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Movies

Review: Lion (2016)

For one year now, I have been anxiously awaiting the official release of this film because I couldn’t wait to watch it again. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of this movie at the end of 2015 while the film was still a work in progress to give feedback and comments. As with everyone else in that audience, I went into it not knowing what to expect and left deeply touched by the story we watched unfold.

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Sunny Pawar as Saroo

Based on the true account of Saroo Brierly written in A Long Way Home, the film is about young Saroo in India who gets lost, and ends up being adopted by a couple in Australia. 25 years later, Saroo begins the arduous journey to find the family he lost with all the determination, yet very little information.

Instead of relying on flashbacks to tell the story, Director Garth Davis chose to stick to a linear narrative which he believes was the best way to have the audience experience this journey alongside Saroo. It’s not a story of Saroo remembering his childhood, he remembers every detail and so flashbacks would not have served the story (KCRW Interview with Garth Davis – Dec 19, 2016).

In telling the narrative in this manner, you’re right there with Saroo every step of the way as the emotion continually builds and you feel connected to his story. This of course is also thanks to the incredible young actor, Sunny Pawar, who portrays young Saroo. Majority of the film is spent with young Saroo whose resilience keeps him alive.
Actor Dev Patel as the older Saroo Brierly has the incredible ability to manifest the internal emotional struggle of this character in a tangible way on screen. Along with Nicole Kidman, who plays Saroo’s adoptive mother Sue Brierly, showing the compassion and love her character has for her son.

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Dev Patel as Saroo Brierly

This once in a lifetime true story will break your heart. The impact of this story stayed with me for well over a year, and I imagine that will continue.

Beyond Saroo’s story, the harsh reality for many orphaned children in India is shown. At the end, a message informs the audience that over 80,000 children go missing in India each year. A link to the official movie site shows a way everyone can help donate to organizations which work to protect children in India.
Donate direct here to financially support the charitable organizations of Magic Bus and Railway Children India.

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TV

Old, New Obsession: Ugly Betty

When Ugly Betty first aired, I remember mainly catching re-runs on the TV Guide channel where the bottom quarter of the screen scrolled through channel programming.
In 2010, since I had bangs and it was the easiest costume to do – I dressed up as Betty Suarez for Halloween. Fake glasses, my own wardrobe, and carrying a couple Seventeen magazines around seemed to do the trick.

I’m almost done with the first season and I’m already frustrated there’s only three seasons left.
Re-discovering the show now has been the best thing and I have no one to discuss it with so here are three main reasons why I love Ugly Betty. (Season 1 spoilers ahead)

  1. Latino Stereotypes
    Betty (America Ferrera) completely goes against the typical Latina stereotype that’s constantly portrayed in TV and movies. She’s a different kind of Latina, but that doesn’t make her any less of a Latina! Her sister, Hilda (Ana Ortiz), may seem like that stereotype, but we see her struggle as a single mom and heart as she would do anything to protect her family. Along with her ambition to provide a better life for her son and have her own accomplishments. Hilda is a fully formed character who’s not reduced to a stereotype.
  2. LGBT Characters 
    From what I read, Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn) was “television’s first regular transgender character.” (1) They are handling her character so well. Alexis seems to be more openly accepted by the fashion community and has difficulty with people outside of that. Though there has been quite a bit of misgendering, which mainly comes from her intolerant father. I’m looking forward to seeing Alexis grow and become more comfortable in her skin.
    Now with Betty’s nephew, Justin (Mark Indelicato), so far there’s been roundabout talk about his sexuality, but nothing direct. I know they’ll address this in a later season, but seeing how the family accepts him for who he is has been great.
  3. Immigration
    Betty’s father, Ignacio (Tony Plana), turns out to be undocumented to Betty and Hilda’s surprise. A lawyer scams them out of a great sum of money in hopes of getting a green card for him, and I love that they showed that. It’s an unfortunate truth that there’s people out there who take advantage of these families who are trying to keep their loved ones in the US legally. He’s a hard-working, tax-paying, father and grandfather. When the issue of immigration comes up in political debates, sometimes politicians just refer to these people as numbers, when they’re real people. This show representing that is great to see.

Drama, love, major second-hand embarrassment, and hilarious writing keep me wanting more of this show. I’m excited to see what’s in store and will definitely write out my thoughts for each season to come. So far, I’d have to say my favorite character is Betty since I relate to her the most, but each character has their endearing qualities that makes me love them all.

Thanks for reading!

–Yolanda

Music

Spinning like a gravitron, when I was just a kid

Maybe it’s because on my morning commute I listen to the same 10 songs over and over, but this new Brandon Flowers album feels like a breath of fresh air.

The Killers have been among my favorite bands for so long and hearing Flowers’ amazing voice through my speakers/headphones again just sounds so right.

Mainly I’ve just been doing this and listening to the album
At first I thought I was only going to buy his single “Can’t Deny My Love” then I bought “I Still Want You” and just got “I Can Change” and I imagine by tomorrow I will have bought the rest of his album.
Ah no, I haven’t officially bought the entire album yet, but thanks to Spotify I have listened to it.

I don’t feel like enough of a music expert to describe the sounds or what the sounds feels influenced by or anything like that.

I do know that I’m loving The Desired Effect (oh dear I’m just mentioning the album title now? Yeah I’m clearly an expert music critic) and you should go on YouTube or Spotify to listen to the songs. Well here, I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the sixth track “Lonely Town”

Then of course, support the artist by buying his music!

Available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon
(CD & Vinyl also available on Amazon)

TV

Why I love Jane the Virgin and you should too!

Vaguely knowing the plot of Jane the Virgin, I was convinced I wasn’t going to watch it. Then Gina Rodriguez won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy and I thought I should give it a try and I’m SO GLAD I did.

This has quickly become my new favorite show and one that I make sure to watch live and only live-tweet during commercial breaks because I can’t even miss a second of it.

Why is this show so great? It has everything.
Drama, romance, funny and heartfelt moments, life lessons – all without being overly dramatic.

Jane the Virgin is a loose adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela Juana de la Virgen, so that’s why the twists and turns can seem soap opera-ish, but the acting is so real, you don’t feel like you’re watching a soap opera.
But just like in soap operas (I’m assuming here, I’ve never actually watched one) you’re never quite sure who to trust.

Gina Rodriguez carries the show wonderfully and the rest of the cast does not disappoint either.

(gif source: talesofnorth.tumblr.com)

It’s also wonderful to see such a diverse cast, along with seeing the amazing support from the Latino community with famous guest stars like Paulina Rubio, Juanes, and just joining the list, Rita Moreno!
The last Latina lead show on cable TV was Ugly Betty starring America Ferrera, who also won the Golden Globe in 2007 for the same category.

My only hope is that as time goes on, the plot twists don’t get too gimmicky or soap opera-y. They currently have this great balance of drama and realism, and to keep this show a hit – it should stay that way.

Jane the Virgin currently airs on the CW on Mondays at 9/8c

Travel

Bolivia

Six months ago I went to Bolivia and I finally made a video about it.
It was my first time there and I had the amazing chance to meet so many family members I had only ever talked to on the phone or through e-mail. This more so shows experiencing the country for the first time.

I was in Cochabamba the majority of my time there and in Santa Cruz for two days.
So here’s my trip summed up in less than two minutes! Enjoy!

Music: “Ode to Autumn” – PJ Liguori
Get the song here!

TV

#SaveAtoZ

Fall premieres have come and gone and now comes the time where shows start to get cut.
The only new show that I genuinely love has been A to Z, so you can imagine my shock when NBC announced they didn’t intend to continue the show.
I find the show hilarious, the cast is perfect, how could this get cancelled??

The show’s concept is reminiscent of (500) Days of Summer wherein a boy and girl meet and shows their relationship, but A to Z is more comedic and Andrew and Zelda are just a wonderful couple.
I love romantic comedies and this is a romantic comedy in sitcom form.
Rashida Jones is the executive producer and even she’s taken to Twitter to help save her show with the hashtag #SaveAtoZ

They’ve only shot 11 episodes making December 11th it’s last week, which means there’s only 4 more episodes, but it doesn’t have to be this way!

Start watching the show and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it too. Then share your support on social media to keep the show alive!
Episodes are available to watch on NBC or Hulu!
Also catch it on Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c

(gif source)

Movies

Review: Begin Again

You may have seen trailers for this movie on TV a few months ago and like me, you were confused as to what exactly it’s about. Granted, TV trailers have 15-30 seconds to explain a whole plot, so it’s not likely any movie could be explained coherently in that amount of time. Some kind of music element, dancing around New York, and Adam Levine? Okay, why not.

I found Begin Again to be such a delightful movie and one that I really adore.
It made so much sense when I looked it up and saw the writer/director is John Carney who also made Once.

To quickly sum it up, it’s about Greta (Keira Knightley) who was betrayed by her fellow musician boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) as his fame started to rise, and on her supposed last night in New York she plays an open mic, which Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a dejected music exec, hears when his own life is spiraling down and is inspired again to foster this new talent.

It’s wistful, it makes you feel good, the songs are wonderful, and I already said I adore it, but I adore this movie.

If you’re someone who’s looking for inspiration or even musically inclined, I’d recommend this movie. I can’t sing and can sort of play the guitar, but man this movie had me feeling like I could start a band. I’ll spare the world of that though.

It did leave me inspired wanting to make something creative though, just film something or finally write the story ideas I’ve been meaning to write.

Also the songs are so great. Of all the songs I’d have to say “Lost Stars” is my favorite, and I’m partial to Adam Levine’s version, which can also be found on Maroon 5’s V Album Deluxe Edition.
Here’s the song if you’d like to listen!

Music

Melodies and Riffs

Do you remember the first time you heard a song and were completely mesmerized by it? Listening to it again after isn’t quite the same. The song is still great, and you know it’s great, but you’re not listening as intently. Sometimes it falls as background noise.

Then time goes by and you come back to that song, and it’s almost like listening to it the first time except this time you know all the parts.
The lyrics, the riffs, the melody, and you just enjoy it.

I mainly think of this as I listen to Andrew Bird’s live performance of “Tenuousness”, which was also the first time I heard his music. I was so caught up in it because it’s so unique and wonderful. Also the first time I heard “Clair de Lune”, every time after I heard it I swore the first time the song was so much longer.

Is there a song like that for you?

Here’s the video if you’re curious

Books

Review: Delirium / Eleanor & Park

I have so much love for these books in different ways and let me just talk about them for a second.


Delirium by Lauren Oliver is a young adult dystopian novel, which are pretty much my favorite type of books right now. I have not read the other two books of the series yet, but I will definitely read them soon! (Actually after I’m done with Insurgent and Allegiant)

It’s a fairly long book and I kept wanting to read more and more of it. It’s about a young girl named Lena who lives in a society where love is a disease, and at a certain age you receive a treatment which will get rid of all those type of emotions. Love is seen as dangerous. Such an interesting concept and a great twist on the typical forbidden love stories. What I love most about these newer young adult dystopian series is the fact even though a love interest is introduced, the female protagonist does not depend on the male – WHICH IS AWESOME. They work as a team to fight whatever comes their way.

I’m giving a bit away of the plot there, but hey, in a book about love being dangerous – you gotta figure some danger will occur.

If you enjoyed Divergent, you will also love this book.

Also if you’ve read the book and if you dare, apparently they tried to make this into a TV show and the pilot was too awful they opted against airing it. You can watch six minutes of it here. (I only managed to watch two minutes)


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is an example of a book I never wanted to end. This is not the perfect love story, it’s a realistic love story. It’s all the awkwardness of liking someone and not being sure if they like you back. It’s hating the other person at first, but realizing they aren’t so bad after all. Of course, it deals with when your life isn’t perfect and trying to figure out how love is supposed to fit into your messed up world.
Simply put, it’s about being a teenager.

Eleanor is an overweight, insecure teenager whose home life is terrible at best, while Park is half-Korean and feels he doesn’t fit in their town of Omaha, Nebraska. Somehow these two from different worlds connect after having to sit next to each other on the bus. They see, despite their obvious differences, that they’re a lot alike.

If you’re a fan of My Mad Fat Diary – you will love this.
Also if you ever read Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, this book is also told from each of the characters perspectives! Which is a fun format.

They did announce a movie adaption in April, which is exciting, but also terrifying.
I’m worried they will cast two super-fit, model type actors, because when you read the book these feel like real people who you went to school with. I hope they stay true to the book casting-wise, but also capturing the awesomeness of this book.

Oh movie adaptations, I trust you for the most part, but don’t let me down.

Books

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Book)

I really enjoyed this book. I had watched the movie when it released a couple years ago, and while I was reading it I pictured those actors and those scenes.
Reading it though still felt new.
I loved the movie and I love the book.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The book I’m talking about is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s about Charlie going through his first year of high school and telling the experience through letters to someone he doesn’t know.

One review on the back compares it to Catcher in the Rye and it definitely has those elements of being a first-person narrative and telling your honest thoughts. Although Holden Caulfield spoke in a stream of consciousness thought process, while Charlie is more hesitant to share details – it is a stranger he’s telling this all to after all.

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Though I can’t relate to Charlie in many ways, there’s the common ground of wanting to feel part of something, of being included. The way Charlie describes his friends helps you to enter his world and feel like they could be your friends too. He’s a young kid who has gone through a lot, though he reminds himself there’s people out there who have it worse.

There’s two main quotes that became popular from this book include, “We accept the love we think we deserve” and “in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
It sums up the overall feeling of the book quite nicely.

Read the book and/or watch the movie.
The movie was written and directed by the author so you’re in good hands watching the adaptation.