Mudbound (2017)

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Director: Dee Rees

Rating: ★★★★★| 5 stars

Genre: historical

They worked until the sweated. They sweated until they bled. They bled until they died. Clawing at the hard, brown, back that would never be theirs. – Hap Jackson

Every time a film that deals with racism and the lasting impact of slavery comes out there will always be someone who says that the film is Oscar bait. As if an Academy overpopulated by white men is rushing to acknowledge the work of black filmmakers, scriptwriters, actors, and the hundreds of other jobs involved in making a film come to life. Worse than these people are those that say that slavery and racism are a thing of the past. The events of Mudbound take place following World War II. In the grand scheme of things, it is a recent event. The film itself, is deserving of every single piece of praise it receives and so much more. The writing, directing, and directing work together to produce a wonderful and politically relevant film.

The film follows two families, one white and one black, living in the America south during and following World War II. One son from each of the families, Ronsel Jackson and Jamie Mac Allan, go to war. They return to America, suffering the after effects of the war, to find their country unchanged in the interim period. The two form a friendship based on their shared experiences. A friendship that leads to serious consequences due to their races. The story also expands beyond Ronsel and Jamie. The audience gains insight into the families of the two boys and their experiences, realities, hopes and dreams. And through it all we see the lasting impact of slavery, the racial tensions that continue to exist in the south, and the racial violence and hatred that permeates the American south.

The writing of the film is excellent. In Dee Rees’ own words, Mudbound is the story of the war overseas and the war at home and often how the war at home is bloodier. Throughout the film there are parallels between the occurrences on the farms and the happenings during the war. There are also parallels between Ronsel and Jamie’s experiences of the war. These obvious parallels serve to cement Rees’ vision of the film. The audience is able to see how the character are impacted by both of the wars. The writing is also defined by voiceovers by the characters. In a film with a large core cast of characters, it allows the audience to gain insight into characters and their motivations in an easier way. The voiceovers are not tacky, but rather add a deep sense of emotion to the film and I believe were a wise directorial decision.

Good writing in a film cannot be successful without good acting and Mudbound has a very strong ensemble cast. Everyone was on their game and no actor seemed noticeably weaker than anyone else. The cast has already won some best ensemble awards. There is an outstanding performance by Jason Mitchell who plays Ronsel Jackson. And I have to give a very well deserved honourable mention to Mary J Bligh who plays Florence Jackson, Ronsel’s mother. Some are calling Mitchell a serious contender for best actor during awards season and I would love for that to be the case.

Overall, the film is very emotionally heavy and definitely not for light viewing. The issues that the film addresses remain eternally relevant even many decades on from when Mudbound is set. Due to these relevant themes it is an important film that needed to be made and needs to be watched in our increasingly divisive times.

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First Time – Rereview

00206315Title: First Time
Starring: Angelababy (Yang Ying), Mark Chao (Zhao Youting)
Genre: Realistic, Contemporary
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 1.5

When I first reviewed this movie a year and a half ago, it was in the immediate aftermath of reading Everything, Everything. And given the issues I have with that book, I’m really hard pressed to think of why I gave 《第一次》such a high rating and a gushy review. Surely––surely––I was aware of what shit representation it was for people with terminal illnesses, right? Honestly, I think I might have just been viewing the film through the eyes of a girl who a) really likes Angelababy b) really likes Mark Chao and c) really likes the film.

And to be fair to 19 year old me, there were aspects of the film that are still genuinely enjoyable. The set design and costuming are lovely––I visited Xiamen last summer with my friend and it really was a beautiful city. I enjoyed its subversion of audience expectation––in many ways, Song Shiqiao is both the Tragic Sick Girl(TM) and the Maniac Pixie Dream Girl(TM), but in this narrative, where Shiqiao’s overprotective mother and her boyfriend Gong Ting try to craft and sell her a narrative, she is the one with the agency, making her own choices. She is the one with the last word, the final say.

The part I can no longer sign off on is that ending––in a media landscape that isn’t oversaturated with stories about chronically ill people and disabled people dying specifically because they are not abled, Song Shiqiao is just a girl who wants the physical freedom of dancing, who wants agency over her body badly enough she is willing to do anything to have a single moment in the spotlight. As it is, though, it’s just one more story about a chronically ill girl who dies, because apparently dying while trying to be abled is better than staying alive as a someone who is chronically ill? Okay.

The Pirates (2014)

The Priates (2014)Title: The Pirates
Starring: Son Ye-jin, Kim Nam-gil
Genre: Historical, Comedy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5

Give me a historical slapstick swashbuckler about pirates and bandits fighting in a time of dynastic transition against the corrupt court and add to that a whale and imperialism and you have a recipe to make me the happiest girl on the world.

Yeo-wol is a pirate who’s successfully mutinied against a faithless captain, and she’s just been offered a contract by disgraced army captain Park Mo (AKA Ahab): bring back the imperial seal bestowed upon the newly-established Joseon by Ming, which was swallowed by a whale (hi, Moby Dick), and be rewarded with riches beyond imagination. Unfortunately for Yeo-wol, however, former lieutenant-turned-bandit Jang Sa-jung, who had opposed the rebellion that put Yi Seong-gye in power, has also heard about the prize, and he is willing to go to sea to save his failing bandit outpost. Sa-jung and Yeo-wol clash multiple times, but when both their demons come knocking, they’re forced to work together to build a future they want to live in.

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무사 |《武士》| The Warrior

942 Title: Musa (The Warrior)
Starring: Jung Woo-sung, Joo Jin-mo
Genre: Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Drama
Rating: ★★★★★ | 5.0

warnings: violence, gore

I’m probably not going to do a good job reviewing it properly for this blog because I have too many thoughts to even begin to summarise, but if you guys can handle gore/bloody battle scenes, I highly recommend y’all watch Musa (The Warrior), which stars Jung Woo-sung and Joo Jin-mo. It’s an old favourite of mine and it honestly does everything right.

The overall plot is about a small diplomatic mission from Goryeo (Korea) that gets sent to China right around the turn of the Ming Dynasty, when Zhu Yuanzhang emerged victorious from the war with Toghon Temur, the last Mongol Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China. Because Goryeo had previously plead allegiance to the Yuan Dynasty, the diplomatic mission is jailed and then sent into exile in the Gobi Desert.

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X-LOVE (2015)

eac4b74543a982262bb309098e82b9014a90ebaaTitle: 爱的未知数
Starring: 吴颖,高靓
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0 out of 5.0

Short review for an adorable short film!

Is it just me or have I been REALLY into queer Chinese films recently?

X-Love is the story of Cooka and Tina. They have your typical meet-cute. Cooka is an assistant at a modelling agency, and Tina is the ugly duckling who wants to be a model. Taken by her innocence and can-do attitude, Cooka decides to help Tina; she takes the latter to a salon to get a makeover, and takes her shopping to update her style, and viola! Tina is suddenly an in-demand model. But as this is happening, Cooka and Tina become closer and closer friends, until the day that isn’t enough anymore.

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Girls Love (2016)

cefc1e178a82b901991ddf50748da9773912ef25Title: 错了性别不错爱
Starring: 何佳颖, 米勒
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0 out of 5.0

warnings for casual homophobia, sexual harassment, public outing

So it’s not the best English title in the world, but then, English is also not the only language in the world, and I’m quite willing to forgive an indie web film about queer girls falling in love just about anything but killing their protagonists.

This film, shot after and in partial response to the popular BL webseries Heroin 《上瘾》, became quite popular among young Chinese people. It follows the story of Yu Xiaorou (on the left), who finds herself developing feelings for Mi’le (right), her college roommate, and is forced to process those feelings. Meanwhile, she juggles dealing with casual homophobia from her classmates and an obnoxious boy who just won’t take no for an answer.

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Front Cover (2015)

front_cover_ver2Title: Front Cover
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic, Dramedy
Starring: Jake Choi, James Chen
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.0/5.0

I might actually need to watch this film a second time to process it/my feelings/everything.

Ryan Fu (Jake Choi) is a self identified “potato queen” and an up-and-coming stylist in the New York fashion scene. His life consists mainly of work and parties, and all he wants is to establish himself––to have something to be proud of by the time he turns thirty. So when he gets taken off a cover job and put on styling Chinese actor Qi Xiaoning (James Chen), he’s not happy. Especially not when he finds out that Ning has explicitly requested an ethnic Chinese stylist on the assumption that they will better understand each other, because Ryan has never been invested in identifying as Chinese, has actively divorced himself from Chinese culture, and is flattered when people mistake him for something other than Chinese. But Ning brings another problem––Ryan is out and proud, but Ning is so deep in the closet he’s practically buried. But as they spend more time together, they may find that they have more in common than they thought. And they may find that they have the courage to embrace their identities––don’t they?

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