Television is in no position to tell you what to do. What it can do is show you that you’re not alone—and that there is a way up, if you can find it for yourself.
Bojack Horseman ended a few weeks backs, and it was near perfect. Bojack really solidified in my mind its genius and incredible bravery. To me, “The View from Halfway Down,” and the finale “Nice While it Lasted” captured the need for accountability. Too often, characters are able to be terrible without any real-world consequences. Bojack had to come to terms with that in a biting and brilliant finale. An arrest for breaking and entering is a perfectly weird way for Bojack to finally deal with his actions, and he then has to come to terms with the friends and people he has hurt. I truly loved it, and it is so sad that the show is over. The show ended with the song Mr. Blue, and it broke my heart. Thank you, Bojack Horseman, for being the best show in the past decade.
Another fascinating Netflix series to watch is Cheer. The show follows cheer powerhouse Navarro College as they prepare for their national championship. One thing the show does an excellent job of is showcasing the physicality and danger with cheerleading. Brutal injuries and microphones capture the pain and intensity of the sport. With nothing but bones to catch girls flying up in there, it never occurred to me just how dangerous the sport is. The director, Greg Whiteley (Last Chance U) described the Navarro cheerleaders as the toughest he has ever filmed, and it is easy to see why. They put their bodies and lives on the line every single day.
Another reason why this is a fascinating watch is the discussion around this series. Much of it centers around the coach of Navarro College cheer, Monica Aldama. Aldama is a mother to many of these athletes but also puts her athletes in danger. An article from Amanda Mull does an excellent job of placing Cheer into a wider context.
It’s true that she is hardly singular in the way she interacts with her college students, but in refusing to cast a critical eye at the way this approach to power has always endangered athletes, the docuseries bows out of a crucial component of Navarro’s story, and of the story of sports in America.
I think I take a less harsh stance on Monica, but I agree that Monica is incredibly similar to coaches I have had in the past. That you have to go past your limits and that we should be thankful for the opportunity. I also loved Monica at certain points. When one of her athletes got threatening messages and revenge nude photos posted of them online, she immediately took the athlete to the police station to get it sorted out. When all of her athletes talk about Monica it is very clear they admire her.
However, in one scene she makes an athlete with an injured back practice until he is crying on the mat. That scene and others made me shudder. I think Monica should not have that power over her athletes. But I can understand and appreciate the admiration and love she gives her athletes. Nevertheless, Cheer is a must-watch. It is a fascinating study of athletics in America, and incredibly binge-able.
Joker – I am watching the Oscars as I write this, and I know that Joker could win big. I am not a huge fan. I think I will write more about this in the future, so I will keep this short. I do think a big part of the movie is dumb. I found the connections to the Wayne family fascinating and Phoenix’s performance riveting if not great throughout. I find the ideas in this movie to be pho-intellectual, and while I commend Todd Philips for taking a risk, I think more sincerity should have been taken with this film. C+
The Farewell – The Farewell is an excellent examination of family dynamics and cultural differences. The movie is about a family who has to lie to their Grandmother about her Cancer diagnosis when they all visit her. Billi, the main character, finds it hard to believe they should lie. The rest of her family does so because they think it is best for their Grandma.
It manages to examine family dynamics and troubles, while also creating plenty of interesting drama. It is not perfect, but I really enjoyed plenty of it. I also thought Awkwafina was fantastic. A great watch if you are interested. B+