Tag Archives: art

Animus: A Short Film Review

mv5bowrioda2ngmtntvjns00nzizlwjkzgqtmwe1yjhmmdlly2qzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymju5otazmzi-_v1_sy1000_cr006581000_al_An earnest, plaintive piano melody opens as desperate figures stare out into the middle distance. A woman drops in on an old flame, using some flimsy pretext neither of them believe for a moment. What follows is a terse, tense, and incredibly human exchange as our two protagonists verbally fence over decaf and destiny.

And it’s good.

It’s really, really good.

Two individuals of differing (but equally compelling) perspectives clash over tea. It’s as simple a set-up as you can imagine, but director Mark J. Blackman manages to wring both depth and emotion from it. Sienna (Katie Goldfinch of Crucible of the Vampire, Genie in the House) and Elliot (Johnny Sachon of Cloud 9, Late Shift) examine each others’ lives, what they themselves have become in their time apart, and what they could have become. It’s a beautifully ****ed-up My Dinner With Andre, keeping in mind that I’ve never seen My Dinner With Andre and all I have to go on is Wallace Shawn’s showdown in The Princess Bride. Continue reading

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How Marvel Ruined The Movies

Over the past decade, we’ve been witness to something unprecedented in the history of film: the rise of the cinematic universe.

Pioneered by Marvel with their ever-expanding Avengers universe, this innovative and impressive model has been swiftly copied by others, and we’re already seeing attempts at DC’s Justice League universe, an expanded Star Wars, and even Harry Potter. While the success has certainly been varied, it would seem the standard is here to stay.

And here’re the reasons why that sucks.

Bigger Audiences Don’t Mean Better Movies

And while that goes without saying, the issue becomes especially apparent when movies become global phenomena in the way the MCU has become.

In his posts about the whitewashing of Doctor Strange, Evan brought up the case of film-critic-turned-writer C. Robert Cargill. In a podcast, Cargill discussed the whitewashing of “The Ancient One” and how the character of an old man from the Himalayas got turned into middle-aged woman from Scotland.

“The Ancient One… comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion [Chinese] people who think that that’s bullshit…”

-C. Robert Cargill, Double Toasted Podcast

While my co-author pointed out that the character of The Ancient One was set in Nepal, not Tibet, and while Cargill swiftly clarified that these were his thoughts, not Marvel’s, I do think he’s got a point. China has become a major consumer of western films, and the effects of that are already apparent.

2014’s Transformers 4: Age of Extinction surpassed Jame’s Cameron’s Avatar in Chinese theaters, and presently stands as the 4th highest-grossing film in the nation.

“The long and the short of it: Bay made a movie set and filmed in China, starring Chinese actors, using Chinese resources and pushing Chinese products, and in exchange, the movie gets a timely premiere across the country’s 18,000-plus movie screens.”

Nash Jenkins, TIME Magazine, 2014

The remake of Red Dawn, originally based on the idea of a Chinese invasion of the US, was hastily changed to cast North Korea as the principal villain for fear of offending Chinese viewers. Because the US getting conquered by a country smaller than the state of Louisiana is somehow believable.

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Now that’s not to say that Red Dawn would’ve been a good movie otherwise (it wouldn’t have)- just that it was made even more stupid in a greedy effort to rake in more cash. While we certainly didn’t lose a cinema classic in catering to political correctness, it does set a disturbing precedent for the future. Will films purposefully cut reference to Tibet, Taiwan, or the Uighurs? Will China’s despicable record on human rights and the environment be glossed over for box office sales?

And they’re not the only problem. Continue reading

What Does St. Augustine Have to Do With Social Justice?

“[. . .] where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”

Those lines are from “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”, by 18th century poet Thomas Gray. Now we both know the origins of the phrase; you’re welcome. There’s a reason those three words I bolded have survived and become a part of our cultural lexicon when the man who wrote them, and even the fact that they come from a poem to begin with, have long since faded away: we all know what it’s like to learn something we wish we hadn’t.

Kind of like when that image of what appeared to be a pink boa constrictor began circulating around the internet a couple of years back-

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-and many people, when they found out what it was, said they would never eat another chicken nugget again. Which, let’s be real, can’t be a resolution that most of them ended up sticking with.

It’s easy to continue hitting up our dietary habits when it comes to Gray’s words; after all, don’t we eat every single day? Anyone who has seen the documentary Food Inc. may come out of it with the hot piece of trivia that corn makes its way into almost every item of food in American grocery stores, but the real question is whether or not they continue purchasing and consuming meat that has, in all likelihood, been produced by a factory farm. Continue reading

In Ophelia‘s Seat: A Q&A with Ali Mueller About Her Interview

opheliaposterThis is the second of two interviews I was able to conduct with the cast and crew of the short film Ophelia. On Friday, when it premiered at this year’s LA Shorts Fest, I published a review, and just yesterday I was able to share a Q&A with director Andrew Garland.

Playing the eponymous character herself is Ali Mueller. In addition to starring in such programs as ABC’s All My Children and films like STARZ movie Category 5, Mueller is also hard at work creating her own film and television content. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @alimueller1.


alimuellerWhat did you want to be when you were seven-years-old?

I wanted to be a horse show jumper, a tennis player, an actress, a lawyer and a princess. Four out of five have come true in some shape or form but when I really look at what I wanted to be, it was a performer. A storyteller, expressing my feelings unapologetically.

What was the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?

I did a commercial audition once where they asked me to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Now I wouldn’t exactly call myself a singer, but I did know and love the song, despite being notorious for making up my own lyrics rather than ever learning the proper ones. And “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a seriously big song. So I got almost halfway and they stopped me. Didn’t hear back from them.

Do you have any strategies when it comes to interviewing for a job [or auditioning for a role]? [How do you deal with pressure?]

Honestly, rehearsing. Being really prepared, so much so that I’m excited to go in and play and do my work. Also being open to whatever the moment brings. Nerves are actually alright, because you can use them as an internal energy to fuel what you’re going after. Continue reading

Asian-American Creators in Comic Books As Of July 16th: 2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad

The last time I wrote a post that was titled in a similar format was back in 2013, which followed another the year before. Both were written because at the time events had occurred in the comic book industry that touched on LGBT representation. Given the fact that Western comic books don’t necessarily have a dearth of Asian creators [Gene Luen Yang, Annie Wu, and Jerome Opeña being just a few examples] it’s actually sort of surprising that it wasn’t until this week that I felt justified in putting together a similar post.

What’s unfortunate is, as you can probably tell by the title, that it’s not all good news. With that in mind I’m going to go with the classic “sandwich” delivery, with the positives buttressing a negative. That said, and without further ado-

Greg Pak’s Totally Awesome Hulk #15 Brings a Tear to My Eye

I should probably clarify that I have not read the 15th issue of Totally Awesome Hulk. That won’t actually hit stands until this upcoming October. That said, the cover was released in the Marvel NOW’s Previews Magazine this past Wednesday [with leaks hitting the internet a little earlier]. You can see the cover below in all of its glory-

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Cover art by Mukesh Singh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Clockwise from the very top of the cover is: Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel [Pakistani-American], Shang-Chi/Master of Kung Fu [Chinese], Amadeus Cho/Totally Awesome Hulk [Korean-American], presumably SHIELD Agent Jimmy Woo [Chinese-American], Cindy Moon/Silk [Korean-American], and lastly a character I can’t place who Bleeding Cool cites as being Winter Soldier [which I could not confirm through my own research].

What struck me was that this is a comic book cover from one of the the two major publishers [DC and Marvel] on which every one of the many characters depicted is Asian. It’s also not an established team of Asian heroes like Big Hero 6 [the film adaptation of which you know my exact feelings about]. This is especially notable in light of the fact that other comics like Sam Wilson: Captain America #10-

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Sam Wilson: Captain America #10. Written by Nick Spencer, illustrated by Angel Unzueta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cover art by Marguerite Sauvage.

-and the cover to Black Panther #7 [as seen on the right] communicate the ideas that a) Black heroes exist within this universe and b) just like in many real life situations, Black people can and do congregate together.

Even before these respective examples came to light most of these heroes were fairly recognizable by the public [Storm and Black Panther, Nick Fury Jr.], but they also shine light on the lesser-knowns [Misty Knight, Doctor Voodoo, Spectrum].

The cover to Totally Awesome Hulk #15 is the first major step in my recent memory to bring a similar awareness to Asian representation in comic books, and it’s very clear that a conscious decision was made by Greg Pak [a Korean-American himself] to do this. It’s no exaggeration that just seeing the cover made me emotional, and I cannot wait until October to get my hands on the issue.

Frank Cho Stirs Continues to Stir Up Controversy Over Wonder Woman Variant Covers

There’s no such thing as the perfect week.

Frank Cho, a Korean-American artist and the initial collaborator with Greg Pak on Totally Awesome Hulk [their similarities to the titular character further discussed here], announced two days ago that he would be walking off Wonder Woman as variant cover artist with Issue #6. Deciding to go to Bleeding Cool, Cho explained that:

“All the problem lies with [author] Greg Rucka.

EVERYONE loves my Wonder Woman covers and wants me to stay. Greg Rucka is the ONLY one who has any problem with covers. Greg Rucka has been trying to alter and censor my artwork since day one.

Greg Rucka thought my Wonder Woman #3 cover was vulgar and showed too much skin, and has been spearheading censorship, which is baffling since my Wonder Woman image is on model and shows the same amount of skin as the interior art, and it’s a VARIANT COVER and he should have no editorial control over it. (But he does. WTF?!!!)

I tried to play nice, not rock the boat and do my best on the covers, but Greg’s weird political agenda against me and my art has made that job impossible. Wonder Woman was the ONLY reason I came over to DC Comics.

To DC’s credit, especially [Art Director] Mark Chiarello, they have been very accommodating. But they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

I just wanted to be left alone and do my Wonder Woman variant covers in peace. But Greg Rucka is in a hostile power trip and causing unnecessary friction over variant covers.”

For those who are not familiar with comic book journalism websites, Bleeding Cool excels in tracking a lot of what goes on behind the scenes in the industry. That said, they’re also known for rumour-mongering, a practice with a so-so success rate. They have also devoted many an article to the artist’s last controversy over covers, noting each time one of the illustrations made its way online.

While Rucka has made no official response to Cho or to anyone else asking for comment save for the following tweet:

As far as an actual example of the “censorship” Cho is decrying, pictured below is the aforementioned cover to Wonder Woman #3, with the final cover on the left and the original art on the right:

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Notably absent is the character’s panty line, shown on the right. Apart from the cropping, the art appears untouched.

It should be restated that Cho was not fired from the gig, but instead chose to leave of his own volition. As a creator doing work-for-hire the people at DC comics had every right to ask for edits to be made to whatever iss submitted to them. It was also his choice to approach the comic book journalism site most likened to a tabloid to announce the reasons behind this. The true irony is that the artist’s sensitivity over what occurred feels out of line with his approach to the outrage others have felt about his own work.

Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man #1: This Man of Steel is a Boy From Shanghai

Particularly worth spotlighting as the first-ever DC book I’ve decided to buy issue-to-issue, New Super-Man comes from the same writer of one of my favourite graphic novels, American Born Chinese. That book proved that Yang understands a lot of the innate conflict in being Asian-American, living your entire life in a country but never quite feeling like you fit in.

Cover art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

Cover art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

With that in mind, several months ago he wrote a blog post for the DC Comics site in which he admits almost immediately that “I’ve only visited China twice, so my understanding of Chinese culture is through echoes.” That said, he wants to do everything he can to make his portrayal of the character as authentic as possible, and the majority of the post spends time picking apart exactly how and why he landed on the name “Kenan Kong”.

It’s but one example of how committed he is to the authentic portrayals of Asians, and it can be strongly felt throughout that first issue, which was sold in comic stores everywhere this past Wednesday.


It’s my hope that this isn’t the last such blog post that I piece together, and that part of the reason for that will be even more Asian creators working in both mainstream and indie comics. While the news won’t always be positive, the dream is that with even more talent we’ll be able to see the best that they have to offer, especially in regards to pushing representation in my favourite medium.

Why Do I Love Graphic Novels (When I Was Never Really Into Comics)?

I was never a big comic book reader as a kid.

This was probably due to my mom’s irritation with any form of entertainment that used a woman’s body as a key selling point.

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Yes, I know, #NotAllComics. Photo courtesy of Public Domain

As an adult, I tried to start reading comics but I ran into the same issue I had with weekly released television: I couldn’t binge it. After finishing one issue of a series I would be suddenly and irrationally angry that I couldn’t read what happened next. By the time I finally had access to the next issue, I was so irritated about being forced to wait that I refused to put myself through the process again.

This problem is sometimes solved by bundled comics, but my few experiences with these generally left me unsatisfied. In some cases, it was because even the bundled versions still left me on some sort of cliffhanger (i.e. The Walking Dead), but sometimes it was because the writing was kinda terrible (Marvel’s Superhero Secret Wars). More than likely, I just gave up too soon (I’m hoping Evan will leave me a few suggestions in the comments that will change my mind), but generally speaking, my brush with comic books has left me wanting more. I wanted more characters who I could relate to, or writing that I could find more inspiring, or a more complex style of storytelling and/or illustrating. Continue reading

“Kimmy Goes to a Play” as a Conversation Between Tina Fey and Asian American Activists

The culture war is a conversation.

While it is ultimately a conflict, more often than not this takes the form of ideas and criticism being slung back and forth across the trenches. To be heard is a minor success, but to be actually understood is victory.

Within this conversation it’s undoubtedly artists, especially those who have garnered celebrity status, who have the most powerful voices.


In 2014 the eponymous host of The Colbert Report featured a segment on his show about “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. Given his popularity it reached far and wide, and was eventually viewed by a Twitter activist who created the hashtag #CancelColbert in response.

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As it was meant to call attention to and ridicule the outrageous fact that a national sports team is named after an ethnic slur the response was out of line. It was a classic case of [obvious] satire being taken the wrong way, but by inadvertently contributing to what has been dubbed “a fake year of outrage’ this person’s misstep resulted in others who campaign for better representation and the like being worse than silenced, which is to say, ignored.

Despite calling out from what is ostensibly the same side, the misstep of a single loud voice meant that others were unheard.


The exchange between artist and critic is rarely ever an even one, and only becomes more difficult given the sensitivity surrounding such personal creative endeavours.

Lena Dunham is the star and creator of HBO’s Girls, and received enough disapproval about the lack of diversity in a show set in New York City that she was asked about it by NPR. She responded that “[she takes] that criticism very seriously,” and that very same year had Donald Glover playing Hannah’s Black boyfriend on the show.

While the presence of Sandy on the dramedy was a beneficial one, with arguments between the two capturing the tension that can be present in interracial relationships [including such exchanges as: “I never thought about the fact that you were black once.” / “That’s insane. You should, because that’s what I am.”], Glover’s character faltered in that he was very much a response to criticism. Continue reading