Michigan Review Article & Russian Doll

She started out jovially, joking about how she gets recognized in the strangest places. She then delved into a more serious discussion of contemporary geopolitics as well as the importance of diplomacy. “Diplomacy is one of our arms for negotiation.”

This is from my latest article with the Michigan Review. I covered a talk from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in which she joked and warned of threats to democracy. It was a fascinating discussion, and one I encourage you to read about.

Russian Doll – I am bad about watching shows, but I was simply too intrigued to avoid watching Netflix’s latest series, Russian Doll. It is absolutely tremendous, a groundhog day scenario imbued with pain and satire. The story consistently finds ways to surprise and enlighten while staying true to its comedic routes. Natasha Lyonne is great as Nadia, and her initial discoveries and plot points are fascinating and hysterical.

However, the series really becomes special when Alan played by Charlie Barnett is discovered to be going through something similar, which causes the show to go on many fascinating twists and turns. Their dynamic is terrific, where their pain and denial stem from different things and are expressed in different ways, but are ultimately one in the same. It is a brilliant show and at just eight 20 minute episodes, it takes almost no time. 9.3/10 

Apollo 11 & Daredevil Season 3 Review

Apollo 11 – This documentary does a great job of paying attention to detail. Each moment of the moon landing is painstakingly realized, from time to sound and communication. What is slightly off-putting is that this films opts for no “talking heads” and operates completely within the context of the events themselves. The goal is to create a “you are there” sensation, which at times adds to the film but also takes away from it. If you already know plenty about the mission than I suspect you probably prefer it this way, but for those who have little background in science and were not alive for the moon landing are left slightly confused. I love documentaries, and what makes them great are often the interesting subjects who help put things into context. I would have loved to hear historians discussing the implications of this event, or scientists describing exactly how the ship works. Instead I am left with plenty of interesting and cool footage, but no message from the directors. That is disappointing, especially considering how much terrific footage there is in this film. 7/10

This season was easily the best of Daredevil’s run, with smartly paced storytelling finally catching up to the already brilliant action scenes. For the first time in the show’s run, every episode felt purposeful, every move felt necessary, and nothing felt like filler. This makes it that much more disappointing that Netflix cancelled the show, as there was so much more left to offer.

Regardless, I think it is more important to look at the product of the third season as a whole before getting sad about the show’s cancellation. The newcomers in particular were great, as they added many new dimensions to the show. Jay Ali as Special Agent Ray Nadeem stands out in particular. His struggle and ultimate send-off are all incredibly powerful to watch. Overall I would give it a 8.5/10, a must watch for any Marvel fan.

BoJack Horseman Season 5 Review

BoJack Horseman ended season 4 with a commitment to being a changed man. BoJack Horseman has always been a show of twists and turns, and it never quite lets anyone off the hook. However, it finally began to seem like there might be some moments of redemption. However, just because BoJack is the hero of our story, does not mean he gets to be let off easy. If I were to boil down the lesson of this season it is that while we can make a commitment to becoming better and dealing with those around us in better and healthier ways, we have to hold ourselves accountable. Nobody else will do it for us.

This season wallows in sadness but is in many ways more subdued than years past. It does not focus so much on the glitz and glam but has stories that really try to see the characters take the next step. Princess Carolyn struggling with adoption, Dianne and Mr. Peanutbutter moving on, and BoJack dealing with the loss of his Mom and coming to terms with all of the things he has done. It once again defies convention and category, making Drama and Comedy work in ways that few shows can pull off.

My highlight of the season was the episode “Free Churro,” which constituted of BoJack giving his eulogy for his Mom. Painfully honest “Free Churro” is the best episode this series has seen since Season 3.  BoJack realizing how much of his relationship between himself and his mother has now gone to waste has some absolutely gut-punching lines that I will not spoil. Please, if you watch one episode of this show, watch “Free Churro”.

To me, BoJack Horseman is always in the 9-plus category because of its ability to stir emotions. However, my one complaint is that I felt this muted deconstruction was a very small step back from the highs of the last two seasons. Regardless, this show continues to be phenomenal. Watch it as soon as you can.

9/10

BoJack Horseman is Back

After having watched two episodes of Season 5 I am pleased to confirm that BoJack Horseman is back with all of its punches. In the second episode “The Dog Days are Over,” Diane comes to terms with her divorce and reconciles with her feelings toward Mr. PeanutButter.

BoJack Horseman has always been a tear-jerker, but it is not just in sadness that this show finds its brilliance, but it is in the way it articulates feelings and actions. Diane here is dealing with pain, still having feelings for her husband and not entirely sure how to go about fixing her sorrows. So she decides to go to Vietnam to try to get away and “reconnect with her roots”. However, the episode quickly unfolds into something darker, as you begin to realize that she is denying something caused her to take a spontaneous trip out of the country. The reveal is tremendous, and the way her pain and reasoning is articulated is beautifully done.

Sometimes, we do things to distract ourselves from the pain we feel, and we find ways to justify it. For Diane, “reconnecting to her roots,” really has to do with her struggling to cope with jealousy and heartbreak. How can we be honest with ourselves to how we are feeling while also attempting to solve the problem? It is so hard to do this properly and so often I act as Diane would and just try to do something else to avoid the problem entirely.

This episode, combining beautiful narrative structure along with heartbreaking truths showcase what BoJack Horseman does best. This show has continued to wow me, and while I hope to have a review of the full season later on, I highly recommend everyone give it a chance in the meantime.