Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The name, And Views Are My game.

It’s 1968, and a group of Marine recruits are being prepped for Vietnam. They are led by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, who ruthlessly pushes them to be the “best killers” possible. One of these recruits, Leonard Lawrence, nicknamed “Gomer Pyle” by Hartman, cannot keep up with the others, and is repeatedly punished and hazed. This leads to him losing his sanity, and to some rather tragic events on the night of their graduation. But this is only the beginning, as the rest of the Marines, including Sergeant’s Joker and Cowboy, are shipped off to South Vietnam, where they find the horrors of war waiting for them.

Full Metal Jacket is widely considered a classic, and contains some of the most recognizable lines in film history. If you’ve ever wondered where “me love you long time” comes from, here’s your answer. And yet, for all the hype, for all the praise people like to heap on it, I’d never actually seen the movie until today, and most people my age I’ve talked to haven’t either. Part of this is due to the fact that we live in a world of review aggregators, where we accept that something is a classic because a bunch of people online tell us that it is. For this reason, I decided to give Full Metal Jacket a look, and find out for myself if it was actually any good.

Well, having actually seen Full Metal Jacket, I can safely say that it’s reputation isn’t wholly without merit. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in this film, and the production design is amazing. This, coupled with a stand out performance by R Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, make the first half of this film extremely watchable. It’s unfortunate, therefore, that the second, and much longer, half isn’t nearly as good. Whereas the first half follows traditional dramatic structure, with characters changing, and scenes and stakes building up to a climax, the second half meanders about without much purpose. We get a bunch of pointless scenes that never get brought up again, like the soldiers talking to reporters, bidding on a prostitute, and mocking a dead VC. And whereas the first half is very clearly anti-war, the second half is much more ideologically muddled, with the protagonist, Joker, actually saying that he is “happy,” after killing a child. And even though I know that this film was made back in the 80s, and there was a lot of racism in the Vietnam War, I was truly put off by how many times the words “gook” and “zipperhead” were used in this movie. I don’t think the characters in this film ever referred to Vietnamese people as Vietnamese. It was always one of the two aforementioned racial slurs. And while the film doesn’t shy away from mocking other races, with many of the black characters getting called the n word, the latter group are at least given names, and dialogue that isn’t in broken English. The Vietnamese are completely dehumanized in this picture, and it really made me, an Asian American viewer, uncomfortable.

So, overall, I think that the first half of Full Metal Jacket is very well crafted, but that the second half is uneven, and tonally inconsistent. If you haven’t seen it yet, you probably should, just because it’s an iconic movie. But go in knowing that the second half meanders, and that there are a LOT of racial slurs used throughout.

Sense8 (Season 2, 2017)

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

Will and Riley are on the run. So is Nomi and her girlfriend, Neets. Lito has been publicly outed after confronting a friend’s abusive ex. Kala has gone ahead and married her fiancé, Rajan. Capheus, having done the unthinkable by standing up to a local warlord, is now hailed as a hero. Wolfgang is reunited with his best friend, Felix. And Sun, poor Sun, is still trapped in solitary confinement. But not for long. Because things are moving, and faster than you might think.

Sense8 is a show I really enjoyed when it first came out. I liked the concept of people becoming psychically linked. I liked the international cast and setting. I liked the fact that it touched upon relevant social issues, such as gender, sexuality, and identity. But, as much as I liked it, I was more than willing to admit it had problems. Hokey dialogue, underdeveloped plot threads, illogical character choices; these were just a few of the bigger flaws I noticed. And yet, I still recommended the first season to everyone, and was excited to see what the creators, Lily and Lana Wachowski, would do with the second. Well, season 2 is finally here, and this is what I have to say about it.

A lot of the problems from season 1, such as on-the-nose dialogue and stupid character choices, carry over. So does the show’s reliance on racial and national stereotypes. And yet, the funny thing is, when you’re watching the show, you don’t really care. Seriously. Maybe its because the dialogue is less hokey than before, or because the stereotypes–like the idea of the white savior and Asian martial artist–are actually addressed this time around. But, honestly, I think its because the show has so much heart, and so many great character moments, that you forgive its weaker aspects. There are so many great beats in the first episode alone –like when Sun is reassuring kala that sex is something to enjoy, and not be afraid of, or when Lito’s boyfriend, Hernando, gets outed during a lecture, and handles it with grace and dignity–that I have to recommend you all see it.

To put it bluntly, Sense8, season 2 is silly, but its the best kind of silly. Its fun, its inoffensive, and it leaves you feeling warm inside. You really love these characters, and you love following them on their journey. Does that journey make sense, or follow any kind of narrative logic? No. But who cares. The show is still beautiful, and I still think you should give it a look.

Tag (2015)

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

Mitsuko has a problem. Everywhere she goes, someone, or something, inevitably winds up trying to kill her. First it’s a gust of wind, which slices all her classmates in half. Then it’s one of her teachers, who inexplicably opens fire on her students. And if that’s not bad enough, every time Mitsuko escapes one ordeal, she finds herself transported to a different reality; she starts off as a school girl in class, then changes to a bride on her wedding day, and ends as a runner in a marathon. Things come to a head when Mitsuko realizes that everything, all her existences, are just a video game being played by someone in another dimension, and that, if she wants to save herself and her friends, she’s going to have to do something unthinkable. Will she do it? Well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out.

Tag is a movie I watched purely on a whim. I was browsing through the “Asian Horror” section of Netflix, and since films in that genre tend to be far more creative than your typical American slasher, I thought I’d give it a look. And while the picture certainly is innovative and out there, I was not prepared for the nightmarish insanity that is this movie. Perhaps if I’d been familiar with the writer/director, Sion Sono, before watching this, I’d have been less surprised. As it is, I was left both shaken and perplexed.

Now, in case you’ve never heard of him, Sion Sono is a Japanese director who is, in many respects, the brainy twin of Takashi Miike. Like Miike, Sono churns out tons of films, most of them violent, exploitative B movies. Also like Miike, most of Sono’s work is adapted from books and manga. And, finally, like Miike, Sono has gained a cult following outside Japan, particularly among fans of extreme cinema. But whereas Miike has made films in a variety of genres, including kid’s movies, musicals and period pieces, Sono tends to stay with the sick and bizarre. And unlike Miike, who tries to keep messages and politics out of his work, Sono always has something to say about Japanese society, or the relationship between men and women, in his films. His movies Suicide Club and Noriko’s Dinner Table both act as commentaries on social alienation, the gap between generations, and the influence of the internet. His most famous film, Love Exposure, tackles themes like religion, lust and family. And Strange Circus… No. No, that has no broader political message. It’s just fucked up. The point is, Sono likes to make statements with his films, and Tag is no exception. It has a lot to say about the way men view women, the way men treat women, and the way men portray women in media. And that’s all good. It’s just, well…

The film wants to be feminist. And, in concept, it is. It’s about a woman trapped in a world designed by men, standing up and saying, “fuck you! I’m not going to be your play thing anymore.” That idea is feminist, through and through. It’s just that, in terms of how that concept is executed, its slightly less “girl power,” and slightly more “girls gone wild.” There are several up skirt shots of the main characters’ panties. There are more than a few scenes where we watch her and her friends get undressed for no reason. The film does pass the bechdel test, with the girls talking about subjects other than men, but the subjects they do talk about–pillow fights, ice cream, sex–are so cliched, and so clearly the product of male imagination, that you can’t help but roll your eyes in certain moments. Also, for a movie that professes to empower and support women, it does seem to relish killing them in extremely gruesome, and sexual, ways. There’s one scene where a girl gets butchered by a crocodile, which jumps out of the water and bites through her vagina. And that’s one of the milder deaths. Now, maybe this is all deliberate. Maybe all the sexual violence, fan service cinematography, and stereotypical “girly” dialogue are there to let us know that we’re in a man’s fantasy of what women are like. Maybe. And maybe Sion Sono, no matter how hard he tries, has fucked up fetishes that he can’t help but inject into his films. That might sound harsh, but when you consider how much of his filmography–Strange Circus, Love Exposure, Guilty Of Romance–involves rape, murder, torture and pedophilia, you start to question whether a man like him is capable of feminist thinking. For that reason, I can’t recommend this movie to you all.

Now, on the off chance that you don’t care about sexism, and just want to know if this is an enjoyable, well-made film, I have to say no. The special effects are extremely cheap looking. The acting is over the top. And because the main character keeps switching realities, you never get a true sense for her, or any of her other identities. You’re too busy trying to make sense of watts’ going on. Now, that being said, the film has potential. The concept of a video game character realizing that he or she is stuck in a destructive reality he or she has no control over, and deciding to fight back, is both fascinating and original. The fact that the movie wants to talk about the way men treat and portray women is to be admired. And, as cheap as some of the effects are, the film does, on the whole, look good, with there being some nice cinematography, and cool visual metaphors. Still, I don’t think any of this is enough to warrant a recommendation. If you want to watch the grind house pretend to be the art house, go ahead. Me; I’m not interested.

Ghost In The Shell (2017)

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

In a dystopian, futuristic Tokyo, the line between humanity and technology has blurred. Virtually everyone is “enhanced” in some way, possessing cybernetic limbs, eyes, or, in the case of the film’s protagonist, an entire body. She is the first of her kind; a human consciousness, or “ghost,” inside an entirely robotic body, or “shell.” As such, she is stronger, faster, and more intelligent than regular people, and has absolutely no fear of death or injury, since she can just be rebuilt after being destroyed. This makes her the ideal police officer, and that’s precisely what she is, a member of the elite Crime Fighting Unit, Section 9, which takes down terrorists that threaten this new world. But when several high-ranking scientists of a prominent robotics firm wind up dead, and she and her teammates start investigating, she learns that there is more to her origin, and the man perpetrating these murders, than meets the eye.

Ghost In The Shell is not a movie I was looking forward to seeing. For starters, it’s a cartoon adaptation, and if films like Dragonball Evolution, The Last Airbender, and Speed Racer have taught us anything, its that cartoon adaptations tend to suck. Secondly, the film is directed by Rupert Sanders, the man behind Snow White and the Huntsman, a movie which I, and most other people, really didn’t like. And, finally, its starring Scarlet Johansen, an actress I’ve never been a fan of, and who is White, and yet, somehow, playing a Japanese character named Motoko Kusunagi. None of what I saw left me with much hope. And yet, I still went to go see it, partly because I’m an optimist who likes to believe things can turn out great, and partly because I don’t like to trash movies I’ve not actually seen. If I’m going to talk shit about a film, I’m going to do so based on my own viewing experience, and not what was said online. Well, I’ve seen Ghost In The Shell, and I can safely say, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s worse.

Now, before I launch into my many, many criticisms of this movie, I want to mention some positives, some things it did right. First of all, it’s beautiful to look at. The futuristic landscape, technology and costumes are all superb. There are some very impressive action sequences in this movie, and I have to give praise to the effects team, set designers and stuntmen for making this film as visually appealing as it is. Secondly, the score is appropriately eerie, and otherworldly sounding. It compliments the futuristic setting well, and helps provide certain moments with proper amounts of pathos. And, finally, the core concept of this film–people merging with technology, and questioning what makes them human as a result–is fascinating. So, from an audio, visual and conceptual standpoint, this film is great.

Such a shame, therefore, that the rest of the movie isn’t. Now, if any of you think I’m just harping on this movie because I’m Chinese-American, and they didn’t cast an Asian actress to play the lead role, you’re wrong. I don’t like the fact that they did that, and I’ll address that later on in this review, but, the truth is, most of my issues with the film are structural; acting, dialogue, pacing, etc. I’ll address those first, and then get on my soap box.

So, where to begin? The dialogue in this movie is terrible. There are so many corny, inhuman lines–“your boat, your refugee boat, was sunk by terrorists,” “you are reducing a complex human being to a mere machine,” “I will find him. I will kill him. It is what I was made to do”–that people in my theater were actually laughing. And while you might make the argument that those lines were written to be unnatural sounding, since most characters in this film are cybernetic ally enhanced, most of the film’s cheesy dialogue is given to entirely human characters. So it’s not the people in the film who don’t know how human beings talk. It’s the people who wrote the film. The acting is also extremely bad. Everyone delivers their lines in this stiff, stilted manner that just sounds weird. And, again, before you make the argument that this is a world where people are more machine than human, it’s worth noting that most of the actors–Pilou Asbeck, Juliette Binoche, Chin Han–speak English as a second language. There were several points in the film where they said awkward sounding sentences, and I could just tell that it was them struggling with the dialogue. The pacing is also all over the place. It goes from very fast, to very slow, and never manages to make the transition between the two seem natural. People in my theater were yawning, checking their phones, and even leaving after the forty minute mark, precisely because of how boring the movie got. That’s not good. All films, regardless of whatever political or artistic agenda might have spawned them, are meant to be entertaining. If a movie can’t get you invested, it’s not worth seeing. So, already, you should have a laundry list of reasons why not to see this movie. It’s boring, poorly acted, and the dialogue is atrocious. And that’s not even getting into the controversy surrounding this film.

In case you haven’t heard, a lot of people, myself included, were upset when they learned that a beloved Japanese anime, set in the Far East, with Asian characters, and distinctly Asian themes, was getting the Hollywood whitewash treatment. It all started when a photograph of Scarlet Johansen, her hair straightened, dyed black, and with CGI effects on her eyes to make her look more Asian, was posted on the internet. A lot of people got angry, and demanded that the filmmakers change their leading lady. But, rather than admit that they’d made a mistake, the director, the actors, and many angry trolls on the internet pushed back. They said we were overreacting. They said we were thin-skinned cry babies. They said that it wasn’t whitewashing, because the character is a robot, and robot’s don’t have racial identities. They said that it was necessary, because you can’t possibly make a big budget Hollywood movie without a White star headlining it. They said that it was totally fine for them to do it, because Japanese people, like the director of the original film, Mamoru Oshii, weren’t offended by Scarlet Johansen’s casting. And so on. And so on.

First of all, yes it is whitewashing. A Japanese character, with a Japanese name, whose entire storyline takes place in a futuristic Tokyo, is being played by a white woman. That’s the textbook definition of whitewashing; when a white person plays a character who isn’t white. Her being a robot doesn’t change that fact. Think of it this way; Superman is an alien. But if you were to ask anyone who looked at him what his race was, they’d say “white.” Because that’s what he is; a white alien. Same with Motoko Kusunagi. She’s a Japanese robot. Second of all, the notion that you can only make big budget blockbusters with white stars just isn’t true. Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes–they’ve all headlined major action and sci-fi franchises, and none of them are white. Thirdly, just because someone doesn’t find something offensive doesn’t mean it’s not bad. Many women, like Kellyanne Conway and Scottie Nell Hughes, weren’t offended by Donald Trump’s “pussy grabbing” comment. That doesn’t not make it vulgar and horrifying. And regarding the Japanese not being offended, it’s important to remember that Japan is an extremely homogenous nation. 98.5% of the population are the same race. Losing roles to White actors isn’t something Japanese actors need to worry about, because there are no White actors in the Japanese film industry. In America, however, where this film was made, and where its being marketed, that is a very real thing. Very, very few roles in American movies are written for Asian actors, and, very often, leading Asian characters will end up being played by White people. Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Linda Hunt in The Year Of Living Dangerously, Jim Sturgess in 21, Emma Stone in Aloha–the list goes on.

And yet, the truth is, you don’t need any of the facts I just listed to prove why the casting of Scarlet Johansen is wrong. The movie does that for you. See, for the first half of the film, she believes that her name is Mira Killian, and that she came to Japan as a refugee. But then, halfway through, she learns that none of that backstory was true. She wasn’t a refugee. She was born in Japan. Her name wasn’t Mira Killian. It was Motoko Kusunagi. And she wasn’t White. She was Asian, and then got turned White when they made her a robot. The filmmakers literally turned the whitewashing of Motoko’s character into a major plot point. That has got to be one of the dumbest, most insulting decisions they could possibly have made. Why, filmmakers who are taking heat for not casting an Asian woman, would you make it so that the character was Asian, but then got turned White? You’re literally proving all your critics right by doing so.

Guys, don’t watch Ghost In The Shell. I’m ashamed of myself for having given money to this thing. Don’t waste your time, or your dollars, on this insulting pile of garbage. Hopefully, if this film bombs hard enough, Hollywood will think twice about casting White people in major, POC roles.

American Crime: Season 1

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

And boy do I love being wrong! What? That doesn’t make sense? well, allow me to explain. I just finished watching the first season of American Crime, yet another anthology series looking to “examine race in our modern society.” And yet, despite its well-worn premise, and lackluster title, I ended up loving the show. It’s truly a fantastic piece of art. I highly recommend it to you all.

The story of a murder in Modesto, California, American Crime stars an ensemble cast, and examines how each of the people connected to the crime react to it. First, there are the people who were directly involved. There’s Antonio “Tony” Gutierez, a teenage boy who works at his father’s auto repair shop. There’s Hector Tontz, a drug dealer and illegal immigrant who rents cars from Tony. There’s Carter Nix, a meth head whom Hector drives around sometimes. And, finally, there’s Aubrey Taylor, Carter’s girlfriend, and accomplice. One night, something goes wrong, and a guy named Matt Skokie winds up dead, and his wife, Gwen, gets put in the hospital. By the end of the show, we’re not entirely sure what happened, or who’s really to blame, but, one thing we do know is that, somehow, Tony, Hector, Carter and Aubrey were involved, and they each get arrested as a result. Their family members then get called in, including Tony’s father, Alonzo, a strict disciplinarian who wants to keep his son on the straight and narrow, Carter’s sister, Aliya, a convert to Islam determined to get her brother off free, Matt Skokie’s divorced parents, Barb and Russ, and Gwen’s parents, Tom and Eve. Each of these people has serious issues, and they only get more messed up as the sordid details of the case come to light. Barb, a delusional racist, doesn’t want to accept that her son was selling drugs. Tom, an old-fashioned Christian, can’t stand the idea that Gwen, his little girl, was sleeping around. And Eve, well, she’s just trying to keep her sanity in check as everything crumbles around her. Needless to say, a great deal of drama unfolds over the course of this 11 episode series, and, if you want to find out what happens, you should give it a look.

As I stated earlier, I really enjoyed this show. As far as writing and acting are concerned, I have no complaints. Every character has depth and backstory. Every character changes over the course of the series. Seriously. I started off the show hating Barb and hector, and, by the end, they’d grown and changed so much that I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for them. And the casting could not have been better. See, very often when you watch a movie or a show, there’ll be that one person who, even if they were fine, just wasn’t up to the same level as the rest of the cast. Those of you who’ve read my review for Suicide Squad (HELL YEAH!) might remember that I praised all the actors, except Jared Leto, whom I believed was really hamming it up. I don’t have that problem here. There’s no single actor in this series who stands out as “bad,” or “just okay.” Everyone is great, and I appreciate that. And, for a show dealing with race and racism, the series does largely manage to avoid racist stereotypes. What I mean by that is, very often, movies that try to comment on racism will make their characters extremely stereotypical so as to make a point. Films like Do The Right Thing, Falling Down, and Crash are populated by individuals that feel more like cartoons than real people. These movies are especially bad when it comes to representing Asians and Asian Americans. See, race movies mostly tend to focus on the relationships between Black people, White people, and Latin people. If Asian people are brought up at all, they’re either a background element, or someone that the other characters can mock. Most of the time, they’re shown as being incompetent , rude, and, no matter what, incapable of speaking the most basic English. That’s not the case with American Crime. Yes, none of the main cast is Asian, but, Barb and Russ’s living son, Mark, is getting married to a woman named Richelle, who is Asian American, and is actually fairly non stereotypical. She speaks perfect English, is from Oklahoma, and is in the Army. It’s rare to see a character like her get written, especially in a show that’s directly addressing racism, and I was very impressed. Wish more writers would create characters like her. So, yeah, good writing, good acting, and good representation. Well done, American Crime.
With regards to filmmaking, though, I do have some comments. They’re not necessarily complaints, just observations. One is the fact that, this show is shot in a very odd way. What I mean by that is, most of the time, directors will shoot a conversation between characters as a series of close ups on the various speakers faces, or with a wide shot, where you can see both actors at the same time. American Crime doesn’t do that. Very often, whenever a conversation is being had, the camera will only focus on one person’s face, and either the other speaker will be off screen, or will be blurred out so that you can’t see them. What this does is make the conversations feel less like conversations, and more like long showcases of how particular characters are feeling. Which is fine, and maybe was the filmmaker’s intent, but, still, it’s hard to look at one person’s face, non-stop, for an entire seven minute conversation. The other comment I have with regards to filmmaking is that, while the musical score does its job just fine, accenting particular moments with proper amounts of pathos, it’s not particularly memorable. I honestly couldn’t hum it back to you if you asked me. And that’s fine, not every score needs to be as catchy as John William’s Superman theme, but, still. It’s better if your musical score can stand out.

All in all, though, I think American Crime is a very well done series, with strong writing, and strong performances. I highly recommend it, and have decided to give it a 9 out of 10. Give it a look.

To The Nostalgia Critic, Regarding Your Video On White-Washing

While you do make some valid points about audiences being complacent with height washing (casting non Little People To Play Little People), and various other forms of impersonation, the crux of your video is both flawed and troubling, and I don’t believe that you are aware of this.

First of all, the title, “Is White-Washing Really Still A Thing?” Yes. It is still very much a thing. That’s why Gerard Butler got cast in Gods Of Egypt, Christian Bale got cast in Exodus: Gods And Kings, Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone got cast in The Last Airbender, and why Emma Stone got cast in Aloha. Hollywood, like you said, is a business looking to make money. And in their eyes, White actors, even character actors with no charisma, are more likely to bring in audiences than actors of color. White-washing is still very much a practice, done out of fear and unwillingness to try anything new, and when you frame the issue as a question, you make it sound like it isn’t a problem. You make it seem as though this is a topic for debate, which it is not. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. This kind of framing the issue as a question is what allowed people, for years, to say that “climate change isn’t real,” or that, “smoking is no more unhealthy than eating twinkies.” So, yes, White-Washing is real, and a problem, whether you want to believe that or not, and when you frame it as a question, you diminish its significance, and the opinions of those arguing against it.

Second, your claim that no one gets upset when White characters are played by actors of color just isn’t true. I don’t know where you were when Michael B Jordan was cast as the Human Torch, or when Quevenzhane Wallis was cast as Annie, but there was a lot of angry White backlash. People threatened to boycott the movies. They sent the actors and directors death threats. People went nuts. So, already, one of your major arguments, that people who hate White-Washing are somehow hypocritical because there’s no backlash when actors of color get White roles, has no substance to it.

Third, you say that people shouldn’t get upset over the White-Washing in Ghost In The Shell, because there have been numerous instances, as with Seven Samurai, Infernal Affairs, and OldBoy, where Asian films were remade with White actors, and no one got angry. What you fail to realize is that, in each of those cases, the stories were not quintessentially Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean. They were universal stories that could be told anywhere. OldBoy was actually an adaptation of a Japanese manga series, which, in turn, was a re-telling of the myth of Oedipus. Infernal Affairs was just a cop movie about two moles chasing each other. And Seven Samurai was a simple tale about a group of mercenaries being hired to protect a small town. None of those films requires a distinctly Asian backdrop or cast to be told.  Ghost In The Shell is different. It, along with Akira, was one of the first anime films to bridge the cultural gap between America and Japan. It contained many stylistic, thematic, and social elements that were new and unheard of in the States. There’s a reason why so many filmmakers–James Cameron in Avatar, The Wachowskis in The Matrix, Jonathan Mostow in Surrogates–were inspired by it, and sought to emulate its style and ideas; that style, those ideas, aren’t universal. Americans simply wouldn’t dream up stuff like that on their own. What made Ghost In The Shell unique was its distinctly Japanese look and feel. The futuristic Tokyo landscape, the themes of identity and technology going too far, and the rather bleak tone, all are byproducts of Japan’s post-war psychology. Of course Japanese people would write stories in which technology was frightening, they’d seen the horrors of modern technology first-hand in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of course Japanese people would make movies dealing with a search for identity, they’d had their old way of life destroyed and reshaped by a foreign power (seriously, Douglas MacArthur wrote the new Japanese constitution ). Everything about Ghost In The Shell is Japanese. A live-action adaptation therefore requires a Japanese cast and crew.

Fourth, you employ the “slippery slope” argument for why people shouldn’t get upset over White Washing. If we actually give leading Asian roles to Asian actors, then, my god, we’ll have to give leading Gay and Disabled roles to Gay and Disabled actors too! What’s wrong with that? As both a Chinese-American, and a person who is physically disabled, I want my story to be told by people who have had the same, or at least similar, experiences to me. And, the truth is, there are so few roles written for Asian, Disabled, Transgender or any non-White, non-male actors, that your irrational fear that, somehow, we’ll have to come up with a person who’s had a sex change and become a lesbian is patently ridiculous. The “slippery slope” argument is always a bad one to use. It’s the same argument that was used to fight ratification of the 13th Amendment, “if we free the slaves, we’ll have to give women the vote,” and to fight desegregation in Brown V Board Of Education, “If we let Black students into our schools, then we’ll have to let disabled students in as well.” Do you really want to be remembered like those people, idiots who fought against progress and the inevitable?

Finally, you spend most of your video criticizing people who want more diversity in their entertainment for not taking a stand against height washing or other forms of impersonation. Yes, height washing, refusing to cast actually disabled actors, and various other practices are awful, and need to be addressed. But the assertion that we shouldn’t get angry over White-Washing, unless we get angry over everything, is beyond ridiculous. You sound like an NRA member saying, “Well, unless it can get rid of all murders and violent crimes, gun control shouldn’t be implemented,” or an idiot writing off the Black Lives matter movement with the statement that “all lives matter.” Yes, all lives matter. Yes, all groups deserve to be represented respectfully and accurately. But some groups have a greater need for representation, or for protection. Asians are virtually invisible in Hollywood, with less than 5% of leading roles going to them. Police brutality is disproportionally aimed at Blacks and Latinos. Saying that people shouldn’t get angry over something because there are other things to get angry over doesn’t achieve anything. We need to focus on each issue individually, work to change it as best we can, and then, when we’ve made progress, move on to the next issue.

I understand that you probably aren’t trying to sound racist, or dismissive, or any of the other things that you came off as in your video, but I felt it was necessary to point out the troubling nature of your arguments. As the type of person not being represented in the media, both racially and ability-wise, I don’t want the discussion surrounding me, or people like me, to be dictated by a guy who has no idea what he’s talking about. Because, this election year, especially, that’s happening a lot.

List Of Awesome Asian-American Films

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

If you follow my blog, then you know that the inclusion and representation of Asians in mainstream media is something that’s very important to me. I’ve written at great length here about the limited roles that are available for Asian actors, and discussed the stereotypes that exist, and are still spread about us, in the West. But what I might not have mentioned is that, for all the bad that’s out there with regards to representation, there is also some good. There are films out there, made by Asians and non-Asian alike, that show us as nuanced, well-rounded individuals, and that tell our stories with respect and care. A few of them have even become critically and financially successful, and today, I’d like to share them with you all. Now, keep in mind, this list is entirely opinion based, and the films I discuss here are not being ordered from best to worst, or vice versa. Some are comedies. Some are dramas. Some are new. Some are old. Whatever their genre or time period, what’s consistent about each of them is that they tell the Asian American story with the level of respect and complexity that it deserves, and I truly believe that you all would enjoy yourselves if you gave them a look. With that said, let’s dive right in to my top 10 list of Awesome Asian-American films!

1. Advantageous, by Jennifer Phang:

A story of sacrifice, love, and the bond between mothers and daughters, this 2014 sci-fi drama is set in the near future, where human beings have developed the technology to implant their consciences into new bodies. The protagonist, Gwen Ko, is the chief spokesperson for a cosmetics company. Due to the fact that she’s now in her 40s, the company decides that she’s too old to be their face, even though she’s better at the job than any other candidate. Gwen tries to find work elsewhere, but quickly discovers that this is a future where women are expected to stay in the house. So, to maintain her affluent lifestyle, and pay for her daughter’s expensive private school, Gwen decides to undergo a procedure in which her conscience will be transferred into a younger body. In this way, she’ll be able to keep acting as the chief spokesperson for the company, and her daughter will be able to get a good education, and thus be able to avoid being abused by men. But not all is what it seems to be, as Gwen quickly discovers that she risks losing a whole lot more than her face by undergoing this procedure. Advantageous is smart, touching, and highly relevant in this day and age, where so much emphasis is placed on youth and beauty. It’s also a unique film to watch, because it’s one of the few sci-fi pictures directed by an Asian person. (Nearly all the movies made about, or by, Asian people, are dramas set in the real world, so a genre piece of this nature is highly unusual). The bottom line is, Advantageous is a great, thought-provoking piece, and you all shouldn’t hesitate to give it a look.

2. White Frog, by Quentin Lee:

Nick Young is a 15-year-old Chinese-American boy with Aspergers who’s spent his whole life living in his older brother, Chaz’s, shadow. When Chaz is tragically killed by a reckless driver, however, Nick ends up discovering a number of shocking things about him, not least of which was the fact that he was secretly gay. As the story progresses, and Nick, his parents, and Chaz’s friends and lovers go through their various stages of grief, they find themselves growing closer, and learning the true meanings of love, family, and acceptance, emerging stronger and happier at the end than they were before. On the one hand, this film could easily be written off as sentimental, politically-correct propaganda. The fact that the film is not only focusing on a Chinese-American family–something you rarely see in mainstream movies–but on disability and homosexuality as well, might make it sound like the filmmakers are simply trying to not offend anybody by including as many minorities as possible. But when you actually sit down and watch the picture, see the heart and care that Quentin Lee is putting into every frame, it becomes hard not to enjoy it. None of the characters seem like tokens or cut outs. They feel like people. And with veteran actors like Law & Order SVU‘s BD Wong and The Last Emperor‘s Joan Chen lending credibility to the picture, you know it can’t all be bad.

3. Man From Reno, by Dave Boyle:

The film begins on a cold, fog-shrouded night in a town just south of San Francisco. Sheriff Paul Del Moral is making his usual rounds when, out of nowhere, an unknown man smashes into his windshield. Startled, the Sheriff brings the stranger, an unidentified Japanese man in his 20s, to the hospital, and tries to find out who he is and where he came from. We then cut to Tokyo, where successful crime-writer Aki Akahori is on tour to promote her new, and final, book. Dissatisfied with the whole affair, and suffering from depression after the death of her lover Kenji, Aki decides to run off to San Francisco to visit some friends. While there, she encounters a debonair stranger named Akira, who claims to be from Reno. The two talk, and seem to be forming a connection, when, out of nowhere, Akira vanishes. And as if this weren’t confusing enough, Sheriff DelMoral’s mystery man in the hospital disappears as well. Confused, and eager to understand just what the hell happened, the two parties begin investigating the matters, eventually crossing paths and joining forces. With its slow pacing, rich atmosphere, and ambient soundtrack, Man From Reno is a modern masterpiece of noir. But beyond its style and enthralling mystery, the film also possesses a surprising amount of dramatic heft. Ayako Fujitani, whom plays Aki, manages to bring a great deal of depth and range to the character–going from tough and cynical, to depressed and lonely, to witty and cheerful, and all while remaining very subtle with her expressions and inflections. One of the most powerful scenes in the entire movie is one that doesn’t have any dialogue at all. It takes place shortly after she arrives in San Francisco, and involves her lying in the bathtub, staring at a razor blade. She doesn’t look overly sad or angry in it–just curious. Like “What would it feel like if I slit my wrists with this blade?” The fact that she doesn’t mug, that she doesn’t try to really over sell the fact that her character is depressed and considering suicide, and plays it more like she’s become so numb that nothing really bothers her, is both terrifying and brilliant. We don’t know what she’s thinking in that scene, and that makes it all the more tension filled. But with regards to representation, the film is also great. All the Asian characters feel fleshed out and well-rounded, and this is especially satisfying to watch when you consider the fact that the film’s director/screenwriter is White. Then again, the director/writer in question, Dave Boyle, tends to make films with largely Asian casts, so I guess it’s not too surprising. But, back to my original point; Man From Reno is a stylish, well-acted, well-shot mystery with great characters, and I know that you all would enjoy it if you gave it a look.

4. The Motel, directed by Michael Kang:

Thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin’s life is devoted to working at his family’s hourly-rate motel, where a steady stream of prostitutes, johns, and various other shady characters come and go. Abandoned by his father, he lives with his mother, grandfather, and younger sister Katie. The film is a loosely assembled series of vignettes examining the difficulty of adolescence. Recurring themes include painful encounters with a bully named Roy and Ernest’s persistent feelings of being misunderstood by his family. Ernest also blindly explores his incipient sexuality, which includes nursing a crush on Christine, an older girl who works at a Chinese restaurant nearby. Ernest’s life changes after he meets the newest guest at the motel: a self-destructive yet charming KoreanAmerican man named Sam Kim, who is caught in a downward spiral after estrangement from his wife. This film is quirky, memorable, and deeply heartfelt. It’s one of the best character studies I’ve ever seen. And unlike some other indie films–cough, cough, Juno, cough, cough–which try to set themselves apart from mainstream movies by being overly ironic and hip, this film stays highly grounded. All I can say is that if you want to laugh, cry, and watch some really good acting, give this movie a look.

5. Better Luck Tomorrow, directed by Justin Lin:

Loosely inspired by the real-life murder of Oakland County teen Stuart Tay, this sleek, high intensity crime drama tells the story of four over-achieving Asian-American High School students, who turn to a life of petty crime and drug use just to feel alive again. This film is awesome, and for many different reasons. Firstly, it’s well-acted, and well-shot. Secondly, it boasts an all-star cast–including Sung Kang from the Fast & Furious franchise, and John Cho from the Star Trek and Harold & Kumar movies. Thirdly, it is helmed by Justin Lin, whom directed four of the seven Fast & Furious movies. And finally, and this is what’s most important to me, it doesn’t emasculate its male, Asian characters. So often when you watch movies or TV shows these days, Asian men are portrayed as wimpy, nerdy side-kicks. Raj in The Big Bang Theory, Hiro in Heroes–the list goes on. Asian men are never shown as strong, confident, or sexually appealing. I cannot think of a single, successful, mainstream movie or TV series in which an Asian man was the romantic lead. This film goes the exact opposite route. The guys in this film are, well, guys. They drink, swear, talk about girls, do drugs, and so on. They’re shown as regular people, and that, just by itself, is extraordinary. Why don’t we have more movies like this? It’s not like it bombed at the box office, or was panned by critics. Quite the opposite, actually. It made more than 12 times its $250,000 budget in ticket sales, and most critics, like Roger Ebert, loved it. All I can say is that if you want to watch an exciting, well-acted, well-shot movie that dares to show Asian men as men, don’t hesitate to give this movie a look.

6. Saving Face, directed by Alice Wu:

It’s a sad fact, but homosexuality is something that is often not discussed, or embraced, in the Chinese-American community. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule–when my Aunt came out to my Grandfather, he welcomed her with open arms–but, for the most part, gay and lesbian relationships are not explored in Asian-American cinema or literature. Saving Face, a 2004 romantic comedy about a young Chinese-American surgeon struggling to balance the needs of her pregnant, unwed mother, and her dancer girlfriend, is one of the few Asian films to do so. And my god is it glorious! The humor is great, the acting is superb, and the directing is astounding, especially when you consider that this film was helmed by a first-time director. Each scene is shot and choreographed with the utmost thought and care. Every single frame drips with raw, pure emotion. And lest you think I exaggerate, the stars of this film–Michelle Krusiec, Lynn Chen, and Joan Chen–have all publicly stated that they found the process of making this movie to be one of the most enjoyable and intimate experiences of their professional careers. And, well, you can’t argue with that, now can you? The bottom line is, Saving Face is definitely worth watching. Do so!

7. Chan Is Missing, directed by Wayne Wang:

This is the original Asian-American film. What I mean by that is, it is the first picture portraying us as complex, multi-faceted individuals to gain critical and commercial success outside the community, and to generate a demand for more works from Asian-American artists. And lest you think I exaggerate with that statement, in 1995, Chan is Missing was inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It tells the story of two San Francisco Chinatown taxi drivers, Jo and Steve, trying to find a man named Chan who owes them some money. As they interview various locals about the missing man, they get a fractured, even contradictory portrait of him, mirroring the complexities of the polyglot Chinese-American community he allegorizes. Shot in black and white, and containing elements of the film noir genre, the movie manages to combine a surprising amount of heart with humor. And what makes it even better is that, while it does seek to educate its non-Asian viewers about the real lives of Chinese-Americans, it doesn’t try to tell them that we’re all alike, even in goodness. A great deal of the film contains imagery of faces being blotted, or washed out, so that you can’t actually see them, letting us know that it’s never all right to generalize, even if it is in a positive manner. All of us are individuals, and all of us should be regarded as such. Just because we have the same skin color, or ethnic background, doesn’t mean we like the same things, think the same way, or behave in the same manner. We don’t even necessarily want to be treated the same way, and the film touches upon that as well. The final shot is of a photograph of the missing Chan, with Jo’s voice-over stating, “Here’s a picture of Chan Hung, and I still can’t see him,” implying that our community is ever growing, changing and evolving, and that we don’t even know who we are or who we’re becoming some times. So, if you want to see a culturally, historically, and aesthetically unique work that is both humorous and heartfelt, put this film at the top of your Netflix queue.

8. Mississippi Masala, directed by Mira Nair:

The story of one family’s quest to find a place where they belong, Mississippi Masala begins with Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelling all Asians from his country. One of the newly stateless thousands is a man named Jay, who decides to start a new life in America. He moves his family to rural Mississippi, and there, his wife opens a liquor store, he aimlessly sues the Ugandan government for his property, and his daughter begins an illicit romance with a local man (Denzel Washington). Needless to say, a great deal of hijinks ensue in this smart, sexy, and highly touching comedy-drama. Though its marketed as a love story, at its heart, Mississippi Masala is an exploration of identity and societal alienation. All this can be found in the character of Jay. Jay was born in Uganda, and therefore identifies first and foremost as an African. The Ugandan government, however, tells him that, being ethnically Indian, he can never truly be an African. Then, when he and his family moved to America, he tries to become American. But, once again, society tells him that, because he has the wrong skin color, he can never truly be a member of it. There’s something deeply tragic, and deeply relatable, about his plight. It’s one that many, if not all immigrants, face–not knowing where you belong. My grandfather, for instance, came to America from China in 1949, and faced a great deal of discrimination. People wouldn’t hire him. They wouldn’t serve him. They constantly reminded him that, because he wasn’t White and because he spoke with an accent, he would never truly be an American. And then, when he went back to China to visit after 20 years, people treated him like an outsider, mocking his odd American customs, and his old-fashioned manner of speaking. As I watched Jay go through all this in the film, I couldn’t help but tear up a bit, because I saw so much of my grandfather in him. That’s how you know that this is a great movie, the fact that it can effect its audience members on such a personal level. So, to sum it all up, Mississippi Masala is funny, touching, daring, and deeply relatable. And who wouldn’t want a movie to be all those things?

9. The Joy Luck Club, directed by Wayne Wang:

If Chan Is Missing was the first Asian-American film, The Joy Luck Club was the first Asian-American film to become a huge hit. Seriously. This movie, and the novel that it was based off of, made tons of money, and more or less created the standard for what other Asian-American works of art should be like. And while I don’t think either the book or the film is a perfect representation of our community, I have to admire them for what they are, a movie and a novel made by, and about, Asian people that non-Asian audiences flocked to see. That’s pretty rare, even nowadays. But, concerning plot, Four older women, all Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco, meet regularly to play mahjong, eat, and tell stories. Each of these women has an adult Chinese-American daughter. The film reveals the hidden pasts of the older women and their daughters and how their lives are shaped by the clash of Chinese and American cultures as they strive to understand their family bonds and one another. The film is well-acted, the stories are heart-wrenching, and it’s kind of cool to see a movie with an all-star Asian-American cast. Seriously! Almost everyone in this film has gone on to do other stuff. There’s Ming Na Wen, who went on to star in Mulan, ER, and Agents Of Shield. There’s Lauren Tom, who became known for voice acting in Futurama, King Of The Hill, and Codename: Kids Next Door. There’s Tamilyn Tomida, whom you all might recognize from The Karate Kid: Part 2, and The Day After Tomorrow. Even the women playing the mothers have had successful careers. Tsai Chin, for instance, whom portrays Tamilyn Tomida’s mother, has been in two Bond films, 1967’s You Only Live Twice, where she was the Bond girl, and 2006’s Casino Royale, where she had a minor role as a poker player. The bottom line is, The Joy Luck Club is a well-acted, well-written work with great actors that is guaranteed to leave you in tears, and in the best possible way.

10. The Wedding Banquet, directed by Ang Lee:

Though he’d earned critical praise with his debut feature, Pushing Hands, legendary director Ang Lee first won over the audiences of America with this hilarious and heartfelt romantic comedy. The story of a gay Taiwanese-American man who marries a mainland Chinese woman to placate his parents and get her a green card, the film mixes a surprising amount of drama with screwball comedy. As with The Joy Luck Club, The Wedding Banquet was one of the first films made by, and about, Asian people that Americans flocked to see. And while it does seem a little bit dated now, it is still a well-crafted, highly-enjoyable film to watch. There are glimpses in it of the greatness that would appear later on in Lee’s career, and as with Saving Face, it is nice to see a film that deals with homosexuality within the Asian-American community. All I can say is that if you want to watch a movie and feel good, give this film a look. It will definitely make you smile.