Commentary by Carrier staff

Winter break started (technically) on Nov. 20, 2020 with finals ending two weeks later on Dec. 4, 2020. The academic calendar was altered last semester to allow students more time at home and less time traveling to and from campus for various breaks. This change came amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in order to limit the potential spread of the virus while travleing. That being said, the extended break, as well as continued regulations in most states that restricted large travel excursions and even daily activites, such as going to resturants, movie theaters and other places that make physical distancing difficult, most people found themselves confined to their homes with a lot of time on their hands. Luckily, the entertainment industry did not fail to provide those who were bored over break with new movies, shows and music. Here is a recap of some of the best new releases that closed 2020 and started 2021. 

Bridgerton – Alana George 

Netflix has a wide variety of shows to suit any viewer, and when I first heard about a new show called “Bridgerton,” which premiered on Christmas day, I did not think I would be interested. 

I had previously tried to watch a slightly similar show on Hulu called “The Great,” which focuses on the rise of Catherine the Great, empress of Russia, and I was not impressed at the writing or the characterization. I went into watching “Bridgerton” with those low-set expectations; however, acclaimed director Shonda Rhimes’ take on 19th century London high society blew my expectations out of the water, and I ended up binge-watching the entire first season in one night. “Pride and Prejudice” meets “Gossip Girl” as the young ladies of London’s high society are on parade during suitor season, and the Bridgerton family is presenting its eldest daughter Daphne. 

The show follows Daphne’s blossoming romance with a certain very handsome duke, as well as many other masterfully interconnected storylines. And in true “Gossip Girl” fashion, the entire show is narrated by an unknown Lady Whistledown, voiced by the incomparable Julie Andrews, whose daily pamphlets detailing all the high society scandals are the talk of the entire town. 

There is some mature sexual content in the show, but the characters, costumes, scenery and story really eclipsed any doubt that presented in my mind. Thankfully, “Bridgerton” has been confirmed for a second season, so we viewers shall soon be able to watch our favorite characters tempt scandal once again. 

Fate: The Winx Saga – Jamison Guice 

On Jan. 22, Netflix released the original series “Fate: Winx Saga,” a live-action spinoff of the early 2000s cartoon that featured six upbeat fairies on an eight-season-long quest to find love and fight evil. In the same sense as the previously mentioned cartoon, the new live-action teen drama follows protagonist Bloom as she mysteriously arrives at Alfea, a school for fairies and specialists, draped in teen angst, family drama and slight anger management problems. Just like in the animation, the first episode mainly focuses on Bloom interacting with the characters that will be her soon-to-be ‘posse’ and will help her face the hard first-season challenges. 

Her gang no longer includes tech-savvy Tecna but instead features two new characters: earth fairy Terra and empath Musa. Together, the new gang explores the darker sides of Alfea as they learn more about Bloom’s past and encounter monsters like the aptly named Burned Ones. 

While the Netflix original series draws inspiration from the original TV show, viewers should not expect to draw many similarities. When the show first released teaser trailers back in December 2020, many expectant viewers were upset about the lack of representation in the cast members. Canon Latina character Flora was replaced in the Winx gang by Terra, who is played by a white actress. Terra claims to be Flora’s cousin in the first episode, which left many audience members feeling like they were missing out on a key character. So, if looking for a good childhood throwback, this may not be a good show for you. However, “Fate: Winx Saga” does offer older audiences a new outlook into the world of Alfea. 

Midnight Diner – Asa Daniels 

The Show “Midnight Diner” (Shinya shokudō) follows the events of a man named Master, the owner of a small diner in Tokyo, Japan. The diner is only open from midnight until seven in the morning. Yet, despite this, the diner has numerous patrons who visit from the nightlife of the restless city. In this show, food is a truly communal experience. 

Each episode follows a specific character, sometimes a recurring character or a featured guest, as they undergo some challenge. Stories have revolved around family, true love, trust, prostitution, gang violence, and yes, food. 

While only 25 minutes long, every episode does a masterful job of providing depth and detail to the characters, where the audience learns about their hopes, past and fears. This show is among one of the best slice-of-life televisions shows out there. It serves as a wonderful introduction into the greater modern Japanese live-action television market, as well as Japanese cuisine.

Each episode ends with a short segment providing tips on how to create the food featured in that episode.

So, the next time you sit down to eat, think about the personal connections you have between people and how food can serve as the great bridge between strangers. 

Evermore – Kelsee Brady 

On Dec. 10, 2020, Taylor Swift released her ninth studio album, “Evermore.” While it is considered a sister record to Swift’s previous album “Folklore,” “Evermore” carried a depth and musicality that made it stand out from the first listen in a way that “Folklore” did not. “Evermore” was also a surprise release, with Swift announcing it via her social media the morning of Dec. 10. 

Both “Folklore’’ and “Evermore” were produced during quarantine; Swift recording from a home studio that was built after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

The original version of “Evermore has fifteen tracks with the deluxe version featuring two bonus tracks, “Right Where You Left Me” and “It’s Time To Go.” As a tried and true Swiftie, “Evermore” immediately resonated with me in a way that “Folklore” did not. Perhaps, “Folklore” felt more foreign because it was the first album of Swift’s genre and songwriting shift, but the songs on “Evermore” were on a level that “Folklore” did not reach.

With the release of “Evermore” came the first single “Willow.” This song is the first track on the album, and when compared to her single “Cardigan” from “Folklore,” “Willow” does fall short in my view. However, “Evermore” makes up for this inconsistency throughout the rest of the album.

Between the artistry of the lyrics and the musicality of the instrumental backing, songs like “Champagne Problems” and “No Body, No Crime” create anticipation for every new track. 

“Evermore” displays the versatility of Swift in every song. Each track displays a different side of a story, and no one but Swift could create an album this diverse.

The Crown – Mary Grace von Thron

Queen Elizabeth II and her family may not have liked season four of “The Crown” due to the harsh portrayal of several members of the royal family, but I sure loved it.

Season four of “The Crown” has been long awaited by fans of the show, mainly due to the introduction of Diana, Princess of Wales and the portrayal of her marriage to Prince Charles. Diana is portrayed by actress Emma Corrin, and I for one was blown away by Corrin’s portrayal of Diana, especially considering this was her first major role on a television show. . If you’re a royal family fanatic like me, you are probably well aware that the sixteen years that Diana was in the spotlight were well documented by the press. Because of all the resources available for Corrin to learn about her character, I was curious to see if she was going to rely solely on the historical footage of Princess Diana or take creative liberties with the character. I feel like she used the latter approach to her character development, which was very effective. 

Another aspect of season four I enjoyed was how different historical events were portrayed. I knew that Princess Diana would play a large part this season, similar to how she played a large part in this era of Britain’s history. However, I didn’t realize the great impact that Margaret Thatcher had on British life during her time as Prime Minister. While past seasons of “The Crown” did focus on the socio-political issues at the time, this season took it to the next level and provided viewers with a lively reenactment of Thatcher’s tenure.

I highly recommend watching season four of “The Crown.” It is a fascinating portrayal of one of the world’s most famous family. All four seasons are currently streaming on Netflix. 

Wonder Woman 1984 – Annie Deitz

The second movie in DC’s Wonder Woman franchise was released on Christmas day through the HBO Max streaming service. The film “Wonder Woman 1984” is set more than 60 years after the first movie, and follows superheroine Diana Prince’s contemporary life, romantic interests and fight to save the world.

I became a big fan of the first film after watching it in theaters, and was excited to watch the sequel via a COVID-19 friendly streaming platform. The film adeptly balanced action, romance and a poignant message about the nature of desire and power without being cliché or over the top. The running time is two and a half hours, which is definitely lengthy for any film, but never did the plot lose my attention. I never found myself bored. 

The complexity and depth of the movie’s villains add to the overall entertainment and thematic value. Barbara Minerva and Max Lord are complex and allow the viewer to reflect on some of the fundamental issues in humanity. Minerva, who becomes the comic villain Cheetah, demonstrates the insecurity and jealousy we all feel. She shows how the social limitations of the male gaze can violate and demean a woman, making her into something she isn’t. Meanwhile, the persona of Lord highlights humanity’s propensity for greed and selfishness, as he manipulates those around him to get his way and to increase his power. By showing not only his backstory but how his relationships and personality progress after he is defeated, he becomes humanized. But his character flaws, those that make him a super villain, become humanized as well. As essentially all of humanity becomes involved in his grab for power; unknowingly giving Lord additional power to fulfill their wishes, they cause the world to fall apart. That aspect of the film indicates that we all have the propensity for violence in trying to reach our own ends. But “Wonder Woman 1984” allows for redemption, showing that we can overcome our internal and inherent problems to become better people. It truly was a wonderful way to end such a horrible year. 

Posted by Campus Carrier

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