Summer 2014 – Movie Edition

Oh, my goodness.  How did the summer go by so quickly?  Apologies for the latest unintended hiatus.  I will eventually do a catch up post. Really.  An overall summary of what happened during the hiatus would be worth doing. I think…

As FC noted, Team Triscribe did “The Revisit” as our latest entry in the 72 Hour Film Shootout (theme for this year was “The Color of My Hair,” as we all keep aiming and hoping for more Asian Pacific American representation in front of and behind the cameras).  We did a split Brooklyn-Tokyo thing. It was a pretty cool project, and we made the Top 35, as we learned at this year’s Asian American International Film Festival.

At the film festival, I watched “Fred Ho’s Last Year” (documentary directed by Steven de Castro, a past officer of the Asian American Bar Association of NY (AABANY); Facebook fan page here) and “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” (official site; Facebook fan page here).  In different ways, both presentations made a lot of food for thought about what it meant to be an APA and how APA’s contribute to the performing arts, films, etc.  Fred Ho took a very serious path, facing death with cancer with as much force as possible.  Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco… are hardly civil rights activists, but they gave tribute to the actors and actresses who took the “die in 10 minutes” roles back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Plus, Angry Asian Man’s Phil Yu as producer, and even actors Aaron Takahashi and Randall Park — well, “Awesome Asian Bad Guys” was quite a thing to watch.

The wide range of gravitas and good humor from this year’s Asian American International Film Festival was much appreciated (but wow, did the week’s events just flew by; I didn’t get to watch as much as I had wanted!).

I finally watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” on Sunday.  Fun movie, even if not perfect; it hit all the right emotional points. Probably a whole bunch of comics references went over my head, since I’m not a big Marvel person, but it was fun.

Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord (if only in his own mind), con artist/thief/alien abductee, journeyed to find it in himself to save the galaxy.  Yep, he and the rest of the least likely bunch of people worked together to be the Guardians of the Galaxy (it’s not a spoiler, since it’s in the title).  Actor Chris Pratt has charisma (with good humor and cuteness, not to mention nice abs; yes, I noticed).  He’s more than that guy in “Parks and Recreation” on NBC or “Everwood” on the WB (yes, I’d go that far back).  Oh, and the rest of the cast was also priceless: Zoe Saldana as Gamora, honorable warrior/assassin; Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper (raucous and emotional); Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel (“I am Groot” – definitely different than his past animated role in “Iron Giant” – but he sure does have a talent for voice work); and even Bautista (WWE wrestler) as Drax, the angry guy who comes from a people who don’t get metaphors.  I can see why this is becoming the “shouldn’t miss” movie of the summer.

Well, there was also “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”  (that came out way earlier, back in April).  That was a grimmer movie, less on the humor (which was there), and way more deeper implications on national security and privacy issues, and impacting a certain tv series called “Agents of SHIELD” considering what happened to the agency SHIELD in the movie.

On a very superficial note, I think actor Chris Evans has a better physique than Chris Pratt, but Evans has done more superhero action roles.  Amusingly, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” had its own “Everwood” alumnus, Emily VanCamp (most recently on “Revenge” on ABC).

Oh, and Marvel also had “X-Men: Days of Future Past” – almost forgot about that.  It was entertaining.  Time-traveling annoys me, and this movie didn’t convince me about why any of us would want to time travel; but the movie at least fixed the craziness of “X-Men 3″ a.k.a. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (which really did no favors for the character of Cyclops).  Actors James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were sweetly tragic as young Professor X and Magneto.  The introduction of the character Peter Maximoff, a.k.a., Quicksilver, with a nice joke for the knowledgeable audience about his parentage (i.e., a “Wait, aren’t you Magneto’s… oh….” moment for the viewers).   The bad future remained a scary place, with the unstoppable Sentinels.

The one person who I thought really didn’t get to do more was actor Peter Dinklage, as the inventor of the Sentinels.  Oh, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine – mmmm. He still had that charisma. I later watched “X-Men: First Class” on tv to get myself caught up.  Overall, First Class and Days of Future Past made me really drool over the cuteness of McAvoy and the hotness of Fassbender; the chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender almost matched up with the chemistry between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the older Prof. X and Magneto (notwithstanding that the younger actors do not quite remind me of the older ones).

22 Jump Street” was funny, but not nearly as riotously funny as “21 Jump Street.” Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return as undercover cops Schmidt and Jenko, going to college, continuing to parody all undercover cop movies.  The plotting somehow still worked, and there was a moral that spring break might be dangerous to your health (for undercover cops and college students).

I also saw “Lucy” this summer.  Scarlet Johannson was not Black Widow like she was in the Captain America/Iron Man/Avengers franchises (seriously, is she going to have her own vehicle as Black Widow?).  No, as Lucy, she was a student abroad, who got caught into becoming a drug mule for Korean mobsters in Taiwan, who were about to spread a drug that permits a drug user to access more brain power (before dying terribly).  Lucy got to access 100% of her brain due to the leakage of the drugs into her system.   Morgan Freeman was the wise scientist who tried to help her (which is turning into a role that he’s been typecasted into doing; he did the same kind of character in “Transcendence,” which I had also watched this spring or summer).  Meanwhile, the Korean mobsters are after her, and the French drug cop sticks around as Lucy’s reminder that she is once human.

Directed by Luc Besson, “Lucy” tries to be everything at once, a meaningful deep soliloquy on humanity and evolution, a crime thriller, a sci-fi movie, and a caper, with lots of blood from the guns and whatever violence (yet strangely not quite an action film), and the hint of a romantic/sensual/sexual tension between Lucy and French drug cop guy – while not really doing well at any of those categories.  Watching the movie, I was generally entertained (even if it didn’t entirely made much sense). Visually arresting, but not exactly mind-blowingly excellent.

I think “mind-blowingly excellent” remains to be truly seen among the movies of 2014, while things have been entertaining enough.  But, Summer 2014, please don’t go yet!

 

The Revisit

We’ve been away for a few months for a lot of different reasons, but one of our projects is the movie below that we submitted to the 2014 Asian American Film Lab’s 72 Hour Film Shootout.  We were in the top 35 out of over 400 films submitted! Thanks to YK, Megan, SW, and Ben for their hard work shooting this in Tokyo!

For Shootout veterans, there are some Easter eggs of previous years’ themes, so be out on the look-out.

Please check it out and upvote our video below!

 

 

A Weird Spring

It’s something I’ve learned over the years: spring is that time of year when weirdos and nuts come out of the wood works, or however that phrase goes.

I suppose we should be grateful that the leaking through the media of a recording of a private conversation of the owner of the L.A. Clippers, Don Sterling, has us talking about race and gender issues.   The new NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, has announced that Sterling would be getting a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine, and the NBA will try to force him to sell the Clippers, via a 3/4 vote of NBA ownership.  I won’t be surprised if there would be more actions in the form of lawsuits, since professional sports is all about contracts and money.  The unfolding issues are just fascinating for their potential depth and multiplicity.  There are all these complications of what goes on in the private and public spheres; what is the responsibility (if any) of a major corporate entity like the NBA, which has this huge egg on its face because of this scandal (in the middle of the 1st round of playoffs); what about what are we as sports fans/viewers/consumers supposed to do (do we really accept this blech from Sterling?); and, hey, it’s spring and it’s crazy…

Anyway, I thought these two posts by Gene Demby over at NPR’s Code Switch blog are good synopses/analyses; definitely worth a read if you want to figure out the developments of this sports/beyond sports story.

Basketball legend (and ex-New Yorker) Kareem Adbul-Jabbar is right on the money: “Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.’ Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs.” I agree that the levels of misogyny and racism out of this mess are opportunities to learn and not just assume that some punishment and moment of shaming will solve everything (not really). Getting things out in the open and discussing them in a civil manner get us on the road of how to actually deal with the craziness and becoming vigilant.

Which reminds me: I ought to read Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from last week’s US S.Ct’s decision, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et al., as she has been quoted for writing, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”  Hmm.  (see here on Gene Demby’s post on the Supreme Court’s difficulty on debating on racial discrimination, over at the NPR Code Switch blog).  I think that if the US Supreme Court justices are having a difficult time debating how we ought to talk about the big issues, if we ever knew how to talk about them – well, clearly, we all need to learn something and these topics are everywhere as it is.

And, while also not related to the NBA situation, note this: “I’m convinced we won’t really learn how to deal with these issues until we learn how to talk about them. It’s time to break down the patterns; they’re only keeping us from really relating to each other on a subject that’s too important to get right.” – Eric Deggans, NPR critic, in discussing the reaction to his post on whether there would be more diversity on late night tv shows.

I’m not even an NBA follower, although I suppose the Brooklyn Nets are trying to keep things interesting with their playoff games against the Toronto Raptors.  I’m still waiting to see if Barclay Center will ever be a real financial boon for the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope (which are all fighting to claim the arena; yeah, okay.., you’d think we’d all try to work together to spread the wealth, since Barclay Center is smack in the middle of the intersection of those neighborhoods).

At the least, we’re living in interesting times.