Average User Score: 8.3Jan 25, 2013Racial relations in films leave much room for sugarcoating and biased views of one or more people on the cast and crew, but thankfully, SpikeRacial relations in films leave much room for sugarcoating and biased views of one or more people on the cast and crew, but thankfully, Spike Lee is too smart to take sides or choose whose battle to support. In Do the Right Thing, he shows how racial relations have hurt one specific street block in Brooklyn. The result soars past any expectations one has going into it.
The film plays like an anthology, featuring people that resemble real people, and who pack in realistic flaws. It takes place on a brutally hot day in the neighborhood, with the temperature in the late nineties to early hundreds. The film's center is a pizzeria on the street, called Sal's Famous, which is run by an Italian father and his two sons. The father is Sal Frangione (Aiello) who has been on the block for over twenty years, and his sons Pino (Turturro) who refers to coming to work like "Planet of the Apes," and Vito (Edson) who is accepting of the blacks.
They're the only white people we see throughout the whole film and yet, despite some of their comments, we can sympathize with them in a way. All they want to do is run a business, but odd complications plague their day. The only black character employed at the pizzeria is slacker Mookie (played by Spike Lee himself). Mookie is a gentle and sweet kid, but seems to develop a distracting fondness for anything but his work.
Other people around down are simple, frequently drunk "Da Mayor" (Davis), Mother Sister (Dee), who observes the neighborhood through her window, Radio Raheem (Nunn), who blasts his music at deafening level on his boombox, which annoys many, Buggin' Out (Esposito), a geeky man who wants to see some black people on the wall of Sal's Famous, and Sonny (Park), a Korean grocery store owner across the street from Sal.
Not a lot of films can perfect the idea of "all characters, no plot," but Do the Right Thing is effortlessly convincing. The film also excels in being extremely original and stylistic in the sense that the heat from the day itself seems to be creeping out on screen. All the characters are soaked in sweat and the cinematography is so bright and loaded with primary colors that it comes off as infectious and unique. Even the air looks to be seamy and murky. Every detail is included, and nothing is overlooked.
Finally, there's the climax, one of the best, and most involved I have yet to see. It's unexpected, well-choreographed, and never misses a beat. It doesn't seem cartoony, as much as it seems realistic and well done. I wish I could go into greater detail, but it needs to be seen to be believed. Also, one of the characters does an act you wouldn't think that insights one of the major plot points. I think it's safe to say, he didn't do the right thing.
Do the Right Thing isn't only provocative, but it avoids cliches and doesn't give us the same "racism is bad" lecture. It's too original and intelligent for that. Lee has introduced us to likable characters that we continue to adore as the film goes on, and despite the heavy climax, we still at least respect. You're left contemplating what the right thing is/was and how would you go about doing it.
Starring: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Spike Lee, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Ruby Dee, Steve Park, Bill Nunn, Richard Edson, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by: Spike Lee.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.8Jan 25, 2013A Bronx Tale successfully brings out every emotion your system can handle. From anger, to joy, to laughter, to happiness, to sympathy, toA Bronx Tale successfully brings out every emotion your system can handle. From anger, to joy, to laughter, to happiness, to sympathy, to empathy, to tears, and to, finally, satisfaction as the final scene fades into credits. This is De Niro's directorial debut and he handles the challenge exquisitely. Complimented by Chazz Palminteri's slick and fearless writing that documents the struggles, the gangs, and the racism of the Bronx streets with no sugarcoating and no easy ways out.
Adapted from its stage play counterpart, A Bronx Tale focuses on the famous area in New York where little nine year old Calogero (played by Francis Capra during his tender years) is growing up on the unapologetic streets with his bus driver father Lorenzo (De Niro) and his nervous mother. Lorenzo frequently warns Calogero that "the saddest thing in life is a wasted talent," hoping that his son will take the path of untold success later in life.
One day, while sitting idly on his stoop with his buddies, Calogero witnesses a murder. The murder was made by the area mafia boss Sonny (Palminteri). Him and his crew are respected, at the same time feared for their unpredictable actions and their checkered history. When called back to the scene by detectives looking for the murderer, young Calogero lies and refuses to confess. His father is subtly proud, but warns his son that he has just done a good thing for a bad person. The good news is their family won't be on the hit list. The bad news is their family is now on the suspicious list.
Eight years later, Calogero, now played by Lillo Brancato Jr., is nicknamed "C" by Sonny and has become his main-man. His second son as well as his partner in crime. His father is somewhat oblivious to what his son has been up to recently, but he believes he can take care of himself, while still nudging him in the right direction.
Sonny's philosophy is greatly different from Lorenzo's. It's "nobody really cares." When the chips are down, who's there to care? Nobody. You're a worthless human. The brutally honest, shameless half of the glass. Sonny's philosophy sticks with Calogero, but he also keeps his father's in mind. Do the two connect? Maybe in some ambiguous, unorthodox way, but it just seems they are two contradicting ways of life. Here's a film that also shows us that if we're lucky, we get two different outlooks on life from two very different people. A man who works in a town and a man who owns it.
De Niro was in a very rough position when it came time to grab a hold of the camera for this film. He could either take the easy way out and make a Goodfellas-style mobster flick or mimic his stellar character's lifestyle in Raging Bull. But he doesn't. He most likely was the go-to guy for help with the script and offered Palminteri advice, but in no way is this another mafia film. It's a unique kind of mafia film. It shows the long-lasting and life changing effects it has on a youth growing up on the wrong side of the streets.
This greatly reminds me of a phenomenal film from the eighties that tackles the same sort of subject. The film was John Singleton's Boyz N The Hood, setting its sights on three troubled youths growing up in the hood and getting caught in the mix of crime, drugs, and racism. The film was Singleton's directorial debut as well, featured stellar performances from every actor in it, a genius script, and some fantastic honesty about the life of the hood. A Bronx Tale does the same, but centers its story around the mafia. Not glorifying the violence, not acting pretentious over other classics of the same genre, but taking a cliche and turning it into a gritty reality.
What is important to learn from A Bronx Tale is that it's a movie with values. It believes that beliefs and values should be the first thing someone should consider when in a serious situation. Sometimes we don't think about the consequences and dive right into what we think will satisfy ourselves and turn out the way we want in no time. It too forms the question; is it better to be universally loved or feared? I'd rather be a little bit of both with a strong blend of respect.
Starring: Lillo Brancato, Jr., Chazz Palminteri, Robert De Niro, Taral Hicks, Francis Capra, Kathrine Narducci, Clem Caserta, and Joe Pesci. Directed by: Robert De Niro.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.2Jan 25, 2013Dito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints takes the style and approach similar to Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale and Spike Lee's Do theDito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints takes the style and approach similar to Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, which both overshadow this film for their grandscale look on issues and the exploration into certain relationships and how they grow and decimate over time. All three films possess common attributes; all three take place in a part of New York, they are directed by first-timers, they are stories that the men hold close to their hearts, all utilize the storytelling method of narration or breaking the fourth wall in some way, and they focus on a large group of characters all with something to say. Whether it's worth hearing or not is up to you.
A Bronx Tale effected me in a way that totally came out of left field. By delivering its brutal honesty with cold, authentic realism was audacious and showcasing three exquisite talents (one of them, Chazz Palminteri, present here), it delivered a coming of age drama, deeper and more reliant on values than any one I've previously seen. Do the Right Thing was a crisp, lively drama relying on racial tensions and impending chaos that would ensue from enduring a brutally hot day in Brooklyn. Spike Lee brilliantly concocted tension through character development and human conversation, and almost implying, throughout the course of the entire film, that no character did "the right thing." But whatever your definition of the right thing was, you could disagree with me.
Montiel is more interested with telling his story more than tacking on a fancy moral or showing any deep, subversive element in particular, which is perfectly fine with me. His close-to-home story is buoyant on its own, relying on strong performances from charismatic leads and is elevated by bright, humid, and mercilessly seamy cinematography. Montiel himself is our protagonist, played in his later years by Robert Downey Jr., a successful writer, yet absent family-man, Dito's mother calls him one day, twenty years after leaving behind his home in Queens, to return home to convince his father (Chazz Palminteri) to go to the hospital after falling gravely ill. Upon returning home, he sees Queens isn't much different, still crime-infested and relatively unprotected from the destructive youth and the passive adults, but notices that his longtime friends' ambitions of being lawless and as juvenile as possible have surged into adulthood.
This story is spliced with flashbacks from 1986, the year when Dito (Shia LeBeouf) abandoned everything he erected in Queens, when Dito was only concerned about hanging with his friends Antonio (Channing Tatum), Laurie (Melonie Diaz), and Mike (Martin Compston), causing trouble and wreaking havoc. The film casually follows the youth's events and run-ins with relationships, sexual encounters, conversations, and troubled instances, and often showing their home-lifes as the least of their concerns.
Palminteri gives a wonderful performance here, confidently lax, yet remarkably genuine and subdued, often providing his son Dito with father-like guidance that often gets ignored when the going gets tough. When Dito is seen in present time, he is unforgiven by his father who views his move to leave home not noble and commendable, like some would, but rather shameful and deviant. He views his son's return home as no more than a cop out move, somewhat more shameful than him leaving. His offer to make amends feels forced and trite and he ain't buying it.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints consistently maintains a gritty atmosphere and always feels alive and raw, even when it's at its calmest times. The performances, mainly from LeBeouf, Tatum, Downey Jr., Palminteri, and Rosario Dawson, who could've benefited from more screentime, use the story's difficult themes of family relations and devotions to their favor, and never does much of this lack genuine feeling, thanks to Mantiel manning the camera and working the pen on this project. To call this film "solid" would be sort of an understatement, yet to call this "groundbreaking" or even "wonderful" would be a bit much. I'll go with "meaningful:" seems to meet them halfway.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Chazz Palminteri, Martin Compston, Eric Roberts, Channing Tatum, Dianne Wiest. Directed by: Dito Montiel.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.4Jan 25, 2013Silent House proposes an interesting gimmick, which is to shoot an entire film in one take, providing us with the unblinking view of our mainSilent House proposes an interesting gimmick, which is to shoot an entire film in one take, providing us with the unblinking view of our main characters' lives, but then unfortunately fuels it with one of the most tedious, mundane, repetitive storylines in a blue moon. The story here is so unfit to work alongside an impressively genuine gimmick that it distracts the viewer and we are left to solemnly hope that we will see this gimmick illustrated more efficiently in the near future.
Our story is set with Sarah, played by Elizabeth Olsen, a woman working with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to repair a rather decrepit countryside home that lacks electricity in order to churn a healthy profit. Call it the American Dream. Until Sarah discovers that the house seems to be able to crank out ominous noises and strange quirks, she feels frightened to even be in the home. Call it the American scream.
The remainder of the film consists of our desperate heroine, wandering around in this strange little locale in the middle of desolate nowhere as she explores the attic, the upstairs, occasionally being a victim to a loud, abrupt noise that not only serve as her misfortune, but ours simultaneously, when we discover this is all the film has to offer in terms of scares.
What we get as a storyline isn't too deep, but rather an awkwardly put together assembly of odds and ends that do nothing but accentuate unusual horror movie logic than can not be explained. Sarah, her father, and her uncle arrive at the home rather late in the day, and plan to spend the night there and rise bright and early to continue working on the house. Why didn't they just rise bright and early the next morning, drive to the home, and spend the whole day working on it? What's the attraction to sleep in a creepy, dilapidated, barely-standing home in the middle of nowhere? Also, when Victoria has the ability to finally leave the house, in the middle of the film when she finds her uncle arriving home, why doesn't her and her uncle stay outside and drive away, seeing as there is no cell phone reception. To give the film a runtime over eighty-minutes, that's why.
Elizabeth Olsen is apparently on a path clearer than the ones her two twin sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley, took, I often hear. Here, she is performing an obligation. An obligation that nearly requires her to perform in a low-budget horror film that will provide her with bread on her table, a film under her belt, and hopefully enough recognition to advance her to other, more sufficient projects.
At several points, I was reminded of the film The Woman in black, released a few months before Silent House. That film was made with a true sense of detail, artistry, and successfully mimicked that of a Hammer horror film. What is lacking here is the element of detail, as we are given the same cardboard setting to stare at for the entire eighty minutes of the film and nothing truly ever comes to life as it did in that film. I felt consumed by the setting there. Here, I felt manipulated by it.
Silent House's idea of using one long, continuous take was predicated off the fact that the original Uruguayan film, La casa muda this is remaking used the same little gimmick. What it succeeds in is giving us a real-time look into Sarah and her situation. One almost hates to belittle the effort of the filmmakers and cast, who definitely needed to adjust to the idea of having a "cue" when to walk on screen, take place, and most likely possessed the thought of doing something incorrectly, ruining the one-take design. It's too bad what we're given is a real-time look into a character in situation not worth watching.
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, and Eric Sheffer Stevens. Directed by: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.5Jan 25, 2013Before you immediately write the characters off as "stupid" and view them as faceless teenagers mirroring those in a horror movie, where everyBefore you immediately write the characters off as "stupid" and view them as faceless teenagers mirroring those in a horror movie, where every decision is questionable, what would you do? Would you have been smarter? Would you not have been distracted by the abundance of customers waiting in line and the short of employees behind the counter? Oh, how easy it would've been to just comply with authority and not risk jeopardizing your business's reputation or employees. Sandra clearly just wants to obey authority and get things sorted out as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Before criticizing her, I can not say that I blame her or I would've done any differently.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.0Jan 25, 2013The one thing consistent with all disaster films is you can never sit comfortably within the opening scenes because you often know what isThe one thing consistent with all disaster films is you can never sit comfortably within the opening scenes because you often know what is coming and you just can bear the thought of it. J.A. Bayona's The Impossible is a picture that captures a disaster all too realistically, as it depicts the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004, killing an upwards of 300,000, destroying homes, soiling towns, and leaving families and memories in drenched and irreplaceable shambles. The thought of the last thing one sees is a wall of filthy, rushing water coming towards you at a breakneck speed is unthinkable.
When the credits finally rolled, after what seemed to be an eternity (in a good way), there was not a shred of movement from any of the eight people in the theater. We all sat and watched half the credits for about a minute before exiting. It's great to see even in a rushed society, sometimes people need to simply stop just to take something greatly moving in, before carrying on with their next line of business. I doubt the film escaped their minds during the rest of their day.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.1Jan 25, 2013Patton Oswalt's Paul Aufiero is a depressing character to focus on for a full eighty-six minutes. He's a lonely man in his late thirties,Patton Oswalt's Paul Aufiero is a depressing character to focus on for a full eighty-six minutes. He's a lonely man in his late thirties, living with his mother, making end's meet as a parking garage attendant where he spends his time either sulking at the loneliness of it all or jotting down notes while listening to the broadcast of the New York Giants game so that he can read them aloud on a radio show later that night. Yes, Paul is a "big fan" of the New York Giants, and his devotion is incorruptible, even when the unthinkable happens.
But before I blaze that trail, I return to my point about the notes, which Paul turns into a lengthy rant about how well the Giants played during the game. He will go on to read the rant live on his favorite radio program, hosted by "Sports Dogg," under the ambiguous name of "Paul from Staten Island," where he frequently exchanges punches with "Philadelphia Phil," a frequent caller into the sports station to praise the Philadelphia Eagles and slander the Giants. On the phone, Paul sounds like a totally different man. Not a depressed and listless man in his thirties who resides with his mother, and not a man of no further ambition. Just a passionate and quirky outsider who shows true commitment to what he loves, which is sports. He's the kind of guy you'd want on your side for moral support and a working set of ears.
Paul's only friend is Sal (Kevin Corrigan), and the two show invaluable bonding when they tailgate during the Giants home games and run a long extension cord through their car in order to sit outside the stadium and watch the game happening feet away from them on a puny little antenna TV. One day, Paul and Sal spot Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), the Giants quarterback, and his faithful entourage in Staten Island and, in a starstruck-haze, decide to follow him to see if they can snag an autograph or exchange some words. They drive through a bad neighborhood, where Bishop picks up something that likely isn't the most legal thing on the market, and they wind up at a strip club, where the two friends get the courage to walk over and talk to them.
Bishop views them as two loner geeks interrupting his night, and things get rough when Paul accidentally brings up the part about him driving through a rough neighborhood. Bishop assumes they were being followed and, in a fit of rage, beats poor Paul to a pulp and is left unconscious for three days until he wakes up in a hospital bed. There, Paul is informed that his personal-injury lawyer brother (Gino Cafarelli) is ready and willing to cook up a lawsuit, and that an NYPD detective (Matt Servitto) wants to get all the details of what exactly happened the night of the altercation. The problem is that Paul doesn't want to remember what happened that night. To him, Quantrell, regardless of what he did to Paul and how badly he left him damaged, he just wants to move on with his life, unburdened by the incident, and not have his love for the New York Giants soiled by this one unfortunate mishap. Only the conflicts this poses on his family begin to come out of the woodwork. His mother begins to bring up the fact that he is a lonely man, desperately searching for companionship and his brother can not fathom the idea that Paul would not want to pursue a court case or a lawsuit against Quantrell.
Patton Oswalt gives what I call a career making performance in Big Fan. A performance just subtle enough that you may overlook it, yet just powerful enough to you will remember it. Oswalt, rarely leaving frame at all here, is so deeply sympathetic and easy to feel for in this film. But why? The look in his eyes in numerous scenes (take the excitement and expression in his face when he's "Paul from Staten Island" for example, or even when he is being lectured by his mother in the car after his brother's party) often accentuates the feeling of misery or dim joy. He is a figure that we understand his moral position, but question his decision not to move forward with a lawsuit against Quantrell regardless of the "idol-status" he has obtained in Paul's heart.
It is questions like this that are too psychologically complex to answer without oversimplifying and that is what makes Patton Oswalt's character and performance so memorable. We can side with him only to an extent before he makes the decision to move forward and move on from his current problem. I was stunned that director Robert D. Siegel (former editor in chief for the fake newspaper "The Onion") took this material with such depth, heart, and seriousness. Big Fan is a film detailing the dark side of spectator sports, a multi-billion dollar industry that focuses on those who put on a jersey to play and make millions and those who buy overpriced tickets to games in the exact same jerseys that were sold in order to continue fueling the pockets of those involved in the industry.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.2Jan 25, 2013It has become a new thing of amusement for sports fans to research old rants of coaches, particularly football coaches, that they gave in aIt has become a new thing of amusement for sports fans to research old rants of coaches, particularly football coaches, that they gave in a live press conference while currently in the heat of the moment. Quite possibly the most iconic was the professional and motivating Herm Edwards sending a message to his players saying, "you play to win the game" after Herm's New York Jets lost to the Cleveland Browns in 2002. The rant I thought of during Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin's documentary Undefeated was Jim Mora's "Playoffs?!" remake when asked about the Colts' future after a devastating loss. "I just hope we can win a game!" he stated shortly after.
It's that kind of mentality I feel that the Manassas High School football team and their long-suffering coach, Bill Courtney occupied for a long, long time, as the school's team, which existed for 110 years, never won a playoff game and have become the devastating team that you look on the schedule and cite as an easy win if you play them. The school is located in Manassas, Virginia, and is grossly underfunded, along with possessing an athletic program unfit for even a third-rate school. The kids need to get by with what they have, and that's not much. Coming from a prestigious and often highly-regarded public high school, I look on with great sympathy and possess deep gratefulness in what I was born into.
Undefeated primarily focuses on Manassas High School football team's 2009 year, where they plan to turn things around for the better (not like they could get any worse). They figure that since they're at rock bottom, they can only go up from there, and Bill Courtney plans to turn the team around, putting heavy emphasis on character and frequently telling them, "character is not how you handle successes, because anyone can bask in the glory of a win, but how you handle failures," and that is a bold and admirable message for an unpaid coach to tell his players. He believes in them, even when their previous record was 0-10. You won't find too many high school coaches who take the game as seriously as Courtney, or are prepared to give them advice they can use off the field or when they hang up their jerseys and helmets to pursue other things.
Courtney explains that the school is so underfunded athletically that they considered taking part in "pay games," which involves the team traveling miles across the state to face a team they have no chance in beating and accepting a $3,000 - $4,000 in exchange for brutal humiliation. When your only option to get money is to belittle your self-esteem, you really need help in some way, shape, or form. Thankfully, Courtney has a reliable lineup, involving O.C. Brown, a senior whose passion is more suited for the field than the classroom, the quick and dependable Montrail "Money" Brown, and a man by the name of Chavis Daniels, who is the team goon, often causing trouble and possessing a very suspicious anger problem. Courtney accepts the challenge with no regret at all, and often connects personally with many of his players. There's a touching scene in the latter half when O.C. and Courtney are traveling somewhere in a car together when O.C. tells the coach that he is attracted to another girl. As a result, Courtney hands over a small bottle of cologne telling him to use it conservatively and he will get all the ladies he wants. The warm, innocuous, yet comforting feeling of bonding goes right to the viewer's heart in just a wonderful scene.
The film chronicles the 2009 season, showing modest beginnings, but a wonderfully unbelievable conclusion with opportunities soaring for the team, players, and school. We also see how the players not only adapt to the new opportunities, but also the inevitable ones, like college approaching their line of vision and high school entering their rear-view mirror. Courtney devastatingly explains that once the football season ends, some kids recognize that they have a 2.0 grade point average, a 14 on their ACT, and no scholarship, resulting in almost nowhere to go. It's a depressing state of affairs, especially for kids who have no other experience other than the kind they obtained on the field.
Undefeated is a nicely made documentary that had the honor of beating Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory at the 2012 Oscars for Best Documentary Feature. The film will without a doubt will strike an emotional chord for some audiences, yet despite being a true story, there's something about hearing the perfunctory tale of a coach turning a ragtag bunch of half-wits into a winning team, real or not, that feels sort of artificial. Yet there is a divine humanity in this story that isn't ignored, and the result, in the long run, was a long-overdue one Manassas will cherish for another 110 years. It's light years more efficient than a cliche-ridden tale like Rudy, I suppose.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.0Jan 25, 2013I read an article not long ago that cited the TruTV program Hardcore Pawn as one of the biggest boons to Detroit's failing economy in a longI read an article not long ago that cited the TruTV program Hardcore Pawn as one of the biggest boons to Detroit's failing economy in a long time. The pawn shop depicted in the show, American Jewelry and Loan, located in the 8 Mile, has become famous in the town of Detroit and has become a notable tourist attraction, receiving hundreds of customers a day. I can't help but find it somewhat depressing that one of the town's biggest economic successes in recent times is thanks to an exploitative, unsubstantial Television program with almost no redeeming merits when it used to not need any assistance because of its unstoppable job growth thanks to its many factories.
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's new documentary Detropia opens with a frightening statistic; in 1930, Detroit, often labeled "Motor City," was the country's most booming city because of its auto industry and manufacturing plants all across its land. Today, it is one of the fastest declining cities with over 100,000 vacated homes and lots. Its economy is in shambles, its townspeople exhausted and underpaid, and overall appearance mirroring that of a desolate wasteland. Clint Eastwood starred in a Super Bowl commercial about two years ago that informed citizens of the world that it's only halftime in America and our second half was to begin shortly. Tell that to the locals in Detroit who, in 2013, still, are waiting for the buzzer to go off and for the game to resume.
"We're not in a recession, we're in a depression," says retired public school teacher Tommy Stephens, now owner of the Raven Lounge in Detroit. "They're just not saying it cause it would scare the American people." I would've loved to have this man as a teacher for any subject. He is one of the most friendly, charismatic, and intelligent documentary figures in recent memory and his final scene where he discusses the greatness of capitalism, yet recognizing its unfair treatment and exploitation of the poor is terrifically compelling. Stephens later attends a car show where he himself is being taught about how China can make an electric car appearing more stable than an American-made car for $20,000 and America makes and sells one for around $41,000. He informs the gentleman selling the $41,000 car, who is anything but happy. It is then he and we, as the audience, realize that the future may be outsourcing, but then where does that leave the United States? Looking like the metropolitan area of Detroit, I suppose.
We are not given a central moral or theme in the film, but we do not need one. We have been bombarded with news about the economic standing of Detroit for several years now that we have subconsciously blamed whoever we feel responsible, rather it be the political left, right, the town's mayor, the unions, the townspeople, whoever. Ewing and Grady aren't here to give us a moral but a somber experience with little light at the end of the tunnel. We focus on various townspeople in Detroit, including a stressed and frustrated union manager whose American Axle plant has just been closed, townspeople who sit on their porch and mock all efforts of the politicians who are trying to bring Detroit back to its roots, a Vlogger on Youtube named Crystal Starr who attends many town hall meetings and explores the ruins of the town (she goes into an empty building and looks out at the desolation that has consumed the entire town and tells us, "this place used to be bangin'"), and even the mayor, Dave Bing, who is completely at a loss, unable to cope with the ruins of the town or the immense decrease in population. He proposes solutions, like relocating people to replace some of the urbanization with farmland, to which many people are understandably disgusted at. It's the unwillingness to input change and the unwillingness to carry out change that is ruining Detroit, yet where do you go and what do you do when you're bankrupt and desperate?
Had it not been for the narration and statistics, I would've went out and assumed this was a film done by the filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, whose Titicut Follies I don't hesitate to call one of the finest American films ever made. The filmmakers do not put us in a position to judge, blame, or accuse, but simply give us an unbiased, objective look at the guttural decay and hopelessness Detroit has accentuated over a period of several years. Ewing and Grady's approach to this delicate material is similar to the way I believe Wiseman would've approached it, by letting the townfolk tell their stories and share their opinions and do not plan on sharing your own, even if you have the liberty to.
The question we are left with is the same one we emerged with and that is how will we keep Detroit alive in these rough times? The documentary doesn't provide an answer and neither can I. Better make some more reality TV shows. Hopefully one starring Tommy Stephens.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.5Jan 25, 2013Saving Face centers on two women who need to get something out of their systems. One of them, a young Chinese woman surgeon, who is coming toSaving Face centers on two women who need to get something out of their systems. One of them, a young Chinese woman surgeon, who is coming to terms with her sexual orientation of being a lesbian and desperately wants to tell her mother of her bias, but fears not for her reaction, but for her already deteriorating level of confidence and fondness for life. Her mother, on the other hand, is pregnant by a man she refuses to identify, leaving her ostracized and a societal blackboard for those with impressions and judgments to right on carelessly.
The young woman is Wilhelmina, often called "Wil," played by Michelle Krusiec, and her mother is Hwei-lang Gao, played by the wonderful Joan Gao. Throughout the course of the film, Wil struggles to balance her prestigious job as a surgeon, carry on a relationship with the stunning Vivian (Lynn Chen), and juggle her mom's lack of confidence has her pregnancy continues on. We see that after being shunned and disgraced by her father, her only hope is her daughter Wil, who is almost obligated to welcome her into her home with open arms, seeing as she has nowhere else to go. Wil attempts to get her out in the dating game, much to the dismay of her mother, who feels inferior when she stares at Chinese women half her age.
Coming-out cinema, often regarded as "queer cinema," which sounds more like a demonization, is beginning to channel the formula of heterosexual romantic comedies. The gay white character in present times doesn't shock or surprise audiences like he used to, and because of that, young, ambitious gay filmmakers are looking towards separate cultures and more intimate focuses in order to successfully pull off a unique film in the queer cinema movement. We can view that has subversion of a subversive genre, I suppose.
Director Alice Wu (who after making this film in 2004, has gone on to do nothing since) makes the welcomed change to shift Saving Face into the morals and dilemmas of remaining culturally devoted despite being an enormous outcast. We see how bound to Chinese culture Wil is, which begins by taking her mother in even though she really doesn't need the extra weight provided, and persistently trying to find a date to reassure her confidence. Coming-out cinema would later reach a similar height when director Dee Rees released Pariah, a story about a young black girl embracing her sexuality in a seamy urban setting. Yet while Pariah appeared soaked in grit, Saving Face comfortably channels the comedic genre, accentuating a playful tone when necessary and a serious tone when applicable to the message of cultural devotion and homosexuality.
It was a little stunning to watch the credits for this film and find Will Smith and his agent John Lassiter (not to be confused with Pixar's John Lasseter) holding producer's credits for this small indie picture. During this time, Will Smith was at the height of his game, and this same year released his fantasy action movie I, Robot and the animated film Shark Tale. What was his inspiration for funding a modest lesbian film churned out by a first time director and why was it not publicized?
Starring: Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, and Lynn Chen. Directed by: Alice Wu.… Expand