Strangely, as someone who aspires to be a film director – I have a rather short list of favorite directors. I am happy to report that Atlanta‘s Hiro Mirai is now my latest addition to that list. Mirai has created a version of Atlanta that reminds me of the kind of fantasy-meets-reality dynamic that I’d normally seen out of anime from Hayao Miyazaki. Even the most mundane scene is directed in a way that feels like we’ve crossed a looking glass and stepped into a world that feels supernatural, and we navigate this world through characters struggling to realize their potential – something I can relate to plenty. So Atlanta is an escape into a new type of fantasy that oddly feels a lot like real life.
On paper, Breaking Bad is everything I wouldn’t like in a series. I’m not big on stories around drugs, crime, or violence – Breaking Bad excels at showcasing all three. What made Breaking Bad an exception, was that it subverted my expectations. So many crime dramas seem to lean into the overly aggressive and gritty. Breaking Bad stands apart because the main characters are the villains, and they are at the same time the most incompetent while also happening to be the most lucky! What I also found so fun was the cat and mouse game between Walt and Hank. I’ve always enjoyed watching a battle of wits in familiar stories such as Death Note, Catch Me If You Can, and BBC’s Sherlock. Breaking Bad is a gripping and hilarious addition to my list of favorite shows this decade.
The story around the events of Chernobyl is something I hid from for too long. I’d seen the images of the empty communities and buildings overgrown with vegetation mostly through glimpses in textbooks. Even through that small peek I was afraid to know what had happened and really allow myself to understand the gravity of those events. It’s one thing to put yourself in the shoes of Leia seeing her planet destroyed by the Death Star, it’s an entirely other matter to put yourself in the shoes of a real person who existed only half a world away and had to experience something so horrific. I saw in the promotional trailers and clips that although this retelling of the events would be an attempt at a faithful adaptation, it would also be produced through a very stylized lens that looks much more like something we’d seen in a monster movie rather than something more restrained. Although the show depicts truly horrifying imagery of the events at Chernobyl, the overly-produced approach served as a bridge that would allow me to finally open up to learning the story through a more familiar lens.
The Legend of Korra
During the previous decade, Avatar the Last Airbender was one of my favorite shows. I was excited to have heard that we would be revisiting the world of Avatar again and to see what the future held for a new cast of characters. The Legend of Korra was a really fun continuation of the series that expanded on the Avatar world we’d known. We had fast forwarded to a new generation that feels a lot more familiar to the early city life as we’ve seen depicted in movies and old photos. This grounded the show and provided a new twist on the fantasy backdrop, modernizing the society and technology to create new conflict in a rapidly evolving world at odds with its spiritual past.
I’ve always found period pieces a lot of fun to watch. I have an incredible appreciation for awesome production value recreating a vintage world that I’m consistently impressed by as we see the passing of the years and how American culture evolved. The show features powerful performances, incredible production design, and clever writing. The content creator in me really enjoyed the exploration of the different characters’ approach to brand marketing.
I only started becoming more aware of politics in my early 20’s. We never really talked politics at home. If you don’t grow up informed, there is a certain barrier to entry to start getting invested and familiar with current events. That’s the great thing about The Newsroom, it is a fictional story who’s characters react to real past news stories. The show has the advantage of having the full context for past events to write a narrative around those events. It’s through these dramatized reactions to real events that I started to become familiar with the news cycle and the complexity of reporting and identifying the truth for the public. This was my first step into taking a closer look at how news is reported and the responsibility that comes with it, which pushed me towards following the actual news in real life.
Once Upon A Time
Part of me wants to call this a guilty pleasure, but there’s nothing to be guilty about. It’s a fun show. I think some audiences can be put off by how far it leans into camp and cheesiness. But I think that’s part of its charm. The characters can seem one dimensional, until you realize that part of the fantasy is that these characters have superhuman levels of optimism that stands out in our real world. This is where a lot of the fun happens: seeing the culture clash between an overly optimistic fairy tail society that has been dropped into a cold and perilous modern world.
Admittedly I came into RWBY pretty late. I was aware it existed, that it was made by Rooster Teeth and that it was the kind of show people argued whether or not counted as anime (spoilers: it is but this is my American TV list). What kept me from checking out the show before was how it looked from afar. It looked like a show that might take itself too seriously. Images of a shattered moon, beasts with red eyes and bone-like armor are what I’d seen shared in gifs and images. When my favorite online content creators at Kinda Funny partnered with Rooster Teeth, I figured I’d finally give the show a shot since they were promoting the partnership with a community watch-along. I wasn’t about to watch-along after all, but I did decide to finally set aside the time to watch at least the first episode. What I was not expecting was how funny the show would be! The characters have an infectious sense of positivity and the early seasons hooked me with its balance of acrobatic action sequences paired with the light-hearted slice of life happenings at the academy our heroes attend. The action is flashy, the music catchy, the characters are complex, and the world is expansive.
Star Wars: Rebels
From the first trailer that dropped for Rebels, I was so excited for what this show might offer the Star Wars fandom. I’m personally not a big fan of the version of the galaxy far far away as it’s been presented in the prequels or in the sequel trilogy. I’m definitely more at home during the years of the original trilogy, which this story is set right before. The crew did an amazing job realizing a story that felt in line with the original trilogy. We’re treated to an awesome story that explores new and exciting worlds, impressive lightsaber battles that could rival anything seen in the movies, and characters that are fully realized as we spend seasons exploring who they are while also facing new and familiar enemies from Star Wars canon and legends.
Steven Universe is more than the story of a boy finding his way in the universe. It’s a story about helping other learn more about themselves as much as it is about exploring who you are as well. It’s clearly so personal to creator Rebecca Sugar and I find it inspiring how much of herself into her show. I am not outgoing, I don’t put myself out there, and what you get is often filtered to keep the most vulnerable pieces of me hidden. Steven Universe is creatively everything I would hope for in creative expression.