Being a teenager is hard. But making a movie about being a teenager is even harder. Sierra Burgess is a Loser is Netflix’s latest attempt at creating creating a coming-of-age romantic comedy, a genre they are desperately trying to break into. Sierra Burgess falls solidly middle ground compared to their other recent efforts. It’s certainly not nearly as bad as Netflix’s summer hit The Kissing Booth — an absolutely awful 110 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
You may have first seen Cel Shading in 2013 with the premiere of RWBY, an “American Anime” aimed at both American and Japanese anime fans. Characters are 3D models, like a lot of modern animation, but they look a little different from their Disney-Pixar cousins. In stills, they could fool you into thinking they’re two-dimensional drawings or frames from some traditionally-drawn anime. The character’s skin looks flat and their eyes are large and cartoony. Cel Shading is a technique long used by video games, from the classic Katamari Damacy to the more recent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but in recent years, animation studios have used it to bring the anime style into the modern era.
I’m not the type of person who watches one movie after another on long-haul flights, and usually spend the better part of the sixteen hours sleeping. The trip back from Hong Kong before the beginning of this semester ended up being one rare exception, however, because there was a crying baby in the seat next to me. I had no choice but to cycle through all the MCU movies they had (thank God), and afterwards, set my eye on a movie I had deliberately avoided seeing in the spring — Love, Simon. Despite putting the movie’s soundtrack on repeat the moment it came out, and despite promising every one of my friends who went to opening weekend and raved about it afterwards that I would go see it, I never did after watching the trailer. You would think that as someone who loves rom-coms and never shuts up about representation, the premise itself is enough to make me want to go.
I watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before last week — twice, actually, because as much as I like to scorn cliché and make fun of it, I really am a hopeless sap when it comes down to it, and also because it was so damn cute and sweet and wholesome. Much of this sweetness and wholesomeness results from the fact that the film makes copious use of the tropes we’re familiar with in high school rom-coms. Even the characters are in on this; the film’s protagonist, Lara Jean Covey, is obsessed with romance novels, and her shock is apparent when she finds out her fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky has never heard of Sixteen Candles. Similarly, much of the film’s fashion takes inspiration from the ‘90s, what with its plaid skirts and slip dresses, combat boots, chokers and leather jackets. However, the movie manages to be referential in such an earnest, wholehearted and honest way that it’s hard not to like it. Good, old-fashioned sorts of teen movies like this seemed to have been waning in popularity for the better part of this past decade.
From the moment this Netflix Original begins, with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) imagining herself wandering through an idyllic field with the boy of her dreams, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before screams “self-indulgent romance fantasy.” It’s the quintessential teen rom-com: there’s the shy main character, two pouty Hot Boys (Noah Centineo and Israel Broussard) and the crucial misunderstanding that forces her to pick between them. Every character is addressed by their full name and speaks in Tumblr-ready quotes (“Josh Sanderson, I liked you first. By all rights, you were mine.”) Add a fake dating plot, a hair-flipping jealous mean girl and a supportive rebel best friend, and you’ve got a full-blown cliché. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is tropey and cheesy and gooey, but in a good way. It revels in its purest rom-com moments because it knows exactly what it is.
During my sophomore year, former Arts & Entertainment Editor Sean Doolittle ’16 wrote a polemic titled “I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take This Anymore.” Doolittle put Cornell students on blast for failing to value the arts. “We don’t make time for art anymore,” Doolittle wrote, “There’s no urgency for beauty.”
I disagreed with Doolittle’s column. Ways to appreciate arts and culture were everywhere on campus. Every weekend, students presented a cappella concerts, dance performances, live theater and more. Even if you wanted to stay in after a long week, who’s to say that watching Netflix doesn’t count as engaging with art?
On Friday, The Sun ran an article detailing the platform of Student Assembly executive vice president and presidential candidate Varun Devatha ’19, one of the points of which was an intent to provide students with “access to streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu.” Putting aside the ridiculous cost to students that implementing such a plan would entail and the redundancy of using allocated money to purchase thousands of subscriptions that students likely already have, I would like to ask Mr. Devatha a simple question: have you heard of Kanopy Streaming? It’s an online streaming service providing media ranging from entertainment to educational content and classic movies. Boasting an ever-expanding library as deep and rich as the streaming giants, Kanopy is available to students completely free through Cornell’s library website — all you have to do is sign in with your NetID! Why should Cornell students pay for a corporate streaming service when they already have access to a great one through the school?
On Feb. 7, Netflix released its reboot of mid-2000s hit reality series Queer Eye. For the uninitiated, Queer Eye features a crew of gay men — the “fab five” — who rejuvenate their subjects’ lifestyles. Each fab five member has a specialty: fashion (Tan France), grooming (Jonathan Van Ness), interior design (Bobby Berk), culture (Karamo Brown) and food and wine (Antoni Porowski). At first blush, Queer Eye sounds like an indulgent, if light, watch.
If you were to invest just under a thousand dollars in Netflix stock when they went public in 2002, if you loyally or stubbornly held on to those stocks and invested another thousand dollars when shares hit their low that same year, today you would have a return on your investment of 20,361.42 percent. Your under $2,000 would be worth over $400,000. You’d probably have watched a lot of movies and you’d definitely be rich. From a website offering 925 movies available for snail-mail rental, to an online streaming service, to producing and debuting original content, Netflix has scorned its skeptics and outperformed its competitors. Imperial Dreams, released on Feb.