Dark Season 3 (Netflix) Written by Jantje Friese & Marc O. Seng Directed by Baran bo Odar
Dark will go down as one of the most mind-melting complex series most people have ever seen. Its creators Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, have been uncompromising in their vision for all three seasons, challenging viewers to follow the convoluted family trees and crisscrossing timelines. This is made even more challenging to comprehend in the third season’s introduction of multiple realities. Yet it all works and makes sense in the end. Dark is not a series you can play in the background and drift in and out of, it demands the viewer’s full attention or you will most certainly become as lost as Jonas does at times.
It feels like the year both just started and has been going on for an eternity. I have to say that I wasn’t planning on producing this much content in the first half of 2020, but ending up quarantined at home while working allowed me to essentially get a jump on reviewing. By mid-June, I’d gotten through everything I had planned to put out over the summer, so it was pretty exciting to see what I could do for the rest of the break. Here is my plan for July through December with the additional note that if I end up working from home again, there’s a good chance I’d be able to crank out more content than usual. My state has seen a frightening spike in COVID-19 cases, and our governor just extended the state of emergency to the end of August. The other educators in my state and I are now waiting to see what this means for schools, which are scheduled to open back up around August 6th. In the meantime, here’s what you can look forward to on my site from now through December.
The Assistant (2020) Written & Directed by Kitty Green
The #MeToo movement of the last three years pulled a lot of masks off a situation that almost everyone knew was happening, but there had been a collective silence due to the fear of losing jobs and wealth. One of the biggest revelations was the uncovering of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s habitual abuse and outright rape of women for decades. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assault and rape in New York City with additional charges pending in Los Angeles. As much as it we want to celebrate his convictions, history tells us wealthy men who abuse their power don’t often serve those full sentences and have the wealth to make prison a very comfortable place while they are there. Justice for the victims of the powerful is a rare animal indeed.
How Long Til’ Black Future Month: Stories by N.K. Jemisin
This is a beautiful melange of fantasy & science fiction told from a black perspective. Some stories feel like a red hot bullet right between the eyes in our current context. There’s a story about the spirit of a city becoming aware she not merely a human walking its street with the idea that these city spirits travel and awaken their kin across the world over time. We’re presented with a Jim Crow-era story of a black witch and her children encountering a demonic fey-like entity posing as a beautiful blonde white woman. There are stories of secret agents from an alternate universe Haiti sneaking through New Orleans to take out a white cabal. You get the transformational narrative of a young chef introduced to alien ingredients and becoming a sorceress who can create food that radically affects her customers. The most resonant for me was the opening story, “The Ones Who Stay and Fight,” where a beautiful utopia is described, a place where all prejudices are gone, and humanity lives in beautiful harmony and follows a path that parallels and reflect our own. You can read that story, and you most certainly should here.
Search Party Season 3 (HBO Max) Written by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Craig Rowin, Andrew Pierce Fleming & Matt Kriete, Starlee Kine, Jordan Firstman, and Sabrina Jalees Directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Jay Duplass, and Carrie Brownstein
Search Party feels like a tv series than an indie film franchise with each season’s supporting cast changing to fit the direction of our four millennial mains’ lives. The stakes of the series have ratcheted up with each iteration. Season one was a reasonably light, missing person mystery that ended on a surprisingly dark note. Season two was a study in PTSD and guilt, veering the series into some bleak territory while still finding humor in the situation. Now season three gives us courtroom drama and such a massive development in our protagonist’s persona that it is downright chilling in moments.
Joker: Killer Smile #1-3 & Batman: The Smile Killer one-shot Written by Jeff Lemire Art by Andrea Sorrentino
I have enjoyed Gideon Falls, the independent comic by the creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. I started reading and review the series in March of 2019 and followed up a year later with a look at the second and third volumes. Be on the lookout in December for another update as I am reading through the current issues. This led me to become interested in the duos Joker mini-series and subsequent Batman one-off for DC Comics. Lemire is no stranger to DC Comics having penned Superboy, Animal Man, Green Arrow, and other work. Sorrentino has also dabbled at DC, illustrating Lemire’s Green Arrow run as well as the New 52 I, Vampire series.
A married couple, played by Nick Frost & Nikki Amuka-Bird, are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. She has purchased a pair of linked virtual reality glasses that purport to show the user their ideal self. Meanwhile, another gift for her husband sits on the bed waiting to be given later. I was pleasantly surprised by where this short film went and how sensitive it handled its story. You see Nick Frost and expect something comedic but this is more in the vein of a Black Mirror’s San Junipero. I think these sorts of stories work better in short form that stretched out for an hour, we get straight to the themes and don’t need things over explicated.
After nine years, Sean Durkin has directed his follow-up to the fantastic Martha Marcy May Marlene. This time Jude Law and Carrie Coon star as a married couple living beyond their means and stretching themselves to the breaking point. Here’s the trailer for The Nest.
Born John Weatherspoon in Detroit in 1942, you likely recognize his face. If you grew up in the 1990s, he was a regular on The Wayans Brothers Show. Additionally, he was a familiar character actor making guest spots on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, and hosts of other shows. Within the Black community, he was a well-known comedian and experienced one of those explosions of success later in life. After making the television circuit with one-off appearances in the 1970s and 80s, Witherspoon was cast in Kid N’ Play’s House Party as an irate neighbor. He was so well-received in this performance that it became Witherspoon’s regular film persona, the cantankerous dad/uncle. After that breakout role, it was Friday as Craig’s dad that truly solidified him as a regular in Black comedy. When his regular role on The Wayans Brothers Show was over, he didn’t have to worry about work as younger Black comedians would get him hired on their programs. Witherspoon appeared in The Tracy Morgan Show and popped up in guest spots all over the place. His third act came in the form of collaborating with Aaron McGruder on The Boondocks. Witherspoon voiced Grandpa for 55 episodes of this brilliant Adult Swim series and went on to play a role in 31 episodes of McGruder’s live-action Black Jesus satire. Sadly, in October of 2019, John Witherspoon passed away at the age of 77. He was never a leading man, but his role as a solid and reliable comedic character actor solidified his place as a great talent.