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Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Okay. So. Crazy Rich Asians.

It sorta hit me in the middle of the movie that I was going to only see Asian actors in this film and my heart kinda…swelled? The idea that there’s an all-Asian cast in a mainstream romcom is ridiculous. We haven’t had a major studio movie since Joy Luck Club. Yes, there have been other Asian American films, but those have been independent movies, and which didn’t have the amount of marketing that CRA has.

Overall, I adored it. I loved watching Asians on screen. All these Asian actors that I’ve gotten to know in other works coming together in some kinda Asian Avengers. Asians being funny. Asians being charming. Asians being allowed to be humans instead of a stereotype. It was ridiculous, really. Singapore is laid out as some kinda magical fairyland of excess where the super rich hold sway. I suppose it’s not too far from the truth, and yes, there are moments in the film where they show the hired help, housekeepers and servers and cooks, and for me it cast a shadow on the whole affair of seeing an all-Asian cast in a major studio movie. Because…let’s be frank…that help could quite probably be Filipino. This despite the appearance of two Filipino actors in the movie, in real life, Filipinos have taken on these caretaking roles. It’s common in Filipino culture for upper class families to have housekeepers or nannies. It’s well known and it’s a sign that you’ve “made it” to the higher class, and in a developing nation like the Philippines, where the national economy is dependent on Filipinos working abroad and sending money home to family, it’s almost certain that a large percentage of the help in Singapore would be Filipino.

Aaaaand that pulled me out of this Asian fantasy. Which hurt a little. It’s Asian, but it doesn’t quite represent me.

CRA is certainly a fantasy. It’s an Asian Cinderella story where a young Asian-American woman has to navigate in this bizarre ultra-rich world she’d never been in before. I did love Rachel. I loved how she defended her family and her working class roots. I loved that she didn’t back down after being bullied. I also loved that she had friends who absolutely wanted the best for her, because her family structure was so untraditionally Asian but so commonly American. But as much as CRA is touted as an Asian representation landmark (and it absolutely deserves that), I don’t expect it to be the be all and end all of Asian experience. I just hope this opens doors to more Asian narratives in the future. Asia is not a monolith, the affluence of the Singapore shown in the movie is not the norm, but we can still have our fantasies.

Allow us to dream and then allow us to tell more of our stories.

James Gunn Fired From ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Over Offensive Tweets | Deadline

James Gunn Fired From ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Over Offensive Tweets | Deadline

Source: James Gunn Fired From ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Over Offensive Tweets | Deadline

James Gunn has been removed as director of the Guardians Of The Galaxy series after a batch of old social media dispatches were unearthed that touched on areas like pedophilia and rape.

The more I think about this situation, the worse I feel. I was sorta familiar with his work through cultural osmosis. He was part of the schlock-horror studio Troma. I was aware of Troma through The Toxic Avenger, but because I’m not a huge horror fan, Troma films never really appeared on my radar. Gunn made a couple of really good Marvel movies, and now he got in trouble because of some offensive tweets he made 10 years ago.

From what I’d seen, people had already expressed concerns about Gunn when Disney/Marvel chose him to direct the first Guardians movie, back in 2012. The Hollywood Reporter has an article here:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/guardians-galaxy-director-james-gunn-395796

So, he made some homophobic jokes on his blog, and he got called out on it. Gunn apologized and has endeavored to do better. Disney/Marvel then allowed him to direct Guardians and the sequel, and Gunn, I believe, was hard at work on the next Guardians script as all this went down. The resurfaced tweets come from 2008, when Gunn was only a indie film director who made no-budget horror. I don’t think 2008 Gunn would’ve believed you if you told him that 10 years from now, he’d direct two blockbuster films for Disney.

What’s galling is that the tweets were surfaced by a conservative commentator who decided to dig up some old shit by Gunn because Gunn is a dyed-in-the-wool Hollywood liberal who hates Trump. Now, the right wing’s hatred for Hollywood liberals isn’t news. The news is that Disney decided to side with the commentator instead of sticking with their original decision of keeping Gunn on after he sincerely apologized for his gross jokes back in 2012. It’s outrage culture run rampant.

Gunn should be reinstated. I’ve seen some arguments where people have pointed out that Disney fired Gunn but has kept Johnny Depp, despite the alleged domestic abuse he incurred on his ex Amber Heard. (Oh, and I was freaking out over the image of the pair of them sharing the same green room at SDCC, since the 2nd Fantastic Beasts film and Aquaman both had Hall H panels on Saturday. Who’s the bright exec who came up with that idea?) Disney has allowed John Lasseter to carry on in a consulting capacity at Disney Animation despite his gross behavior. Why the double standard, Disney? Why get rid of Gunn when he only make jokes, while keeping people who have actually engaged in gross behavior on?

The court of public opinion is still out on this, but I don’t know if I could watch a Guardians movie without Gunn’s involvement.

Random Thoughts on Luke Cage Season 2

Random Thoughts on Luke Cage Season 2

Luke Cage is my fave Netflix Marvel series so I had high hopes and I’m quite happy with it. The music is still brilliant. The bad guy is pretty compelling and Mariah is still the best. Also Misty is still awesome and this show is still my happy place.

I also admit I haven’t watched Iron Fist because I’ve heard not great things, but the banter between Luke and Danny in Luke Cage season 2 is wonderful and Danny wasn’t nearly as insufferable as he was in Defenders and the Power-Man/Iron Fist buddy fight scene was actually pretty dang good. I love the Patty Cake ending when the Unstoppable Force (Danny’s fist) meets the Immovable Object (Luke’s open hand). Perfection. They actually made me like Danny. Go figure.

Also, Mariah spent so much of her life trying to flee from the reputation her family name carried. She wanted to be as legit and law-abiding as possible, and yet she still wanted everything. Her “I am owed!” is the cry of every woman who’s ever been trapped, ever been victimized, and Mariah had the means to lash out. I mean, she still screwed everything up, but she makes for a compelling villain because her selfishness is earned. She deserves everything because she suffered so much. She hated the Stokes family, and yet her power is built upon what her grandmother started. I do love Mariah, so much. It’s extremely rare to have an older WOC role in general, and Alfre Woodard just took Mariah and carried her to new heights.

tl;dr I love complex female characters like Mariah

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July and it’s understandably difficult to focus on celebrating one’s country while everything is…happening…all at once. And it’s disheartening to know that The Powers That Be dislike you on a fundamental level. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I need to get some thoughts out.

Patriotism does not equal nationalism. To be a patriot is to love your country, and because you love your country, you want to make it better. You want to see it succeed and live up to its full potential. This might mean having to disagree with the government sometimes. People have fought for civil liberties since the inception of this country, and I don’t think that will change. I can’t shake the fact that my parents came to America in search of a better life, and for the most part, they succeeded. It’s ridiculous, but I can’t help but sorta like this country that gave my parents and myself a chance. So, I want to see America be better. It can always be better.

Nationalism is frightening. Nationalism is “my country, right or wrong.” And honestly, that is terrifying. Despite the rebellious streak that many nationalists claim to have, they’re locked into following the government blindly. They accept the rhetoric. They believe it when 45 claims that the free press is fake news. They will go to horrific lengths to support those views. Critical thinking goes out the window, because an informed electorate is harder to control.

So what can we, as informed citizens, do? Honestly? I really don’t have a great answer. Staying informed and proactive is probably the best thing for any American. But always remember that if it gets overwhelming, step away from it. Self-care is the most important thing. You can’t fight if you feel like shit. Be an ally to the most vulnerable among us. Um, vote and encourage others to do so. Remember: the worst thing for this current administration is an informed electorate. Do your homework. Research. Vote for progressive policies. Vote for progressive representatives. Protest, if you’re able to. And most of all, don’t lose hope.

Be a patriot.

Flucation 2018 – Let’s agree to not do this again

Flucation 2018 – Let’s agree to not do this again

After returning from a road trip to L.A. for Disneyland and a Doctor Who convention, I ended up being sidelined by a major flu bug which took me down for nearly 5 weeks. I’m at the point of the year where I’m starting to look back at my social media posts at the time and some of them are amusing to me in hindsight. When I was terribly ill, I couldn’t even get out of bed some days, but at least I guess I kept my sense of humor?

So there’s stuff like:

I’m hilarious…when I’m desperately ill…

Toxic masculinity is a helluva drug

Toxic masculinity is a helluva drug

Pardon my French, but fuck Chris Hardwick.

As I checked my Twitter feed for a final (I told myself) time last night, I saw something pop up that I just couldn’t bring myself to ignore. A tweet about Chloe Dykstra, which pointed to a Medium post where she wrote, in great detail, of her emotional abuse and sexual assault at the hands of her ex. She doesn’t call out the ex by name, but I certainly know who she’s talking about: Chris Hardwick, who took the label of “nerd” and somehow spun it into a personal brand. He props himself up to be a man of the common people. See, he likes the same weird shit that you do and he gets paid to talk about it! He’s funny! He’s self-deprecating! He makes fun of himself for fun and profit!

And he’s so wrapped up in his own affirmation of his self-worth that he was obviously willing to drag someone else down with it.

Chloe’s post is here, and it is a heartbreaking account of her time spent as Hardwick’s girlfriend. I read all of it last night, couldn’t really wrap my head around it, but hopefully this blog post will help me wrangle my thoughts in.

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I took a walk through this beautiful world

I took a walk through this beautiful world

One of my favorite images of Anthony Bourdain, drinking a beer in Hanoi with President Obama.

It’s hard to stop crying.

The stresses of the external world, of life, have possibly just heaped too much on my normally resilient psyche. So when I checked my email this morning (and I reached my Hollywood Reporter newsletter of stuff happening in the world of entertainment), I stared at the headline, but I couldn’t quite BELIEVE the headline:

Anthony Bourdain Suicide

I follow his Instagram. He’d just posted a couple of days ago. Another trip. Another scan over of a hotel room. Another view from a moving vehicle. He was always moving. And each video felt so intimate, a peek behind the curtain of the glamour of traveling all over the world for his CNN show.

I first became aware of him from his first show, A Cook’s Tour, which felt unique among the world of shows on Food Network. It felt like he wanted to get past the “oo look at this exotic food. Isn’t it weird?” that pervaded travel shows at the time. It was different. I loved different. I read his tell-all expose of the restaurant industry, Kitchen Confidential. I found out about his notorious past, how working in NYC in the ‘70s & ‘80s meant a lot of things. How he should’ve died probably a dozen times over because of all the heroin and coke that pervaded the industry. And he got through that somehow.

Bourdain’s shows have been a salve through the years. His eager explorations of food and culture made me feel a little less alone, a little less ashamed of my Filipino heritage. In fact he consistently championed Filipino food as the great unsung cuisine of Asia. He didn’t exotify non-Western food for Western audiences. He told it like it is. It never felt exploitive or manipulative. He approached it all with respect. He genuinely loved food, and the cultures that created that food. He spoke out against colonialism. He was a staunch supporter of the MeToo movement, an aging punk still trying to change the world, someone to look up to and emulate.

I met him once, at a book signing. I was pretty mush-mouthed so I didn’t exactly get a chance to tell him how much his work meant to me at the time. But it’s still a highlight of my life.

My heart aches. We move on. We never forget.

RIP good sir.

Curse you, weather

Curse you, weather

So.

It’s hot.

It’s not a merciless heat.

It’s not a heat wave.

And yet sometimes, that doesn’t matter to my body.

I get migraines. I keep them under control with medications and careful awareness of my triggers. I’m pretty good at keeping them at bay, to the point where I only get one or two debilitating attacks a year, and I’m one of the lucky ones. But none of that matters when you don’t have control over things like the weather.

I felt fine for most of the day on Saturday. It was above 90 but while running weekend errands, I thought I was careful. The AC was on in the car and I felt comfortable. I suppose I didn’t realize how much the heat would affect me. Looking back, I think I might not have drunk as much water as I could have. So by the time the evening rolled around, I felt…not awful but not well either. Twinges of vertigo kept knocking at my head, and slowly but steadily, a migraine began to pound at the right side of my head.

See, I’m lucky, as migraine-havers go. I usually get a visual disturbance. An aura that blocks out a part of my vision. Have you ever had tunnel vision when you’re out of breath or just exhausted? It’s something like that, but I didn’t get my early warning signal of incoming migraine. All I got was a pounding headache and overwhelming nausea. I lost my dinner (RIP enchiladas) down the toilet. I tried for sleep and after continuously tossing and turning in my too-hot bed I gave up and took a cool shower in the middle of the night. This cooled me off enough for heat relief, so I finally got some needed rest after that annoyance of a day.

I’m being more careful today. I’m drinking lots of water and I’m not taxing myself too much, and the forcast calls for cooler temps for this week. This is a welcome relief, and I don’t want to have to continue on my brain-induced adventure.

Detroit: Become Human (2018) demo

Detroit: Become Human (2018) demo

I played the demo for Detroit: Become Human last night. It’s only probably a 20 minute demo (and I’m being generous) so it’s just a small sliver of the entire game, which reviews peg at around 10 hours of gameplay for the main playthrough, with additional time spent on making different choices in order to see all the other narrative threads and endings.

Now, I’ve never played any of the other Quantic Dreams games, but I do know they’re more “cinematic experiences” than true “video games.” So I went into the demo expecting to see some Telltale-type quick event choices which will push the narrative to different paths. I sort of got that, and a quick bit of googling informed me that there were 6 possible endings to the demo scene, so I decided I’d just see where I’d end up by playing the game normally, without walkthrough help.

The demo places the player in the control of Connor, apparently a state-of-the-art android who is specifically designed to be a liaison between humans and robots when shit goes down. You’re plopped into a tense situation. A caregiver android went rogue and has taken his 8-year-old charge hostage, and Connor has to deal with it.

First the good. The dang game is gorgeous. I think it’s one of the best looking games I’ve played on my PS4, and my PS4 is a second generation model, but the game still looks amazing on a 5-year-old console.

But everything else besides the prettiness of the game falls completely flat for me. The controls are not intuitive at all. In any other AAA game, picking things up would just mean focusing the camera on the item until some sort of HUD pops in, telling you that you can now interact with the object, usually by hitting X. In Detroit, you shift the camera onto the object, and then you have to interact with it by maneuvering the right control stick. You swing the stick in a quarter sweep around either clockwise or counterclockwise. Often I couldn’t even pick up something as simple as a tablet or a photograph on the first try. This added a level of frustration to the game, and also lessened the immersion.

And there’s also the heavyhanded way the narrative deals with the main point of contention in the game. So, it’s the future. There are robots that seem nearly indistinguishable from humans apart from a constantly blinking circle on the android’s right temple. There are some rumblings of an android uprising and the three protagonists of the game are all androids in different situations in this world. But in a current political environment where some law enforcement doesn’t even believe in the humanity of others because of the color of their skin, Detroit’s story feels almost as if it’s making light of BLM. I mean, androids in sci-fi have been an allegory for race relations forever, but when media like Westworld and Humans can maneuver within the allegory, Detroit really pales in comparison.

So in the end, did I enjoy the demo? Sort of, but the shortcomings far outweighed whatever fun I had playing it. Will I buy the game? Probably not, but I’m curious enough about the story that I might seek out a Let’s Play of it on Twitch someday.

 

 

Persona 5

Persona 5

The Playstation Store had a recent Golden Week sale so I picked up Persona 5 for about 50% off regular price. I finally finished the main game, and am now pushing through the New Game + to wrap up some of the trophies. This was my first Persona game, but the slice-of-life aspects balancing with the dungeon crawling appealed to me (as a big fan of both) so I jumped into the game eagerly.

I did enjoy the game, even though it fell on some of the tropiest of anime tropes to push the narrative. Anime tropes are fairly comforting to me and are a source of a great deal of happiness, so I won’t ding the game for those tropes. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but I’d like to comment a bit on the Social Links (or Confidant) aspect of the game, where the MC is tasked with just hanging out with his friends, which increase stats for the character which are later helpful in battle and pushing the storyline.  The MC can start relationships with all female Confidants. Keep in mind that the MC is a high school teen and some of the Confidants are adults: a journalist, a doctor, and a fortune teller. It didn’t feel right for me to romance the adult women, so I stayed with the MC’s high school peers. (Best girl is Makoto btw.) But what I found frustrating is the blatant NO HOMO-ness of the MC’s relationship with Yusuke.

Yusuke invites the MC to museums and then asks him to help him out with inspiring his art. Yusuke and MC share a swan boat together. The screencap above is after Yusuke asks the MC to go to a church with him. And then he said overtly romantic things without any sort of follow through because NO HOMO. It’s blatant queerbait and it’s frustrating. You should be able to romance Yusuke. Apparently mistreatment of LGBT+ relationships in the Persona series has been an ongoing thing. *sigh*