Being Erica – Review by blog contributor R.

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What would you do if you had the chance to go back in time and “revise” all the bad decisions you took in the past based on your more mature knowledge so you could learn useful lessons that would help you take wiser decisions and build a better future for yourself?

In essence, this is the story of Erica Strange in Being Erica. This light and engaging tv-show set in the beautiful Toronto, Canada, is produced by Jana Sinyor. The series is  spread across four series during which spectators get to know and follow the protagonist on her path for personal development and positive change. But let me tell you a little bit more about this series and why I liked it so much.

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SPOILER ALERT (first episode only uh!) – Young and smart, Erica Strange holds a master’s degree in English Literature but she is constantly taking the wrong decisions in her life or falling for men who do not deserve her and is clearly underachieving at work. Paradoxically, the series begins with Erica hitting rock bottom: she gets fired from a job in a call centre because they think she is “too serious”, is dumped by the guy who she has been dating for some time and ends up in hospital due to an allergic reaction. This  appens all in one day!

It is at this point, lying in her hospital bed, that Erica meets Doctor Tom for the first time: he is a peculiar therapist who offers her his services. He guarantees to fix her life in exchange of a personal commitment. Dr. Tom seems to have always the right advice to give and will follow and support Erica in her personal development to change the scary recurring pattern of her life: messing up. All this to the tune of wise quotes! Erica, initially skeptical, will eventually commit Dr. Tom’s therapy programme and start straightening her life and steering it into a direction that is suitable for her.

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I really enjoyed watching Being Erica and empathised deeply with some of the  protagonist struggles and fights. I have found the episodes actual and relatable: the situations she found herself in could easily recur in the life of any sensitive growing human being. I have enjoyed the dynamism of the series: there is a linear sense of progression and every regrets Erica goes back in time to fix adds up to her book of lessons learned so after four series, it is amazing to see the protagonist bloom, trust herself completely, let go of her fears and fulfil her potential.

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The path of Erica is not easy and she will fail and be hurt at times: during the series she will confront major fears and setbacks and learn to change her “bad” behaviour and do all it takes to avoid making the same mistakes all over again even if it means getting hurt or hurt other people feelings when necessary. Thanks to her continuous hard work, Dr. Tom continuous effort and with the support of the other people in her life, she will learn invaluable lessons, especially to trust her gut and to pick herself up and keep going even when things do not go as planned or become hard. The screen shot above is one of the most significant episodes in the entire series, no spoiler uh, but when you will get to this point, you will realise how Erica has grown throughout the series.

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Erica’s development ripples across all the characters she is surrounded by in the series: she is somehow the epicentre of a general transformation. Even if she and all other people around her have always identified her with the black sheep in the family or the unreliable one, the paradox is that eventually she will manage to transform into the reliable one and people will even come to depend on her for advice or help. Step by step, Erica will fix all areas of her life she was not happy with and learn to take better  decisions for her future: she will find the right man, develop a fulfilling career and learn to take care of herself.
I love this tv-show because it leaves you with a sense of positive feeling and serenity. Some important key lessons can be inferred from Erica’s story and are valid for everyone’s real life as well – here’s some below:
1. Self-awareness in life is fundamental. As human beings, we are in constant  development: we are always changing and learning and growing. The process is never ending but we need to grow awareness of ourselves, we need to recognise our strengths and weaknesses and learn to fill the gaps. Our strengths and weaknesses help us face our fears and determine how we react to setbacks. Little by little, if we are willing to commit to what we want and work hard to get it, thanks to our skills and abilities, we will be able to realise the vision we want for our life.
2. No matter how hard things are in our lives, if we don’t like how they have turned out for us, we can always try to change them. It is going to be hard work at times, and we have no guarantee we will be successful in the attempt, but if we know what we want, we trust ourself and our abilities and we keep trying, we can fix almost all the problems life throws at us.
3. We always have a choice on how to react to things that happen to us, good or bad. The
fundamental element is that we need to really understand the situation, what is the root cause behind the happening and fully evaluate options before acting or taking a decision. There may be times when, despite all our efforts, events will not unfold in the way we expected them to. Sometimes, the more we try, the better we will be at directing things where we want. Sometimes not but it will ok anyway. We try our best given the circumstances but we cannot control everything.
4. For every problem there is a solution, actually there are multiple solutions, and there is no absolute right or wrong. There is only what is right for us. Maybe we cannot see the solution we want to a problem straight away or we need to face the fact that we need to opt for a solution we do not like, or maybe a solution that requires us to work hard. One way or another, we can always move forward and fine-tune the plan.

I will close this review with the quote Dr. Tom said to Erica the first time they met and a heartily recommend you to watch this series. To me, it is not just the average tv-show but it leaves you with something meaningful for your everyday life.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity – Albert Einstein

The OA – We (still) have faith

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If you spend some time of your day on the internet, you may know by now that the brilliant show The OA was cancelled by Netflix after two seasons. The OA was created by longtime friends Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling and it premiered three years ago with a first season that was bold, emotional, diverse, whimsical and absolutely addicting. I loved it so much: the setting, the characters, the intrigue of the story, the unreliable narrator, the spiritual connections, the sci-fi elements of travelling through dimensions. We all waited three years for a second season and, boy, did they deliver it. At first I was a little confused because it LOOKED so different from everything that I came to love in the first chapter and, I guess, I was also baffled by the new characters because it took me a while to understand how they were all connected to OA’s story.

But then I watched it again and again (and again, honestly), I went to read all the theories on Reddit, discussed topics with people on a very active Facebook group and I felt like what we, as audience, had experienced by watching The OA was a journey. Together with the creators and the actors in it, we traveled dimensions and travelled in and out of our consciousness to dig very deep inside ourselves to discover what it really means to live and coexist with others and how we can impact others’ lives.

As of two days ago, we all found out that the show won’t come back for a third season after an absolutely mindblowing finale and I am upset. And I know I’m not the only one. The OA is so much more than just another tv show. It is a piece of art and transcends its medium when we see that so many people around the world are starting to do the movements. Not only because we jokingly say that we all want to travel to a better dimension than this one; but because The OA gave us faith. I kind of want to stretch it even further and say that it especially gave faith to all of us atheists/non-believers. It gave us faith in better understanding the human condition and the human purpose on this earth. It reinforced the idea of trusting others not only based on what they think but on what they actively do and deal when presented with tough decisions or situations. And it also illuminated us about the (now for us Westerns long-lost) connection between humans and the nature, and how it actually sustain us and guide us through life.

The OA is a great piece of art and it was originally thougth by its creators to be a five-chapters story. The show won’t come back (even though, the firmest of believers will say it’s all part of an act connected to the meta-finale of the second season, as thoroughly explained in this article by Kim Renfro) and I still hope Zal and Brit will at least come out with novelisations of what they had in mind for the continuation of the OA’s story. I want to know, I want to believe but most importantly I don’t want to give up on the potential of this story and all the things that it makes me think about and, most importantly, feel.

 

Girls HBO

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Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with Adam Driver so I watched many of the films he starred in but the first time I’d ever seen him on screen was in GIRLS, the HBO series. I’d watched the first season a couple of years ago but I wasn’t really hooked so I gave it up and didn’t continue the other seasons.

Now I’ve watched it all and I can say a few things about it (a part from the fact that it reinforced my obsession with Driver, he’s just so good in everything he does). The show consists of six seasons in total and it was created (and mostly written, sometimes even directed) by Lena Dunham. Even I, from the other side of the ocean, know of the backlash that Dunham has received in the past few years and I honestly still haven’t formed a personal judgement about her. But for this article, I will only consider her work and not her personally.

Now that I’ve finished the series, I can definitely say that I miss it. I wouldn’t say I binge-watched it but still it’s left a void behind. I really appreciated the fact that it is very raw and honest, it depicts what I believe is a truthful representation of being a 20-something years old in this world where jobs have lost their values, technology takes up a lot of our daily lives and relationships with other human beings are more complicated than ever.

The characters are generally not very likeable, but let me dive into this more. Hannah is the real protagonist (because some episodes are on her alone) and she’s for sure the most problematic one. Hannah is very direct, honest and more often than not very forward in her intentions. She also has the ability to put herself in so many cringey and even dangerous situations that she could easily avoid, were she more poised and pensive. But she’s also very intelligent and, since she is a writer, can express herself rather on point. We, as female audience, can actually look up to her for the confidence in regards to her body and also in regards to her work because she is unapologetic. It is something that is refreshing to see, especially in a young female character. Too often we are depicted as insecure, always having to ask permission or even approval from someone who claims to know more than us. Hannah does not.

Marnie is a character that I really can’t stand. She is always so manipulative, so indecisive, always making a bad decision even if everybody around her tries to warn her. I mean, yes, Charlie who was her boyfriend was abruptly written off of the show when things for Marnie and him were actually starting to get better. Despite this, Marnie is insufferable. From season one to finish she uses men, even though she is unsure of what she actually wants from them and always leaving them hurt. And in the end she finds herself alone, wanting to take care of Hannah and her baby and leaving herself and her desires (fuck, her entire life!) aside.

I like the character of Jessa (mainly because I adore Jemima Kirke, like I adore all the Kirke sisters, to be honest) because she really is something different and it’s not pretence. She is very fucked up but she manages to keep a sense of self throughout the series. I don’t even blame her for “stealing” Adam to Hannah, even if technically they hadn’t been together for quite some time by the time Jessa hooked up with him. Should she have told Hannah? Yes. Can we understand why she didn’t? Also yes. Dealing with Hannah proves to be an issue throughout all of GIRLS and Jessa, though sad and still angry at Adam for not dealing with Hannah and simply deciding to cut her completely off of their lives, in the end is the one to sincerely apologise to her.

Honestly Shoshanna is the only character that baffles me. She is very unique and quirky in her own way, even if in the end she only wants a normal life, possibly without too much drama. She seeks that life throughout the whole series and in the end she seems to have found it, even if that means cutting all the other girls from her life. Without them she can be herself. She was actually right when, on that vacation organised by Marnie that turned out quite badly, she yelled at the others that she was the only one that they never listened to. But I still have kind of an issue with Shoshanna because we don’t actually get to know her too much and still is a mystery in the end.

Now, let’s talk about the men of the series, even if disappointingly they were mostly absent for the last episodes, which left me with a feeling of incompleteness. Elijah is honestly my favourite character of the whole series, for many reasons. He’s very straight-forward with everyone, remains an excellent friend to Hannah and, very relatable to me personally, still has no idea what to do with his life even if he waltzes through it as if he had a clue. Adam Sackler is for sure the weirdest of them all. At first he just seems like an asshole who doesn’t want to have responsibilities and avoides them at all cost. But then he sort of redeems himself when he starts to really care for Hannah. But then he goes down a spiral of disappointing the people around him that stops only when his sister Caroline has her baby. He is a very caring man and he proves it once again when he finds out that Hannah is pregnant (the episode of the 6th season when they say goodbye for good to each other might be the saddest of them all). Ray is often very obnoxious but he mostly means well and he’s yet another victim of Marnie’s indecisiveness. In the end he’s the one that has the most satisfying ending and we all hope he finally found the one for him.

All in all, as I said, I liked GIRLS especially for its rawness and directness. It does have its flaws in character development and sometimes in the writing but I’d rewatch it gladly.

Sense8

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Sense8 – Review by blog-contributor R.

What would be your reaction if you found yourself all of a sudden connected to seven other individuals in the world? What if you could share emotions with them, literally go under their skins? And if stuck in dark places, what if you could count on the support of these seven other individuals? What if you could borrow their strengths and skills beyond your own and your life was indissolubly connected with theirs? All for one, one for all. This is the paradigm of Sense8: the last series of Lilly and Lana Wachowski.

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The series revolves around eight individuals scattered across the globe who, all of a sudden, find themselves connected to one another without knowing why. Riley “Blue” Gunnarsdóttir is a DJ who lives in London, she connects with Will Gorski a policeman who lives in Chicago. Sun Bak is the vice president and CFO of a company located in Seoul and her connection is initially triggered with Capheus “Van Damn” Onyango, a bus driver who lives in Nairobi. Kala Dandekat is a pharmacist who lives in Mumbai and her connection is with Wolfgang Bogdanow a locksmiths and safe-cracker who lives in Berlin. The last two sensates of the cluster are Nomi Marks, a transgender woman who lives in San Francisco with her girlfriend and Lito Rodriguez, a closeted actor who lives in Mexico City. The story of their cluster begins when that of Angelica’s cluster ends. I am not so bad to spoil you the story of this character so, go find out by yourself!

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The sensates do not know why or how this connection was created and established but they will soon discover what it means and the danger it could represent for all of them as
they get closer to one another and their lives get more and more mingled. On one side, Sense8 explores the events in the life of the characters, on the other side, it exposes many difficult contemporary topics like global poverty and the socio-economical condition of the Third World, AIDS and health frauds, gender equality, pride and LGBT rights, violence, religious fanatics and organised crime, financial politics in the business world, courage to stand up for what you believe in but, above all, love, inclusion and acceptance.

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The first series focuses on the discovery of the concept of a cluster and exposes all characters’ past and present histories: their struggles, lost fights and victories. The sensates get closer and learn to rely on one another when they need help in difficult situations. This will prove itself to be crucial as soon as the cluster starts to deal with a secret organisation called Biologic Preservation Organisation (BPO) that hunts them down. The second season is all about the choices of the characters once exposed to the life developments of the other sensates and how they develop and grow as well as the fight against BPO. SPOILER – Things will get reeeeeaaaaally dark in the second season! However, even though the cluster will have to face enemies, it also gather helpers and supporters like Jonas, a member of Angelica’s cluster, who will advise them on how to protect themselves from BPO and fight back in any way they can. The senates will form a unite group that stands tall agains the organisation that wants to eliminate them.

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I enjoyed Sense8 but it is a bit of a love-hate relationship. I have found the series engaging and intense and the struggles of the characters contemporary and real. The idea of having a mental connection with people of different cultures and values and the ability to rely on a set of people with a different skillset compared to yours is  intriguing: just think about how much you could learn from one another in a very short  eriod of time (assuming no member of your cluster behaves like an ass*#!e of course!) and how helpful it could be to have seven more brains connected to yours when facing difficult situations (Ok, perhaps headaches could hit hard at times..).

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Now the bad points. Despite the fact that all sensates are inclusive of what is going on in other characters’ lives and are happy to share bad and good memories and emotions and
help if / when needed aaaaaand given the “emergency” situations of BPO hunting them down, I believe the topic of privacy (which due to the digital revolutions going on everywhere around the world right now is very actual) has been greatly underestimated.
How does this connection work? I mean: what if I do not want to share some memories with the cluster? Do I need to take drugs to keep people out of my head? This connection clearly comes at a price and my impression is that the series tends to highlight more the benefits than the downsides. It deserves to be mentioned that the idea of having a supporting cluster, in a way like a portable family, no matter where you go or where you are is appealing. To conclude, if you are looking for an intense dramatic tv-show that leaves you something more than just an hour of distraction, Sense8 could be a good choice. Also, the tv-shows was filmed across more than eight countries and some sets around the locations are really stunning from a photographic perspective. Have you seen
Sense8? I am eager to hear your thoughts here! P.S. Favourite character: Sun Bak; she is an unparalleled badass throughout the two series!

The I.T. Crowd – A review by a special guest

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Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to a new contributor to this blog. She will be posting reviews on here, too. My very good friend R.! She’s a lovely Italian girl just like me, but she’s been living abroad for the past four years. Here is her first review for this blog! Hope you enjoy.


“I am going to put you in IT because you said on your CV you have a lot of experience with computers.”

“I did say that on my CV, yes – ahah, a lot of experience with the whole computer thing, you know, e-mails, sending e-mails, receiving e-mails, deleting e-mails, ahm, I could go on.”

“Do”

“The web, using mails, using mouse, mices, using mice… clicking, double clicking, ahm, the computer screen of course, the keyboard, the bit that goes on the floor down there..”

“The hard drive”

“Correct”

“Well, you certainly seem to know your stuff. That settles. Got a good feeling about you, Jen! And they need a new manager.”

Ok, ok. Let’s start from the beginning.

Jen Barber, gossipy liar, self-centered and fashionista starts a new job at Reynholm Industries and she is assigned to the I.T. department. Staring outside a window from the 28th floor, she feels at the top of the world but she is brutally brought back to reality when she is asked to take the lift and move to the basement where her office is located. Not inviting, uh…

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Here she meets her team members. Maurice Moss is a socially awkward robotic genius, who would not hurt a fly and gifted with an incredible imagination. His dryness and sense of humour, or lack of, is most of the time embarrassing and securing laughter. He works with Roy Trenneman, not the brightest kid in town but with an immense heart, also clumsy and extremely unlucky with women. It does not take much for him to realise that Jen is a complete impostor that know nothing about computers – he immediately sets out to get rid of her.

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The first episode finishes with the threesome marching in Denholm Reynholm’s office (i.e. the egocentric founder of Reynholm Industries, who, like Jen, has not got the faintest idea about I.T. and what it does for the company). Roy is determined to tell on her and explain that the new I.T. organisation is not working out but a phone call saves the day. Maurice, Roy and Jen listen to a conversation during which Denholm fires an entire floor of employees because they were unable to do “team work”. Afraid of losing their jobs, they say nothing and return to the I.T. basement where Roy is beaten up by a woman he previously abused over the phone (for a change!) and Jen is able to defuse the situation by distracting the woman. After all, she has some skills! It is at this point that Jen formulates her strategy: she will use her people skills to raise the profile of I.T. at the upper floors by throwing a party.

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Everything seems to be going rather well until Roy tells Maurice to recount a funny story about him falling in a canal. That’s when Maurice misunderstands the message and tells a different sick story about him and Roy mixed up with alcohol and prostitutes. Mayday, mayday… needless to say, Jen’s party ends in a total fiasco and her initial idea to raise I.T. reputation in the eyes of the colleagues working in the upper floors goes down the drain. From the first to the fourth seasons, the three are bound together and find themselves in the most unpredictable situations: episodes usually revolve around the three getting in trouble, being ridiculed or embarrassed or beaten up (with Maurice usually falling from the sky!) and, more often than not, with Jen embarrassing herself. However, the team is always raising above the circumstances and all the team members strengthen their bonds and grow as individuals.

The I.T. Crowd is a stereotypical representation of the big multinational corporation environment where I.T. is viewed as the tail-end of the company, taken for granted, used and abused but showing that g of brainless angels either. Maurice, Roy and Jen have their moments of insight and get their little revenges every now and then. The four seasons of this show include short episodes (30 minutes or less) all stuffed with a good dose of humour to invite the audience to reflect, not just enjoying a funny gag. Episodes do not need to be looked in order so if you are looking to have a laugh and distract the mind from the daily hustles, that’s your tv-show. Have you seen it already? Great, do you agree? No? Well, what is your view, then?

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