You can watch JUST MERCY for FREE during the month of June

Hello friends… pardon the lack of posts and engagements on the blog lately. I had been doing a lot of reflections lately and kind of avoiding social media. There’s only so much one can take before information overload sets in… it’s a delicate balance between wanting to keep updated about what is going on and processing everything we see & hear and let them sink in.

While protests about George Floyd’s horrendous killing is still going on, with many countries across Europe and Canada showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter, one word we hear more and more lately is systemic racism. Per Wiki…

Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors.

Well, one of the recent films that highlights systemic racism dramatically is JUST MERCY, and if you have not seen it yet by now, Warner Bros has made it available to stream for FREE for the month of June.

Per Variety, WB released this statement: “We believe in the power of story… Our film ‘Just Mercy,’ based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. For the month of June, ‘Just Mercy’ will be available to rent for free across digital platforms in the US.”

I had the privilege of seeing this film at TCFF last year and posted this review. This is an excerpt from what I wrote…

It’s the kind of film that gets you riled up for the blatant racism and injustice that sadly still hasn’t been completely eradicated to this day. The scene where attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) first met Walter McMillian’s (Jamie Foxx) family, greeted warmly by his wife who’s astounded that he’d bother to visit them packs an emotional punch. The film made me want to learn more about the McMillian’s case and others similar to his, as well as the Equal Justice Initiative that Stevenson founded in 1989. For that reason alone, the filmmakers and cast did an admirable job.

I hope you’ll take the time to watch this if you haven’t already… or if you have, this is a film worth rewatching. The topic can’t be more timely than it is now… though learning about such an important history shouldn’t just be confined to when there’s a devastating incident.

To make it easy, I thought I’d embed this YouTube link so you can watch it here:


In addition to sharing about this film, USA Today also shared a list of books for kids and adults alike to learn more about anti-racism. I think we all can always benefit for learning more about each other, and make sure these kinds of centuries-old practice of injustice don’t keep getting passed down through generations.


Have you seen JUST MERCY? Let me know your thoughts!

Musings on what’s happening in Minneapolis + the Tulsa Massacre scene in Watchmen

Unless you live under a rock or been living in another planet, you’re likely aware of the chaos and unrest that’s been happening in Minnesota… particularly in Minneapolis.

I was ready to post a review of The Trip To Greece, which I had finished last Wednesday, but honestly… I didn’t feel right posting about such a movie when all I could think about was the police brutality that led to George Floyd’s untimely death on Memorial Day. Though I’ve lived in Minnesota since the early 90s, I have never lived in Minneapolis. I live in the southern suburbs about a half an hour away, but I visit the city often on weekends. It’s so heartbreaking to see parts of the city burn, vandalized and people getting hurt… seeing the devastations that started out as peaceful protests. This past week was filled with protests, looting, rioting, etc. that caused so much chaos and destructions that stretch for miles, not just affecting the neighborhoods where Mr. Floyd lost his life, but other neighborhoods as well. Hundreds of National Guard soldiers were mobilized (even Star Tribune paper said if more were needed, it would be the first full mobilization of the Guard in Minnesota since World War II! – that certainly made me pause), and curfews were enforced from 8pm-6am in many areas in and around the city.

George Floyd mural on a wall of Cup Foods at 38th & Chicago, Minneapolis

Race relations in my adopted country United States is often in shaky grounds… it’s even more pronounced in the events of police brutality towards black men and justice was not served properly (i.e. in the case of Philando Castile where the officer who shot him was acquitted) Now, I don’t want to get political or philosophical about this matter, but I’m offering a brief commentary here as a person of color living in America. Coming from Indonesia, a country that was colonized by the Dutch for over three centuries that left its dark legacy of colonialism, it’s hard to overlook the fact that racial prejudice and superior mentality do exist and passed down through generations. Even amongst the most well-meaning, progressive-minded people, many are still ignorant of the pain certain groups have endured for generations, myself included. Thus I do believe it’s important to empathize with people who come from different backgrounds, no matter what race, but especially those who are minorities and marginalized… as we are all human beings created in the image of God. What happened to Mr. Floyd is wrong and he and his family deserve justice.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook and I avoid being on social media for much of this weekend. But I did come across an article in the Star Tribune that’s eye-opening and heartbreaking… a violent demonstration happened in Minneapolis Field neighborhood in July, 1931, where thousands of white people protested against an African-American couple moving in to the all-white neighborhood.

“More than 3,000 persons assembled outside the home, occupied by A.A. Lee and his family, to hurl defiance at the police and openly threaten Lee and his friends.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about such blatant racism existed back then… but reading that still shocked me. It’s even more sad that this kind of systemic racism still goes on today and in many cities in America.

Another historical incident I did not know about was the Tulsa Massacre, which ironically happens exactly 99 years ago today as I’m writing this, May 31 of 1921. It lasted for 18 hours until June 1st, the following day, where 300 people, mostly blacks, were killed.

I only knew about this event when I saw the explosive opening scene of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen. The clip on youtube was labeled as ‘riots’ but it was definitely more of a massacre by an angry white mob.

Per Indiewire, this incident highly influenced the series, as Watchmen‘s show runner Damon Lindelof was inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 article The Case for Reparations about the the Tulsa Massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District — aka “Black Wall Street,” the wealthiest black community in the U.S. at the time. I know many fans of the graphic novels are not keen on Lindelof’s reimagining of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’s original creation, calling it ‘woke propaganda.’ I did not read the graphic novels, but I always think the story has always been political, even if the novel was perhaps more nuanced and complex than how the HBO show depicts it.

I’m actually glad when a movie/show gives me a brief history lesson so to speak, as I promptly googled the Tulsa massacre after watching it. Since I wasn’t raised here in the US and wasn’t taught American history in high school, I never knew this event ever took place. I thought initially this was a fictitious event in the show that depicts an alternate history. But as it turns out, many Americans didn’t know this was a real event, either. No wonder there was apparently a surge in Google search about that incident following the pilot.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, that event was marked as the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. This article in LA Times said attempts were made to cover up the events in the aftermath of the killings, and it took decades for historians and state officials to unearth the history. I think erasing history is just as atrocious as the actual historical event itself.

Now, I happen to think the show is outstanding in terms of its emotional quotient, acting (esp. Regina King‘s performance), production quality, and entertainment value. Hopefully one day I get a chance to do a proper post on it, but at the same time I feel ill-equipped to review the show. The racial issues depicted in the show seems so eerily similar to what’s going on in America today. In fact, having finished season one just days before Memorial weekend, that horrifying opening scene is still fresh in my mind.

So, back to the story about George Floyd, I sure hope this horrific incident would not become lost in the future like the Tulsa massacre. It’s heartbreaking that such a dark history was nearly obliterated… how can the new generation learn from past mistakes if they are shielded from the truth? Thankfully, it seems that the world has taken notice about this case, and street protests have spread globally to other parts of the world… London, Berlin and Toronto. In an usual move, even major Hollywood companies like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Warner Bros, HBO, etc. voice their support for Black Lives Matter movement using their corporate social media accounts.

Now, for those of you from out of state/country who are watching only the devastation and horrible things coming out of Minneapolis lately, I’d like to end this post with this FB post by a Minnesota filmmaker that highlights just what’s going on today…

The protests are still going on and the city is not quite out of the woods yet, but I love how the community comes together and show that they care for one another. My hubby and I dropped off supplies earlier today at a local Food Pantry an hour before the drop off location closed and there were lines of cars trying to donate as well.

My heart is still heavy over what’s happening this week, but I pray that Minneapolis and the surrounding community will see light at the end of this dark tunnel… for peace, reconciliation and harmony, no matter how insurmountable all those things seem to be right now.


For my friends in the Twin Cities, stay safe and be safe.

 

Documentary Review – Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl (2020)

Directed By: Amy Goldstein
Running time: 89 minutes

If you already love Kate Nash, you don’t need to read this review. Ignore what I think and immediately go stream “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” because it was made for you. The documentary is partly a digital year-book covering the first half of Nash’s career and partly an explanation of the creative and logistical battles that she fought as an artist. There are also some very fun lyric videos interspersed throughout the film, which I am certain you will love. Like I said, this movie was made for you, you will love it, go watch it.

If, on the other hand, you do not love Kate Nash or know who she is, I’d say you have a 50/50 chance of liking this movie. There is very little narrative direction in the first half of the film and the second half is a decade’s worth of Nash’s frustrations with the music industry. A large majority of the narration is done with video clips of Nash over the last decade, which makes the movie feel more like a journal than a documentary. Which, again, is great if you are already a fan.

Photo credit: Carolina Faruolo

For the unfamiliar, Kate Nash is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and actress. She rocketed into the limelight around 2008 when her single Foundations hit number two on the charts. Her first album was a solid pop album, but when she tried to shift her sound to punk rock she ran into issues with her record label and they eventually dropped her. Nash has put out four albums and toured consistently. She is not a Beyoncé (I mean, there can only be one), but she is successful: she has built a loyal following, tours consistently, and is currently a part of the core ensemble for the Netflix series GLOW.

With all that in mind, this documentary is going to ask you to consider Nash an underdog, which is its fatal flaw. The first half of the movie loosely describes Nash’s early career. She dealt with terrible hate mail, was exhausted by her grueling debut tour, but came out of the experience determined to empower girls and young women to pursue their mutual love: making music. However, rather than focusing on any of this, the movie instead introduces its recurring theme: Nash cannot make the music that she wants to because her record label cannot handle it. “Record labels don’t like shouting,” she explains at one point, “I think it sounds cool. I’m into, like, punk music and rock music.”

Photo credit: Anouchka Van Riel

Halfway through the documentary we find the other chip on Nash’s shoulder, which is arguably the worse of the two. Her manager stole enough money from her that she is in danger of bankruptcy. Nash sues him and, while she is trying to get that money back, she hits a personal rock bottom. This is where the movie really lost me. For Nash “rock bottom” means moving to a smaller (but still nice) house, selling several garbage bags full of her clothes, and wondering if she’ll need to get a real job. “I don’t know how to make money outside of being on tour or making a record,” she says.

Spoilers: she does not have to get a real job.

To be clear, it is terrible that Nash almost went bankrupt. Her manager’s theft is a disgusting breach of trust and it makes sense that Nash was traumatized by the experience. She almost won me over when she admits of her situation: “It’s not that bad. I’m healthy. I’m alive. I’m on this planet,” sarcasm tinged her voice for a moment, but she finishes sincerely enough, “I have a dog. I have good friends. I have music. So. What more do you need than that, really? There’s a million other people out there that have it worse than I do.”

The problem is that even if she knows that that is true, she never acts like she thinks that is true. She worries about getting a job in a café and being recognized and shortly thereafter accepts a job hosting a geeky shopping show. Even though this gig is career-adjacent to her then-stated goal of becoming an actress, her misery is scrawled so clearly over her face that the scene is painful to watch.

Photo credit: Kelsey Hart

This documentary could have been great if we had heard from more voices and if it had stuck a different overall tone (just a little less “Woe is I”). I mean, come on. There is theft, there is feminism, there is a singer so idealistic that she spent her own money to support the programs for the girls she was coaxing into the music industry, there were so. many. amazing. outfits. And, aside from a couple weird choices (why would you do a rack focus between an empty foreground and the subject of your interview? why did we listen to her drummer read a benign text from her mother after a show?), the movie is beautifully put together.

But the takeaway from this movie is that life has thrown Nash a couple curveballs and she prevailed. The movie closes with Nash, now a multimillionaire, telling us that when she moved to LA she wanted to make a lot of money, but after losing everything (she leaves out the that she recently released a new album and landed a recurring role on a lucrative television show) she has realized that it’s not about the money: it’s about the art.

Again, If you are a hardcore Kate Nash fan, I think you will enjoy this film in spite of everything I’ve said here, but as someone who went into the documentary without a base-level fondness for her, I found it tone deaf, self-indulgent, and tedious.


This film is now available on Alamo On Demand
with apps for iOS and Android coming very soon.


Have you seen this Kate Nash documentary? Well, what did you think? 

Music Break: 10 Patriotic Film Scores To Honor Memorial Day 2020

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! It’s certainly an unusually quiet Memorial Weekend for most of us. Instead of kicking off the ‘official’ Summer travel season here in the US, the Covid-19 pandemic has basically ground everyone as stay-at-home order are still in place in many areas.

But one thing remain the same… in that we ought to still feel grateful for those who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens. This year, we also should extend our gratitude beyond fallen soldiers, but also first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the un-seen enemy all over the country.

A few years ago, I did a pictorial tribute for Memorial weekend, so this could be its companion post. Even if the film itself is subpar (I’m looking at you Pearl Harbor), doesn’t mean one can’t appreciate the scores. Not all of these are from war-themed films either, as heroes made sacrifices on and off the battlefield. So here you go…

10 patriotic film scores to honor all the heroes on this day of remembrance:

BONUS:

I had to include one more from the Captain America franchise. Not only are the scores patriotic-sounding, but they’re just fantastic to listen over and over.


Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Stay safe and well.


Now, which other patriotic film scores would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Trailer Spotlight: Netflix’s The Old Guard (2020)

Happy Thursday!! It’s rather gloomy here where I live, so it’s nice to see something that gets the juices flowing. Definitely something to look forward to July 10 as that’s the date it’ll drop on Netflix, yay!

A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered.

I’m not always excited for Netflix Original Movies, I mean I haven’t seen Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction, and probably never will. But there’s SO much going for it here that makes me yell ‘yeah!!’ even as I’m watching the trailer 😀

I do love Charlize Theron in action movies. She’s great as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and also in Atomic Blonde, she looks believable here too as Andy (is that a nickname??) the leader of immortal mercenaries who’ve been fighting to protect the mortal world for centuries. As if they weren’t bad-ass enough by the looks of it, they’re also very hard to kill! Dayum, I certainly don’t want to be on their wrong side!

I LOVE the director too, Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights), glad to see her doing an action genre! It’s apparently based on a 5-part graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka. Now, as for the rest of the cast, we’ve got Kiki Layne who’s lovely in If Beale Street Could Talk, and three of my fave Euro actors who are all verrry easy on the eyes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthias Schoenaerts and Marwan Kenzari.

I’m intrigued by the concept that they’re immortals. Who are The Old Guard and why they sent ancient warrior Andy to recruit the team? How do they get the immortal ability? Why are they protecting the mortals? And why they seemingly always in hiding/on the run? There’s a quick blurb about the group could potentially be weaponized, and looks like Ejiofor is their enemy here, it’s not clear exactly who his character is. One thing for sure, looks like even he’s shaking in his boots when the Old Guard are near!

Well, based on the trailer, I really can’t wait to see this!


What do you think of this trailer?

FlixChatter Review: DEERSKIN (2020)

If you look at the review quotes all over this poster, calling it ‘demented,’ ‘bat-shit crazy’ ‘unhinged’ … well in many ways this French film lives up to those descriptions. I was curious to see this because I had heard of Quentin Dupieux‘s 2010 film Rubber, which is about a homicidal car tire. This time, it’s another inanimate object that seemingly has supernatural power to wreak havoc on those who came into contact with it.

This horror comedy stars Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin, who most people know in The Artist, as a middle-aged, recently-divorced man. Right from the start when he frantically got rid of his corduroy jacket at a gas station–in a wholly stupid & irresponsible manner–we know Georges is suffering from a mental breakdown. He then visits a friend where he impulsively buys a vintage fringed deerskin jacket, and after paying a huge sum of money (too much I’d say for a used jacket that isn’t even in style anymore), he was given a digital video recorder as a bonus. He then drove to a sleepy French alpine village and took residence in a motel.

And so it begins… Georges’ descend into madness. He starts talking to the jacket, taking endless videos of it, and displaying all kinds of weird, obsessive behavior. It made me think of how actors often say that once they put on a costume for a role, that’s when they feel like can inhabit their character fully, and perhaps they’d even feel invincible, like they found a new purpose in life. In the case of Georges, this aimless man is possessed by the jacket in a truly bizarre way. There’s definitely a streak of toxic masculinity, as he walks around feeling like he’s the bee’s knees with his new killer style. He came up with with a crazy mission that he wants to be the only person in the world to wear a jacket, which gets more and more extreme as the film progresses.

I’ve seen Dujardin only in half a dozen projects, and he usually portrayed a slick, charming gentleman with a gregarious personality. Interesting to see him in a much more subdued, even deadpan performance, barely flashing his mega-toothed smile. The film didn’t really kicked into gear until he meets Denise, played Adèle Haenel (recently seen in Portrait of a Lady on Fire), a waitress with great aspiration as an editor. Somehow Georges managed to convince Denise that he’s an indie filmmaker who’s being abandoned by his producers in Siberia. Not only that, he even got to make her feel sorry for him that she’s willing to fund his film AND also edit it!

The whole filmmaking aspect of the story is quite amusing and surreal. There’s one memorable scene where Denise grills Georges about his film and what it’s about. He can’t come up with a real concrete idea (naturally, as he just makes stuff up as he goes along), and it’s Denise who plants a brilliant idea in his head.

Amidst all the absurdities however, the performances of the two leads, managed to hold my attention. Their relationship surprisingly isn’t salacious, but it’s definitely unsettling. I find it intriguing to see a constant shift between them as to who is actually in control. At first I thought Denise has fallen prey to Georges, but as she continues to remain committed to his film project, I wonder if she knows more than she let on. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but trying to figure out her character and whether she has her own agenda proves to be increasingly more suspenseful to me as Georges’ deranged behavior gets more and more gruesome.

I’m not a horror movie fan, but I’m sure fans of the genre notice some nods to serial killer movies like Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the way some of the violent scenes were filmed. Yet there’s an alarming nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude that Georges displays that makes it absurdly comical. He might as well has his whole face covered up like those famous horror characters as he barely displays any emotion.

Deerskin is certainly a weird movie, but reading about some of Dupieux’s previous work, this one seems to be the most accessible. The ending still manages to surprise me, despite the fact that it followed a horror genre trope. I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend this movie to casual moviegoers, I feel like Dupieux’s movies are an acquired taste. I’m glad I saw this one and it was entertaining enough for reasons I’ve mentioned above, yet I don’t know that I’d be clamoring to see his other movies.


DEERSKIN OFFICIAL WEBSITE


Have you seen DEERSKIN or Dupieux’s other films? I’d love to hear what you think!

Thursday Movie Picks #305: Girls’ Trip

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… GIRLS’ TRIP.

For this topic, the ones I pick isn’t necessarily about girls taking a trip together, but more about female friendships. Honestly I actually haven’t seen too many of movies about women taking a trip together, though I know there are a bunch of them. So I picked three that really resonated with me even from decades ago.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Five years after the events of Mamma Mia!, Sophie prepares for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna as she learns more about her mother’s past.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for these Mamma Mia! movies. I almost didn’t even want to see it, but when I visited my best friend in San Diego, she had this DVD and we decided to watch it together. Well, I ended up really enjoying it! I like the second movie even more as it traced back Donna’s past and how the relationships she forged in the past affects her, as well as her daughter Sophie’s, present. The three of them went on a trip to the Greek island and of course Donna ended up staying and built a hotel there. I love how in the sequel you see their friendship is still as strong as ever, and passed through generations.

I adore Lily James as young Donna (and this girl could sing!) and the other two actresses who played her two besties Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn). It helps a ton if you enjoy ABBA’s songs (which I do), and it also shows the friendships of Donna’s men (aka Sophie’s three dads) which is quite amusing also. Of course the island scenery (filmed in Croatia) is to die for!


Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Based on Terry McMillan’s novel, this film follows four very different African-American women and their relationships with the male gender.

I can’t remember when exactly I saw this movie but I still remember it fondly to this day. Even specific scenes still feels fresh in my mind, I mean who can forget Angela Bassett burning her husband’s car?

Based on Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel, it has such an amazing cast, Loretta Devine, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, that work amazingly together. I’m actually a fan of Whitney as an actress, and she seems more comfortable here than in The Bodyguard.

As these women go through struggles in men, careers, and families that took them to different directions, it’s the bond and friendship that sustain them. Even the song Count On Me became an anthem for strong friendships… “When you are weak, I will be strong…Helping you to carry on.” 


Thelma & Louise (1991)

Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed.

This movie has become an icon and perhaps still one of the most famous roles Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, and likely the most celebrated. I often forget it’s directed by Ridley Scott, where he’s nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

The story of two friends who initially embarked on an adventure and ended up being on the run from police after an unexpected incident is certainly juicy. But it also features authentic and loyal friendship, as tragic and misguided they may be. I thought the ‘morning after’ scene when they both realized Thelma had been swindled by the seductive JD (still one of Brad Pitt‘s most memorable roles) was priceless! Many men think this movie is anti-men, well obviously that speaks more about themselves than about the filmmakers.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?