Film Review: The Big Sick (2017)

RATED: 4/5

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

One thing I like to do before watching a movie is avoid watching the trailer. If I had watched the trailer for this movie I would have thought it was another one of your run-of-the-mill rom-coms. But this one is so unconventional, and not just for the obvious reasons. To call it a “rom-com” seems ill-fitted even though it really is a romantic comedy. Can I just say, first of all, how freaking cool would it be to write a movie about yourself and then star in it?!

What I find separates this to a conventional rom-com is that it’s almost as if the more important relationship that blossoms is not actually between Kumail and Emily, but instead between Kumail and Emily’s parents, AND as a ripple effect from that, the relationships between Emily’s parents themselves, Kumail and his parents, and eventually Kumail and Emily.

What worries me the most about how people might react to this film is that they might not understand why his family is the way it is. I am not saying people would be ignorant or uncultured, but I truly believe it would be so hard to wrap your head around his parents’ reasoning for basically disowning him.
Take it from me, a Filipino girl whose devout Catholic parents moved to Australia for a better life but are still so attached to their ancient, strict, Catholic Filipino culture, and I am in love with an Australian man! My life is basically a watered down version of Kumail’s, and I still find it hard to not think his parents are being unreasonable. If I didn’t relate to Kumail so much, I would probably think the way his parents were portrayed was a wild overreaction and that that just does not happen in real life. But it does!

One thing I found a little bit hard to believe was their reason for breaking up in the first place. It just wasn’t enough. I thought that it was just a heat-of-the-moment fight, not that they would break up over that.
Again, I personally went through a watered down version of this. While my parents preferred I married a Filipino man, it was forgivable if I didn’t, but there was absolutely no way I was “allowed” to marry a man who was not Catholic. My boyfriend is Catholic, but he is the kind of Catholic who was baptised as a baby and that’s about as religious as he gets. We were three months into our relationship before I told my parents about him, and not once did he even worry about the fact that I was keeping him a secret from my family, because he understood. He understood that even if you are a grown adult, parents are still going to be strict and sometimes scary. Emily did give Kumail a chance to explain but it seemed to have gone in one ear and out the other. She doesn’t understand that it’s just not that simple.

Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s parents, especially her mother, was just the absolute best part! She was being such a bitch to Kumail, as per the protective-motherly rule of disliking anyone who hurts your daughter, and then she did a 180 and straight up defended Kumail from a racist heckler at one of his stand-up shows. It totally humanised her, made her a real, complex human being. And the way she turned into an excited little kid when Emily woke up from her coma…

There needs to be more characters like her in movies. Not just people who are evil simply because they are evil. You can’t have the good guy as always and only a good guy the whole time, nor the bad guy only ever being bad. To make them real everyone has to have a bit of a shitty moment or a sweet moment and it shouldn’t be unusual for that character, it should just be one mood in a whole spectrum of emotions.
The overlapping dialogue makes the conversations real. We often forget that real life doesn’t play like he-said-this-then-she-said-that. This is what I love the most about The Big Sick. Everything is so real. The characters are real. The premise is real and very relevant to second generation (or other) kids from traditional families growing up in the modern western world. I want to forget that I am watching a movie – I want to see reality.

This film recently popularised a conversation about the lack of brown women in films. I find that the topic was raised for the wrong reason, seeing as it is based on a true story and I don’t believe there is any “discrimination” here by having a white girl as the female lead – it drives the story. But it does bring forward a true and important issue. This has been something I’ve had a problem with for a long time since I dreamed of being an actress as a young girl and found it difficult to not just be cast as a character who didn’t have a nationality specified, but also to even be typecast because of the fact that there is just no demand for brown-skinned South-East Asian females.
By all means, start the conversation about this – let’s finally have real diversity in the screen industry – but don’t use this film as a platform for this argument. Really just take any film with a white female lead where the nationality has nothing to do with the story.

Anyway. The Big Sick was a big plus for me. Seeing a non-Hollywood romantic comedy on the big screen is refreshing.

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Film Review: Nerve (2016)

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

RATED: 4/5

There are very few movies that leave me sitting there as the credits roll, as if stunned, trying to sink myself back into the real world after being so lost in a thrilling story. Surprisingly, this did it for me.
Forgive me as it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed something!

Nerve is a cautionary tale for youth in the digital world. Unfortunately, it seems almost entirely possible something like this could happen, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe something pretty similar actually did happen, resulting a lot of young teen suicides.

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There are a lot of digital world issues that this film touches on in a realistic way. Many people nowadays are glued to their phones and obsessed with “instafame” and gaining followers. Sydney (Emily Meade) is the prime example of this in the film and even though you can see her growing obsession with followers from a mile away, it’s still infuriating to watch, but in a good way. Her scene on the ladder between the two windows was so nail-biting! Drunk and in heels doing that?! Also, how did they happen to know the people in the apartment at the other end of the ladder? She is just that desperate to have more watchers than her own best friend, she would risk her life so callously.

The characters are a little stereotypical, but it’s hard to not make them like that. There’s Tommy (Miles Heizer) who managed to nab two stereotypes as a character – the shy friend who is in love with the main character and it’s so obvious to everyone except for the main character, and the tech geek friend who knows all about codes and hacks, and coincidentally becomes a very useful skill when push comes to shove.
Ian (Dave Franco) is the cool and mysterious hot guy (he rides a motorbike…) who is always composed and you know he’s going to be the love interest the second you see him. His character wasn’t bad. I appreciate that he didn’t play it so over the top.
Vee (Emma Roberts) was a shy girl who rarely did anything out of her comfort zone and was unsurprisingly the school’s photographer because she’s an *outsider looking in*, she’s invisible, an observer, quietly captures *moments*.

I would consider Sydney to not be quite the stereotype only because she is friends with Vee, which is baffling to me. She is a bit of an obnoxious, out-there, “bad girl” who does what she wants and (apparently) doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. So why is she friends with Vee? Sydney even said it herself, something along the lines of, “I’m fun and you’re boring.” Vee seems like someone she wouldn’t even notice in high school.
J.P., the guy Vee had a crush on, is one hell of a jock stereotype that I can’t even be bothered getting into.

nerve

What I really enjoyed about this film is the editing and motion graphics. I believe what made this film so good was, yes, the story, but also the way it was put together. It really got my heart racing because the pacing was just right. The graphics made you constantly aware of the app, so that even when you weren’t looking at the app itself on screen, it was like you were always in the app, hyperaware of it like it was following them everywhere.

I have to admit, when we were made to believe that there was something sketchy about Ian’s past and found out that he had played Nerve previously in Seattle where he and some other guy were in the final when the other guy died, I thought I had already figured it all out. Since Vee never divulged into how her brother died, I thought we would find out later that the other guy who died playing Nerve against Ian was her brother, and she would find out Ian was the guy that could have saved him and climactic drama ensues. Though that might have been an interesting path to take, I’m glad I was wrong because I don’t like being able to predict a plotline.

My favourite part was the ending. I was a little hesitant to believe that the majority vote was ‘yes’ to shooting her. People are messed up, but I like to believe that they aren’t that messed up and that stupid. What did they think would come of it? There were thousands of people in the arena watching, and tens of thousands more watching online. Do you really think authorities wouldn’t know or do something about it? Or the media turning it into an international headline? There were thousands of cameras there to capture the shooting and the sickening jeers from the crowd chanting for Ty to shoot her.

But of course, they are that stupid, because it’s only until they read on their phone that they are an accessory to murder that they realise what they just took part in.
The crowd went from 100 to 0 after that, and their silent exit didn’t sit well with me. They didn’t appear to feel guilty – which I’m assuming that’s what they were trying to portray – instead they looked careless, as if it was just another notification on their screen. They read the message, then shut off their tablets and went to bed like they didn’t believe they really are an accessory to murder. I mean I know they weren’t because she wasn’t actually shot, but they don’t know that!

But after all of this reflection, in the end it’s all about that premise; are you a watcher or a player? And that’s what resonated with me the most. Some might argue that Vee didn’t need to step out of her comfort zone because there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. True – there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, but there’s a difference between introversion and never taking a risk. I’m just like Vee at the start of the film; I am 100% a watcher through and through, and I hate it. This movie doesn’t inspire me to take risks (if anything, it is steering me deeper into the opposite direction) but it does send a true message. It really is in all of us – we just have to get out of our own heads. No, you don’t have to shoot someone to take a risk and no, followers do not equate to love.

I really did enjoy this movie. I was on the edge of my figurative seat the whole time and never knew what to expect or how it was going to end. It was a pleasant surprise how well they sent you a message about our world without being too obvious about it.

One more thing – there’s no way in hell their phone batteries would have lasted throughout the night like that!

Let me know your thoughts on the movie!

Existential Crisis

I am just about having the worst existential crisis of my life.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my 3rd year in college (technically 3rd year, long story), which means I only have two trimesters to go, and I have no idea what I’m doing. I know that so many other students experience exactly what I’m experiencing right now, but frankly, that doesn’t do anything to help my situation. Knowing that other people don’t know what they’re doing with their lives isn’t banishing the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing either.
Maybe if I chose a different career path, a more stable one, things would be easier, I keep thinking to myself. But I’m not so sure. In truth, if I chose any career path other than the film industry, all I’d be doing is regretting whatever I’m studying and wishing I was studying film.

Here are some things you need to know about me to fully comprehend the extent of my existential crisis:
1. I want a job with a steady income and regular hours
2. I am terrible at adapting to change
3. I am a shy and awkward person
4. I do not take initiative on many things. If anything, it’s a rarity
5. My navigating and transporting skills are 99% non-existent

Here are some things you need to know about working in the film industry:
1. The film industry is an absolutely terrible and terrifying place for anyone with any or all of the attributes above
2. Was that not enough?

Look, I just want to create through this audio-visual medium. I am fascinated by it. I love story-telling and I love film and I love its language and its power and the way it speaks to people and how each and every minor detail has been thought through and put there specifically to enhance the story in some kind of way. I love it. I love film. It’s my passion. And they say, “Do what you love,” right? So that’s what I decided to do.

But here is my problem:
Me.
I am the only thing in this nonsensical equation that is stopping me from being successful before I’ve even started. Psychologically, yes. But even my skills are limited. I lack all the technical skills required to operate a camera to its full extent. It just doesn’t stick in my head. My knowledge of film, past and present, is disturbingly poor. The only thing I think I have going for me is that I am “creative”. And even then, I couldn’t prove anyone of that in my “Creative Thinking” class.

I shouldn’t even have time to worry about what I’m going to do when I graduate, because these final two trimesters involve a “specialised project” in which, by the title, we specialise in a certain role, in a certain type of film medium. E.g. The director for a short film, or the editor for a music video.
And still. I don’t know what I’m good at. I still don’t know what I enjoy the most. And I’m pretty sure I’m the only one left in the class who can’t find her little niche. I’m pretty sure I’m one of those people in the class who you wouldn’t want to end up working with because she doesn’t seem to know anything or know how to do anything or is any good at anything. One of those people who you’d think is just taking this course because she doesn’t know what she’s doing and will most likely end up working in a completely different industry.
And I guess that is me. I don’t know anything, I can’t do anything, and I’ll probably end up doing something completely unrelated to film because I chickened out.

I’m thinking… Screenwriting? Production/set design? Editing?
The latter is probably the only promising one in terms of its demands in the industry. And yet that is probably my worst skill out of the three. And even then, I know if I ever told anyone in class that I’d like to get into screenwriting or editing, that I would be laughed at. I’m not even joking. Literally laughed at. Especially editing. Production design is what I’m most interested in, but my lecturer pretty much told me there’s no future down that career path; hardly anyone needs a production designer in small or indie productions. He keeps telling me I have a “good head” and has given me positive feedback about my editing skills and has pretty much convinced me into specialising in editing, but look – the main thing I’m having a problem with about this is that I don’t know how to prove myself a worthy editor to my classmates enough for them to want to take me on as editor for their project. There are some really amazing editors in the class who have known what they wanted to do since before they came to this college – they’ve been practising for so long, edited for a fair few productions, and just really know their stuff. And then there’s me, who just realised a month or two ago, maybe I’d be sort of okay at editing, if that’s what my general feedback has been.

The bottom line is, I have the passion for filmmaking, but not the skills. How stupid is that?

05: A thank you letter to someone who has changed your life

You, you crazy child you.

Though I’m not, nor have I ever been, your best friend, it doesn’t change the fact that we have always somehow remained important in each other’s lives. It’s funny too, how that can be, when we were only really close from 2007 – 2009. Just three short years, yet I feel like our friendship means so much more than the time we spent together. We’ve lost touch with each other completely, yet I’m sure in twenty years’ time, we’ll still be going to each others’ birthday events.

It started in 8th grade Food Tech, and as it seems, weird people are like magnets to other weird people. How did we get acquainted so quickly? We talked about the strangest things, you had the most absurd sense of humour I’ve ever come across in my short eighteen years, but you were the crazy weird that allowed me to unleash my crazy weird.
9th grade was bliss because being in the same class for almost everything meant we could spend all day everyday together soaking up each other’s weird. I’d say that year was probably one of the best years of my life.

You might mean much more to me than I ever did to you, but alas. There are plenty of reasons why.
You, at such a young age, already knew who you were, already knew yourself, you were already your own person. I was still caught up in chasing fads and trying to make people like me. The most amazing thing that anyone’s ever done for me, a shy little wallflower, was bring out the confidence in me. Bring me out of my shell.
The whole time I knew you, that’s what you got me to do.
You helped me to completely forget about all the bullying that had gone on. I smiled and laughed in class, for a change.
Music class was so much fun. We jammed together, you taught me all this stuff, we helped each other with our assignments, performances, etc. Especially when I freaked the frack out before one performance, and we just sat in the rehearsal room talking about stuff to take my mind off of it.

But the most important thing of all, is that if I had not met you, I might never have realised my passion for acting/theater, and eventually, film. If I hadn’t partnered up with this enthusiastic ball of sunshine in all our drama exercises, I might not even be taking the course I’m doing now.
You made me so incredibly enthusiastic about drama class, and so confident. Confident enough to want to volunteer to perform in front of the class, the activities we had to do in partners.
So then I’d go on to choose it as an elective, and then it just became my life all throughout high school. And if I hadn’t chosen drama, how would I have known I’d be interested in film? The potential career that I’m pursuing?

If I had not met you, I would not be on the path that I’m on. So yeah, you sure as hell changed my life. And I didn’t even realise.

All the countless notes we passed in class, the crazy stories we made up, the origami you taught me, the inside jokes, music, english, drama, metal tech, Spongebob, Naruto(!), Jason Mraz, Boys Like Girls, Gaia, the list is endless!

You’ll always be so special to me, and I thank you endlessly with all of my heart for being a spazzed out talented and crazy weird blob that just grew out of nowhere from a bunch of weeds. 🙂

02: Something that inspires you

The Science of Sleep (2006)

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that films inspire me. Not only with life decisions (though it’s probably not the right way to go when you base your life off of movies) but also with what filmmaking can do for others. At its most basic level, films are to entertain. To occupy your spare time. Obviously, a textbook successful film is firstly one that people will watch and actually enjoy from beginning to end. But in my eyes, if it stops there, you haven’t used filmmaking to its fullest extent. One of the best things about filmmaking is its ability to trick people into learning. *Fun and educational* Hurrah!

But to me, the BEST thing about filmmaking is its ability to inspire – to make people feel something. Yes, that’s part of its entertainment, but I’m talking about when you finish watching something and you still sit there when the screen has already gone black. Or you leave the cinema on a high and the only thing you can think about is how amazing that movie was and you just can’t pinpoint why – it was just amazing. And it’s funny too, how you can make people feel something magical just by throwing some clips together and adding a touch of fancy (Yes, I sure as hell know it is not as simple as that). But that’s exactly why filmmaking inspires me. Its magical combination of part moving image and part sound, and when they’re fused together, you can tell whatever story you want in the most creative of ways. I used to laugh at my English teachers when they told the class that the wide shot of the single man emphasises his isolation, or that the slowly turning fan on the ceiling signifies the mundane routine of the man’s job. But they were dead on. Every element, every shot size, every set piece in the frame, every colour, all of it. It was put there to tell the story, or something beneath it.

I even prefer movies over their book versions. That’s a rarity. Yes, the book is usually better, because you’re able to imagine it the way you want. But in terms of how the story unfolds, I think emotion is such an integral part in entertaining you, and you feel those emotions tenfold when you watch the movie, compared to the book. Not only is the pacing timed out the way the director wanted, but the images can shock you and the sound even more so. All of the sound. The dialogue, foley, atmos, music, or lack thereof. Obviously music orchestrates your emotions very easily depending on how it’s done, and that’s a huge reason why I think if the book is out, and so is its movie, then you should watch the movie first. You don’t know what will happen and when something big occurs, you’ll feel it more strongly than when you read it. Also you can’t accidentally skip forward in the film when you’re in the cinemas, the same way you would accidentally flit your eyes to the bottom of the page and find out that Character X is actually not dead!

 

Michel Gondry is my all-time favourite director ever. He is one of the most inspirational people to me. I even chose to write an essay on him for my directing class, and I actually enjoyed writing it. In fact, I had to rush it towards the end because I was so engrossed in my research! He inspires me to jump from realism and to discover my own style. I sometimes/always wish that I could just copy his style because I love everything he makes. But I have settled on my style being inspired by his work. His quirky imagination and his inventiveness. It’s always so original and I aspire to be original – I do not want to just spit out the same old stuff that has been seen before so many times. Gondry inspires me to create something as if from a dream.

Another thing about filmmaking that inspires me is its versatility. That’s pretty self explanatory, but I get excited when I think about it. All the ways you can tell a story. Something as simple as a woman opening her curtains in the morning can be done so many ways and tell so many things. And to me, the way the story is told is where all the magic happens.

Personal style is something I am trying to find myself, and it will take me a while to figure it out. All I know is that I, too, want to inspire. Maybe not in the most obvious or didactic ways, but inspire all the same. Inspire someone to achieve a life goal, inspire someone to take up filmmaking, or even just inspire someone to smile. I want people to feel something great when they watch something that I had a part in making. And I don’t want to show it through realism! We already see that with our eyes open in our waking lives! I have no interest in replaying that on a screen. But the bottom line is, filmmaking is an incredible art, and I just get so excited when I talk about it! I could go on for hours talking about how amazing it is.
(Oh, the irony of ending it at that!)