Who Gets A Chance In Hollywood?

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

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In The Mood For Love (2000)

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

Moonlight (2016)

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

Chiron has a hard life. His dad is dead, his mom is a drug addict, the kids at school don’t like him, and he realizes when he’s young that he just might be gay. Which, in his neighborhood, is the equivalent of painting a bright red target on your back. His only friends are a drug dealer named Juan, Juan’s girlfriend, Teresa, and a boy named Kevin, whom Chiron is attracted to, and who just might have feelings for him as well. Will they wind up together? Will Chiron find some peace in life? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

Moonlight is a very unusual film; not simply for being one of the few movies to openly address the Black gay experience, but also in terms of how its structured. It’s broken up into three distinct acts, each of which tackles a different stage in Chiron’s life. The first act discusses his time as a little boy. The second act explores his teenage years. And the third act chronicles his life as an adult. There’s not really an overarching plot. There isn’t really a climax. Most of the key events in his life happen off screen, in the years between scenes. In many respects, Moonlight mirrors the works of Wong Kar-Wai, in that its a colorful, atmospheric mood piece, with not much plot, and a huge emphasis on sorrow, longing, and love. And, indeed, Moonlight’s director, Barry Jenkins, has openly admitted that Wong was a huge influence on him. So that right there should give you a good idea of what to expect with this movie. You might not like it, but you’ll at least know what to expect.

For my part, I found Moonlight to be beautiful. Everything about it, from its performances, to its blue-tinted cinematography, to its actors, are gorgeous. And I found the ending, wherein Chiron and Kevin are reunited, to be deeply touching. I wholeheartedly believe that people should watch this movie, if not for the performances and the camerawork, than for the simple fact that it tells a story that is not often told; the story of a gay Black man in America.

And yet, even as I say this, I know that not everyone will share my opinions on this movie. There will be people who’ll watch this film and be frustrated, some for reasons that are understandable, and some for reasons that aren’t. For starters, the movie is very slow, there are whole sequences without dialogue, and, as I said before, there isn’t really an overarching plot. I can totally understand why some people might be bored by this movie. Mood pieces that break the rules of dramatic structure are all well and good, but most people grew up with plot-driven films with lots of dialogue, and, for the most part, they prefer those. Unfortunately, though, that won’t be the only reason why some people won’t like this movie. The other, and perhaps bigger, reason is the fact that it is about a gay Black man. In an ideal world, his story, and the stories of people like him, would be universally embraced. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where a racist, misogynist internet troll with no political or military experience can get elected President, where Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately the victims of police brutality, and where homophobia and transphobia can lead to people being thrown in jail, or even killed, just for being who they are. So if you are one of those narrow-minded idiots who can’t stand to see a person of a different race or sexuality onscreen, avoid this film like the plague. If, on the other hand, you are someone with a soul, and you don’t mind slower, more atmospheric films, give Moonlight a look. It will definitely pull on your heartstrings.

Hail, Caesar! (Film Review)

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

A phrase you often encounter when reading reviews of bad movies is “it has no plot.” When you hear that, you probably think, nothing happens in this movie. Well, that’s not necessarily true. A movie can have no plot, and still have lots of stuff happen in it. To have no plot, it just has to lack a single MAIN story. And what I mean by a main story is a single protagonist, with a clear goal, going up against various obstacles, experiencing a climax, and then changing as a result of all that they have gone through. John McLane fighting Hans Gruber and the other terrorists to save his wife in Die Hard, Martin Brody protecting Amity Island and his family from the Shark in Jaws, Indiana Jones racing against the Nazis to recover the ark in Raiders Of The Lost Ark–these are all perfect examples of films with main stories. They have beginnings, middles, and ends. They don’t have an excessive amount of sub-plots and supporting characters to distract us from the Main story, which is the protagonist with his or her goal, going up against an obstacle, ultimately achieving their objective, and becoming a better person as a result.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing all this up. Simple, the subject of today’s review, Hail, Caesar, the latest film written and directed by the Coen Brothers, has no plot. There’s no main story. Just sub-plots. No one goes up against any extreme obstacles, experiences any climaxes, or changes as a result of all that they’ve gone through. Now, to be fair, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve read my review for Wong Kar-Wai’s Days Of Being Wild, you know that I still enjoyed the film, despite it having no real plot. The acting, cinematography, color scheme, soundtrack, and most importantly, its emotional resonance all made the film enjoyable and touching. They made it worth watching. Hail, Caesar also has characteristics that make it worth watching–some beautiful sets and period costumes, some funny dialogue, a rich supporting cast–but, in the end, these things don’t make the film good. They’re just salt to cover up bland food.

For those of you who want to know what, exactly, I’m talking about, Hail, Caesar is set in the 1950s, in California. The main character, Josh Brolin, is the studio head for Capital Pictures. He is a man with a million things on his plate, and yet, somehow, he always manages to find time to go to Church and give confession. Now, the movie’s been advertised as a kidnapper comedy, with George Clooney being the dim-witted star who’s been mysteriously taken from the set of his latest feature, but that’s not really what the picture is about. It’s about the movies made back in the 1950s. There are several, rather lengthy, segments in this film where we just cut to various sound stages where different movies are being shot. These include a Western chase scene, a Gene Kelly style musical number, and a big water aerobics act. These segments have nothing to do with the kidnapper plot, and are really only there to paint a picture for us of what movies were like back in the day. Yes, they’re well-crafted, and relatively entertaining, but they have no purpose. This makes them distracting, and, ultimately, annoying. In addition to having all these cutaways, the film doesn’t really spend all that much time on the kidnapper story. We spend at least two thirds of the movie with a guy named Hogey Carmichael, a cowboy who can’t act, trying to act in a dramatic film, and failing miserably. And when we do return to the kidnaper plot, it’s not interesting. The Big Lebowski, another Coen Brothers Film dealing with kidnapping that I actually like, is able to keep the audience’s interest because it keeps us guessing the whole time. We don’t know, until the very end, whether or not the person who was kidnapped actually got kidnapped. The protagonist gets a severed toe in the mail, and a group of men actually come by his house and threaten to castrate him if he doesn’t pay. All of this creates genuine stakes. We believe that someone really could get hurt in all this, which makes the story as a whole more interesting. In Hail, Caesar, by contrast, we see who the kidnappers are very early on in the story, and we know that they have no intention of hurting Clooney. This causes any semblance of tension that was in the film beforehand to just vanish, and leaves us with far less interesting storylines, like will Hogey Carmichael learn how to act, will Scarlet Johansen find a father for her baby, and will Josh Brolin leave the movie business and go to work for Lockheed Martin?

All I can say is that, if you want to go to the movies and be mildly entertained for a few hours, and all while knowing that nothing you just saw will stick or resonate with you afterwards, go see Hail, Caesar. As for me, however, and it truly pains me to say this because I love the Coen Brothers, this is just a 5 out of 10. Apart from the acting and the period decor, I can’t think of anything that makes this movie worth my time or money.

The Grandmaster (2013)

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

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m a die hard fan of martial arts cinema. Whether they’re colorful, Oscar-winning epics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, heart-warming, coming of age dramas like The Karate Kid, or campy, Hong Kong Fooey films like Iron Monkey, Kung Fu movies will always hold a special place in my heart. That’s why, last week, when my friend and I sat down to watch The Grandmaster. I was positively giddy with excitement. Not only was the premise of the picture awesome–this 2013 film tells the story of Ip Man, the Wing Chung master who trained Bruce Lee–the movie was made by Wong Kar-Wai, one of my favorite Asian directors, and it had Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, and Tony Leung of Infernal Affairs in the leads. Needless to say, it was all I could do to keep myself from squealing with delight when the lights dimmed and the opening credits started rolling.

Two hours and ten minutes later, that excitement, which had previously threatened to blow me to bits, was gone, and replaced by something else. What, you might ask, was that something? Anger? Confusion? Disappointment? The most honest answer would probably be some combination of “none of the above,” and “all of the above.” I didn’t hate the movie, but i didn’t love it either. I knew going into it that I was in for something strange–the director, Wong Kar-Wai, has gained a reputation for making movies that have little to no plot–but even I felt perplexed by the end of it. First of all, Ip Man, the titular character, is only in about a third of the movie. The rest of the film focuses on Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), a female martial arts qmaster, and Ip’s unrequited love interest. Second, there isn’t even that much Kung Fu in the movie, and when there is a fight scene, you can’t really see what’s going on. The Grandmaster was nominated for two Academy Awards–one for Best Cinematography, and one for Best Costume Design–and after watching it, I can understand why. The vibrant color scheme, exquisite use of slow motion, and creative camera angles are all breathtaking. But, at the same time, the beauty of these images is kind of distracting. In several scenes, like the opening fight where Ip Man takes on ten guys, the filmmakers seem more concerned with making the audience appreciate the aesthetics of the sequence as opposed to the sequence itself. I could never really tell who was punching who, or, to be honest, who was who. Instead, all I remember about the fight was extreme close ups of people’s hands, and slow motion shots of flying water droplets. But by far the greatest issue I had with the film was the fact that nothing really happened. Seriously! There were at least a dozen scenes in this movie where characters did nothing more than sit at a table and stare at one another. It was at points like this that I couldn’t help but wonder, “Did I somehow put the wrong movie in? Because I know for a fact that this isn’t the martial arts epic I was promised!”

And yet, as much as the film confused, bored, and in some cases, flat out frustrated me, I’d still recommend it to most people. As I said before, the visuals are absolutely beautiful, the soundtrack is appropriately dramatic, and the acting is nothing to snub one’s nose at. People in the West have developed this notion that Kung Fu movies are all over-the-top, weak in plot, and poorly acted, but this film just about disproves all those things. The leads give restrained, yet believable performances, and the art and philosophy of Kung Fu is far more prevalent here than most other movies. So, is it what I expected it to be? No. But I still believe its a film worth seeing. Think of it as a more colorful, brainy, poetic version of Donnie Yen’s Ip Man.

6 out of 10.

Give it a try if your in the mood for something heady.