Camila Cabello Said ‘Don’t Go Yet’ … And I Ain’t Going Anywhere!

Those closest to me would know I absolutely adore Camila Cabello and what she has to offer to the world of music. Albeit not a Top 40 fan, there is just something about this Cuban-American pop singer which makes me froth at the mouth with every release of one of her video clips. “Don’t Go Yet” is no exception, so excuse me for a moment as I attempt to contain my salivating mouth from spilling onto my laptop keyboard.

Maybe it has something to do with my fascination with anything Hispanic/Latino that keeps drawing me to this pop starlet’s music catalogue. She definitely commands attention with her pocket-size stature and long big weave, and this was evident from her days as a member of the girl group, Fifth Harmony. Let’s face it – what actually has become of the other four harmonizers? Leaving the group to pursue a solo career was the best move Camila made to set herself apart from the others in the group and this definitely helped her take the world by storm with her smash hit ‘Havana’. Her latest track “Don’t Go Yet” follows suit in fusing Latin sounds with the pop elements of the western world. It has a throwback sound to the 1980s – a nostalgic decade which many artists are attempting to revive and pay homage to at the moment. It sounds like a track you would have heard blasted at a retro street party in South America, or for those old enough to have danced away at their high school formal (or prom for any Americans reading this) in the 80s; music that makes anyone who was alive in this decade want to reminisce about the good old days. Cabello’s breathy singing and staccato expression that she is synonymous with work well in conjunction with the big blaring trumpet sounds in the background. I think I have listened to this song on repeat on YouTube maybe about 1000 times since it was released, and I always clap along and dance to the infectious melody which stems from the track’s 110 beats per minute. I must say, I have busted out some dance moves I didn’t know I had in me which is a tell-tale sign of a great track serving its purpose to connect with its audience.

Speaking of dance moves, there’s some choppy and old school routines in the film clip too. In yet another telenovela inspired clip, Cabello is seen partying with family in a 1980s aesthetic gathering. From the pops of colour synonymous with this decade, to the hideous fashion trends of the day such as the shoulder padded dresses, and let’s not forget the awful hairstyles of the era, this clip has it all. It even has an LGBT+ appeal with many members of Cabello’s family members in the clip being glamorous drag queens, assisting with camping up the throwback vibe to this bygone era. I absolutely love Camilla’s dance moves in the clip – quite fitting for a decade where people lived a more carefree existence. And I think the clip is also quite fitting for our current context too where the pandemic has distanced families due to domestic and international parameters which have restricted people from seeing their loved ones. It reminds us of the importance of family and cherishing the time we have with our loved ones – even if at times they have us pulling our hair out and climbing up the walls.

I would highly recommend for anyone reading this to head over to YouTube and watch the clip. Since we cannot travel as freely as we once did, let your body feel the Latin heat, and let your mind travel to South America instead. And above all, dance like no one is watching – let’s face it, no one is watching us cooped up in our houses.

Dating Hits An All-Time Low: Could You Find Your Perfect Soulmate in a Room of ‘Sexy Beasts?’

Sexy Beasts' Trailer: Netflix Show Takes Blind Dates to New Level

Just when I started to think that my dating experience was losing its spark and that finding my perfect soulmate will never happen, I completely retracted these thoughts. I started to realise that others out there would go to great extremes to find love (and fame), realms and depths of the dating world I would never imagine myself ever exploring. But what made me think that my dating history is not as bad as what I thought? Six episodes of Netflix’s social experiment ‘Sexy Beasts’ will have anyone re-evaluating the reality of their own experiences with love.

The premise of the show is simple: could you fall in love with someone based on personality alone?

This got me thinking about my own dating history and the number of suitors I didn’t particularly find completely attractive at first but their personalities made me want to give them a second chance in getting to know them and potentially dating them. But that is where it comes to an end – the second date. I think I need a balance of some level of attraction as well as personality, and bucket loads of emotional maturity to keep me interested. But this isn’t about me and what floats my boat, so back to the review.

Each episode begins with an eligible bachelor or bachelorette seeking romance because they are struggling to find their perfect match in the world of dating. However, much like the three candidates they get to go on a series of speed dates with, their appearances are concealed behind masks and special effects, ensuring that all participants put their best foot forward and impress with their personalities. I will give the show credit for the prosthetics used to conceal the facial features of each of the participants, but that is as far as the credit goes for this social experiment.

The episodes last for just shy of twenty-five minutes each, not providing any depth in this experiment and leaving audiences with nothing promising to say in terms of any social commentary. The audience is thrown medias res into three speed dates at a swanky bar, where onlookers are perplexed by the people in disguise as caricatures of animals and other fantastical beasts. The speed dates alternate with sudden cuts between all three potential candidates trying to woo their fellow lonesome partner, the conversations are superficial and shallow, and the contestants make crude or crass remarks about the features of each other’s masks. When you watch these dates you instantly know that it is a group of early twenty year olds who have relied for so long on their looks to score a date, but they offer nothing of merit or value to show any emotional insight into their lives when their appearance is masked and they have to rely on wit and charm alone to keep a conversation sustained.

After the speed dates, one of the potential candidates is booted off but has the opportunity to reveal their face before the other two hopefuls and the bachelor/bachelorette. Some revelations are more shocking than others with some being quite attractive, and others being just as forgettable as their personalities. From here the final two contestants go on individual dates with their potential future lover, and then the big reveal comes along after the bachelor/bachelorette has had some time to reflect on which personality he/she likes best – thus crowning and revealing their ‘Sexy Beast’.

In short, these youthful faces all seem like they were vying for some instant fame. I mean, you are in your early twenties, not in your thirties and forties desperately seeking love and have exhausted all possibilities of finding a partner. Clearly looks do matter as you were all gawking at each other when the faces were revealed and praying that they were “hot” – which goes against the premise of the show. You are meant to fall for someone based on their personality, not their looks. Also, it is interesting to see how each person thought their date was going and if they were “vibing”. Some you could tell did not get along at all and everything was forced, yet there was a perceived connection on their behalf.

All I could say is thank god I am not fame hungry and in my early twenties. It is bad enough dating in my thirties, let alone dating in the superficial world of social media influencers of this new generation of adults.

I walk away knowing that “cover the face, bang the base” does not apply to finding your soulmate; it only applies for a one night stand when you are completely sloshed and everyone is a perfect ten.

‘The Dead Don’t Die’ – A Predictably Unpredictable Tale of A Zombie Apocalypse

I cannot believe it has taken me two years to come across ‘The Dead Don’t Die’. It is a film littered with intellectual humour and topped up with a generous serving of the gore and horror of a zombie flick. I must admit though that this is not a mainstream film that a general audience would appreciate as the humour within is not for all. Nor is the metafictional element of the film to everyone’s liking, but it certainly is right up my alley. I’m so glad Jim Jarmusch’s horror/comedy creation was suggested as a potential viewing on Netflix – it definitely gave me something amusing to watch during this extended Sydney lockdown.

I don’t really know where to begin with this review as there were so many standout elements for me to critique and I’m still beaming with excitement as I am typing my thoughts at the moment. A short and concise summary of the plot may be an appropriate start. Set in the sleepy town of Centerville, the residents begin to notice some strange anomalies around them ranging from the unpredictable duration of the daylight, to the weird antics of their animals. However, the strangest experience they encounter is when the dead wreak havoc on their little town, and survival measures are crucial if the residents want to live to see another day. Plot wise, nothing original or mind-blowing; it’s a tale that’s been done to death. Pardon the pun. As for the metafictional element, this too actually goes nowhere, but it does not bother me for some reason. The fact that the audience is informed that this is a film and the actors are aware of it too – except for one, who claims he does not know how the film will end, was more than enough for me as Jarmusch pumped the weird factor of the film to extreme heights, and I was basking in its kookiness.

Probably the standout aspect of the film has to be the cast. Adam Driver as Officer Ronald is absolutely divine. I love how he has the same deadpan expression throughout the film, probably because he is the only one who “read the script” and was aware of what was to come. Couple this performance with Bill Murray’s witty remarks as Chief Cliff Robertson, you have two commanding officers who ironically lack any authoritative command in dealing with a zombie apocalypse. What you do get between the two though is a perfect pairing of comedic timing and banter that rolls effortlessly from their stellar portrayals of the characters. Selena Gomez also makes a cameo appearance as an out of towner who makes her way through Centerville with her two accompanying male friends, serving as a reminder that these city dwellers are a misfit in this town. Funnily enough though, Gomez who portrays Zoe in the film, is quite bomb diggity in awe of the country-twang of Sturgill Simpson and his song ‘The Dead Don’t Die’. Never would I have imagined Selena Gomez appreciating anything other than the bubblegum pop sounds she releases, but it was nice to see her sporting some daisy dukes to keep in line with the country vibe her character admires. Other notable appearances before I refer to my favourite performance in the film include the likes of Iggy Pop as the Coffee Zombie, Danny Glover as the timid and well respected Hank Thompson, and Chloe Sevigny as Officer Minerva “Mindy” Morrison. Yet in a crowd of such talented actors, one outlandish performance stood out the most. Tilda Swinton totally kills it (pardon the pun again) as Zelda Swinton, the elvish new girl in town and the owner of the local funeral home. As if Tilda’s own appearance isn’t unique enough, Zelda’s characterisation is defined by her case of albinism, ability to handle a sword, her offbeat manner in talking like an elf, and her long gaits and angular style of walking. I recall a scene where she makes her way to speak to the officers at their base and her long white hair and the plastered smile on her pale skin make her seem like she is out of worldly. But as we watch her through the window making her way to the front door, her stiff zig-zag style of walking makes her even more hilarious and odd, as any other person would have simply paved their own path to enter the building, rather than meticulously following the footpath with such sharp twists and turns. Also, the English teacher in me liked the anagram created for Zelda’s surname based on Tilda’s actual surname.

But the personal enjoyment factor in this film definitely stemmed from the witty banter and sarcastic remarks embedded in the dialogue. I think that each of the characters in the film had at least one humorous and memorable line to read, but for some reason, I really found the zombies the funniest of them all. Seeing Iggy Pop as a zombie where he sloshes coffee all over his face after he feasts on the innocent diner lady, made me laugh. If only quenching one’s thirst was as easy as throwing percolated coffee at their face. I also died laughing (again, pardon the pun) when the zombies were holding mobile phones and mumbling through their growls, “Wi-Fi…Bluetooth…Siri”. The very thought that these zombies were well versed in present technological advancements and were longing to join the social stratosphere of the internet really got a good belly laugh out of me. And I think that’s why I enjoyed the humour in this flick – you knew it was coming at you from all angles, but you just didn’t know what would be the looming punchline or joke.

Even though the plot and the meta component of this film actually lead you nowhere, ironically enough, so too does the fate of the residents of Centerville. It’s a downward fall for all.

A Pastiche of Horror Conventions That Should Be Buried In ‘The Hole In the Ground’

Here is a checklist of all the horror conventions that somehow seem to be in every flick of this genre these days:

1. Single mother wanting to start a brand new life with her child.
2. Family moves into a rundown house in a rural setting.
3. The child in the family is creepy or possessed to some extent.
4. A car swerving off the road because the driver was distracted by a passenger OR, something appears out of nowhere on the road.
5. The family comes into contact with another family who has lost a child or family member.
6. Member of said family seems to be the jump scare catalyst throughout the film.
7. The mother notices strange occurrences in her house and family – nobody believes her.
8. The mother attempts to prove she has not lost the plot and tries desperately to save her family.

And from this highly condensed list of horror tropes, how many exactly have been featured in director Lee Cronin’s 2019 film, ‘The Hole In the Ground?’ Would it alarm you if I said all eight?

Here is the dilemma I have with this film. I felt that the performances by Seana Kerslake and James Quinn Markey, the actors who portrayed the mother and said duo of Sarah and Chris O’Neill, not only lacked any visible chemistry between them, but that they were also quite wooden. I recall a scene where Sarah had just laboriously finished applying wallpaper to their new place and Chris comes strutting his stuff down the wooden staircase. She is neither exhausted nor particularly as pleased with her efforts as she claims to be – and the kid does not respond whatsoever to her proclamations. Then she proceeds to offer him a sandwich, making this an interaction between the two and a scene in the film which lasted mere seconds, and did not particularly build upon characterisation and plot. Add the onslaught of the horror conventions to the mix, and it was just a cacophony of noise that didn’t have an effective delivery of the plot.

However, the cinematography in the film is absolutely stunning. Even though the director threw every horror convention and the kitchen sink into it, it was still quite aesthetically pleasing on the eye. The grainy texture reminded me of ‘The Babadook’. The family decorating their new house was reminiscent of the 2000s remake of ‘The Amityville Horror’. And the driving scenes in the isolated depiction of nature, as well as the O’Neill’s various driving jump scares brought to mind the American version of ‘The Ring’. But despite these comparisons (which again signify that there is nothing original about this film), the scenes transitioned effortlessly and beautifully into one another.

There is one part of the film that still makes me laugh. In one scene, Sarah is seen removing some bricks from a wall in her house and hiding a digital camera from the mid 2000s to early 2010s, hoping to capture video footage of her son acting strangely. Girl, were you not alive in either of those decades to know that the battery life on those cameras doesn’t last for weeks? Did you not go clubbing with your mates and wanted a happy snap, only to find that your battery was dying as soon as you turned it on? What made you think that by turning it on you would have infinite storage and battery life to record your possessed child? *face palm*

So I walk away from this Netflix film thinking to myself, ‘when will directors stop overfilling their films with so many stereotypes of the horror genre?’ I also walk away thinking ‘why didn’t my digital cameras work that well?’


The ‘Fear Street’ Trilogy: A Tale of Time’s Karmic Ways In Unravelling History’s Misdoings

If you were a child growing up in the 90s, there is no way that you would never have stumbled across the name of one of the literary giants in young fiction writing. He was the man that made you dread going to sleep. He was the man who made amusement parks, libraries, the beach, and even your own home seem creepy. And, he was also the man who made common day objects turn on you, increasing your levels of paranoia when dealing with your toys, your pets, and cute garden décor like your garden gnomes, for example. He was notorious for giving you ‘Goosebumps’ – literally and figuratively, and his name is R.L. Stine. But did you also know he was the mastermind behind ‘Fear Street,’ Netflix’s recent three part horror series? Let’s see how the fictional horrors of the author we all grew up with have been conveyed on the silver screen through the interconnections of the years 1666, 1978, and 1994.

The first of the three films to be released was ‘Fear Street: 1994’. When I first started watching this film, I started getting vibes from another cult horror series from the 2010s; ‘Scream’. Lots of fresh faced actors looking to make their names known to us all – some with great acting prospects, and others, not so great in their acting abilities. Nevertheless, this first instalment was engaging, and allowed me to have a throwback moment to my childhood in the 90s. Visually, we all travelled back in time to a decade where bold fashion statements when print on print was #trending. It was actually quite nice to see a time where people actually spoke to each other, not having their faces submerged into the little handheld and portable communication devices that our modern society cannot live without. I also particularly liked the grunge and pop songs that made the soundtrack in this first instalment – very fitting for the decade in focus. In fact, what I particularly liked was the massacres that took place in Shadyside’s mall, and how it branded the place as the murder capital in the United States. The polarizing Sunnyvale, the neighbouring suburb where all is as pleasant its name suggests, becomes entangled in this longstanding feudal legend that has seen these two suburbs at war since the witch hunt murder of Sarah Fier in 1666. Is Shadyside cursed as a result of the murder of this witch? Only time will tell… But to wrap up the first feature film, my favourite part was the emergence of murderers past and present who haunt the residents, and how much like the liquid metal, shapeshifting T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day,’ they come back to life, no matter how many attempts have been made to destroy them. Add to this the relationship between Deena and her closeted girlfriend, Sam, the audience starts to ponder why the spirit of Sarah Fier is so heavily invested in this relationship.

When it comes to the second film in the series, ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’, my interest plummeted dramatically. I attribute this to the fact that I am sick to death of seeing slasher films set in a camp scene, where the teen mentors die off one by one, only after having had their dose of sex and drugs accordingly. Not much of a critique on this one as I vehemently did not like the campsite concept, but I did like the revelations of the backstories of some of the murderers from the first film. It is also worthwhile mentioning that the events from the campsite are narrated to the teens from the first film by Ziggy, whom the audience finds out is actually C. Berman, a survivor from the attacks at the camp. Killed but later resuscitated and brought back to life, she begins to spill the beans on what happened to her and her friends back in 1978. Some of the revelations worthy of piecing together the link between the films include: Officer Nick Goode from 1994 was a camp counselor at Camp Nightwing; Ruby Lane’s diary reveals that Sarah Fier’s hand was severed in a deal with the devil in order to be granted eternal life; and a map that leads to Frier’s house was discovered, where the names of the Shadyside killers are carved into the stone wall beneath the property. It somehow appears that the events from 1666 foreshadowed what was to come in the years following. But we still have one more film to get through to tell us what happened all those years ago that has seen a suburb cursed for centuries on end.

Come the final piece of the puzzle, ‘Fear Street Part Three: 1666’, all that has happened before suddenly begins to make more sense. Sarah Fier was mistakenly trialed and murdered for being a witch, and the allegations that she and her closeted lover Hannah have had against them, are all as a result of Mad Thomas. It is he who has made the deal with the devil as a result of murdering a reclusive widow and stealing her book of black magic, and subsequently framing Sarah and Hannah, whom he saw making out in the forest – a forbidden love which tore them apart. When trialed for witchcraft, Sarah lies and confesses that she is a witch and has made a deal with the devil and that is why Union (the region before the split of the two later suburbs) was plagued with misery, thus sparing and sacrificing her lover from death. Her dying words also indicate that she will never let the truth go unknown and that history will reveal what Thomas did to the town of Union. Flashforward to 1994 for the second half of the film, Deena realises that she is Sarah and that the descendants of Mad Thomas were heirs to his legacy and continued the acts of savagery on the town with murders and massacres. It is through Deena that Sarah’s final words come to fruition, as Nick Goode is revealed to be a descendant of Mad Thomas’ and that he needed to die in order for the curse to be lifted and for the other returning murderers to disappear for good too.

Overall, I looked forward to the weekly releases of each of the three films and piecing together the storyline, albeit through some silly fictional plots. It reminded me of my childhood where each week I would buy a brand new book in the ‘Goosebumps‘ series. Looking back at these three films, what stood out to me the most was that time heals all wounds and nothing ever remains a secret, concepts which are applicable in my own family history too. However, the penultimate summary of this trilogy, and by far the best line from any of the three films is, ‘Goode is evil’. I love how the pun has so many deep underlying truths, both in the fictional world, and our actual reality.

‘A Classic Horror Story’ – An Amalgamation of the Genre’s Tropes with Messy Meta-Commentary

Here’s another trailer that caught my eye when it popped up in the ‘Recently Added’ row of films and shows on the streaming service, Netflix. The general aesthetic of the trailer for ‘A Classic Horror Story’ instantly intrigued me as it indeed resembled the cinematography of horror films from bygone eras I became accustomed to watching during my adolescent years. A hint of nostalgia beckoned me to watch the film as it reminded me of horror classics such as ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘ and ‘Cabin In the Woods’. In addition, the fact that it was set in Italy also piqued my interest as I have only seen comedies and dramas during my annual attendance at the Italian Film Festival – commentary that is actually mocked and addressed in the film itself about the lack of Italian horror films out there. But is this Italian horror flick going to be a game changer in our appreciation of the genre? Sadly, I think not.

A pastiche of the horror conventions is interwoven into the storyline of a group of rogue travelers who find themselves carpooling together through Southern Italy. There is the tech-savvy and artsy one, the couple fleeing to elope, the mature-aged traveler, and the central character Elisa, who is travelling to have an abortion. Of course the group will have transportation issues as their RV swerves off road, with the road all of a sudden mysteriously disappearing behind them, and communication via cellular devices is instantly lost. Finding themselves in a barren field with only a dilapidated house nearby, the group instantly begins to feel like they are under surveillance. It is from here where the audience begins to see the homage paid to some of the aforementioned films, but ‘A Classic Horror Story’ amalgamates the slashing, the cult-like followings, the sacrifices, and the final girl conventions, to remind the audience that they are watching a film-within-a-film. This meta-commentary of the genre would have been effective if indeed there was some sort of commentary made. Instead, the audience is left wondering what the purpose of this take was by directors Roberto de Feo and Paolo Strippoli. It felt like the duo was trying to replicate the success of ‘A Cabin In the Woods‘ with the surveillance aspect and the comedy it infused with being watched, but I do not think it completely worked out for these two Italian directors.

The films itself has some amazing scenery which assists with conveying the feeling of being trapped in a remote region of Southern Italy. One of the scenes that comes to mind to support this is of the last supper-esque tribute towards the end of the film where Elisa’s hands have been nailed onto a wheelchair, as she takes her place at one end of the epically long table. Adorned on either side of the table is a ‘family’ of cannibalistic-like people, all dressed in the same sepia-coloured palette of clothing, whilst the only pop of colour is a bold red fashion statement by the matriarch at the head of the table. A mixture of longshots and panning shots of the remote field support the notion of the isolation that Elisa must be feeling whilst enduring an onslaught of torture. It also has some other wonderfully shot scenes where the sheer brutality of the torture porn keeps your eyes transfixed to the screen – or shielding your eyes for protection, if you are one who cannot stomach a bit of blood and pain.

But my biggest headscratcher is the ending. I understand that the people on the beach are also furthering the concept of being watched as they all hold up their phones to record the events taking place in the final scene. It appears to me that the comment being made here is that society acts as a bystander during moments where atrocities are committed, and drops its moral compass, rather than stepping in to support the victims in these situations. It could also be suggesting the fact that technology and social media have put a wall between individuals and society, as people hide behind a screen and interact virtually rather than traditionally through face-to-face communication. I did slightly get a Shyamalan vibe with the ending, reminiscent of ‘The Village,’ where a fence divides the horrors of the fields with the pleasures and freedom of the ocean. But the common denominator with both sides of the fence is this concept of surveillance.

Just hours after having viewed the film, I am still left wondering if Elisa served her mother’s wishes and followed through with having the abortion. The ending I find is left open to interpretation and this question could be taken however one pleases. But to surmise if I think this is a film worthy of a Friday night fright session, I will ask myself a series of questions, and let you be the judge of your own viewing destiny. Do I think that the directors executed a great homage to horror classics? I would say it was a mediocre attempt. Do I think that the meta-commentary brought insightful discussions to the table regarding the horror genre? I would argue not. Do I think that the film is visually arresting? I would argue yes – to some extent. And as for whether I would watch it again? I would probably pass.

Maneskin Releases Film Clip for ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’

Måneskin tease 'I Wanna Be Your Slave' video

For those who have been living under a rock since May, Maneskin won the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest for Italy this year. This glam-rock band consisting of four friends in their early twenties, Damiano, Victoria, Thomas and Ethan, have gone on to find worldwide success post contest with their single ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’. For Eurovision enthusiasts like myself, this song started to make some ripple effects during the build-up to the contest when the band dropped this track in their ‘Wiwi Jam at Home’ performance. Whilst I don’t mind the song, I don’t think it is anything too spectacular, and my sentiments extend to the film clip too.

True to their aesthetic, the band plays around and experiments with gender-bending, a feat that the band made the public well aware of in their performances whilst competing in X-Factor Italy. The lead singer Damiano has been seen sporting fishnet stockings and high heeled boots before, and the other male band members, Thomas and Ethan, have also sported very androgynous looks before too. So for me, this was not a new concept when I saw it in the film clip. Whilst I like the fact that they were playing around with non-binary gender conventions and exploring crossdressing as a bedroom fantasy, I don’t think it had the impact I was anticipating. For a band that is straight off a Eurovision win and doing something which hasn’t been achieved before, or at least to their level with making the charts on a global scale, I was expecting something more flashy. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of flashing in this clip with all members featured in sexy lingerie at some point, but I don’t think I can walk away from this clip singling out a key defining moment and thinking, ‘WOW!’

The clip does have some lovely visuals however, so do not crucify me just yet. Victoria going ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ on us with the hanging apple with razor blades pierced through it shows the band is very edgy and understands the extreme depths of pleasure some people out there experience. The LGBT+ references with man on man action also lends itself well to another key demographic which was also a pivotal market segment of the audience which aided the band in achieving its Eurovision victory. Damiano is mesmerizing as a front man for the band and he demands attention no matter what he is doing. His voice is also very intriguing – it sounds very Italian with the growling and raspy tones, and coupled with his everchanging aesthetic, it is more than enough to maintain one’s attention during the film clip.

As someone who has bought their latest album on vinyl and has listened to their catalogue of music for some time now, I would say that there are better songs they could have released instead. I know that their cover of ‘Beggin’ by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons is also climbing up the charts, despite it being sung on X-Factor Italy three years ago, but I do prefer it over ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’. It’s still a great song showcasing the band’s talents and style, but I guess I was expecting something with more high fashion Italian vogue, and a dark and seedy vibe when it came to the film clip. Despite my somewhat lackluster reaction to the clip, I am very pleased to have seen their progress since the start of the year and their domination of charts worldwide. I am still a fan of the band as they are creating a new path for future Eurovision contestants to also find themselves charting musically worldwide. They are a breath of fresh air during a time period when our actual air has become quite contagious and polluted with the variants of Covid-19.

Bet there would be quite a few people out there who wouldn’t mind being a slave for Maneskin. Are you one of them? Check out the clip below and let me know your thoughts.

More Questions Than Answers in ‘Sophie: A Murder in West Cork’

Sophie Toscan du Plantier Sophie: Un asesinato en West Cork
Courtesy of Netflix

One of my biggest pet hates when it comes to documentaries is when the audience is left pondering a million and one questions by the closing credits. Unfortunately for Netflix’s docuseries, ‘Sophie: A Murder in West Cork,’ the problem does not stem from the directorial angle. It does however stem from the case itself which is one that is shrouded by mystery. And this is where my pet peeve comes in: why bother filming a documentary about an unsolved case that has so many loopholes in the investigation? An easy cash grab for the streaming service, or to keep the legacy of Sophie alive?

Here’s a bit of context on the victim in this docuseries. Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a French journalist whose lifeless and severely injured body was found outside of her holiday house in Cork, Ireland. Her body was discovered by her neighbour in December of 1996, and the victim was dressed in her nightwear, a pair of boots, and long-johns which were hooked on a barbed-wire fence. Initial speculation about a culprit centered around her husband, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, however, he was still in France with their son, and anticipating Sophie’s return to Paris for Christmas. Hence, the investigation had to find a new suspect and angle.

And this is where the many shrouds of doubt surface regarding the investigation. The new suspect under the microscope is Ian Bailey, a freelance journalist who lived in Ireland at the time, and was known to the locals for selling pizza and poems at the markets. Bailey becomes entangled in this investigation for two reasons. Firstly, he started writing articles about the murder of Sophie, declaring that she was a French woman, when by this point, she was still unidentified as a result of the severe injuries sustained to her face. He also started reporting that she was involved with various men, hinting at the possibility of the murder taking place as a result of past flings back home in France which went awry. So the investigation hinged itself on the fact that he knew her background before any formal identification was made of the then Jane Doe. Secondly, Bailey’s relationship with his partner Jules Thomas, also aided in vilifying him as the culprit for the murder. Probing into their relationship unearthed documentation of domestic abuse that Bailey inflicted upon Thomas.

Further reasons continued to surface as to why Bailey was behind the murder. After the murder he was reported to have had scratches to his forearms and an injury on his forehead, to which he attributed them to the moment he chopped down a Christmas tree for the festivities of the month. These injuries were not reproduced when investigators attempted to chop down their own trees, and to add insult to injury, witnesses who were with him on the 22nd of December did not recall seeing these injuries on Bailey. In addition, both Bailey and Thomas gave investigators conflicting stories as to his whereabouts on the night of December 23, the night Sophie was murdered. Further to these, Bailey was also identified as being by Kealfadda Bridge on the night of the murder at approximately 3am. This identification came through from a local called Mary Farrell who was driving by the area – however, her testimony has since been under scrutiny itself due to allegations that she was bullied by Bailey to recant her statements. And finally, two further witnesses have made statements that Bailey himself confessed to them about murdering Sophie, again, allegations he denied.

So to me, it appears to be circumstantial evidence as to why the finger was pointed at Bailey. For starters, the documentary, and the investigation for that matter, both failed to surface what was the motive for the murder. Why did he want to kill Sophie? The suspect has also been on record stating that he was asked to report the case of the murder as he was a journalist in the area, yet his knowledge of the victim’s background sent alarm bells ringing. Not sure whose side I am taking here. But I am also curious to know some other vital details as to why Bailey was the main suspect. It was also known that there were repairs conducted on the house that Sophie owned in Cork, yet it has never been addressed as to whether the carpenter on site was ever questioned by police. Could this have been a difference of opinion based on a business transaction gone wrong? Furthermore, what was Mary doing at 3am by the bridge, and how was she able to identify the person she saw standing in the darkness? And finally, the investigation itself was not conducted in a professional manner. Why was the body left out in the open for 12 long hours since it was discovered in the morning of December 23rd, 1996? The mere fact that there was little to no thorough forensic investigation conducted, and that DNA samples were not taken from the scene of the crime to prove it was a murder, perhaps the blood from the fence could have proven if Bailey was indeed responsible for the crime, or present at least.

To me, it does not appear that there was any real motive for Sophie to be murdered by Bailey. The injuries she sustained does however make me believe that perhaps there was foul play involved. But I do also question whether her nighttime walk resulted in her tripping over her own nightwear and suffering an unfortunate and untimely death. So even as I attempt to close off this review, I am still left wondering what I actually make of the incident, and whether I believe it was murder or an accident. I prefer more definitive cases, where justice has been served, and therefore do not recommend anyone having to sit through almost three hours of this docuseries to feel like they wasted their time.

Another Mystery From the ‘Elite’ Academy Awaits Us

PHOTO] 'Elite' Season 4 Cast Revealed for Netflix Drama | TVLine
Courtesy of Netflix

As a qualified high school English teacher from Sydney, Australia, one of my dreams in life was to take my teaching experience and qualifications to Spain, and live and work there for a while. This dream was finally granted to me in the early stages of 2020 – I was offered a teaching gig to work as a TESOL teacher in an academy in Madrid. But then we all know what happened worldwide, and that dream of mine was shelved with no assurance I will get to have this or a similar experience post-pandemic. However, I have been able to vicariously live out my dream through the fourth season of ‘Elite’, albeit the experience of watching a Spanish series from the comfort of my bedroom does not compare to the cultural immersion of being physically there. But beggars can’t be choosers.

The start of every school year brings about changes – some warranted and some which have dire repercussions for all involved. This is no exception to the international secondary school of Las Encinas; a school where only the richest of the rich could attend, with the exception of those from working class families worthy of a scholarship to land themselves a spot at the academy. Otherwise, it wouldn’t quite fit with the show’s titled premise if there wasn’t a contrast of the social hierarchy, right? As noted previously, I am well aware of the comings and goings of staff and students within a school setting, and the new cast members for the latest instalment of the drama on campus bring new twists and complications to a storyline we have seen before. Despite it being the same formulaic structure – a crime takes place and is solved through flashbacks and a tangled web of lies, deception and manipulation, the show’s newest family, the Commerfords, bring something new and refreshing to the series. From the patriarch Benjamin, who also is Las Encina’s new nightmare of a principal, to his children, Ari, Patrick and Mencia, the four of them definitely know how to get on each other’s nerves, as well as to shake things up for the returning and much loved existing ensemble cast.

Benjamin’s three children couldn’t be more different to one another. Despite being twins, Ari and Patrick may have a common flair for looking stylish and attracting men, but their character arcs bring out different qualities in both of them. Ari is a pretentious young girl who tries to keep the family in line for the sake of reputation and of course, the abundance of money at their disposal due to daddy’s line of work. She feels trapped between doing the right thing and letting herself be free, which we see on a few occasions when she has a few too many drinks – thus, she becomes this season’s mystery storyline when she is found passed out and beaten at a New Year’s Eve party. Her brother Patrick is the latest LGBT+ representation on campus, and finds himself meddling in the relationship of Omar and Ander, where new realisations emerge about the couple’s co-existence. And finally there is Mencia, the family’s youngest child and most rebellious of the lot. Her edgy dress sense instantly makes it known that she bares no resemblance to her siblings who bask in the wonders of their luxurious lifestyle, and she joins the existing cast in a sit-in protest against her own father. She too dabbles into the LGBT+ world, and another world which sees her making money in the escort industry. I still have no idea how these teens manage to get into nightclubs, find themselves entangled with acts of misconduct, and always evade punishment by the law – evidently, I am not an ‘Elite’ member of society, so I don’t know how things operate in their world. But as I tell my students when we stumble across impossible or ridiculous examples in texts, ‘suspend your disbelief’. And that’s exactly what I do too.

The only new addition to the cast I did not like this season was Phillipe Florian Von Triesenberg – a prince with a troubled past who finds himself attending this prestigious school in Spain. The efforts the school goes to in order to heighten security measures on campus for his attendance is quite unnecessary. Clearly the directing team has forgotten that the teenagers could get away with murder (literally), whether security is present or not. His storyline is also quite predictable in the sense that he will meet a girl he likes who somehow doesn’t affiliate in the same circles as him. So who requires a rags to riches love story? Cayetana, of course. Their romantic fling did not make an impact on me at all, and nor do I think it added anything to an already jacked up storyline with new mystery and the strong impact the Commerfords made with their presence. It seemed more like a filler backstory to keep Caye relevant to the audience.

Speaking of romantic experiences, for four seasons I have watched these teens fall in love and hook-up with each other more times than I change shirts in a day. I have become well versed in mathematical shapes, namely the triangle as there are so many love triangles in the show and in particular this season. From Guzman and Nadia’s long-distance relationship and Ari serving as the thorn between two roses, to Mencia making a move on Rebe but both being challenged by the former lady’s sex client, Armando, it appears that every love story has an issue. Oh and let’s also not forget the ongoing dilemma Samuel and Guzman find themselves in as yet again they both vie for the love of one of the leading ladies – Ari. I also learned about common denominators this season, which explains why the eldest child of the Commerfords finds herself to be in the misfortunate circumstance of being the victim this season.

All in all, another school year has come to an end and I anticipate what the future holds for the students at Las Encinas.
What new mess will these wealthy teenagers find themselves in next year? Will the relationships from this year last beyond the school break? How many more naked bodies and torsos will we be exposed to per episode next season?
Let the speculations cease, and may we all have a wonderful school break. School’s out.

Netflix’s ‘Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime’ is a Waste of Time

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

If anyone looks at my viewing history on Netflix and then ventures into my ‘Reminders’ list of upcoming shows and documentaries the streaming service plans on releasing, one would be amazed at the sheer number of true crime docuseries I find myself watching. Now just to dispel any misconceptions about my viewing pleasures, I am not looking to commit a crime myself; I am simply drawn to two factors when it comes to true crime text types. The first reason as to why I am drawn to true crime is because I am intrigued and fascinated by the human psyche – what makes someone snap? What goes through their mind before, during and after the crime is committed? And finally, how does one live with themselves knowing that they have abused the law and engaged in misconduct? My second reason is because I like solving crimes and delving deep into dark rooted issues to shed some light. I guess that might just be the Scorpio in me seeking some stimulation.

I was actually looking forward to watching the Elize Matsunaga docuseries. I remember reading about the crime itself almost ten years ago and was fascinated by the nature of the relationship between Elize and her husband Marcos, whom she shot and dismembered, and scattered his remains by the side of a road in Brazil. When I watched the trailer for this docuseries, I was instantly intrigued by the premise behind the narration of the crime – the killer reveals all. However, upon watching the story unfold in the three episodes directed by Eliza Capai, I was deeply disappointed with her directorial execution and was left wondering what the aim of the docuseries was in having Matsunaga recount her version of events. For starters, the episodes felt to me like they were extremely slow in pacing. This irked me for the most part because even when Eliza was in the studio with the spotlight on her, her recollections felt very drawn out, and it made me question whether the process of retelling the world what happened was painfully stressful for her, or whether the director was attempting to evoke sympathy from the audience about the events that happened. If it is the latter, I really did not feel any sympathy or pity towards her by the closing credits of the final episode. It felt that her tears were on cue, crocodile in nature, and that the overarching concept of revealing the truth to her child about the death of their father, didn’t really paint her in a favourable light. I even felt that the twin-piece business suit felt staged to portray her as a reformed citizen seeking to assimilate back into society and move on from the atrocity she committed.

Another issue I had with the direction of the series was that I wasn’t sure if Capai wanted to emphasise the difficulties experienced in the escorting industry. Yes, Elize was an escort and that’s how she met her ridiculously wealthy Asian husband, Marcos. But as their relationship is explored, it is revealed that Marcos was in a relationship and fathered a child with another woman when he met Elize, then the two of them married and had a child, and then history repeated itself when Elize found out through a private investigator that her husband was having an affair with another woman – also an escort. Was the series implying that escorts are homewreckers? Was it implying that escorts do the job out of necessity and then when they least expect it, a lifeline comes their way through a wealthy client who can take them out of their misery? This concept of rags to riches was explored in the series in relation to Elize and her difficult upbringing and that Marcos was the prince charming, providing her with a life she never would have imagined experiencing.

Which brings me to my next point of contention – this rags to riches story. I also found that there was a lot of emphasis on the exploitation of the money the couple had, and how they constantly flaunted their lavish lifestyle to their friends and family. Two examples come to mind when I think about the ways in which their money was spent. The first being of their pet snake which through a home video, the audience sees it in a container with a mouse – my gag reflexes when it comes to snakes did not let me stomach this scene so I fast forwarded. The second example of their spending habits comes to the couple’s interest in shooting ranges and hunting. It is this latter reference which I found drove part of the plot in the docuseries, as part of the investigation centered around the steady hand of the person who dismembered the victim, as well as Elize being an accurate and excellent shooter, highlighted by her boastful ways about the taxidermy collected from her encounters in the wild. I found it interesting how the steady hand came back to Elize having trained as a nurse, and that her access to guns because of the couple’s pastime is what ultimately provided her with the means to commit the murder. So was the series trying to say that Elize committed the murder not because of a crime of passion, but as a crime of greed? Did her sudden access to an abundance of money make her kill her loved one? Does money make you do things you never thought you’d do?

Despite sitting through all three episodes and waiting for her to reveal the truth to her child, it never happened. I guess we have heard her versions of events and why she killed her husband, but for some reason, the three questions I posed about the director’s pitch still linger in my mind as to what the purpose of the revelation is to the audience. If I did have to point out something that I did enjoy about the show, it was learning some Brazilian hand gestures and their meanings which I could now use around my Latino friends. Aside from that, I would recommend simply reading up on this true crime.