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.

Advertisements

“Knives Out” Radiohead

 

Directed by Michel Gondry.

There are countless reasons why Michel Gondry is my favourite director. One of them is this music video, as an example. There is so much going on in this, that I feel like I have to watch it a few times to even get a basic idea of what I think about it. It’s confusing, that’s for sure, but I think it’s great. A lot of people are so accustomed to realism, that when they view this, they think, “It makes no sense, there’s no development, there’s no storyline, this is crap.”
That’s why I love what Michel Gondry creates.
He doesn’t do realism. It’s no fun recreating reality the way it already is. You might as well just go to a park and watch that for 90 minutes. Why not create the reality that is in your head?
I like to think that that’s what he does, and that’s what I believe separates him from a lot of other directors. Many films I’ve seen lately (by suggestions from my film class) seem to be about an unrealistic situation, and focusing on explaining why it is actually “realistic”. For example, there is this guy in an airtight onesie who can shoot immensely strong strings of web from his wrists. But we can’t just leave it at that. We have to give him a backstory about how he can do that. He was bitten by a radioactive spider.

We shouldn’t need an explanation for everything. But our world is accustomed to reality, and everything having reasons and explanations, that we have to give them an answer. We should be able to throw in a seemingly ridiculous situation and just let it be.
That’s the magic of short films, that’s the magic of music videos, and that’s the magic of Michel Gondry.

I love that he has done a whole slew of music videos. I think music videos are a greater, freer expression of creativity than full-length feature films.
It confuses me why there is only one other person in my film class who I know has at least heard of this creative genius.

Amateur Review: Thor (2011)

*Please note that when I call them “Amateur Reviews”, they’re not technically reviews, they are actually just my scattered thoughts on the subject at hand.
**This also contains juicy spoilers you may or may not want to read.

I just finished watching Thor, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s very hard for me to engage in films such as this one. The “epic”, “other-worldy” kind where they dress up in elaborate costumes and speak in dramatic Old English accents even though they’re from an entirely other “realm”. Because that’s all I see when I watch this kind of film – grown men wearing costumes and playing heroes. It doesn’t matter the budget, I can’t take it seriously sometimes. It just looks a tad ridiculous! Especially Loki with his horn-shaped looking helmet thing. Maybe it’s just me; I never got into Marvel comics.

This film, however, slightly impressed me. There wasn’t anything particularly notable in terms of script, acting, editing, whatever – I was mostly impressed that I was actually entertained. I’m not so much into these kinds of movies, but I decided to give it a go since my whole film class is obsessed with The Avengers and Batman and I’m clueless when they start talking about it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this movie. I liked the turn in character of Loki. I don’t know if I’m the only one who felt this way, but I actually still felt sympathetic towards him at the end of the movie. To me, he became this power-hungry kid who just got his first taste of real authority and got too excited over it. And I can’t remember the exact words, but I remember him saying to Thor, something like, “I never wanted the throne; I only wanted to be your equal.” The fact that Thor was such an arrogant bastard at the start too, also made it seem like I can understand why Loki went nuts. I remember thinking at the start of the film, why the hell does Thor get to be crowned and not Loki? The IMDb synopsis described Loki in the crowning ceremony as “looking on enviously” which I think is total bullspit. Loki seemed so genuine and was always supportive of Thor and not slightly rebellious like he was (that was until we found out Loki actually helped the frost giants from Jötunheim to get to the blue power casket thing). But I like that about this film, because even though this is a “superhero” film of sorts, the villain is a little bit different. He’s not blatantly evil. I’d usually dislike the villain from the beginning, because I knew he was going to be evil, but this time, it was a bit of a slow build. I’ll admit here and now, I am the only living being of this generation who hasn’t seen The Avengers, so I recognised Loki from the trailers and whatnot, but I actually couldn’t place him of what kind of character he actually was, until I found out his name was Loki.

I sound like I don’t like Thor as a character, but he’s alright I suppose. I can’t help but see him as this uncultured, brawn-and-no-brain kind of guy though, which doesn’t mean I don’t like him, it’s just that he seems like one of those innocently dumb characters who you can’t help but love (“This drink. I like it. Another!” *smashes mug on the ground*).

Another thing I couldn’t help but scrutinise in terms of cinematography is the constant dutch tilt they were doing after Thor was banished to Earth. I get that it’s meant to make the situation feel all out of place because he’s in another world and it’s all weird and different, but I feel like it was a tad overdone, and perhaps applied to some of the wrong shots, like the establishing wide shot of the cafe. It was too noticeable. In fact, I think I noticed each time it was a dutch tilt, and I was taught that good cinematography (and editing) should be smooth enough to not notice these kinds of things. It should just evoke the feeling that the shot intended, but not make us blatantly aware of how it evoked that feeling (in this case, it’s noticing that there is a dutch tilt on a shot). When they did dutch tilts during Thor and Loki’s conversation in that interrogation room, I noticed it, but forgave it because to me it seemed quite natural (most people wouldn’t notice it) and had a very clear intention. But that’s really the only negative note I, as a complete amateur (and in no way think I’m right, this is all opinion!), can give.
Well… I was a little bit sceptical about how or why a strong relationship ever happened between Thor and Jane. It seems to me like they only knew each other for a very short time and never really bonded enough for me to believe that they miss each other and think about each other a lot after their separation. It was a little bit Romeo and Juliet in terms of how fast they fell for each other.

Other than those pretty minor things, I thought it was pretty good. The main things I look for in a film is entertainment (of course) and for it to be thought-provoking. I feel like this is one of those American, big-budget type of films that are more concerned about entertainment value and influx (? What’s the word I’m looking for?!) of money at the box office. But if their aim was to entertain me, then well done.

I rate Thor: ★★★½✰✰

Movie Trailers

I don’t exactly know what it is about movie trailers, but I actually don’t like to see them. I think they’re great. They’re great for advertisement and convincing people to go and watch them, but it ruins the whole mystery of it all, almost in the same way as watching the film version of a book you’ve read. As I started growing up and learning the general structure of a movie, I tended to being more immersed in the, “Oh, this is what the conflict is… Oh and here’s the climax, there’s the resolution…” and then the movie’s over. So there ended up being very, very few films I would watch and be totally engrossed in them.

That’s why I love watching films when I have absolutely no idea what they’re about. And that’s why I tend not to watch trailers when I know I’m going to watch the film. If I’ve heard of it through other people, or it’s a classic that is a “must see”, but I don’t exactly know what it’s about, then I’ll skip the trailer and watch the movie. I feel like trailers ruin it! And some trailers are especially ridiculous, because some of them basically show the entire bloody movie in 2-4 minutes! I feel like maybe it’s getting harder to create a trailer that’s engaging, tells you what the film’s about, but still keeps enough mystery to make you want to watch it without already knowing what’s going to happen in the first three quarters of the movie.

I know it sounds a little bit stupid to go in and watch a movie, not really having much of a clue as to what it’s about and whether you might actually like it, but to me it’s all about little things you’ve heard about it – the genre, execution, director. I just don’t want to be focused on when the conflict has been established or whatnot. I guess that’s why I loved The Hunger Games so freaking much. I had the basic knowledge from fans of the books that it was about a guy and a girl from twelve districts who fight to the death in an arena. But that isn’t necessarily the conflict, it’s the concept. I only knew that much. I didn’t know the conflict, the ending, or any other key things, like the whole “star-crossed lovers” show. I came into the cinemas thinking the climax of the film was when they were released into the arena, but that was actually only the beginning. That’s what kept me on the edge of my seat. I actually had no idea what was going to happen. I didn’t know who was going to die, or how, or who would win.

Kind of went on a tangent! But another reason I don’t really like watching trailers is because they can be misleading. They can set you up to expect a film to look a certain way, or to be about something specific, when really it’s just a marketing approach to targeting what most people love to see, just to get more viewers. For example, The Science of Sleep, my ultimate favourite film of all time, is hyped up to be some kind of Juno-looking, all about romance, romance and more romance with a bit of quirky. But I think the film is actually way more about the quriky inner-workings of Stephane, more than his strange infatuation with Stephanie. I believe that’s what the film focuses on more. Even though Stephane is obsessed about Stephanie, I think the romance is more of a side story. Same with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The trailer is especially for the terrible film that is St. Trinians. I don’t know why I put myself through watching that film, but after I had seen the trailer, I knew it wouldn’t be at all how they portrayed it. It seemed they were more concerned about showing celebrities that were featured in it, like Colin Firth, Russell Brand and Mischa Barton than anything else. And since I did end up watching the movie, it’s now laughable that they even put Mischa Barton in the trailer, since she is only featured in the movie for literally no longer than three minutes. She’s in one scene, and she receives a special mention in the trailer. Ridiculous!

In any way, I actually do enjoy watching trailers and would possibly like to make some professionally in the far future, but I just prefer not to watch them if I know I’m going to watch the film anyway (I don’t know what my criteria is in deciding to watch a film). I enjoy the mystery of having no clue and no expectations for what’s about to happen.

Amateur Reviews: I Am Number Four, directed by D.J. Caruso

*Please note that when I call them “Amateur Reviews”, they’re not technically reviews, they are actually just my scattered thoughts on the subject at hand.
**This also contains juicy spoilers you may or may not want to read.

I watched this yesterday while I was stuck at home with a blocked nose and a mountain of tissues in my bin, so I’m not sure there is much I can say about this film.

Plot, characters, setting, actors, music? Whatever! I don’t think this is going to be one of those films I’m going to remember in a year or so, seeing as I’m writing it the day after and I’m already trying to remember exactly what it was about (I don’t have a terrible memory, I remember it now, thanks). There isn’t really anything special about the film, but I do love Dianna Agron’s character. I love that kind of character – the stays-out-of-the-spotlight, artsy, takes photographs of everything, sees the world differently kind of girl. I would love to play that kind of character in a (short) film or play. I think they are fascinating.

Also, that dog. When he came out of the bushes at the start, I swore he was evil, like he was one of those “Mogadorians” morphing into a cute little dog so he could get close to Number 4 and then get into his house and crazy murder him. So throughout the movie, there I was, thinking like a schizophrenic, “Omg, evil dog, get away GET AWAY HIS EARS ARE SO FLOPPY AW he’s gonna eat you alive oh them puppy dog eyes stop it you’RE HYPNOTISING ME” and so on and so forth. So even though he was adorable, I didn’t trust him, pretty much had no sympathy for him. Then he morphed into that crazy bitch giant dog in the car and I was like, “I TOLD YOU I KNEW IT EVILLLLLLLLLL” and then I find out he was helping “John Smith” against the bad guys and I was suddenly in love with that little monster. What annoyed me was that there he was, back to his little dog-self, injured, bleeding, lying down alone, meanwhile freaking John Smith is out there blowing shit up and then the scene changes. It was as if he didn’t even go looking for his dog, who just saved his life! The last thing I saw of the dog was him lying down in a pool of blood, and then they went into the “epilogue” scene!
I THOUGHT HE DIED! I thought he died, and no one cared, like he was an insignificant loss! All I was thinking throughout the whole end scene was WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO THE DOG. And it came limping out, cute and all.

Thank you. That was all I needed to know.
Number 6 was badass. And for some reason, the ending seemed to be set up for a sequel. I don’t think a sequel will go well. Just my opinion.

Message of the film: Dogs are loyal as fuck.

I rate I Am Number Four: ★★✰✰

An Idea

So there’s this idea I have that I know has been done many times before – I just think it’s brilliant. I really want to write/direct a short film, or direct a music video where the music contradicts the visuals so image that it just works.

Have a listen to this song: Rubber Ball by Cage The Elephant.

While that is playing, imagine this: With the entire sequence done in slow motion, some innocent commuter (for now, let’s say it’s a ‘he’) boards a train, minding his own business, like everyone else on the carriage. Then he looks absentmindedly out the window and a series of flashbacks (also slow motion) interplay with him sitting on the train casually observing his surroundings, perhaps with a hint of a smile on his face, but we don’t know why. These flashbacks seem start out as good memories, until something makes it go awry, perhaps catching someone deceiving him in some unforgivable way. When it cuts back to him on the train, he’s still smiling. We see a close up of his hand putting on a black glove, and the lights on the train flicker off, then on. Though he’s still smiling, something in his expression changes. Still in slow motion (spoiler alert, the whole thing is in slow motion!), he pulls out a large knife (machete, butcher’s knife, has to be a knife and not a gun) and everything is a slow motioned slew of reaction shots of people panicking, scrambling to get away, screaming and yelling (though there’s no diegetic sound). Blood is sprayed everywhere, the knife slashes in all directions (we don’t really see the guy’s facial expression, but I’m thinking it’s not very expressive), people are falling to the floor, there are fantastically gory shots of necks being slit and the knife catching on someone’s thigh mid-slash of another victim… Then he stands in the carriage, the camera slowly circling him, a dripping knife in his hand, looking at his masterpiece,  then lets the knife fall to the floor beside him. The train stops and he walks out onto the platform and out of frame, that same smile on his face, though we no longer see it the same way we used to.

Do you see what I mean about how the music contradicts the visuals, but in a way that it works brilliantly? The song is so calm and relaxing, but with this short film/music video idea, it sounds more like being under a spell, or seeing into the mind of someone crafty, cunning and sly. It’s making the horror of a murder scene look like something carefree and joyous, but that just makes it all the more darker. It’s almost portraying this murderer guy like he’s a fucking crazy genius serial killer (though there isn’t really anything genius about how he kills them).

This is where the video of Dexter‘s opening sequence comes into play. I guess it must have sub-consciously influenced me in a way, because this opening sequence is fucking amazing. Not ‘amazing’ in the way it’s overused these days – it’s actually AMAZING. Actually AWE-SOME. I have watched the sequence umpteen times and every single time, I do these weird spasms of excitement because it’s just so sly! Of course the music has that complexity to it that’s hard to classify (naive, comical in a way, with a cunningly evil undertone – Rolfe Kent, you genius!), and visually, the completely innocent acts of his morning routine, portrayed violently, and the fucking exquisite high angle shot of Dexter putting his plain white shirt on, and you can see the outline of his face underneath the fabric as he pulls it down (his mouth open, exhaling, and for some reason that just makes it all the more… evil-looking, for lack of a better word) and smiles directly at you, like he sees you, like he’s knows you’re watching (in a surveillance-camera way). Then he walks outside in this lightly coloured Miami area with that little winking sound and just looks so fucking fine and dandy like he’s not some serial killer – it’s fucking brilliant! I don’t know why I’m swearing so much, maybe to accentuate the sheer ingenuity of the whole sequence, I just can’t comprehend! Even the way Michael C. Hall narrates Dexter… it just all fits. All the components are just as they should be. I personally believe they do justice for the books. This show is just… I need to lie down!

Amateur Review: Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank

*Please note that when I call them “Amateur Reviews”, they’re not technically reviews, they are actually just my scattered thoughts on the subject at hand.
**This also contains juicy spoilers you may or may not want to read.

I did have interest to see this film when it first came out, but not enough to actually get off my arse and to the cinemas. Then as I was forgetting about it, Chronicle was briefly mentioned in my Film and TV History class this morning. And I thought, why not? So here I am, having just finished watching the film not more than five minutes ago, and let me tell you this: my emotions are confused.

Chronicle was very easy to follow. I suppose it is one of those “teen movies” where they are more focused on showing rather than to make you think.
Admittedly, and unsurprisingly, I watched a download of this that my friend gave me, which was a recording in the cinemas. Honestly, I didn’t think people did that anymore. I don’t really like to watch films like that when the quality was so poor, but alas, I had a downloaded copy and it would save me the effort. The reason I’m rambling on about this whole bad-quality-downloaded thing is because when they suddenly cut to the three of them doing all their telekinesis tricks was because I thought that the download I owned had a chunk missing or something. But then I guess it didn’t. So it kind of left me out of whack when all of a sudden they have these magical powers; the cut in storyline was a little too sharp for me. But I guess if they’re trying to stick to the whole naturalism/realism style, you wouldn’t really expect Andrew to coincidentally record an accidental moment of discovering their telekinesis abilities.

I was okay with “believing” the whole telekinesis thing when they did it (willing suspension of disbelief), but the flying through the clouds bit was a bit much. I can believe them flying, but not through the clouds. Yes, of all things I’m not willing to believe, it’s that they were in the clouds. If they’re trying to make this whole thing realistic, what with the “found footage” style, at least let all the aspects outside of telekinesis make sense. You can’t breathe in the air pressure of that altitude, and it would be so freezing up there, that a thermal jacket isn’t going to fix things. Also, I couldn’t help but laugh after extremely serious and dramatic confrontations that ended with one of them just turning around and flying out of a window or something. It just looked comical to me.
Other than that, I was surprisingly responsive to this movie. When I watch movies at home, yes, I talk to the screen and smile and laugh and make ‘aaw’ noises and insult the irritating characters. When I was watching Chronicle, I was so aware of me smiling, for so long, throughout a lot of the first half of the movie. A big smile, with teeth! I was having fun watching them having fun (although I was very aware of how obnoxiously dumb and immature they made this generation look. But that’s already how people see us anyway :/). I am still extremely jealous and want to go find a hole with weird crystal things that will make me pass out and then have magical powers afterwards.

In my opinion though, most of them are douches. All the people in the high school are those typical brutally excluding cliques. Casey, though. Freaking Casey. Yeah, she’s supposed to be the cool girl who’s also kind of mysterious and walks around with a camera, and Matt’s there trying so hard to impress her and saying all this pretentious shit, and she was just so demeaning. Especially when he went to her house, she just had that smile and nod that wasn’t for good intentions – like she was belittling him, like she didn’t really care at all what he was saying, or just wasn’t even listening, just thinking, ‘wow, get a load of this guy’. Andrew’s dad was quite clearly a douchebag and a half. I don’t really want to get too much into this guy, because he just makes me irritated. But I feel he was a bit flat as a character – he was all rage rage rage, grief, blame, rage rage, half-dead. I just wish he smothered Andrew with a pillow when instead of crying and shouting at him. Or at least just cry because his wife just died and his son is in the ICU because he went nutso trying to get money for his mother’s medication. Also, I find it hard to believe he went out looking for Andrew that night. Really.

And Andrew. Fucking Andrew. He really is that high-school-nerd-who-is-unloved-and-doesn’t-belong-and-ends-up-becoming-a-crazy-serial-killer type character! Yes, I’m being serious! It’s always the quiet ones that end up being the crazy villains because of their horrible past. I think it’s safe to say, I had no sympathy for him from the beginning. Okay, maybe at the very beginning when his dad hit him and pushed him on the ground, and bullied by those sad-life jocks. After that, rave party onwards, I was already over his whining and his, ‘guise, wer r u? gaiz i dont think u shud go in da hole guyz, omg lets go back gaiz omg matt ur my ride home’. Fair enough, everything bad he did, initially, had good intentions. And yes, he went nutso and clearly had no good intentions there, but I think, to put it simply, he had rage issues. Any harm he caused purposely was caused by his rage issues. You saw it when he said things like, ‘Seriously, Steve, stay away from me, I need to be alone right now, just leave me alone’. BAM. Steve dies.

The most satisfying part, though, was when Andrew’s dad started beating him up again and Andrew throws him against the wall and puts on this epic voice and says, ‘I CAN CRUSH YOUUUU’. Lordy, that settled a lot of rage out of me. It’s just one of those things, you know? When there’s that one character who is just constantly on your nerves and always gets away with it, but you can’t do anything because you can’t freaking control the movie, so finally a character gets shit done and throws a bitch down.

Despite how many negatives I seemed to have mentioned about this film, it’s safe to say I enjoyed it. In the style that it is, I enjoyed it. The thing is, my kind of movie is the very thought-provoking kind where I don’t mind getting a little confused along the way because there’s a lot to take in, and not just seeing a plot unfold. I’m not saying this movie isn’t thought-provoking, because every film should be. I’m saying this is the kind of movie that you can just sit and enjoy and not have to think too hard about what that close up means, or why the music is contradicting the image, etc. It’s very much a movie to watch with your friends (ironically, I didn’t) and just not analyse (ironically, I did)!

So on an entertainment level, it was pretty good, but on an overall level, I think some things were missing, or some of the characters needed a bit more dimension. But the bottom line is, I enjoyed watching it enough to talk to the characters in the movie (especially, ‘SMOTHER HIM WITH A PILLOW’ to his dad when Andrew was in hospital; I knew mayhem was about to break out!).

I rate Chronicle: ★★★✰✰