It takes a lot of people suggesting a show for me to sit down and finally watch it. I am very simple minded when it comes to entertainment. As a viewer, I like to relax and ask to not think too much. In my mind, thinking is what all other times of the day are for! However, “The Queen’s Gambit” took me outside of my comfort zone and I was not at all mad about it, nor could I stop thinking about it.
“The Queen’s Gambit” is a Netflix original, coming-of-age drama created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott. The series follows the life of chess player, Beth Harmon, who is played by Anya Taylor-Joy.
At a young age, Harmon becomes an orphan. Her trauma develops into a very cynical, sarcastic and shockingly charming persona. For lack of a better trope, Harmon is literally not like other girls. As one of the only girls competing at various chess tournaments, she gains the attention of several outlets. However, Harmon often finds that they are evidently more invested in her stake as a woman than they are in her success as a chess player.
I often find myself fascinated by Hollywood’s obsession with trauma. I don’t know which celebrities have actually experienced being an orphan, but I’d assume not that many. However I’ve noticed that in the past, instead of approaching the topic tenderly they have decided to make movies about the orphan being a psychotic adult posing as a child murderer (“Orphan” 2009) or wizards (“Harry Potter” 2001). I was pleased that “The Queen’s Gambit” did not follow either of these past examples and instead focused on very real experiences and side effects of trauma and loss.
As a viewer, I started to actively want to understand Harmon and despite my reservations about some of her actions, I felt sorry for her and I wanted her to succeed. As a woman, the series felt very empowering. I was especially invested in Harmon’s lack of interest in the opinions of others, often regarding men. Women continue to enter predominantly male dominated places and to watch a character do that so beautifully felt incredibly refreshing.
Aside from the story itself, the series was also visually stunning. “The Queen’s Gambit” is set in the 1960s primarily in Lexington, while venturing out to other tournaments and hotels around the globe. It has been so long since I’ve been able to watch a film in theaters, but this series felt like a movie even from the comfort of my couch.
This series was the best series I’ve seen on Netflix in some time and every person I’ve advised to watch it has enjoyed it just as much as I have, if not more. I will probably watch it again if I have the time. I don’t really have anything negative to say about the series. If I had to think of something, I would say that it is upsetting that Harmon isn’t real. I really wish she was, so we could be buddies and she could beat me at chess sometimes.
Burnt X Entertainment Co-Editor Skyler King reviews Netflix Original, Malcolm & Marie , starring Zendaya and John David Washington.
Malcolm and Marie…need to go to therapy.
“Malcolm & Marie” is Netflix’s newest indie love story starring Zendaya and John David Washington. The film follows a young couple as they embark on a night full of emotional turmoil and necessary self-reflection. Filmed during the pandemic, Zendaya and Washington are the only cast members, and they only had a crew of 22 people. It was an impressive feat and Zendaya gives yet another powerful performance. But, this story about love was quite dismal and had little to no payoff.
To know more of my thoughts on the film, check out my video!
Featured Design by Kara Fields. Image courtesy of Netflix.
If there has been anything good to come out of this pandemic, it would be the newfound appreciation for our outdoor spaces.
As many of us sit trapped within our concrete jungles, wellness and the determination to reconnect ourselves with nature have been at the forefront of our minds. Although we may still be slaves to Zoom, Netflix’s menagerie of nature documentaries have given BBC Earth a run for their money with their jaw dropping cinematography and majestic scoring. Here are just a few of my top picks:
My Octopus Teacher (2020)
One man, one octopus and a friendship that may or may not border on romance has brought this cinematic masterpiece to our screens. My Octopus Teacher took 10 years to film and unlike other nature documentaries equipped with an entire film crew, this documentary was primarily filmed by one man who just decided to free dive in the icy ocean waters off the South African coast every morning for a decade. The filmmaker, Craig Foster, formed an unlikely friendship with an octopus during his dives in the dense and turbulent kelp forest near his Cape Town home. The documentary not only reveals astonishing discoveries of octopus intelligence, but takes an incredibly intimate and introspective look into what it means to be human. This film will probably make you cry, you have been warned.
“Night on Earth” (2020)
New technology has allowed this film crew to capture animals quite literally in a new light. “Night on Earth” features breathtaking cinematography courtesy of moonlight cameras to film animals at night and reveals new discoveries of their nighttime behavior.
BONUS: Night on Earth: Shot in the Dark
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “A documentary ABOUT a documentary? You’ve gone too far.” Fair point, but just hear me out. The work that went into filming “Night on Earth” will blow your mind and leave you with a newfound respect for what nature doc crews do. The camera crew had to travel to the most remote parts of the world, persevere in the most extreme climates and get bitten. That’s right, I said bitten. Bitten by a pack of urban monkeys in Thailand, swarms of mosquitoes in a dense jungle and fanged vampire bats. This film took a lot of creative problem solving and required the crew to shoot in 30 different countries.
Dancing With The Birds (2019)
Those TikTok dances you’ve been practicing in your bedroom have got nothing on these birds. Accompanied by some groovy tunes and rather risqué narration, these colorful birds shimmy, sing and even pole dance to win the eye of a female. The documentary follows the stories of affectionately named male birds in their attempts to, as the narrator puts it, charm a female onto their poles. We see birds intricately building towers, choreographing group dances, dilating their pupils at alarming speeds and creepily enough, mimicking the sounds of human children’s voices in their elaborate courting rituals.
“It may be a cliche, but size matters to female bowerbirds.”
– Stephen Fry, Narrator of “Dancing With The Birds”
“Our Planet” (2019)
Narrated by the nature documentary icon himself, Sir David Attenborough, “Our Planet” is a six episode series covering ecosystems ranging from arctic tundras to the deep oceans. The series boasts breathtaking cinematography of landscapes and animals, but is primarily centered around how human activity is damaging these ecosystems. One particularly horrific scene of walruses plummeting to their deaths while fighting for space almost broke the internet. It is a prime example of the devastating impacts of global warming.
BONUS: Our Planet: Behind the Scenes
This behind-the-scenes film reads a little like a twisted reality TV show at times – you’ve got videographers trapped inside a cold, tiny hut for six days at a time to film Siberian tigers, lights failing during a nighttime shark feeding frenzy with the diver right in the center of the action and then crew mates struggling to fit their gear into a tiny hydroplane. It’s nonstop action. “Our Planet” took four years to film in over 60 countries, with over 6,600 drone flights and 400,000 hours of trap camera footage for the crew to scour through.
“Alien Worlds” (2020)
If life developed on discovered exoplanets…what would it look like? If Neil deGrasse Tyson and David Attenborough got together to make a docuseries, this would be it. “Alien Worlds” is not exactly a nature documentary, but it took incredible imagination and technical work to animate these fantastical alien dreamscapes. This documentary is a must-watch for sci-fi and nature documentary lovers alike.
Ghost of the Mountains (2017)
This international crew of filmmakers was the first to ever capture a snow leopard family on camera in the wild. The crew had to brave altitude sickness, freezing cold temperatures and live in a crowded shack with no electricity or running water for months on end. To get to their final destination in the remote wilderness of the Tibetan mountains, they had to drive for an entire week to an elevation of over 16,000 feet above sea level. With every 1,600 feet gained in altitude, the crew had to stop and rest for 24 hours to avoid altitude sickness. Before they could even think of filming, they first needed to track down a snow leopard family in the mountains, which is no easy task, but it was all worth it in the end. This Disneynature documentary is now an important part of history.
The first teaser trailer seemed promising. Red lips and feathered bangs in the iconic purple jumpsuit worn by the late Tejano music icon during her last concert in 1995 at the Houston Astrodome.
The series itself, however, was not as promising.
The Netflix original, “Selena: The Series,” tells the rags to riches story of Selena Quintanilla, known as the Queen of Tejano music and one of the most successful Latin artists of all time. Despite the title and synopsis, the show treats the Mexican-American pop icon as more of a side character than the main character of her own story.
Created by Moisés Zamora and executively produced by Selena’s father (Abraham Quintanilla Jr.) and her sister (Suzette), stars “The Walking Dead” actress Christian Serratos as the iconic singer. Ricardo Chavira stars opposite as her domineering father, who robs his daughter of a normal childhood to fulfill his broken dreams of becoming a successful musician.
While the opening prologue reveals a young woman on the cusp of her career, worried that moving up means leaving her bandmates and siblings behind, there aren’t many other personal moments like this in the rest of the series. At least, not for Selena.
This was my biggest problem watching the series back in December because it felt like Selena did not have a voice. It felt worse when I remembered that her father and sister were involved. They let her sing, but they didn’t let her speak for herself.
In a Twitter thread from Maria Garcia, who spent the last year examining the life and legacy of Selena for the podcast Anything for Selena, she explains why devoted fans are disappointed with the series.
She points out that this sense of protectiveness over Selena’s image rarely has to do with her legacy. Rather, it deals with the fact that she became a symbol for Latinos in the United States during a time when the Latino population was viewed negatively, specifically in 1995 (the year of her death).
Selena continues to remain a symbol remembered for her lively personality, her laugh, her confidence and humbleness. I felt none of this in the series. If anything, it felt like watching a ghost of Selena’s actual character. It also hurt to know that there was potential.
In a heartwarming scene, Suzette feels her contribution to the band as the drummer isn’t important until she’s stopped by a young fan after a concert in Mexico and tells her she wanted to become a female drummer just like her. Suzette gives away her drumsticks and walks away with newfound confidence. I adored this scene and wished Selena had moments like this as well, especially since she’s supposed to be the main star of this show.
In a more cringeworthy scene, Selena’s voice starts to deteriorate after countless nights on tour and her family can’t seem to stop using the word ‘ronca’ (which means hoarse). At first, it was cute but it quickly became excessive to the point where you could take a shot every time someone used that word to describe her voice.
All things considered, the series isn’t terrible. It is watchable and I’d recommend fans of the late Tejano pop star to give it a chance but understand this first season feels like it should have been called “Abraham and A.B. Quintanilla: The Series,” rather than “Selena: The Series.”
“Selena: The Series” is available to stream on Netflix.
Rating the characters of Netflix’s Bridgerton from the highest on Lady Whistledown’s hit list to the true diamond of the season
**This article contains spoilers for the first season of “Bridgerton.” Read at your own risk.**
One of the last, few good things to come out of 2020 was the Netflix original series “Bridgerton.” Based on the novels by Julia Quinn, the series follows the prominent Bridgerton family as they try to maintain their reputation in scandalous Romantic-era London.
The show quickly became one of Netflix’s biggest hits, with people all over the world falling in love with the aesthetic, the classical covers of pop songs and, of course, the gorgeous Duke of Hastings.
Those who are familiar with the show know Daphne was dubbed the “diamond of the season.” But who was the real diamond of the first season of the breakout show? Here’s a list of “Bridgerton”’s characters, from worst to best:
I’ll say it: Anthony was beautiful, even with his God-awful sideburns. However, he was a horrid character. He was controlling and manipulative and felt like a 19th-century f*ckboy. What’s worse is, in the first few episodes of the season, I was convinced he was lusting after his sister. “Game of Thrones” did not normalize incest; it’s still very disturbing. As the season went on, it became clear Anthony was probably not actually in love with his sister but he remained unlikable. He was still selfish and he still treated Siena (the “lower class” opera singer he was sleeping with) with little to no respect.
I suppose it’s not Benedict’s fault he was a useless character. Poor writing is to blame. Though Benedict got his own storyline, I didn’t feel it contributed anything to the story. I was hoping his plot was going to be one of exploring queer sexuality, but I was deeply disappointed. After talking to my friends, I’ve learned they felt the same. All in all, it felt like queerbaiting. I was really, really hoping for a Dorian Gray/Lord Henry love affair. Hopefully, we’ll get what we want in a later season.
While many in London found Daphne to be the gem of eligible women, I found her to be a cubic zirconia. Initially, I really enjoyed Daphne, with her determined mission to marry for love and her hard right hook when she punched the creepy Nigel Berbrooke. I actually even enjoyed her and Simon together, despite my love for the duke. But then she found out how babies were made. As soon as she found out what it took to actually get pregnant, she slept with Simon and forced him to finish inside her. Yes, he lied to her about how he couldn’t have children but it was painful to watch a man who had been so considerate about consent get his own taken away. It was an upsetting scene and one that turned me away from Daphne entirely.
Much like Daphne, Penelope was off to a great start. She was kind, she was best friends with Eloise (my favorite character, who we’ll get to later) and she loved to sit in a corner and read. However, when her crush on Daphne and Eloise’s brother, Colin, conflicted with her friendship with her cousin Marina, her darker side came out. Penelope repeatedly betrayed Marina and did everything she could to stop Marina from marrying Colin. Although Marina’s intentions were not the purest, it was still very anti-feminist of Penelope to sabotage Marina and insult Eloise along the way.
Poor Marina. Lady Featherington hated her, Lord Featherington lusted after her and almost no one in London truly liked her. And of course, the cherry on top was her unplanned, very public, very scandalous pregnancy and her missing love. Though Marina’s manipulation of Colin was not her finest moment, Marina certainly did not deserve all the misfortune she went through. Hopefully, her engagement to her deceased love’s brother will bring her some much-deserved joy in later seasons.
5. Queen Charlotte
One of the best things about “Bridgerton” is its colorblind casting. Having a Black Queen of England is something I wish was actually part of history. Queen Charlotte was the perfect regal overseer, letting things play out when they needed to and interfering when drama needed a little push. All the while, her husband is slowly slipping away into his illness and she’s left to rule the British Empire by herself. And she does a damn good job doing so.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s in love with the Duke. He is easily one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen. While I found his vow to never have children to be a bit too petty, I still thought he was exceedingly endearing. He was clearly sexually active before he got married but he knew Daphne hadn’t been and was very conscious of getting her consent with every sexual experience. He was loyal and supportive of his boxing friend, Will, and often turned to him for advice. He liked to pretend to be a tough guy but he was charming and thoughtful when it came to Daphne. To me, it’s easy to see why so many people burn for Simon Bassett.
3. Lady Violet Bridgerton
As seen with Lady Featherington, mothers did not always have their childrens’ best interest at heart in the show. That cannot be said for Lady Violet. Though she desperately wants Eloise to follow in Daphne’s footsteps, Lady Violet is deeply caring for her children and went to extreme lengths to ensure their happiness. Lady Violet supported Daphne’s feelings when she wanted to marry a duke over a prince. She helped Daphne avoid marrying Nigel Berbrooke and supported her when she was having marital issues. Okay, maybe Daphne is just her favorite child. But throughout the season, Lady Violet showed her heart and her brain on an equal level. Men may have held much of the power of the time but Lady Violet and Lady Danbury were often the ones pulling the strings and staying informed.
Eloise is without a doubt the best Bridgerton sibling. She was fiercely self-sufficient, witty, intelligent and longed for a life separate from marital drama. She felt like a genuine Jane Austen character, with her fierce individuality and staunch distaste for the society she was in. Her exploration of Lady Whistledown’s identity helped satiate the audience’s own curiosity about the mysterious woman, though Eloise never truly figured out her identity. I also think she was very queer coded and I can’t wait for her and Penelope to finally be together, as they should be.
1. Lady Danbury
Lady Danbury is the most underrated character of the series. She is classy, she is clever, she is confident, she doesn’t take shit from anyone. When Simon’s mother passed away, she was the only person by her side. When Simon’s abusive father refused to offer him the love he desperately needed, she was there to encourage him and give him the support he wanted and needed. She raised him to be the duke we love. Without her, I doubt Simon and Daphne ever would’ve ended up together. Lady Danbury and Lady Violet nurtured their relationship along its rocky path and Lady Danbury was one of the only people who could talk some sense into Simon. She is the true diamond of the first season.