Monday, July 13, 2015

Advantageous, A Film To Make You Weep For Your Future

It’s that rare film: instantly mesmerizing, a story of slow, sustained suspense, with a plot delivery that’s more horrifying than what was promised.

It’s that rare film: a science fiction film written, directed and produced by Asian Americans. Even starring!

It’s that rare film: an American indie production that isn’t twee and doesn’t feature cute, young, awkward girls/boys thinking sex is escape but ultimately makes you all grown up.

It’s that rare film: a sci fi story without a time machine or killer robots/computers/aliens/virtual reality. The violence is internal.

Watching it, I was amazed by the storytelling. How in the world was it keeping that level of suspense without falling into tedium? And then the next day, I couldn’t think — I just felt what the movie was about: an unemployed single mother willing to risk her life to make sure her daughter will have every advantage possible in a world where men have decided that women should be unemployed. It’s remarkable how director Jennifer Phang decided to choose a sober, surreal technique to infuse the movie with despair. Women’s despair. The despair is physical, like a tree in the way a homeless woman is melting into the urban landscape. It’s music, the weeping heard above an apartment, below, and then inside, the most acute listener a young girl, this world her inheritance. Our inheritance. Our reality. Only we’ve chosen not to hear the weeping.

For an indie film, the movie has a large, impressive cast with no weak links. And yes, it’s that rare film: Ken Jeong in a serious role! Jacqueline Kim, who’s also credited as a writer, is wonderful to watch as the mother, and Jennifer Ehle gives a surprising performance as the one female doing quite well in the corporate world, the one woman men will point to and say, “See! There’s no sexism!” She’s doing quite well because she’s brilliant, ruthless, creepy, manipulative, immoral. Those qualities in either man or woman will bring success! The truth is, even men are helpless, but their weeping contained bursts of anger. Thus Advantageous is a complete world. That rare film.

I saw the film on Netflix. Hope Netflix keeps it around for a long time.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Super Fun Night

About two weeks ago, I stumbled across Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night and found myself enjoying it. Which was a huge surprise. Because the promos were so shitty, I was sure it was going to be just one huge sitcom DOA.

Let's be clear though: the setup is pretty lame. Wilson is a lawyer named Kimmie. Why lawyer? Because Wilson has a law degree, according to IMDB. She's in love with a co-worker. It's not clear whether the likable guy is into Wilson's sweet, odd lawyer character. But they have a good rapport, so hey, at least that's something. That's the setup. Now let's get to the heart of the show, which is the tone: rather sweet. Plus, everyone is pretty fun to watch. Especially Kimmie's roommates Helen-Alice and Marika, played by Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash. Helen-Alice is mousey and nerdy, Marika freakily tough, physically and mentally. Together they're a nice Greek chorus for Wilson's Kimmie.

Liza Lapira is quite interesting. I mean, the woman is never without a job. Every season she's in a new series. To tell you the truth, I've never liked her work before. In Traffic Light she was a slightly bitchy wife. In Don't Trust the B--- in Apartment 23 a nerdy psycho stalker. Helen-Alice kinda combines the two and really showcases Lapira's talents. Let's hope Super Fun Night lasts longer than the other two series. Now that I'm no longer having much fun with New Girl and starting to lose interest in The Mindy Project, Super Fun Night fills my need for quirky comedies.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

God of Study

This is such a fun K-drama. The premise is, of course, completely zany: an idealistic lawyer decides to turnaround one of the worst high schools in the country. But the writing is sharp and the actors, including all the kids, totally adorable. It's best not to think about the plot too much and just enjoy the ride as one hysterically weird teacher after another is introduced.

God of Study is also known as Master of Study and Lord of Studying. Yeah, the English translation of the Korean title doesn't really work.

Update: The Economist has an interesting interview with Korea's Minister of Education Seo Nam Soo. It explains a lot of what's going on in God of Study. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Last Tango in Halifax

I really enjoyed Last Tango in Halifax, purely because of Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi. They absolutely sparkle as long-lost lovers. In fact, I wish the show had been an hour-long TV drama with just the two instead of a 6-part series focusing mostly on their dysfunctional families.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lunch ON!

I don't know why but I'm totally into NHK's Lunch ON! It's a half hour program that features nothing but interviews of ordinary Japanese people having their lunch. The narration is totally amateurish, but that only adds to the charm. Sadly, I couldn't find a video but check out the link!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rita, My New Fave Teacher

The fun thing about Netflix is that you can aimlessly browse. Who knows what you'll find? Like Rita, a Danish TV series about an outspoken, rebellious teacher with a lot of personal issues and family problems (would love to describe but then there will be spoilers). The show is fun, full of amiable people, witty and so incredibly likeable. I highly recommend it.

Sadly, I just found out that Bravo is doing an American version with Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad playing Rita. Skader. So before the launch of the Anna Gunn version, check out Mille Dinesen as Rita, the Iconoclast.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I Too Hate Skyler White

Sorry I've been away for so long, but the truth is, there hasn't been much on TV that's inspired me to write. Of course, one problem is that I don't have cable. Way too expensive for mostly nonsense. But now I have Netflix and TVKitty lives on.

Of course, one show that everybody's been talking about is Breaking Bad, which is due to end this season. With Netflix, I've been busy catching up. Needless to say, this post will have spoilers, especially if you've never seen Breaking Bad. :)

There's so much to say about Breaking Bad which has some of the best writing I've ever seen on TV (Friday Night Lights comes close). But I'm really here to talk about Skyler. Skyler White. Walt's wife. The very troubling wife of Walt. I guess I'm not the only viewer upset by Skyler. Recently, Anna Gunn wrote a NYT op-ed piece about the shocking amount of hostility she faces playing the long-suffering Skyler. For her, it's an issue of sex. People want wives on TV to be weak, kind, understanding. Skyler isn't weak, kind, understanding. This provokes violent responses. Not just at Skyler but at Anna herself: "I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?" (I guess Anna's never been an evil character in a soap opera.)

I'm sure she's right. Women with balls seem to automatically trigger male homicidal tendencies. Or at least terrific fright. I was watching a report on dating and a guy says with terror and bewilderment, "I don't like self-confident women!" Poor, poor sap. But the thing is, I'm a woman and I don't like Skyler. It has nothing to do with my idea of what a wife should be and everything to do with Skyler being a holier-than-thou Lady Macbeth. Actually, that's not fair to Lady Macbeth as Lady Macbeth didn't tart herself up and practically skip to work so she can see the man she really has the hots for while keeping up the charade of perfectly martyred wife.

That's the thing about Skyler. She's worse than Walt. Well, maybe as bad since Walt has a lot of self-denial stuff going on too. Personally, I think her real problem with Walt has been that he's stolen the alpha position away from her. Before the cancer and the drugs, Skyler was the one in full control of the marriage and family. Walter hardly existed. His life was pathetic and he meekly submitted to all its banal horrors (wonder if Walter is an homage to James Thurber's Walter Mitty). It was the money crisis that reawakened and reinvented Walter. Sure, now he's a monster, but he's alive, he's thinking. Lo and behold, he's making decisions on his own and Skyler begins to unravel because she's not in control. And really, control is the true monster being dissected by the writers. Hank and Marie, in and out of control, Jesse, Jesse's parents, Gus. Control is fleeting and addictive and illusory.

The one time I had any feelings of sympathy for Skyler was that moment when Walt says, "Which phone?" as he's waiting for surgery, the drugs relaxing his mind. Anna Gunn is a fantastic actor. The look on her face, the slight tremble as if she's going to fall apart. Her life as she knew it is finally over. She tries to regain control by demanding a divorce, sleeping with her boss and throwing it in Walt's face. She doesn't start feeling in control again until that triumphant moment when she tells Marie that Walt's a gambler. Walt sits back, amazed at how Skyler takes over, controls and owns his story. Why couldn't she have been there for him all along?

But, of course, this is the moment that Skyler's lost control. The money is now in control (the money [drug] is always in control). And it's been coming, the way her toes scrunched the luxury bath mat at her boss's house, the way she gawked at Walt's new luxury condo. But like Walt, she needs the "good cause" to fully embrace that money. It's to help pay for Hank's recovery. And she underscores the "good cause" with cause and guilt by viciously reminding Walt that Hank would never have been injured if it hadn't been for Walt's involvement with drugs.

Now flashback to the moment that Skyler realizes Marie shoplifted the baby's gift. The lies Marie told. How unforgiving Skyler is. The ramifications of Skyler's lies are far more serious. The writing flows back and forth like this in the most beatific way, with each and every character from Badger to Hank so brilliantly and fully realized. Which is why I hate Skyler. She's so real. She's so us.