Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Netflix, Race And Gender - Some Really Good Master of None Episodes, Hasan Minhaj, And Midnight Cafe

There are several posts I should have done (and still should do) on the impact of Netflix on my movie viewing.  Succinctly - we've spent a lot less time watching movies in theaters, but we've seen movies and tv shows that offer a much wider view of life, both in the US and beyond, than one normally gets at the cinema.

But I just want to mention a couple Netflix offerings here.  Season 1 of Aziz Ansari's Master of None was a disappointment.  It portrays the life of a Muslim Indian-American.  The topics were good, but it just didn't have the crispness and bite I've come to expect on good Netflix series.

But this second season has a much different tone and I'd like to strongly suggest two episodes:

Season 2 - Episode 6: New York, I Love You

We barely see the main character.  Instead we see glimpses of life in New York from the perspective of people who are outside the normal white, straight, able-bodied mainstream as they deal with life's obstacles because of  being the outside the 'norm.'   It's light, it's well done, and it has an important message for those of us who generally have a 'normal' pass.

Season 2 - Episode 8:  Thanksgiving

Screenshot from Netflix

If you only want to watch one of these episodes, watch this one.  Aziz, in this series, has several close, old friends.  Denise is a black lesbian and up until this episode we didn't know why she was in Dev's (Aziz's character) circle.
This episode corrects that and fills us in on who she is.  It covers a number of Thanksgiving dinners from the early 1990's (the second one is dated 1995, and I would guess Dev was about 8 or 9 in the first one) until the present.   Dev was over because his family didn't really celebrate Thanksgiving, so Denise's mother invited him over for every Thanksgiving.  We watch the two kids grow up together, including Denise coming out to Dev, and then her mom.  And how that first Thanksgiving after she comes out is very awkward and how over the years the family becomes comfortable with her orientation and even her girlfriend.  It's a wonderful show that takes on its own unique structure - compared to the the other episodes (except episode 2) which more or less follow a typical sitcom story arc.   A very insightful episode.  

Screenshot from Netflix
Hasan Minhaj - Homecoming King

Netflix filmed Daily Show correspondent, Hasan Minhaj's comedy show, at his performance in  Davis, California, where he was born and raised.  The audience is very supportive.  Basically, he talks about how he became a comedian and all the bumps along the way as the US born son of Indian immigrants living in a mostly white area.  There's a lot of humor and understanding to help us understand the anger he felt because of the way he was treated because he wasn't white.  Again, insightful, and something white Americans should watch.

Is it a coincidence that Netflix has these two shows (Minhaj is just a single show, not a series) starring Muslim Indian-Amricans?  (I'd love to track that down, but a quick online search didn't find the answer and if I'm going to get anything up today, that will have to be left for someone else.)

If you need to know more, Newsweek reviews Homecoming King in detail.

And don't miss Midnight Diner

Screenshot from Netflix
I also have to mention Midnight Diner - Tokyo Stories.  This is a gem of a show with short, poignant episodes that give us glimpses into the lives of ordinary folks in Tokyo who work late and stop at the Midnight Diner on the way home.  Each episode tells the story of a different person.  As it tells their stories, it also reminds us that people are people everywhere - they just dress and speak differently, but under all the cultural camouflage, they're just human beings with the same kinds of needs and dreams and foibles of humans everywhere.  This is such a charming show and each episode just takes 20 minutes or so.  And the music is good.

Of course, you have to subscribe to Netflix, or know someone who does, to watch these.  I resisted long enough and only joined so I could show my mom a movie, which turned out not to be on Netflix.  But there were other good movies she enjoyed.  And at about $9 per month (for online only, including dvd's is a little more), it's less than the price of one person at most theaters for one viewing. (Yes, I know, Anchorage's great Bear Tooth theater is less.)

There are lots and lots of interesting movies on Netflix, including many international films and television shows that give you a very different view of the world.

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