Sense8

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game!

Sex, philosophy, and high octane thrills–these are the first things that come to mind when I think of Sense8, the latest Netflix original series to hit the small screen. Written and directed by the Wachowskis–most famous for their work on The Matrix Trilogy, V For Vendetta, and more recently, Cloud AtlasSense8 follows a group of eight strangers from various parts of the world who, one day, become psychically linked, and find themselves able to see, hear, smell, touch and taste what the others do. The eight in question are Will, a Chicago police officer, Riley, an Icelandic DJ, Nomi, a transgender hacker from LA, Lito, a closeted gay Mexican actor, Kala, a Mumbai pharmacist, Capheus, a Kenyan bus-driver, Wolfgang, a German locksmith, and finally, Sun, a South Korean businesswoman. Each of them quickly becomes aware of the others’ existence, acquiring skills and habits that they originally did not possess, and even learning how to communicate with one another, despite all speaking different languages. Things only get worse when a mysterious man named Jonas appears and tells them that they are all being hunted by an unknown organization that wants to kill them. And, well, the story just gets crazier from there on in.

Now, before I go any further, I just want to make a few things clear. First, I actually really like this show–it’s one of the few series that I couldn’t stop watching. And second, I would seriously recommend that most people give it a look–if forced to assign a fractional score, I’d probably give Sense8 a 7.5 out of 10. That said, I do have problems with the series, and would like to bring them up in this review, but only with the hopes that, if the filmmakers do get the chance to produce a second season, they can learn from their mistakes and make an even more awesome show. But, I digress. Back to the review!

I did some research, and found that Sense8 actually started off as a desire the Wachowski’s had to use sci-fi to comment on current events. With hindsight, this seems kind of obvious, seeing as the show touches upon a number of prominent social issues, such as gender, sexuality, identity, and even AIDS. And while I admire the series for that, and for its international setting and cast, I do still have some problems with it.

First of all, when you watch the show, it becomes very clear that certain story lines–specifically, the ones that address the issues I just listed–were given a lot more thought and care than others. You spend a whole lot more time with Nomi and Lito than anyone else. Hell, there are whole episodes where you don’t even see Capheus, Kala, or Sun. Now, on the one hand, I can understand why the Wachowskis would choose to do this. One of them, Lana, is a transgender woman, and I can totally see why she would want to talk about her own experiences and hardships through art. That’s all well and good, but if your primary goal was to discuss gender and sexuality, why include all these other characters? Why not have the show just be about Nomi and Lito? It would give you more time to develop them, and wouldn’t distract the audience from the series’ main objective.

The second issue I have with the show is the fact that, just as certain story lines are given more thought and care than others, so too are some narratives given little to no thought at all. Riley, for instance, is featured in every episode, and yet she does absolutely nothing. I’m serious! 90% of the time she’s on screen, she just sits there, listens to music, and looks sad. She barely talks, and she never initiates anything. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that interesting at all. So why are we spending so much time with her? This just goes to show you how poorly thought-out certain narratives in this series are.

The third problem I have with Sense8 is a problem I have with a lot of American films and TV shows set in other countries–that being that the depiction of those countries and their people is pretty stereotypical. Nairobi, for instance, is shown as a never-ending slum, overflowing with drugs, hookers, and warlords. Similarly, Berlin is portrayed as a grey, dreary, over-cast puddle where no one smiles. And as if the environments in which you see these characters interacting isn’t cliche enough, the characters themselves are more or less archetypes. Kala, for instance, is a “modern Indian woman” who doesn’t want to marry a man she doesn’t love. Sun, likewise, is an amalgamation of every stereotype Westerners have about East Asian Females–she stoic, knows martial arts, and is regularly abused by men. All I’m saying is, if you want to have your story be set in all different parts of the world, do your best to represent those parts accurately.

But, if you ask me, the biggest error that the creators of Sense8 made was having their characters be kind of stupid. What I mean by that is there are numerous points in the series where the characters wind up in unpleasant circumstances, and these circumstances are ones that the protagonists could easily have avoided. Kala, for instance, doesn’t want to marry a man named Rajan, but goes along with the wedding anyway. Why? It’s not like this is an arranged marriage. The series goes out of its way to explain how this is a consensual union, and how both her and Rajan’s families are super modern and progressive-minded. So, if Kala really didn’t want to marry him, she could just have easily said no, and then there’d be no problem. Similarly, Sun’s predicament is one that she could easily have gotten out of. See, she and her brother are executives in their father’s company, and after a while, you find out that her brother’s been embezzling money. So, Sun, being the gracious and loving older sister, takes the blame for all his crimes, and goes to prison. Just one small problem with this–in absolutely no way does she have to! The series shows numerous instances of her father and brother treating her like shit, and of her hating their guts in equal measure, so why would she go to prison for them? It just doesn’t seem logical. All I can think is that the creators were trying to ride the coat-tails of Orange Is The New Black’s success, which, as most of you probably know, is all about women in the prison system. But, either way, the choices that the characters in this series make are ridiculous, and when they get into trouble for making them, I don’t really feel much sympathy. Let’s just hope the writers come up with some better ideas next season.

But, all these criticisms aside, I do still think there’s a lot to admire with this show. It’s well acted, the premise is interesting, and there are a lot of touching and profound moments in it. All I can say is that, if the creators learn from their mistakes next season, they just might have themselves a perfect show. Don’t hesitate to give it a look.

Inside Out

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Imaginative, moving, and in many cases, very, very funny, Pixar’s latest feature, Inside Out, is a magnificent movie, well worth the price of a ticket. Regardless of whether you’re old or young, black or white, straight or gay, I guarantee that you’ll walk out of this film with a huge smile on your face. It’s that good, loved ones! It’s that good!

Now, I realize that that’s a pretty bold assertion to make, and that I might be the slightest bit biased in this matter. After all, I grew up on Pixar movies. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monster’s Inc–these films were my childhood. Still, I’m more than a little convinced that my adoration of this picture has nothing to do with my own nostalgic love of the company that made it. The movie currently holds a 98% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. It’s made more than $400 million at the box office. I saw it in a movie theater packed with people–most of them adults–who were laughing just as hard, if not harder, than myself. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the movie’s objectively good.

But what is the movie about? Well, it’s essentially the story of what goes on inside a little girl’s head. Her brain is a massive city. Her emotions are people with differing personalities. Her memories are these little glowing orbs that form the foundations of all the buildings. And if they get lost, oh boy, bad things happen! And that, in essence, is what this story is about–the little girl, RIley, loses her core memories, and two of her emotions, Joy and Sadness, have to go retrieve them in a wacky, colorful, and downright beautiful adventure.

As I’ve said before, there’s a lot to admire about this film. The animation is amazing. The writing is brilliant. The humor is spot on. And the creativity with which the filmmakers crafted this world is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t want to waste anyone else’s time by being redundant, so I’ll just say this. Inside Out is a near-perfect movie that I’m sure you’ll all enjoy if you choose to go see it. It’s a 9 out of 10. Watch it, love it, and watch it again!

 

If you agree, and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a reply. If you disagree, and would like to express why, don’t hesitate to do so. And if you enjoyed this post, and would like to see more, feel free to follow my blog at liusviews.com

Why Colorblind Casting Works

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Loved ones, it’s a hard truth to swallow but, we’re all somewhat prejudiced. At least, as far as entertainment is concerned we are. We all have set notions about the way certain characters should look and act–about who our heroes and our villains should be. This is most likely due to the fact that Hollywood consistently employs archetypes and formulas in its films–particularly in the genres of action, horror and comedy. As a result, we tend to develop preconceived notions about the characters and story-lines of films even before we see them. Oh, she’s a blonde girl in a horror film? That means she’s a slut, and that she’s going to be the first one to die. Oh, he’s a black dude in a crime drama? Well, that can only mean that he’s a drug dealer and/or ex-con. Now, on it’s own, this presumption about fiction might seem harmless, but it can have serious real-life consequences. If all we ever see of certain groups is what’s shown to us in TV and movies, and those representations are biased or inaccurate, we can develop negative and fallacious conceptions of those groups. Not all blonde girls are sluts. Not all Black guys are drug dealers or ex-cons. This is why Colorblind Casting is such a good thing.

For those of you who don’t know, Colorblind Casting is when a filmmaker chooses to cast an actor in a part that they might not typically be seen in–i.e. casting a Black person to play a character traditionally shown as White, casting a woman in a role usually reserved for a man, etc. This has been done several times throughout theater and cinema history, and more often than not, to positive effect. In the sci-fi horror classic Alien, for instance, the main character, Ripley, was supposed to be a man, but the director, Ridley Scott, ended up casting Sigourney Weaver in the role. Similarly, the 2008 BBC television series Merlin employed several actors of color in roles traditionally described in the Arthurian legends as Caucasian, most notably Queen Guinevere and Sir Elyan The White. Basically, Colorblind Casting is an incredibly good, not entirely uncommon practice, and one that I believe more filmmakers should partake in. Why? Well, three reasons, actually.

First, Colorblind Casting is good for the actors. Whether we like to think about it or not, women and minorities do oftentimes get relegated to smaller and/or stereotypical roles in films and television. So, when they’re chosen for non-conventional, higher-profile parts, critics and audiences tend to pay attention, and the actor in question’s career usually takes a turn for the better.

Second, Colorblind Casting is good for the filmmakers. Studies have shown that films and TV shows with more diverse casts tend to do better with critics and make more money. Just look at Grey’s Anatomy. The creators of the show wrote the characters without any specific racial identities, cast the actors who did the best job, regardless of how they looked, and now the series is on its 12th season. That’s got to tell you something.

And third, Colorblind Casting is good for audiences. As I stated earlier, the way we perceive certain groups is oftentimes influenced by how those groups are represented in media. If those representations are more well-rounded, then our perceptions of the groups in question will likewise be more nuanced. Alien’s Ellen Ripley taught us that women can be bad-ass action heroes. Hannibal’s Beverly Katz showed America that Asians can be witty, well-rounded and tough, and don’t have to know Kung Fu, speak broken English or lack a sense of humor to be taken seriously.

So why not employ Colorblind Casting more often? It’s good for the people making the films, and it’s good for the people watching them. It is, in every sense of the phrase, a win-win situation. That is why I’m calling upon all aspiring filmmakers out there to keep an open mind when working on a project. Don’t just go for the first thing that comes to mind when casting. Try to envision what the story would be like if the main character were Asian, Latino, Female or Disabled. If you do so, I can almost guarantee that good things will happen to everyone involved.

 

If you agree, and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a reply. If you disagree, and would like to express why, don’t hesitate to do so. And if you enjoyed this post, and would like to see more, feel free to follow my blog at liusviews.com