Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons WhyThere is no sensible way of talking about assault, victimization and suicide – there is only the matter of fact way to address these problems and the new Netflix show does just that.

Based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why the series, is elegantly shot and performed. It is focused on a group of teenage students dealing with the suicide of one of their own, the show travels easily through past and present scenarios. As a viewer you’re engaged with each emotion Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) are feeling and you’re left wanting a friend like the wise Tony (Christian Navarro) who will protect your secrets and honor your memory.

It is no secret that Hannah Baker commits suicide. What is yet to be determined is why. As depicted in the preview, Hanna Baker is dead – you can hear her voice hauntingly telling you that she is. You can see her face and Clay’s reaction when she says that the tape he’s listening to is the first of 13 tapes that list the reasons why she’s dead – true to the tone set on the preview, the show opens with Hanna Baker’s voice and the introduction to the tapes that reveal the reasons why she committed suicide. Placing the blame on each student that are mentioned in each one of them. But why does she blame them? What happens next is a slew of unimaginable happenings in teenagers’ lives that not only opens the door to traumas, but addresses the behavioral signs every parent or educator should pay attention to, and most importantly, it showcases the grief and love every parent of a child who dies or commits suicide goes through. It’s raw, emotional and educational all at once.

While slow paced (which I sometimes found infuriating) it is with purpose: there is a reason why there’s no rushing into the reality of things. In real life these issues don’t happen as quickly as one may think. It’s a buildup of everything and anything. As Hannah goes on to tell us, there is a start to her thoughts of suicide and she continues to narrate, she points out that every little thing counts – be it towards life or against it.

Along with mortality, the show also addresses rape, consent and the murky waters a teenager has to navigate to understand what it really means to be in a healthy relationship with another person. It addresses survivor’s guilt. Another thing that it addresses is the ongoing issue with teenagers today, especially since so many parents still don’t know how to speak to their children about sex, relationships and most importantly: consent. I did find the show lacking to address the issue properly since consent is a responsibility for both males and females; they both have to consent to have sex with one another – it’s not just the guy who has to make sure the girl wants to have sex.

The issue of sexual identity is also addressed here. There are plenty of characters who are gay, some are presented as ‘matter of fact’ others are presented as still struggling with their identity and do whatever it takes to protect their ‘secrets’. The issues teenagers face: sexuality, depression, anxiety, bullying, drunk driving, societal and peer pressures, self identity and academic responsibilities are a huge part of this show as it is in our daily lives. These issues drive the characters actions, choices and it affects them all in different ways. Like I mentioned before, the show is elegantly performed, directed and shot. Each episode is riddled with emotion that will cause you to feel everything its characters are feeling. It does a great job at not shying away from the uncomfortable topics and it addresses the complexities of victimization and predator like behavior with an equal complex view of it all – it is never black and white when it comes to these things.

But it’s not all heavy, within the heavy topics dealt with in the show; there is a tender awkward teenage love story. Similar to the awkward one we’ve all experienced in our youth – with misunderstood intentions and unsaid words that lead to further confusion and decisions made under duress and ignorance.

I highly recommend people to watch this show because it tells more than just one story. It tells a complex story about parents, teenagers, educators and life itself – and since I don’t want to give much of plot line away, so go stream it now.

I further recommend, as a survivor of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, as well as survivor of a suicide attempt – that if you have these feelings, to speak to someone about it – to be clear about your emotions, however hard they may be. There is no shame in being a victim, there is no shame in being depressed, and there is no shame in having dark emotions – but please, speak to someone because suicide is not the answer. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel you’re passing through at the moment.

For help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time 1-800-273-8255 (US) or if you’re outside of the States check this list of suicide prevention websites in your country: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html.

Review: One Day at a Time

Hey guys! I’m sorry for not posting in so long, but I’ve been engaged in the resistance to today’s increasingly tense political climate – while I’m fighting to keep the rights of POC, women, the LGBTQ community and immigrants both in the US and in Puerto Rico – I’ve also been watching some crazy awesome movies and television shows. One of them being Netflix’ One Day at a Time.

Creators Gloria Calderon Kellett, and Mike Royce did good by the reboot of the beloved sitcom that debut in 1974 and ran for 9 seasons.

one-day-at-a-timeStarring the incredibly talented Justina Machado as a former Army Nurse Penelope Álvarez, the legendary Rita Moreno as her widowed mother Lydia, and Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz as Penelope’s children Elena and Alex – they are the all-(Cuban)American family who reside in California – their landlord, Schneider (the hilarious Todd Grinnell) is more like an adoptive family member that doesn’t annoy with his quips or presence like many other characters do.

In the seven episodes (out of 13) that I’ve seen the show has dealt with  work place conflict, gender wage gap, sexism, immigration and deportation, Trump’s wall, domestic abuse, divorce, re-entering the dating scene after a long relationship followed by a painful separation, self love, and more.

All characters are well rounded, rich in complexities and all actors play each with such ease it’s easy to feel as if you’re watching your own (Latin) family deal with all the intricacies of day-to-day life dealings.

I especially love this show because it’s the first one I’ve seen that I can absolutely relate to. While I’m not Cuban, I know what it’s like to be a Latin person moving to a place where people either hate you, or just don’t know anything about you – therefore they…hate you. The strength of Penelope’s character is inspiring and Lydia reminds me of my own grandmother, but with more sass. I also love how the Latin-Caribbean language was not altered – something that is often misrepresented in films.

All in all, I give it a 10 star out of 10 and name it an absolute binge worthy show.

10 shows that have inspired me (2nd Edition)

Welcome to the second edition of the television shows that have inspired me; be it story-wise, visually, or overall. While the first list featured a set a older shows that made a difference in my life, this new list focuses on the newer shows and how they have inspired me in any way.

  1. Vikings (History Channel; Starring: Travis Fimmel, Clive Standen, Gustaf Skarsgård, Katheryn Winnick) – I love Vikings, their whole myth and reality of exploration, import, export I think it’s absolutely fascinating and have been reading up on the things Vikings have done since I can remember. One of the reasons why I love them so much: they were the first society that treated women with equality. There were shield maidens who fought side by side with men, and made their own decisions when it came to marriage, divorce, children, etc. So when History Channel decided they were going to make a show based on the lives of Ragnar Lothbrok, Rollo (who ended up being King of Normandy) and Shield Maiden Lagertha, I was thrilled! While some pieces of the show are not entirely accurate, the fact that Lagertha (Winnick) is such a strong and independent character from both Ragnar (Fimmel) and Rollo (Standen) reflects the realities of how women in Viking society were treated – including being able to hold positions on their own.
  2. Bates Motel (A&E Network; Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Nestor Carbonell) – Let’s face it, for anyone who has seen Psycho the idea of Norman Bates being THAT obsessed with his mother is unnerving. However, I wanted to know, HOW, did he get to be that obsessed with his mother…Bates Motel gives a good look at the origin of Norman Bates, his relationship with his mother and brother and how he came to be, with a mixture of modern and retro looks this series is quite entertaining, unnerving and engaging, and Highmore is the perfect Norman!
  3. Fuller House (Netflix; Starring: Candice Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber) – I cannot make a list of shows without including the sequels to my childhood favorites. When the announcement came that they were going to revamp the series, I was worried, but after watching the first episode of the Netflix hit and laughing my face off, and crying during some episodes and laughing like crazy again – Fuller House is one of my new favorites. One thing that I would like is if they’d stop featuring the old characters (Danny Tanner, Uncle Jesse & Becky and Joey) so that the Fuller clan can shine on their own – because they’re more than capable of doing so.
  4. The Last Kingdom (BBC; Starring: Alexander Dreymon, Ian Hart, David Dawson) – Back to Viking land! This historical fiction drama that focuses on two characters that actually existed (it has been stated that they lived an estimated 200 years from one another in history) Uhtred of Bebbanburg and King Alfred of Wessex tells the story of how the ambition of man can lead to mixed loyalties and what men who have power ultimately want for their country. It’s greatly written, performed and engaging. Uhtred (Dreymon) is a young lord who saw his father killed in battle, was kidnapped by a gang of invading Vikings and raised as one of them, when he’s older he’s forced to flee from the land he grew to call his own and seek refuge in his former homeland where he is now considered and outsider. The story has multiple layers, lots of battle, some witchcraft and a Ragnar – although this one is called Ragnar the Young.
  5. The Get Down (Netflix; Starring: Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Herizen Guardiola) – What is better than Hip-Hop, 1977 Bronx, Disco and Baz Luhrman put together? Nothing, the answer is nothing. The Get Down is also a historical fiction take on the rise of hip-hop from the poverty stricken South Bronx a-la-Luhrman, the filmmaker who has a passion for music but makes incredible films. The performances are amazing, the young actors cast a spell on you when you see them on screen navigating the realistic sets that resemble that of a broken down Bronx in the mid to late 70’s that brought me back to when I was a baby and my mother would take me down the street to the little shop my Dad set up to sell tostones, pollo frito, bacalaitos and other Puerto Rican favorites. The only thing I can’t get over is the forced Puerto Rican phrases from the actors, but everything else is fantastic.
  6. Chelsea & Chelsea Does… (Netflix; Starring: Chelsea Handler) – I’m a big fan of Handler’s, she tells it to you straight and I think that moving to Netflix from the E! Network is the best thing she could have done to her career. Many thought it was a crazy gamble because not all of us understood how late night and streaming would fit in. Still, it worked. Her transition show Chelsea Does, had her exploring tons of topics: drugs, marriage, children, racism while showcasing a more human, vulnerable Handler that not all of us knew existed. In Chelsea – she continues with the tone set up by her docu-series and talks about things that matter: politics, education, medicine, science, history, money with a dash of celebrity guests and skits. It’s fun to watch as she educates herself through what she’s called the Netflix University. Stream it, you’ll love it too.
  7. Stranger Things (Netflix; Starring: Winona Rider, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp) – Thank you Duffer Brothers for scaring the bejezuz out of me! I haven’t watched anything like this in a very long time. The mystery, the performances, the story, the reveal, it’s all amazing. I couldn’t stop watching it! Set in 1983, the time when kids could ride their bikes home at night after playing Dungeons and Dragons for hours in their BFF’s house and the parents were okay and not accused of child abuse for letting them be independent. When Will Byers (Schnapp) mysteriously disappears one night his friends set out to look for him and find an equally mysterious girl (Brown) close to where Will was last seen. What happens from there is a story of friendship that covers everything from bullying, homophobia, monsters, and a serious case of alternate reality that will make you think twice about your current universe.
  8. Tormenta de Passiones or Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki (WAPA, Kanal D – Turkey; Starring: Ayca Bingol, Yildiz Cagri Aksoy, Aras Bulut Iynemli, Mete Horozoglu) – set from the 1960’s to the 1970’s – this series tells the true story of the Akarsu family, beginning with the events that were to change their family’s story in 1967: their father’s infidelity. The show is filled with riveting performances, two strong matriarchs and situations that are seems too unreal to be true – but isn’t that what life is filled with?
  9. Heartless (Netflix, Kanal 5 – Denmark; Starring: Sebastian Jessen, Julie Zangenberg, Nicolaj Kopernikus) I was intrigued by the description of this show “Two siblings with a deep dark and fatal secret. In order to survive they must suck the energy out of other people” – truth is, they are twins and they are a Succubae and Incubus set of twins who don’t know what they are, and go on a journey to find out why they need to feed off other people. The young actors portraying the (fraternal) twins have a great deal of chemistry and are amazing in each of their performances. The secrets are big and never obvious when they’re revealed, also – there’s tons of gruesome killings and cover ups. The interesting show is filled with magic, and how it can pragmatically work in the real world, tons of death, and tons of Danish sex – which I have to say has proven to be quite sexy from what I’ve seen on their shows…
  10. Queen of the South (USA Networks; Starring: Alice Braga, Veronica Falcón, Peter Gadiot) this much better version of La Reina del Sur follows the story of Teresa Mendoza (Braga) and her rise to power in the drug world. Reluctantly guided by the most badass, take no prisoners, no excuses, no-fucks-given-attitude-having Camila Vargas (Falcón) Teresa tries to do her best to stay alive, but her future self appears in the first episode and quickly guides her to doing much more. Camila is a character to be reckoned with – Falcón plays her with ease, poise and dangerous seduction that makes any person pee a little bit in their pants. She’s cunning and she likes to be underestimated because she will shut you down in two seconds flat. Each episode is full of moments that will make you tighten your grip, scream at the television and sometimes cover your eyes. Falcón, Braga and Justina Machado who plays the always hustling Brenda, shows women will do anything to not only come on top, but survive and protect their family and loved ones – even if it’s in the drug world.

Dudes, I’ve been nominated for an award!

liebster2I’ve been blogging here and there for quite some time – and I’ve never heard of this particular award. While my most recent recognition was being part of the 2015 Selection of the Rincón International Film Festival, I’ve never nominated for an award. So you’d be right to think that I’m more than excited when my nominator Steifannie on left me a comment November 7, 2015 announcing her decision to bestow me such an honor. Naturally at first I thought ‘wait, is there such an award?’ and I proceeded to investigate by way of Google and found it to be a real thing – and if you, like me, don’t know much about the award, here are the details: The Liebster Award is an award given by bloggers to other up-and-coming (and particularly awesome) blogs. It’s a way of connecting and encouraging others to keep going with their online presence, promoting the arts in any way possible. The rules changed from nominating bloggers with or fewer than 3000 followers to currently only being able to nominate bloggers with or fewer than 200.

The rules are quite simple:

  1. THANK THE PERSON WHO NOMINATED YOU AND LINK TO THEIR BLOG ON YOUR LIEBSTER AWARD nomination POST. 
  2. COPY AND PASTE THE LIEBSTER AWARD nomination BADGE INTO YOUR POST. 
  3. ANSWER THE 10 QUESTIONS YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE NOMINATED.
  4. COME UP WITH 10 QUESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK OF YOUR  NOMINEES (please look below).
  5. NOMINATE 10 BLOGGERS WHO HAVE 200 or less FOLLOWERS and let them know by COMMENTING ON ONE OF THEIR POSTS, and linking YOUR LIEBSTER AWARD nomination POST, along with A SHORT MESSAGE.

I’ve already completed both Steps 1 & 2, so here is Step 3: The responses to my nominator’s questions:

  1. WHY DID YOU START BLOGGING?

To reach a broader audience with my short films, written stories, etc., as well as to grow my online presence as a filmmaker.

  1. DO YOU KEEP A DIARY, IF SO WHY? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

I wouldn’t call it a diary, I would call it a “story idea notebook” and I write in it quite often with ideas for films, some poems, and some (TV/Web) series ideas.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE GROWTH OF YOUTUBE AND YOUTUBERS? 

I think it’s interesting…I like how it gives a platform for people who have dreams of becoming a performer at any capacity. However, with the good there is often a bad, and the dark side of YouTube is quite dark….and unnecessary really.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM EVER AND WHY?

I cannot pick just one, but you can certainly read my list of 25 Films that have inspired me (1st edition) to get an idea….

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM TRAILER AND/OR POSTER AND WHY? IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE, PICK A TRAILER AND/OR POSTER YOU’VE SEEN RECENTLY THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT!

Here are my favorite movie posters – why? Purely for narcissistic reasons (hint: they are my own movie posters…lol)

Forced into Silence riff pasado poster 2

  1. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR? 

To just be happy

  1. WHAT IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?

A cabbage patch doll…when I was like 5??

  1. IF YOU COULD DO OR BE ANYTHING, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? (EVEN IF YOU’VE ALREADY ‘GROWN UP’!)

I’m already doing and being it J

  1. WHO WOULD YOU BE IF YOU COULD BE ANY CHARACTER FROM A FILM?

This is a hard question….since I like so many films. I’d be Merida (Brave) Skeeter (The Help) Maleficent, Pocahontas, Samantha Jones (Sex and the City), Lieutenant John J. Dunbar a/k/a Dances with Wolves (Dances with Wolves), Mrs. Boss or Lady Sarah Ashley (Australia), Ms. Gruel (Freedom Writers)….you get the point – the strong, curious, authority-defying, game-changing character in each film.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR TIP FOR SAVING THE WORLD?

I don’t know, try to be good to others, do no harm, plant/save trees…spread the goodness within…

BONUS ANSWER:

Although she didn’t ask this question, I liked it so I’ll answer it:

  1. WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

There’s really no way to just choose one thing. I have to say that this year has been full of surprises and accomplishments I only dreamt of having a short time ago. I was very proud of myself when I wrote, directed, and (limited) released my first short film – that was something I thought would never happen. Another moment of accomplishment was when I was invited to be a speaker at the La Guardia Community College in New York for my work on (ongoing production) Forced into Silence , being interviewed by the Award-Winning podcaster Dr. Vibe for his aptly named The Dr. Vibe Show. When my first short documentary, Forever Boogies, made the 2015 Official RIFF selection….I could go on forever, so I guess I can say the years 2014, and 2015 I’m most proud of so far

Step 4: Here are my 10 questions for my nominees:

  1. Why made you want to blog?
  2. What do you blog about and why?
  3. Is there any accomplishment that you’re most proud of? What sets it apart from any other accomplishment?
  4. (I think this is a great question) What do you wish you knew more about and why?
  5. What is your favorite film/book/television show and why? (if you have one of each, list all of them)
  6. Is there anything or anyone who inspires you the most, why?
  7. What are your ambitions for the future? Where do you see yourself going? (Be it by blogging, or any aspect of your artistic expression – e.g. writing, film, drawing, etc )
  8. Other than sharing your thoughts with the world, what do you care about the most?
  9. If you could meet any person in the world (past or present – alive or dead) who would it be and what would you ask them?
  10. What do you wish your legacy to be – that thing that people remember when they hear your name?

Although some of these questions might seem challenging, I’ve come to realize that if you ask people challenging questions, it pushes them to think of what they want out of life and how to start making it happen. This is my unique way of helping others realize their potential and their true passion in life.

Step 5 – Part of being nominated for the Liebster Award is to nominate other bloggers, here are my (careful) selection:

  1. SHE SHAPES THE CITY

This relatively new blog shares photos and stories of women who are changing the face of Nairobi – dazzling photos of powerful women that are changing lives in their unique ways can be seen along with a short post about this particular and spectacular woman.

  1. MARK, MD, MPH

Want to know how mental health relates to today’s society? Mark keeps his posts easy to read and relatable to the ongoing challenges of the ever-evolving present day, tackling topics like that of trans-person health care from a parents POV, analyzing pop-culture shows and their relevancy on mental health like Kimmy Schmidt. It’s a great blog that every person should follow to learn more about mental health, an issue that is not often spoken wisely about today.

  1. PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

A compelling blog that shares the rarely seen drawings of prisoners around the nation, how their mental health is affected by incarceration and the goings on of life behind bars. It features also a healthy dose of essays, and reference papers. It’s moving, it’s daunting, and eye opening. FOLLOW IT!

  1. BIBLIOKLEPT

You obviously like reading if you’re here – so, if you like vintage books, but don’t know where to start, Biblioklept is the perfect place to do so. Concise reviews that accompany vintage book covers give any reader a list to start off their reading at any time of year – not just for the summer.

  1. THE BOOKSHELF OF EMILY J

Another blog for book reviews, but this one also features life lessons, opinion, and literary reviews. It’s easy to navigate, read and will keep you entertained both on and offline (when you read one of the reviewed books of course).

  1. POST SECRET

Want a fun, daring and interactive blog to follow? Post Secret is a way for its audience to share stories without revealing their identities. It’s a great site that will make you shake your head, laugh, and think if you have any secrets worth posting (without the risks of course!) It will also let you in the lives of people – and surely will make you feel less alone with your deep dark stories…

  1. THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING

Don’t be fooled by the (seemingly offensive) name, this blog is full of poetry penned by people from around the globe on various topics ranging from trans-life, birthing, leaving a job you hate, etc. – great content.

  1. OTHER SASHAS

Sasha Martinez journals online about her reading, more than reviews, she gives an insight to how reading pretty much anything makes her feel and it’s great. She’s fun to read and has a great collection of photos for each post. Go follow, enjoy and try to keep up with such a voracious reader!

  1. THE MONSTERS UN

Want a fun blog where monsters meet at the United Nations? Search no more

  1. SERIAL WORD ABUSER

Reviews of anime, comics, films, campy movies and more can be found on this fun blog. Go follow it and be a witness to the series of abused words.

There’s so much good content out there! It was incredibly hard to make a selection – but this is my final list. I hope they accept the nomination and help promote other amazing blogs that aren’t in or haven’t reached the spotlight.