GLOW (Season 1, 2017)

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

It’s 1985, and Ruth Wilder is a struggling actress in Los Angeles. Desperate for money, she answers an ad for “unconventional women,” and finds herself at a gym with several other, equally-confused ladies. Two guys, B-movie director Sam Sylvia and pampered rich boy Sebastian Howard, then come out, and explain that they are looking to put together an all-female wrestling show, GLOW, or the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. Ruth, like everyone else, is shocked to hear this, but decides she’s willing to give it a try. Unfortunately, Sam doesn’t “like your ass. Or your face, and dismisses her straight off the bat. Ruth, however, isn’t taking no for an answer, and after putting on an elaborate show, including an unscripted fight with a friend who’s husband she’s been sleeping with, lands the job. And, from that point on, the story just gets bigger and more ridiculous.

GLOW has a lot of things going for it. It’s got good acting, a premise with a lot of comedic potential, and some nice period decor. I also really like the fact that it features an almost entirely female cast, and that it passes the Bechdel Test. And yet, despite all this, I can’t really say if I like GLOW or not.

A lot of it comes down to personal taste. First off, I’m not a big fan of the 80s. The poofy hair styles, the huge shoulder pads, the annoying synthesizer music; it all gets on my nerves. I also don’t like how casually racist and homophobic movies and TV shows from that era are, and how, nowadays, when we fetishize the Reagan years, we neglect to mention the negative aspects of the time. If you read my review of Stranger Things, a show that I really loved, you saw that I didn’t like how it failed to touch on the darker facets of 80s culture. This show does a slightly better job at highlighting the racism and sexism of the time, but, still. The period in which this show is set kind of annoys me, so maybe I went in somewhat biased. On top of this, I didn’t grow up with wrestling, so the series doesn’t hold any nostalgic charm. Literally the only two things I know about professional wrestling are the scene from the original Spider-Man film, where Toby Maguire has to fight Macho Man Randy Savage,  and the VH1 reality show, Hogan Knows Best, which was on when I was a kid. So, yeah.

But by far the biggest thing I had a problem with was the writing; specifically, the humor. It’s very, very dark. If you are easily offended, then don’t watch this show. Because they go places I wasn’t expecting them to. Every taboo topic you can think of–racism, incest,dead babies–gets touched upon. There’s a whole episode devoted to making miscarriages funny, and the season finale includes a substantial father-daughter incest subplot. It’s really kind of creepy. Now, look, I don’t want to sound like I think gallows humor can never work. I think In Bruges is one of the most underrated films of all time, and it features tons of offensive jokes. But there, the tone was a whole lot darker. Here, the show is pretty light-hearted and upbeat. But then, out of nowhere, it’ll throw in these very macabre bits of humor that, one, aren’t funny, and, two, don’t feel as earned. Another aspect of the writing I didn’t think worked were the characters. Oh sure, the four main people–Ruth, her friend, the director, the trainer–are all pretty fleshed out and interesting. But everyone else kind of just fades into the background. Yes, that’s to be expected in an ensemble piece, but here, it’s very noticeable. Two characters in particular, an Indian-American wrestler played by Sunita Mani, and a Cambodian-American wrestler played by Scott Pilgrim vs The World‘s own Ellen Wong, get the shaft when it comes to background and personality. We know next to nothing about them–Sunita’s grandma likes wrestling, Ellen likes birthday parties–and they are treated the worst when it comes to stereotypes. The wrestling personas they are given are, and I swear I’m not making this up, Beirut the MadBomber, and Fortune Cookie. Yes, Fortune Cookie. And the racist jokes don’t stop there. At every single opportunity, the writers throw in a “Asians can’t speak English” jab, or an “Asians know Kung Fu” barb. And, yes, they have characters comment on how offensive these  stereotypes are, but most of the time, someone else in the scene will say “shut up” or “get over it.” This is actually a very old writing technique, referred to as “ironic lamp shading,” where a character in a work of fiction will point out how stupid, illogical, or offensive something is, but then go right ahead and do it anyway. It’s meant to keep us, the audience, from questioning the tropes we’re seeing, but I’m not taking the bait here. Just because you know something is offensive doesn’t excuse you from doing it. If anything, that makes it worse. It shows us that you lack moral fiber, since you know something is wrong, but chose to go ahead and do it anyway. If you want to comment on racism or sexism, have there be negative repercussions for all the bigotry. Or, and here’s a novel idea, don’t write racist jokes, or characters who are racial cliches. Just a thought.

Guys, I really don’t know what to say. There’s enough good in GLOW to keep you invested, I finished all 10 episodes, but the dark humor, offensive characterization, and inconsistent tone are also quite off-putting. I don’t know if I can recommend this to you all. But if anything in the review spoke to you, maybe go and give it a look. You might find something in it that I didn’t.

Advertisements

Atypical (Season 1, 2017)

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

Sam is 18, and he’s never had a girlfriend. This is due, in part, to the fact that he’s on the Autism spectrum, and has trouble reading social cues. Now, though, with only one year of High School left, and a newfound attraction to his therapist, Julia, he’s determined to get a “practice girlfriend,” so he can learn how to please a woman. This quest brings him into conflict with his mother, Elsa, whose whole life has been consumed by taking care of him, and whose confusion over not being able to micromanage his existence leads her to make some bold new choices of her own.

Atypical is funny, well-acted, and very well-written. Seriously. The dialogue alone should be enough to get you to watch this series. It’s sharp, witty, believable and specific to each individual character. And the characters themselves feel like real people. They have quirks, interests, show a wide range of emotions, and at times are lovable, and at other times, loathsome. From a pure story and dialogue perspective, I have no complaints about Atypical. It’s a well-written, well-acted sitcom, with only eight, half-hour episodes, so there’s no need to worry about it dragging. And if you’re like me, and want to see greater representation of Asian people in media, you’ll be happy to learn that several key supporting characters, such as Sam’s therapist, and unrequited love interest, Julia, and his best friend, Zahid, are Asian, and not at all stereotypical. They’re well-rounded, have personalities, arcs, and even some flaws. They’re some of the best aspects of the show, and its’ refreshing to see Asian characters like this in a mainstream series.

All that said, I do have some thoughts on Atypical. They’re not complaints, per se, just thoughts. First of all, I’m not sure how accurate the series is in it’s representation of Autism. As I’ve mentioned before, many films and TV shows exaggerate certain disabilities so as to make disabled characters more pitiful or sympathetic. As such, I’m always somewhat wary whenever a film or TV series comes out where the whole concept is that a character is mentally or physically challenged. And I’m sure that, to some people, Sam will come off as a stereotypical representation of Autism. Yes, he’s a likable, compelling character. And when you watch the show, you can tell that the writers did do research on the symptoms of Autism. But his condition is still somewhat exaggerated, and should not be seen as a be-all-end-all portrayal of the spectrum. In the show, Sam is extremely sensitive to bright light, and loud noises, and is virtually incapable of speaking about any topic other than Antarctica; his obsession. I’ll tell you right now, not all Autistic people are like that. My best friend has Aspergers, a high-functioning form of Autism, and he isn’t sensitive to light, or loud noises,  and he can talk for hours about virtually everything. Autism, as I’ve mentioned before, is a spectrum, with varying degrees of severity specific to each individual person. There probably are people like Sam out there. And they might be very happy to see themselves represented on the small screen. But for people who don’t have as severe a condition as he does, or who want to know what Autism is really like, this might not be the perfect portrayal to watch.

The second thought I have on Atypical is really more of a nitpick, but one that I think is worth bringing up. And that is the character of Paige. She joins the show about two episodes in, and ends up becoming Sam’s “practice girlfriend.” She’s sweet, understanding, sympathetic, and I don’t buy her character for a second. I don’t buy that, A, she would ever be attracted to Sam, and, B, that she would be able to put up with him when they start going out. For starters, she’s way too attractive. She’s the classic Hollywood beauty; tall, blonde, and thin. She legitimately looks like a model, and yet she’s chasing after a guy who looks like the love child of Michael Cera and Dobby the House Elf. And if that’s not ridiculous enough, her character is supposedly the smartest girl in school. Between her brains and her looks, she could have literally anyone she wanted. So why is she so determine to get with this kid who, initially, doesn’t even recognize that she likes him, and then, later on, acts like a total dick to her? And not in a “he doesn’t know any better” way, but in a legitimately mean-spirited, jerky kind of way. I would have believed her character more if she were also disabled, less attractive, or just less perfect in general. As it stands, though, she’s too nice and too pretty, and she just doesn’t feel like a real person. Maybe I’m being unfair here, and I do want to mention that the actress playing Paige does a great job, but I would like it if, for once, Hollywood cast, and forgive the pun here, atypical leading ladies. Older Women. Large Women. Disabled Women. Women Of Color. They’re all just as interesting, and capable of love, as blonde super models, and they exist in higher numbers than the latter group. I would like it if, in the future, female characters would be allowed to exist in all the shapes, sizes and colors that their real-life counterparts do.

But, in the end, those are both small nitpicks, and not any real harm to the show. Atypical is funny, well-acted, well-written, and the perfect length for a sitcom. If you’re looking for something fun and charming to watch, give this Netflix original a look. You will not regret it.

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.