Master of None Reviewed

This critique is dedicated to my good friend Zack, who asked for it. And as always, spoilers ahead.

You’d think love was all about the chase. That’s what I get from books, television, and movies anyway. Someone’s relationship is always just starting, or ending, or nearly ending before being renewed. And I understand why. Storytelling is the delicate art of maintaining tension. Where is there more tension than in the transitions of love?

But being in a long term relationship, I do sometimes want to see that represented. And without the relationship being undone in the eleventh hour.

Which is why Aziz Ansari’s Master of None disappoints me. The show took an episode or two to settle into itself, and I sometimes got the impression that Ansari, as “Dev”, was talking to himself instead of having a dialogue with the other characters. But these are minor flaws that do not detract from the show at its best.

And at its best, it’s quite good. Ansari plays to his strengths — physical comedy, and his nuanced second generation American viewpoint. Dev seeks work as a comedian, and ends up taking a part in a bad horror movie, providing Ansari the chance to die hilariously. Dev asks his immigrant parents (played by Ansari’s actual parents) about their childhoods, and their stories are at once harrowing, poignant, and still funny.

Even the romance arc of Master of None is strong. The love interest, Rachel (played by Noël Wells), has good chemistry with Ansari, and is very funny in her own right. Their relationship becomes a vector for more comedy, with Dev and Rachel embarking on small adventures. An uncomfortable taxi ride to buy Plan B. An early date in Nashville, because there was a deal on tickets there. Conversations about feminism, and relationships.

It’s a lot like Louie, or Maron, with insightful or even critical moments interspersed between the laughs. And sometimes it’s all mixed up.

One episode focuses on the grandfather of Dev’s friend, Arnold (Ed Wareheim). Dev and Arnold decide to visit Arnold’s grandpa, as it would be a nice, responsible thing to do. Dev and Arnold are first bored by the old man, but once he starts telling war stories they are enthralled. Then they meet grandpa’s companion — a robotic plush seal named Paro, who manages to be both adorable and deeply unsettling.

As Paro is a warm, fuzzy absurdity, most of Master of None has a warm, fuzzy quality that is less common in Louie, and absent from Maron. Of the three main characters, Dev is the youngest, the freshest, and the least jaded. Dev’s flaw is naïveté rather than wizened bitterness and depression. In many ways, it is a welcome change.

Which brings us back to where Master of None lets us down. Despite Dev and Rachel’s penchant for adventure, they pass up on the great adventure — growing together over time. Their relationship gets a little stale, but rather than work through that they suddenly break up.

It’s a sad ending, in no way funny, and that casts a negative light on all the preceding episodes. I can’t rewatch the show to enjoy the good times between Rachel and Dev, because I know it’s all just going to fall apart over nothing but uncharacteristic insecurity at the end.

I like Ansari’s comedy, and I wish him well with season two of Master of None in 2017. But I urge him to remember his strengths, and play to them. And while poignancy and deft handling of nuanced material is within Ansari’s comedic capabilities, a serious breakup from a serious relationship without any comedic twist really isn’t.


Is It Sexist to Hit Her? Deadpool Reviewed

Deadpool is fantastic! Five stars, two thumbs up, new Facebook Wow FaceTM. Go see it before reading this, because you’ll laugh your ass off, and avast, thar be spoilers ahead.

Alright, so first I want to give a big shout out to my favorite joke: “Written by The Real Heroes”. Because it’s true. While the effects team worked pure magic and Ryan Reynolds knocked it out of the park (and dat ass…), without top-notch writing this movie would have been a big, obnoxious mess. My hats off to you, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

And the runner-up jokes:

–The little figurine of “Deadpool” from X Men Origins: Wolverine.

–Going to meet Professor X. “Which one, Stewart or McAvoy?”

–Angel Dust’s boob popping out of her bustier mid-fight, and Colossus freaking out.

There are, of course, many, many more fine jokes from Deadpool to reminisce about. But at this point I’d rather take a long look at that last one. The boob, the gentlemanly freak-out, the coy acceptance of Colossus’s chivalry. And then Angel Dust hits Colossus hard with a sucker punch, because you don’t look away from your opponent in a life-or-death battle. Not even if she’s a pretty, and partially exposed, woman.

Thanks to Reese and Wernick, this movie gets exactly where we are in this conversation. Is it sexist to hit a woman? Is it more sexist not to hit a woman? Deadpool himself asks this question mid-movie. He answers by shooting the woman in question with comedic timing; perfect Deadpool. But yes, there is an automatic cringe upon seeing such a cute, petite woman gunned down by a masked maniac.

But we just saw Deadpool treat a dozen guys the same way. They’re all “bad guys”, they all work for Ajax/Francis, and Deadpool isn’t portrayed as heroic for killing them so it’s okay. His brutality is funny. Dark satire pratfalls.

So, in context, is it sexist to hit the woman? She’s just another hench(wo)man. No super powers to even out nature’s muscular imbalance — but those other henchmen weren’t powered up either. In context, it really seems more sexist not to hit her.

And that, oddly, is what makes Deadpool the “hero” in this film. He’s the only man on screen who isn’t sexist. Okay, yeah, so he encourages the cabbie Dopinder to treat the object of his desires as an object. But Deadpool is comfortable talking about masturbation with his roommate, Blind Al. Which is normal for male roommates, but Blind Al is a woman.

Similarly, Deadpool doesn’t get jealous about the chosen profession of his lady love. They never talk about it once — we have no idea if Vanessa is still turning tricks or not. Because it doesn’t matter. Deadpool and Vanessa love the heck out of each other. Whatever their relationship looks like, it’s working for them, and that’s what matters.

And there’s a streak of Bugs Bunny’s transvestitism in Reynold’s Deadpool. He never wears a dress, but he’s impressively comfortable with his own sexual objectification. His cross-acting (what else can I call it?) is used for comedic effect on screen, but it’s clear the character himself really doesn’t give a damn about gender norms. Unless he can use them to crack an excellent joke.

Meanwhile, Francis totally forgets about the Vanessa in the Fridge behind him. So when she escapes, grabs Deadpool’s sword, and stabs Francis…I can’t even call that a joke. That was cosmic justice for every damsel in distress who hasn’t waded into the fight the moment she could.

To acknowledge the naked elephant (stripper) in the room, yeah. We have a little full frontal female nudity in this film. But we also have a long shot of Ryan Reynold’s muscular butt, and another long shot of Everything when Francis leaves him to die in the burning laboratory. That, my friends, is gender equality.

It must also be mentioned that this movie is dark, intensely violent, and vulgar. It’s not the kind of movie I expect to find myself thinking good for people. Not good for kids, no. To the mom and dad who brought their two little boys to see Deadpool with them and sat in front of me — your boys are super well behaved, but what the heck is wrong with you?

For adults, though? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with depictions of violence in media, so long as the writers, directors, actors, etc. are honest with the audience. Violence is shocking, disgusting, and holds the possibility of dire, even mortal consequence.

Once that is stated (and it is, in spades), why not make fun of what squishy meatbags we are?

In short, if it’s fiction, just hit the girl already.