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Showing posts from 2019

Trey Shults' Waves (2019): A Study in Color and Parallelism

Trey Shults' Waves (2019) inspires passionate discussion every time it comes up. Some praise it's storytelling style of multiple points of view, while others complain that it's a meandering mess. I'm in the camp of enjoying the format. Waves provides an unforgettable experience of color, sound, and emotion. It tells a compelling story and provides opportunities for discussion. It's exactly the type of story I want to support.

African American high school student Ty (Kelvin Harrison) has it all: the girl, the friends, athleticism, the acclaim, and by all counts, a supportive family. We open to a series of montages showing us Ty's life: hanging with his girl, high on life and crazy in love, going to practice, working out, taking selfies. He is on the wrestling team, and they all chant, "I cannot be taken down; I am a new machine," while performing drills. Ty lives in an upper middle class home with his dad and stepmom (we find this out later) and young…

Thoughtless Questions: When Are You Going to Have Kids/More Kids?

This article is part of my Thoughtless Questions series. The purpose of this series is to create greater awareness for people who want to be better human beings. Each entry examines a question that people frequently ask that can be painful or harmful. The people who ask these questions don't have bad intentions, yet the questions they ask are thoughtless.

One such question is: When are you going to have kids/more kids?
My hope in writing this article is to share why you should avoid asking this question, why I believe people ask this question, and provide alternative talking points. 
When I was a teenager, my older sister became pregnant, and I had the privilege of becoming an aunt. However, the baby wasn't expected, and I learned how easy it can be to get pregnant. It seemed at the time that becoming pregnant was the easiest thing in the world. If you engage in sex, in one moment, your entire life can change. As I continued in my teens and aged into adulthood, I met more and…

Melina Matsoukas' Queen & Slim Movie Review (2019): How to Get a Date Worth Keeping

Melina Matsoukas' Queen & Slim has received mixed reviews from critics. Most of the criticism circulating around praises the style and look of the film and the reverence the camera bestows upon black community. Conversely, reviewers feel less complimentary about the overall message of the film and feel like it's too much emotion and not enough logic. I won't comment upon how race is handled in this film because there are others who are better informed (Angelica Bastien) and equipped (Kolby Mac) to write such a post. But I did want to touch on some points I haven't heard anyone talk about yet: the perils of online dating and how the couple's bad Tinder date ends up in a ride or die love.

A brief summary for those who are unfamiliar with the movie: Queen & Slim meet for dinner at a "black owned" establishment for dinner. They don't seem to have much in common. On the drive home, a white police officer pulls over their car because of "errat…

Sean Baker's The Florida Project Movie Review: A Fairy Tale Set in Poverty

In fairy tales, every child is a prince or princess who eventually gets a happy ever after. But what if the princess's parents aren't queens or kings? What if this princess grew up within the world of what Florida Project's director, Sean Baker, calls the hidden homeless?

Just outside the walls and fences surrounding the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth" -- Walt Disney World -- there are people with no permanent housing, who choose, for whatever reason, to shack up for long periods of time at brightly colored motor hotels. The majority of The Florida Project takes place at the Magic Castle Inn and Suites, with its all-lavender facade looking less than picturesque.

Our princess, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives at the inn with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), who perfectly encapsulates what we used to call a "fun mom." Moonnee spends much of the movie running around the inn and its neighboring properties -- other inns, the local ice cream parlor…

Thoughtless Questions: How Did He/She Die?

A few years ago, my older sister died. Although I have dealt with death a few times within my family, this first death within my nuclear family has granted me greater awareness of the many challenges survivors face after a loved one dies. One of the most significant challenges is dealing with the many questions people ask after a life ends. The people who ask these questions don't have bad intentions yet the questions they ask are thoughtless.

One such question is: How did she/he die?
My hope in writing this article is to share why you should avoid asking this question, why I believe people ask this question, and, for those who want to show support to survivors, provide alternative talking points. 
First, I want to share part of my story. I am currently 43 years old. A few years ago, my older sister died. As you can imagine, it wasn't expected. It was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Unexpected, terrible, and shocking, are all words I could use to describe the events that …

Alma Har'el's Honey Boy Movie Review: Gut-wrenching memoir about childhood trauma and its after-effects

When I was choosing which films I would attend for Film Fest 919, there were some tough decisions to be made. But there were some absolute must-see films on this list. For me, one such film was Honey Boy. Once I saw the trailer, I was hooked. Although the preview trailer had few details, I knew the plot somehow revolved around the past of a troubled young boy and how that past informed the present life choices of a troubled man. I also knew one Shia LaBeouf was going to portray his own father, and that the screenplay was based on his life. I knew I would love this movie, and that I would probably cry multiple times.

Otis (Lucas Hedges) is a stunt worker for films. At the beginning, we see him hooked up to a harness of some kind. Although it's part of his job, it's clear that his work is dangerous and involves him being put into some unpleasant situations. In a tight montage, we see him drinking, frolicking with a some nameless woman, getting arrested, and acting surly. Cut to…

Derek Tsang's Better Days: A Bleak Portrait of School Bullying, Test Anxiety, and Selfless Love

Stories with bullied characters at the center have always resonated with me. When I was young, I read Judy Blume's Blubber. Portraits of weak, vulnerable characters being tortured relentlessly are the stuff of my nightmares. Although I was never bullied as Chen Nian is, I had some close calls, and I can only imagine the helplessness felt by those who are bullied. There is always a temptation to think, "Oh that can't be real. Real kids wouldn't do that." Well, yes, it can. If bullies existed in my day, I can only imagine it's even worse, with bullies able to use cellphones to embarrass people in new ways.

In Better Days, Chen Nian goes to a prestigious school where all of the students are counting down the days until "gaokao," a well-publicized exam that happens each year in China. It's the only measure that decides where you go to college, with the highest scorers getting first choice. There's a tremendous pressure to do well on this test, …

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite (2019): An Allegorical Roller Coaster Ride From Class Horror to Caper Crime

Energetic, sly, smart Parasite takes viewers on allegorical rollercoaster ride through class horror, bitingly humorous caper crime, and touching family bonds.

Meet the Kim family. They live in the slums of Korea in a tiny basement apartment, dominated by a toilet that sits like a throne on the highest place of honor in the space. This quirky setting piece tells you everything you need to know about the Kim family and will play a very important role in what is to come.

The Kim clan, family of four, are survivors. They are smart, savvy, and resourceful. They also all seem to have the gift of gab and can charm others into giving them a break. How, on Earth, are these delightful people so dirt poor and ready to fold pizza boxes just to make a lousy buck? Hey, this is Korea, and there's little room for social climbing. Unless, you have the right friends. Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) is asked by his friend to take over his job of tutoring the sweet, but somewhat dumb, Da-Hye, daughter of the…

Every FILM FEST 919 movie I watched, ranked

In October 2019, I attended my first ever film festival in entirety. I spent four days, from a Wednesday evening until a Sunday evening, living and breathing film appreciation. Although I did take breaks to sleep and eat, it was a very intensive sprint of watching as many movies as possible, without going insane. Although I hope to write individual reviews of each film, at the very least I wanted to look at all the movies in comparison to one another. Below, find my rankings of all the films I watched. To create this ranking, I looked at three aspects.

Enjoyment: Did I enjoy watching the film on a visceral level
Technical merit: Things like good acting, pretty to look at, screenplay, art of story, sound editing
Importance: How unique and important is that this story be told.

I then had to do some shifting to ease my conscience. But, just a disclaimer: I didn't any movies that were "bad" or "not worth seeing." The festival curators did an excellent job choosing …

Episode 7 The White Devil Revealed in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 7 The White Devil

Although I break the events down into the different time periods, during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that juxtaposes the events together.

Hot take: The entire plot of this episode stays in the three core time periods of 2020, 1987, and 1954. In some ways, this is one of the most disturbing episodes of the season. Hannah proves once again to be one of the most unlikable people on the show. While no one is perfect, she seems to be the only person that has no moral compass. There is no one she thinks highly of than herself. It's questionable whether or not she even has that love for Jonas. She is the only one that intentionally causes harm to another person, with no guilt whatsoever. In addition, the person of Claudia wants to do good for someone, but ends up causing the thing she wanted to avoid…

Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale (2018): Brutal But Necessary Storytelling

Although Jennifer Kent's sophomore feature film The Nightingale is brutal and horrifying to watch, viewers ready to take the risk will appreciate a rare look at colonial Australian history, and the risks Kent took to create it.

It's 1825 somewhere in Tasmania, and Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish convict serves her sentence in the servitude of Hawkins (Sam Claflin), a weak, narcissistic British military man with aspirations of grandeur and promotion. Although Clare is married, Hawkins feels some level of romantic interest in her, and considers her his property. He calls her his songbird and nightingale and asks her to perform music for his men. Clare feels she has served her time and wants to be free to live as a free woman and fulfill her roles as wife and mother. If you remember how Goeth felt about Helen in Schindler's List or Edwin felt about Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, you will get a good picture.

To put this in context, remember this is the early colonial days fo…

Episode 6 An Immutable Endless Cycle in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 6 An Endless Cycle

Hot take: Every Dark viewer has wanted for Jonas to get to wake up and start over fresh. Now that he has knowledge of what is possible, it's his chance to try and make things right. After being lead by Adam to enter the dark matter and return to the present-day world, he returns to the time before the series started, right before his dad's suicide. He believes if he can stop the suicide, he can set everything right again. This episode is unique in that the entire thing takes place in one time period, the year when the show began.

In 2019 - As we show begins, we see Jonas, but it's a Jonas without the neck scar. Michael/Mikkel are both still alive and co-existing in the same time period, and it's a beautiful day full of possibilities. However, we can see that life is weighing heavily on Michael. He doesn't really w…

Lulu Wang's The Farewell (2019): A Family-Centric Ruse

Very few family comedies or dramas manage to be realistic. Often the funny ones depict family units that are overly perfect or idealistic, and the serious ones rely on lots of upsetting family drama and tears to manipulate the audience into feeling something. Lulu Wang's The Farewell does neither and manages to provide a window into one Chinese family's reality and the way they deal with a family emergency.

To be fair, the realism was bound to be there as this story is based on a real event that happened, directed by one of the people to which it happened, and many of the scenes played out exactly as shown in real life. The monologues don't seem scripted because . . . they aren't. In the film, we meet Billi (Awkwafina), a young professional Chinese woman who lives in America. She adores her Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) and is understandably upset when her parents tell her that Nai Nai has 3 months to live due to cancer. The family has decided that it's best that Nai Nai…

Episode 5 Mikkel Lost and Found (and Lost) in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 5 Lost and Found

Although I break the events down into the different time periods, during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that juxtaposes the events together.

Hot take: Most of the action in this episode takes place in our "current" time of 2020. In the 1980s, we follow Claudia and Ulrich as they try to stop the inevitable. Both of them have emotional arcs because their motivations are clearly narrow-sighted. Ulrich just wants Mikkel back and thinks if he can return his son, all will be right again. Claudia wants to stop the bad from happening to both her dad and daughter. In 1921, our gaze is firmly locked on Jonas as he tries to stop calamity from happening to him, those he lives, and the whole earthly realm. His gaze has transcended his own good to those around him. He is willing to accept he may no longe…

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019): Whose Story Is It?

Quentin Tarantino is known for many things: foot fetishes, a love of spaghetti westerns, martial arts films, alternative histories, lengthy monologues, and copious amounts of over-the-top violence and bloodshed. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (or OUATIH, as everyone seems to be calling it) keeps many of these elements, but the violence and bloodshed are almost nonexistent. When it does enter the picture, it's that much more shocking because of its noticeable absence throughout most of the film.

Rick Dalton, a fictional character, (Leonardo DiCaprio) feels certain his career won't last much longer. His reputation has sunk due to the fact that he always plays the villains who get beat up. It doesn't help that he's also an alcoholic. He thinks his career has sunk to a new low when he is offered a chance to make Italian Westerns. His stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), drives him around and does odd jobs around the house since unfortunate circumstances h…

Riley Stearns' The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Movie Review: Do NOT Talk About Night Class

In 1999, David Fincher directed the book to movie Fight Club, a dark stylized comedy about a group of men who form a "support group" of sorts called Fight Club, where they pair up for no holds barred unarmed first fights with one another. Organized by the charismatic Tyler Durden, for a time, the meetings seem to be a good thing. Things start to spiral when the hero realizes Tyler is no good and must be stopped.

In many surface ways, The Art of Self-Defense is quite similar. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) walks around like he is apologizing for taking up oxygen. He lives alone with his dog and works at a boring, thankless job as an accountant. One day, Jesse is attacked on the street by some unidentified motorcycle riders. He's hospitalized for his wounds and takes some times off work.

On a walk around town, he overhears a karate class and goes into observe. He feels intrigued and inspired by what he sees and decide to sign up for classes. He hopes that he can "become wha…

Episode 4 The Travelers Team Up in Netflix Dark Season 2

Dark is one of the best Netflix original series to date. To see a description of the show and all of my episode recaps, go here.

Episode 4 The Travelers
Although I break the events down into the different time periods, during the episode, all the time periods are interwoven together in a way that juxtaposes the events together.

Most of this episode occurs in the "present," which is the year 2020. Whereas much of Dark revolves around characters feeling alone and doing things as an individual, in this episode, we see characters forming alliances and trying to work together. It's a coming together, where people share what they know with others. There are two groups that form in 2020 -- the teens and the adults.

In 2053 - The guard who helped Jonas escape from his prison cell walks outside the room where the dark matter blob is contained, only to be confronted by adult Elisabeth. The guard wants to know what is the blob? Elisabeth signs to her: It's the devil. I was rea…