GLOW (season 2, 2018)

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

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Deadpool 2 (2018)

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

Battle Of The Sexes (2017)

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

It’s 1973, and Billie Jean King is the reigning champ of women’s tennis. But she’s not just interested in titles. No, sir. She also wants to change the way the tennis federation treats women. So when she learns that the female winners of a particular tournament will be paid 8 times less than their male counterparts, she decides, “Screw it! I’m making my own all-women’s tennis league.” And that’s exactly what she does. Meanwhile, Bobby Riggs, a washed up former tennis champ, upset at how uppity King has gotten, challenges her to an exclusive, one-on-one match; a “battle of the sexes,” if you will. He even offers her a lot of money if she wins. King is reluctant at first, but, realizing that the league can only survive if it has the funds to do so, she agrees, and begins training for the big, end-all, be-all match. Will she win? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie, or read a history book, to find out.

Battle Of The Sexes is a well-acted, decently directed comedy, with a good message, and that’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Which, in a way, is kind of a problem. We’ve seen these kind of social issue movies before. Hell, they crop up every year around Oscar season. Some, like Blood Diamond, Dallas Buyers Club, and 12 Years A Slave, are great, and able to transcend their well-meaning, if predictable, formulas. Others, like Stonewall, Golden Gate, and J Edgar, are bad, precisely because of their refusal to take risks with their storytelling. Battle Of The Sexes isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but, for a movie that’s seeking to tackle the gross sexism that Billie Jean King had to come up against, and that sadly is still present to this day, it all seems kind of safe. Say what you like about GLOW’s dark humor, at least it went places it needed to go to. It wasn’t afraid to offend people when it came to making us understand that women did, and do, face a lot of terrible shit. Yes, sometimes it went over-the-top, but it at least made its point. In Battle Of The Sexes, the misogyny is oddly tame. Yes, it’s still terrible seeing men objectify women, pay them less, and talk down to them. But the language they use isn’t that provocative. And the film even goes out of its way to make the sexist guys, particularly Riggs, kind of likable. We see him playing with his kid, cracking jokes,and generally enjoying life. Yes, it’s better to employ an even-handed approach when it comes to portraying heroes and villains, but, in this case, I believe it would have been better if Riggs had been slightly less lovable. See, very often in fiction, sexism in male characters is shown as an annoying, but forgivable, quirk. If you don’t believe me, just look at the Big Bang Theory, Revenge Of The Nerds, and even Their Finest, a film I really admired. In each of these works, other people scoff and roll their eyes when the male characters say or do sexist things, but they never try to change their minds, or punish them for their behavior. In fact, we’re meant to sympathize with these men. Deep down, they’re not bad guys. They’re just misunderstood. And whatever misogynistic behavior they might display, it’s more than made up for by their positive qualities. This trend in media has seriously normalized misogyny in many people’s minds. And I’m quite convinced that it at least played a part in the election of Donald Trump. Even after the infamous Access Hollywood tape, people voted for him, and they did so because, to them, his sexism is just a harmless part of who he is. If Battle Of The Sexes really wanted to comment on sexism, it should have made Riggs as ugly and disgusting a character as possible. He shouldn’t have had any redeeming qualities, and the reason he shouldn’t have is to show audiences that men who act like this lose, and are pathetic, worthless human beings.

But if, somehow, you don’t care about making a strong enough statement against sexism–though, really, why would you go to see this movie if you didn’t–the film isn’t all that good. It’s not bad, mind you. It’s just not memorably great. THe dialogue is fine. The cinematography is fine, though they do tend to use way too many close ups. And the acting, as I said, is fine. No one really stands out as superb. Everyone is just serviceably good. So when you combine all this together–the serviceable production values, and rather safe tone–what you’re left with is a well-meaning, but honestly kind of forgettable biopic. Should you go see it? Well, that’s up to you. As for me, I have no desire to watch it again.

Freeheld

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

This isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t a good one either. It’s trying to be progressive–to tell a touching, and socially relevant story–but it ultimately comes off as generic, and even somewhat banal.

For those of you who are wondering what the hell I’m talking about, I just sat down and watched an early screening of Freeheld, a new drama film starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. The movie, which comes out in theaters tomorrow, is based on the true story of Laurel Hester, a Lesbian Police Officer from New Jersey, who, when she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, was unable to transfer her pension benefits to her partner, Stacie. The film chronicles her friends and loved ones attempts to overdue the court’s ruling, and get Stacie her pension.

Now, I’ll be honest, when I heard this film’s premise, I was hopeful. I love “call to social action” films, like Blood Diamond, Philadelphia, and Dallas Buyers Club. I thought that, maybe, this movie would be another worthy addition to the list of socially conscious motion pictures that have come out in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, when I actually sat down and watched it, I was treated to a fairly generic “fight the power” drama, with no real tension, and nothing particularly new in the way of storytelling. Every cliched character you’d expect to see in a movie about gay rights–the butch lesbian, the flamboyantly gay man, the homophobe who grows a heart and does the right thing–is present here. No one’s really given any backstory, and some of the performances are a bit cartoonish. On top of that, this whole movie feels like White Guilt Oscar Bait. You all know what I’m talking about–movies that are hoping to get critical acclaim by talking about something important, like racism, sexism, homophobia, or historical tragedies. It’s practically a joke among actors that, if you want to win an Oscar these days, you’ve got to either pretend to be gay, pretend to be dying, or pretend to be disabled. Well, this film is about homophobia, and its star, Julianne Moore, is both pretending to die, AND pretending to be gay. At this point, the filmmakers are practically giving their acceptance speeches.

Now, to be fair, I know that the directors and the actors intentions here were good, but, honestly, the whole thing just feels exploitative. I’m a disabled person, and I don’t like it when I see non-disabled actors–like Eddie Redmayne in Theory Of Everything, Al Pacino in Scent Of A Woman, and Cliff Robertson in Charly–using our conditions as easy springboards to critical success. Similarly, I don’t like it when I see heterosexual actors giving flamboyantly over-the-top portrayals of gay people, like Steve Carrell does here, just to win awards.

So, to sum it all up, Freeheld is a well-intentioned movie that doesn’t bring anything new to the “fight the power,” social activism genre of filmmaking, and ultimately suffers because of that. It’s a 6 out of 10. Don’t go see it if you’ve already watched films like Philadelphia or Dallas Buyers Club.

Wild Side

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

And it’s official–Joan Chen loves weird, sexually perverse stuff. Why else would she star in this god-awful erotic thriller?

Wait–that doesn’t make sense to you all? Well, all right then. I guess I’ll just have to start from the beginning.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Joan Chen is a Chinese-born American actress, screenwriter and director. She came to international prominence in the late 80s after she starred in the multi Oscar-winning movie, The Last Emperor. Even though parts for Asian women were–and to be perfectly honest, still are–extremely limited, her beauty and acting talent were enough to allow her to star in multiple acclaimed films and TV series–including David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, and most recently, the Netflix Original Series, Marco Polo. I’m a big fan of hers–I’m a fan of any Asian actor who manages to make it in racist Hollywood–but as I watched more and more of her films, I started to notice a certain…motif in her work. That being that all her projects feature graphic and/or bizarre sexual content. The Last Emperor has several orgies, and some weird lesbian foot scenes between her and this woman who’s supposed to be her cousin. Lust, Caution was banned in several countries because of all its sex scenes, including one where Tony Leung practically rapes Tang Wei. And Twin Peaks: well, Twin Peaks is directed by David Lynch. Enough said. I didn’t see the thematic connection between all these films until a friend of mine heard I was a fan of Miss Chen’s and recommended that I watch the 1998 erotic thriller, Wild Side, which she starred in. And then, oh lord, then I saw the light.

This movie is trashy in every sense of the word. It’s not just that its story is ludicrous, offensive and smutty–there’s heterosexual rape, homosexual rape, sex in airplanes, sex in bathrooms–when you learn about where it came from, you also can’t help but feel a little disgusted. It was written and directed by the late Donald Cammell and his wife China Kong–yes, before you ask, that is actually her name–who met and had an affair when the former was in his 40s and the latter was 14. Yes, I did just say 14. And as if that weren’t bad enough, I did some research, and found that, when Donald Cammell saw the finished cut of Wild Side, he thought it was so bad that he ended up committing suicide. That’s right. This movie was so horrible that it sickened the pedophile who wrote it to the point of killing himself. Now, before any of you get scared, I didn’t think it was THAT awful. Yes, it’s bad, but it’s not so bad that I feel like slitting my wrists. But what, you might be wondering, is this bad, but not THAT bad, movie about? Well, I’ll tell you.

Wild Side follows the trials and tribulations of Alex, a banker and part-time hooker from Long Beach. They never really give a reason for why she solicits sex when she has such a good-paying job, but, to be honest, you learn to stop questioning this film after a while. Anyway, the movie begins with her doing the deed with a client named Bruno, played by Christopher Walken. Bruno, it turns out, is a big-time money launderer hoping to upload a virus to her bank, and his driver, Tony, is an undercover cop looking to bring Bruno down. Tony blackmails Alex into sleeping with him, and helping him set up a sting. Alex tries to get help from the non-corrupt police, but finds that she can’t acquire protection unless she reveals how she and Tony met, and, thus, lose her job at the bank. It’s at this point, when Alex is at her absolute lowest, that Joan Chen, playing Bruno’s wife, Virginia, enters the picture. And, as much as I love Miss Chen, and believe that there should be more Asian characters in movies, I really didn’t think she was necessary to the plot of this film at all. She doesn’t actually do anything that’s vitally important–yes, her and Alex start having an affair in some of the most graphic lesbian scenes ever put to celluloid–but that affair could just as easily not have been in the movie. You could still have had a story about a woman being trapped in a bad situation without needing to throw in a gay romance. It just seemed like the director wanted to masturbate to two beautiful woman making out and touching each other, because there are several–rather long–scenes in this movie that don’t go anywhere, and that are just the two of them having sex. Now before anyone accuses me of being homophobic, I’d like to remind you all that one of my favorite shows right now is Sense8, a series that has several gay and transgender characters in it, as well as A LOT of gay sex. But there, the filmmakers establish, early on, what these characters’ sexual orientations and genders are–prior to Joan Chen’s appearance, Wild Side never gives any indication that Alex likes women–and the writers of Sense8 actually bothered to go into all the politics and nuances of identity and sexuality. They talk about homophobia. They talk about AIDS. They talk about PRIDE and the gay rights movement. They don’t just have two women kiss and hope that it’s shocking or stimulating enough to get audiences to want to buy their product. They actually treat gender and sexuality with the respect that they deserve.

And that, loved ones, is why Wild Side is so horrible. It doesn’t give it’s characters personalities. It just treats them as fleshy tokens to be exploited and drooled over. It tries to shock you into watching it by including controversial things, like rape, without actually addressing why these things are controversial and horrifying. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, and am sad that Miss Chen decided to be a part of it. I’m just glad that she went on to do better things, and is still working to this day. As for this entry in her filmography, though, it’s a 5 out of 10. Don’t watch it.