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The 12 Best TV Shows of 2016

Two seasons in, Black Mirror has etched itself as one of the bleakest show in recent memory but in its third season, it strays away from its established narrative territory and performs a balancing act between cutthroat social satire and a more hopeful depiction of a world gone wrong.

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  1.      Black Mirror

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Two seasons in, Black Mirror has etched itself as one of the bleakest show in recent memory but in its third season, it strays away from its established narrative territory and performs a balancing act between cutthroat social satire and a more hopeful depiction of a world gone wrong. Thanks to its creator Charlie Brooker’s observant eye, the show has elevated to a level of even more terrifying precision– almost feeling prophetic at times– while managing to instill a much needed sense of hope without verging on saccharine or forced sentiments. The varied styles and genres each episodes give the show the advantage of keeping each entry unique but also cohesive as far as the overarching theme goes. Black Mirror is one that dabbles in societies left unattended which, considering our very own, makes it a very important watch.

  1.      Atlanta

Community’s alum Donald Glover’s venture to TV realm has given 2016 a portrait of black America that is equal parts everyday and fantastic. With Atlanta, Glover carves his intimate drama with humor that is as witty as it is strikingly humane, further bolstered by a terrific cast that  feels  at home with the material covering nuanced issues of race. It’s quietly political when it wants to be and Glover is just the right man for that kind of subtle yet powerful political display. The subdued direction contributes to the show’s own brand of dreamlike atmosphere which avoids the ordinary from becoming clichéd and captures the city of Atlanta dripping with personality almost as if it’s a character of its own. To say that Atlanta is revolutionary television isn’t enough to cover how great the show is; it is funny, depressing, joyful and more importantly, as real as a life of a black man can be.

  1.      Game of Thrones

The epic fantasy has come a long way since its first airing in 2011, blood has been spilled and wars have been waged and yet much is to be known about the seven kingdoms. Thankfully, season 6 has finally moved past localized, individual machinations and into one central story line that aims to merge existing story arcs and hopefully tie up loose ends as the inevitable end nears. Through its 6 years of airing, if there’s one thing Game of Thrones has proved; that it’s mightily good in setting up a scene. The season finale alone is filled with great examples of this which saw many key players advancing their positions long at last. Like any other show nearing closure, Game of Thrones doubles its emphasis on character development and to do this, cutting off dead weight is a necessary step. The popularity of the show and its surge in viewership is sure to continue seeing as how the series shows no sign of holding the epic-ness back.

  1.      The People vs OJ Simpson

Simply irresistible to watch from start to finish. The People v OJ Simpson has lots to unpack given the magnitude of the trial it centers itself on and bounces the focus back and forth between its large ensemble cast but as surprising as the many twists in the story, the show pulls all of it off in an excellent run of ten deftly created episodes. TPVOJS exercises control over its stretch and never loses the balance between showcasing the factual side of the story and the more emotional turn of events that clouded the trial to the extent of shaping its very outcome. The dense writing guarantees no dull moment makes its way to the screen and smartly copes with the heavily sensationalized drama by downplaying it to a volume that aims to keep the narrative grounded to the truth but nevertheless compelling, if not more so than the real thing. Explosive moments are guided with meticulous precision while the silent ones creep on the viewers with raw emotions and linger on even after the scene has played itself out.

  1.  Search Party

If there’s one thing millennials are often jabbed at, it’s our supposed collective laziness cultivated by this so called culture of entitlement which on the surface, seems to be the sentiment of the show but fortunately, Search Party is not like any other show about millennial generation. At the center of it all is a disappearance that pushes 20-something, New Yorker Dory out of her millennial ennui and into a Nancy Drew-esque mystery-solving puzzle. Sure enough, her journey to finding a missing person morphs into a journey of self-discovery but one that avoids the usual trappings of shows about shallow people for it understands that, especially in the age of Facebook, it’s easy to mistake self-absorption for self-growth. With this, the show becomes a social satire and a modern mystery story, succeeding in both areas thanks to its impressive cast and sharp writing. In its pursuit of a hollow purpose, Search Party achieves a poignant look of what it means to live in the now.

  1.  High Maintenance

In 2016, anthology format continues to flourish with High Maintenance as it tackles the life of a weed dealer and the lives of the people it provides service to. The many characters encountered throughout highlight the vibrant and often, dark cityscapes of urban life with kinetic grace. It’s a compelling collection of equally compelling individuals painted with emotional depth despite the shortage of its running time per episode. But as much as it is about private lives, High Maintenance also gives focus to the poignancy in trivial human interaction. The way our nameless pot dealer enters the scene and leaves as emphasis is given on his clients affords a feeling of connection in a sprawling world like New York where every second is a chaotic pace. The show is intimate in many ways but in its most intimate, throws emotional heavyweights even from the most banal of story lines and characters.

  1.  Transparent

When Maura Pfefferman declared her gratitude for her family and her chosen family during her 70th birthday, it became clear that having a family is just half the problem; sometimes, family isn’t enough to secure yourself a piece of belongingness and at the crux of its third season, Transparent explores the family or the idea of such we choose for our own. It’s a choice that rarely comes but when it does, bears the heavy burden of choosing. Transparent is not one to shy away from the topic of identity, but this time around, it acknowledges the impact of identity to the family it’s a member to. Towards the end of the celebration, Maura requests that her children start calling her “mom” as she begins her transition but unbeknownst to her, destroying the patriarchy, whether symbolic or not, is not as easy as swapping words. Sometimes we’re forced to confront the very basic institution that makes up our patriarchal society: family.

  1.  Lady Dynamite
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Comedienne Maria Bamford’s semi-biographical series Lady Dynamite hits all the right notes in crafting comedy especially for such a delicate subject as mental illness. The show’s winning formula all boils down to its intoxicating self-awareness and meta-humor pushing the limit of what comedy is able to offer to the table. Maria Bamford plays a version of herself with whimsical grace as she swims through the muddy waters of Hollywood fame and simultaneously the deep trenches of her embattled mind. Although most of the show’s success can be attributed to sharp comedy, it grounds itself in intimacy as it borrows events from Maria Bamford’s life in creating a larger than life account of a woman barely holding it together paved with surrealist humor involving talking pugs and colorful, off-meds hallucinations. You’re sure to miss a few jokes here and there and some will make zero sense but part of the appeal of Lady Dynamite is the fun when you’re already losing half of your mind.

  1.  Better Call Saul

Comparisons of the show to Breaking Bad that act to critique no longer hold weight at this point. Breaking Bad was a show led by 2 characters, tagged along by the people who revolve around them while on the other hand, Better Call Saul isn’t a show that ties itself to a story of one. The writing doesn’t cater entirely to Jimmy, instead people around him are given as much opportunity as him to be in possession of their own story. Direction is also one area Better Call Saul thrives in. The show is beautifully shot and offers one of the most creative and technical camerawork I have seen in a show. One recurring theme I love this season is the juxtaposition of light and darkness especially during Jimmy/Chuck scenes. That one shot where Chuck was merely a silhouette standing against the streaming light while Howard was encroached in the shadows was something I never expected from a TV show. The show was also filled to the brim with kinetic montages and managed to pull an excellent 4-minute opening tracking shot up its sleeves, indications of how Better Call Saul is not afraid to experiment, as all great series are.

  1.   The Good Place

Morality is not a dichotomy of good and bad, heaven and hell but according to NBC’s The Good Place, it most certainly is. Fortunately for Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman with highly questionable life decisions, a glitch in the heavens has landed her a spot in the good place where all good people go after death. The show pokes fun at the conventional idea of morality and offers up some philosophical inquiries of the human condition and the nature of action. Nonetheless, for all its inclination to philosophy, The Good Place is a comedy through and through headlined by an excellent Kristen Bell as the self-proclaimed medium person and TV veteran Ted Danson as the human-loving, god-being architect. The comedy marries serious subject matter with A-grade humor employing oddities from quotations of Immanuel Kant to Ariana Grande’s Break Free in creating the most morally sensitive comedy of 2016.

  1.   Girls

The tagline for season 5 of the HBO show Girls was “Finally Piecing It Together” and looking back, there are no better words to describe the gradual evolution to maturity of both the show and the characters that inhabit it than this very sentiment. Unlike the previous seasons, Girls on its 5th carried an air of self-assuredness. The brass moments of levity are there and the girls still can irritate even the most sympathetic soul but with these familiarities is a sense of poignant awareness of the self and the impending end knowing that next season will be the show’s last. Fortunately, the writing of the show never saw the obligation to rush itself to meet a penultimate narrative that would give way to a clear endgame. Instead, it takes its time and builds on its characters, giving them the depth and development they’ve been screaming for since day one.

  1.   Preacher

Amidst the sea of family friendly superhero shows that have been popping up everywhere like clockwork, Preacher stands out in the crowd as the irreverent comic book adaptation that packs more than vapid fart or dick jokes.  It’s a welcome deviation from the usual scenery of PG-rated, sanitized adventures of heroic individuals and Preacher is anything but heroic and sanitized. Fans of Garth Ennis’ original work will feel right at home with the show’s perfect mix of over-the-top violence and campy gore that celebrates the quirky madness of its source material. But besides carnage, the show also offers a biting satire of organized religion and at the blasphemous forefront is Jesse Custer, the titular preacher blessed with the Word of God, a power that forces anyone to obey his commands and such great power comes great responsibility or in Preacher’s case, a whole lot of glorious insanity.

Collage by Mariah Quintano

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Continuing to break the silence

As we come near the end of Women’s Month, Danielle Baranda looks back on the continuing impact of the #MeToo movement.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Raslton/AFP.

This month is a celebration.

This month, women from all over the globe unite and stand together as one solid frontier. This month is a reminder of the change continuing to unfold right in front of us—we are reminded and we celebrate women of all races and skin color. We tip our hats off to those brave voices we heard just last year, and further elevate those who are still falling short.

All it took was one voice that mustered the courage to speak up. A voice that resonated among a mass of silenced victims, a voice that would point out its oppressor and lead to several others following suit—several voices crying out, “Me too!”

Just as 2017 ended, we at TomasinoWeb looked back at this movement in its entirety (READ: #TWenty: The 2017 TomasinoWeb Year-ender—#MeToo). The fast pace of how allegations surfaced left and right was overwhelming that attempting to summarize it in one whole article proved to be difficult, but that was a good thing and it still is.

Three months into the year and the stories still keep on coming. Come to think of it, it has become the new normal. In our first analysis of the #MeToo movement, the sad normal reality we had come to conclude at the time was that people were dismissing these stories as nothing out of the ordinary.

A lot has changed since then, and admittedly, not everyone is happy about it.

Last January, Taken actor Liam Neeson went on the record in defense of his friend Dustin Hoffman. He dismissed the still growing #MeToo movement as having turned into a witch hunt, but has it?

The idea of gray zone sex recently resurfaced after an online post regarding an uncomfortable sexual encounter involving Parks and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari went viral. According to an article from The New York Times, the gray zone is defined as a sexual encounter that cannot necessarily be filed under the tag of sexual assault but is also a little too disconcerting to be simply named as a bad date either.

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Another allegation that initially floated around last year which still found its way this year involved American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. Although coming out of the allegations relatively unscathed due to a two month investigation instigated by the E! Network which ended in favor of Seacrest, still there are persistent skeptics.

It is important to take note that Ryan Seacrest is the producer of everyone’s beloved Keeping Up With the Kardashians, making him a key stakeholder within the network which brings me to the very point of this little update—like everything else, the #MeToo movement is not perfect, but that does not mean that it is a witch hunt nor is it a trend that’ll one day just fade away.

It is our duty to listen to these voices still coming forward. Yes, there may be discrepancies when it comes to their stories, but let us not forget that these women are trying to recall and retell a story of how they were abused. And that will never be an easy one to share.

Let us make it easier for them and learn how to listen better. Let us continue to raise questions and look at things critically. Despite these movements, women still face great challenges when it comes to speaking out and taking a stand for themselves.

Before you question a woman’s authenticity, please take a moment to stop and think about how much she is risking to do what she is doing because I can assure you, she is probably risking more than she will be getting in return.

We left 2017 by starting something bigger than ourselves. As previously stated, it is far from perfect, but that cannot negate the giant leaps it has brought for women everywhere. The end goal was never to tip the scales entirely in our favor—it was, and always has been to merely balance those said scales. We are almost there, ladies. Keep fighting.

 

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Film Fridays: Enjoying films underneath the stars

Sometimes, a chill Friday after an exhausting week is all we need—a rest for the mind and feast for the eyes.

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

It was Friday… again.

It was the day where all responsibilities were crammed within the 24-hour period, with only caffeine and the thought of “weekend” to survive.

But it was not just any ordinary Friday.

Lounging at a grassy field underneath the starry night while watching good films, Thomasian Film Society’s Film Fridays gave me life.

Snacks were given to the first 150 participants and also you’d get to watch spectacular films under the night sky. Sitting on the grass, side by side with your friends or even your significant other—well, in my case, only just a bag of popcorn in my hand while The Blanks performed covers as well as their original songs.

We all know that the company of good food and good music could always make us feel better, right?

Sineng Sine Films like Bilang, Bakokang and Larawan were featured during the first Friday of the event. These three managed to make the viewers hold their tears as the audience was moved with each of the film’s stories. A plot involving death, betrayal, and lies within a family would always make everyone shift in their seats.

After the film showing, award-winning directors Nerisa Picadizo, Jaynus Olaivar and Marvin Cabangunay shared their experiences on filmmaking where their stories inspired the aspiring filmmakers.

“Go out there and do it!” Picadizo exclaimed. Her voice was filled with so much enthusiasm that everyone can’t help feeling the same way.

Well, have I mentioned that this was not a one-night thing? After the first day, everyone was ecstatic as the 2nd of March came knocking on our doors as Mikhail Red, the director of internationally-recognized and award-winning film Birdshot, came to town.

The director gave us the opportunity to look upon his journey as a filmmaker and shared to us the hell he—together with his crew—went through before, during and after every film.

Starting at a very young age, he started filmmaking at 15 years old and after a decade he’s still doing the very first thing he fell in love with—creating unique films with a touch of Western flavor.

Listening to his story wasn’t the only thing he prepared for the attendees of Film Fridays. He even generously shared to us the trailers for his films like Rekorder and Neomanila—and it didn’t stop there! Aside from sharing a secret with us (which you’ll never know until before the end of the year, he also teased us with his new film in the works, Eerie, a “not your typical Filipino horror film” as well as his future projects.

But with all the upcoming short films, wouldn’t you feel restless, too? Despite that, I know all of these were worth waiting for.

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The fate of Maria Clara and women empowerment

We are asked to be Maria Clara. Women are asked to act demurely and be meek, and when she acts not in the character of Maria Clara, she will always be reprimanded with the words: “Kababae mong tao”.

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Art by Baron Balaba/TomasinoWeb.

He called me pretty.

Sexy, beautiful or maybe even asked me to smile. I do not recall exactly what words those were. I did not take the time and pause to hear what he said, nor look at his face. But today, a man I did not know called me pretty.

My mother always reminded me to wear decent clothing and by decent, meaning clothes that do not reveal too much of my body. I do not blame her. Most mothers remind their daughters to do the same for their protection, specifically protection from our misogynistic society. She’d always say: “Wag mo sila bigyan ng rason para bastusin ka.”  I followed my mother’s advice; I dressed up as decent I can be and yet, even when I’m wearing my school uniform, strangers would catcall me in the streets.

It isn’t always just in the streets where I feel uncomfortable about my body. It also happens at family gatherings, when my relatives would joke about my weight. I am not a size 2 nor do I have a supermodel figure. I am a size 8 and I have a thick body frame, in which I have no problem with. But when the jokes about my weight are brought up, it makes me feel invalidated, that there is something wrong with me: “Uy, ang taba mo na!”, “Parang kailangan na natin magdiet ah”, “Gusto mo mag gym?” and the worst one yet, “Nako, walang manliligaw sayo pag ganyan katawan mo”. Again, I don’t blame my relatives; it is just something that we Filipinos are used to. Society has taught us to keep a figure that is slender, and not be fat or obese because to be fat or obese means there is something wrong with you and if you’re a woman, you are not appealing to a man as if your whole future depends on finding a man to marry.

But more than just the clothes every woman like me is asked to wear or our bodies, there is a social order in which each gender is assigned to follow. For women, specifically in the Philippines, we are asked to be Maria Clara. Women are asked to act demurely and be meek, and when she acts not in the character of Maria Clara, she will always be reprimanded with the words: “Kababae mong tao”.

Society has confined women in this social order: To follow, to be controlled and be quiet.

In comparison with the men in society, they are not asked to wear “decent” clothing for them to be respected, nor is their weight not a huge issue. Moreover, they are not asked to be quiet or to be meek, and there will always be an excuse for their actions, good or bad: “Boys will be boys”. Though there is still a social order that men follow, that they are not allowed to be soft or feminine, but it is not as suppressing as for women.

It is undeniable that our society is patriarchal. Men are believed to be more superior to women, making them secondary. The Philippines being a Catholic country, our beliefs are mostly based on the Catholic bible. According to St. Paul, women must become subjects to their husbands, which doesn’t mean entirely bad but implies women must follow their husbands as they are the head of the family. It isn’t only in religion women are seen as secondary to men. A lot of films, commercials and print ads revolve around narratives in which women are seen as subjects for the male gaze. One of which is the advertisement for beer, a woman is usually present, in which has no connection with the bottle of beer, but to give emphasis on the man’s masculinity.

This idea validates the power of men over women. The things we see on TV, the internet, films and so much more, that show women as secondary to men contributes to the still on-going misogyny present in our society.

Though times have been changing, and a lot of women fought for the discrimination that has been happening for the past years, it is uneasy to say patriarchy is still here. That is why a lot of people still fight against it, may it be in the streets or online. Social media has been a great avenue for voicing out ideas and opinions. It is also an avenue for reaching out to people and inform people of what is happening outside the online world. One of which is the recent #MeToo movement, wherein women shared their stories of being harassed and abused by men in particular.

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Social media has been a place where women empowerment is well talked about. A lot of posts and tweets that say, they are for women and believe women should be respected, and it gets a lot of shares and retweets, in which is a good thing as it could inform more people about women empowerment. But there are also tweets and posts that are women positive but the empowerment only lives in the post or tweet alone. I know a lot of people who tweet or post such things but when outside the online world, they do not stay true to their words. Moreover, there are also people who post and tweet that they support women but in fact they only support themselves or are only for women when it’s convenient. And lastly, there are also people who say that they empower women, when in fact they only empower women who are privileged.

I am not saying that those women whom I call privileged do not feel discrimination or harassment, nor see them as shallow. It is safe to say that I am one of those women, and many of my women friends are also privileged. There is nothing wrong with empowering ourselves. But then again, when we say women empowerment, it must include all women. What about the women at the lowest of the lowest? Who empowers them?

It is easy to say that you empower women by posting a tweet with hashtags such as #MeToo or #TimesUp, but women empowerment is more than that. It is more than sharing your own “I was catcalled” story, or your body positivity story. There are women who are constantly abused by their husbands but do not say anything out of fear. There are also marginalized women at the bottom of the bottom who are sold for sex, even girls as young as the age of seven who are abducted for slavery. There are young women who are unable to access education because they cannot afford it, and women in poverty who are hungry due to the unequal access to employment, resources and social services because women are seen to be weak. Who speaks for them?

Again, I am not saying that street harassment and catcalling, body negativity or the “kababae mong tao” problems are shallow. They are also problems that should be addressed. Because when we let these little things happen, we allow bigger things to follow. Those little things are what lead us to suppressing women as weak and subjects to be controlled by misogyny. When we teach society that we, women, should be quiet and be Maria Clara, we teach them to be silent and eventually not to speak for themselves. Maria Clara obeyed his father and all the men around her. Her decisions were made by the men around her, and in the end she ended up raped by Padre Salvi and she kept silent about it because she was taught that the ideal woman should be quiet.

Women empowerment is more than posting or tweeting that you are one with women, or wearing an H&M shirt that says “The Future is Female”, there is nothing wrong with it but it must not stop there. Women empowerment is about speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, which includes all women in all classes. It is speaking for those Maria Claras who remain silent about their suffering. It is for all women, not just for those who are convenient to empower.

In all honesty, I too question myself and what have I done for women. But I am still learning on what can I do and how can I empower them. Eventually, I hope that I, and everyone else, can contribute in empowering all women, so that in time no woman will be ever called pretty by a strange man in the streets.

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