Think Piece Roundup

Think Piece Roundup: Crazy Rich Asians

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For the record: I loved the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel. I’m a self-professed romantic comedy junkie who frequently gets suckered into watching any movie even remotely resembling the genre. On top of that, I’m an Asian American constantly tip-toeing the line between being “too Asian” in some contexts and “not Asian enough” in others. I am this movie’s target demographic.

That said, I also grew up in the Philippines during the era of Flor Contemplacion. For those unfamiliar, Contemplacion was a Filipino domestic worker who was charged with murder and executed by the Singaporean government. Her death caused a political firestorm, souring relations between the Philippines and Singapore for years after, as well as sparking a renewed interest in the treatment of OFWs and the intersection of class, ethnicity, and power in the geopolitical sphere. Needless to say, I’m always curious to see how—but more often than not, if—filmic portrayals address this tangled web of issues.

And so, although I cherish the opportunity to watch a glitzy Hollywood rom-com starring a bunch of people who look a lot like me—I think it’s worth spending the time to take stock of the discussions surrounding Crazy Rich Asians, both good and bad. Because even if it didn’t rake in over $160 million at the box office, the film still has all the trappings of a movie that launches a thousand think pieces—and thankfully not the kind that has to explain “Whitewashing 101.” Read on for a small, curated slice of these conversations, from articles criticizing the film’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Singapore to writers celebrating the fact that this movie has moved us along just enough that we’re now able to discuss the delicate nuances of Asian identity in a global context.

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Movies

La La Land Shines New Light on the “City of Stars”

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Since moving to Los Angeles six months ago, I’ve dreaded the question, “So how are you liking it so far?” My answer always gets convoluted between how much I like the sunshine but miss the seasons or how I love that there’s always something to do but hate how long it takes to get there. The truth is I feel conflicting emotions about this city. Some nights I feel invincible driving past illuminated skyscrapers in DTLA as KCRW fills my car with a new age soundscape. Other times I feel small at a coffee shop drafting my next screenplay, while everyone else around me seems to also be writing and drinking overpriced lattes alone. L.A., as I’m starting to learn, is a paradox. But maybe that’s part of its charm. At least, that’s how Damien Chazelle seems to paint it in his latest film La La Land, of which I happened to catch an advanced screening at Hollywood’s Harmony Gold. With Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Chazelle himself enthusiastically presenting, I was open to giving this city another shot.

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Movies

Moonlight Reimagines the Classic Coming-of-Age Story

The saying “Art imitates life” or vice-versa doesn’t accurately describe Barry Jenkins’s critically-acclaimed Moonlight, although many early reviews and interviews with the filmmaker make it seem that way. To succinctly summarize, the film chronicles the journey of a young black boy as he traverses into manhood. The overall plot is that simple, but where Moonlight truly shines as more than just a coming-of-age story is within the execution of its details. With its sweeping narrative, kaleidoscopic visuals, and an atmospheric musical score, Moonlight shows us instead the ability art has in heightening life—especially in the bleakness of reality.

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Pop Culture

Brooklyn Renaissance at the Brooklyn Museum

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend “Brooklyn Renaissance,” a talk at the Brooklyn Museum about the role storytelling plays in the visual arts. The panel featured three of my favorite artists working today: portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, a superstar in the art world; Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, a young multimedia artist whose name you might be unfamiliar with but whose work you have probably seen; and filmmaker Spike Lee, who really needs no further introduction. Now seeing as I am a total pop culture nerd, it took me until just yesterday to get over my starstruck-ness and really digest the points brought up during the event.

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