reviewed by naomi

MOONLIGHT

(2016, Barry Jenkins)

Two years ago, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was one of the major talking points of the year in film – a breathtaking journey that showed the coming of age of its main character over the course of 12 years. It was easy to see why it drew the acclaim that it did, yet at the same time centering a story around the experience of growing up as a straight white male in America gave off a slight whiff of been there done that. The technique was impressive, but we’ve seen that story told time and again over the decades in film. Something that we haven’t seen nearly as frequently, if at all really, is an equally affecting and intimate portrait of the existence of a gay black man portrayed on screen. Barry Jenkins is here to start to redress that balance with Moonlight, his first film in eight years, after his debut feature Medicine for Melancholy. Chronicling the transition from adolescent to teenager to adulthood, Jenkins casts three different actors (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) to depict Chiron, a man who spends his whole life struggling to find acceptance as he grows up in a rough neighborhood in Miami.

Forging a relationship with local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who becomes a father figure to make up for the absence of one, and his affectionate partner Teresa (Janelle Monae) isn’t enough to save Chiron from the beatings at school that he receives for being different, the difficulty reconciling why it’s so hard for him to fit in, or the troubles he faces at home with his unstable addict mother Paula (Naomie Harris). It’s a very specific story, beautifully told with a style from Jenkins that resembles a form of meditative cinematic poetry, yet the greatest strength of Moonlight is that it never feels like a film that shuts off those outside of this particular experience. Rather, Jenkins builds a bridge of understanding that draws natural empathy for the struggles that someone living this life endures while also bringing forth universal themes that we can all relate to. I’m certainly not someone who has had to live with the difficulties that Chiron faces, but I was constantly finding moments and ideas throughout the film that spoke to my own experience, from the themes of loneliness and feeling like you don’t belong, to the ease with which you can slip back into the comfort of an old relationship, even after all of the terrible things that happened to drive you apart from that person.

For Chiron, that person is Kevin, a close friend who is also played by three different actors (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland) through each of the different time periods that Moonlight traces. Every actor excels in this remarkable ensemble, to a point where it’s almost disingenuous to really point to anyone as being the standout of the cast, but the film really hits its high point in the final section, almost exclusively devoted to one night between the two men years after they had gone off their own ways. Seeing them come back together, after so long apart with such different experiences, speaks tremendously to the power of what Jenkins gets across in his film, and the chemistry between Rhodes and Holland is positively electric. As is the case with the rest of Moonlight, there’s no pomp to Jenkins’ portrayal of this encounter, none of the exploitative poverty porn that can seep into films rooted in these kind of communities, nor any showboating from the director or his cast that would feel disingenuous in a film as quiet and unassuming as this. Jenkins simply lets this story exist in a way that feels organic, never drawing attention to itself, but always feeling potent and made from a place of deep understanding. It’s wonderful to see a film depicting this kind of experience being embraced as wholly as Moonlight has been, and one can only hope that it will open doors for opportunities to see a wider range of experiences portrayed in film moving forward.

B

Moonlight (2016)
Movie Review by: Will Whalen

Moonlight is the story of a young black man who has a particularly troubled home life and deals with own struggles such as dealing with his sexuality and finding his place in life. This film takes place over three chapters of his life as a young boy, a teenager, and an adult. Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae and 3 separate actors that play our main character of Chiron or AKA Little and Black.

Before today, I literally had no idea what this movie was about. I haven’t seen a trailer or anything before I saw this and drove two hours away from where I live, to see this film by myself just based off hype. Because where I live, typically, we don’t get films like these. Let me just say, it was worth every bit of the drive and I don’t regret it a bit.

Like I said, I had no idea what I was going into before seeing this today and was floored upon watching this. This is a type of film that doesn’t really get a lot of light shown on the subject and when it does get done, it is almost never done with such emotion and such fantastically done filmmaking. Just a forewarning, this a heartbreaking and emotional gut punch of a film and to me, is a really important one, in many ways than just its subject matter. Although, that does have a lot to do with it because it really shows that hard truth and brutal truth of life and how it feels to be outcasted and alone and doesn’t hold back.

Moonlight comes from A24 which is a studio that has continuously delivered many great films and several favorites of mine this year alone. This is directed and written by Barry Jenkins and might I say, fantastically done in both categories of direction and writing. The directing however, is what I will praise most. With many long tracking shots and stand still frames that crafted and made a scene launch into a visually stunning and much more impacting film. You could tell that a lot of thought went into each frame such as themes to do with color or placement of someone in a frame. However the tracking shots were fantastic and one of my favorite things to be done in films and to see it done so often and so well, was great.. The lighting in this film was also done wonderfully and conveyed a lot of meaning. There was one scene in particular that reminded me of a scene that would be in a Nicolas Winding Refn film.

The performances in this film were fantastic across the board with a terrific child performance and probably one of the best of the year. Every actor that portrayed our main character, did a remarkable job maintaining this character across three different time periods of his life. If it weren’t for the fact that he is portrayed by three different actors, it would be on grounds for an Oscar nomination. A really great and grounded performance that is also given by Mahershala Ali that really hit deep for me. With three different parts, it always stays grounded and real, and never once strays away from the characters and always stays focused on what it’s trying to say and never feels preachy.

The first two acts of this are brilliant and are on a whole other level. With intense and heart pulling stuff but once it gets to its final act, it slows way down and that’s probably the biggest problem and maybe even the only problem with this film. That being said, it doesn’t ever get bad one bit. This third act is still fantastic but it seems to pull you out of the ride a bit and throw you off. After experiencing what was previously experienced, it just becomes a much slowly paced conclusion. I feel like maybe upon a second viewing, it would be less of a problem but if it weren’t for that, I’d say this is about as perfect of a movie as it can be. This is a gut punching and absolute heartbreaking film that is bound to make you feel angry, sad, make you cringe and even make you squeeze a tear or seven out and more often to watch, isn’t easy to watch.

That being said, it’s a fantastic, visually stunning, important, and among the most notable films of 2016 and one that should not be missed. Check this out if you can because it is masterful.

I’m going to give Moonlight...

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Mulholland Drive from A-Z


Critics are quick to label David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) as a neo-noir (a fitting homage to the noir style that also modernizes its concepts). Classifying Mulholland Drive as such is an oversimplification, however, because it minimizes the importance of the broader, conceptual messages that Lynch was attempting to incorporate into his narrative. Mulholland Drive is, in essence, a cautionary tale about the power of projection and the psyche. The way we daydream and imagine a bright future for ourselves can heavily affect how we lead our lives. How we imagine ourselves in this “ideal future” factors into the decisions we make for ourselves. This film is a commentary on how such idealistic dreams can be broken and how we sometimes must escape from reality to cope with the concrete nature of the world around us.

As this film’s 15th anniversary quickly approaches, I thought it might be fun to analyze the film by segmenting the different aspects into letters of the alphabet, with each section dedicated to a different argument about a specific aspect of the film. These sections orbit around the theme just discussed; that while David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive may possess easily identifiably noir conventions, upon closer interrogation the codes of the noir fall at the wayside in favor of a deeper message about the psychological nature of movies and acting and how an internalized fantasy can manifest itself in psychological torture and mental betrayal.

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rpdr8 ep. 1 ruview

this was probaby by favorite first episode of any season of all time. i adore this cast theres so many great personalities and so much talent. its gonna be hard seeing someone go each week. but when drag race returns, so do ruviews! thanks to those who have shown support and have pushed me to continue. love throwing a few shady comments and making you guys laugh.

if you didn’t catch it already, i did a big ASS ruview of the MTQ’s from the season also.

but for now lets get to business:

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still casually ruining lives with Uprooted by Naomi Novik. READ IT READ IT READ IT If you like any of the following:

  • folk/fairy tales
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • stubborn characters who don’t wait around but stomp around
  • and make decisions for better or worse
  • a trilogy’s worth of events happening in a standalone 
  • female friendships!!
  • village/nature witches
  • cold/uppity/prim wizards
  • the book jacket summary (even though it’s only like a tenth of the book)
  • breathing

I just finished my review/overview of Naomi Klein’s talk at my university, on my personal blog.

Are enough of you awake, that you want to read it tonight? Let me know. Otherwise I’ll queue it for the morning.

And its posted.

My review is very long, just a warning. I just did a word count and it came out to ~1400 words.

Moonlight: Review

The Withdrawn Identity

It may not come as a surprise, but Moonlight plays a pretty significant role in Moonlight. Beautifully adorning the screen during rare moments of serenity, it’s presented as a beacon of hope through which the film’s characters can, albeit briefly, escape the prism of societal expectation. Centering on issues of repressed identity and alienation, Barry Jenkins’ lyrical, powerful film is far from an easy watch. Yet, it literally glimmers with warmth and compassion for those who society has deemed different, resulting in one of the most important and socially relevant films of our time.

Adapted from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight opens in truly dizzying style, as a spiraling camera surveys a drug-operation in the streets of Miami. Though slightly disorientating, it proves a useful way of delving into the troubled life of Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert), the tense, virtually uncommunicative black child who we first see running away from bullies. Living with a drug-addict mother (an excellent, terrifyingly gaunt Naomi Harris) and regularly fending off ridicule from other kids – his tormentors call him ‘Little’ – Chiron’s is a story of hardship, the source of which he isn’t yet old enough to understand. Chiron, as the film sensitively indicates, is singled out by bullies for his homosexuality, which clashes with the social mores of the black community.

Though it all appears quite bleak, Chiron soon finds acceptance in the surprising form of the friendly neighborhood drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Forming something of an unlikely support network with his girlfriend (an appealing Janelle Monae), this relationship nevertheless feels entirely authentic, with Ali communicating a sense of genuine sympathy, easy cool and paternal compassion for his young charge. Reflected in a host of gorgeous images from cinematographer James Laxton, It’s here that the film really communicates its hopeful message about the importance of individuality, with Juan imparting a crucial life lesson that Chiron, in the face of adversity, will struggle to adhere to. The relationship also opens up a fascinating moral dilemma about the hypocrisy of protecting one life, yet damaging another through the selling of drugs, offering a thoughtful look at the cyclical problems that afflict society’s marginalized.

Following up his impressive relationship indie Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight looks at similar themes of race and intimacy, but recalibrates them in a more ambitious overarching narrative. Chiron’s struggle to find acceptance as a gay black man in a hostile community spans across three crucial stages of his life - childhood, adolescence, and adult life. With each stage proving as effective and impactful as the last, these sections could operate as strong, interesting films in their own right, but here enable Jenkins and screenwriter to cleverly chart Chiron’s development, highlighting the specific experiences that shape his decisions later in life (each chapter has its own suggestive title). This material could so easily have been emotionally manipulative, but Jenkins gives a refreshing sense of naturalism and understatement to proceedings (one significant characters death is only mentioned in passing), using naturalistic dialogue and subtle inference to hint at the conflict between individual identity and societal expectation.

Somewhat predictably, it’s the awkward, emotionally heightened teenage years that see these social tensions crashing to the surface. Following Chiron as a solemn, gangly teenager, this chapter plays like a hard-hitting coming-of-age film, centering on a driven, intense performance from Ashton Sanders, who convincingly portrays the frustrations and confusions of a character who still hasn’t found his place in the world. Mixing moments of euphoria (a first sexual encounter) with moments of horror (his mother’s deterioration is alarmingly shot), it’s an explosive, ultimately heartbreaking chapter, with one particularly troubling sequence that will leave you gasping in agony.

Then, as an adult, Jenkins’ masterwork truly comes full circle. With another compelling performance, this time from Trevante Rhodes as an adult Chiron, the story becomes more steady and considered, giving us a chance to reflect on the film’s very prescient questions of identity. If Chiron finally appears to be in a position of control, it’s not necessarily in a way that reflects his true self, proving a sober assessment of a society that stifles individuality and molds people according to a set cast. It’s miraculous then, that Jenkins’ film still finds room for optimism. However troubling the outlook appears at times, the film’s affective relationships and uplifting images remind you about the possibility of finding contentment in a difficult environment, suggesting that adversity can be overcome with the power of human connection and understanding.

A compassionate study of race, drugs, and sexual identity, Moonlight is poignant, powerful, and visually striking, soaring on the back of its naturalistic direction and stunning performances.

★★★★★

Smackdown Review

This may be my favorite episode of smackdown since the split if not of all time. Everything felt important in some way. Becky and Mickie James developed their rivalry some more. American Alpha cements their claim as top of the tag team division (the out of ring segments could use some work something about them is a little off). Naomi and Alexa kept their heat. Nikki and Natty final got a falls count anywhere match. Baron Corbin murdered Dean. Luke showed he wasn’t done with Bray. And Bray won (clean) to retain his title. So I’m giving Smackdown 4.8/5.

Uprooted by Noami Novik

My Rating: 5/5

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.”

Forget everything you think you know about folklore and enter Novik’s realm of dark fantasy in this stunning debut full of lush and terrifying fiction. Uprooted is easily a unique masterpiece with plots and characters unlike any others in its genre. I started off reading this book as one would begin a thrilling but harrowing task. I’m never one to be put off by the size of a book, however at first glance Uprooted seems like a monstrosity of small fonts and lengthy pages, something that can make any reader feel threatened.

Do NOT let this fool you, for once I began to invest my time into the chapters, the pace quickened so much so that I devoured two-hundred pages over the course of a few hours (which for me, and my ADD, was remarkable)! In a strange way, I felt that the book was almost too good for my brain to keep up with everything…if that even makes sense. I like to thoroughly take in every detail of any story, and Novik is a wordsmith goddesses, so of course I was bit overwhelmed by my own sheer exuberance. There’s enough space between her phrases to leave room to the imagination, a feat that I respect when it comes to how an author writes his/her story. But in my case, I was just so excited to read the book that I wound up thinking about reading the book…instead of actually reading the book…(*insert face-palm*). Nevertheless, this piece of fiction is exceptionally crafted and brimming with strong protagonists. This is all I want in an epic fantasy, and I have a feeling you will want it too.

“It comes, I suppose,” I said thoughtfully, speaking to the air, “of spending too much time alone indoors, and forgetting that living things don’t always stay where you put them.”

We start off our journey with Agnieszka, a young peasant living in the quant village of Dvernik which borders the deadly, malevolent Wood. Her dearest friend, Kasia, emits strong beauty and bravery―qualities of which the Dragon sees fit enough for a new servant. The Dragon is an immortal wizard who protects the villagers against the dark magic of the Wood, yet each decade he takes the most promising girl to live with and serve him for the next ten years of her life. He des not harm the girls, and each one never returns to their meager lifestyle in the valley once they are put back into the world―instead going off to greater cities pluming wealth and prosperity. Kasia has known since she was a child that she is more than likely to be chosen by the Dragon. Agnieskza has known as well, and the thought of losing her aquatinted-sister is maddening. Until the day of the harvest comes, and the Dragon does not choose Kasia.

*It is now three-o’clock in the morning and I just finished Uprooted after binging the book for the previous forty-eight hours. My head is still spinning. That was without a doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The plot was enchanting with all its twists and turns, especially considering the abstract idea of the antagonist―and I only say idea because this antagonist was not a person, rather it was a forest more eerie than the one found in Snow White. The Wood, as it is known amongst the characters, is a giant shadow of land that lurks within reach of the village inhabitance, constantly picking off children and others who wander too close. It spreads like disease and can corrupt those who’ve never even been to the outer reaches of the valley, simply by plaguing someone and sending them back without seemingly any traces of evil. Novak has created such a compelling image of darkness, and it is all the more ingenious because this wickedness does not reside within a single person. The antagonist is not governed by what most living antagonists are contrived of―no, this antagonist is literally Mother Nature in full fury.

To defeat such a villain, Agnieskza must learn quickly of who she was destined to be, and with the begrudging help of her mentor, the Dragon. The most shocking of all the subplots was undeniably the stories that came from the Wood and it’s origin. You’ll meet characters so wonderfully crafted, and they’ll tear your heart to pieces. This is not your average folktale. It’s so, so much more.

But the best thing by far were the characters and the relationships held between each of them. For starters, Agnieszka is not written as some beautiful damsel with a fate that will make or break the becomings of the universe― she’s simply a peasant girl who cannot go ten minutes without ripping her skirts or getting dirt in her hair. Her bravery, cunningness, compassion, and humorous whit are what makes her character so compelling. I fell in love with her, and that’s not very common for me and the main protagonists because I usually find some flaws that cannot be cast aside to be unnoticed. Raw and so wildly foreign, Agnieszka is all I’ve ever wanted in a strong heroine.

What makes her even better is the relationship she shares with her dearest friend, Kasia. I cannot begin to express how pleased I was that Novik didn’t touch upon two jealous friends who bicker over boys and beauty. I’m so disgusted with the trope of girls unnecessarily loathing one another, and this book was such an overwhelming breath of fresh air that their sisterly friendship actually did bring me to tears on a few occasions. Also, Kasia wasn’t left behind in the grand scheme of the books commencement. I won’t tell you what becomes of her because that would involve spoilers, but it’s pretty freaking awesome. Kasia is a courageously loyal friend, and a sharp sword when needed be.

The Dragon, much like Agnieszka, is not the average brooding male protagonist you might have expected. He’s refined and well-spoken, but also incredibly sarcastic and exasperated with the nonsense he has to put up with. Wizards, especially those who’ve been lingering for more than a century, have grown cold to the ways of endearment. The Dragon cares about the health and safety of his people, and those outside of his borders, but that doesn’t mean he wishes to tether himself to them in fear of being hurt through their inevitable deaths.

What I love most about him is how he treats everyone else around him, even those who we’d consider enemies. He’s not malicious or hot-headed, in fact he’s quite the opposite. The Dragon (and you will find out his true name int he book!) is very wise and very alone. Agnieszka enters his realm of brick towers and barriers and forces them all down in a heartbreakingly, amusing adventure full of bickering, snipping and name calling. I’m a sucker for platonic friendships, but I’m downright obsessed with those friendships that flourish into platonic romances (which then harvest into something even more beautiful as time goes on). So to surmise, Uprooted, although not heavily focusing on romance of any sort, enraptures all I want in a perfectly imperfect OTP (One True Pairing).

This story, although making my heart swell, was nonetheless dark and complicated. I don’t know if I’d truly classify this one as YA because there are moments where violence and explicit content are used as the foremost points of development. Perhaps it’s better as a NA novel? Regardless, I wouldn’t mind the rating at all so long as some of these entities don’t disturb you. I’m not quite certain what thrilled me the most; the romance, the battles, or the Wood. Every aspect of this novel was carefully delivered with an underlying tone of bitter darkness that halfway reminded me of tree rot or moss…not that I’m being nostalgic or anything (I totally am). I’ve studied forestry for a while and the organic diction and prose of this story had me swooning. The setting was delightful, and the writing style was one of the best I’ve ever come across. It kept me engaged from prologue to epilogue.

But for all the emphasis I put on the world-building and characters, one of the best things about this story was truly the aesthetic of wizardry and witches. I didn’t know I’d be reading about witches, specifically ones arranged so whimsically. The spell-language, as the Dragon called it, is lyrical even though my tongue tripped over the strange words more than a few times. The magic is so vividly described that it makes you feel as though you can brew the potions and cast the spells as well. This book presented a look inside the makings of wizards in such a new and darkly romantic angle, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Uprooted is brilliant beyond words, an old artwork that had been lost but newly found and restored to life. It was everything I had hoped it would be and MORE. I’m proud to say that Naomi Novik is now one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what else she’ll gift us in the future. I recommend this book to everyone! It deserves all of the stars, the moon, and the planets.

And, like all the books I love madly, I made a playlist for Uprooted which you can listen to HERE. I hope it inspires you to read the book, or if you have read it already then I hope it delights you!

TRACKLIST:
Willow Tree March- The Paper Kites, From The Woods- James Vincent McMorrow, My Lair- Bear’s Den, What The Water Gave Me- Florence and The Machine, English House- Fleet Foxes, You’re a Wolf- Sea Wolf, Garden- Cold Weather Company, Stubborn Beast- Bear’s Den, April- Nick Mulvey, Anchor- NOVO AMOR, Coins in A Fountain- Passenger, Autumn Tree- Milo Greene, St. Clarity- The Paper Kites, Magnolia- Wilsen, Blood (Mree Cover)- The Middle East, Weather- NOVO AMOR, Bodywieght- Annie Eve, Switzerland- Daughter, Goat- French for Rabbits, Fairytales and Firesides- Passenger, I Follow Rivers (Marika Hackman Cover)- Lykke Li

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Rachel Reviews: Rings (SPOILERS)

I might have to postpone my little review of Naomi Klein’s talk at my university for another day. But I will post it eventually.

My brain is still stuck in a fog from this cold I can’t really think properly yet. =/

Review: Temeraire by Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy / (sort of) alternate history

When Captain Will Laurence’s ship the HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, everything changes - for they have captured a dragon’s egg. In the war with France, where Napoleon’s forces have more skilled and agile dragons, every new egg counts. So when the baby dragon Temeraire hatches and immediately imprints on Laurence, the force of this unbreakable bond forces him to leave his naval career and become part of England’s Aerial Corps - the more liberal, raucous section of the army where dragon and human rider live and fight side by side.

Things I liked about this book:

  • The concept. Temeraire is basically how to train your dragon meets the Napoleonic wars. If you like Austen-like issues of manners and conduct, historical battles, but also everything dragons and fantasy, then I would definitely recommend this book. This unique level of conceptualisation also extends to the worldbuilding - because dragons and their trainers are inseparable, this means that the Aerial Corps are less bound by social constraints such as marriage or heritage, because they cannot let these things get in the way of their dragon. This means that lower social groups, such as the working class and women are allowed to be dragon riders, and that these people are less bound by hierarchy and social convention. Novik has managed to create a small bubble in 19th Century society where sexism and classism are still profoundly felt, but also utterly irrelevant.
  • The relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Did you watch How to Train Your Dragon, where Toothless’ unbridled love and devotion for Hiccup made you squee with feelz? Now imagine that Toothless could talk. Temeraire is an intelligent, kind and fiercely loyal human-like animal in his own right, and the way that he and Laurence interact is at many moments funny and heart warming.
  • Laurence’s character. I don’t normally go in for male narrators (not for any particular reason, mainly just that female protagonists tend to guarantee a more female cast), but Laurence was really interesting as a focal perspective. For one thing, other than ideas of honour and nobility, Laurence is utterly normal. While Temeraire is a bit of a super-special snowflake, Laurence is just an ordinary man, yanked out of one life he was perfectly happy with and into another. It was nice to have a fantasy book in which the protagonist is not overwhelmingly powerful, but instead draws power from those around him.

Things I didn’t like about this book:

  • ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. READ IT. READ IT NOW!


OVERALL RATING: 5/5

Review: «Mrs. Hemingway», by Naomi Wood

I finished «Mrs. Hemingway», from Naomi Wood.

A novel that tells the history of his four wifes, written by their perspective.

The vision of Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh is perfectly written.

The book is full of fiction, but it is also based on letters.

Letters between the wifes, between Hemingway and his wifes, between friends and more.

It shows the evolution, not just in how Hemingway wrote, but in his life too.

How he went from not having money to turn on the heater to having a mansion in Florida or Cuba.

The book is full of history, artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald and thoughts taken from the protagonists. Very good.

PS: Sorry for my english. It is not my first language.

2

“The three characters at the center of The Star Side of Bird Hill — 10-year-old Phaedra, 16-year-old Dionne and their grandmother, Hyacinth — are confronted with a series of life-altering events, each one darker than the last,” says critic Michael Schaub. “Jackson’s novel is the story of how they roll with the punches, or try to, while keeping their eyes on a target that never seems to stop moving.”

Read the full review here.

rpdr 8 ep. 5 SNETCH GAY-me ruview

I apologize for not ruviewing last week, Spring break had me so busy but now the review is back and nasty as ever. who knew bob the drag queen would have a centric episode. who knew ru had such horrific judgement. who knew derrick would for once not be in the bottom. who knew robbie was so clueless. who knew eliminations were so highkey rigged.

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