Battle Of The Sexes (2017)

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

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

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

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

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Their Finest (2017)

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

It’s 1940, and Britain is in serious need of a morale boost. Food is scarce, cities are being blitzed, and the British Army has just been driven off the continent at Dunkirk. Life, to put it bluntly, is shit. So, to give their country the shot in the arm it so desperately needs, the government begins churning out propaganda films, and because all the young men are off fighting, they hire women to write the scripts. Enter Catrin Cole, a novice screenwriter whose been given the task of adapting a “true” story to the big screen. She’s new to the business, and as she goes about bringing this story to life, she encounters all the typical roadblocks a screenwriter does; truth not lending itself to a traditional dramatic structure; producers demanding last minute changes to the script; cast members being difficult on set, etc. And yet, as hard as her job is, as difficult as her colleagues can be, Catrin finds herself falling in love with the business, and discovers a freedom in her work that she never experienced beforehand. Will it last? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film to find out.

Their Finest is a sweet, utterly charming movie. It’s funny, moving, beautifully-shot, and exceptionally well-acted. It is the total inverse of Dunkirk in every way. Dunkirk is a spectacle. Their Finest is a story. Dunkirk is about the war. Their Finest is about the home front. Dunkirk has no characters. Their Finest has several, very well-realized ones. But beyond simply providing a pleasant, alternate perspective on this period in British history, Their Finest is also just an all-around engaging film. You like these characters. You enjoy watching this picture get made. And because this is a movie about movie-making, the screenwriters are able to throw in some clever commentary on the tropes of the romance genre. Also, unlike many other films set during this era, Their Finest holds nothing back when it comes to portraying the devastating sexism that these women faced everyday. Yes, It’s difficult to watch, but it also makes you appreciate these ladies’ strength even more. And that’s always a good thing in my book.

That said, as charming as Their Finest is, it is still, ultimately, a romantic comedy, and comes with all the tropes and baggage that that entails. True, most of the cliches are addressed in the film within a film, and the screenwriters do come up with a clever way of not giving you the ending you expect. Still, there are several plot points in this movie that feel very familiar, like the main character starting off in an unhappy relationship, her meeting a new man, her significant other cheating on her, which makes it okay for her to be with the new guy, etc. But, like I said before, the film is well-written enough to recognize those cliches as cliches, and it does come up with interesting ways of subverting them. So it doesn’t bother me too much.

Guys, all I can say is this; Their Finest is a charming, well-written, well-acted little romance film, which does feature some cliches, but is also entertaining, and clever enough, to overcome them. I love it, and I think you’d love it too if you watched it. Please 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.

Top Directors Self-Respecting Actresses Should NOT Work With

Greetings loved ones. Liu is the name, and views are my game.

No one ever said that being an actor was easy. You’re constantly facing rejection, and your whole career can crumble in less than a minute. But, sometimes, even when you’ve got steady work, even when you’re on the set of a big budget movie with top tier talent, things can be difficult. Especially if you’re a woman. Directors can be verbally, or even physically, abusive, and the things you get asked to do can be extremely degrading. That is why I’ve decided to create a list for all you self-respecting actresses out there of the top directors you do NOT want to work with. Now, just to be clear, these are not being placed in any kind of order, and I’m not trying to say that these men are untalented, or that your careers wouldn’t be helped by working with them. I’m saying, if you want to be treated with respect on set, if you want to play complex, multi-faceted individuals who aren’t just victims or eye candy, these are not the people to audition for.

Michael Bay.

Transformers, The Rock, Pearl Harbor.

One of the most financially successful directors of all time, Michael Bay has made enemies with many, many groups over the years. These include film critics, the NAACP, and, of course, women. From the beginning of his career, Bay has been trashed for objectifying and degrading members of the fairer sex, and for good reason. Known for including unnecessarily long shots of women’s breasts, backsides and legs in his movies, Bay also makes a habit of mocking those who aren’t physically perfect, as he does in Pain and Gain and the Transformers film series. He’s even worse when it comes to representing women of color, who are often reduced to racial stereotypes. And the female characters in question are either dumb sluts, like Bar Paly in Pain and Gain, weepy, needy girlfriends, like Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor, or eye candy, like Megan Fox in the Transformers film series. Bay is also known to be aggressive and uncompromising, being rude to both cast and crew members. A friend of mine actually worked as a PA on his film Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, and told me stories about how mean he was. Bottom line is, Bay is not a good director to work with if you’re a woman. If you’re attractive, he’ll objectify you. If you’re not white, he’ll turn you into a racial cliche. And if you’re just a crew member, he’ll shout at, and bully you.

Eli Roth.

Hostel, Cabin Fever, Knock, Knock.

Perhaps best known for playing “The Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, writer/director Eli Roth is widely credited with creating the “gorno” or “torture porn” sub genre of horror. But beyond simply spraying blood across the frames, Eli Roth is well-known for reducing women to their bodies. Seriously. All his films, Hostel, Cabin Fever, Knock, Knock, The Green Inferno, include sex and nudity, and the women getting naked are never really given any personality. Well, that’s not true. Most of the time, as in Hostel and Knock, Knock, the women turn out to be evil psychopaths who want to do harm to the male heroes. And if they aren’t that, they usually wind up being incredibly shallow, as in Hostel, where the only good female character decides she’d rather die than go in living disfigured. Roth might be the future of horror to some, but to women, he’s an absolute nightmare.

Takashi Miike.

Audition, Ichi The Killer, 13 Assassins.

With over 90 film and TV credits to his name, Takashi Miike has established himself as one of Japan’s most prolific directors. As well as one of its most controversial. For while Miike has made movies in a variety of genres, including family films, The Great Yokai War, road movies, The Bird People in China, and musicals, The Happiness of the Katakuris, he is best known for directing extremely violent, extremely bizarre horror and crime films. Pictures like Audition, Ichi The Killer, Visitor Q, and his black society trilogy, Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, and Ley Lines, are infamous for including shocking scenes of high impact violence and sexual perversion. Rape, torture, necrophilia, slicing people in half from head to groin, these are but a few of the many cruelties Mike has show off in his work. And while he’s not above having men get maned and skewered, Miike’s bloody gaze does seem hyper focused on women. His film Ichi The Killer, for instance, begins with a prostitute getting violently beaten and raped. And this is not the only film of his to start in such a way. Ley Lines, which, for the most part, is pretty tame, includes several scenes, which don’t contribute to the movie’s overall narrative, that show the film’s female lead getting beaten by her pimp, beaten by her customers, and being tied up and tortured in a weird, non consensual BDSM scenario. Add to this the fact that almost all his female characters are either prostitutes or strippers, and the fact that one of his most famous movies, Audition, is all about sexist men holding fake auditions to find girls to bang, and you’ve got a laundry list of reasons why self-respecting actresses shouldn’t work with him.

Lars Von Trier.

Nymphomaniac, Melancholia, Antichrist.

A founding member of the Dogma 95 movement, Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier has seen more than his fair share of criticism over the years. For while many have found his movies’ examinations of depression, love, and sex both deep and refreshing, many more have taken issue with these pictures misogynistic content. Many of his early films, The Element of Crime, Europa, are about idealistic men being brought down by deceitful, fatal women, while several of his later pictures, Breaking The Waves, Dogville, Nymphomaniac, include very graphic, very violent rape scenes. And that’s not even getting into the general violence towards women his films exhibit, such as one scene in antichrist where the female lead cuts off her clitoris. There’s even a scene in this same movie where the character looks straight at the camera and says, “all women are evil.” Yikes. And as if this weren’t bad enough, Von Trier is notorious for mistreating his leading ladies, most notably Bjork , who starred in his movie Dancer in the Dark, and who was so upset by him that she wouldn’t speak to him for weeks. If that doesn’t convince you to not work with him, I don’t know what will.

Takashi Ishii.

Gonin, Freeze Me, Hello, My Dolly Girlfriend.

If you’ve never heard of this notorious director and manga artist before, that’s hardly surprising. He’s not nearly as successful as someone like Michael Bay, nowhere close to being as acclaimed as someone like Lars Von Trier, or even half as prolific, and varied in his work, as someone like Takeshi Miike. Why then am I including him on this list? Simple. Literally all his films include the rape, or repeated rape, of a woman. Let that knowledge sink in. Every single one of his films–several of which he also wrote–have rape scenes in them. Sometimes multiple rape scenes. He actually created a manga series, which was later adapted into a movie franchise, called Angel Guts, which is literally just about rape. This man shouldn’t be making movies. He should be in prison. Because it’s bad enough for him to be including rape in films at all, but to add insult to injury , he often shows the women enjoying the rape, and even falling in love with their rapists, like in his movie Original Sin. There’s also a ton of creepy, downright uncomfortable stuff in his films, like his movie Hello, My Dolly Girlfriend. It’s about this office rat who gets fired from his job, and so he assaults a stripper, insults a lesbian couple, who chase him into a nearby clothing store, where, after he witnesses them get raped and murdered by some criminals hiding behind the clothes racks, he finds and molests a manikin. This whole film is beyond exploitative. It’s beyond demeaning. If you have any respect for yourself as an artist, avoid this man like the plague.

Abdellatif Kechiche.

Blue Is The Warmest Color.

Much like Lars Von Trier, French director Abdelatif Kechiche has garnered great acclaim for his cinematic explorations of love and loss. And also like Von Trier, he has attracted a fair bit of criticism for his mistreatment of cast and crew members, and his overall representation of women. Several technicians on his 2013 film Blue Is The Warmest Color accused him of harassment, unpaid overtime and violations of labour laws. Likewise, the two main actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, also complained about Kechiche’s behavior during the shooting. None of this was helped by the fact that, apparently, in one interview about the film, Kechiche said he filmed the actresses “like they were statues.” Ooh. Never a good sentence to utter. Kechiche might be talented, and you might win awards if you work with him, but all the awards in the world can’t make up for unpaid overtime and sexual harassment, both of which you’re bound to encounter on his films.

The Big Short

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

And why is anyone going to see this movie? Seriously. Why is any person in their right mind forking over their hard-earned cash to pay to see a movie about racist, sexist, foul-mouthed rich guys who got even richer when the economy collapsed and millions of people lost their homes and jobs? Yeah, in case you were wondering, that’s what this film is about. It’s the true story of a group of Wall Street brokers and hedge fund managers who predicted that the economy was going to collapse back in 2008, and, rather than try to warn the government, or the thousands of people who stood to lose the most, just did some tricky buying and selling, and got super rich when everything went down the tubes. I HATE this movie. For several reasons!

For starters, the characters are all assholes. To give you an idea of how disgusting these people–the “good guys” of this movie–are, in one scene, Ryan Gosling is trying to convince Steve Carrell that the Housing Market is going to crash. When Steve Carrell asks how he can be sure, if his math is accurate, Ryan Gosling points to his numbers guy, an Asian-American man named Zhang, and says, “look at my numbers guy! Look at his face; his eyes! He doesn’t speak fucking English! He came in first place in a national Math competition in China! Yeah, I’m fucking sure my fucking math is right!” And as if their racial stereotyping isn’t bad enough, there’s a scene later on in the movie where two hedge fund managers, Charlie and Danny, realize that, by betting against the Housing Market, they’ve become super rich, and begin to celebrate. They’re so selfish and self-absorbed that they have to be reminded that, in order for them to get rich, millions of people have to lose their jobs, and their homes, and possibly even their lives. But do Charlie and Danny give a shit? Nope!

The second thing that bothers me about this movie is the cinematography. My god is it ugly! Virtually every shot in this film is taken from a hand-held camera, so all the images are shaky. And as if that’s not annoying enough, there’s also hardly any moments where the camera itself isn’t panning, zooming, tilting, or just making your eyes bleed with its sickening motion. Why don’t directors use steadicams, tripods, or wide shots anymore? Those things are all great! Filmmakers, you don’t need to set yourselves apart from other people by shoving cameras up your actors noses and jiggling them at every conceivable second.

The third thing I hated about this movie is the fact that it’s BORING, and unbelievably CONFUSING! It’s boring because there’s no rising action, and no climax. The economy is shown collapsing at about the halfway point, so it’s not like you can say that’s the climax. And the whole movie is just rich white guys in suits talking to each other. How riveting! Except no, no that isn’t riveting! Stuff needs to happen in a movie for audiences to be invested. Even The Wolf Of Wall Street, a movie about brokers that I really didn’t like, understood that. There, at least, the filmmakers showed the characters doing drugs, riding boats through storms, and lots of other crazy stuff that can be described as interesting. The Big Short doesn’t have any of those things. It’s just rich, racist, sexist assholes spewing financial jargon at each other. And though the filmmakers do try to make this all a little less confusing by having cut-aways to people like Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Selena Gomez, where they try to explain the terms, these cut-aways ultimately prove to be distracting, and just make things even more confusing.

The only things I can honestly say I like about this movie are Steve Carrell, and the soundtrack. Steve Carrell’s character is one of the few nice, likable people in the whole movie, though he does get a little annoying at points. And the soundtrack features lots of songs from the early 2000s that I really love, like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.” But, beyond these two things, there’s nothing in this film that I like. This is a 5 out of 10. I’m honestly quite shocked that this movie about selfish, racist assholes has an 88% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and The Flowers Of War, a heartbreaking movie about sacrifice and redemption in The Rape Of Nanking, has a mere 42% approval rating. Guys, if you want to see a well-made, underrated picture with beautiful visuals, great performances, and well-rounded, likable characters who grow and mature as the story progresses, watch The Flowers Of War. As for this garbage, don’t give it a second thought.

Why You All MUST Watch “Master Of None!”

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

And, until recently, I didn’t think telepathy or ESP were real. Then I saw Master Of None, the new Netflix series created by, and starring, Aziz Ansari, and, well, now I’m a believer. Seriously! As I was watching it, all I could think was that Aziz and series co-creator Alan Yang had somehow hijacked my brain, because the show literally contains everything I’ve ever said or written about race, technology, the media, sexism, and even the entertainment industry. It’s brilliant! And what makes it even better is that it never comes off as preachy. The show is a comedy, and in many, many instances, the jokes are as funny, and thoughtful, as it’s possible for them to get.

But, for those of you who want to actually know what the heck this show is about, Master Of None tells the story of Dev, a struggling actor living in New York. Each episode of the first season deals with a different issue–ranging from parenting, to marriage, to the immigrant experience, to the limited roles available for non-white actors and women, to aging, even. It manages to combine a surprising amount of heart with really funny, really thoughtful jokes. To give you an idea, in one episode, Dev is talking to his friends about a racist e-mail that a producer of a show he auditioned for sent around. His friend Denise, who is Black, suggest he should leak the e-mail to the press. Dev is hesitant to do so, saying, “I don’t know. I feel like you only really risk getting people angry if you say something anti-Black or anti-gay. Like, if Paula Dean had said, ‘I won’t serve Indian people,’ no one would have gotten upset.” Denise retorts by saying that Paula Dean didn’t really get into trouble, “she gave some fake ass apology, and then went right back to making fatty foods.” Dev responds by saying,”Yeah, but at least she had to give an apology. She had to meet with Al Sharpton, and have tea with him or whatever. That was her punishment. Who do Indian people have for you all to apologize to? Deepak Chopra?” The fact that lines like that are being included, and laughed at, in a mainstream American TV show gives me so much hope for the future. Add to that the fact that there is another, highly-acclaimed comedy series starring a predominantly Asian-American cast–Fresh Off The Boat–on a major television network right now, and I’m one happy camper.

The bottom line is, Master Of None is awesome. Everyone I’ve showed it to–my classmates, my roommates, my girlfriend–loves it. It’s funny. It’s thoughtful. It’s not too long. If you’re looking to laugh hard and learn a lot, give this series a look! It’s a 9 out of 10.