The True Cost Gives An Inside Look Beyond The Rack

The fashion industry is no stranger to controversy. Slogans, models, photographs and images are not all that is scrutinized in the media and our society. The True Cost  (2015) brings us to rethink how we consume fashion via clothing. Clothes are in a sense statements of who we are as well as who we want to be.They are a part of self-expression and how we present ourselves to the world around us. I sometimes feel the compulsion to buy clothes when there are sales and clearances.  At times, it may seem harder to resist, when we are bombarded by countless newsletters and ads daily. The desire to buy becomes increasingly tempting, when the retail prices are ridiculously cheap.  However, a few months later, I might find that I never wear those items that I hastily purchased. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not quick to make purchases; I always try to carefully foresee the most usage for everything I buy. I am of the school of research before you purch’ and need before want. Never do I make a purchase without giving it a thought beforehand, but sometimes the prices may become blinding. Online shopping is a breeze and frequently has sales.This is where I occasionally falter. More than ever ‘cheap fashion’ or ‘fast fashion’ as named in this documentary has become the norm. It is easily accessible while creating struggle and high-stake rivalry for clothing manufacturing companies which are widely relocated to developing countries. There are most often relegated to Bangladesh and India. The True Cost essentially takes us behind the scenes of the fashion industry, guided by the voices of many key players speaking about its obstacles. These concerns are explored in depth by a discussion with some of the fashion industry’s lead actors. They range from designers, journalists, activists, company CEOs and factory workers. Together they give an insight into the struggles and actions to be taken to better conditions and healthier relations in the fashion industry. We are literally thrust into the making-of of cheap fashion. Director Andrew Morgan answers this rather straight-forward and simple question: Who is behind the clothes we wear?

The fashion world is illusive although it might have seemed like it was reserved to an elite, the people who work in the industry, it is no longer the case. Today, it has become more accessible and affordable, all in a very short period of time. Online shopping is at its peak which means that in a matter of seconds we can be connected to discounted merchandise half way around the world. Morgan investigates how prices are drastically reduced and the man power required to meet tight deadlines and the consequences of this highly competitive market.This documentary also sheds light on the issues and conditions workers face on a daily basis.

The True Cost puts a face to manufacturing employees who work to the bone in order to merely provide for their families. It does not shy away from showing darker truths and heart-wrenching realities, notably in regards to the lack of action that occurred after the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which claimed over a thousand lives. There are touching testimonies, notably by the mother of a young girl who sacrifices time spent with her in the hopes of giving her daughter a better life.

This documentary is not a simple call for empathy and compassion for the way companies treat their workers. It opens the door to action and rethinking our relation to clothing. On a broader scale, it invites us to eliminate superfluous purchases and be more mindful about what we wear. Quality over quantity is an important lesson to learn. Consciousness and awareness is what The True Cost brings as well as a strong basis that enables the viewer to become a more savvy consumer. For this reason alone, it is a must-see. It will with no doubt make you question your spending and how it affects the people who made them without preaching values or forcing facts down your throat. In the end, this documentary is a reminder of the power of the consumer and how we can make sizable changes with simple reflection. It is a thought-provoking piece that gives valuable knowledge.

I give The True Cost  4/5; it is streaming on Netflix.

The True Cost Photo Credit

Men, Women & Children (2014): Internet under surveillance

Men, Women & Children is a film that had caught my attention when I first saw the trailer but that I never had gotten around to watch when it was in theaters. I got a second chance to view it when I came across the title on Netflix. The film is directed by Jason Reitman, renown for Up In The Air starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick released in 2009 which was successful.

Simply put, Men, Women & Children is a drama focusing on Internet usage. Specifically, it gives an insight on how teenagers and their parents get involved on social media and the web. Each character leads a double life in contrasting ways by having a secret online persona. They have a  sort of dark passenger-Yes, this is a Dexter reference- that lives in cyberspace and are not necessarily meant to be seen by others.

We are first introduced to Don Truby (Adam Sandler) whom the narrator confesses, right off the bat, has frequent escapades to his son’s room to watch porn on his computer. Emma Thompson narrates the movie in a documentary-style, in the sense where she reveals some of the characters histories and thoughts which I thought was well done. Sandler’s character and his ‘practice’ is his secret, stemming from his relationship with his wife played by Rosemarie DeWitt which is silently falling apart. Mr. Truby’s lust becomes only fueled by images on screens and escorts. In his real life, this poses a problem  which translates into an inability to connect on a  more intimate level with his wife. This struggle is also felt by his own son Chris, a high school student and star player on the football team. Chris who has been watching porn since he was twelve years old finds himself unable to form a deeper connection with his love interest, the popular-girl Hannah. She is shadowed by her mother and personal photographer Donna (Judy Greer) who manages her website that showcases her figure in various attire and poses with the purpose of promoting her acting. Sexualization of youths and sexuality are both clear themes that are brought up by showing the sometimes sinuous ways it is depicted on the Internet. The movie also evokes the feelings of uncertainty and lack of knowledge that people might have when trying to define the contours or rather the limits of the web.

Then there is Brandy, a responsible and down to earth teenager whose Internet activity is highly monitored by her mother. Jennifer Garner plays this conservative and overprotective parent who only sees the web’s darkest corners. Brandy’s mother represents the voice of fearful parents who have an extreme need to protect their children and do so by controlling their devices. Indeed, Garner’s character exhibits an extreme behaviour; she is an overbearing parent, as she oversees and keeps track of Brandy’s every single online interaction. She acts this way because the fear that her teenage daughter is targeted and will be the prey to predators consumes her. Her constant worrying over her daughter’s safety on the Internet causes resentment and brings an unpreventable confrontation. On the other hand, Tim (Ansel Elgort) is a former football player that developed a passion for an RPG game, to the dismay of his teammates and father. He becomes isolated and has difficulty finding people he can actually talk to about his real life struggles, as his online friends aren’t seriously interested.

One of the things that make the film remarkable is the attention to detail in the aesthetic, especially in regards to the networking sites which are recognizable and the actors actually use these interfaces. There is also the fact that these four distinct families’ struggles are convincingly woven. Their stories overlap in a realistic manner as the teenagers go to the same school and evolve in relatively similar circles; some relationships are built while others fall apart. Against all odds, what is a source of pain or conflict is what brings them together. Internet appears to be both something that can be dangerous but also freeing. By peeking through the lives of these different characters we may realize that we navigate the web in certain ways without always grasping: it’s vastness, it’s permanent nature and people’s underlying motives.

My rating: 3.7/5

‘Inside Out’ : A Relatable And Modern Tale

A snippet of a short titled Riley’s First Date was released today. The full-length short will be included in the bluray version of the box-office hit ‘Inside Out’ next October. It gives us a glimpse of Riley’s life after turning twelve and her parents emotions when a boy comes by their house to see their daughter. This release seems like a great occasion to share a couple of thoughts on the movie from which the characters have originated .

‘Inside Out’ is the latest feature film from heart-warming and thoughtful studios Pixar. They knock it out of the park with this simple premise: getting a look into the mind of an eleven year old girl. Riley is loving, family-oriented and playful with a passion for hockey. I applaud the choice of having the emotions be in a girl’s mind. This is a refreshing take, since most previous movies of the Studios have male protagonists. Riley’s head is controlled by five emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Anger (Lewis Black). These sometimes eccentric characters are voiced by a stellar comedic ensemble, most of them having worked together or appeared on The Office (2006). Even though these characters are colorful and deliver some hilarious mannerism, reactions and one-liners, they have a degree of  innocence and naivety. For the viewer this is both enjoyable and innovative. They are all, without a doubt lovable. Emotions in ‘Inside Out’ are important characters that live in Riley’s head. As creator Pete Docter  discussed during the press tour for this movie, it was really interesting for him to see emotions as characters and Riley’s head as the setting. The inspiration for the movie actually came from seeing his own daughter growing up which eases the personal response we have to Riley as a character.

The emotions are in charge of Riley’s memories, her personnality and of course the manner in which she feels through the highs and lows of her pre-pubecent life. Their intervention proves particularly crucial, when the Andersens move from Minnessota to San Francisco. When the family arrives to their new house, they don’t find it as they had pictured it, especially Riley and her emotions which are bewildered. Needless to say, their new home needs a lot of ajustements and getting used to. This life-changing event leads the usually joyful and happy girl to find herself feeling lonely and sad. Amongst other pivotal moments, she loses touch with her childhood friend and her hockey team which she has difficulty dealing with.

‘Inside Out’ keeps a poignant sensitivity to issues we go through in life. In a similar manner of the Studios’ previous work ‘Up’ (2009), you will find yourself revisiting your childhood. You get to be reminded of the freedom and the happiness  you felt as well as more challenging events and memories that occured. There is also a more global message around the way we might perceive our emotions during critical times. Where as at first each emotion is shown as an independent  way to cope or experience life; what they learn is that they can actually be intertwined. When Joy and Sadness -who have clearly contrasting views of the world in the beginning of the film -are lost in the maze that is long-term memory, they form a surprising bond. Indeed, they realize that in order to get Riley back on the right track, they must work together to return to Headquarters, where the other emotions have things poorly under control. Anger, Disgust and Fear unvoluntarily bring Riley to harbour feelings of resentment towards her parents for making the family move as well as embarassement at school. This leads to devastating actions.

‘Inside Out’ is a relatable tale of a modern girl making a mends with an unexpected change occuring in her previously rather quaint life. The movie explores on a larger scale, how people react and feel through moments of darkness as well as joyous ones. It touches on the importance of expressing how we feel even when it might be painful to do so. Emotions are complex and are often mixed with other feelings. ‘Inside Out’ serves as a heartfelt reminder to grown-ups and a great journey with a lesson for children that emotions are there through the good and the bad. It also makes us acknowledge that there are moments where Sadness is the only one to lead us to Joy.

Sense8 is gripping and uniquely intriguing 

Netflix dropped Sense8 in early June, its newest series which offers an interesting and thought-provoking premise. Eight people living in different countries and leading completely different lives are somehow linked together by a strange connection. It enables them to teleport to other countries and interact with their seven fellow sensate through a mysterious mind link. There is : ‘hacktivist’ Nomi (Jamie Clayton) from San Francisco, Chicago cop Will (Brian J. Smith), Berlin thief Wolfgang (Max Riemelt), telenovela actor Lito (Miguel A. Sylvestre), Sun (Doona Bae) from Seoul , London-based Icelandic DJ Riley (Tuppence Middleton), Nairobi bus driver Capheus (Aml Ameen) and bride-to-be Kala (Tina Desai) from Mumbai. They all have unique abilities: computer skills,strength and courage, fighting skills and fearlessness, lying (acting), martial arts, empathy, driving and chemical knowledge respectively.

These 8 characters become intertwined, lending their skills to each other, particularly  when one of them is facing situations that are life-threatening. Indeed, the sensates come to the aid of one another, offering advice or even skills through time and space. For example, Sun who has martial art skills comes to the rescue of Capheus whose van full of passengers is attacked by vile thieves in Kenya. While both are being provoked in similar ways, Sun’s ability transfers through Capheus. Even though they live in different countries and speak different langages, they are able to communicate and understand each other easily. All sensate are able to communicate and interact effortlessly, whether they like it or not. As one can imagine, it is  difficult to grasp this ability at first. Also, each character sheds light on different issues and inner turmoils such as: homosexuality, bullying, being transgender and questioning religion and capitalism.

The storytelling switches back and forth between the characters and parts of their personal histories, which could be tricky for some to keep up with. This series requires patience and understanding, which is a different form of storytelling that some of us might be used to. Thus, it isn’t for everyone, especially if you prefer fast-paced and noncomplex plots. Time is essential to build up the intrigues and set the context for Sense8. It’s only after a couple of episode that characters’ background and circumstances are fully established in the viewer’s mind. You have to hold on and believe in the special nature of the story to finally see it as a whole. The acting is amazing from each actor (actors playing secondary characters also). Most of them were not very known to the american public, myself included prior to the release of the series. This makes for the discovery of great talent who experience a gamet of emotions in 12 thrilling episodes. Every episode follows each sensate, wherever they are in the world.The series was shot on location, which provides lavish landscapes and scenery from: London, Mumbai, Seoul, Mexico City, Chicago, San Francisco, Berlin and a few parts were shot in Iceland. This adds greatly to the visual value of the show.

Sense8 is a melting pot of genres, there is suspense, action-packed fighting sequences as well as great romantic connections that unfold seamlessly. The romances that develop, although coming from peculiar circumstances, sensates can feel what other sensate experience and are thinking; they blossom in a convincing manner. The sharing of thoughts and emotions make them appear as soulmates. Furthermore, their newfound ability to interact in such an intimate way brings a very deep connection and a sense of belonging that brings them closer together. Sense8 seems to show the impact of globalization and the vasteness of information which makes communication in this century even more efficient and broad than ever before. It paints a picture of what this means accross nations. Each character has an urge to follow their instincts and help others around them even if they are miles away and are strangers at first. Ultimately, I admired the strong bond between the characters and their compassion. This show demonstrates that we are all people and no matter where we live or our own circumstances; we share an undeniable connection.

If you are looking for something captivating, uniques and challenging, look no further. Sense8 provides a unique viewing experience.This Original Netflix Series brings 8 strangers together with a not- so -far- fetched ability forming a heroic brigade of sorts. Their ongoing journey meshes darkness accompanied by wit and humor. The chemistry established is strong and riveting, notably in the finale.

Sidenote: Season 2 has been confirmed recently which means the sensates’ story is far from over!

‘Trainwreck’ rises and avoids cliché

Amy Schumer stars alongside Bill Hader in this modern romantic comedy. Schumer plays ‘Amy’, a non apologetic and heavy-drinking journalist at a men’s magazine. Her workplace is headed by a snob, egocentric and apathic woman portrayed by Tilda Swinton. Amy’s boss gives her the assignment of writing a portrait of Dr. Connors who is about to perform a surgery on a famous athlete. She is obligated to write that paper if she wants to increase her chances of getting a promotion.  Bill Hader plays ‘Aaron’, Amy’s main love interest. His character is a reknown surgeon, notably for pro athletes that also works with Doctors without borders. His best friend is famous basketball player LeBron James who gives a decent performance.

After seeing the trailer, it appears to be yet another raunchy comedy, in the likes of Bridesmaids or The Hangover, but as a romantic comedy. The titles forementionned come to mind having been box office smashes in the last few years in the R-rated comedy department. These movies share similarities, such as the crude humor and some allusion to sexual content. Although seeing the trailer doesn’t give light of the more dramatic or rather emotional undertone of the movie. Thus making the viewing of certain scenes positively surprising, when comparing them to Schumer’s sketches on Comedy Central which even though they sometimes tackle more serious themes such as double standards (Last F***able day), Amy is rarely (if ever) seen saddened or heartbroken. Indeed, knowing Amy Schumer’s work on Inside Amy Schumer and that she wrote Trainwreck upon watching it, I reckon her sarcastic and partly cynical tone does come through, albeit in an evolving manner that is not overbearing.

Amy finally grows up of her destructive ways and realizes that marriage or stable relationships aren’t necessarily synonyous with ball and chain. This growth makes Amy’s character a relatable person who is trying to navigate a newfound stable romantic relationship with Aaron following many years of not-so-great conquests. After a tumulteous relationship with her father, she learns that she is worthy of love and happiness.

I found the film to be a refreshing take on a romantic comedy. It turns the archetype of “the ladies’ man and bad boy that the perfect female lead changes” on its head. Bill Hader as Amy’s new boyfriend is endearing and stands out. His character Aaron is patient, caring, funny and especially down-to-earth. He meshes well with Amy’s dark humor and childish ways.  They clearly balance each other out. What I feel is the strong suit of Trainwreck is how Schumer and Hader are believable as a couple and have great chemistry. Contrarily to most of romantic comedies out there which draw superficial characters together by non-sensical circumstances and romances, this movie presents ordinary people with authentic interactions. Amy and Aaron grow fond of each other gradually; their connection has highs and lows ranging from work troubles to relationship and personal woes. They have a blossoming relationship coupled with lots of laughs and more serious matters.