13th

100 min.

13th-netflixAren’t there documentaries with happy/happier subjects? Of course there are, but isn’t a documentary supposed to educate? About things that may not be a day-to-day subject for a lot of people? I think 13th is smack right on that with it being about the USA prison system and how black people suffer from it.

This isn’t an emotional appeal, this is layers and layers of facts and numbers and statistics showing how authorities use everything in their power to control the minority population. How there’s no equality in punishment for the same crime, how there’s no fairness and that believing in the system is more than naive, it might be lethal.

It’s the strength of the people featured that prevent you from completely circling down the drain of ‘Is this really society’. People that keep speaking up, that keep fighting, the Davids to the  many-headed Goliath.

Ignorance is not an argument. Know what’s wrong.

13th, Netflix 2016

Preparation for the Next Life

She came by way of Archer, Bridgeport, Nanuet, worked off 95 in jeans and a denim jacket, carrying a plastic bag and shower shoes, a phone number, waiting beneath an underpass, the potato chips long gone.

It took me four days after finishing this before I felt like I could shape an opinion about this story. At first I was just hugely relieved that I was done.

This novel is closer to a news bulletin, a history story or a sociological essay. This isn’t entertainment or escape, it’s too brutal and slogging, the number of light and happy moments much too little.

So why would you? How many people pick a book that will darken their day considerably? As with non-fiction: to know. To remember that there is a world outside the familiar one. And in Zou’s path there can be find a little spark of motivation, while Skinner’s fall just shows the urgency of supporting veterans mentally. With my previous reads of De Gele Vogels and Terug naar normaal this month’s themes turn out to be mental health and war.

I agree with other reviews that the addition of a certain character is unnecessary, and his chapters could be skipped. They just add more violence, despair, and lack of reasons for existence.

Preparation for the Next Life, Atticus Lish, OneWorld 2014

The Privileges

A wedding!

Rich people getting richer and investing it in all kinds of things, followed for give or take twenty years. If it would have been written by a woman and for a younger audience, it would have been compared with Gossip Girl.

Is this comedy, or slice-of-life? Does the family portrayed deserve sympathy or is this only a devoted piece to capitalism?

Possibly all of the above. When it’s mentioned that there’s more money “than we know what to do with” or that will last four human beings several life times, it’s easy to curl a nose up in disgust. Even when the age old Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness gets more and more support, because oh no — the rich girl has decision-stress.
And yet. Jonathan Dee manages to keep the human side of things very close. That way The Privileges stays mildly interesting, easy to read. In the end, an adult Gossip Girl with more mention of finances, less brand name dropping and more believable characters.

The Privileges, Jonathan Dee, Corsair 2011

Cherry

To be honest, the sex pact wasn’t always part of the plan.

Female teenagers decide that all of them are going to lose their virginity before graduation. Surely nothing can go wrong (and cringe worthy).

The thing is, it almost doesn’t. For once girls are shown as sexual beings as well, for once there’s focus and care about body positivism, self-development and orgasms. They’re allowed to be characters instead of clichés, and it’s easy to start caring for the group.

So what did go wrong? As usual, the b-word in between homosexuality and heterosexuality seems to be non-existent, and I hope not too many readers get their hopes up about the eagerness of teenage boys performing oral sex. Some chapters are saccharine sweet, but by then you have already been reeled in to support everyone.

It’s a good one for a glance behind the girl teen facade.

Cherry, Lindsey Rosin, Simon Pulse 2016

Luke Cage

13 episodes, 50 min.

Another Netflix Marvel cooperation? Of course, as long as people watch it.

marvel-luke-cage-posterWas Jessica Jones special because we finally got a female character, this time Marvel goes off the beaten path with a black main character. Heck, the absolute majority of the cast is black, which must have had some people worried about sell-ability. Is the blackness (the surroundings, the cast, the subjects mentioned) the problem of the show? No, it isn’t.

Then what is? The length, and the main actor. As stoic, almost-invisible stubborn hero, Mike Colter is doing fine, but he is surrounded by too much talent to not escape comparison. As usual, the less focus on the main guy, the better.
This season is thirteen episodes, while it would have been tighter and more exciting if it would have ended after episode eight. Now we get a load of new villains that need to provide a cliffhanger that’s just too weak. This has been a problem with the other Marvel Netlix shows as well.

The ladies steal and save the show. Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, Simone Missick and those in smaller parts show that a female part can be more than mother, Maria and whore. For once, I can say that you can pick a Marvel project for the women.

Luke Cage, Marvel 2016

Between The World And Me

Son, last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body.

Required reading, indeed.

Coates gives the reader a view of his world, one he shares with a lot of black Americans. It’s a letter to his son, it’s a reality check for everyone outside this world.

A world in which your body isn’t your own. In which there is no safety from society, authority, their own surroundings. In which police violence isn’t just two years old and a news item, but a reality you grow up in.

It’s plenty of ugly truths, but Coates’ love for his son, his family and his people (the people the rest of society only wants to use, not accept) prevents this letter turning into a wall of tears.

We have to know this angle, because ignorance supports a status quo that doesn’t include every human being.

Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegel & Grau 2015

Ayanda and the Mechanic

105 min.

I probably mentioned before how location and people used can inject originality into a (stale) story.
Because yes, Ayanda is a plucky, stubborn young woman who needs to Let Go and Learn Things, and has love right in front of her, but can’t see it.

ayanda-and-the-mechanic-posterBut instead of this being a white story in the USA, it’s a black story in South Africa. And these facts aren’t even the main reason for all the added colour, that’s Ayanda’s amazing outfits.

Ayanda tries to keep her deceased father’s garage up and running while her family is less than supportive. Things happen, tears are shed and so on. Ayanda and the Mechanic is just a little bit too long but still leaves you with a happy heart. It’s so nice to see women prosper and learn.

Ayanda and the Mechanic, ARRAY 2015