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Falling Back: My Favs of September 2019

Time is whizzing by! Can y'all believe we're already into Fall? My monthly favorites for September included going back to school with the Netflix series Mr. Iglesias, a return to Beach City with Cartoon Network's Steven Universe: The Movie, and looking back at the life and legacy of Raúl Juliá with PBS' American Masters: Raúl Juliá: The World's a Stage.

What were some of your favorite books, films, television shows, web series, or podcasts from September? Let me know what you're looking forward to seeing (or would recommend!) for the rest of the Fall season!

Mr. Iglesias (2019)

Mr. Iglesias (2019) Kevin Hench

There are honestly few comedians that consistently make me laugh. Fluffy is one of them. One of my greatest regrets from my college years is that I didn't go and see him when he was doing a (FREE!) show in Oakland because I was trying to be a good student and study for a final. The good news is that I aced the final. The bad news is that I missed an opportunity to see Gabriel Iglesias live and I'm still salty about it. Remember, if given a choice to study for a Middle English Literature final or to go see Fluffy live, it should be a no-brainer. I can't tell you specifically what I learned about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight other than it's a long-ass poem, but I can tell you what "Martiiiiiin!" or chocolate cake is a reference to.

Until another opportunity hopefully arises, I'll have to settle for Gabriel Iglesias' comedy specials, film and television appearances, and his newest Netflix show, Mr. Iglesias. Mr. Iglesias, set in Long Beach, California and centered around Wilson High School, his actual alma mater, follows Gabriel as a dedicated high school history teacher trying to reach all of his students, ranging from the slackers to the gifted. Mr. Iglesias works hard to motivate his students, even with the added challenges of an unresponsive administration or lack of resources.

As a former educator, this show absolutely rang true for me. Teaching is an incredibly undervalued and unappreciated field, and to highlight not only the struggles of teaching but also the everyday victories, especially from a massive star like Fluffy, was really encouraging to watch. Mr. Iglesias definitely has a Welcome Back, Kotter vibe, but is updated and relevant for a modern audience. The supporting cast holds their own against a big personality like Gabriel. Sherri Shepard as the frustrated and tired Principal Paula Madison and Oscar Nuñez as the brown-nosing administrator Carlos Hernandez was the comedy duo I didn't know I needed. Everybody has had a teacher like Mr. Hayward, brilliantly played by Richard Gant. And, as the 10-episode season progressed, the kids' performances got better and better; Cree Cicchino as Marisol Fuentes absolutely shines as Mr. Iglesias' favorite, if not slightly cynical, student—though we're not supposed to have a favorite, we totally do.

If you are a Fluffy fan, you will like this show. If you have ever worked in education, you will like this show. If you appreciate a good sitcom, you will like this show. I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed that Netflix gives us a second season of Mr. Iglesias sooner rather than later.

Dear Netflix, please don't ODAT Mr. Iglesias.


Steven Universe: The Movie (2019)

Steven Universe: The Movie (2019) Rebecca Sugar

Here we are in the future! It's been two years since half-human-half-alien Steven took a stand against the Diamonds and brought peace to the galaxy. Now a teenager (with a neck!), Steven thinks his time defending the Earth against otherworldly menaces is over until his "happily ever after" is threatened.

Steven Universe: The Movie is a satisfying continuation of what many had thought was the natural end to the animated series. Introducing one of the best villains the show has ever had—and, frankly, Spinel is one of the best villains I've seen in a long time—with an electro-swing musical number and heartbreaking backstory is about as Steven Universe-y as it gets. The animation is gorgeous, the music compliments the storyline perfectly, and the film sets up what could be in store for Steven and the Crystal Gems in season 6.

The film does offer a quick series recap, but if you're not familiar with the show, I would highly recommend that's where you start. Out of context, Steven Universe is a weird, quirky show that doesn't always make a whole lot of sense: Gem-alien warriors? Singing? A pink lion with dimension-warping powers? But, when properly given a chance, it's a show with a lot of heart that approaches serious themes like identity and self-expression, toxic relationships, accountability, and forgiveness in an approachable way.

Steven Universe: The Movie is like an extension of the original series, showing how life is continually changing and that "happily ever after" isn't finite, but rather a work in progress. It's enticing for long-time fans and invites new fans into the fun yet touching Steven Universe fandom.

Great musical numbers: Check. A sugary sweet villain: Check. Steven Universe finally gets a neck: Check. What more could you ask for?

Raúl Juliá: The World's a Stage (2019)

Raúl Juliá: The World's a Stage (2019) Ben DeJesus

I was interested in the latest installment of American Masters as soon as I found out it was about Raúl Juliá. Like most 90s kids, The Addams Family franchise was one of my favorites, and I honestly can't imagine anyone else as Gomez Addams.

However, it wasn't until I was in college that I started seeing more of his work, especially Kiss Me, Petruchio (1978) and The Burning Season: The Chico Mendes Story (1994). In a career spanning 25 years, it's incredible what an impact Raúl had on the industry. It's also unbelievable that in the 25 years since his death, this is the first documentary dedicated to his life.

Ben DeJesus' The World's a Stage offers an intimate and comprehensive look into the man, the artist, and the humanitarian:

"He was fondly known to many as Gomez, the spooky gothic patriarch from the 1990s Addams Family movies. To others, he was Valentin, the Brazilian political prisoner in 1985's heartbreaking Kiss of the Spider Woman, the first independent film ever to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. But Puerto Rican-born actor Raúl Juliá's sprawling career extended far beyond those hallmark roles and has yet to receive the retrospective attention it deserves. Breaking through discriminatory casting barriers during his early years working in New York City, he spent three decades on the stage and screen, until his unexpected death at the age of 54. Raúl Juliá: The World's a Stage celebrates that career and its impacts, as well as a personal life filled with activism and outsize humanitarian gestures."

Featuring interviews with Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, John Leguizamo, Anjelica Huston, Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, James Earl Jones, Andy Garcia, and his family, this documentary puts Raúl's life and continued legacy into perspective. The World's a Stage is a great collection of Raúl's best personal and professional moments, but also a bittersweet look at a man whose life was suddenly and tragically cut short.

"When you have that kind of talent and discipline, success couldn't be avoided."

WHERE TO WATCH: PBS American Masters | Amazon


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