Entertainment

Netflix’s new animé Sol Levante is a visual spectacle

A hand-drawn 4K HDR short

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Netflix has been ultra aggressive in expanding its animé library especially in the last two years. The latest installment — Sol Levante — is a visual spectacle that the company says is a “culmination of art, technology, and curiosity.”

The primary purpose of the project is to explore how Japanese animé projects can be translated into 4K HDR. The tech, after all, isn’t all that new. Plenty of Netflix originals like Marvel’s Daredevil, Bird Box, and even To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You are available in this format.

The challenge is how to get hand-drawn animation up to speed. Ultraman, another Netflix animé project, is available in 4K HDR. However, it uses CG animation versus hand drawings. That’s what Haruka Miyagawa (Creative Technology Engineer) and Akira Saitoh (Director, involved in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, et. al) — the leads of the Sol Levante project, pursued.

Sol Levante – a visual spectacle

Netflix gave us an early look at the final output. Sol Levante is a four-minute showcase of years worth of work by a lean six-person team and it’s a sight to behold.

Its synopsis reads: A young warrior and her familiar search for the sacred place said to fulfill wishes. It’s best not to anger the ancient guardians and spirits.

If you’re an animé fan — especially of the more popular battle-type ones — your mind will race right away thinking how this level of visuals can translate to an iconic sequence or battle scene. And for the most part, that’s what this short is — an iconic sequence. As a hand drawn 4K HDR animé, it’s one of the firsts of its kind.

Without spoiling anything, the narrative of the short mirrors the theme of the project. It’s not an easy journey, but if you push through, you’ll come out of it feeling renewed.

Netflix pushing to innovate

There are two main driving forces in the development of this project:

  1. To support creatives in bringing more of their ideas to life
  2. Offer an outstanding and more immersive user experience for Netflix subscribers

The Sol Levante project was a test of how feasible it is to produce hand-drawn animé in 4K HDR resolution. In the duration of the project, they have identified a process but it might take a while before anyone else gets onboard.

During a media briefing, Miyagawa highlighted how the biggest hurdle is 4K. It requires a major overhaul of the artists workstation and workflow.

One of their first learnings is that the resolution meant hand drawings needed to be completed on a much larger piece of paper than standard A4, or scanned at a very high resolution. This wasn’t a viable solution which meant drawings had to be done digitally on a tablet. The challenge is that most animé artists lack training and equipment to go digital.

The HDR part involves less friction. Animation studios need only to invest in professional monitors with high dynamic range. At present though, the options are still quite pricey — even for professional studios.

Encouraging other creators

The team behind Sol Levante, while ambitious, aren’t delusional. They realize the challenges it will take to get more people interested. They know that “change is hard” and the whole workflow overhaul “can be seen as intimidating to studios and artists.” So they are more than willing to cooperate and collaborate.

Netflix will release the raw materials used in Sol Levante for download and experimentation. By doing so, they hope to connect with more animators about new technology, to partner with manufacturers to better support the animé industry, and to work with anime studios to apply findings to future productions.

Being veterans in the industry, they feel Japanese animation studios might not be immediately open to the idea. So they’re hoping animators from other countries step in.

Building hope and excitement 

Director Akira Saitoh hopes those who will watch Sol Levante will feel heightened levels of excitement and immersiveness. While reactions will vary due to personal preference she hopes it inspires thoughts of “Okay, I would like to see other types of content or genre done in this technology.”

Asked why it’s called Sol Levante, Saitoh explained, “Sol Levante means sunrise in Italy. In ancient Egypt when the sun sets in the west, it dies. When it comes up in the east, it’s a symbol of resurrection. It’s been reborn. Reborn was a big theme in this project.”

That sense of hope and feeling renewed is something the project hopes to evoke in both animé viewers and creators.

Sol Levante will be available on Netflix globally on April 2, 2020.

Entertainment

3 comedies you need to watch for good laughs

Keeping it inclusive and culturally diverse!

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We can all use a good laugh every now and then. But now that our society and culture has become more progressive, popular comedies that people used to love — mostly from the 90s — aren’t really that funny anymore.

As the world gets more connected, our awareness of  global, socio-political issues increases. Nowadays, the comedies worth watching are the shows with subtle messages that raise issues reflecting our reality.

Here, we listed down three comedies that are worth checking out, especially if you want a good laugh while staying woke.

Community

I was late to Community party but was very glad I made it. When Netflix dropped its six seasons last April 2020, I found myself sneaking in an episode or two in my daily quarantine life. Having spent three months on lockdown, we can all use a comedy to lift our spirits (other than a psychological evaluation right after the crisis).

Community is a popular sitcom that’s (forgive me for saying this) streets ahead. First aired in 2009, it had a pretty diverse cast. There’s a classic white alpha guy and two white women; one atheist who’s also an activist and a Jewish obsessed with competing.

There are African-Americans, too! One of them is a highly-religious Christian mom, the other is played by Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. There’s also a half-Arab, half-Polish Muslim, a senior citizen who practices a Buddhist-like cult, and a Chinese-American teacher turned student.

Together, they formed a storyline of misfits turned friends, turned families.

Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) performing her awkward song on a Christmas episode

Watching Community heightened my awareness of issues regarding race, gender, nationalities, ages, and cultures. While most of these issues are brought out for comic relief, the characters worked together to find a solution and come into realizations.

Personally, I found it interesting how I can learn life lessons after watching a show that’s supposed to just make me laugh. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone: getting entertained and educated!

The Good Place

I first heard about The Good Place through my best friend who loved watching tellies and was instantly hooked. I honestly believe when pilot episodes make you laugh so hard, the series is going to be extremely good. And that’s what happened when I watched The Good Place.

It’s a story about four deceased individuals who end up in a heavenly utopia called The Good Place. The cast comprise of a white, selfish saleswoman from Arizona, an indecisive black Ethics professor, a hot rich fraud British philanthropist with legs for days, and a Filipino DJ and drug dealer from Florida.

Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) acting as the Taiwanese monk Jianyu to prevent his cover from being blown

What I love about The Good Place is how it tackled ethics and philosophy creatively, bringing up morals through the concept of heaven and hell. Moreover, diversity and representation are on point in this show, with ethnically appropriate actors and actresses. (And they don’t even make a big deal out of it!)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Last but not the least, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a must-watch comedy for everyone. As usual, I was late to the party but I’ve fallen in love with it.

The show didn’t tackle pressing topics such as racism, sexism, and homophobia through specific episodes. Rather, it’s intertwined in the storyline along with a racially mixed group of cops.

The precinct’s captain is a happily married, openly gay cop. Being in the police force since the 80s, he shared his many disadvantages and struggles due to his sexuality.

Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) being sarcastically frustrated during her mother’s wedding

There are topics mirroring our reality in each and every episode: a bisexual cop’s coming out and her parent’s refusal to accept it, the horrors and fear that black people endure in their daily lives (even if they’re in a position of power), struggles of motherhood, pursuing your passion, and a lot more.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the most inclusive, diverse, and progressive comedy we all need to watch. It’s open-minded, lighthearted, and ridiculously funny. I still re-watch it to this day when I need a good laugh. It’s guaranteed to have me in tears while laughing out loud.

March on, progressive and inclusive comedies!

I still find myself at odds with my friends, especially with the types of comedies they enjoy. However, I believe that we just need to help our friends explore comedies that don’t use transphobia, homophobia, sexism, fat-shaming, white supremacy, and plain racism as a way to deliver ‘funny’ lines.

How about you? Do you have a go-to comedy you enjoy? Share it with us!

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Netflix Protip: Finding content like ‘The Last Dance’

Everything from basketball films to animé

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Live sports were cancelled due to the health crisis, that’s why basketball lifers turned their attention to The Last Dance. It’s a documentary series featuring the final championship run of basketball G.O.A.T. (this is not debatable) Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Sadly, the docuseries has ended and now there’s another void that needs to be filled.

Fear not, Netflix shared with us some protips on how to find similar content. This, by the way, applies not just for basketball but also for other types of content. You can also do all these whether you’re accessing Netflix on your smartphone or a computer. Let’s go!

Search by Keyword

If you’re still on a basketball high, you can type in keywords such as ‘Basketballor ‘Michael Jordan’  and let Netflix share with you the results. Here are some of the titles you’ll find.

      1. Q Ball — At San Quentin State Prison, hardened convicts take their shots at redemption while navigation personal struggles by bonding through basketball.
      2. One in a Billion — Follow the journey of Santam Singh Bhamara as he works to fulfill his dream of becoming the first India-born player to be drafted into the NBA.
      3. #Rucker50 — This documentary celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Harlem sports program that has inspired countless kids to become pro basketball players.
      4. The Carter Effect– Featuring eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter, this documentary takes an in-depth look at his impact on pop culture and the Canadian basketball scene.
      5. Coach Carter– Controversial basketball coach Ken Carter puts school before sports and benches his undefeated high school team for poor academic performance.

+My List

To save time from having to search over and over, quickly add titles you’re interested in to your list. The add to ‘My List’ feature enables you to compile and easily access the shows that you may want to watch at a later time.

Here’s yet another list of basketball movies and anime titles you might want to watch.

  1. Space Jam — Bugs Bunny and his pals coax Michael Jordan out of retirement to play in a basketball game against a team of monstrous aliens to win their freedom.
  2. Basketball or Nothing — Follow the Chinle basketball team in Arizona’s Navajo Nation on a quest to win a state championship and bring pride to their isolated community.
  3. Kuroko no Basuke (Anime) — Five middle school basketball stars went to separate high schools and now Tetsuya Kuroko and Seirin High are making their play to glory.
  4. Ahiru no Sora (Anime)  — Sora joins the high school basketball club, but his unmotivated teammates don’t care about the game. To get anywhere, he has to change their minds.

More Like This

In case you didn’t know, there’s a tab called ‘More Like This’ right under a show or a movie’s title page. This reveals a list of other shows that are similar. So, if you enjoyed that one show or film, this is a great way to find more that might interest you.

Here are more sports shows and films you might enjoy:

  1. Antione Griezmann: The Making of a Legend — With heart and determination, Antione Griezmann overcame his small stature to become one of the world’s top soccer players and a World Cup champion.
  2. The Ronda Rousey Story: Through My Father’s Eyes — This documentary chronicles former Olympian and UFC champion Ronda Rousey’s ascent to iconic status in the world of mixed martial arts.
  3. First Team: Juventus — Follow renowned soccer club Juventus on and off the pitch as they attempt to win a seventh straight Italian title and achieve Champions League glory.
  4. Losers In a “winning is everything” society, how do we handle failure? This series profiles athletes who have turned the agony of defeat into human triumph.
  5. Sunderland ‘Til I Die’This docuseries follows English soccer club Sunderland through the 2017-18 season as they try to bounce back after relegation from the Premier League.

Recommend to Netflix

Not everything is on Netflix and they’re the first ones to admit it. Fret not, if a title you’re looking for isn’t there, you can let Netflix know that you want it. Tucked away in their Help Centre is a little page that lets you recommend TV shows or movies for Netflix to add to their service.

You access this either through a web browser at help.netflix.com/titlerequest or by clicking on “Help” in your account menu. Personally, I’ve previously requested for Kimetsu No Yaiba (Demon Slayer) and for all the three Rurouni Kenshin live actions movies. Kimetsu No Yaiba is actually available to watch now, so I’m crossing my fingers that the live action Rurouni Kenshin movies come next!

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10 films and shows about motherhood you need to watch

Untold struggles and stories that every mom experiences

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Fierce, strong, brave, loving, gentle, and caring.

When we’re describing mothers, the list of adjectives can go on and on. Often, they’re selfless — putting their kids’ and families’ needs first.

To celebrate the women we hold dear, we have an annual holiday where everyone shares their love for their mom in one day. The internet turns into a forum of stories glorifying mothers, painting them as superwomen worth looking up to.

However, mothers don’t need to be celebrated in just a single day. So we’ve compiled a list of TV shows and films you can watch by yourself or with your mom. From comedies to documentaries to thought-provoking dramas, they highlight the untold struggles moms experience and stories of our relationship with them.

After watching a few from this list, you might come into realization how strong our mothers really are. If you’re a new mom, a mom taking a break from your busy life, a partner to a mother, or a daughter or son who loves their mom so much, these shows are definitely worth watching. Express your love and celebrate each day like it’s Mother’s Day!

Becoming

This new Netflix documentary tells the story of Michelle Obama, from her humble upbringing on the South Side of Chicago to getting her law degree, to meeting Barack Obama, to being a mother to Sasha and Malia, to their journey to the White House, and beyond. It’s a story of love, loss and hope, successes and failures, fulfillment and hard work, and bringing about change for oneself and for others.

Wild

Cheryl Strayed decides to build her life again in this movie adaptation of her memoir with the same title. She sets out for the great outdoors and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone after losing her mother, going through divorce and addiction.

Unorthodox

Unorthodox is a short but profound story of a former member of New York’s Hasidic Jewish community. Esty’s journey is a story of self-discovery and questioning what happiness truly is — is it one that you find for yourself or that which your circumstances dictate? Is becoming a mother a choice you make yourself or one that’s made for you by society?

The Joy Luck Club

Based on a book of the same title, The Joy Luck Club explores the lives of four Chinese-American women and their Chinese immigrant mothers that defy what it means to be a woman.

Marriage Story

Despite what the title suggests, Marriage Story is a deep dive into the ugly, painful process of divorce. It’s an intimate story of a couple breaking up and a family coming together.

Workin’ Moms

Four urban moms find each other and become friends over their shared struggles in raising children in the city, their careers, and trying not to lose their sense of self.

Tully

Comical yet eye-opening (and somewhat depressing after some realization kicks in), Tully tackles the struggles of motherhood — juggling responsibilities while tending to your family’s needs, sometimes forsaking the need to take care of yourself.

Egg

There’s a reason why some women choose motherhood, and some fear it. Over a heated discourse, Egg cracks open different ideologies about bringing new life into the world. With complicated characters and truth bombs being thrown left and right, this comedy will make you laugh while making you realize why it’s perfectly okay to have your own definition of motherhood.

Brave

A Disney-Pixar favorite, Brave is about a mother-daughter relationship going astray because of indifference. Merida defies an age-old custom of forced, arranged marriage by her mother, Queen Elinor, to pursue freedom which led to chaos and a striking realization about changing fates.

Bad Moms

Three over-stressed moms went on a quest to break free from the usual responsibilities of every mom. Most of which are imposed by a clique of women dedicated to becoming devoted, perfect moms. This film highlights every mom’s breaking point caused by overworking and over-exhaustion. One night, they just decided to be the ‘bad moms.’ But in reality, they’re not regular nor bad moms. They’re the cool moms.

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