The White Lotus (Season 1)

The White Lotus (2021-) has been widely praised since its release during the summer of 2021. It stars Jennifer Coolidge (Tanya), Connie Britton (Nicole), Alexandra Daddario (Rachel), Jake Lacy (Shane), Sydney Sweeney (Olivia), and others. As I started watching the first episode, I thought I would be turned away quickly and not care about the characters enough to watch the whole series. I was wrong.

As the episodes progressed, I could sense that something more sinister was brewing. Not in a bloody, traditional horror movie way, but in its own unique type of horror and suspense way. Slowly but swiftly, the true nature of the characters are revealed and the overarching theme of class is placed front and center. This is not the kind of show you are meant to watch in the background while you are doing something, you will miss something vital to the plot. This is a show you need to sit down and watch with your full attention. It comments on class, tradition, and norms. That can be a lot to handle and digest fully at times.

from HBO on YouTube

While some reviewers and magazines classify The White Lotus as a drama and comedy show, I would say it more closely aligns with drama. There are humorous, ironic moments, but that is not the focus of the show. Satire makes up a huge part of the plot and is central to the story, but the comedy feels more like a nicely incorporated decoration than the soul of the story.

The ending was one of my favorite things about this series, which has been renewed for another season. While I am jealous of the cast for getting to spend so much time shooting at a glamorous resort in Maui, the final episode found a way to make the island feel idyllic but also creepy.

The opening scene of the show that sets the series in motion is finally completed in the last few minutes of the last episode. It leaves the audience with a lot to think about regarding class and the structure of society. My mind kept thinking about how some people can get away with nearly anything because of their societal standing, but others make a bad choice one time and it changes their life irrevocably. I would love to read a disection of this show by someone who has a sound understanding of politics, sociology, anthropology, and psychology. I think that would make for an interesting YouTube video, Ted Talk, or thesis paper. Maybe I will search the internet to see if I can find that.

Overall, I recommend watching this show. It uses a great selection of music, color grading, and nature to set the tone and keep the suspense going even when the summary of the plot could seem too normal or ordinary to be interesting. Great job Mike White (writer, director, and creator of the show)! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the conversations this show has started in my mind.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

8/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie/tv show is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

The King of Staten Island (2020)

Pete Davidson (Scott) is the King of Staten Island. It took me almost 2 years to watch this movie but I am happy I finally got the chance to watch it. The film is directed by Judd Apatow and stars Bill Burr (Ray), Bel Powley (Kelsey), Moises Arias (Igor), Marisa Tomei (Margie), Maude Apatow (Claire), and Pauline Chalamet (Joanne). While I am not the biggest fan of Judd Apatow movies, I am a fan of Pete Davidson. It felt weird to write that because Pete is like a kid that never grew up but somehow also grew up too fast. I like how he uses comedy to get through dark stuff because I am drawn to comedy for the same reasons. I think a lot of people are.

I watched Big Time Adolescence (2019), another film Pete worked on, and I enjoyed it because of him. He has this way of centering a movie and making it feel more grounded. I am thoroughly excited to see what he does in the future and how he spends his long, exciting career ahead of him.

from Universal Pictures on YouTube

When I started watching this movie, I did not know what to expect. I knew it would be a comedy and that it would touch on the death of his dad. Apatow films are not usually my favorite because the comedy is not typically my style, however this film’s comedy is right up my alley. I felt the subtle jokes, the more obvious ones, and the overarching plot imbedded with nuance and irony. I honestly think that if you want to make any comedy feature film better, just add Pete. Comedy film + Pete = home run.

One of my favorite things in this movie is the relationships between the characters. From the beginning, the charisma is tangible and the cast does a great job at conveying the friend and familial bonds of the characters. They make the story more real and relatable. Another aspect of this movie that I admire is how it is semi-autobiographical for Pete, but it also takes its own creative liberties. From my own experience, I know how hard it can be to write about personal and hard experiences because it is easy to try to include all the real stuff that actually happened. Finding a balance between nonfiction and fiction is hard, but somehow this movie found the sweet spot.

The real moments between Scott (Pete Davidson) and Margie (Marisa Tomei) are my favorite. I also like the interaction of Scott and Claire (Maude Apatow). They feel so honest and vulnerable, those scenes are a work of art. I also liked seeing Pete dressed as a waiter. It made me wonder how hilarious it would be to go to a restaurant and have him as your waiter. That would be an experience to remember. I wonder if he would get my order right or trip walking to my table and spill my drink on the floor and then slip on that too. I wonder if he would earn a lot of tips because he has charm, but still has that geeky awkwardness.

Overall, this film was beautiful. There are so many hilarious moments mixed in with heartfelt moments. It felt like a perfected recipe. I especially enjoyed the soundtrack and the restaurant fight club. This film has so much charm and is definitely something I will be rewatching when I need to laugh but also want to feel held, understood, and not alone in my journey. Does that make sense? If you’ve seen it, I think you will know exactly what I mean.

“Hey, you want a hot dog?”

“Oh no, I can’t. I have Crohn’s.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s like when the lining of your stomach is all messed up so it makes you shit all the time.”

“Well, thanks for sharing.”

“Next time just say I don’t want a hot dog.”

“Alright, I’m just trying to spread awareness.”

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

8.69/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

Girls (Season 2 & 3)

While being stuck in my room thinking I had COVID for the third time, I watched lots of Girls (2012-2017) episodes. I was drawn to the show initially because I love the show New Girl (2011-2018), but have seen the episodes so many times that I wanted to spend some time watching something new. I also knew that Adam Driver was in Girls, and I wanted to see what kind of character he played. I have seen him in Silence (2016) and Paterson (2016), among other movies, but I wanted to see him in action comedically. I was not disappointed.

I already have a post where I talked about the first season of this show and compared it to New Girl. But now that I have watched Season 2 and 3 of Girls, I thought I should write another post to document my new thoughts.

One of my favorite aspects of the show is the songs that play during the end credits. Most of the episodes end with a cliffhanger or blunt dialogue that leaves you thinking about what happens next. The songs during the end credits reinforce the emotions felt in that episode’s final scene and help the show continue even when the screen time is over. Some shows have the same end tune play for every episode, but Girls takes music seriously and carefully selects a song that adds to the end plot of each specific episode. I often sit through all of the end credits just so I can hear the entire song. I wonder if I am the only one who does this. I hope everyone can appreciate the careful music selection.

Another reason I like this show is how it touches on emotional moments and stays on them just long enough without it being overwhelming for a comedy. For instance, when Jessa visits her father and it does not go well, it is not shoved down the audiences throat. Instead, the emotions are seen gradually and through action. This actually makes the plot more impactful because it is left for the audience to piece together what is left unsaid, much like real life. Overall, this comes down to good writing and I applaud that over and over again.

This strategy is used many times in the show. For instance, when Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) grandmother dies in Season 3. We learn this at the end of an episode through a phone call with her cousin, Rebecca (Sarah Steele). In the previous scenes, their grandmother’s health is improving, which makes it even more surprising when suddenly Hannah gets a call informing her that her grandmother has died from a heart attack. After this phone call, the screen cuts to black and the audience is left to deal with their emotions alone. I love how this mimics real life, how situations are thrown at us, no matter how surprising, and we are left to deal with them how we see fit. Some news can feel like a gut punch and the ending to this episode truly delivers that feeling.

Overall, I love the realist tone of the show. Often TV and movies portray people how we “think” or wish they really are, but I feel like Girls portrays people how they really are. With all their intricacies, bad moments and good, anger and sadness, and the ups and downs of growing up, honestly. The show does not set unrealistic expectations, I think it mimics real life. I like shows that do that successfully and I guess that is why I enjoy watching this show so much. So much that I watched 3 Seasons in 3 days. Is that some kind of record?

Rating: 8 out of 10.

8/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie/tv show is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

The Tender Bar (2021)

Directed by George Clooney and starring Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, and Lily Rabe, this film tells the story of a boy without a father, but he’s trying his best to be strong for his mother. According to IMDb, the story is based on a memoir by J.R. Moehringer.

The Tender Bar (2021) is an Amazon Original movie and can be viewed for free if you have an Amazon Prime subscription. With an hour and forty-five minute running time and an R rating, it’s an easy watch with nothing too off-putting.

Some of my favorite things about this movie are the directing, choice of music, and color grading that express the time period perfectly. With it’s connections to Amazon and the big stars in this movie, it is no surprise they were able to get ahold of the classic songs they incorporated into the story. Additionally, the directing is not always generic, it feels more specific to the plot and characters’ emotions.

from Amazon Prime Video on YouTube

The screenplay is well-written and the flashbacks are easy to follow. The pacing is even throughout and does not slow down or lull for too long. Information are the characters, their pasts, and relationships ae revealed in a timely manner, but not too fast that it feels rushed.

Overall, the creative direction of the movie is what makes it successful in my book. While the story is not something extraordinary, the acting and music combine to set a specific tone that is unique to the film. While I would not add this film to my “must-watch-list”, I think it is worth watching if you have the time. I wouldn’t say to skip it, but I wouldn’t say you need to watch it right now. Put it on your television when you want to watch something solid that won’t let you down.

The music in the film makes me so happy. I think it might make you happy, too. And the ending of the film felt pretty magical and just what I wanted to see.

Favorite Quote

“You’re a writer the minute you say you are. Nobody gives you a diploma, you have to prove it, at least to yourself.”

Rating: 7 out of 10.

7/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie/tv show is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

Podcast Trailer is live!

Around a month ago I recorded the trailer to my podcast. I kept going back and forth on whether or not I would post it, or just let it find its way into the blackhole of projects that never see the light.

Yesterday the trailer went live. I came to that decision because I realized that I enjoyed recording it and maybe it will make someone smile. When I was younger, I would create my own radio shows and record them on an old cassette player. So recording a podcast kind of came naturally to me. Instead of trying to go against my natural instincts, I decided to listen to myself and give this a try.

If you want to listen to the podcast, the trailer is available now on Spotify, Anchor, and the That Weird Friend YouTube channel. If you give it a listen, please connect with me on Instagram (@alohaarianna) and let me know what you think! Did I talk too fast, too slow? How can I make it better for the listener?

Thank you for giving me a chance, I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

The Fallout (2021)

Sometimes you watch a movie and you can’t stop thinking about it. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it brightens your day or motivates you to try something new. This film stuck in my head for a different reason. It scared me, informed me, made me feel emotions that were buried deep in my head and heart. I think that is one of the signs of a good, successful movie. Not how it does at the box office, but how or what it makes you feel.

I got the chance to watch The Fallout last year at the 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival. The film stars Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, and Niles Fitch among others. The actors were incredible. The story was heavy, but everything felt necessary and purposeful. The director, Megan Park, did a great job at directing the film, writing it, and presenting it in a way that is digestible, powerful, and humorous. The funny parts can be hard to smile at because previous scenes are so upsetting, but this conflict of emotion mimics real life.

from HBO Max on YouTube

What really makes this movie so successful is its acting. It feels natural, almost like you’re watching a documentary, not a scripted narrative. Because of the topics and trauma at hand, this naturalistic acting makes it incredibly easy to empathize with the teenagers, their situation, and how they attempt to cope with the aftermath.

Overall, this film should not be watched when you want to be uplifted. It is heavy, but it all has a purpose. I recommend reading the ratings on IMDb if you are sensitive to violence, check out the Parent’s Guide on the movie’s page.

The Fallout is written and directed with intention and it is no surprise that HBO Max will be streaming the film, starting January 27, 2022. It’s a story that you don’t want to miss, but please be prepared before you watch it. It can be terrifying, it can bring up bad memories, and it can cause a lot of anxiety, but I still think it’s worth a watch if you can bear to watch through the tough parts. You could always skip forward if you find a part of the film too upsetting to watch or digest.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

9/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie/tv show is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

Girls (Season 1)

When asked about his character in Girls, Adam Driver has described him as, “part poet, part rhinoceros and part Neanderthal.” Hence the picture of a rhino that opens this post. I do not know if the rhino should be offended or if he/she should be happy because Adam Sackler (Adam Driver) is so charismatic and unique. But also quite crazy with no boundaries and lots of sporadic and random energy.

One of my favorite shows of all time is New Girl (2011-2018) and I have rewatched the episodes so many times. Recently I got a HBO subscription because I wanted to watch the new Harry Potter special, and I decided I would give Girls (2012-2017) a watch. While New Girl and Girls have some similarities, I would say that their tones are where they differ. New Girl has more uplifting, quick humor, while Girls has a slower burn with heavier themes. New Girl still deals with some heavy topics, but it is done in a light humor way, while Girls digs into the deep, hard parts full on, sometimes without any sunlight visible for the near future.

In New Girl, my favorite character is Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) (but all of the characters have their own pizazz that makes me love them all). Thus, it makes sense that Adam (Adam Driver) is my favorite character in Girls. Obviously I can relate to all of the girls in different ways, but Adam is just so himself that it is mesmerizing. So unapologetically himself and I envy that. (Excellent casting choice, just saying.) Just to be clear, I do not envy everything about him, just that he is so open with being who he is and does not feel embarrassed about it, even his weird hobbies.

Now, enough about New Girl, let’s move into Girls more. I started watching the first season yesterday and I am already on episode eight out of ten. It’s the perfect show to have on in the background while I work. It has laughs, it has weird moments that make me feel less alone in my weirdness, and it is relatable, sometimes almost too relatable. I love it for most of the same reasons I like New Girl.

I have heard mixed emotions about Lena Dunham. Some people do not like her for her voiced opinions, but I do not know enough about her to comment on that. However, I do have to say that this show is great, it’s well written, it’s honest, and the directing and long shots make it even better. Sometimes a comedy television show does not take directing seriously and can be hindered by shots that do not match with the jokes, but Girls does not make this mistake.

If you’re an adult, I recommend that you watch this show on a chill night when you feel like laughing. If you’re not an adult, wait until you’re an adult and then watch this show. Some scenes can be jarring and unexpected if you are not prepared for them, mostly in a funny and almost embarrassing way. I warned you.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

7/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie/tv show is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)

Getting a Disney+ subscription has increased my happiness and nostalgia tenfold. I got the subscription last year in March when my whole family had COVID-19. Watching my favorite childhood shows and movies helped keep my mind off the life threatening sickness I was dealing with, since I have asthma, but let’s change the topic. This is supposed to be a happy, fun movie post.

I watched the Hannah Montana movie when it came out in theaters with my then best friend. We went early in the morning because my friend’s mom was worried that the theatre would be packed because it was the weekend. It turned out that we were the only ones in the theatre besides a mother and her daughter. And it was too early to eat popcorn, but that didn’t stop us from semi-liking the movie. Surprisingly, I am not ashamed to admit that I like the movie more now than I did as a pre-teen.

from Walt Disney Studios on YouTube

As an adult, I notice some of the deeper themes of the film that went over my head when I was younger. In the past year I have watched this movie five times and each time I notice a new nuance to a scene that I did not notice before.

The film focuses on Hannah (Miley Cyrus) dealing with going back to where she grew up when she just wants to be in the spotlight in the big city. While home, she starts to reconnect with who she really is and who knew her before she was “Hannah Montana”. Many of the scenes felt very relatable for someone who left their home town or has not seen the people from middle or high school and then has come back home to see how much has changed.

It’s hard for me to decide what my favorite part of the movie is, but one scene and song that stands out is Butterfly Fly Away. I always cry at this part in the movie. I always cry when I listen to the song. If that sounds alarming, listen to the song and I think you will understand. It’s a beautiful song and it’s meaning is further heightened because Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) sings it with Robby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus), who is her real-life dad.

While I left the theatre in 2009 wanting more from the movie and feeling disappointed that I did not get to eat buttery popcorn at 9 a.m., I watch this movie now feeling all the feelings. It’s one of those movies that is great for kids, but even better for adults if they have an open enough mind to give it a chance.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

8/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

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