Trying something new — forgoing video essays for something far more specific: Kermode Uncut? Not a flattering comparison for me, but I just like the structure of those videos. I just have to work on cutting down on the chitchat and, you know, video quality.
So, the mission of With Eyes East is to promote Asian cinema and culture, and a very easy way for me to do that is to look at movies which are already cultural outreaches, movies like The Raid: Redemption from Indonesia or Furie from Vietnam. I don’t have to crane my neck; in fact, I might only have to look as far as an episode of The Amazing Race. I’m gonna stop you right there, Phil, because I’ve had my share of tet a tet with CBS copyright lawyers in the past. Well, just one; he thought my name was Josh. But basically, Phil’s saying that KazakhFilm is one of Kazakhstan’s major studios, responsible for a Ghengis Khan movie nominated for an Oscar. And I said, “Bullshit,” because I know Nomad: The Warrior was not nominated for an Oscar. After cursory research, I discovered I’m half-correct. KazakhFilm’s first blockbuster production was Nomad: The Warrior, co-directed by Sergei Bodrov, and it was submitted to the Academy as Kazakhstan’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated. Two years later, Bodrov returned with a movie called Mongol — the one actually about Ghengis Khan — and this was indeed nominated for that same award. So today, I want to take a look at what goes into film as ambassadorship, with these two Kazakh films as our example. How did they successfully introduce an international audience to the culture of… who? … More The Conquerors: Nomad and Mongol
Something that strikes me is the notion of international law as it pertains to imperial conquest, that you have to contrive a legal basis for something morally illegal. The British East India Company wouldn’t annex Jhansi unless Rani Lakshmibai’s heir was considered illegitimate. But why? Were they worried about a rebellion? Either way, I think that speaks to the time, the mid-19th century — that even empires were run by gentlemen, and that’s either inherently contradictory, or more true than they realized. But first, I think a recap is in order. … More Battle of the Warrior Queens Part II
There was this TV special that aired on Bravo in 2004 called The 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and the number 11th most scary moment came from this movie called Audition. You had these talking heads, including three American filmmakers: John Landis, Eli Roth, and Rob Zombie, and they’re going on about how disturbing this movie was. Landis found it so unsettling he didn’t even like it. This is still profound to me. First of all, there’s no better word of mouth for a horror movie, I think, but more than that, I boyishly appreciate this very open appreciation by Americans of foreign cinema — I’ll take that anywhere I can get it. So cool did I find it, it must have rattled around in my brain for long enough that I turned it into an issue. Wait a minute, why this one? What makes Audition different? … More Audition | Scariest of All Time?
Gosh, I remember — and don’t you dare deny that this happened — I remember when Parasite was at the height of its celebration, and one of the ideas floating around online was that Korean cinema isn’t only defined by violence and revenge. And if you look, a lot of the blockbusters of the past few years were romantic-comedies or historical dramas. However, my experience with Korean film is absolutely defined by violence and revenge. That’s how it was marketed, that’s what got me interested. So consider this a disproportionate response to something I saw on Twitter a year ago. I think Korean revenge is important. And today, I want to explore three of its examples and ask the question that bubbles at the edges of your mind while in the throes of these films: why? That scurrilous online claim had to come from somewhere — why is there so much Korean revenge? And should revenge define the nation’s cinema? … More Three the Korean Way (Why Revenge?)
Whether it’s Wang Cong’er taking up her righteous sword against the Qing Dynasty or Ching Shih living the freest possible life yet expressed, rebellion lies at these restless hearts. Where there is war, there are warriors, and where there are warriors, there are warrior women. It’s really that simple, and so I think it’s only right how we’ve gone to great lengths, by way of mythology and science both, to complicate it. Selective history is exactly that — it is conscious. Before I raise hell about all the Chinese warrior women omitted from my American public school education, what about all the important American women of history I only learned about later and at random? Why were they excluded? Did the people who made the choice to exclude even know about them? Were they excluded for them too, and then, who was the original excluder? By George, this goes all the way to the top, or at least, to some rather unpleasant gentleman. … More Sisters of Mulan Part II: Golden Swallow vs. The White-Haired Witch
What about Mulan? I always thought she was a real historical figure, maybe because she was also pretty. The movie has only a dash of the supernatural — seasoned just right — and we certainly never learned about Chinese history in school, so how, before I looked it up, could I have known, how? Well, it turns out that the Mulan story dates back to a poem, not an actual, factual woman who rode off to war in her father’s place. But that’s such a good story, I want it to be real. And because our perception today of Mulan is so tied in with female empowerment, that she’s the Disney princess who kicks butt and challenges a woman’s place in society, shouldn’t that have some basis in reality? Obviously you can enjoy the Mulan story or the movies any way you’d like, and feel empowered by them, so the answer is no. But if the answer is yes, the question “Was Mulan real?” becomes “Is Mulan believable?” And to answer that question, I’d like to take a look today at the historical figures with similar stories, and their depictions in movies. Because it’s not enough that Mulan has spiritual sisters, we have to understand that she does. And so, our story begins where a lot of great stories begin. … More Sisters of Mulan: The Warrior Women of China
When The Departed won Best Picture for the year 2006, it assumed an unexpected place in American pop culture. Years later, another Leonardo DiCaprio movie was nominated, The Revenant, preventing its rightful destiny as a beloved cult classic, and not just because it feels like Ravenous. A movie cannot be underrated if it wins Best Picture, and you cannot be its champion, because it’s already got one. … More That Infernal Departed
So, I was really unsure about how to condense or even identify my feelings on the fourth season, because it was such an unexpected turn that it left me without much I could personally square. For the most part, it’s just beyond my critical ability, and I actually prefer that. That was my very first experience with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, back in season one, that this is a show speaking a new language; it’s a puzzle and suddenly so much of my energy is being directed toward solving it. And that’s where this YouTube channel comes from: pure excitement over something so novel and as I discovered, so deeply layered it rewarded analysis. I think that reward still waits for me on the other side of a true deep dive on the fourth season, but it just hasn’t been enough time for me, and I’m more than happy to linger in this space where it remains mysterious and kind of baffling in both good and bad ways. To be honest, this season was frustrating as it was surprising, maintaining everything that made past Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so wonderful except, in my opinion, for one thing: a strong sense of direction. … More Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 4 Recap
If Greg sometimes felt like the alternate protagonist of season one, Paula is the stealth alternate protagonist, and that’s all-too appropriate given that her arc is about emergence and actualization, and a womanhood many people experience and embody. Of the many spotlights shone by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, this one may be the most unexpected, and overdue. … More Paula With a Thousand Faces | Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Analysis