#Chadwick

Chadwick Boseman died on August 28th from colon cancer. He was an actor, a philanthropist and beloved around the world. I first saw Chadwick in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” My friend, Ashley, dragged me to the theater to watch the movie. At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the Marvel Cinema Universe but when Chadwick appeared on the screen, I was charmed by his performance. I quickly became a fan. When “Black Panther” came out two years later, I watched the movie three times in theaters. When I heard the news of his passing, it felt like a friend died.

I usually don’t get caught up with celebrity deaths but for the past week, Chadwick has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about his legacy and his incredible work ethic. As a cancer survivor myself, I am impressed that he continued to work despite his illness. It makes me realize two things: 

  1. You have no idea what someone is going through. Chadwick worked during his cancer treatments, making the Marvel films and several others in a four year span. I think about the pandemic and how so many of us are struggling while keeping a brave face on, trying our best to get through the day. Knowing what he went through reminds me to be kind. These days, everyone is fighting some kind of battle. 
  2. I have to admit that when things get hard in my life, I tend to shut down. I push people away. I’ll spend hours crying in my bathroom. I’ll neglect my self-care and spend all of my free time sleeping. I throw myself pity parties and tell myself that I’m worthless and a screw-up. My cancer was caused by HPV. When I was first diagnosed, I repeatedly told myself that I was an idiot for not insisting that my previous partners wear protection: if they wore condoms, if I treated my body and sexual health better, if I loved and respected myself like I should have, I wouldn’t have had cancer. While I don’t know how he dealt with his diagnosis, I admire that Chadwick continued to work. He may have been in pain but he continued to show up and keep fighting. He may have had some break downs but he still put in his best every day. That is inspiring. Seeing that energy fuels me to keep going. Chadwick lived unapologetically, to the best of his capability, to the very end- may we all do so.

In my culture, death is not the end.” – Black Panther/ T’Challa

Rest in power, King

#TheBestOf2019

I’m going to skip my usual ramble about how good entertainment was this year (it was SO good) and get to the meat of this post. Let’s go!

MOVIES. This year, I worked at an art house cinema and one of the perks of working there was the chance to see movies for free. I took advantage of that opportunity as often as I could and saw some gems that I would have never considered. I was blown away by a lot of the movies that the production company, A24, put out but there were a few films that were particularly special to me.

  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This is my favorite movie of the year, hands down. There’s this scene in the middle of the film where one of the characters stares into a mirror, puffs up his chest and tries to replicate the mannerisms of one of his peers. If you’re like me and spent a good time questioning your racial identity and mimicked stereotypes from your culture, you will understand that scene. It broke me and made me cry. But I loved it. Everything about the movie is beautiful. Seeing San Francisco filmed so vibrantly made me yearn for the West Coast- this cover does, too.
  • The Lighthouse. What a wonderfully weird movie… I hope it’s nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards next year (maybe for Best Foreign Language Film because I had no idea what Willem Dafoe was saying a good chunk of the time). The song playing over the closing credit WILL get stuck in your head- I sing it to my cat quite often.
  • Midsommer. I’m not a horror person. I watch scary movies through the cracks of my fingers as they cover my eyes. But man, this movie was fantastic. It doesn’t play into the traditional horror troupes, the ones with lots of blood and gore. The movie is bright and cheerful at points. It does have the Final Girl troupe– and she does came back triumphantly.
  • Hustlers. Not going to lie- I love strip clubs. And I loved this movie. Yeah, the ending was abrupt but can we just talk about the make-up- all that black eyeliner and glitter? My high school self ate up those costumes. I also love how JLo asked Fiona Apple permission to use her song, “Criminal” in the movie. Jennifer Lopez is an icon. Puerto Rican pride all the way.
  • Avengers: Endgame. I’m so tired of superhero movies. I loved Black Panther but I didn’t see the majority of the other Marvel films. I saw Avengers: Infinity War (my friend, Ashley, dragged me by the ear to see it with her) and I liked it (mostly because of Chris Evans- hello, nurse!) But man, was this a solid end to a story building up the last ten years (unlike a series about a certain Jedi…Ugh).

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

TELEVISION. This year was an especially hard one for me and TV was such a comfort. I loved coming home from work, making myself dinner and binging on something until I went to bed. I sought out shows that took me out of my life and I discovered- rediscovered- some gems. (And yes, I have to mention Game of Thrones. The last episode was the first full one I watched and honestly, I didn’t think it was terrible. I’ll get through the series eventually.)

  • Euphoria (HBO). After the credits of the final GoT episode, HBO previewed a trailer for Euphoria, a high school drama featuring Zendaya. I will always stand for tales of high school (Can’t Hardly Wait continues to be one of my favorites) so I decided to check it out. Man, high school has changed A LOT since I was a student. Maybe for the better? Maybe for the worse? I don’t know. But I loved this show. It’s dark yet colorful. The acting is stellar. And the music… I’ll get to that later.
  • Watchmen (HBO). I’m one of the few who actually like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. So when HBO announced that they’re bringing the series to their network, I was pumped! What a roller coaster those episodes were- just give Regina King her Emmy now! I’m bummed that audiences didn’t love the show as much as I did. I hope that HBO continues with the series despite what viewers thought- ahem, the pool scene in the last episode. If you saw that, you know what I’m talking about and I know that you want to know what happens next.
  • Mr. Robot (USA). I have to admit that I stopped waiting Mr. Robot after the second season (a lot of people did). Something told me to start watching again this season and boy, I’m glad that I did. Like Watchmen, this season is this gradually build up of intensity. There’s this episode in the middle of this season that almost feels like a play with the four leads bouncing line after line off each other. Rami Malek’s eyes alone do so much talking and connecting. There is ONLY one episode left of the series. I can’t wait to see how it ends (I’m guessing a time loop?).
  • Unbelievable (Netflix). I was recommend this show several times but finally gave it a watch because Toni Collette is a powerhouse in it. It’s a tough to view (especially when you are a survivor of sexual assault) but the ending is so satisfying. I can’t believe that this series of events happened and I’m glad the story is being visually told. I also highly recommend a book about the case. I just finished it and WOW. (Side note: I need to write more long form pieces. New Year’s resolution #1 is getting back into journalistic reporting somewhere, somehow.)
  • Sex Education (Netflix). Quirky. Fun. British. Do I need to say more? Sex Education was another recommendation and let’s face it- Gillian Anderson makes the show. I love how eager her character is to fix everyone’s love/sex life. I can’t wait for the next season. I want more and more.
  • Modern Love (Amazon). I fell in love with The New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column a few years ago and gobbled up tales of romantic, heartbreak and New York City. When the show was released, I binged the entire season in bed with a bowl of ice cream and six glasses of wine. My favorite story is in the  third episode that features Anne Hathaway. As someone who has depression, I related to this episode’s message so much (another side note: dating when you have  a mental illness can be tough but remember to be kind to yourself as if you’re the person you’re seeing).
  • Conan Without Borders (TBS). Conan O’Brien will always be my favorite late night host. I was devastated what happened to him at NBC but Conan only came back stronger. He and his team have this great segment where they travel to various part of the world, interview the locals and learn their customs. It’s brilliant, hilarious and at times, incredibly touching. This year, Conan went to Australia and Greenland but it was his trip to Ghana that was most impressive. He went to experience the Year of Return, which marks 400 years of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Jamestown Virginia. That particular episode was so insightful and Conan hosted with love and grace. Please give him the funding for a full-time travel show already.
  • Joe Pera Talks With You (Adult Swim/ Cartoon Network). Are you having a bad day? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad week? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad month? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad year? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. Joe offers the most wholesome humor in each 10-minute episode. Start with episode six of the first season and let your worries melt away. Your heart will sing and your face will hurt from smiling so much.
  • YouTube. Does YouTube count as television? Sure, it does! GQ and Vanity Fair‘s YouTube channels have this awesome series where different actors break down movies from their careers, adding fun trivia and tidbits about their directors and costars. Most recently, the publications have had Kathy Bates and Jack Black talking about the highlights of their most memorable films. The Pastry Chef Attempts to Make Gourmet series on Bon Appétit‘s channel is the perfect watch when you need something light and comforting (and are done with Joe Pera). I want to be BFFs with their chef, Claire Saffitz– can we make gourmet Maltesers together, please?

MUSIC. Look, I listen to the same ten songs on Spotify account, as well as the same six podcasts. It usually takes an act from God for me to listen to something new so when I do, I scream about it. Below is some of the reasons why I have a sore throat now:

  • “The Ride” by Amanda Palmer. It was a Sunday after a terrible week. I spent the day before in bed, didn’t shower but needed from coffee. I put on clothes, found the New Music tab in Spotify and walked to Starbucks for a latte. “The Ride” was the first song that came up. I stopped midway and cried as I listened to the lyrics. I only knew Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls, a band my college roommate loved. I’m a fan now. From the sweeping carousel sounds to the lyrics about getting off the ride… I can lie in bed and listen to it over and over and over again and somehow, it makes me feel safe and less alone.
  • Lil Nas X and Lizzo. It was their year. Need I say more? I love them both and all of the positivity they both stand for.
  • “Medellín” by Madonna and Maluma. I tried to challenge myself musically this year and break away from my regular song rotation, incorporating more Latin music through my day. 2020 will be the year I finally become fluent in Spanish and I had a good refreshers translating lyrics from Latin pop hits. I also am my mother’s daughter and thus, will be a Madonna fan for the rest of my life. This year, she release Madame X which featured a lot of Latin-inspired rhythm and beats. She brought Maluma, this fantastic Colombian singer, on a few tracks and they make magic for your ears.
  • “I Know” by King Princess and Fiona Apple. Who knows when Fiona Apple will release a new album? Until then, I devoured this reworking of her song with King Princess. I have no idea why this version feels more “Fiona Apple” then the original version but nevertheless, it’s gorgeous.
  • “All For Us” by Zendaya and Labrinth. I raved about Euphoria earlier. The show is fantastic but the music is… whoa. The closing scene uses a reworking of a Labrinth song which now features Zendaya. Just do me a favor and watch the YouTube clip. Trust me. Do it.
  • Music from Avengers: Endgame. Alan Silvestri was given the incredible task of scoring the biggest movie of the year and boy, is it good! From the building crescendo of the strings to the thunderous brass and percussion, listening to the whole album makes me feel like a superhero. It’s my favorite music to run to (I pretend that I’m Captain Marvel when I do).
  • Music inspired by Game of Thrones: I didn’t watch GoT but I listened to a lot of great music inspired by the series- like this YouTube video that I played countless times (man, I wish that I could play like Tom Morello). The Weeknd, SZA and Travis Scott also came out with this great little number that I fell for.

MUSIC OF THE DECADE. I wanted to add something about the musicians that inspired me this most this decade. Music has the been the form of entertainment that  shaped my soul the most and I can think about the two artists that I will always rep and hold close to my heart.

  • Lana Del Rey. I was living in Brooklyn in 2011 when I first heard the songstress’s voice for the first time. “Blue Jeans” was moody and haunting and pulled me in instantly. I just went through my first break-up with a boyfriend and Lana felt like the pain of losing a first love. She felt like New York City. I followed her career closely since and have been memorized by everything she puts out. Lana is my musical best friend, getting me through bouts of depression and pumping me up for a night out.
  • James Blake. One of my favorite TV shows ended this year. “iZombie” had its ups and downs but in its first season’s finale, “Retrograde” by James Blake was heavily featured. I heard that loop of his vocals and hooked. As decade progressed, I appreciated the fact that he collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce.  James is so innovative and gives me the chills. I had the privilege of seeing him live this past autumn and I stood in the crowd mentally sobbing with the biggest smile on my face. I love him and everything he stands for.

What were your favorites of the year, dear reader?

#TheBestOf2018

Oh, 2018. You made my eyes and ears explode. So much happened in the world of entertainment this year that kept me glued to various screens- my computer, my phone, my television and the local cinema’s. This year may have been a how one for some but in 2018, the world of a pop culture soared. Below are my favorites and recommendations of this passing year.

The cast of “Eighth Grade”

Movies (please note that I have not seen absolutely everything that came out this year but I did come close… kind of):

  • Ibiza” (Netflix) It’s a cheesy rom-com but sometimes we need a little extra queso in our life. The music is fun and the lead, Richard Madden, is eye and ear candy (he’s Scottish).
  • Eighth Grade.” (Out on DVDV now.) This movie is for eighth grade me AND the present day me. It nails being awkward and uncomfortable- or as I like to describe myself- confidently unconfident.
  • Black Panther.” (Netflix) I am not a Marvel fan but man, this movie was great (I saw it in the cinema thrice). It made me wish that Wakanda was an actual place and that I could visit it.
  • Ocean’s 8.” (Out on DVDV now.)  Just watch the movie for the clothes (the coats! the footwear!). That reminds me- in 2019, I need to start dressing better, more sophisticated.
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story.” (Out on DVDV now.) I may be the only person who likes “Solo” but come on! It has Darth Maul in it (spoiler alert).
  • A Star Is Born.” (In theaters) The movie left a profound impact on me. I left the movie theaters in tears but feeling inspired to sing (I beelined straight for the karaoke bar next door and tried to do my best Lady Gaga).

Music and podcasts:

“This is America” by Childish Gambino

  • Ariana Grande’s “no tears felt to cry.” 2018 was Ariana’s year. She came out with so many bangers but this one is my favorite (also, check out Miley Cyrus’ cover. It’s stripped down and so pretty).
  • Lake Street Dive’s “Good Kisser.” Rachel Price’s voice is perfection. God, I wish I could sing like her (despite my all my efforts). I was having a terrible day at work and found this tune while browsing Spotify. It immediately made me feel better (and who hasn’t been in that position? Damn exes who talk garbage about you after terrible breakups.)
  • These Days.” Speaking of exes, this song… But it’s so good and speaks many truths. Too often, we think about our ex and their life without us in it (or maybe that might just be me). I like to think my ex wrote this about me, for me, especially when I moved to Austin.
  • Nice For What.” Attention women of planet earth! Please listen to this song and make it your anthem! Thank you, Drake!
  • Bazzi’s “Mine.” What a cute, short love song. I would sing this to my cat- I’d hold her in my arms and tell her how happy I was that she belonged to me (Plus, I love this video. It’s weird and trippy and fun to watch).
  • The entire “Black Panther” soundtrack. It’s golden.
  • “This is America.” Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) is a genius. The song is good but when it’s paired with its music video, it catches fire. Add Glover’s SNL performance and your mind will explode. This songs started conversations and forced people to face some uncomfortable truths.
  • Armchair Expert” featuring Dax Shepard and other special guests. It is a surprisingly thoughtful podcast mixed in with silly humor from Dax (I particularly loved the episode Ashton Kutcher episode).

Television (it’s the same as with movies- there is way too much to watch and I’m still trying to catch up):

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

  • Who Is America?” (Showtime)There are so many things to say about this show. It’s crazy. It’s shocking. It’s hilarious. And you learn a lot about the people in our country (and just how stupid and misinformed they are). Sacha Baron Coehn is brilliant and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” (Amazon Prime) The new season premiered a couple of weeks ago and I binged through all ten episodes in three days. I love the costumes, the dialogue, the humor. This charming show is a ten.
  • The new season of “A Handmaid’s Tale.” (Amazon Prime) The season frustrated me soon. I loved it, thought it was visually stunning but that season finale… Nope. I screamed at my TV and threw my shoe, hoping somehow to would hit the character, June, in the face. I understand her motivites but the season finale was incredibly frustating.
  • Beyonce’s Coachella performance. (YouTube) Okay, it technically wasn’t a television program but I was glued to YouTube watching Queen Bae do her thing. I love her. I will always worship her.

Remembering

  • Kate Spade. You made beautiful and affordable accessories. I felt like a million bucks when I donned your goodies. You are deeply missed.
  • Stephen Hillenburg. Thanks for creating SpongeBob, the best cartoon on the planet.  You are deeply missed.
  • Stan Lee. Your idea of connecting people with superpowers and social justice issues was beyond clever. Thank you for making us feel less alone. You are deeply missed.
  • Dolores O’Riordan. I’m just going to play this gem of a song in your honor (thanks for writing it and so many others).
  • Aretha Franklin. Forever cool. Forever badass. Forever Queen. You are deeply missed.
  • Anthony Bourdain.  If Arthea was cool, you were ice cold. Every beer I drink, every whiskey I sip- I dedicated them to you. Every time I think about traveling (especially as I plan my birthday trip to Central America), I think about you. Thank you for igniting that speaks in me. You are deeply missed.

What were your favorite pieces of entertainment this year, dear reader?

#ADreamToMe

When I was in high school, I tried to organize the LVHS Film Club. I had interest from students and secured an adviser (hi, Ms. Powell!) but was shot down the principal. She was pretty conservative and I’m pretty sure she thought that we were going to make porn or bloody slasher flicks (we definitely would have the latter). I continued to write scripts throughout college, always keeping the idea of filmmaking in the back of my mind. I thought about pursuing it but I struggled with other collegiate decisions so it was something that I never followed through with. When I dropped out of UNR and moved to NYC, I was fortunate to sit on some classes for free at the New York Film Academy (thanks, John Loughlin!). I met some talented writers and filmmakers and learned a lot but I pursued my journalism degree, moving back west and eventually found a job where I (somewhat) use my degree. But writing and directing movies is something that I’m still incredibly passion about- I just wrote a new script about race and robots that I really want to make this year. I’m just not sure how to make that happen.

Sometimes, especially of late, I wonder if I made the wrong choice with my life. I should have went to film school and got a degree in film. Okay… back up, Andrea. I’m happy that I got my degree in journalism (even though I’m not accomplishing the dream I envisioned in college- writing for “Vogue” and “Vanity Fair”- but that’s another blog post).  I like my job and, for the most part, my career path. But on the weekends, I go to the cinema to watch movies and think to myself, this is something that I need to be doing. Why am I doing at my current job? It’s not giving me the satisfaction that I want. What am I doing with my life? I watched “Black Panther” for the third time this week and cried in my seat, thinking that this (filmmaking) is something I will probably never achieve… I work the standard 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. I workout every day for two hours. Sleep a least six hours a night. On the weekends, I try to maintain my social life, self-care, chores and other responsibilities. All I want to do is be creative but I never have time because I’m either working or recovering. I have no idea how people have hobbies. In real life, dreams aren’t sustainable.

Ryan Coogler, you’re a genius. Thanks for the inspiration.

Another thing I’m struggling with is confidence. In the past, I would never let anyone read my scripts but now, I shove whatever I’m working on in my friends’ faces. I’m more confident about my writing and my vision but when it comes to asking for help to realize projects, I fall flat (and it’s not just with filmmaking. I struggle asking for anything). I went to a couple of local filmmaker MeetUps and just froze. I was intimidated and felt small- how do I make that feeling of stupidity go away? This last year, I’ve been thinking about grad school, possibly film school. I do research about various programs and print out applications. But then, my brain tells me, you’re old. You will be one of the oldest students in that program (even though I’m only 31- I know, I know). It’s a young industry. You have friends in their early 20s who are receiving film school rejection letters. Would you even get in with your undergrad grades? Plus, do you really want more student loans?

In rereading the text above, I realize that I sound incredibly negative. I know that I make A LOT of excuses and I know that I’m pretty damn on hard on myself. I could be like so-and-so (Spielberg, Jenkins, Coogler, Tarantino, Bigelow…) but only if I get out of my head and start working- even if it’s at a snail’s pace. I know that more and more serious filmmakers are giving film school the finger and shooting stuff on their iPhones (i.e. “Tangerine“). I need to follow that route. I need to start asking for help (hint, hint… from you, dear reader) and being more open. I need to start holding myself accountable (you can find some time on your busy schedule, Andrea). I feel like a shift is happening- more people of color are getting into filmmaking (yay!) So are women (yay!). And I really want to be a part of this. I know that I have good stories to tell. I have dreams to fulfill. I want to make movies.

What have you always dreamed about doing, dear reader- and what are you doing to make those dreams come true?

#WhyRepresentationMatters

Black Panther” is the ish. I saw it Thursday night in a packed theater and cheered along with my fellow attendees for the warriors of Wakanda. Unlike most Marvel films where the lead character is looking for said object that might destroy the universe, the challenge in “Black Panther” is determining whether or not so share certain wealth with the world. It’s a refreshing take on a superhero movie (and a welcomed one from me, who hates most of what Marvel puts out). And did I mention how feminist the movie is?

A movie that explores what it means to be Black, centered on a Black superhero, featuring a mostly Black cast and helmed by a Black director… Wow.

I’m happy to be living in a moment where representation is coming to the forefront. I devour social media and to read how much people of color are excited about “Black Panther” is thrilling. Little Black kids are able to get an action figure that looks like them. People are feeling connected to the Mother Land. We’re seeing someone who looks like us.

Why is representation important?

To quote Former First Lady Michelle Obama, representation is important because, They (people of color) become part of who you are. You share their pains. You understand their fears. They make you laugh, and they change how you see the world. And that is particularly true in a country where there are still millions of people who live in communities where they can live their whole lives not having contact or exposure with people who aren’t like them, whether that is race or religion or simply lifestyle. The only way that millions of people get to know other folks and the way they live … is through the power of television and movies.

But not just with various skin colors- it is important to represent genders in a different sects of society. And we’re seeing more of that. We are seeing more women run for office. More women are speaking up against the prejudices in their industries (see Hollywood and the music industry).

I’m thrilled for the success of “Black Panther.” But I’m ready to see more ethnicities (Asian, Middle Eastern, Latinx), sexual orientations and genders on the screen, in politics. So, the next question is… how do we keep this momentum going? Those that know me well know that I’m a big fan of torrenting movies offline (hello, I’m cheap). But when it comes to “Black Panther,” TAKE MY MONEY! Support the entertainment that is making a difference- music, film, writers, etc. Same with politics. Get up and vote for the people like you. Also- encourage, encourage encourage. Encourage those area you to vote, to get involved, to learn and expand their minds. Encourage those creative people of color in your life to create art that reflects their lives- art about their family and friends. Create art that is more than surface level, something that every day people don’t expect and that makes them think. Keep the dream alive and keep the ball rolling…

(And go see “Black Panther” this weekend, dear reader. #TreatYoSelf)