Season 4 of “Bojack Horseman” Is Darker Than Ever


Netflix’s adult animated comedy-drama “Bojack Horseman” is back for Season 4, and it’s clear that something has changed. Sure, the first three seasons of “Bojack Horseman” always seemed to be pushing the edges of just how far the show could go – but Season 4 is taking the show in a much darker direction, exploring themes like addiction, dementia and depression in ways that we never expected. In short, Season 4 of “Bojack Horseman” is darker than ever.

“Bojack Horseman” is no longer just a brilliant satire of Hollywood celebrity culture

When the star character of a show is a humanoid horse who’s also filled with addictive tendencies and a sense of deep self-loathing, there’s plenty of potential to explore the darker side of existence. Yet, for the first three seasons, it seems like “Bojack Horseman” was mostly willing to satirize Hollywood and celebrity culture. You basically had a washed-up Hollywood star – Bojack Horseman – trying to get back in the game and restore his once-fabulous TV career.

Along the way, we meet his on-again, off-again girlfriend (the pink cat Princess Carolyn), and watch him struggle to adapt to his current existence as a 50-something nobody without any real prospects in show biz. But here’s the thing: we as viewers believed that the show was about finding happiness, about finding redemption, and about finally making it in the end.

Season 4 has changed all that. Themes like anxiety, drug abuse and depression are everywhere. It’s not just that Bojack Horseman is bitter and depressed, it’s that he’s now sinking further and further into the cesspool of dark emotions. He is, in short, now a substance-addicted narcissist. He is not getting any closer to enlightenment, and really, he doesn’t care. That’s dark, right?

“Bojack Horseman” has some dark scenes involving family members

In Season 4, we are learning more and more about Bojack Horseman, and we are finding out that he is not a very nice horse. For example, consider the plot lines involving his mother Beatrice. He has placed her in a ramshackle nursing home in Michigan, glad to be rid of her both physically and emotionally. As viewers and fans have pointed out, he has literally turned his back on her.

And that’s not all – Bojack Horseman is not dealing very well with the fact that Hollyhock might actually be his daughter. He doesn’t want to adopt her, and is looking for a way out. He is not willing yet to take on responsibility for her, and seems to be actively looking for someone else to take her on. He seems to be just going through the motions, not yet doing the “right thing” and becoming a loving parent and adopting her with love.

“Bojack Horseman” is shifting its dark focus from Hollywood to politics

On the surface, a plot line about Mr. Peanutbutter running for political office shouldn’t be all that dark. After all, he’s just a golden Labrador Retriever, right? But even here, you can start to see how “Bojack Horseman” is now willing to take on modern politics.

Throughout Season 4, there are veiled references to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. How did we get to this point in modern society where it’s easier for a celebrity to win political office than it is for a life-long, professional politician? There’s something cold and unsparing in this analysis, though, that has overtones of darkness.

“Bojack Horseman” continues to explore the meaning of melancholy, shame and guilt

Part of why fans love “Bojack Horseman” so much are all the goofy background gags in nearly every scene – like polar bears hanging out in Hawaiian shirts when other animals are wrapped up in heavy jackets, or all the funny word plays on signs (“I Pita the Ful”). But here’s the thing – these signs and gags have started to be less about being funny and cute, and more about reinforcing the shame and guilt that different characters feel.

As one TV reviewer noted, “Bojack Horseman” is now “a marvel of melancholy.” You might say that the show has transformed from being “biting and sarcastic“ to being “darkly funny” to now being “a marvel of melancholy.” Each season, the show seems to be headed deeper and deeper in that direction.


“Bojack Horseman” is all about broken, not flawed, characters

It might seem like a subtle difference on the surface, but there is a major, fundamental difference between being a “flawed” character and being a “broken” character. During the first 3 seasons, it was possible to see Bojack Horseman as a flawed character. Yes, he had destructive tendencies, and yes, he tended to feel sorry for himself, but you had the sense that it would all work out in the end.

Flash forward to Season 4, however, and it’s clear that Bojack Horseman is now a broken character. Some have compared him to Don Draper in “Mad Men” – someone that we initially trusted to be a true protagonist, but someone who showed that he was without true redemption. Bojack Horseman has addictive tendencies, he’s filled with self-loathing, and now he seems to be much more willing to take all this out on others.

So do we give Bojack Horseman another chance? Is a broken character like him capable of finding happiness? When he was simply bitter and jaded, we thought the answer was “yes.” Now, we are not so sure of the answer.

“Bojack Horseman” is still brilliant – but different than we remembered

It’s hard not to admit that “Bojack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is absolutely brilliant. Obviously, the first three seasons were epic in ways that we never could have imagined. In Season 4, though, it seems like he has tried to push things further, to really make us understand the thoughts and motivations of Bojack Horseman.

And so Season 4 is somehow different from how we remembered Seasons 1 through 3. It’s still funny, and the sight gags and background props are still there, but the show is definitely darker than ever. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Bojack Horseman is finally able to find his own personal form of enlightenment.



“Blade Runner 2049”: The Sequel We’ve Dreamed Of


If there was ever a science fiction film that deserved a sequel, it was the original “Blade Runner” starring Harrison Ford and directed by Ridley Scott. It seems hard to believe, but that film came out in 1982, presenting a dystopian vision of Los Angeles in the year 2019. And now here we are in 2017, 35 years later, and it’s clear that the new “Blade Runner 2049” is the sequel we’ve dreamed of. The timing simply couldn’t be better.

“Blade Runner 2049” makes us question what it means to be human

In many ways, “Blade Runner 2049” is a deeply philosophical movie, asking some very deep questions about what it means to be human. And the way it does that is by making us question the blurred line between artificial life and human life. At what point does a replicant become a human? In the dystopian future, the only way to discern between a replicant and a human is a complex behavioral-emotional test.

The key to figuring all this out, of course, is the lead character, Ryan Gosling, who plays a replicant himself. He is Officer K of the LAPD, but “K” is just part of his serial number. He is a replicant – but a replicant who is more self-aware than most. He has memories, but knows they have been artificially created in a lab and placed within him. At one point, he even begins to question whether or not he has a soul. If he was “born” and not “made,” does that mean that he is more alive than other replicants?

Of course, there are layers and layers to dissect here, and that’s what makes “Blade Runner 2049” so much fun. For example, take the fact that Officer K has a girlfriend named Joi. Nothing too surprising in that, right? Well, it turns out that his girlfriend is an artificially intelligent hologram who prefers to call him by a human name (“Joe”) and not by his replicant name. And there is something remarkably human about K – he listens to Frank Sinatra, he reads Nabokov, and he yearns to learn the story of his existence. But is that enough to make him human?

“Blade Runner 2049” unites Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling

While Ryan Gosling is clearly the star of the movie, he is joined by the star of the earlier “Blade Runner,” Harrison Ford, who plays the legendary blade runner Rick Deckard. In many ways, this union of former star and current star is what makes this movie so powerful. The involvement of Harrison Ford is important for so many reasons, and not just for the reason that he provides a line of continuity between the original and the sequel.

Deckard holds a lot of secrets – both for Officer K and for the audience. He is the central link back to the sci-fi classic, so it’s surprising that the movie studio originally wanted to keep the involvement of Harrison Ford in the film a surprise for moviegoers. Later, it was decided that Gosling and Ford had such chemistry together that all of the initial marketing for the movie had them doing joint interviews.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a mystery and a quest, all rolled into one

A sense of noir mystery seems to permeate every frame of “Blade Runner 2049.” Part of that has to do with the pacing from director Denis Villeneuve, who unveils, piece by piece, the future dystopian reality of the year 2049. Some viewers have complained that the length of the film – at nearly 2 hours, 45 minutes – is too long, but they are missing the central point: there is a secret within the film so big that it needs plenty of time to gestate. As one character in the film says of this secret, “This breaks the world.”

And, as much as “Blade Runner 2049” is a mystery, it is also a classic quest film. It is a quest to find the true answer about what the world has become. It is a quest to find the original blade runner, of course. And it is also a quest to find one’s personal identity. This is not a quest that involves a lot of lethal explosions every 10 minutes – it is a quest that takes place as much in the mind and soul as it does on the screen.


“Blade Runner 2049” presents a new view of the dystopian future

If you think about most of the science fiction films of the past two decades, they have been strongly dystopian in nature. They ask a question, “What happens when technology gets out of control?” So in many ways, the new “Blade Runner 2049” follows this basic narrative of ruminating on the fate of a dystopian world. But it advances the narrative one step further by asking what we, as humans, can really do to prevent this world from happening, and whether humans are more to blame than the actual technology.

The milieu of “Blade Runner” is one in which replicants act more “human” than humans. Just how dystopian is a world in which the soul, feelings and emotions matter so much? How dystopian is a world in which we challenge our views and concepts and question why we’re on this Earth in the first place?

When the first “Blade Runner” came out in 1982, the idea of the future was that it would look a lot like downtown Tokyo, just filled with a lot of interactive holograms and replicants. That was the way we thought of the world. Flash forward 35 years, and the vision has become much more bleak. The feeling now is that technology will eventually destroy us in an orange apocalyptic fog. There is something within us as humans that might make us incapable of taking the next big step. Maybe it’s better if we just hand things off to the replicants.

“Blade Runner 2049” has a dream-like intensity

Those are some of the feelings, emotions and thoughts that will cascade through your head upon watching this film. Anyone watching “Blade Runner 2049” will inevitably feel more introspective upon exiting the cinema. The movie unfolds with a dream-like intensity. And, just like a dream, we can remember it, and we can remember how it made us feel, even if the details are hard to describe.



Disney’s “Coco” Is Magical and Culturally Fulfilling


During the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios are bringing a new and much-anticipated animated film to the big screen: “Coco.” This film has the same amazing animation quality as every other legendary Pixar animated film of the past few years. Moreover, it includes a unique, authentic portrayal of Mexican culture. It all adds up to a magical and culturally fulfilling experience for the entire family.

“Coco” is a fun comedy adventure for the whole family

From the outset, “Coco” delivers a storyline that’s anchored in family values and tradition. Young Miguel, a 12-year-old boy with a passion for guitars and music, is fascinated by the thought of becoming a professional musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). However, his family has a long-standing ban on music, and Miguel must explore his passion for music in private.

That, of course, leads Miguel to search out the history of his family to see why music is considered to be a “curse.” Why are people trying to stop him from becoming a musician? There are scenes where he is trying to examine old family photographs and where he is trying to figure out what older members of his family – such as his great-grandfather – would think about his love for music.

That already sounds like a very charming premise for a movie, right? You can imagine grandmothers and grandfathers – not just moms and dads – bringing their kids to the local multiplex. This is safe family fare that isn’t trying to be “edgy.” It’s a fun comedy adventure for the whole family.

“Coco” offers a culturally fulfilling view of Mexican traditions

When Disney first started working on “Coco,” there were some immediate concerns that the animated film would be, well, too white. And even when Disney first worked on the name of the film, it ran into problems with the Hispanic-American community. Disney wanted to call the film “The Day of the Dead,” but Hispanics worried that Disney was trying to expropriate Mexican culture and trademark it all under the name of a huge American media & entertainment conglomerate. So, “The Day of the Dead” turned into “Coco.”

There’s a lot about this film that makes it so culturally fulfilling. First and foremost, Disney and Pixar were careful to cast only Latinos in the lead roles. Thus, there is a person of color in the lead role (Anthony Gonzales, as the young Miguel), and the other lead characters include Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt. So nobody can accuse of Disney/Pixar of not getting the very best Latino talent!

On top of all that, Disney pulled in a set of cultural consultants from Mexico to make sure that the view of Mexican culture was authentic. Thus far, it has all paid off. There has been advance positive acclaim for the film’s authentic portrayal of Mexican culture and traditions. In other words, the film doesn’t present a dumbed-down Taco Bell version of what Mexican culture is all about!

“Coco” has a musical soundtrack that will win over music fans

Music plays a huge part in “Coco.” It is central to every single plotline, and it is the character of Miguel – playing his guitar and trying to become the next Ernesto de la Cruz musical legend – who is the real star of this film.

And, the film includes so many great nuggets of wisdom that involve music. Here’s just one example – Ernesto de la Cruz is talking about how to handle adversity in life and says, “When life gets me down, I play my guitar.”

And, to convey the message of how music can capture a certain mood and a certain style, Ernesto de la Cruz likes to mention “a song that’s playing just for you.” It is music, indeed, that gives young Miguel the impetus to set off on his personal adventure.


“Coco” features an animated dog called Dante and he’s wonderful

While “Coco” is only set to hit the big screen in late November in time for Thanksgiving, fans have already had a chance to view a short two-minute film called “Dante’s Lunch – a Short Tail,” which dropped on March 29. The video has been a hit on YouTube, and was designed to showcase the character of Dante, Miguel’s small dog. This dog is wonderful, bouncing around and playfully trying to find a bone – but that bone happens to belong to a skeleton!

“Coco” has some imaginative and evocative dream-like sequences

There are some parts of “Coco” when you may audibly gasp while watching – that’s how impressive the animation work is. There are some sequences, such as when Miguel and Dante are crossing a bridge to the Land of the Dead, that may leave you scratching your head of just exactly how they pulled it off. The artwork is wonderful, and fans have already given the movie major props for the gorgeous art style.

It’s easy to see the hand of Pixar Animation Studios at work here. They are still the very best in the business, and the care and detail that went into every scene is truly impressive. The scenes in the Land of the Dead are amazing, and everything is done so well that you might not even realize that those are just skeletons!

“Coco” has universal and timeless themes

There are some themes within the film that are truly timeless, such as the need to “reach for your dream to make it come true.” Nobody is going to make a dream reality except you, and that’s a lesson that “Coco” offers again and again.

The themes of love, family and the importance of tradition all play a role as well. Much of the action centers on the Day of the Dead, an important Mexican holiday, and one that has special meaning for Miguel’s family.


Ultimately, “Coco” looks like it is going to be another winner in Disney and Pixar’s animation portfolio. This animated film includes a stellar Latino cast, gorgeous artwork that is culturally sensitive to Latinos, and enduring themes that can be enjoyed and explored by the whole family. Truly, “Coco” is a magical and culturally fulfilling experience.



Why “Mother!” Has Baffled Audiences


The most baffling and controversial movie of this fall is almost certain to be Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” There is nothing simple or easy to explain about this movie – it is a psychological thriller, but it is also an extended biblical allegory, a horror film and a drama about a marital relationship. By the end of the movie, you are aware that Aronofsky has made you deeply uncomfortable, but you are not quite sure why. No wonder audiences have been baffled.

“Mother!” is impossible to place into a specific genre

With a cast that includes Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, you would immediately assume that this all-star movie cast is part of a conventional Hollywood movie production. But, as has pointed out, this film is the “most audacious and flat-out bizarre” movie that any major Hollywood studio has made in quite some time. It has already been compared to films in the Kubrick oeuvre, as well as films from Polanski (“Rosemary’s Baby”) and horror movies from De Palma. It is a masterpiece, to be sure, but one that people are still trying to give a traditional Hollywood label.

We’ve already seen this type of film from Aronofsky before – films like “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” and, most recently, “Black Swan,” have combined the literal with the metaphorical in a way that makes movie audiences squirm. Events start off with the literal, and quickly proceed to become stranger and stranger, until it is clear that we are watching something very different. The action happening inside someone’s head can be more dramatic than what’s happening around them.

As a result, movie critics have attempted to call this a horror movie, a thriller, a religious allegory and a psychological drama. The New York Times, in a bit of bizarre movie analysis, even suggested that this film was really a new type of comedy worthy of Blake Edwards.

Aronofsky himself has offered several different interpretations of “Mother!”

Making matters even more confusing, director Darren Aronofsky has almost flat-out attempted to stir the pot by tossing out several different interpretations of the movie. Aronofsky recently told the New York Times that the film was really about climate change, and that the character of Jennifer Lawrence (known only as Mother) represented the figure of Mother Earth.

But at other times, Aronofsky has doubled down on the idea that the film is really an extended biblical allegory and a clever retelling of the Bible. From this perspective, some critics have said that the figure of Javier Bardem can be characterized as a God-like figure that combines light and dark, and that the film is about creation and destruction, and the forces at work on Earth.

But still other critics have come up with a different twist on the religious allegory theme – they have suggested that the film is really about Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence as the first man and wife (i.e. Adam and Eve). And there are obviously hints within the movie to suggest as much – at one point, the house where the two are now living is referred to as “paradise” and when a mess appears in the house, it is referred to by Lawrence’s character as an “apocalypse.”

Some reviewers, such as the New Republic, have given up entirely, simply calling the film “a mess of biblical proportions.” It’s messy, it’s complicated, and even the biblical allusions are not precise. Maybe Aronofsky wanted us to be baffled at the outset.

“Mother!” purposefully uses camera angles to confuse audiences

Before the premiere of the film on September 15, director Darren Aronofsky sat down with the New York Times and discussed an important scene in the film, describing how he filmed “Mother!” using only three different camera angles, including an over-the-shoulder point of view (POV) shot and plenty of extreme close-up shots of the actors.

As Aronofsky explains, this was all done on purpose. The idea was to create confusion within viewers – without more conventional shots (such as establishing shots or tracking shots) – it’s harder to tell what’s going on. Moreover, Aronofsky wants the viewer to experience the movie in the same way as Jennifer Lawrence does. For that reason, the over-the-shoulder POV shots show us what she is seeing, but no more than that.

Almost every critical review of the film gives a huge shout-out to the lighting and cinematography. They seem to tell a story – but not always the one that we expect as viewers. The New York Times, given its cultural pretentiousness, even went so far as to describe the movie in terms of famous painters and paintings – from this perspective, the figure of Bardem is described as being like a figure from an El Greco painting while the figure of Jennifer Lawrence is described as being an “Italian Madonna” from the Renaissance era. So wait, is Jennifer Lawrence now a Madonna figure?


“Mother!” is an insanely polarizing movie

It’s hard not to conclude that Aronofsky purposefully made this film to be as divisive and polarizing as possible. You will either love this movie, calling it a revelation (oops, there’s more of that biblical allegory), or you will hate it, calling it a confusing mess.

One reason that the movie is so polarizing is because it hits on some hot-button issues – especially religion – that it knows will stir people up. Another reason why it is so polarizing is because you realize that Aronofsky is toying with you on so many levels – the character of Ed Harris is only known as “Man,” the character of Michelle Pfeiffer is only known as “Woman,” and the character of Jennifer Lawrence is only known as “Mother.” Heck, even the first word of spoken dialogue in this film is simply “baby.” This is a big, important movie and Aronofsky wants you to know that.

People who love this move will simply adore the acting work of Bardem, Lawrence, Harris and Pfeiffer. They are all extraordinary in their roles. And, if you have any background whatsoever in biblical studies, you will love trying to piece together all the clues. Is Bardem really God? Is he a symbol of the Holy Church and written scripture? Is he Christ? Is he Adam? It’s hard to wrap your head around what all this means. It’s baffling, to be sure.

There are plenty of questions raised in this movie, and none that are resolved fully. It’s impossible to talk about this film without getting into spoiler territory, and for that reason, many reviews have been frustratingly vague, only hinting that the movie is so many things at once that it’s hard to break down into a meaningful, linear narrative. One thing is certain: “Mother!” has baffled audiences, and it’s well on its way to being one of the most talked-about films of the autumn.



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