6 ways ‘The Big Sick’ shows what’s wrong with Hollywood

Last Tuesday was our wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we went out for a movie. We saw “The Big Sick”. If there’s a movie that shows what’s wrong with most of the films coming out of Hollywood these days – well, let’s be honest, the entire history of american cinema – this is the one.

And before you skip down to the comment section (which I hope you do at some point) let me assure you that I know this is an “indy” film. It did not come out of the hollywood machine. And you can tell. It’s wonderfully obvious.

“The Big Sick” hit theatres on July 17 2017. As I said, we went to see it on a Tuesday. The auditorium was full. A FULL AUDITORIUM on the show’s THIRD Tuesday. And this is a lowly indy film! But, even more amazing (at least for me) is that it was full of mostly mixed couples. By ‘mixed couples’ I mean that one member of each couple had a different ethnic or cultural background from the other member of said couple. My wife and I happen to be from two different ethnic origins. But what I saw in the auditorium was so amazing. There were African and European couples. There were Southeast Asian and African couples. There were Asian and First Nation couples. For all I know (I may have missed it) there might have been a Trafalmagorian and Earthling couple. I can attest, however, that every continent was represented in that theatre.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I have been witness to such a thing.

The Big Sick

The Big Sick

I know why it happened. I hope that hollywood realizes why it happened. Just in case they haven’t yet realized some of the keys to the success of “The Big Sick”, however, I’m going to list some them. Perhaps someone in hollywood will see this and take notes.

1. This was a fairly simple romantic comedy about real people with real problems. The main characters (played by Kumail Nanjani and Zoe Kazan) are struggling to make ends meet. They don’t live in well appointed Manhattan apartments. Neither of them are a huge success at anything. And at the end of the film these “problems” are not solved.

2. The actors looked like real people who had never been to a stylist or plastic surgeon.

3. The lead actor was a person who was not of European descent. And yet, he was a real American. And I want to point out something funny here. When the movie began, I assumed Kumail was a taxi driver – boy oh boy, were my prejudiced assumptions turned up-side down! He was an Uber driver! I’m not being facetious. This is a big deal; a small detail, but a big deal.

4. Ethnic stereotypes were not merely played for comedy, but actually made the characters more complex and endearing. Kamail’s father Azmat’s singing Pakistani songs. He loves it! And it’s not merely a comic gag. It’s an important part of his marriage story. Also, we got to see the woman’s side of the equation in a marriage that’s made by arrangement. Khadija’s reaction to Kamail’s rejection is heartbreaking. Those of us who don’t have to deal with having our marriage arranged for us, get just a glimpse (but it’s an eye-opener) into the dynamics at play.

5. Characters whose ethnic background were other than European were not played as “fish out of water”. They were Americans. I thought it was interesting that Kamail’s sister-in-law thought that Kamail should naturally be on Saturday Night Live. He’s a comedian, so of course he should be on Saturday Night Live. Why not? Now, those of us “in the know” realize what a revolutionary statement that is. But just the idea that she should suggest such a thing was wonderful!

6. Everything wasn’t solved at the end. We know that Kamail and Emily are going to give it another try. That doesn’t mean that it will go smoothly or even that they will get married and 2.3 lovely mixy kids. His mother may never come round to forgiving him for not marrying a good Pakistani girl. Kamail may never make it the Montreal comedy festival or SNL. Emily may have a relapse. Emily’s parents may never experience their own complete reconciliation. Life will go on. We are left to hope. And hope is such a wonderful thing with which to leave the theatre.

Okay. That’s all I’m going to say. Go see the film. Support it. Hopefully hollywood will get the message: The audience isn’t white. The audience can relate to people with different skin colours. If anyone is a recruiter for ISIS, it’s probably the white people who think they are the only people who matter.

 

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In The Jaws of the Black Dogs

The following poem was written by a friend who I met while performing with him in “Great Expectations”. Robert is a beautiful man who fills me with a sense of the marvelous.

I do not know why
this black dog follows me
but she has always been there
as I pick my way along the river bank

stepping from stone to stone
and she pads along quietly
for the most part

from time to time
friends walk with me
for a while
beside the water
now sun-dappled and graceful
now stone-dark and taut
and they do not notice her
unless I gently point her out

they will ask me to sit with them
and have some tea
and I decline
politely
she does not like the firelight

but sometimes
I pretend she isn’t there
and I sit with them
and drink
and share a song
and then I see her
at the edge of the moonlight
watching
and I take my leave

I try to imagine
her absence
and it grieves me
there is comfort
in the presence of her
in the knowledge of her
but she gnaws
terribly
my soul
my shoes are ragged
and still we limp along

and always I know
somewhere ahead there is a waterfall
and always I know
I will not be able
to stop walking

– Robert Benz

And, I must mention the book “In the Jaws of the Black Dogs” by John Bentley Mays. This book is a fairly unvarnished look at what living with depression is like. For me, it was a breath of fresh air in that I showed me I wasn’t the only one  who felt like this. Some might find it hard to read as it no-holds-barred description of pain. But there you go. Clicking on the image will take you to Amazon, but I encourage you to go find it in to a real book store.

John Bentley Mays - In The Jaws of the Black Dogs

John Bentley Mays – In The Jaws of the Black Dogs

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Anthony’s Playlist for Summer 2017

Anthony's Playlist for Summer 2017

Summer 2017 Playlist Cover

Ladies and Gentlemen and … well … others:

Call it Radio-AFI, call it AFIRadio, or just call it crazy! But it’s back on the air. I know it’s a little late, but that’s because I’ve been under The Dark Cloud of Depression for a while. Still, I’m muddling through as best I can.

Funny thing; one of the tunes on Summer 2017 Playlist is written by me and deals with said Dark Cloud. Hope you like it.

Now, if you’d like to stream the Summer 2017 Playlist through iTunes on your very own computer or hand held device:

Click Here —> Summer 2017 Playlist Stream

Here’s what you do: click on the link above. You’ll see a dialogue box like the one below. Click ‘OK’ download Once you click ‘OK’, your iTunes will open and, Bob’sYourUncle, the music will play!

Wait…. What? You don’t… you don’t want to stream them? You just… you just want to have them??? Some people are never happy… well… alright…
Side 1
Side 2
Side 3
Side 4
The largest Zip file is about 57Mb. These may not stay available indefinitely.

The Summer 2017 Playlist consists of 40 tracks that can be listened to in its designated order or in random mode, but I’m rather pleased with the way the order plays out. There’s a bit of a flow to the themes of the tunes. I’d be interested in knowing how it works for you and if you can follow it. There’s a bunch of cover versions that I just love in there, some tunes that take me back to my childhood and others that feel that they’re part of my own personal story. So— Enjoy!

Now, seriously. I want to know what you think of the playlist. What would you get rid of? What would you add? Does it work for you? Or… Do you have any questions about the list? I’d be happy to answer anything you ask.

Posted in Art, Culture, J-Pop, Lists, Music, Personal, Radio, Summer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

25 Perfect Xmas Songs: Christmas 2016 – The Playlist

“Christmas

Christmas 2016 – The Playlist Cover Art

Well, we’re just about at the end of 2016 – what a year it’s been. It’s been like some weird dream, really. I hope we all wake up soon. It was so strange, in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to create the Summer Playlist. I’m sorry for that. But, there was really nothing wrong with the Summer 2015 Playlist. I found it hard to improve on that one whenever I thought about a 2016 Playlist.

But, Christmas is coming. And AFIRadio is not about to leave you stranded with nothing to mark the event! I’ve put together a collection of 25 seasonal songs that I think are unique, fun, and, I hope, take you on a little journey through the emotional roller coaster upon which we sometimes find ourselves riding over the holidays.

Think of it as a sort of aural sleigh ride; bounding over snow white hills behind galloping, snorting horses with sleigh bells ringing on their leather bindings, taking tight curves that swing the sleigh out in wild arcs, and then trotting mildly through deep woods and silent valleys. Yes, this is what I think I’ve concocted for you this season.

To Stream Through iTunes, Click Here —> Christmas 2016 – The Playlist

Here’s what you do: click on the link above. You’ll see a dialogue box somewhat like the one below. Click ‘OK’

download

Once you click ‘OK’, your iTunes will open and, Santa’s Your Uncle!, the music will play!

You may also download zipped file (123 Mb) HERE .

There are 25 songs on this one. I thought that was an appropriate number. I could have had more, but I would have been at it forever. And who wants that…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s be glad we survived this year. Let’s remember fondly those who didn’t. Let’s do our best to make the coming year better for everyone.

Now, seriously. I want to know what you think of the playlist. What would you get rid of? What would you add? Does it work for you? Or… Do you have any questions about the list? I’d be happy to answer anything you ask.
And please let me know if you’re having trouble with getting the thing to play.

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Ghost in the Shell – Why Max Landis is Wrong

uh…. I’m really having a hard time figuring out what Mr Landisarguement is. We shouldn’t blame the studios because…. um… they are stupid? Stupidity clears one of blame? If, as Mr Landis says, it’s a cultural problem, one would think that those who create our cultural material (the film industry/studios) should be held responsible with fixing the cultural problem.

And yes. Ms Johansson should be held culpable in the Ghost in the Shell debacle as well. Surely, she’s in a postition where she could have said, “ya know, I get alot of work and have quite a bit of money. I don’t really need to make this particular movie. I’ll bet Doona Bae could do a good job in this role. You should try her.”

Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi

Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi

Doona Bae as Tilda in Cloud Atlas

Doona Bae as Tilda in Cloud Atlas

Mr Landis says there are no AList asian actors in America.

Um. Well.

Perhaps because the gate-keepers won’t give asian actors the exposure that might promote them to an AList? Maybe?

Or is Mr Landis saying that it’s OUR fault – the public? Well, the twitter response would suggest otherwise. It would suggest that the public is concerned; that the public cares and would go to the movie if Ms Johansson had not been cast in the first place, and probably won’t go because she has been cast.

So, how is the public to blame?

What do you think? If you haven’t listened to Mr Landis, you can watch it below.

And I found an interesting list of The Leading East Asian Ladies!

Posted in Art, Culture, Film, Opinion, Politics, Video | Leave a comment

This video saved my life!

Yes, we actors have to learn to do everything, even for just an audition!  And one of those things is … tie a bow tie!

So… I found a video that demonstrates how to do it so well that I just have to share.

Thank you to Youtique Bridal for an easy to follow, and really clear instructions and demo:

Posted in Film, Help, Television, TV, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Non-American TV Series You Must See!

Television Favourites

For Your Viewing Pleasure

I’ve cobbled this list together because I really think you need to watch these. A couple of them have been remade in North America and these remakes are not as good as the original versions. And that’s a shame. I had eagerly anticipated the re-makes but was regrettably disappointed.

That being said, the following titles have amazed with quality of writing, the bravery of the performances, the risks taken by all concerned. You’ll probably notice that some names crop up more than once in the list. It’s an odd thing, but you have to give the credit to people involved in consistently good projects and who bring their “A” game to each one.

One thing I really like about these European productions is that the people seem real. They look real. They’re like people I see every day in real life. American television seems to only use actors who represent some network executive’s idea of physical perfection. Don’t get me wrong: I do like some North American productions and I will probably compile a list of those ones in the future.

Inside No. 9
Inside No. 9

Be invited into very different No. 9s, where the ordinary and mundane rub shoulders with the extraordinary and macabre. From a grand country house where a game of ‘sardines’ leads to some chilling revelations in a wardrobe; to a very oddly haunted house; to a blood-soaked actor’s dressing room in London’s West End; to the flat of an apparently happy primary school teacher who becomes the victim of a good deed; these unpredictable tales feature high comedy and claustrophobic horror by turns.Created and Written by Steve Pemberton and Reece SheersmithAppearances by Timothy West, Oona Chaplin, Ophelia Lovibond, Sophie McShera, Paul Copley, Helen McCrory

My thoughts:
Some great writing here. A couple of the episodes – like “A Quiet Night In” – are bloody hilarious. They all have a sense of humour to them and they all have a positively cringe-worthy insights into human interaction. Mr Pemberton and Mr Sheersmith appear in each episode in some compacity, not always in the lead the roles.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

With magic long since lost to England, two men are destined to bring it back; the reclusive Mr. Norrell and daring novice Jonathan Strange. So begins a dangerous battle between two great minds.Based on the novel by Susanna Clarke

Starring Bertie Carvel, Eddie Marsan, Marc Warren and Charlotte Riley

My thoughts:
I was utterly surprised by this one. Fantastic art direction, a fun idea and mixture of history and fantasy. What if magic had been used to fight Napoleon? Great character work from everyone involved. The best thing about it for me? The question of redemption. Throughout the tale, the questions about who is evil and who is good and who has the best motives are continually in play.
Last Tango In Halifax
Last Tango in Halifax

Re-united after 50+ years apart, Celia and Alan decide to marry. At age 16, Alan’s late wife failed to pass on his letter with apology for missing first date and forwarding address. Both now have daughters with lover troubles.Written and Created by Sally Wainwright

Starring Anne Reid, Derek Jacobi Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker

My thoughts:
Again, taken by surprise. This seems like it should be so boring and trite, but Ms Wainwright is so good at filling out her characters and making them as flawed as they are humane that the people are irrestistable. What is the most fun for me is that you just watch these people make horrible choices are mistakes or open their mouths at the wrong time, and most of the time they are doing it with the best of possible intentions. Just when you think everything is going to fine and they’ll all be happy… somebody says something so small and insignificant and it opens a wound in someone else. It’s cringe inducing and delicious. Oh… and some of the establishing shots? Jaw-dropping beauty of the Yorkshire country-side. I can’t wait to visit it.
Happy Valley
Happy Valley

Catherine is a no-nonsense police sergeant who heads up a team of officers in a rural Yorkshire valley. When a staged kidnapping spirals out of control turning into a brutal series of crimes, Catherine finds herself involved in something significantly bigger than her rank, but unknowingly close to home.Written and Created by Sally Wainwright

Starring Sarah Lancashire, Steve Pemberton, James Norton, Joe Armstrong, Charlie Murphy and Siobhan Finneran

My thoughts:
Wow.  I cannot express  to you how good this show really is. Don’t let the title fool you. Sarah Lancashire is brilliant, as is the whole cast. Steve Pemberton puts in a great version of one of his low-status characters and what a pleasure it is to see Alun Armstrong’s son, Joe, carrying on the family tradition with such skill. The story is down-to-earth, compelling and frightening. There are some real gut-wrenching moments here. Interesting to note that this was also created by Sally Wainwright (Last Tango…) and it’s also set in Yorkshire. Ms Wainwright may be one of the best things going in British Television right now.
Black Mirror
Black Mirror

A television anthology series that shows the dark side of life and technology.Create by Charlie Brooker

Appearances by Daniel Kaluuya, Rory Kinnear, Jodie Whittaker, Rafe Spall, Rupert Everett, Oona Chaplin, Lydia Wilson, Jon Hamm, Rakie Ayola,Hayley Atwell and Lenora Crichlow

My thoughts:
This is bloody great. There was only one episode that didn’t really do it for me, but the rest are absolutely perfect. Every story takes current technology or cultural trope and just tweaks it a little bit – pushing it a little further ahead in our possible time-line. They all seem like entirely possible futures that are just a year to a decade away. Take each one as a warning. No preaching is going on, more positing. Watch it with people with whom you like to discuss ideas, because there is tons to chew on here.
The Syndicate
The Syndicate

Season 1 is about 5 poor workers in a supermarket in Leeds whose lives turn upside down after they jointly win the lottery, and then in Series 2 it’s the turn of a team of hospital staff.Written by Kay Mellor

Season 1 Starring: Lorraine Bruce, Timothy Spall, Matthew Lewis, Matthew McNulty, and Joanna Page

My thoughts:
Such a simple idea. Each season takes a different group of people who chipped in together to buy tickets in Britain’s National Lottery. We watch as Ol’ Dame Fortune spins her wheel. It’s painful, joyous, funny, surprising, shocking. So much could have gone wrong with this series. I was delighted with how well the creative team kept the quality up. There is, apparently, a USA version… I shudder to think. If you dare watch that one, let me know how it goes…
Äkta Människor

Äkta Människor – Real Humans (Swedish)

In a parallel present new technology and advancements in the field of science have made it possible to manufacture a product – a kind of mechanized servant – that is so similar to a real human that it can often be considered a perfectly good substitute. As an ever growing number of people form relationships with their Human Robot (HUBOT), the boundaries between human and machine become blurred and thorny legal questions begin to rise: Who is responsible for the actions of a hubot? Do hubots have some form of “hubot rights”? Should they be paid for their work? When humans make copies of themselves which are so close to the real thing they form emotional bonds, the questions arises: What does it really mean to be ‘human’?

Created by Lars Lundström

Starring: Lisette Pagler, Pia Halvorsen, Johan Paulsen, Anki Larsson, Alexander Stocks, and Måns Nathanaelson

My thoughts:
I watched the first two episodes of the english language version that just started up and was disappointed. Not sure why, exactly. I think perhaps because the swedish version took the time to set things up and wasn’t so worried about jumping right into things. It’s a much more leisurely pace that ends up making us care more about the characters. And I prefered the performances in the swedish original as well. As much as I like William Hurt, there was something so off-kilter about his analogous character in the swedish version and the relationhip with his hubot (Odi) – it becomes hilarious and frightening at the same time. I missed that in the USA verion. Also, the swedish version does more showing than telling. Mimi’s relationship with the family (Anita in the US verion) is very enigmatic and tentative. The changes in the dynamics between the family members are so well observed – nothing is rushed, we watch it happen beat by beat. I find it so much more satisfying when questions linger.
Rev.

Rev.

The misadventures of an Anglican vicar, his wife, and a small but odd group of parishioners in London.

Created by Tom Hollander and James Wood

Starring: Tom Hollander, Oivia Colman, Steve Evets, Miles Jupp and Simon McBurney

My thoughts:
This is terrific comedy. What’s interesting is that each season has a story arch and each episode has guide posts. For example, at a certain point in each episode, Adam sits down on the bench outside the church and commisserates with Colin. There are about 4 of these guide posts. It’s a formula. But it works. Adam is a guy who struggles to do the right thing, really wants to think the best of his fellow man/woman, wrestles with his humanity as he tries to be godly. It’s really quite beautiful and real, and the comedy is, at times, uncomfortably painful. Just the way I like it.
Broadchurch

Broadchurch

A seemingly calm and friendly seaside town becomes a town wrapped in secrets when the death of an eleven year old boy sparks an unwanted media frenzy. As the town’s locals start to open up about what they do and don’t know, it falls upon the police to catch the supposed killer.

Created by Chris Chibnall

Starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buckan and Arthur Darvill

My thoughts:
Don’t even bother with Gracepoint. I have friends who appeared in Gracepoint, and I think they did a great job, but the US producers just don’t understand what it is that makes Broadchurch the fantastic thriller that it is. And really, it all comes down to casting. Compare the following: Olivia Colman (UK) versus Anna Gunn (US) or Arthur Darvill (UK) versus Kevin Rankin (US). Now, I’m not comparing their acting ability here. What I’m comparing is look. The thing about film and television is that what someone looks like is very important. ‘Look’ is part of how the story is told. US casting tends to be so obvious. Kevin Rankin looks a bit shady so we suspect him, especially because he’s a priest and we all know what priests are like around little boys. Yes, the story does put the priest out there as a possible suspect but … ugh … can’t we suspect him because of circumstances rather than because he looks like a wierd bad guy? The UK casting is so enigmatic. Everyone looks like a normal person. Our heroine isn’t blonde and beautiful and possible a model in her spare time; she a little frumpy (No offense Ms Colman, I like you that way) She’s had baby after all. The local priest actually looks like a nice fellow: what a relief! He wouldn’t do anything baaa…. Wait a second… what did he just say???? We much more likely to be surprised by word and action in the UK version. Also, the cinematography of Broadchurch leaves Gracepoint far behind. Broadchurch is so creative with its camera shots, angles and lighting, that at times it takes away one’s breath. Gracepoint? blah. Routine. And just wait til you get into the second season of Broadchurch. Oh my! It’s a ride and a half, my friends.
Utopia

Utopia

After a group of people, who meet online, discover a bizarre graphic novel which seems to hold mysterious answers, they find themselves being tracked down by a merciless organization known merely as ‘The Network’.

Created by Dennis Kelly

Starring Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Adeel Akhtar and Neil Maskell

My thoughts:
I have no idea how I stumbled upon this series, but I’m glad I did. It’s got a great sense of humour, fantastic ‘down the rabbit hole’ feeling, and a good yarn to drag you along. And the sound-track! I could listen to the sound-track by itself and be happy! Some highlights: Neil Maskell’s characterization of ‘Arby’ is chilling, and disarmingly sad. Alexandra Roach displays amazing comic timing with her Welsh accent; I got giggles everytime she sayed “EE-Yun”. Great camera work and colour palette. I think you should have to take a shot of whiskey everytime someone gets shot in the head. Someone just delighted in squibs exploding out of people’s heads – it almost gets funny in a horribly surreal way. And finally, Fiona O’Shaughnessy is delicous to watch; you never know what to expect from her and she gets pretty eerie at times. Watch it. Don’t know if they are coming back for another season, and I’m not sure I want them to. I can’t imagine how they could possibly keep things up to the level they’ve sustained over two seasons.

So there you go. Ten series you must see.

I’d love to hear what you thought of them once you’ve seen them, and what series have work on you the way these have on me.

Posted in Culture, Lists, Opinion, Television, TV, Uncategorized, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments