Will Asian-Americans Ever Get A “Black Panther?”

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Who Gets A Chance In Hollywood?

Greetings Loved Ones. Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game. Continue reading

Underrated Directors Who Should Totally Helm A Blockbuster

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Directors; to many casual film goers, they are the driving force behind all aspects of a movie. And while those of us who actually work in film, writing scripts, editing footage, mixing sound and so on, know that this isn’t true, it is true that directors can have a huge influence on a picture’s look, tone, and style. And that look and style can attract audiences, and make the pictures better as a whole. Now there are certain directors whose look and style have become well known to the public–the Spielbergs, the Burtons, the Tarantinos–but there are others whose talent is clear when you watch their films but, for whatever reason, they and their work have remained out of the spotlight. I’d like to remedy that today. Here is my list of awesome, underrated directors who should totally helm a blockbuster. Why a blockbuster? Because that’s what most people see, and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s the only way most of us will ever hear about these artists.

1. Bong Joon-Ho.

  • What They’ve Done: The Host, Snowpiercer, Okja.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Star Wars Movie.

Perhaps the best-known filmmaker on this list, Bong Joon-Ho is one of my all-time favorite directors, and a household name back in his native Korea. And yet, despite all his critical and commercial success in Asia, he remains relatively unknown in the West. Film nerds have probably watched a few of his flicks, but the vast majority of audiences aren’t familiar with his sumptuous visuals, dark humor, sudden shifts in tone, and biting social commentary, all of which make him ideal to helm a Star Wars movie. Just watch The Host, see how he shoots action, writes villainous characters, and uses creature effects, and tell me you couldn’t see him directing an episode in a galaxy far, far away.

2. Jaume Collet-Serra.

  • What They’ve Done: Non-Stop, The Shallows, Orphan.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A MIssion Impossible Movie.

Best known for his many collaborations with Liam Neeson, Spanish director Jaume Collet Serra has a habit of taking silly genre scripts, and turning them into much better films than they have any right to be. Seriously. If you take a hard look at the plots of any of his features–Unknown, Non-Stop, Orphan–they don’t really hold up. But the films themselves are so well-acted, so beautifully shot, and so viscerally entertaining that you don’t really care. Which makes him an ideal match for the Mission Impossible franchise, which, let’s be honest, isn’t  really famous for having the most believable story lines, but whose insane action set pieces more than make up for that. And let’s not forget, several of Collet-Serra’s flicks, like Unknown, have espionage elements to them. So it’s not altogether out of his wheelhouse.

3. Wes Ball.

  • What They’ve Done: The Maze Runner Trilogy.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Fast & Furious Movie.

Say what you like about the Maze Runner films–I, personally, am not a huge fan–they have amazing action sequences. Even these movies’ harshest critics agree that the chases, the fight scenes, and the stunt work are incredible, and that the director, Wes Ball, has a good eye for action. So what better franchise to put him in than the Fast & Furious, which we all can agree is extremely light on story, but very heavy on amazing set pieces? I have no doubt whatsoever that Mr. Ball could concoct some truly bonkers action scenes, and give this series’ fans the high octane thrills they crave.

4. Mike Flanagan.

  • What They’ve Done: Oculus, Hush, Gerald’s Game.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Batman Movie.

One of this generations true horror masters, Mike Flanagan’s films work, not just because they’re beautifully shot, and possess ghosts and serial killers, but because of their fascinating explorations of their characters’ pasts and psyches. Gerald’s Game and Oculus are all about people revisiting childhood trauma, and trying to work through it. And if there’s one blockbuster franchise that relishes horror, and childhood trauma, it’s Batman. He’s a tormented character, who just can’t let his past go, and several of his rogues, the Joker, Scarecrow, Two Face, are horrifying manifestations of various mental illnesses. So who better to helm a Batman film than a horror master with an interest in dissecting the minds of damaged people? Well, okay, I’m sure there are loads of filmmakers who’d be totally great for Batman, but Mike Flanagan is at the top of my list.

5. Takashi Miike.

  • What They’ve Done: 13 Assassins, Audition, Ichi The Killer.
  • What I’d Like Them To Do: A Predator Movie.

A prolific and controversial director, whose work I’ve written about before, Takashi Miike is perfectly suited for the Predator franchise. Why? Because just like John McTiernan’s 1987 classic, which began as action, and ended as horror, many of Miike’s films blend genres and tones. Several of his features, like Yakuza Apocalypse and Ichi The Killer, synthesize elements of thrillers and horror. Many more, like Fudoh: The New Generation, Blade Of The Immortal, and Terra Formers, include insane, stylized characters with insane, stylized weapons i.e. the exact kind of fighters that the Predators would want to hunt. And, as if this needs mentioning, Miike is superb at crafting creative, bloody fight sequences, which are precisely what this franchise thrives off of.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

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After avenging his dog’s murder, and recovering his stolen car, retired hitman John Wick stumbles home, hoping to finally mourn the loss of his wife. But before he even has the chance to breathe, an old associate appears on his doorstep, asking him to perform one last hit. John refuses, saying he’s out of the game, but ultimately agrees when the associate in question reminds him that John owes him a favor. So, with a heavy heart, John sets off for Rome, hoping to finish this last job quickly, only to learn, once it’s far too late, that he’s in way over his head. What follows is a high octane, hard-hitting action extravaganza, with amazing fight choreography, incredible stunt work, and the ever-present charisma of Keanu Reeves. Continue reading

Arrival

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Language; it is the cornerstone of human civilization. It is what enables us to communicate. It is what allows us to express love, loss, longing, curiosity and care. And, in some cases, it is all that stands between cooperation and conflict.

This last characteristic of language is what director Denis Villeneuve seeks to explore in his film Arrival, the latest entry in the “first contact” sub genre of science fiction. When twelve massive UFO’s arrive on Earth, the US military hires an expert linguist (Amy Adams) to try to communicate with the Aliens. Quickly realizing that oral exchange is useless, since the extraterrestrials aren’t talking in the classic sense, Adams and her team decide to use written language to try to decode what the creatures are, and why they’re on Earth. And now we have a big mystery, which, I’m sorry to say, never really gets solved. But before I launch into my complaints, I would like to list some things that really worked about this movie.

First off, the film sounds amazing. The music, the noises the creatures make, and all the weird sounds produced inside the UFOs, work to create an altogether surreal, and highly suspenseful, experience. There are scenes in this movie that, based on sound alone, had me hanging on the edge of my seat. The film also looks incredible. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in here, like the one where we first get a view of the UFOs, and the special effects are all superb. The performances are also top notch, with the one possible exception being Forrest Whittaker, who plays the Colonel in charge of the whole operation, and whose accent is… questionable. But, setting that aside, this movie is technically brilliant, and on the merits of its craftsmanship alone, I would recommend it to you all.

It’s just that the movie’s storytelling isn’t quite up to the same level as its visuals, acting and sound design. The film moves extremely slow in some places, but then jumps around super fast in others, with voice over narration being used as a crutch to explain everything. There are also some weird artistic choices that never get explained, like the fact that the scientists always bring a caged bird with them when they go to talk to the aliens. But worst of all is the fact that, when, at the end of the film, you start to learn what the Aliens are, and what they’re trying to do, the movie doesn’t really make sense anymore. What I mean by that is, with certain films, there are small details that either gget glossed over or flat out ignored, which, when you stop and think about them, prevent the rest of the story from happening. Citizen Kane is a prime example. The movie is all about trying to learn the hidden meaning of a dead billionaire’s last word, “rosebud.” Except, when you watch the film, you see that no one was in the room when he said the word, so, logically, there’s no reason for the rest of the movie to happen. Something similar happens in Arrival. See, throughout the film, Amy Adams character keeps having these visions, these memories of her now dead daughter. Except, at the end of the film, we learn that those aren’t memories. They are, in fact, premonitions. See, the Aliens are able to predict the future, and they want to teach us to do the same thing because… reasons? And Amy Adams isn’t remembering her dead daughter. She’s seeing the life of her still-to-be-born daughter. Knowing all this, I have three questions. One, why do the aliens want us to do this? Two, why do they leave right after they accomplish their objective? And three, if those aren’t memories Amy Adams is having, if they are, in fact, premonitions, how did she not realize that fact before? In the real world, things like a marriage and the birth of a child leave marks. They leave tangible evidence of their existence. In the real world, if you got married and had a kid, there’d be wedding photos, a birth certificate, and your body would be physically different from having a baby. If Amy Adams doesn’t have any of these things, as we’re led to assume she doesn’t, why does she believe she had a daughter? Why doesn’t she realize what these visions are sooner? It makes no sense.

But, like I said before, it’s impossible to not acknowledge this movie’s many technical achievements. They almost, almost, outweigh its narrative shortcomings. For that reason, I have decided to give Arrival a 7.5 out of 10. I do think it’s worth watching, but you should know that it isn’t perfect.

Was “Do The Right Thing” Really The Right Thing To Watch?

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Rarely, if ever, have I seen my parents agree on anything–especially movies. So imagine my shock when, two weeks ago, I discovered a film that both of them liked. The film in question was Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee’s 1989 race riot flick, which, in 1999, was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. Both my parents praised the film for its unique artistic style, as well as its social commentary, and strongly suggested that I watch it. I agreed to their proposition rather enthusiastically. As both a frequent patron of the cinema, and an individual deeply fascinated by the politics of race, Do the Right Thing seemed right up my alley. I rented it, watched it, and now I’d like to share some of my opinions.

Let me start with what I liked about it. The film’s imagery is both interesting and effective. Do the Right Thing tells the story of a neighborhood’s simmering racial tension, which comes to a head and culminates in tragedy on the hottest day of the summer. Lee artfully illustrates the heat of the day by having all the film’s images carry a reddish-orange hue, and he effectively demonstrates the dizzying, mind-dulling effect that this heat can have on people by using crooked shots and warped focus. The soundtrack also lends itself to the tension of the story. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is blared several times throughout the film, and generally, when it is played, argument or violence ensues. With its booming bass and provocative lyrics, “Fight the Power” is the perfect soundtrack for a film concerning race riots. Finally, some of the questions raised in the film are still relevant. At one point in the movie, a disgruntled black man asks his friends why, in general, it is so much easier for immigrants from Korea or elsewhere to find jobs and set up their own businesses than Black Americans. “Either those Koreans are geniuses,” he says, “or we’re just plain stupid.” It’s not an easy question to answer, and its one that struck close to home. As the grandchild of a successful Chinese doctor, I have often wondered why my family should experience so much success while so many others live in poverty, and in his film, Lee is able to articulate these uncertainties perfectly.

Now for the things that I didn’t like. First of all, the acting in this movie is extremely melodramatic. Perhaps this was a deliberate move on Lee’s part. Perhaps he asked the actors to behave in an illogical, over the top manner as a means of demonstrating how illogical and over the top people can be when they’re acting out of hatred. Still, the absurdity of some of the acting seriously decreased my enjoyment of the picture. Secondly, as entertaining and artistically unique as the film is, I believe that it’s very much one that’s only applicable to the 80s. The hairstyles, clothing, and cultural references made in the film can only exist in that time period, and for a film that seeks to address the timeless issue of race in this country, having it only be applicable to one time period can be a serious disadvantage. Thirdly, as with any film in which race is a prominent topic of discussion; Do the Right Thing shows its share of racial stereotypes. The Korean owners of the local fruit stand are shown as incompetent, impatient, and incapable of speaking even the most Basic English. The White Italian owners of Sol’s Famous Pizzeria have comically thick Brooklyn accents, greasy hairstyles and gaudy chains laden with crucifixes. The actor who portrays the disabled man that wanders the streets of the neighborhood makes no effort to give his character depth, and instead speaks with an absurd cross between a stutter and a stroke. My point is, if Spike Lee wishes to end discrimination in America, racial or otherwise, maybe he shouldn’t have the characters in his films feed into ugly stereotypes.

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the absolute best a film can be, I would give Do the Right Thing a rating of 6.5 to 7. It’s entertaining, artistically unique and, at least for me, thought provoking. It’s certainly not the worst film to see in your spare time.

That’s all for today. I hope you guys found my review helpful or, at the very least, interesting. These are just my opinions, and if you disagree with them, please don’t hesitate to comment.

Nathan Liu