Once Upon a Time in Singapore | Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Despite my best efforts, I was moved by this film. Granted, if you’ve read any of my coverage of Korean dramas, you know I’m a pretty easy mark. Crazy Rich Asians has a rocky start, pitched more toward comedy as we’re guided by a too-cute film language bordering on fourth wall breaks. Like, at any moment, Constance Wu is gonna look into the camera with an ironic “You’re probably wondering how I got here.” I suppose what I’m really thinking of is characters introduced with loud title cards, because they are introduced with voiceover and cutaways, and it’s a toss-up whether it’s an Asian or Asian-American celebrity who’s great or who totally sucks. … More Once Upon a Time in Singapore | Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Review

Beautiful China Doll | Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Review

If you were to accuse me of disliking this film simply because it’s an insensitive American portrayal of an Asian culture, my only objection would be the word “dislike.” I disliked the movie the first time I saw it, in high school as part of AP English Literature – parents, if you were wondering what your kids are getting up to at school – where we also read the book. I didn’t remember much, other than it wasn’t that good but the Spielbergian style was sort of amusing. Well, TVs back in 2011 sucked, especially ones wheeled into public school classrooms. I don’t know what I saw in even the cinematography. This is, quite possibly, the worst movie I’ve ever seen. … More Beautiful China Doll | Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Review

Notes on The Dropout

After a phenomenal debut with one of the best seasons of television in the 21st century, the American Crime Story anthology slowly drifted off my radar. I got partway into the second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, but it didn’t grab me the same way as the original. Season three (or possibly two) was supposed to be about Hurricane Katrina, and that was delayed before being reworked into this year’s Five Days at Memorial. Finally, we have Impeachment: American Crime Story, and I haven’t seen it yet. In the meantime, I have The Dropout. … More Notes on The Dropout

Koreatown NYC 2022

I recently visited New York City, and by “recently” I mean, like, three months ago. I was typing up this post as a kind of travelogue because it’s a special occasion — I really don’t travel anywhere — and then forgot about it. Apparently, I need to set the record straight, after Stella’s account of events, which make me out to be quite the fool! … More Koreatown NYC 2022

American Kung Fu Primer [PODCAST]

This month, Donovan Morgan Grant returns to provide an overview of the American kung fu movie, which is also the story of the evolution of the action scene and the United States’ cultural perception of China, Hong Kong, and Japan. We start at prehistory, before the advent of martial arts styles, and move through the watershed year of 1973 — challenge the conventional wisdom that that was the beginning — and continue onto the Golden Age and the resulting Doldrums, both pivoting around the rise and fall of The Matrix. Throughout, we introduce the careers of the action icons like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and whittle down a list of recommendations. … More American Kung Fu Primer [PODCAST]

Emmys 2022

For the most part, I think it was a pretty crowd-pleasing Emmy nomination announcement today, between Abbott Elementary, Yellowjackets, and of course, Squid Game. Does the first-ever nominated Korean show have a chance to repeat the success of Parasite three years ago? Seems unlikely. I have to agree with the Washington Post assessment, because between perennial favorite Succession and two big departures, the smart pick here is Better Call Saul. I’m pretty sure Breaking Bad won only one Outstanding Drama award, and that was for its last season. The Academy, or whatever it is, sure loves pulling that stunt. … More Emmys 2022

Gianna Jun | The Last Vampire vs. Ashin of the North

Like all those books with straightforward titles like How to Learn JavaScript, I’ll note in this introduction that “This is not a book on how to learn JavaScript,” and in this case, I won’t be summarizing Gianna Jun’s career between the films Blood: The Last Vampire and Kingdom: Ashin of the North — not exactly. But I chose these two movies because together, they suggest something about how stars are made. … More Gianna Jun | The Last Vampire vs. Ashin of the North

Zombie Mad Scientist [PODCAST]

With Netflix K-shows being renewed left and right, what better a time to talk about Kingdom than this tense moment before season three gets the green light, too? In other words, I couldn’t wait. How could I resist Gianna, focus of this month’s discussion? For whatever reason, when Kingdom: Ashin of the North was released, my first thought was Blood: The Last Vampire, and together, they may say something about international star-making. … More Zombie Mad Scientist [PODCAST]

The Day It’s “About” the Empire and Not “By” the Empire

Anyway, something I love about Asian movies is when they manage to find white actors to play less than flattering roles, often in recreations of historical events. The question is sometimes, “Where’d they find this guy?” because the acting is so bad, but then it’s “Where’d they find this guy?” because he’s making the British look real fucking stupid. In Ray Stevenson’s case, I’m genuinely curious if his Irish heritage meant no lost love, either, or if it was just a paycheck and an awesome vacation. … More The Day It’s “About” the Empire and Not “By” the Empire