Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Oscar Predictions – February 2023

Michelle Yeoh (c) Thomas Laisné courtesy Richard Mille

Turn Down for What? How about Michelle Yeoh? 

This is my penultimate Oscar prediction column before my “Win Your Oscar Pool” final predictions in March. And while I don’t think I can influence anything, I do want to make a last moment plea that Oscar voters rewatch “Everything Everywhere All at Once” to admire the many faces of Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang in her many incarnations across the multiverse. She won a very deserved SAG Awards on Sunday, but she will need more support than just the actors’ support to beat the formidable Cate Blanchett (who has already won two). I enjoyed all the actresses nominated, but to see the hard-working Yeoh put her trust in DGA Award winning directors Daniels, who directed a farting Daniel Radcliffe movie and the DJ Snake and Lil Jon music video for “Turn Down for What” in a role written for Jackie Chan could have been a career-ending move. 

And she triumphed. Give it a think. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

GALECA Names "Everything Everywhere All at Once" Best Film; Michelle Yeoh & Ke Huy Quan Win Performance Awards

Everything Everywhere All at Once (c) A24

The Critics Group that I am a part of has announced our film winners for 2022. 

GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics has named A24’s fantastical and affecting family relationship drama Everything Everywhere All at Once 2022’s Film of the Year—and then some—in its 14th Dorian Film Awards. Everything creative duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert co-won both director and best screenplay honors, star Michelle Yeoh seized best performance, Ke Huy Quan edged out two of his costars for supporting performance, while the time-and-reality-warping box office champ also nabbed LGBTQ Film and Visually Striking Film wins. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Film Review: Indies Go International, Traveling to South Korea (“Return to Seoul”), Ireland (“The Quiet Girl”) and Australia (“Of an Age”) With Varying Degrees of Difficulty

Return to Seoul (c) Sony Pictures Classics

Film: Return to Seoul 
In Cinemas 

Freddie Benoît, a 25-year old French woman, has taken a short, impulsive detour from her vacation to South Korea. As we follow Freddie’s journey, we realize her life is filled with impulsive acts like this. Her mother is concerned when Freddie tells her what she has done, saying she had wanted to be with her when she returned to Seoul for the first time. Freddie is played by Park Ji-Min, and she was adopted by a French family from Korea when she was a baby. Freddie barely speaks Korean, and luckily at the hotel where she’s staying is a Korean woman (Guka Han) who speaks French. From there, Freddie’s journey takes many unexpected turns, including talking to the adoption agency and all the red tape involved in finding her birth parents, as well as her interaction with the Korean people she randomly meets, mostly communicating in their common language of broken English. Writer-director Davy Chou is a Cambodian-French filmmaker, and “Return to Seoul,” which was Cambodia’s entry for the International Film Oscars (it was shortlisted, but not one of the final five), is his second feature after his 2016 “Diamond Island.” Freddie is not a very sympathetic character, but Chou keeps us on her side as her plight is so relatable, even when she is rude, insolent and unsympathetic with most every stranger she meets. Chou emphasizes the culture shock Freddie has to deal with, especially when she finally does meet some family members. The film, which premiered at Cannes, was originally titled “All the People I’ll Never Be,” which is the sense of dislocation destiny that Freddie and the audience feel throughout, knowing that any slight change in one’s trajectory would have severe consequences on one’s life. Park Ji-Min is excellent as Freddie, who is both curious and repelled by what she discovers about her birth country she knows nothing about. It’s heartbreaking, but never sentimental, and a couple of late plot turns the film takes might feel arbitrary, but they’re in keeping with its themes of home, family and fate.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Film: This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films, Part 1: “To Leslie,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Living” and Deserving Non-Nominee “Bad Axe”

To Leslie (c) Momentum Films

For the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at movies nominated for Oscars that I saw but didn’t review on this site, either because I didn’t have time or I any great takes. I don’t think I will get to all the films – there are some shorts I won’t be able to see and I think I’ll skip the one with the Diane Warren song in it. But I will try to get to most. I will also try (like I will in this column) to point out a film that was shortlisted for a category but didn’t make the final five that I feel are worth your time. Enjoy. 

Friday, February 3, 2023

Theater Review: “Memorial” Tells the Compelling Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Anthony Rapp Gets Deeply Personal in “Without You” and Irish Rep Delivers a First Class “Endgame”

Memorial (c) Russ Rowland

Theater: Memorial 
At Pan Asian Rep 

Maya Lin was only 21 years old when her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was accepted in 1981. According to Livian Yeh’s new play, “Memorial,” that was one of the few times Lin (Angel Lin) was truly happy and proud about the project. Once the memorial was underway, she kept getting pushback from veterans and the government, embodied in the play by Colonel James Becker (James Patrick Nelson) regarding the design, which goes underground instead of above like many of the other memorials dotting the Washington Mall. When things got really heated, and the memorial was debated in the press, it didn’t take much for the fact that Lin was Chinese (the decision process was a blind one, with no names attached) to become part of the discourse. Yeh’s play is well researched and ramps up the suspense of the future of the memorial, even though we all know the outcome. That there are so many parallels to the issues facing Asian Americans today is also not surprising. Where the play could have invested more time was on Lin herself. There’s not much biographical info given, although the presence of her mother (Rachel Lu) does humanize Lin with their knowing, nonverbal interactions. That said, Yeh’s play does hold many surprises, including a lovely discussion about DC and the cherry blossoms as well as an extended tea ceremony that is quite effective. Rounding out the talented cast are Glenn Kubota as architect Hideo Sasaki and Robert Meksin as journalist Wolf von Eckardt who are Lin’s trusted allies. Director Jeff Liu provides many memorable stage images with the help of Karen Boyer’s appealing period costumes and Victor En Yu Tan’s powerful lighting, although Liu could have tightened the transitions between scenes by being more flowing and not quite so literal. Sheryl Liu’s inventive set design and Gregory Casparian’s dynamic projections do a lot of the heavy lifting, reminding the audience that there might be a lot of arguing and drama before its birth, but it’s the memorial that will ultimately be the lasting historical touchstone for us all.