Fresh Off The Boat, Or How I Single-Handedly Saved Television For Asian Americans

I haven’t watched a lot of television in the past five years. I haven’t even owned a television in the past four, so what I do see mostly consists of being at other people’s houses, or once in a great while a show comes along that I simply must go out of my way to watch online.

I certainly hear a lot about TV shows, because everyone I know seems to watch them, and from their conversations and the one or two episodes I do see I can generally piece together what they are supposed to be about. How I Met Your Mother is about a guy who took like a decade to answer a simple question, Modern Family is actually about three families (one of them is gay), and Arrested Development is Michael Cera’s autobiography. So on and so forth. The last show I actually watched all the way through was Breaking Bad, which ironically is about creating so much bad that everyone’s life ends up ruined or ended.

When I started seeing ads and buzz for Fresh Off The Boat, I didn’t think much of it. I’ve been very critical of sitcoms ever since The Simpsons started to suck, and I think that was like a decade ago. Asian family sitcom. Woo. Right?

Wrong.

As the premier approached, one of my friends, Rebecca Sun, became very enthusiastic about it. When I commented on it, I got this as a reply.

youre our only hope

It hit me like a beam of Caucasian light: this wasn’t just some TV sitcom. This was a calling. I had to watch this show.

So a little over a week later when it finally came up for viewing on ABC.com. I suffered through repetitive commercials about curly hair, but I would not be deterred.

When I finally got to start watching the show, it was like nothing I expected. I’m not sure what I did expect, actually. I guess I just thought the mom and dad were the main characters, based on that one ad I kept seeing in the subway.

Fresh Off the Boat Key Art embed

That’s the one. You know I didn’t even notice that kid in the window? Turns out the story is really from his perspective. Yay advertising.

Anyways, the show itself is actually really funny, and not just in a “white people lol” way. Or even a “Asian people lol” way. It’s really more of a “people in unfamiliar terroritory lol” kind of funny, and I think anyone who has actually moved to a new place to start a new life can relate to it. If you’ve never really moved maybe you won’t get this show? I don’t know, but if you have never moved I do think you’re kind of a freak.

So I would recommend this show. But even if you don’t watch it, I can rest assured that my work is done. For by watching the first episode, and each subsequent episode as they come available, I know that I am doing what no one else can: I am giving this show the coveted 18-35 white male demographic view.

You’re welcome, Asian America.

Advertisements

5 Awful Christmas Songs

Christmas time is here (happiness and cheer), and that means half the radio stations in America are churning out Christmas songs instead of Top 40 hits for reasons I don’t fully understand. Not that I mind, I love Christmas music, and there is something special about having a specific time of year to listen to some of my favorite songs. Not all songs are created equal, however, and along with classics like O Holy Night and that one song that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra plays we are also stuck listening to garbage; worthless slime music that plays over and over because no one has the good sense to set them to flame and scatter the ashes. Here are some of the worst offenders.

1. Feliz Navidad

To ease you into the charred hatred, we’ll start with this little number. You may object to it even being on the list. You think it is charming, and has a nice message to it. You probably also loved it when the Teletubbies watched children do asinine activities and then shouted “AGAIN!” so you could watch the exact same video clip a second time. This song is repetitive in ways that would make a clock blush. Genetically identical clones have more variation. It is literally one verse and one chorus. Over and over. But as bad as it that is, the verse and chorus are saying the SAME DAMNED THING. “Prospero año y felicidad” is the closest thing this song has to a unique line, and it too is endlessly repeated like the chanting of brainwashed cultists.

2. Wonderful Christmas Time

Paul McCartney is a gifted songwriter, but he’s possibly even better at churning out mindless pop hits for money. So I can understand why this song exists, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it. The jist of this song is “well it’s Christmas, so I guess we’re supposed to be having fun right now” and it has all of the emotional thrill to match. His voice stays at an even pitch just high enough to grate on your nerves but not quite enough to drive dogs wild and actually make something fun happen. And I don’t know what is making the instrumental music, but it ought to be declared a war crime.

3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

I would be remiss to miss this little gem. In addition to being an awful song in general, it is without a doubt the single most horrifying song about Santa Claus. Most of them are about him dropping off carefully-picked presents, or offering mutant reindeer a useful task, but the only purpose of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is to scare children into submission. He can see you at ALL TIMES, and just a single misstep is enough to get you on the naughty list. Which he checks twice, by the way. And what are these terrible crimes that’ll get you naughty-listed? Shouting, crying, pouting. We’re talking about children here. So the lesson here is to bottle up all emotions and don’t speak above a whisper or the omniscient master of the North will despise you. Bang up job there, carolers.

4. Happy Xmas

Yes I looked it up, this is apparently how the name of the song is written. Couldn’t even be bothered to write out the word “Christmas”, John Lennon? Probably just as well, because this isn’t even a song about Christmas. This is yet another limp-wristed war protest song (there are in fact war protest songs that aren’t limp-wristed). Now there is nothing wrong with being against war in general principle, because only the most vile person would actually enjoy war, but many times it is simply not an option. When someone confronts your family/clan/tribe/nation with violence, protesting against conflict only helps the people who want to hurt you. But never mind all that; you can have a good song that just happens to be wrong. Most love songs have no idea what love is but still manage to be enjoyable. This is a droning mess with an obnoxious children’s choir, and I think Yoko Ono is also singing which is never a good idea. Unless your only metric for good songs is “did John Lennon write it” this song falls short by any measure.

5. Last Christmas

Oh, this song. Of all the atrocities inflicted upon us this Christmas season, there is perhaps none worse than this one song. This is the black ice on your sleigh ride, the anthrax hidden in your chestnuts roasting on an open fire. If you took every bit of pointless self-absorbed bitching about the holidays and crammed it into a pressure cooker, you would have the first part of this song. Completing it requires harvesting an entire year’s worth of misery, and that just so happens to be what the song is all about. The moron singing this gave their heart away to someone who in turn tossed it aside on Boxing Day. Did moron learn their lesson about being haphazard with their feelings? Well, they declared an intention to give their heart to someone “special” this time around, to save themselves from tears. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Except what do you think they did last Christmas? Gave their heart to someone special. And what do you think they’ll do a few years from now? Give their heart to some other “special” person. Here’s an idea, maybe being drunk on eggnog at a Christmas party after months of stressing out about holiday shopping and your desperate lonliness isn’t exactly the best condition for finding true love, hmm? Just a thought.

Movie Review: The Campaign

So I’m not the biggest Will Ferrell fan in the world, though I have seen a bunch of Celebrity Jeopardy clips, Talladega Nights, and that one where he’s a character in a book, but I saw this one anyways because he’s pretty darn funny in what I have seen, and also I’ve been getting all the heck kinds of interested in political stuff as of late, so this seemed like as good a way as any to further immerse myself via satire.

Anywho, Ferrell plays an incumbent Democrat Congressmen who is your basic sound byte vomiting Washington DC type guy who apparently has a whole bunch of extra-marital affairs, while Zach Galifianakis (I had to Google this one, also props to him for not taking the easy way out and going with a simpler name) plays the Republican candidate who is being controlled by billionaires who want to build a Chinese sweat shop on US soil (to save money on shipping). What proceeds from this is a very funny, very inappropriate, and fortunately very poignant movie.

The Campaign is consistently funny throughout, from the opening until the last gag in the credits. Furthermore, almost every character is funny. The Campaign is utterly unapologetic about where it mines humor from, using anything from overwrought insults to a Chinese maid who fakes one of those southern black accents like from The Help or whatever (didn’t actually see that movie). Warning to new mothers, a baby gets punched in the face in this movie. This is also hilarious.

The Campaign is also exceedingly vulgar. Now, as I mentioned before I haven’t seen a whole lot of Will Ferrell movies, so maybe if I had I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised. I knew it was Rated R (but only because the girl at the ticket booth actually carded me, I mean come on now I haven’t shaved in a few days, they don’t even card me at most bars) but I guess it couldn’t have hurt to pay a little more attention to all the rating subtext. Wouldn’t have stopped me from seeing the movie, but I could have saved my eyes from that initial widening.

As for how far art imitates life in this instance, this may just be me being cynical, but I think it manages to hit closer to home than it necessarily had to. I think we would only be kidding ourselves if we think we don’t have elected officials whose only real agenda is staying in office, and we’d have to be downright ignorant to think that there isn’t a ridiculous amount of money being put towards manipulating both the elections and the people in government themselves. Unfortunately, most aren’t the sort of helpless buffoons who make their shortcomings so obvious that resigning is the only way to save face.

I hesitate to say I recommend this movie, because wow it is really vulgar, but ultimately it has a good message and it is funny, so yeah go ahead and see it I guess.

Movie Review: The Woman in Black

So reasons I can only attribute to innate masochism, I continue to see horror movies despite the fact that the very genre is in the grips of its own death throes; much like the undying killers that dominate the genre, Horror has seemingly died, and has gotten back up for the final scare. Any second now our beautiful young protagonist, hoarse from screaming, will stab or shoot him again and end this farce once and for all.

In between these final spasms, which disturb the otherwise tidy and symmetrical  pools of congealing blood, however, one may occasionally find a horror flick worth staring at for two hours whilst their face chews on popcorn or nachos. I believe The Woman in Black is just such a movie.

Taking place in the Grim Darkness of Victoria-style England, filthy streets and all, The Woman in Black stars Harry Potter as a depressed laywer type guy named Author Kipps who, years after the fact, is still in mourning over his wife. Like all movie dads with dead wives, he can’t keep it together and is failing at both career and fatherhood. Men take note; if you do ever get married, your wife dying will ruin your life pretty much forever. The only exception is if you find yourself in a romantic comedy and your stupid kids try to set you up with whatever woman they think would be the best mom. Then you live happily ever after.

Anyways, back to the movie: Harry Potter goes to some ugly and no doubt smelly sea town to sort out the affairs of a dead woman and her very large house that occupies it’s own island of a few acres. From there the creepiness and haunting begin.

And creepiness this movie has. The Woman in Black has it all; girls playing with dolls, a crow, superstitious townsfolk, horrifying toys, and the occasional death. This movie closely follows the rules of ghost stories, including having a mystery of why the ghost does what it does, and how one might set right what is wrong. It’s not entirely formulaic, though, and breaks a few rules to great effect.

Though there are deaths (primarily children), I wouldn’t call this a violent movie. There’s a bit of blood, but there is no gore or physical altercations, so it’s great if you want something that will freak you out and keep you in suspense without actually making you sick.

I think Daniel Radcliffe did a good job in this film. There are many child stars who can’t make the jump from their child stardom to continuing their work as an adult, but I think Radcliffe is doing great so far. He looks rather young in this movie, but he’s supposed to be a young dude so it’s okay.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes a good ghost story without the gunk most movies bury their ghost stories with, dirty pre Great War England, Daniel Radcliffe, or who thinks horror isn’t dying. I still think it is, but this movie might be evidence to the contrary.

Movie Review: The Grey

So I saw this movie today, primarily to fill a 4-hour gap between work and bowling, but I also wanted to see on it’s own merits. And I can say with no uncertainty that I was not disappointed.

The Grey is about Liam Neeson’s character, who is a depressed Irish dude working as a wolf hunter at an Alaskan oil thing. Honestly, aside from the part where he knows wolves and is no longer with the love of his life, the beginning isn’t particularly important. Then he and a bunch of other guys who work at the place are on a plane, probably flying back to the Continental US, and it crashes. You already knew about that part because it’s in all the trailers, and in all the pictures Liam Neeson is covered in snow. What follows is a harrowing tale of survival for the several men who survived the crash.

Maybe it was just because I was sitting near the front and therefore the movie screen filled almost the entirety of my field of vision, but I found the movie exceedingly gripping. It’s not truly an action film (I don’t care what IMDB says), though there is plenty of action. Survival horror comes much closer to describing it, but that’s a video game genre and not a movie genre, and horror demands a certain threshold of surrealism that this movie’s antagonists (snow and wolves) fails to provide. On the topic of realism, I found The Grey to be a particularly realistic film, if not in the events themselves, than certainly in the characters’ reactions to them. Men cry, freak out, put up tough fronts, and plenty of other things that happen to men when pushed to their limit. Naturally, the hero and grimly determined but still compassionate hero is Liam’s character, with the other men showing varying levels of humanity.

While surviving against all odds and clinging to hope and faith are important themes in this movie, I would say that more important still is the inevitability of death, despair, and how old faces their doom. “Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.” This is a poem that appears in the movie, encapsulating the essence of the film. When death comes for you, will you lie down and wait for him, or will you grab whatever weapon you can find and run snarling into battle?

This is a grim and bleak film, filled with violence and death, both of humans and animals. You will see gore. It’s seemingly a manly movie, but I think any woman who appreciated Hurt Locker would like this one as well. If you have a taste for dark films with a bit of bleak humor, you should definitely see this movie.

Movie Review: Red Tails

If, before having seen this movie, you asked me who the Tuskegee Airmen were, I’d tell you that they were this all-black group of fighter pilots who were awesome at what they did. I would then waver about whether they were in World War II or some later war. After having seen this movie, I can now tell you with absolute certainty that they were in World War II. That is the only thing the movie taught me, because movies are for entertainment, not facts. Facts are found in books, and sometimes the Internet if you look hard enough.

Does Red Tails do its job of being a movie and keeping you watching the screen instead of your secretly turned on cell phone? Yes. Is it a good movie? I would say yes to this as well. Is it a great movie, the kind that should win awards? Not at all, really. Yes, it is great that George Lucas was willing to make a movie with an almost exclusively black cast, but apparently he had once again made the mistake of having something to do with the details of the movie. It is a George Lucas movie. Not as bad as Episodes II or III, thankfully, but it’s no Episode V.

I found the dialogue to be hit and miss. Sometimes it was great, other times I nearly groaned aloud. I don’t know if some of the more groan-inducing characters were just supposed to be intensely dull and bad at everything but flying, or if the 40s was just a great time for painfully straightforward and over acted wording or what. Fortunately, it gets better as the movie progresses, but that also means that the first several minutes are kind of awful. Plug your ears until the first ground scene and you won’t be missing anything.

The characters themselves are good for the most part, though the film leaves no ambiguity as to who you are supposed to be rooting for and who you are supposed to boo. Like pretty much everything about World War II it’s not a film that you’re supposed to think about. You simply know what you are supposed to think, or you are a racist and have no idea what you are seeing this movie for. Luckily the designated heroes aren’t difficult to like. True to Lucas form, there are exactly two female characters in the entire movie; the Italian love interest to one of the fighter pilots, and her mother who shows up in one scene and never again (not to imply that the former shows up very often).

Though a war movie, there are very few deaths on the side of the protagonists, though there are plenty of explosions, because I guess fighter plane bullets explode on impact or something. I’m no munitions expert.

I know it may sound like I am harping on this movie a lot, and perhaps I am, but that is only because I expected it to be really great, instead of merely good. I don’t think anyone reading this review will regret going to see the movie. And if you like the idea of predominantly black casts in movies targeted towards non-black audiences, then you kind of have to see this movie, because going to see a movie is the only way to let producers know that you want more like it.

Movie Review: Beauty And The Beast 3D

Disney knows exactly how to make an extra few million, and I know exactly how to help them out.

Much like The Lion King re-release, I found that I enjoyed the movie a good deal more now as an adult than I did as a child. The details stuck out more, the little bits of humor caught my attention more easily, and at no point did I feel bored and wander off to play video games.

The transition to 3D was once again handled well, though I wonder if it was actually as well done as it was with The Lion King 3D. I suspect the dissonance has a lot to do with the significantly different art style that Beauty And The Beast has. While The Lion King prided (ha!) itself on the stunning detail and realism of their landscapes and talking animals (lions with thumbs aside), everything about Beauty And The Beast is like a painting or tapestry.  While they are marvels of animation that we really won’t get to experience ever again, seeing the characters pop out from the scenery led to a different sort of feel than The Lion King 3D.

Beauty And The Beast is very much a Disney film. You have your “princess”, who is beautiful but doesn’t fit in to her society’s expectations and wants more out of life than what she would get if she just stuck to everyone else wants, then she meets her “prince” (often actually royalty), conflict happens, and eventually they live happily ever after. There is, however, one important difference in Beauty And The Beast that sets is apart from its peers; the prince.

With apologies, Belle just isn’t that compelling of a character. She loves her father and books, and isn’t superficial. That’s basically all there is to her. The only growth she undergoes throughout the movie is she maybe becomes a little more bold, but even that is a stretch. Despite what the dolls and marketing may tell you, I would say that the movie isn’t really about her at all. Much like Aladdin, the real main character is the male lead.

The Beast is the character who undergoes the most radical transformation by far; from a brooding selfish monster to the kind and caring soul that can win the love of our not-superficial princess. He is also easily the most compelling. Rare is the Disney film where we see a character so complex and conflicted, since he’s not just an angry lout but also clearly self-loathing and deeply depressed. Nor is he quickly fixed by just picking himself up by the bootstraps; it is only through the constant prodding of his servants that he starts to make any changes to his behavior and let his guard down long enough to be something more noble than a beast. But when he lets Belle go free, he snaps back into his depression, convinced that he’s not only lost his once chance at humanity, but more importantly that he has lost Belle. I get the feeling that despite Disney’s insistence at the happily ever after, these bouts of depression and doubt are going to haunt the Beast-turned-Prince for years to come.

The obvious inversion of The Beast is Gaston, who despite his handsome exterior is little more than a dim-witted thug, who we see become more vile and monstrous over the same progression that we see the Beast become more human. It’s simplistic, but I appreciate things like this in stories.

I suppose it is fairly obvious that I identify strongly with The Beast, though mostly in the negative attributes. Here’s hoping I can become human without locking a princess away in my castle.

All in all, Beauty And The Beast is a great, though simplistic, movie and a shoe-in for anyone who likes Disney, romance, or monsters with character development. You should probably go see it while it is in theaters.