Widows (2018)

p15495823_p_v8_ab

When their husbands are killed in a botched robbery, and the gangster they stole from comes demanding reparations, a group of widows are forced to pull off an impossible heist to save both themselves and their families. This involves them finding a getaway car, a driver, codes to a safe, and guns. Lots of guns. They don’t want to kill anyone, but when you’re backed into a corner, who knows what will happen? Continue reading

Advertisements

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

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

Dear White People (Season 1, 2017)

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

After an ill-conceived blackface party reignites lingering racial tensions, the students of the fictional Winchester University air their grievances in specific, unique ways. Some, like local provocateur Sam, do so by protesting major events, and shouting obscenities over the radio. Others, like shy journalism student Lionel, do so by investigating the causes of the party, and writing stories for the college paper. There are those who try to work with the administration. There are those who try to manipulate it to their own advantage. And, in the end, they all come together in this 10 episode adaptation of the acclaimed drama film from 2014.

Now, if you’ve read my blog, then you know that I wasn’t actually a big fan of the original Dear White People. I thought that it had trouble balancing its tone, and that the overly quirky aesthetic–perfectly symmetrical shots, pastel colored backgrounds, whip pans–was jarring when set against the serious subject matter. Well, someone must have read my review, and shown it to the director, because Dear White People the series is simply spectacular. I enjoyed it immensely, and consider it vastly superior to its feature length predecessor. Certain elements from the original film that didn’t add anything–the Reality TV Crew, Troy’s relationship with a White girl–got cut, while other elements–the back stories of Sam and Coco, Lionel’s struggle with his sexuality–got considerably more fleshed out. And all the stuff from the original film that was good–the witty dialogue, the strong performances–carried over. It was the best of both worlds, and I’m very happy about that. Part of what I think helps this series stand above the film its based off of is the fact that the creators have 10 episodes to tell their story, as opposed to just two hours. As such, they have a lot more time to go back and develop various characters and plot threads. Like I said, Coco and Sam, who, in the original film, just didn’t like each other because the latter was taking attention away from the former, get a much more nuanced, and fairly tragic, history with one another in the series. Characters who weren’t that important in the original movie, like Sam’s radical friend Reggie, get whole episodes devoted to them. Hell, his episode, which, incidentally, was directed by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, was probably my favorite one in the entire show.

Put simply, Dear White People the series is a masterclass in adaptation. It omits weaker elements from the source material. It expands upon aspects that need to be expanded upon. It maintains the best aspects of its predecessor, and manages to be highly entertaining all the while. If you want to laugh, cry, and, best of all, think, give this show a look.

Get Out (2017)

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

Chris and Rose are in love. They’ve been going out for close to five months, and they’re about to make one of the biggest steps in their relationship, meeting each other’s parents. This, of course, is nerve-wracking for everyone, but the situation is made doubly awkward by the fact that Rose’s family, who are White, don’t know that Chris is Black. Chris informs Rose of his concerns, and she tells him that there’s nothing to worry about. Her family are nice. They’ll love him. Chris isn’t convinced, having spent a lifetime facing micro aggressions from “nice” people, but he goes along anyway. And, at first, everything is fine. Rose’s family are nice, micro aggressions not withstanding. They do seem to like him. But, as time goes by, Chris starts to notice some things that aren’t quite right. The family’s Black servants, Georgina and Walter, are inhumanly polite and docile, almost as though they’ve had their personalities drained. And Rose’s mother, Missy, a psychiatrist, is strangely adamant about submitting Chris to hypnosis. Tension builds as the family’s friends, each one whiter and more oblivious than the last, show up for an annual get together, and submit Chris to a tidal wave of awkward statements and pho compliments. Finally, Chris decides he can take it no more, and tells Rose that they need to leave, but, much to his horror, finds that he can’t.

Get Out is a movie that I really didn’t know what to expect with. The premise seemed interesting, and I liked the actors I recognized in the trailer, like Skins’ Daniel Kaluuya, and Being John Malkovich’s Catherine Keener. At the same time, though, I was worried that the film’s social commentary would wind up being too heavy-handed, and I didn’t know how successful a comedian, Jordan Peele, would be at directing a horror movie. Amazingly successful, as it turns out, because this movie is AWESOME! It’s well-acted, well-written, ripe with tension, and manages to deftly ride the line between humorous and horrifying, and all while subtly making its viewers aware of their own innate prejudices. I’m not joking when I say that at no less than four points in this movie, me and everyone else in my theater cheered with delight at something that just happened. It’s rare for a film to impact me on such a visceral level, and I’ve got to give it up to Jordan Peele, the cast, and everyone involved for making a film that got to me the way this one did. But by far the best part of this entire movie was Lil Rel Howery, whom plays Chris’s best friend, Rod. I’m not joking when I say that he stole EVERy scene he was in. There wasn’t a moment he was on screen where I wasn’t laughing my butt off. He NEEDS to be in more stuff, because he is AWESOME. Something else I want to give Get Out credit for is the fact that I legitimately had no idea where it was going. When I finally learned what was happening beneath the surface, I actually turned to my girlfriend and said “Shit! I did not see that coming.” And she actually said to me afterwards, “You need to write stories like that; stories where you can’t guess what’s going on.”

Guys, what else can I say? Get Out is awesome. It’s smart, funny, scary, and an amazing directorial debut from Jordan Peele. Give it a look!

Dear White People

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

If Spike Lee and Wes Anderson had a baby, and that baby grew up and decided to make a movie incorporating both its daddies’ visual styles and political views, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect with Justin Simien’s Dear White People. Yes indeed! In addition to explorations and indictments of racism, this movie has a very quirky, colorful, off-beat aesthetic. Perfectly symmetrical shots, sets with pastel color schemes, whip pans–these are some visual tricks featured in Dear White People that you might expect to find in, say, Moonrise Kingdom, or the Grand Budapest Hotel. And while these techniques are perfectly fine, and work in those latter films, which are intentionally weird and silly, they don’t necessarily lend themselves to a discussion of race relations on a college campus. And that, loved ones, is just one reason why I didn’t much care for Dear White People. There are others, to be sure, but I’ll get to those in a minute.

For those of you who don’t know, Dear White People is an independent comedy-drama that came out in 2014. It’s a movie that’s garnered a great deal of acclaim, and criticism, since its release at the Sundance Film Festival. And after watching it on Netflix, I can understand why. It’s witty, it’s well-acted, and it seeks to address the issue of race in a modern context. The problem is, it doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. It drastically shifts its tone several times–moving from the sharply funny, to the sentimental, to the downright messed up. And, as if the inconsistent narrative voice and inappropriately light-hearted visuals weren’t confusing enough, the movie even gets its morals mixed up.

See, the film centers around a controversial “African-American themed” Halloween party thrown on a college campus, and the events that lead up to it. The climax is not unlike the one in Do The Right Thing. The college’s Black students, outraged at the party, trash the building where it is being held, and start a fight with the people who threw it. The conflict gets so bad that the police have to be called in. And yet, after all that, no one gets punished, or arrested. No one learns ANYTHING. And as if that weren’t outrageous enough, in the movie’s epilogue, the school President is shown making a deal with a reality TV company to make a documentary about the incident.

The hell, man?

Look, I understand the need for a discussion of race. I really do. I’ve written about it here on my blog, and it features in most of my creative work. On top of that, I feel that things like the film’s “African-American” Halloween Party are all too common on school campuses, and should be addressed. Just look at where I go–NYU. This year, the faculty actually had to cancel a production of “The Mikado,” because the cast consisted entirely of White actors in Yellow Face. The fact that stuff like this is still happening tells you how much some people need sensitivity lessons. And yet, with all that said, if you’re going to make a serous drama about racism, make a serous drama about racism. Don’t have the visuals be happy and colorful. Don’t have the movie be a laugh-out-loud comedy one minute, and an intense, gritty drama in another. And, while I understand the need for ambiguity and nuance in a discussion of race, don’t let the perpetrators of racism in your film go completely unpunished. Have some moral clarity.

Loved ones, I didn’t care for Dear White People at all, and yet, I can’t help but recommend you all go see it. There’s some really good acting and dialogue in here, and when you watch this movie, you can tell that a lot of thought and effort was put into it. It’s the kind of film that’s designed to be controversial–that’s designed to provoke discussions and differences of opinion–so, to that end, I have to recommend that you all see it. I didn’t enjoy it, but that’s just me. Maybe you will. Maybe you’ll disagree with me. Maybe you’ll find it very relevant, and very profound. I don’t know. You have to see it for yourself. For me, though, it’s just a 6.5 out of 10.