Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, a King, a Genie, a Great Human Being, and so Much More

Many years ago, I remember being obsessed with saying “Good Morning, Vietnam” as a young kid.  I was probably five or six, but I remember this loud boisterous guy bringing humor and joy with this phrase.
Then came the re-runs of Mork and Mindy, was this the same guy from that movie?  This was different, he was funnier, his physical humor, and presence on screen was undeniable; he was a star.

As a young boy most of the Disney movies were about princess but I found solace in the story of a poor outcast named Aladdin.  I know boys have a lot of stories, but I loved this one, in the end Aladdin just needed to be himself with the Princess.  Most of these lessons would never have been learned without the Genie.  Williams’s voice work as the Genie is probably the only time I would have awarded an Oscar to animated voice performer.
 I also remember my parents fighting a lot as a kid, and Mrs. Doubtfire helped sooth my soul, Williams had the heart and soul to bring humor to life, but to add a deeper layer, a deeper meaning to everything he did.
I am in education (in some capacity) today because of Dead Poet’s Society.  The phrase “O Captain, my Captain” may get thrown out a lot within the next few days, but it has continued to mean something to me throughout my years as I have grown up.  The same can be said for the actual suicide in the film, and the impact it had on me.

The first person I knew who committed suicide was my first grade teacher, I was 14 fourteen and I was crushed.  I was in a small private, religious K-12 school; a nun came in to inform us, rather bluntly about her passing.  I remember my mom stayed behind and I ran out of the sobbing, almost having a panic attack, it was an emotional experience.  While I did not know Mr. Williams personally, yesterday felt similar in a sense.  While people may not understand this feeling, losing a person who enters your home on a regular, or touches your life in a specific way is tough, and this death is one of the toughest I have experienced.  Williams was such a magnetic performer, and person.

In his later career Williams took on some darker roles like One Hour Photo, and Insomnia, these two performances were some of his strongest.  Williams was walking away from the humor and showing a layered view into his life, and his talent as an actor.  As you look at these two roles specifically along with the rest of his career you see the talent this man had.

This talent was awarded, and honored throughout his whole career.  Williams was nominated for 11 Golden Globes, and won 5.  Williams was also given the Cecille B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Honor in 2005.  Williams was also nominated 4 times for the Academy Award, and won with his last nomination for Good Will Hunting.  In his speech, he stated “For once I am speechless.”  This was the first Academy Award ceremony I remember where I had seen all the films, and I remember rooting for his win.  William’s was a well-respected and talent man in his craft; he was also a great human being.

Throughout his time Williams not only made people laugh, but he made them smile with his work for countless charities.  Williams is a face you would see every time you went to the movies if there was a commercial for St. Jude.  Williams was good friends with Christopher Reeves in the 80s, and after Reeves tragic horse riding accident his good friend was always by his side fighting tirelessly.   In the 1980s Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg helped put the charity Comic Relief on the map, a charity set up to help the homeless.  These are just a few of the almost 100 different charities Williams was involved with. 

Williams was also a voice for struggling with addiction, and mental health problems.  He used his voice to help others.  As I sit back and think about this person, this funny, kind, warm hearted man, I find myself struggling to find no better words to close this out than his own, “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”  Williams was a friend to many, and his voice will be missed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

August Movies to See and Skip

August 1st 

Guardians of the Galaxy

The most fun you will have at the movies all summer, this is what action/comic book movies should be all about.

My review: http://eternalthoughtsofkevinsmind.blogspot.com/2014/08/guardians-of-galaxy-may-be-most-fun-you.html

Get on Up

Bio-Pics have become a dime a dozen, the reviews for this have been middle of the road, but Chadwick Boseman is getting excellent write ups for this film, in a crowded Best Actor year he will probably be forgotten, but this film may be worth your time.

August 8th 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

They aren't aliens, whew, but April O'Neil is still Meaghan Fox, and I am hesitant about this film on multiple levels.  Two words, Michael Bay.  With Michael Bay's involvement the CGI will be great but the story will suffer, the price you pay.  I will watch this on the small screen.

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Lasse Hallstrom film's are a bit too saccharine at times from Chocolat, to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, but there is alway some charm, this could fit into the middle ground because of the talen involved.

Into the Storm

Shouldn't this just be called Twister (2014)

About Alex

The Big Chill for 2014, the talent is there, but will this be too millennial?

August 15th

The Expendables 3 

The poster almost can't fit the entire cast, this looks like a train wreck that Han Solo/Indiana Jones can't save.

The Giver 

This was one of my favorite books growing up.  I remember reading this in fourth grade, and starting to fall in love with reading even more with this book.  I feel like adapting books like this can be tricky, the trailer is pretty solid, and it has Streep and Bridges in great roles.  Use your gut on this one.

Let's Be Cops

Two stars on the rise, Damon Wayans Jr., and Jake Johnson, both from the television series New Girl in a film with an absurd premise that looks hilarious, let's just hope all the funniest jokes are not in the trailer like with Neighbors.

Life After Beth

Aubrey Plaza is the star of the month, in her own words this zom-rom-com takes a the genre to a whole new level, but the real point is that if you love Plaza this film will be something you should be all over.  I am excited to see her career continue this growth.

August 22nd 

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For

I loved the first Sin City, but Dame looks like it lacks the energy of the first film. which was released almost 10 years ago.  There were so many casting rumors including Angelina Jolie, but most of the cast from the first are returning with a few new folks.

When the Game Stands Tall

The most emotionally manipulative film of the year, just watch the trailer.

Movies to See: Guardians of the Galaxy, Get On Up, Let's Be Cops
Movies to Skip: When the Game Stands Tall, Into the Storm, Sin City 2

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy may be the Most Fun you will have at the Movies all Summer, and is Everything a Comic Book Movie should be, and More!

Guardians of the Galaxy (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: James Gunn (Slither)
Written by: James Gunn (Dawn of the Dead),  and Nicole Perlman
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, and voice work from Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel

Marvel's Comic Con panel may have been a bit of disappointment with announcing new projects, really just Guardians of the Galaxy 2?  The big question is can a film about  a bunch of "losers" who not many people have heard about continue their success.  Captain America: Winter Solider is the highest grossing domestic film of the year, can the Guardians set an August box office record, and let's put it out there, is the film any good? Yes to both!

Guardians starts off with a young Peter Quill at the side of his mother dying bed, as he bursts out from her hospital room and into an open field he is immediately captured on a space ship.  The films jumps 26 years later where Quill aka Starlord (Pratt) is on the hunt for an orb to sell to the highest bidder.  While encountering the orb Quill is met by minions of Ronan the Accuser (Pace) from the Kree Empire.  Ronan is after this orb because it contains one of the Infinity Stones.  The Infinity Stones are the different elements from the Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World.  They are things Thanos, is trying to collect in order to control the Universe.

While on his way to exchange the orb Starlord is attacked by three people with two sets of intentions Gamora (Saldana) step daughter of Thanos, who wants to bring the stone to The Collector (Benicio del Torro), and Rocket, and Groot who want to trade Quill in for the 40,000 unit bounty on his head.  The four are arrested on Xandar by the Nova Corps. and taken to prison where they meet Drax the Destoryer (Bautista), and they form an unlikely alliance/friendship to save the Galaxy.

Sounds confusing, lots of new characters, none familiar, to non-comic fans, but this film succeeds on all levels.  There is great character development, in fact everyone was perfectly cast.  Pratt is a true comedic genius, and he brings Starlord to life, with such great humor and depth.  Saldana is impressive as Gamora, and gives life to another badass female super hero in the Marvel universe.  Cooper is magnificent as Rocket's voice, and the best part is that you get lost in the character.  Batista was the scene stealer of the group, funny, well acted performance, and fantastic in this role.  You could not ask for a better cast.

People seem to want Marvel to fail, but this is another impressive addition to their continued live action story development.  Gunn who has not done much in the major motion picture world holds his own, creating the humor and heart this film needs to succeed.  First time screen writer Nicole Perlman and Gunn created a script that captured each element of the Universe and characters so well.  Even if you do not know the mythos behind all of what's going on the duo have put together an impactful/funny script that allows you care about a group of "losers" from a wise cracking raccoon looking being to an tree that barely speaks.  Guardians is at times, silly but the action is incredible, the music is great, and the film is just plain fun.  This may be the most fun I have at the movies all summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a Strong Second Chapter, and Proves to be a Fascinating Journey

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In)
Written by: Mark Bombac (The Wolverine), Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
Starring: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Kerri Russell, and Andy Serkis as Caesar 

About three years ago around this time Rise of the Planet of the Apes took an old franchise, and gave it new life.  Back in 2001 Tim Burton attempted to put a modern spin on this film with Mark Wahlberg in the Charlton Heston role, but this film needed to break from the original series, and create its own brand and it has.

Dawn starts ten years after the events from Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  The humans who worked in the lab where the apes were being held captive and tested ended up creating a disease which wiped out a large percentage of the human race.  Dawn focuses on two groups, the apes who broke free led by Caesar, and the humans who survived led by Oldman's character.  The apes are thriving, creating their own community, they thrive, and can adapt to the change.  The humans are searching for a power source, their ability to adapt is limited.  When the two come into contact for the first time in many years there is a test of will power, who can be trusted, proving flaws in both human and ape exist.

Dawn and Rise are both strong because of their use of stop motion visual effects to create the apes.  Burton's film did not advance any aspect of the original franchise, but rather flat lined in a stagnant manner, doing or making the apes be costumes.  In Dawn the focus is mostly one the ape community, and this stop motion technology helps create one of the most powerful stories about these entirely human creatures. 

John Dalberg-Actor said "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  This quote rings true showing the flaws in both man and ape, resonating through fear, and is timely lesson for today's politicians and people in positions of power.  There is an inherent fear, with which this films highlights, and draws sharp contrasts to way in which love and trust can and should penetrate leaders.  This can be seen in Caesar's second in command Koba, and Gary Oldman's Dreyfus.  These two characters fear each other, and use their power to create war.  Rather than civil discourse they take things to an extreme breaking the societies built.  Dawn succeeds because of this message.

Dawn also succeeds because Andy Serkis is a brilliant performer, and while some will not give him credit because of the stop motion aspect, he is acting!  Serkis gives life to Caesar who in the first film in this series had the strongest level of humanity, being raised by James Franco's character.  Caesar is the true leader of the apes, and with every facial expression, physical action you lose yourself in the belief that Serkis is Caesar, and that there is no distinction between human performance and the ape on the screen.  Serkis is one of the hardest working, and most talented actors working today.  While I hate clamoring for Oscar attention this performance deserves to be recognized.

Matt Reeves is new to this franchise as the director, but his battle sequence at the end is visually masterful, and he did a solid job with this film.  I do think the only hinderance to this film is the pacing, somewhere along the lines the middle falls flat, and the film stretches the story too much.  I also wish I got to know more about some of the key humans like Oldman's Dreyfus who felt like a central character, but also felt pointless, or wasted.

Beyond these small gripes, Dawn is a fantastically deep film, on that takes the evolution of humanity, and explores it through multiple aspects.  Dawn is a strong second chapter, and proves to be a fascinating journey.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Primetime Emmy Awards seem to like the same shows, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, American Horror Story, and Fargo lead the Nominations

2014 Emmy Awards NominationsTo quote Emmy winner Heidi Klum, "one day you are in and the next day you are out!"  Does this phrase apply at the Emmy Awards?  It did for two shows, but I will get to them in a minute.

On Thursday July 10th at around quarter to 9 the Emmy Nominations were announced by Mindy Kailing and and Carson Daly.  There we some surprises like Lizzy Caplan, without Michael Sheen, which makes no sense, but honestly beyond that nomination, nothing that was announced live shocked me.  Alright I was shocked and saddened that one of the actual announcers, Mindy Kailing was snubbed for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the soon to be over rated Melissa McCarthy.  Kailing looked a tad upset, but unlike past announcers who were announced to present and then not nominated, and bailed, she showed up.

On to the nominations at hand, Game of Thrones went from 16 nominations last year to 19 nominations in its fourth season, that type of jump rarely happens.  The show was honored in Best Drama Series, Supporting Actor (Peter Dinklage) and Lena Headey.  I must applaud Emmy voters for swapping Emilia Clarke who did nothing this past season with Headey, she deserves this nomination.

Breaking Bad did amazing as well scoring 16 nominations, including nominations for Drama Series, Lead Actor (Cranston), Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul), and Supporting Actress (Anna Gunn).  Dean Norris was predicted by many but was snubbed.  The biggest snub in my opinion is no directing nomination for Rian Johnson who directed the best episode of the season "Ozymandias" they gave the nomination to Gilligan for the finale.  "Ozymandias" was nominated for writing.

True Detective had an impressive 12 nominations, the highest for a drama series in its first season (tied Orange is the New Black for new series).  I am proud/happy the Academy nominated the underrated Harrelson, I hope he beats McConaughey.

Rounding out the six was House of Cards, Downton Abbey, and Mad Men.  Cards did well in its second season scoring two lead nominations along with a Guest Actor and Actress, Writing and Directing.  Can someone tell Americans just because its British period piece does not mean it should be rubber stamped.  The most boring season of Downton Abbey made the cut, time to put this and Maggie Smith nominations out to pasture!

The biggest past winner, now loser is Homeland.  This show won Drama Series two years ago and they let it go, Danes and Mandy Patinkin are still nominated, but the show has few other nominations.  While this is not a surprise I think its interesting that Emmy voters paid attention to the critics point of view on this shows downturn in quality.

On to laughing, Modern Family and its cast are starting to lose their sheen.  Family only 3 cast members nominated their lowest tally of nominees, they were Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Julie Bowen.  The show received 10 nominations.

The biggest nominations tally went to Orange is the New Black, which is not really a comedy, but I digress.  I am happy to report this show received 12 nominations, including Comedy Series, Lead Actress (Taylor Schilling), Supporting Actress (Kate Mulgrew), three Guest Actress nominations, and nominations in writing a directing, but that directing nomination should have gone to Michael Trimm not Jodie Foster. Beyond proud of Laverne Cox and her nomination.

Veep is climbing up the nomination ladder from 5 to 9, and they finally have a writing and guest nomination!  Watch out for this show to spoil, but at the moment I would predict this or Orange is the Black.  Rounding out the rest of the comedy series nominations is The Big Bang Theory, Louie, and Silicon Valley.  With regards to those three, Kaley Cuoco is the Courteney Cox of Big Bang; she deserves a nomination. Thank God Ellen Burstyn did not get a nomination for Louie.  Silicon Valley is not my jam so I think its nomination over The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and many others is a bit pretentious.

Who got the biggest shaft?  Girls.  The show got two nominations, one for Dunham, and one for Adam Driver, but it was bounced from writing, directing, got no guest nominations, and no series nominations.  My thought is that they replaced this with Valley because well they get dorky boy humor over whiny girl humor, but just a thought.

FX just became a power player in the Mini-Series category, Fargo received 18 nominations, and American Horror Story: Coven received 17 nominations, pretty impressive, now if they could only get more than a guest actress nomination for Margo Martindale and The Americans I would be even happier.  Again I digress. Fargo is the most nominated long form program nominated this year.

On the television movie side the most nominated TV Movie was The Normal Heart, it not only earned a lead actor (Mark Ruffalo) and supporting actress nomination (Julia Roberts), but it earned 4 supporting actor nominations (Bomer, Parson, Mantello, and Molina).  Sherlock: His Last Vow came in second, and scored twelve nominations.

The Good:
True Detective and Orange is the New Black scoring 12 each
Veep bumping up in nominations
The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies and Josh Charles getting nominations again
Allison Janney as a double nominee
Kate McKinnon's Supporting Actress nomination for SNL, and Fred Armisen's Supporting Actor nomination for Portlandia
Lizzy Caplan's nomination for Masters of Sex
Lena Headey in for Game of Thrones
Andre Braugher representing Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The Puzzling
No love for Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Episodes getting a Comedy Writing and Directing nomination
Melissa McCarthy back for Mike and Molly

The Bad
Downton Abbey, time to burn the house down, and stop submitting Maggie Smith!
No love for Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The Good Wife snubbed in drama
NO TATIANA MASLANY!! (yes that deserves caps)
no Mindy Kailing, or her show\
The lack of of love for Masters of Sex
No Bellamy Young for Scandal
Hannibal snubbed again!

Overall it looks like The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences liked the same shows once again, with a few surprises.  This is a mixed bag, kinda just glad no more Merritt Wever.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Boyhood is Poignant, Funny, and a Journey that will Stick with me for the Rest of my Life

Boyhood (5 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by: Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, School of Rock, Bernie)
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke

Getting to watch Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane speak about their experiences working on Boyhood made the experience even more perfect.  Nostalgia, maturation, and the development of people, family, on the screen shot over 12 years is an impressive feat, but if there is any director who can tackle this project its Richard Linklater.

For just over about 2 decades Linklater has been providing some of the most heartfelt journeys for audiences to experience.  In the Before franchise we followed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they fell in love as young twenty somethings, talked about their regrets about missed opportunities as thirty somethings, and then discovered what it meant to be in their forties and in love.  Last year Linklater's Before Midnight was also my first five star review of the year.  Linklater invests in the characters, the journey, the experience.  This film is conveys another journey, and without flash, the man uses substance to tell one of the most heartfelt films ever made.

Mason Jr. or MJ (Coltrane) starts out in the first grade doing typical things fighting with his sister, playing video games, forgetting to turn in his homework.  In Boyhood we watch Ellar as Mason grow up experience the pain of his mother's  (Arquette) multiple failed relationships, only experiencing his father (Hawke) every other weekend or in short bursts, and we see that this unique "lets the moments shape him."

As Mason grows on screen you see and hear the popular culture that benchmark his life.  Linklater is intentional about the momentous Harry Potter series having Mason's mother read "Chamber of Secrets" to her children, and eventually having them dress up for a book party.  The music plays as a transition of years, or as annoyance from his sister Samantha (Linklater) singing "Baby One More Time." There is also a Star Wars line in the mix which has become unintentionally funny since the film was shot.  Linklater is a king of nostalgia, but also the king of foresight, blending the moments to shape the characters and to let stories unfold in subtle, but beautiful nature.

Watching each one of these characters/actors grow throughout the film process is also a treat, especially Coltrane.  In an interview with The Guardian, Linklater talks about why he picked Coltrane, stating "he didn't feel straight."  Arquette echoed these comments in her words tonight, Coltrane was a "unique, smart boy at the age of six."  Coltrane isn't the typical lacrosse jock, but rather simple at moments while liking to play video games, but also a person who questions.  Coltrane is fantastic as Mason, he breaths depth, life, and you feel as though you get to watch him grow before your eyes, because you do get to see Mason experience life.  The same can be said for Linklater, Arquette, and Hawke.

Each performance in this film is a master work of understanding the human psyche.  I was able to ask Ms. Arquette about her characters intellectual intelligence vs. her emotional intelligence.  In the film you get to see this beautifully smart women who wants to do right for her family make them complete.  Over the years you experience her stumble as she finds these men who will in her words "help her carry her family."  Arquette is fantastic in this role.

Hawke on the other hand is a mess from the start as Mason's father he has had adventures in Alaska, and with his return he is the fun parent, passing out sage advice about love, life, sex and beyond.  Hawke is such a charming actor, and is great in this role, every moment he was on screen I felt myself smiling, but that was the character's role.  Hawke is meant to be the parent who shows up and sweeps the kids of their feet with baseball game tickets, and presents.  Together he and Arquette have opposite roles in their childrens' lives, and each does a fantastic job creating their own journey.

Linklater has crafted the journey for family that is both poignant and funny.  Linklater's blend of humor helps makes this journey feel real.  Linklater is a master at humor from Dazed and Confused to School or Rock to Bernie, the man knows how to craft a clever story.  Shot in 39 days and filmed over 12 years Boyhood seamlessly blends every aspect of the development of Mason and his family.  Boyhood is the perfect tapestry, its brave, and flawlessly constructed.  This is a film that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Dream Emmy Ballot 2014: Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad (AMC) 

What more can I say about one of the best final seasons of a television series than it was an epic way to close a show.  From the beginning of this shows run to the end, there was this feeling of being on a roller coaster.  Every episode zigged and zagged, there was build-up and a point where you just fell.  Within this season specifically every episode made you feel this way, and fans would cry on twitter, there is no way each week this show could possibly top itself, but it did.  I am going miss every character in the ensemble because Vince Gilligan and his team gave each person great purpose.

Best episodes: "Ozymandias" and "Felina"

Game of Thrones (HBO)

In season four this show has not lost any steam, most of the season's focus was on wrapping up the drama in King's Landing, and boy were there numerous deaths there, from "the purple wedding" to some good ole fashioned patricide.  Dinlage, Headey, and Dance were the MVPs of this season each giving some of the most memorable performances you can imagine.  There was also the episode entitled "The Watchers on the Wall" which was one of their best directed episodes focusing only on one area.  Game of Throne's is always a game changer, and treats this journey as a perfect epic treat every time it airs on television.

Best Episodes "The Lion and the Rose" and "The Watchers on the Wall"

The Good Wife (CBS)

Few network television shows can live up to the hype of cable, pay cable, and netflix these days, The Good Wife has proven that a show that last 22 or 23 episodes can still play with the big boys and girls.  From Alicia and Carey leaving the firm and their bitter battles with former mentors Will and Diane, to the death of Will and the aftermath of the events on Lockhart/Gardener (LG) this show had one great episode after the other.  I think one of the best story arcs involved the aftermath of Will's death on Alicia.  Alicia dug into her grief and cried, while finally realizing her marriage wasn't what it once was and making it more about convenience for both of their careers and children.  Wife also has the best guest stars on the planet, who weave into the show without pulling focus from the central characters. 

Best Episodes: "Hitting the Fan" and "Dramatics, Your Honor"

House of Cards (Netflix)

Political drama taken an interesting level.  Cards looks at the darker shadowy aspects to the behind the scenes manipulation that exists within Washington DC.  Has a politicians pushed a girl onto the train tracks before, probably not, but the nature of Frank and his wife Claire seems to play into the general system of modern politics.  In this show you have two leads who are so commanding, so fantastic, that the rest of the cast bows down to their every whim, and they steal every aspect of the show.  Watching someone con a man out of the Presidency is a true art form, that takes a clever duo, and these two are up to the task.  Politics is all about playing the game, and this is one of the best chess games in town.

Best Episodes: "Chapter 14" and "Chapter 26"

Masters of Sex (Showtime)

One of two shows in their first year to make the list.  Masters explores humanity mixed with sexuality better than any show I have encountered.  You get the clinical, and the emotional need for sex at the turning point in American history.  From the moment Masters and Johnson meet there is a spark on all levels intellectually and physically.  I think the show explores all aspects of male sexuality, female sexuality, and from every angle.  There are stories that also focus on love and the connection between the physical and mental aspects.  I am proud of this show because it is tackling one of the most taboo subject matters and shining a light on the taboos that should have gone away from the 1950s but still exist.  Throw in great performances from every regular cast member, and Allison Janney, Beau Bridges and Julianne Nicholson and the show is one of the best of the year.

Best Episodes: "Catherine" and "Phallic Victories"

Orange is the New Black (Netflix) 

Orange is the Black is another game changing series.  Orange takes a look at women from all walks of life who end up in minimum security prison.  The focus of the show or lens you view the show through is Piper Chapman, the typical pretty blonde, yet as spends more and more time in her position you get to see Piper is complicated lady, with a complicated back story, much like the rest of the inmates.  At each moment you get to interact with women, see their back stories who are transgender, of different races, have different beliefs, and are confined because, well life is more complicated than you were told.  In the other sense you see the systematic problems within the system through the incompetent administrators, cops, and that there back story is not without its pain, and mistakes.  This show is absolute perfection. 

Best Episodes: "Can't Fix Crazy" and "I Wasn't Ready"