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Pete Davidson and Kate Beckinsale: Never Know What’s Coming Next

VIFF ’18: CANADIAN SHORT FILM DIRECTORS’ Sophy Romvari (Pumpkin Movie) and Nathan Douglas (La Cartographe)

I took a risk and went to see a compilation of short films today (I usually stick to watching full-length feature films) made by some Canadian filmmakers at VIFF ’18 today. It was well worth it! The films were all entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautiful.

At the Q&A after the film, I had the pleasure of getting La Cartographe director Nathan Douglas and Pumpkin Movie director Sophy Romvari to answer the question, “If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider what helped you through it?”

Thanks to Sophy and Nathan for sharing! Looking forward to seeing what these young filmmakers create in the future.

Fleabag: Funny Feminist Television

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If you’re into TV shows about confused, messed-up, funny, thoughtful, complicated and endearing white women in their early 30s then the show Fleabag might be for you.

The site Jezebel.com had a review of the BBC series Fleabag up a few weeks ago, so I downloaded the 1st season. There’s only 6 episodes and I burned through them right away. Then I watched them all a second time over because of how comforting and entertaining I find the series to be.

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Writer and star of FLEABAG Sophie Waller-Bridge

The series protagonist is Fleabag played by the outstandingly talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is 31 years old in real life and she is responsible for writing all 6 episodes of the first season. Fleabag, the televisions series, is the end result of a fringe play that Waller-Bridge originally performed in Edinburgh.

Anyways, while I now feel like my life is coming together (I’m 32) in terms of having a satisfying relationship with my boyfriend and a new job that I feel passionate about, most of my 20s (after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend in 2006) were spent binge-drinking alcohol and smoking tons of weed, and hooking up with random men who either weren’t interested in me, or if they were, then I immediately became repulsed by them. Once I quit drinking I continued to pursue womanizers who’d bounce from female to female and insult my physical appearance…and just generally contribute to why I felt like a piece of shit.

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Due to my own history, which was mostly spent as a single female looking for and rejecting any chance of finding love, I gravitate to stories about women who are going through similar experiences to what I went through for so long (editor’s note: That is not to say my relationship is perfect, and it started off in a highly dysfunctional manner, but I am much happier at this point then I was 2 years ago when I turned 30…I hate when people are in a relationship and present their lives as free of problems).

Anyways, Fleabag has an on-off boyfriend named Harry. During the 1st episode Harry and Fleabag are in bed. Harry wakes up to Fleabag masturbating to a video of President Obama she’s watching on her laptop, and he is offended and disgusted. The sensitive and giving Harry stuffs a few of his things into a bag and breaks up with Fleabag. Fleabag assures the viewer (she regularly speaks directly to the camera/viewer to give us the inside scoop…and while this approach is at first slightly disarming, it eventually made me feel like Fleabag and I were tight) that Harry will be back. Since Harry is fully into Fleabag, she tramples all over him and uses their short-term break-ups to fuck some real douchebags.

This show made me (and my friend and my boyfriend when I showed them some episodes) laugh a lot! I don’t want to spoil all the hilarious moments, but some of them centre around sending out mass vagina-shot texts to try to find a date, Fleabag discussing how heavy her period flow is when she randomly runs into a hook-up while shopping for tampons, and uncomfortable anal sex. I’m not expecting you to laugh here, since any of these situations could end up being written and portrayed in a way that is stupid and offensive, but in my opinion, these situations made me crack-up without brushing off the underlying emotional desperation Fleabag is experiencing to say and do the things she does.Image result for sophie waller bridgeFleabag operates her own tiny cafe, and she is heavily in debt. Once upon a time she ran it with her best friend Boo, but I can’t share anything more without giving away too many good plot details to ruin your viewing of the show (if you so choose to watch it). I think that Fleabag is a feminist show because Fleabag aims to be an independent, confident business woman who has a loving partner and a positive self-image, but the sad events that have occurred during the last few years of Fleabag’s life (some of which might be partially due to her own making) are causing her to harm herself, and lash out at everyone around her.

The show makes some very accurate feminist observations about how women are sexualized and treated as sexual objects, without ever pretending that women don’t often do the same thing to men. Fleabag favours the good looking guy over the man who will support her, and this is just one example of how Fleabag is a highly imperfect protagonist. Since all people are imperfect, I think this also makes her relatable. Feminism can take many forms, and while I don’t have much fun reading feminist theory, I do enjoy seeing a female try to figure out how to balance wanting to be desirable with respecting herself and chasing her ambitions.

Fleabag’s relationship with her older sister Claire (played by Sian Clifford) reminded me of my own relationship with my sister. It’s hard for us to open up about personal topics with one another, and sometimes it’s even awkward for us to hug, but Fleabag also captures the undeniable and unbreakable bond that exists between sisters since nobody knows you better than your own sister. Claire is married to a lecherous man named Martin (played perfectly by Brett Gelman), and Claire’s dedication to a man who treats her poorly, but who makes her laugh, is an issue between the sisters.Image result for sophie waller bridge fleabagFleabag and her sister Claire (played beautifully by Sian Clifford)

Fleabag and Claire’s father is in a relationship with a woman they despise, and the
“stepmom” character (though their father is not actually married to her) who is only referred to as “Godmother” (played by Olivia Colman) is the only character in the series who is presented as one-dimensional: she is threatened by Claire and Fleabag’s relationship with their father, and “Godmother” constantly makes passive aggressive jabs at Fleabag and Claire. The one-dimensional nature of “Godmother” allows the actress playing her to go wild and take her artsy-fartsy character all the way to the top.Image result for sophie waller bridge

Olivia Colman as “Godmother”

By the final episode of the series it all becomes apparent why Fleabag is so screwed-up and why she is struggling to like herself, let alone love herself. The show is dark, sick, twisted, and so very special. If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend that isn’t mindless entertainment, give Fleabag a try!

Catch-Up on THE COMEBACK Before Season 2 Starts

I had seen about half of an episode of LISA KUDROW‘s and MICHAEL PATRICK KING‘s HBO series from 2005 called THE COMEBACK a while back, but I never really gave it a chance. I remember hearing one of the Olsen twins saying that it was one of their favourite series, and that stuck out to me for some reason. I kept hearing about the show despite its cancellation after one season.

Poster for the TV series The Comeback

The Comeback poster: source.

Well, after a 9 year hiatus, the show returns for its second season next Sunday November 9th on HBO, and I am very excited to watch it! Yesterday I downloaded season 1 of THE COMEBACK, and I watched all 13 episodes over the last 2 days.

Since I consider myself to be reality TV addict, the show’s premise is perfect in my mind: KUDROW plays VALERIE CHERISH, a washed-up sitcom actress who agrees to film a reality show about her life while working on a new sitcom.

The Comeback

The cast of the fictional sitcom ROOM AND BORED on THE COMEBACK: source.

The new sitcom has 4 young, “hot” stars living together and Valerie Cherish is playing the supposedly unattractive, old aunt named AUNT SASSY. The sitcom is called ROOM AND BORED and it’s super cheesy and insulting to women, and lots of groups of people for that matter. For example, Cherish stands up to the writers when she is expected to say a line about a batch of puppies potentially turning into Korean BBQ. Cherish previously starred in a popular courtroom sitcom called I’M IN IT. When Valerie is complaining to the white, male writers she cites an example from the last season of I’M IN IT when there was a Rodney King joke too soon after the riot. She thinks it led the show to be cancelled.

Lisa Kudrow aka Valerie Cherish as Aunt Sassy: source.

Being racist towards Korean people and making fun of Rodney King’s death is not funny in any way, shape, or form. What makes the show smart and funny is the way it identifies how so many popular sitcoms on supposedly “politically correct” stations regularly air material that I find to be totally unfunny. There are shows I’ve seen where it seems like every joke is based on stereotypes of others. The humour on THE COMEBACK is self-reflective. Valerie is learning how to be a better human being, not just hate on others. This is the type of humour I relate to and feel good watching.

Therefore, I did not find the show to be racist or sexist. Instead it was refreshing and hilarious to see the challenges Valerie Cherish faces while trying to ensure the sitcom isn’t offensive to viewers. Yet, Valerie is not perfect. She assumes her Asian make-up artist is Korean, and apologizes to her for the offensive joke. The make-up artist points out she is Japanese. Valerie tries to cover her own ass by saying that she wouldn’t want to offend the make-up artists’ Korean friends then. The make-up artist asks why Valerie assumes she has Korean friends. There’s lots of awkward social situations like this one on THE COMEBACK that are funny and realistic. I think we’ve all either observed these scenarios or been a part of them (on both ends) where you, or someone else, is trying to be sensitive but end up creating the opposite effect.

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Valerie Cherish taking a bath (wearing a swimsuit of course, since she doesn’t do nudity): source.

The reality TV film crew is led by LAURA SILVERMAN (SARAH SILVERMAN‘S sister) as the character JANE. You often see that the lines between Valerie’s own personal life and her connection to the crew are blurred. For example, one of her fellow co-stars shows up incredibly late for lunch. While Valerie is waiting, she unsuccessfully tries to coerce Jane to join her at the table, so she doesn’t feel like a loser being filmed eating alone.

VALERIE CHERISH is an inspiring character because she always tries to put on a brave face. Valerie tries to pretend she is A-OK at all times, even though the film crew captures all of the degrading and embarrassing things that happen to Valerie during her pursuit of a successful acting career. LISA KUDROW puts her dramatic acting chops on display also. There are painful and tender moments where Valerie has tears in her eyes, even though she is smiling. I could feel her pain, and I connected to how much it hurts to be rejected. The series has so many funny situations that happens. It was comforting me and making me laugh like crazy. Valerie’s step-daughter is like 10-12 years old and yet she refuses to eat carbs, smokes, and says “Bananas” (one of celebrity stylist RACHEL ZOE‘s trademark lines).

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Valerie on the set of her sitcom Room and Bored: source.

It is an outstanding and intelligent show. Even though the first season aired in 2005, it is especially relevant today. I think it accurately represents why audience’s have become increasingly attracted to seeing people play themselves on reality television. “Being yourself” on reality TV creates a kind of pressure about authenticity that leads to a lot of fakeness. But, at the same time, since these reality shows are capturing people at home, or in semi-natural situations (or with their families like on KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS), the viewer gets exposed to honest and vulnerable moments in reality stars lives. These moments are almost always quite unflattering and reveal the person’s ego. But for me, these moments usually lead me to love my favourite reality stars even more, because I realize they are human. Even though they look perfect in still-life images or on Instagram, nobody is perfect and confident at all times. Reality TV makes that abundantly clear, and THE COMEBACK brings that message home and then some!

TV: HBO’S The Leftovers

VIDEO RECAP: I quickly talk about how fun the BAS and AB-SOUL show was at Fortune Sound Club. Then I spend most of the time explaining why I am loving THE LEFTOVERS from HBO.

JUSTIN THEROUX is one of the stars of the show, and there are many other talented actors in it, too. THE LEFTOVERS centres around the disappearance of many people (The Pope and Gary Busey included) who disappear on October 14th (I’m not sure which year the story is set, but it’s up-to-date looking).

People are left mourning the disappearance of family members and there is a new “cult” gaining strength as well. The cult requires it’s members to dress in off-white and white and they can’t speak out loud.

It’s hard to make sense of it all right now, and that’s a good thing, since I’ve only finished the first 3 episodes. The community Theroux plays the police chief of is the focus. There are strange things happening, but it is strangely realistic to me too.

Give it a looksie if you have the time and want something a bit dark (a.k.a. just like real-life to me)!