The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

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

In the future, Earth is running dangerously low on fuel. So, in a last ditch effort to come up with a clean, alternative energy source, the world’s governments create a giant particle accelerator, and shoot it up in space, where it can be tested without fear of damaging the Earth. Unfortunately, when the particle accelerator does eventually function, the crew of said space station find themselves transported to a parallel dimension. And back on Earth, the particle accelerator’s explosion opens up a portal, releasing giant, Godzilla-like monsters, which begin wreaking havoc. Will the crew get home? Will they find a way to undo all the damage that they’ve caused? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

Guys, this is it. This is what all the Zhang Ziyi reviews I’ve been posting have been leading up to; the release of her new film, The Cloverfield Paradox. I’ve been waiting for this movie for well over a year, seeing as it was supposed to come out last February, but kept getting delayed, and, let me tell you, when it hit Netflix last night, I was pumped. I was ready. I wanted so badly for this to be good; for it to be a welcome return of my favorite actress to the American big screen. But when I finished watching it, I was left feeling vastly disappointed. Not only does this movie waste Zhang Ziyi, and it’s incredibly talented cast, which includes so many international stars, like Daniel Bruhl, Aksel Hennie, and Chris O’Dowd, but it flat out doesn’t make any sense.

But before I launch into my many criticisms, I do want to be fair, and list some positives. First of all, it looks amazing. The camerawork, the production design, and the special effects are all top-notch. In addition to this, while the characters these actors are playing are flat and one note, the actors themselves all give great performances. And, finally, the film is never boring. It moves at a very quick pace, and so much crazy shit happens, like when a guy’s arm gets bitten off by a wall, and then it shows up again, seemingly sentient, that you can’t help but keep watching, hoping to find answers.

Unfortunately, the questions are all you have, and when the movie ends, you wind up feeling kind of cheated. As I said, crazy shit happens in this picture, and seemingly for no reason. What I mean by that is, characters die in this movie who just didn’t have to. And it’s not like in most horror films where it’s their own stupidity that finishes them off. “Don’t go in the basement! There’s a monster down there.” No. In this movie, characters will just be living their lives, doing their thing, when the screenwriters will suddenly decide, “you know what? We can’t have more than one survivor. Let’s off this character in a completely nonsensical, arbitrary way.” Aksel Hennie, for instance, somehow gets a bunch of space worms, and the ship’s GPS, stuck inside him, which causes him to explode. How did they get there? How was he able to live so long with those things inside him? No explanation. Likewise, Zhang Ziyi gets killed off when she goes into a room to fix something, does, and then, out of nowhere, the room floods. And it’s not like we see the pipes leaking before this happens. She just goes in, fixes something, and then, out of nowhere, there’s water. It really pisses me off when characters die for no reason, and she and Aksel Hennie most certainly do. And speaking of the characters, they are beyond one note. With the exception of the main protagonist, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, we know nothing about them. We don’t know if they have families. We don’t know if they have jobs back on Earth. We don’t know what their tastes in movies, music, food or literature are. They are literally just bodies to be disposed of. This is especially true of Zhang Ziyi’s character. In addition to not knowing any of her back-story, she is also shown as being incapable of speaking English. Yeah. All her dialogue is in Mandarin, and, sometimes, there aren’t even subtitles when she speaks. Why? In real life, Zhang Ziyi is fluent in English. Just watch Memoirs of a Geisha, Horsemen, and all the interviews she’s given to American press. Her English is perfect, so the “it was to make it easier for her to act,” excuse, doesn’t hold water. Having her only speak Mandarin was a bad directorial choice for multiple reasons. On top of playing into a racist stereotype that Asian people can’t speak English–Why do none of the European characters only speak German or Russian , huh?–it distances her from the audience. Not only do you not know anything about her past or personality, but, unless you speak Mandarin, you won’t understand a single word she’s saying. So she’s twice removed from the viewers. As a result, you don’t care about her at all, even when she dies. And that’s terrible. Zhang Ziyi is the only reason I wanted to see this piece of shit to begin with, and she’s totally wasted. AAAAAAH!

Guys, don’t watch The Cloverfield Paradox. If you’re a fan of the franchise, or space horror, you might get a kick out of this, but not me. I want characters who are compelling, a plot that makes sense, and for talented actors to not be wasted. I’m so sorry Ms. Zhang. You deserved a better script. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to write you one someday, but, until then, I guess this is all we’ve got. And that’s a damn shame.

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Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005)

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

In 1920s Japan, 9-year-old Chiyo and her sister, Satsu, are sold to pay off their impoverished families debts. Chiyo is purchased by a Geisha house, while Satsu is sent off to a brothel. At the Geisha house, Chiyo encounters the ruthless Hatsumomo, who, fearing that the young girl will grow up to replace her, makes her life a living hell. All this cruelty nearly breaks Chiyo, until, one day, she is shown a small act of  kindness by The Chairman, played by Ken Watanabe. This motivates Chiyo to become a Geisha, and she spends the next several years training in the art of music, dance, and conversation. Finally, after her instruction is complete, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, a Geisha of incredible beauty and influence. She even finds The Chairman again, who claims not to recognize her after all these years. Things are looking up, until World War 2 breaks out, sending Chiyo’s life, once more, into turmoil.

Memoirs Of A Geisha is a beautifully-shot, superbly-scored, finely acted melodrama. And I kind of hate it. Not because I think it’s poorly-made, mind you. The costumes, sets, cinematography and lead actresses are all gorgeous to look at. But the dialogue is cheesy, the story is highly reminiscent of a soap-opera, and it relies heavily on Western misconceptions of East-Asian culture. And I’m not just saying that. The film was shot in California, directed by a White Man, Rob Marshall, and the book on which it is based was also written by a White Man, Arthur Golden. And before you hit me with a “but they could have done a lot of research” defense, it’s worth noting that many Japanese people, such as the writer, Kimiko Akita, have criticized Memoirs for perpetuating racist stereotypes of East-Asian women as demure, mysterious, and exotic, and one of the actual Geisha Golden interviewed for his book, Mineko Iwasaki, sued him for defamation and libel. The film was also criticized when it first came out for casting Chinese actresses, like Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh, in prominent roles meant for Japanese women. For my part, I have mixed feelings on the issue. On the one hand, a film this deeply rooted in Japanese culture should probably have had Japanese leads. On the other hand, the film is clearly the product of a White man’s imagination, and I’m frankly glad that they bothered casting Asian actresses at all, as opposed to Natalie Portman or Angelina Jolie in Yellow Face. Which, trust me, could very well have happened.

But, as I said before, the film is well-made. It was a box office smash when it first came out, and it won three academy awards, including Best Cinematography and Costume Design. And even though the story itself is silly, the actors all do fine jobs. Zhang Ziyi was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Chiyo, and I can understand why. She’s sweet, vulnerable, determined and convincing in the role. Granted, there are moments where the international cast’s plethora of accents–some sound Japanese, some sound Chinese, some sound British–get kind of distracting. But, for the most part, everyone does a great job, and between that and the lavish production values, Memoirs is a fine enough watch. Just don’t expect depth, or cultural accuracy, if you choose to go see it.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

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

Li Mu Bai has long led a warrior’s life. But now, after years of bloodshed, he’s determined to turn over a new leaf. So, to prove to everyone that he’s done killing, he gives his sword, the legendary Green Destiny, to Yu Shu Lien, a fellow warrior, and unrequited love interest. But when the Green Destiny is stolen, and Yu and Li’s investigation brings them to the home of a government official, they realize that there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a movie I have loved literally my entire life. Not only was it the first film I ever saw, but it was also the movie that made me want to make movies. Seriously. As soon as I watched this back in 2000, I got a camera, and made my own kung fu movie, Crouching Lion, Hidden Eagle. Any picture that can get a six year old who doesn’t even know what a camera is to want to make movies is doing something right. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. To date, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains the highest grossing foreign-language film in American history, as well as the most critically-acclaimed martial arts movie of all time; with a record four Academy Awards to its name, and ten nominations, including Best Picture. But why was it so beloved? Why do people still remember it after so many years? What, to put it bluntly, makes this movie so good?

Well, several things, actually. The first is it’s script. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a very well-written movie, with it actually getting nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, and for good reason. Every single character is given depth, personality, and pain. The film is almost three hours long, and it contains many quiet scenes where characters just sit and talk to each other about their dreams and desires. As such, the protagonists of this film are considerably more well-rounded than those in other martial arts movies. The second thing that makes this movie awesome is the camerawork. Crouching Tiger, Hidden dragon is beautifully shot, with every single frame dripping with life and color. Peter Pau, the cinematographer, won an Oscar for lensing this film, and I can totally see why. Every time I watch it, I feel like I’ve been transported to another world, and it’s all thanks to the images onscreen. The third thing that makes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon incredible is the acting. Everyone gives a subtle, restrained performance, not at all what you’d expect from a film like this, and, indeed, many members of the cast were nominated for BAFTA and Hong Kong Film Awards for their work. The standout, easily, is Zhang Ziyi, who steals the Green Destiny, and the whole damn show. She is magnetic on screen. She’s bold and fiery, and yet, vulnerable and sweet. By this point in her career, She’d already made somewhat of a name for herself back in China, but it was her work in Crouching Tiger that catapulted her into the stratosphere of stardom, not just in the East, but in the West as well. For the next five years, she was everywhere, appearing in big films like Hero, Rush Hour 2, Memoirs Of A Geisha, and House Of Flying Daggers. It is extremely rare for an Asian actress to become big in Hollywood, but Zhang Ziyi did, and it’s all thanks to her incredible performance in this movie. The fourth, and biggest, reason why Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is awesome is the action.  It is SUPERB. It’s exciting, well-shot, beautifully-choreographed, and inventive. The fight sequences in this movie hold up after 17 years, and for good reason. They’re real. Every single moment was done in camera, by real stuntmen. And you can tell. In the film’s most famous fight scene, where Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi duke it out in a courtyard, you hear the actresses panting, and see the sweat dripping down their faces. You really believe that this is a hard, brutal fight, and that it’s taking a serious toll on both their bodies. And whenever a film can convince you that a staged action sequence is real, it’s done something right.

Now, as much as I adore Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and, trust me, I could gush about it for ages, there are some aspects of it that I don’t enjoy as much, all these years later. The biggest, by far, is the flashback sequence, wherein we see Zhang Ziyi’s backstory. Yes, it’s necessary, and it helps you understand her character. But it’s also very long, and very, very slow. It goes on for about 40 minutes, and when you watch it, you just feel like you’re in a different movie. The whole thing really hurts the pace, and I honestly tend to fast-forward through it whenever I re-watch the film. Which brings me to another point, the fact that the movie’s plot is kind of scatter-brained. It starts out as a drama about a warrior trying to abandon his bloody past. Then it becomes a mystery, where they have to find the Green Destiny. Then it turns into a romantic drama, wherein Zhang Ziyi wants to escape her arranged marriage and go live in the desert. And then, in the last 30 minutes, it becomes a kind of road movie, where Zhang Ziyi is just roaming the land, taking what she wants and fighting whomever she pleases. Yes, everyone has an arc, and all the subplots do pay off. But, upon re-watch, it does feel like some of those subplots could have been omitted, and the movie, as a whole, would have become more focused.

But those are really the only negative things I have to say about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is a well-shot, well-acted, emotionally-devastating character piece, with some amazing fight sequences and action. If you somehow haven’t seen this movie after all this time, go out and rent it RIGHT NOW!  You will love it.

Is The Rose Storyline In The Last Jedi Really Pointless?

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

So I’ve been surfing the web recently, and I’ve been reading a lot of reviews for Star Wars: The Last Jedi which criticize my new favorite character, Rose, and her storyline. They all pretty much have the same thing to say, “her storyline is pointless. It adds up to nothing.”

Now, my instant, gut reaction is, “well fuck you. I liked her, and you all should be more supportive of an Asian American actress finally making it big in hollywood.” But then I took a step back, and started thinking. Was her storyline really pointless? After all, her plan to find a hacker fails, the hacker she does find betrays her, and she stops Finn from sacrificing himself to save the Resistance. In a sense, neither she nor Finn did anything that was relevant, plot wise. So, yes, the Rose storyline was, in that respect, pointless.

But the question I want to ask the world is, is that a bad thing? Is it bad for movies to have scenes and characters that don’t effect the overall plot? I would argue “no.”

The best films have characters and worlds that feel lived-in, and real, and one of the best ways to do that is to show characters just interacting with each other and their environments. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino have made careers off of writing scenes that don’t really have an impact on the plot, and yet, are interesting, and flesh out the characters. Basically every conversation Jules and Vincent have in Pulp Fiction is like this. Their opening talk about hash bars never gets brought up again. Neither does their conversation in the diner about pork. The taxi driver Bruce Willis talks to doesn’t come back to play at all. And the discussion of pot bellies and blueberry pancakes serves no purpose whatsoever. If the film was to cut all of these “pointless” scenes, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, and the characters wouldn’t be nearly as memorable.

Another great example of a “pointless” scene that actually makes the movie better is the gas station stand off in No Country For Old Men. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Javier Bardem plays a psychotic killer who decides whether or not to murder people by flipping a coin and giving them the chance to call it. If they get it right, he lets them go. If they don’t, he kills them. In one scene, he goes into a gas station, and the gas station owner tries to make small talk. Javier Bardem doesn’t like that, and so flips the coin. The gas station attendant gets it right, and Bardem leaves. Now, this is the one scene that everyone who’s watched the movie talks about and remembers. They say it has the best dialogue, and the best acting. But here’s the thing; it’s pointless. The gas station attendant never comes back into the picture. And, in the end, the scene was just a whole lot of build up to nothing. Bardem doesn’t kill him. He just leaves. In terms of plot progression, this whole stand off is dead weight. And yet, if you were to take away this “pointless” scene, you’d have lost one of the best moments in cinema.

So, yes, maybe Rose’s storyline in The Last Jedi is “pointless” in that it doesn’t effect the overall plot, but that doesn’t make it bad. It introduces us to a fun new character, who provides a different perspective on the conflict. It’s got some good humor with her and Finn. There’s a fun sequence where the two of them ride horse/kangaroo monsters through a Casino, tearing it to pieces. And, as I said before, it provides us with a non-stereotypical Asian character in a major blockbuster franchise. That’s huge. See, Cliff Chang, the artist on the comic series Paper Girls, told me something heartbreaking once. He said, “growing up, I never saw myself in the artwork that I loved. And, over time, I just grew to accept that.” But that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Rose is proof that you can have Asian characters in big budget, blockbuster franchises, who don’t speak broken English, or know martial arts, and the world won’t fall apart. Millions of young Asian-Americans will see her and think, “that could be me one day” and not “I could never be in those movies,” which, sadly, is what many people of my parent’s generation, including my father, were taught. And the fact that they won’t think it can’t happen for them, the fact that they will be inspired, is wonderful. So, yeah, Rose’s storyline is pointless. But the movie, and the world, wouldn’t be better without it.

Downsizing (2017)

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

To fight global warming, scientists develop the means to shrink humans down. The idea is that, if people are smaller, they’ll produce less waste, use less energy, and, overall, leave a smaller footprint on the environment. It doesn’t take long, however, for people to catch on that there are other benefits to being little, like the fact that money is worth a lot more in shrunken communities. One individual hoping to escape financial woes by “downsizing” is Paul Safranek, a physical therapist drowning in debt. He and his wife visit “Leisure Land,” the most prosperous shrunken community, and decide, “screw it! Let’s get small.” Unfortunately for Paul, however, his wife gets cold feet at the last minute, and leaves him just as he’s undergoing the procedure. And seeing as downsizing is irreversible, he’s pretty much left to fend for himself in this new, miniature world. Will he survive? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

Downsizing is a quintessential “idea” movie. What I mean by that is, there are some films that get made solely because of the uniqueness of their central premise, as opposed to how tight their plot is, or how developed their characters are. Probably the most famous example of a film like this is M Night Shyamalan’s The Village, where the whole concept is that there is an isolated community in the woods, where the elders teach their children that it is the 1800s, when it’s actually modern times. It’s a fun idea, with a lot of potential, but the film itself doesn’t really have a lot to offer when it comes to story or character development. That’s pretty much the case with Downsizing. The premise of people shrinking down, and forming new, miniature communities, is fascinating, and original. But when you watch the movie, you can tell that Alexander Payne, the writer/director, didn’t really have a story to go along with this idea. Because after Paul shrinks down, there is a long, long stretch where nothing really happens. He gets a job, starts seeing a woman, only to have her dump him, and goes to a party. None of these things matter in the end, so they’re really just there to pad out the runtime. There’s also a ton of characters who get introduced in the start of the movie, like Paul’s wife, his mother, his wife’s father, and his friend, all of whom just kind of vanish by the end. As a result, you’re left feeling like you’ve just been told a very long, very convoluted joke with no punch line.

Now, all that said, I didn’t hate this movie. In fact, I kind of liked it. It definitely has things to admire. The central idea, as I said, is very original. The design of these new, small communities is very creative. The characters are  well-defined, and the acting is good. The stand-out, easily, is Hong Chau, whom plays Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese dissident who befriends Paul, and pulls him out of his depression. She has the funniest dialogue, she’s likable, and her performance is great. Seriously. Hong Chau has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in this film, and I can understand why. She feels very real, which is odd for me to say because, when I saw the trailers, I thought to myself, “Oh god. Here’s another Asian woman in an American movie speaking broken English, and pining after a White dude.” But the movie is actually a lot more sophisticated and sensitive than that when it comes to her character. Her religious fervor, determination to keep going, even when she’s exhausted and in pain, and her brutal honesty really reminded me of Asian immigrants I know, like my grandfather, and my mother’s friend, Mihua. And I’ve got to give the movie props for that.

So, between her performance, the beautiful production values, and a very interesting premise, Downsizing actually has some good things to offer. Yeah, it’s a little bit boring in places, and you can tell the writer didn’t really have a full plot thought out when they started shooting. But, if you don’t mind that, give this flick a look. You’re bound to be engaged on some level.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

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

The Resistance is on the run. The First Order has destroyed their base, and they’re looking to wipe them out for good. And unlike every other time this has happened, our heroes can’t just jump into hyper-space and fly away, since the First Order has developed the means to track them. So it’s up to Finn, Po, and newcomer Rose to find a way to disable the bad guy’s ship. Meanwhile, Ray has found Luke Skywalker, and is trying to get him to come out of hiding. But this might be a harder task than previously thought, since Luke has shut himself off, not just from everyone, but the force as well.

The Last Jedi is a loud, long, visually-arresting spectacle. Did I love it? No. But did I regret going to see it? Not in the least. There’s actually a fair bit I liked in here. For starters, unlike The Force Awakens, it’s not just a carbon copy of previous films. Sure, there are elements of other Star Wars movies present, but this flick’s story is, ultimately, its own. On top of that, there’s some good humor in here. I actually laughed quite a few times in this movie, which is always good. And, as if this needs saying, the action and special effects cannot be compared. But probably what I liked the most about this movie was the relationship between Finn and Rose. Their chemistry is AMAZING! Seriously, if you told me that the actors playing them–John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran–were dating in real life, I’d believe you, because what they have is magnetic. On top of this, Rose is a really fun, really likable character. She’s a grease monkey who repairs the rebel’s ships, and who’s not used to hanging out with big shots like Finn or Po. So, when she’s first introduced to Finn, she acts like a total fangirl, which I found very endearing. To put it bluntly, I love her, and want to see her in the next movie.

That said, the film does have problems, not least of which is the fact that it is way too long. It’s about 152 minutes, and there are definitely points where you feel that. There are so many scenes, like when Ray is trying to convince Luke to come out of hiding, and he keeps refusing, that are just dull and repetitive. We know he’s going to help her eventually, so why waste our time? On top of this, the action in here, while fun, is all so big and dramatic that it just gets tiring after a while. Seriously. There were about three points in this movie where I thought we’d reached the climax, but then, oh no, there’s another huge spaceship battle, there’s another big sword fight. I honestly felt exhausted when I got out of the theater. But by far my biggest gripe with the movie was the character of Ray. I didn’t really say anything about her in my Force Awakens review, since I didn’t think it was fair to harp on any one person, but I kind of hated her here. Everything you’ve read online about how she’s too perfect is on full display in this movie. She never grows. She never gets hurt. And she’s so strong that she’s able to beat everyone, from the main bad guy, Kylo Ren, to Luke, the dude she’s ostensibly there to learn from. People talk about Superman being too strong, but at least he has weaknesses, like Kryptonite and being overly trusting. What are Ray’s weaknesses? What are her flaws? What makes her worth watching?

Still, I’d be lying to myself if I told you I didn’t have fun with this movie. Is it too long? Yes. Is the main character a bit of a bore? You bet your ass she is. But the film’s humor, action, and the relationship between Finn and Rose are all so infectious that you end up walking out with a smile on your face. For that reason, I say, go give it a look.

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.