Favorite Things – Empire

This fall and winter I’ve binged on some pretty great new shows that have me absolutely hooked, but there is one that stands out above the rest, and that show is Empire. 

empire

This show…this show is amazingly good. I knew I was hooked about 15 minutes into the pilot and it came as no surprise to me after I read the credits and saw that Lee Daniels (The Butler, Precious) and Danny Strong (The Butler, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1) are the show’s creators and Timbaland is the musical director and songwriter.

Empire is the story of music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his struggle to keep ahold of his own life battling a fatal illness and needing to pick an heir for his music/entertainment company.

Of course, the story would be all too boring if there wasn’t a huge wrench thrown into the mix. That wrench is one firey, soulful woman: Lucious’s ex-wife, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson). In the pilot she is just released from 17 years in prison for drug dealing. However, PLOT TWIST!, she only went to prison because she was protecting Lucious, their three sons and the music company they had just started with $400,000 of drug money Cookie had procured.

While Cookie was away, Luscious wasted no time in becoming a hit artist and music mogul, while also raising their three sons. You better believe that the Lyon family has its fair-share of problems, all stemming from Lucious’s thug turned musical success story.

The eldest son, Andre (Trai Byers), is the most educated of the family, but is not seen as CEO material because he is not musically gifted and Lucious believes that the next leader of Empire Entertainment should be an artist, not a businessman.

The middle son, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is probably the most musically gifted of the three brothers, but he is openly gay and Luscious is a homophob to the highest degree. After Cookie is released, she becomes Jamal’s new manager because she knows Luscious won’t do anything to help his music career because of his lack of compassion and understanding for Jamal.

The youngest son, Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) is probably the most frustrating of the bunch. His youngest-child syndrome is in full swing as he believes he is unreachable and invincible with his father’s money and his great talent as a rapper.

The struggle amongst all of the characters for Luscious’s empire and love is what makes this family competition so interesting to watch.

With Empire’s ensemble cast and catchy tunes, I don’t recommend missing an episode. Although, you definitely won’t want to.  As an added bonus, the all black main cast brings some much needed diversity into primetime television. I’m excited to see what’s next for this amazing, must-watch show.

Empire airs on FOX at 9/8c and is also available on Hulu.

Start watching the fight in the Lyon’s den and until next time,

C. Brooks

Favorite Things – Box of Chocolates

Welp, it’s Monday. I’m barely functioning for some odd reason, but I’ll blame it on the remaining yuckiness from the sinus and eye infection from hell that I had all last week.

Feeling a bit better this week, I think I’ll make up for not posting a “favorite things” post last week. I mean, I very well could have done a “favorite things” post last week, but I doubt anyone would want to know how much I was obsessed with my chilled sterile saline eye wash and its awesomeness.

So now I’ve got a multitude of things to rave about! And, to quote one of my favorite movies, “…it’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”

First up: Laura Mercier Translucent Powder. PowderHoly buckets, do I love this stuff. For the longest time I would leave for work in the morning thinking that I looked like the hottest thing God put on the planet, but then I’d get to about lunch time, go in the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror and wonder what hole I crawled out of.

I just felt like my makeup never stayed put where it was supposed to be. I would be oily and my eyeliner would be all sorts of wrong. So I went into my neighborhood Sephora and had a lovely chat with an associate. She told me to try this translucent powder.

I tried it the next day and BAM! My makeup stayed the whole day so I didn’t look like a trainwreck by 3pm. It’s got a bit of a price tag on it ($37), but everyone deserves a splurge once in a while.

Second favorite thing: Lemon Sorbet

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Okay, so I know that this is probably one of the most basic things you can have for dessert, but I just rediscovered it while ordering it at a small Italian cafe this past weekend and I loved it for an after-dinner refresher. Plus, look at the cute presentation! I’m definitely going to try to make my own because it looks pretty simple. But obviously, since I’ve just said that, it totally won’t be. Stay tuned for my trial run…

Third favorite thing: The Imitation Game

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Oh. My. God. This was such a good movie!! I was a bit upset that it didn’t win Best Picture last night at the Oscars, but I’ll get over it somehow. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley were absolutely amazing in the film about how one man help shorten World War II by almost two years and saved millions of lives. How this movie and knowledge has not been pushed out through the media (after the information was de-classified) is beyond me, but discussing the media’s agenda is a whole different blog post.

The Imitation Game‘s numerous story arcs were all woven together masterfully and the messages from the film were very strong and relatable. I would give it five stars; it was a truly amazing film and y’all should definitely put it on your must watch lists.

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Until next time,

C. Brooks

Fifty Shades of Rape Culture?

Years after the book came out, I finally decided to read 50 Shades of Grey. When it first came out, I remember that all of my mid to upper 30s coworkers were raving about it and asking each other which parts they had gotten to yet and then giggling about the sex scenes. The whole S&M world had never really sounded like something I’d enjoy reading about, so I just let them go on with their babble because this is ‘Merica and you can read and talk about anything you want.

Fast-forward to 2015 and a full-blown 50 Shades Mania has taken over the country with the release of the movie this Friday. I didn’t think I’d be involved in the madness, until I decided to go to see it in theatres this weekend with my cousin. However, her terms of agreement involved me reading the book first.

In accordance with her demands, I decided to download it last night and, as turns out, I’m about 100 pages from finishing it. I couldn’t put it down! I mean, is it the most wonderful piece of literary work you’ll find? Certainly not. But I still was so intrigued by the story (and the other parts of course).

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50 Shades of grey [lines]

But there are some parts that I was very uncomfortable reading, specifically where Grey tells Ana that he wants to hurt her and is turned on by the thought/action of it.

This is where I can see the side of the argument that says the book and movie only add to the ever-prevalent rape culture all around us, especially on college campuses across the United States, and that the story sends the message to men that it’s okay to be rough with women because they’ll be just as turned on by it.

I do see the danger of where men and women will see or read the story play out and then think that they should do it in their own lives. People have been mimicking things they experience through media for centuries. But the most prevalent point between 50 Shades of Grey  and sexual assault and rape is that consent is being given in the story.

This book ( and I can only speak to 50 Shades of Grey because I haven’t read the second or the third in the trilogy) states multiple times that there’s an agreement, fully written out and negotiated by both parties so that each knows what to expect. Of course, almost all of the book’s storyline involves Ana’s back and forth decision of if she wants to participate in Grey’s “50 shades of f**ked up” or not, but they are both participating in consensual acts each time. For argument’s sake, there is that *spoiler-alert* cliff-hanger at the end where Christian goes too far, but that’s not the point.

The point is that you shouldn’t blame the book for why people commit rape and sexual assault. 50 Shades of Grey is not the problem; the problem is that people think that the book provides an excuse for them to do what they want.

I think it’s important to allow people to indulge in whatever outlet they want, as long as it doesn’t harm another being. There’s just a gap in the education of the need for consent and our society needs to learn it real quick, because rape culture shouldn’t be a part of our culture at all.

Let me know what you think about the argument and until next time,

C. Brooks

Favorite Things – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild

Image taken from IMDb

This week, my favorite thing is the memoir and film adaptation of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. This memoir and film made me want to cry. Not because it was particularly sappy or because it was extremely heart-wrenching, but because it was beautifully and unapologetically raw. This story allows you to see that life is a continuous struggle in learning self-acceptance and not about daily redemption from the mistakes you’ve made.

The story of a woman hiking more than 1,000 miles is intriguing enough to make you want to experience her journey, but with the added themes of self-acceptance, loss, grief and suffering, the journey’s intrigue is not the physical triumph she endured so much as it is mental triumph.

The story starts in the middle of the journey, with Cheryl Strayed on top of a mountain ridge almost as fed up with hiking as you can feel she is with her life. It wouldn’t take much to piece together why Cheryl was needing to walk the +1,000 miles once the viewer/reader finds out that she was patching together her unhappy life with heroin and sex. But once you learn that her mother, her best friend, confidante and hero, died from cancer, you begin to see a person wracked with grief and loss looking for just about anything to fill and repair the empty void in her life.

Wild book

Image taken from Amazon

Somehow, deep down, Cheryl believes that she can’t make things easy for herself in life, as what might be seen as a parallel to her mother’s own troubled life struggle with being a victim of domestic abuse, a single mother and, at the end, a cancer victim. Strayed knows that therapy sessions aren’t going to help her, so she turns to stronger, more dangerous methods and when she hits a block there, she knows she has to do some serious re-evaluating of just about everything in her life.

Being alone in the wild brought more than enough challenges for Cheryl, in which she shares in her honest, frank narration of the forces of Mother Nature she endured, the people she met along the way and the inner monologue of her constant struggle with how she can move past her mistakes and accept herself for what she’s done and what she has left to do.

Overall, this story is really a masterpiece of juxtapositioning the present with the past and how memories, painful or blissful, remain with you forever. The trick is how you learn to live with them.

This book and movie is meant for anyone to see. It’s a testament to the fact that the things bringing your life to an equilibrium are the things that make you feel good to be you by helping you learn to accept who you are, what you can do and how you live your life.

Until next time,

C. Brooks