The Umbrella Academy

Umbrella Academy 1

LOVED IT – zero surprise there.  As a one-time disciple of the Church of My Chemical Romance, I’m required to love anything that comes from the mind of Gerard Way, MCR’s enigmatic front man and co-writer of The Umbrella Academy comics from which this charmingly weird Netflix series was derived.  (As a huge aside, yes, before twenty one pilots there was My Chemical Romance – and before both of them, and still, always, there is Green Day – and oh my, did I have it bad for their whole goth dork theatre geek screamo thing.  I joke about the Church of MCR, but I had the next best thing to a bona fide religious experience at one of their shows, one of those top 10 moments of my life sort of deals.)

So I was probably predisposed to love The Umbrella Academy, which is a beautifully filmed and acted distillation of MCR’s entire musical catalog, vibe and aesthetic.  You’ve really got it all here, from repeated references to the hardships of war, to the prep school uniforms worn by the kids of the Umbrella Academy, to the Victorian-by-way-of-the-1950s office wear sported by the employees of the Commission.  There’s also Wes Anderson-level awkward family dynamics, an opening montage scored to the Phantom of the Opera (dope), a lot of commentary on the ethics of medicating children, multiple dance scenes, and a caffeine-jonesing 58-year-old man in a 13-year-old’s body who’s in love with a mannequin torso named Dolores.  Oh! also a robot nanny and a monkey butler.  For real.

If I didn’t lose you with Dolores, Grace or Pogo up there, there’s really so, so much to recommend this gorgeous show; don’t let its on-paper weirdness freak you out, if only so you don’t sidestep the ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE soundtrack, which features lots of Gerard Way tunes, of course (covers of Happy Together and Hazy Shade of Winter), rock classics of the 60s, 70s and 80s (see above re: the Turtles and Simon and Garfunkel songs, as well as appearances from the Kinks, the Doors, Heart, Nina Simone, Queen and the freakin’ Bay City Rollers!) and two brutal fight scenes scored to They Might be Giant’s Istanbul (not Constantinople) and Lesley Gore’s Sunshine and Lollipops.  It’s also filmed in Toronto, and boy, does it look it – I can pick out specific intersections, one right down the street from a friend’s old apartment.

Umbrella Academy Collage

Here’s the basic setup for the show: In 1986 46 women the world over, none of whom were pregnant when the day began, give birth.  An eccentric billionaire by the name of Reginald Hargreeves comes along and buys – let’s not mince words – seven of the children, all of whom bear superpowers ranging from incredible strength, to teleportation, to the ability to speak to the dead.  Assigning each child a number, but no actual names, Hargreeves begins to mold the kids into a crime-fighting unit by the name of The Umbrella Academy.  But Hargreeves is a distant, exacting and cruel father figure, and Nos. 1 to 7 – eventually christened Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Five, Ben and Vanya by their robot “mother” – all bear a not-so-healthy resentment towards the miserable old bastard, though the siblings all care deeply – if not awkwardly – for one another.

One day, many, many years after the children have fled the nest and scattered to any corner of the globe not occupied by their father (one went as far as the moon, for pity’s sake) the old man kicks it, and this weird, fractured family reunites to finally put their demons to rest.  Except time travelling assassins and one-eyed bandits and the apocalypse.  As you do.

It’s awesome, please watch it.  Really, get thee to Netflix post haste, friends.  And I hope you like this manicure as well, inspired by The Umbrella Academy’s graphics, and the umbrella tattoo each member of the Academy has inked on their inner wrists.

Umbrella Academy 3

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Death Note

Death Note Apple

This is most likely going to be a very unpopular sentiment, but I really liked the new Netflix version of Death Note.  And by that I mean I friggin’ LOVED it – it’s a total goof, just a fun, super slick-looking trifle of a thing filled with lots of neon lights, quirky characters and scenery-gnawing performances.  Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

First, a bit of a refresher for the fans, former fans and the blissfully unaware – Netflix’s new movie is an hour and a half-long adaptation of the beloved and long-running Japanese manga Death Note.  Both follow a teenage boy named Light (Turner in this new version, Yagami in the original) after he comes into possession of a mysterious notebook that holds the power of death.  Light first uses the book – and its author, a spiked, nine-foot-tall death god named Ryuk, voiced by Willem Dafoe – to settle a couple of personal scores, the untouchable mob boss who struck and killed his mother chief among them.  But then, sensing that there’s more to be done with this incredibly powerful object, Light takes the name Kira (“Light” in Celtic or Russian, “Killer” in Japanese) and begins settling the world’s scores, offing warlords and dictators and rapists and murderers by the hundreds, and all at an undetected distance.  Unsurprisingly, global authorities don’t have much of an issue with Light’s activities – the bad guys are either dying or turning themselves in, and Lord Kira has erased the world’s most-wanted list.  Who’s going to complain about that?

Well, less traditional law enforcement types, for one, including L, a sort of masked ninja samurai detective (played with a weird kind of bonkers energy in the Netflix version by Lakeith Stanfield) hot on Light’s tail.  In fact, here I am working out the kinks in my L Halloween costume.  I think it needs more hoodie.

Death Note

Anyways, I believe my (positive) opinion of Netflix’s Death Note is most likely an unpopular one because, like all movies (or TV shows, or books) based off a beloved, long-running series, Death Note comes with a lot of fan baggage.  And the complaints run the usual gamut, from whitewashing (undeniable when you take a Japanese property, set it in Seattle and then cast it with pretty well nothing but Caucasian actors) to a fundamental lack of respect for the source material (I understand the original is more of a hard boiled crime procedural than a neon-splashed teen horror lark.)

And while those might be valid complaints (I call bullshit on the total whitewashing of Death Note, however – two of the movie’s five major characters are Japanese and African American, respectively) I’m also of that generation that has watched virtually every movie, television show or book I love (or merely feel somewhat fondly towards) get turned into a hideous, rebooted bastardization of its original self.  And ultimately, for all the fuss, all the calls for boycotts, all the virtual vitriol, NONE OF IT MATTERS.  A new version of something – even one you loathe – cannot change, should not change, how you feel about that original thing.  Because it wasn’t made for you, the diehard fan, it was made in service of attracting a larger (and always younger) audience.  So are you upset that others have discovered your secret club?  Because you’d think you want more members.  Or are you just upset because the new version doesn’t rigidly conform to the story as you know it?  Because that’s called a creative dictatorship, and they’re generally frowned upon. 😉

Long story short, I think the Netflix version of Death Note is way dope; no complaints here, just nail art.  And a ripe Red Delicious for Ryuk.

Death Note Fingers

The Upside Down

The Upside Down

Great news from Netflix today that the much-beloved and gabbed-about Stranger Things will be coming back for a second season!  This is tremendous news for your friendly, totally obsessed neighbourhood nail blogger. I’m so pleased by this bounty of Stranger Things things, I’ve wanted to hug myself, all day long.  But really, I just want to find out what Steve’s hair got up to over its summer vacation, and whether it met up with Mr. Clarke’s mustache at all to, I dunno, have coffee and maybe discuss styling tips.  Team Steve’s Hair (and the dude who runs Steve’s hair; you may know him as Steve.)

So in celebration of this momentous announcement, here are some more Stranger Things-themed nails, this time a manicure inspired by the show’s dark, dank and kind of mucus-covered alt dimension, The Upside Down.

And if you’re wondering where my middle finger nail vanished to, that’s easy – the Demogorgon got it.  Damn slippery Demogorgon – gotta keep your eye on that one, mostly because he doesn’t have any!

Stranger Things

Stranger Things fingers

Yes, I am completely one of those (getting-to-be-annoying?) people who has drank the Stranger Things Koolaid.  In my case, though, it’s less like Koolaid and more like the very blood that runs through my ever-nostalgic veins – this show could not possibly be more up my alley than if it were called The Sandra Lewrey Show for Sandra Lewreys.  I grew up on a steady diet of the ’80s movies, TV shows, novels and music Stranger Things so lovingly recreates (Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter being the primary influences) and its arrival on Netflix not even two weeks ago now – right in the midst of a languid summer heatwave, exactly the kind of conditions under which I used to sprawl out in a friend’s cool basement and wile away the humid daylight hours with some combination of The Goonies, Stand By Me and either Poltergeist or Jaws playing on an endless loop on the TV – signaled the end of all other productive activity.  I’ve regressed, and it feels fabulous.

Everything that just about everyone has said about Stranger Things I second, third and fourth, which is also the approximate number of times I’ve watched the eight episodes back-to-back.  I even found myself engaging in a round of Shag/Marry/Kill today with Mr. Clarke, Hopper and Mike and Nancy’s dad, Ted (for the record, Ted gets the axe, Mr. Clarke is the one I’d marry and Hopper…it’d be hot for about two seconds.  Then he’d start crying and pass out on top of you in a drunken stupor until you’re either crushed to death by his massiveness or drown in his cold flop sweat.)

On a more serious note, Stranger Things is a show to be savoured, a show to be studied. Note all of the grid imagery that makes up the bulk of the show’s aesthetics.  Start looking and you’ll find those horizontal and vertical lines – like the bars of a cell – and grids – like the graph paper the boys use to plot out their D&D adventures – EVERYWHERE.  Then there’s the use of water and keys and music, and the fact that I am super invested in a fictional relationship between two 11-year-olds.  Stranger Things have happened.

I could talk about this show all day long (pretty much do) and I adore it more than anything I’ve seen in forever, but I’ll leave off for now with these nails, a nod to Joyce Byers’ homemade wall ouija and the show’s overarching message that we’re all RIGHT HERE.  Nothing strange about that.