Queen Sugar

13 x 60 min.

It’s no secret that I enjoy family epics, be they written or on screen. It’s a way in which writers (and actors) can show how much they now about character-creation, and if done well, can shove plot and world-building to the background. In the case of Queen Sugar, that isn’t done exactly – the cinematography of this show alone is making it worthwhile to watch.

queen_sugar_posterIn the beginning everything is clear. Three siblings come together because of a family emergency and disagree with each other on everything. Something happens, and they’re stuck together longer than desired. It’s the acting of everyone involved – down to the young boy – that makes you actively root for them to find each other again, and get what they desire.

Queen Sugar plays out in and around Louisiana, shown in such luscious colours that the few times in and around Los Angeles feel flat and fake. It’s clear that this state is another world, and some siblings fit in better than others.

It’s of little importance if they siblings learn that they work best when together and if they get what they want in the end (although I’ve learned that there’s four seasons, so who knows what will still happen?). Solely the looking and listening might be enough for you to enough this first season – which does fine on its own.

Queen Sugar, OWN 2016

She-Ra

65 x 24 min.

Yes, I know, I’m surprised as well. This animated TV-show definitely took me a while to warm up to, and during the first two season (there’s five of them) I wouldn’t even have considered writing a blog about it. Somewhere near the end of season two, and/or the start of season three, it grabbed me. It grabbed me good.

She-RaBefore starting this show, I knew little about the previous incarnations of it and therefore didn’t feel the need to complain about how She-Ra isn’t a full-grown woman this time, nor about the lack of butt and boob shots (in an animated show, yes I know). It also means that I didn’t have any connection to it, and had to invest some time and energy to feel the connection.

She-Ra is fantasy, people with magic, bad guys that want to take it, colourful stuff, talking horses, but also teenagers, queer love, building your own family and views on power and the (ab)use of it. Especially when watching several episodes in a row you might notice some repetition, but as someone who skipped a few (there’s a character I could barely handle) I can say that you can still follow the main plot without confusion.

It’s also fun and bright and there’s so much heart in it, even though the shows of it sometimes made me feel a bit outside of the target audience/too old. Oh, and the animation is nice, instead of that try-hard, ugly as possible “adult” animation we have to suffer all too often.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Netflix 2018

Russian Doll

8 x 26 min.

In the case of some shows you feel bad about not experiencing at the same time others did it. With some, the experience is just enhanced by going “Ooooh sh-!” to someone else.

Russian Doll posterAnd there’s plenty of moments like that in this TV-show about a woman who just keeps dying and doesn’t know why and can’t get out of this Groundhog day-situation. It being a woman played and written by Natasha Lyonne (you might remember her from Orange is the New Black) this groundhog is more like Final Destination when it comes to dying creatively.

With less than thirty minutes of runtime and eight episodes there’s not enough room for this element to get old: there’s just enough glimmers of clues to feel like you’re onto something just a bit before Nadia does.

The one con is that there’s going to be a second season: this could have been resolved, even in a possibly unsatisfying way in the last two episodes – easily. Now there’s the risk of things becoming stale.

Although Nadia’s back-to-life soundtrack might just be good enough to prevent that.

Russian Doll, Netflix 2019

Feel Good

6 x 25

This had me feeling awfully tender; not solely because I recognise everything the main characters experience, but mostly because the camera never turns away. You never get a break from emotions, fights and awkwardness.

Feel Good posterFor a show that’s easy to summarise, it’s not easy to review. I liked it, a lot. The story of a young woman struggling with gender identity and addiction, romance and family and being a comedian in the way that Hannah Gadsby is one – way too honest. Protagonist and creator Mae Martin added (some) biographical elements to the show as well, which might another layer of discomfort.

It’s the lack of heaviness that just makes it all more genuine and heartfelt. No musical clues about how to feel, not a lot of explanatory dialogue, just Mae and her girlfriend stumbling through life while you try to get them into a different direction.

Still, it’s sweet, and funny. There’s not fanfare or shoulder-pats about showing and discussing Big Subjects – they just happen to be the elephants in the room that have to be discussed.

Maybe not for everybody, but definitely for those that are always interested in the human connection.

Feel Good, Netflix 2020

 

Wanda Sykes: Not Normal

66 min.

I’m not a fan of comedians and their shows. Usually it’s too long, and there’s too much secondhand embarrassment to balance out the funny parts. I rejected several of the recommended shows on Netflix: some I couldn’t even handle for ten minutes. But I was cleaning up my list, this was the last remaining one – okay, I’ll try it.

Wanda SykesThe last comedian show I watched on Netflix was Hannah Gadsby’s. There’s barely no comparing here, which is good for both parties involved.

Wanda Sykes is about American politics and her personal life as a wife, a mother and a woman going through menopause. It’s stone cold sober with a large amount of questions: not very strange considering the subjects.

My biggest relief was that she doesn’t do the thing most male comedians do: wait for laughter. Sykes doesn’t go out with the aim of Being Hilarious – it’s her story telling and her subjects that make you snort.

And talking about length? I only checked how much time I had left once.

Wanda Sykes: Not Normal, Netflix 2019

Castlevania

22 x 30 min

castlevania posterI know it’s based on a game, but to me it felt – from time to time – like it could have been part of the same world that The Sandman Chronicles play out in. It’s bleak and gruesome but also beautiful in the Gothic way and the story telling comes first through spare, solid story lines that aren’t endlessly muddled with side plots.

Castlevania is about vampires, but not really. Or just kind of. It’s about a sad Dracula, vicious vampire women, monster hunters, magical monks (sort of?) all played out in a greyish and brownish Eastern Europe. Maybe. The castle moves around, after all.

If you want lore, mythology, beautiful animation, snarky yet terrifying vampires and their ilk plus quite a quick fix (those 22 episodes are three seasons), you should try it. If you don’t like gore in any way, and prefer your shows bright and bubbly – better you pass this one.

Castlevania, Netflix 2017

Giri/Haji

8 x 60 min.

So many detectives, so many ways to be disappointed by them because they’re all the same. Moody unlikely hero, bitter and/or cheerful sidekick and a case that Might Be Connected to their past. You know them.

giri hajiWell, everyone is pretty moody in Giri/Haji, that’s something that’s hard to ignore. And except for the lack of che- wait, let me start again.

Giri/Haji is a Japanese/English production which mixes yakuza with London gangs, international police teams, family connections and men unable to share their emotions. Some of them are cops, some of them are criminals. There’s victims of bad personal decisions all across the board.

And all of it just so_damn_cool. Of course, it’s impressive story lines and colourful characters, but just the COOLNESS of it all. No murky colours or badly lit scenes, not the same buildings in London always shown, but above and beyond, gutter and higher.

A show that leaves you behind satisfied, even though you may not agree with the proceedings.

Giri/Haji, Netflix 2019

 

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

10 x 50 min.

Some things you have to give a second chance, I guess. Even a bit of a third. Worse was that I didn’t like how I didn’t straight away love this. Original fantasy! Puppetry! Diverse world-building! Meanwhile I could only notice how the puppets didn’t completely move the way they should, while plot barely seemed to move at all.

dark crystal posterI felt this frustration for 2 – 3 episodes, when episode 4 suddenly clicked (episode 7 is still the best, though). I stopped watching the artistry of it all. Maybe it’s because several plot lines come together, or because you start to catch on to the world these stories move through. The writers hold no punches, making stakes high and losses real and touching. The comedy is cute and cheeky, the terrors legitimately scary.

It’s enthralling and adventurous but I think my biggest argument for watching is how much heart it has.

So yes, it might take some time to adjust to what you’re watching. But try!

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Netflix 2019

Frontera verde

8 x 45 min.

Elk jaar neem ik mij voor om vaker TV-series te bloggen, en elk jaar vergeet ik het een beetje. Frontera verde is een Columbiaanse serie die Netflix ‘limited’ noemt dus misschien dat het bij één seizoen blijft. Als je naar het einde van de laatste aflevering kijkt … wie weet.

frontera verde posterMaar waar gaat het over? In den beginne is het een detective: er worden lijken gevonden in de jungle en een detective wordt vanuit Bogota er heen gestuurd om dat even snel op te lossen.

Maar maar dan (spannend trommelgeroffel)! Zijn er bovennatuurlijke elementen of zijn het hallucinerende middelen, kloppen de tijden nog wel, en wie is die vreemde vrouw?

Het is geen heel toegankelijke serie: sommige verhaallijnen meanderen iets te veel en de hoofdpersoon is ook nog makkelijk te waarderen/steunen. Door het heen en weer-gespring van verhaal- en tijdlijnen moet je ook je aandacht er bij houden. Aan de andere kant zorgt dit wel voor een andere ervaring van iets moois en ongemakkelijks en meer groen dan de willekeurige stadsinwoner per maand mee krijgt. Het is – om het heel naar te zeggen – een ervaring.

En wat er nu aan de hand is met die moorden? Och, ondergeschikt aan de rest.

Frontera verde, Netflix 2019

Ninguém Tá Olhando

8 x 25

Netflix biedt het aan als Nobody’s Looking, maar op deze manier weet je tenminste gelijk dat het ondertiteling lezen wordt.

nobody's looking netflixDeze korte serie (ik keek ‘m in een avond en kon nog om tien uur naar bed) gaat over een bureau van beschermengelen waarin een nieuwe aanwinst redelijk snel elke aanwezige regel overtreedt en er nogal een zooitje van maakt. Voordeel van deze serie is dat er ook niet veel meer aan het plot is: niet meerdere plotlijnen die door elkaar lopen en in het niets verdwijnen – dit is gewoon wat er aan de hand is. En dat is vermakelijk.

Tussendoor zijn er nog kleine steekjes onder water over hoe vreemd en kwetsbaar mensen zijn, maar zelfs beschermengelen accepteren dingen ‘omdat het nu eenmaal zo is’, dus zoveel pijn doen die steekjes niet.

En, als roodharige, is het grappig om eens niet de zielloze maar juist de brave hendrik te zijn. Al lijkt het bij sommige beschermengelen wel alsof het niet hun natuurlijke haarkleur is …

Nobody’s Looking, Netflix 2019