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What To Watch While Stuck In Your Room

Welcome to week three of What To Watch While Stuck In Your Room! This week, I decided to review a sitcom, a drama series, and a comedy film. I really wanted to cover a wide spectrum of TV and film this week, and here is what I’ve got for you! 

Mixed-ish

Chances are, you’ve watched, or at least heard of Kenya Barris’ Black-ish. For those who are unfamiliar with Black-ish, the series revolves around The Johnsons, a well-to-do African-American couple, their five children, and their live-in in-laws. The series tackles a plethora of issues that are relevant to the Black community, and presents these issues to a national audience in a sincere, yet typical sitcom fashion. The matriarch of the Johnson household, Rainbow (played by Tracee Ellis Ross), is a surgeon who also happens to be the only bi-racial character in the series. Mixed-ish gives voice to Rainbow’s struggles of growing up as a mixed youth in the 1980s.

In Mixed-ish, Rainbow is portrayed by actress Arica Himmel, who is only 15, and whose acting is far beyond her years! Alongside Himmel, Mixed-ish stars Tika Sumpter and Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Rainbow’s parents, Alicia and Paul. At the start of the series, Rainbow’s family is forced to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs when their commune is discovered to be a cult. Rainbow’s paternal grandfather, Harrison, owns a successful law firm, and not only allows the family to stay rent-free in a house that owns, but gives Alicia a job as a lawyer at his firm, since she possesses a law degree from Berkeley. 

Rainbow is the intelligent eldest child. Middle child and only boy, Johan, is a bit of a nerd. The youngest sibling is Santa Monica, a sassy and clever five year old diva (she provides most of the series’ comedy). Having grown up on a harmonious, color-blind commune, the Johnson siblings see nothing peculiar about being ‘mixed’ — in fact, they do not initially know what the term means until their parents explain it to them. All three children have difficulty finding their places at school, as they feel that they must choose one of their races to identify with; Johan tends to mesh better with African-American students, while Santa Monica easily falls in with the white students. It is 13-year old Rainbow who has the hardest time. Middle school is already a challenge, and she is not only the only mixed child in her grade, but is also attending a real school for the first time ever. She eventually finds friends of all different races who treat her as their equal. 

As a bi-racial woman, this show has a special place in my heart, as each episode focused on a topic I could relate to. Topics on the series range from the struggles of handling and learning to love your mixed hair, to tokenism, to code switching. My parents are — obviously — in an interracial relationship, and found that they related to the struggles of Rainbow’s parents in facing the world in an interracial relatiosnhip and raising mixed children. This is a series that everyone needs to watch, regardless of race. Bi-racial representation in the media has never been common, so Mixed-ish has managed to give a voice to an entire demographic of people who are highly misunderstood. 

Mixed-ish has one season, but the second season is currently in production. Each episode is 30 minutes long, and is rated TVPG. New episodes will air on ABC, but you can binge the series on the ABC app or on Hulu. 

The Sopranos

It is no secret that over the past two decades, HBO has produced some groundbreaking television shows. However, among those, The Sopranos is likely the most renowned. When this series aired in 1999, it was unlike anything HBO had ever produced. It also gained a huge cult following that still exists to this day. This raunchy series revolves around the Soprano family, and its patriarch, Tony, who is a New Jersey organized crime boss. Tony Soprano is unlike the stereotypical television mobster, as he is plagued by persistent panic attacks, and attends counseling sessions to quell them. His counselor, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, finds herself intrigued by the idea of Tony possibly belonging to the mafia. Tony’s therapy sessions play an integral part throughout the series. 

The members of Tony’s immediate family include his glamorous and sensible wife, Carmella, intelligent and liberal daughter, Meadow, and his rebellious son, AJ. Each member of the Soprano family is well-developed and often, subplots will focus on them and their individual conflicts (particularly as the children grow older). The members of Tony’s mafia family (the DiMeo Family) are all eccentric, memorable characters as well,  who also get their own subplots as the series progresses. 

As expected of an HBO series about the mafia, there is a good amount of violence and gore, so the weak-stomached have been warned! However, unlike typical mafia shows and films, the violence does not dominate the show. Often, I’ve found that some mafia flicks are hard for me to follow, simply because the violence tends to compensate for lackluster plots; The Sopranos is not so. The plot of The Sopranos is what made me fall in love with it. My parents own the series on DVD, so I grew up catching an episode here or there, but I watched the entire series over quarantine, and it was worth every second. 

The Sopranos is directed by different people each episode. The cinematography and directorial choices were two of the things I loved about the series. The acting in The Sopranos is breathtaking. James Gandolfini leads the colorful cast as Tony Soprano, and Edie Falco stars alongside him as Carmella. There are so many big-name actors in this series that I cannot even name them all! All of the actors do an excellent job portraying every aspect of their characters, thus making you love them one second, and hate them the next — just like real people. This series is also one that causes you to question your morality, as viewers find themselves rooting for mafia bosses who are known killers. 

If you have heard about The Sopranos, or have known any fans of it, you have likely heard about the ending. Many people were displeased with the finale as it ends on a rather strange and ambiguous note. There is not much I can disclose about it without spoiling it, so I will not go too far in depth. I found the ending to be intriguing, but I did find myself wanting more — way more. I suppose you’ll have to watch the series and see for yourself.

The Sopranos is rated TVMA, and is currently streaming on HBO Max, though with an HBO subscription, you could also stream it on Hulu. Of course, the entire series is available for purchase on DVD on Amazon and at Best Buy. The Sopranos is six seasons long and ran from 1999 until 2007. Each episode runs an hour to an hour and a half.

Booksmart

I was unsure how likely it was that many people had already seen this movie, since it was not highly advertised when it was released in the summer of 2019. Booksmart is a comedy about two best friends who are their high school’s valedictorian and salutatorian, who want to attend a wild party before they graduate high school. The leading ladies are Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, who play Molly (the uptight, bossy valedictorian) and Amy (the lesbian feminist salutatorian). Feldstein and Dever have excellent chemistry and wield their comedy chops masterfully throughout the film. 

Molly and Amy have worked their entire high school careers to become valedictorian and salutatorian, which meant that they missed out on a lot. The girls decide to go out and party the day prior to their graduation, as they realize that some of the wildest party animals at their school were able to party and excel academically. Throughout the night of the party, Molly and Amy find themselves in some silly situations that will have you laughing so hard that you will undoubtedly be in tears. As someone who focused solely on academics in high school, this movie was one that I could relate to, as I very much wish that I had taken more time to enjoy those four years. 

Booksmart also handles the reality of being an LGBTQ+ youth incredibly well! Amy is a lesbian who is out to everyone, including her parents, who are more than happy to accept her as she is. It is refreshing to see a movie wherein the parents of a person in the LGBTQ+ are so accepting. The concept of gender also plays a huge part throughout Booksmart, as both Amy and Molly are feminists who are very vocal about what they believe in. Booksmart has also been revered as the feminist high school film that the world has been waiting for, as most R-rated high school comedies revolve around boys looking to lose their virginity. Booksmart deviates very much from the typical high school narrative, but never totally parts ways with its predecessors. 

Booksmart is rated R, and runs for one hour and 45 minutes. The film can be streamed on Hulu, or can be purchased on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

 

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