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.

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.

mv5botyxmjywodkxnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmji1nja5ode-_v1_sy1000_cr0016601000_al_

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!

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!)

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: ★★✰✰