new ways to improve the world she lives in. They both understand life differently, but because the great love they share, they are capable of grasp their opinions and respect each other.

The show not only finds many ways to give her women a voice, but it also manages to put it front and center with a handful of serious debates, that the characters have in each episode, around women’s rights, sexism, religion, lesbianism and gender pay gap. Make no mistake, giving this women her own voice and agency in no way means that the male roles are overshadowed by them, if anything, it helps them to be portrayed in a happier and more fulfilling light.

One Day At A Time makes an incredible effort to present flawed but caring men, that are usually influenced but not defined by toxic masculinity, capable of having profound discussions about homosexuality, mansplaining and sexism without being subjected or depicted as the villains of the story. Something that, at least in my case, helped me to confront the social perspective around of what’s really like to be a man nowadays.

It feels quite refreshing to find a TV show, with the narrative structure of a sitcom, capable of going to the places that even some serious series hadn’t had the nerve to go. Because in a world full of remakes, the ones that are here to propose instead of playing common patterns are the ones that are more likely to succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

The color narrative in audiovisual stories.

It’s very well known that our brain has a wonderful way of working when it comes to color. It could react to a certain, and specific, situation depending on the one that surrounds the person at issue the same way it could understand a feeling with an  auxiliary color. Color is important to our lives. Color is everywhere.

Color is a wonderful narrative device that can carry a whole scene with emotional depth and no dialogue whatsoever. The beauty of it lies in its habilty to communicate directly with our feelings whereas our brains can fully understand the message separately.

So, it’s not suprise that color and audiovisual stories (TV and Cinema) have had, from the very beginning, an intrinsical link.  With color you can transform a bubbly and happy scene into something dark and sinister, you can also communicate to the audience the frame of mind of a certain character by the color he or she is wearing in their clothes, and you can even distinguish periods of time, on a movie or TV show, with color and shades.

You could say a lot of things just by using one color. Blue can be related to sadness and melancholy the same way it could be linked with life. Yellow, on the other hand, can be attached with happiness and magic, but also with anger.

You just have to take a look into the current TV shows on air to find color narratives all over the place. Whereas Netflix’s Jessica Jones tries to mimic the film noir atmosphere we all love with dark surroundings and grey areas in its sceneries, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt paints its frames with bright and happy colors to imitate the kind of psychotropic world where all its characters live in.

In Richard LaGravanese’s nonlinear narrative film, The Last Five Years,  we understand that a time jump happens -in the past and in the future-  by painting all over the sad scenes with intense dark gloomy colors, and with colorful bright shades on the happy ones.

TheLastFiveYears The_Last_Five_Years_Jeremy_Jordan_Anna_Kendrick

The same thing happens in Alejandro González Iñarritu’s Birdman, when the narrative is trying to tell apart the dream sequences, using yellow tones,  from the reality, with blue hues, only to mix them up by the very end when the character, and the movie, can’t tell the difference between Birdman and Riggan Thomson.

Notwithstanding, in Judd Apatow’s anti-rom-com-ish Netflix show, Love,  we see, in the first episode, our protagonist Gus buying  online a blue rug before breaking up with her girlfriend, only to discover the next day an orange one standing on his door. Right after this, Mickey bumps into his life using an orange blouse, and, from that very moment, we see both of them wearing clothes with all the possible variations of this colors all over the season, like a colorful dance of feelings.

love-tv-review-netflix

Something similar happens with Robin Wright’s character in House Of Cards, Claire. Whilst her wardrobe in the show consists in a wonderful variety of beautiful and elegant dresses, its colors oscillate between white and black depending on how dark or empathic she acts along each episode. So is natural to see her wearing a sober black dress while scheming a new plan with her husband to win over the white house in one scene, and using a white and delicate gown in bed with her lover in another.

House-Cards-Style robinwright3-photos

There’s even an interesting internet theory that develops on the ambivalency between the constant presence of  purple and yellow in How I Met Your Mother that suits very well within their narrative logic.

Color is, then, more than just a tool that could turn animated images into life.  Color, as it happens with feelings an sensations, is constantly attached to our perspective and our usual way of understanding life. We translate experiences that we paint with our minds.

Color is extremely important within any audiovisual story narrative. Whether a movie or a TV show is trying to communicate the very central core of its message using a beautiful color palette or accompanying a character quest between realms with only one shade, color will always be the perfect way to do so.

 

 

‘Love’ and gender politics: deconstructing the Nice Guy and the Crazy Bitch.

As I’ve thoroughly explained in old posts, TV shows have become an interesting, and substantial, platform to debate, and create, topics of interest within the young, and millennial, audiences nowadays, and gender politics hasn’t been the exception.

For those of us that grew on the nineties watching sitcoms (and, as in my case, telenovelas too) the stories we were used to see depicted most of the men and women like this immovable sexist stereotype, where woman can be called a ‘Crazy Bitch’ without any remorse whilst the typical ‘Nice Guy’ will often ended stuck in a relationship with this kind of person, hoping  that all her quirks and bits would save him from himself one day.

Same stereotypes that certain movies from the early millennium loved to strengthen in their stories. Films like (500) Days Of Summer, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 10 Things I Hate About You and Elizabethtown that conveniently converted the Crazy Bitch into the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ and left the Nice Guy to indulge himself with her savior-ish complex.

500-days-of-summer-zooey-not-interested

Thus, following this idea, for every Tom there’s a Summer waiting to break his heart over and over again, until Autumn arrives. For every Joel there’s a Clementine hoping to meet him again to re-enter the obsessive cycle they’re in. For every Patrick there’s a Kat wiling to enlist everything she loves about him in spite of her beliefs. For every Drew there’s a Claire awaiting to save him from suicide with the magic of an intricate map and a red hat.

You see, these stories told million of persons, for a long time, that a Nice Guy will always be that anxious, shy, type of person that, by the simple fact of being nice, is entitled to every girl he has crossed upon his life, and that the Crazy Bitch (A.K.A The Manic Pixie Dream Girl) will ever be that odd, tempered, quirky, lost soul that somehow, sometime, will eventually end up dating a Nice Guy. Yikes.

In recent years, this well-crafted and static ideas have changed. Some films, like Ruby Sparks, have engaged interesting debates around gender politics by making overhauling deconstructions of sexist stereotypes within creative tropes and vivid narratives. Ruby Sparks (the character) is written by Calvin (the Nice Guy)  to be (literally and metaphorically) the Crazy Bitch that’s gonna save him from himself. As we all know, things don’t end quite well.

Some TV Shows like Love, the  new Judd Apatow Netflix dramedy, really managed to put the finger right on the gender politics debate by developing a story, full of cliches and tropes found on traditional rom-coms, that falls right into an elaborate and well-thought deconstruction of their protagonists, who happen to be a Nice Guy and a Crazy Bitch.

love_ep107_master

Gus is  an anxious, insecure geek guy whose major trait, which he can be proud of, is his niceness that he gawkily shows off to everyone he can. Mickey, on the other hand, is a self-absorbed, tactless addict who has no interest in anything on particular. They both meet thanks to a twist of fate and, immediately, embark  on a new adventure together. The typical boy-meets-girl story.

When they are together, or with any other people for that matter, they’re perfect showing their best facade: he is nice, she is blunt. He goes around rubbing into people’s faces that he is rather solicitous whilst she is indifferent to anything and anyone; the perfect sexist stereotypes.

NEOMu4Wk6s9uRV_1_1

Thanks to the fabulous narrative tool of portraying each others lives individually (they spend more time by themselves than together) the creators allow themselves to deconstruct, and reconstruct, this stereotypes to their core to help us understand the true meaning of both ideas.

As it turns out, Gus’ niceness is not that nice at all, and his kindness quickly transforms into hostility. He’s so convinced that he is such a good person that he thinks he deserves a great life, with the perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl to go with it. He sees that life with Mickey and immediately idealizes her as that free-spirited girl who came into his life to give it some meaning, but when Mickey doesn’t give him that in return, all hell breaks loose.

PaulRust-700x420

Yes, Mickey is a troubled person, with her own complicated stuff to deal with, but that doesn’t mean that her only goal in life is to look for someone who can solve her problems and instantly make them go away, even if a Nice Guy might seem the perfect choice to do so. She’s also an addict, and she needs to be with someone that fulfills her needs whilst helping her to recognize them. She is not a trophy or an ideal of a woman. She is who she is, nothing more, nothing less.

5625

He can call her crazy as many times he wants to and still she will not be the Crazy Bitch he imagines she is. She can look for that Nice Guy who can be the wonderful exception on her love life and still feel empty and undesired. Relationships are hard, and people can get lost between the idea they have of a person and the actual person that’s in front of them.

That’s what stereotypes do. They erase every trait, feature and bit that makes a person unique and, somehow, manages to put everyone that shares something (anything, really) inside a box with blurry limits and a bunch of heavy prejudices to live by.

The Nice Guy and the Crazy Bitch exists only inside our minds. In the real world people are much more complex than that. We are not our gender, and our gender does not defines us. We can be nice, crazy, depressive, manic, happy and sad and still not want to be a part of any stereotype. We should, and we must, deconstruct the stereotypes that surround us in order to understand the way paradigms in gender politics  affect us and how do they work.

 

 

 

 

 

Club de Cuervos: Volando cerca del sol.

Si han seguido mi blog, se habrán dado cuenta que tengo un soft spot por las series producidas por Netflix. iIn duda alguna, la forma en que sus historias son hechas (a manera de una gran película) me parece de lo más innovador. Además creo deliberadamente que la casa productora ha hecho un buen trabajo al momento de seleccionar las historias que quiere contar.

Por ello, no es de sorprenderse que cuando me enteré que produciría una serie latina -situada en México y protagonizada por Luis Gerardo Méndez- me emocioné de tan sólo pensar en los increíbles alcances que podría tener. Así fue cómo nació ‘Club de Cuervos’.

La historia de ‘Club de Cuervos’ gira alrededor de dos hermanos: Chava Iglesias Jr. e Isabel Iglesias, hijos de el presidente de un equipo de futbol llamado ‘Los Cuervos de Nuevo Toledo’. Así, cuando el patriarca de la familia muere inesperadamente, ambos se someten a una intensa pelea por tener el tan preciado lugar que su padre dejó: la presidencia del Club de Cuervos.

De entrada, la serie por si misma se lleva las palmas. Cada capítulo está elaborado cuidadosamente para acompañarnos en un “detrás de cámaras” (por así decirlo) de lo que ocurre dentro de los clubes de futbol. Sobra decir que los excesos están representados a la orden del día.

Sin embargo, lo más atractivo es la presencia de sus actores: Luis Gerardo Méndez hace un papel inolvidable como el típico “hijo de papi”, Mariana Treviño adopta el papel de contraparte a la perfección y Daniel Giménez Cacho brilla como un vicepresidente atrapado en una disputa familiar.

Club-de-cuervos

La primera parte de la temporada se ilustra con un carnaval de excesos, decisiones arriesgadas y partidos de fútbol ganados. Así se ponen las cartas sobre la mesa y entendemos -como audiencia- las bases de la problemática.

Sin embargo, para la segunda parte, me topé con una enorme disparidad narrativa que hizo que yo  perdiera todo el enfoque en la historia: la representación del género femenino, sobretodo en el papel de Isabel Iglesias.

Al principio de la serie, la disputa de los hermanos es delimitada a la perfección: Chava quiere ser el presidente porque es el siguiente paso lógico en su vida como mirrey malcriado, mientras que Isabel defiende su postura al argumentar que ha dedicado su vida completa a trabajar para su papá y al equipo. Dos razones que, dentro del universo de ‘Club de Cuervos’, son totalmente plausibles.

La serie, en un comienzo, aborda la problemática de ser mujer y vivir en un universo donde el fútbol es imperativo, haciéndonos entender que esa será una de las temáticas rectoras de la serie. Sin embargo, en la segunda mitad de la temporada, ese leit motiv se pierde y las motivaciones de Isabel pasan de ser en pos del beneficio del club a transofrmarse en un mero berrinche.

El problema surge cuando los escritores deciden quitarle las razones sensatas a Isabel para ser presidenta del equipo y le otorgan argumentos infantiles y sin sentido. Así, la historia de fondo -que se trataba de abordar al inicio- de una mujer fuerte e inteligente peleando contra el sistema masculino, rector en el fútbol, se modifica radicalmente para convertirse en una rabieta. No, en un berrinche más de ella.

2015-08-10-1439220452-4797873-ClubdeCuervos-thumb

De esa forma, la disparidad comienza a permear en todos los aspectos de la serie, llegando a un punto donde los escritores no saben si defender el argumento, que tratan de mantener en un inicio, sobre si el papel de una mujer dentro de un club deportivo de futbol sea necesaria o si las mujeres no pueden participar en deportes como estos “por sus constantes cambios hormonales”.

Algo que la misma Mariana Treviño parece no disfrutar. Al comienzo de la temporada la vemos como una mujer segura de si misma, llena de conocimientos y ganas de sacar adelante al equipo. Para la segunda parte, cuando los escritores comienzan a hacer de las suyas, la actriz aparece menos tiempo en cámara y en cada una de sus escenas se ve la incomodidad que la aborda.

De la misma forma, y en un grado menor, los pocos personajes homosexuales y transgénero que hacen pequeñas apariciones en la serie sólo sirven como burla y ejemplo de lo que, al parecer, los escritores consideran que no se debe de hacer dentro de un equipo de futbol: “ser diferente”.

De esta forma, considero que la propuesta de ‘Club de Cuervos’ es muy buena. La historia es atrapante y (la mayoría de) sus personajes están bien construidos. Sin embargo, creo que -para la segunda temporada- los escritores deben decidir la postura que tomarán en cuanto al personaje de Isabel: Si debe quedarse con la presidencia del equipo porque tiene los conocimientos necesarios o porque es un berrinche más de una mujer “que se deja llevar por las hormonas” como nos quieren hacer pensar.

Nota aparte: ¡Gracias por existir, Netflix!

‘Unbrekable Kimmy Schmidt’: la reina del binge-watching.

Una de las cosas que más me gusta hacer es disfrutar de esa hermosa actividad llamada ‘binge-watching’, es decir, ver una cantidad considerable de episodios seguidos de una serie. Algo que Netflix, y otras plataformas similares, ha sabido alimentar de forma inteligente.

‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ es la última novedad con la que, esta plataforma de streaming, nos ha regalado gracilmente a todos los acérrimos fans del ‘binge-watching’. La cuál cuenta la vida de Kimmy después de haber sido rescatada de un culto apocalíptico que la tenía encerrada en un bunker junto a otro grupo de chicas.

Lo primero que tendría que decir sobre esta serie es su increíble (y acertado) cast: Ellie Kemper (Erin en ‘The Office’) retrata a la adorable Kimmy, mientras que Jane Krakowski (Jenna en ’30 Rock)  se encarga del papel de Jacqueline, una superficial neoyorkina que contrata a la protagonista para cuidar de su casa y, de paso, a ella misma.

unbreakable_kimmy_schmidt_trailer_h_2014

No sólo este par de talentosas mujeres son la perfecta dupla para llevar una serie con un tinte de humor negro (que raya en lo simple) como lo es ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, también gozan de una química suficiente para llevar a la serie de la mano. Acompañándolas también se encuentra la magnífica Carol Kane, como la dueña de la casa donde Kimmy vive, y Titus Burgess funge como el (un tanto desgastado) sassy roomate gay de la protagonista.

Así, vemos cómo Kimmy, capítulo a capítulo,  sobrevive a varias confrontaciones con una serie de personajes tan extraños, como radicales, que se despliegan entre un corolarios de maestros desobligados, hombres controladores,  falsos profetas fundamentalistas, adolescentes idiotizados por el internet y el departamento de migración de EU.

Lo que llama más mi atención de esta serie es la capacidad que tiene de tratar (y confrontar) temas de una naturaleza complicada. A final de cuentas, Kimmy es secuestrada por un culto que la mantuvo captiva por 15 años, asegurándole que el fin del mundo estaba cerca.  Cualquier persona, en otro caso, sufriría consecuencias severas. Sin embargo, la protagonista (con todo y secuelas traumáticas del evento) no se deja vencer por los obstáculos y logra salir adelante.

ellie-kemper-unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-1

De la misma forma, y a un nivel muy profundo, la serie toca ciertos temas de relevancia actual que seguramente provocaron que más de uno levantara la ceja en desaprobación. En mi caso fue la representación inequívoca de inequidad de género (pero eso lo trataré en otra entrada).

Con todo lo anterior mencionado puedo asegurar que es una serie que vale completamente la pena, ya que contiene innumerables momentos de diversión que vale la pena disfrutar. Ya sean gags recurrentes, situaciones ridículas retratadas por el humor negro o argumentos sólidos sobre temas de la actualidad, sin duda ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ llegó para quedarse.

It’s a miracle! (damn it!)