Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Baby Driver is Guardians of the Galaxy

Really enjoyed Baby Driver (Wright, 2017). It begins with a car chase that puts the opening car chase in Drive (Refn, 2011) to shame, then puts Drive in its entirety in the rear view mirror after that.

But I keep coming back to the connections between Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy though (both vols, Gunn, 2014 & 2017). Ok, they're not exactly the same, but:


A young protagonist who lost his mother at a young age...
absorbs himself in music (fortunately we can hear what's playing through those earphones)...
works on the wrong side of the law...
but has a noble heart and purpose...
as he pursues the love of this life.

Not complaining, just saying!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Beguiled (Coppola, 2017): Mini-Film Review

The film that captures the ethos of the United States right now more than any film in 2017 is, to me, The Beguiled. Sophia Coppola's film presents an injured AWOL Union soldier during the Civil War who finds himself in an all-women's seminary in the south. When grateful, he is full of praise towards the women and girls there; when distressed, he is as ugly as he was magnanimous.

Sophia Coppola is a master of making movies that have absolutely nothing at their core, which makes them nearly impossible to duplicate or replicate. Although Lost in Translation is an exception, because a certain atmosphere imbues the entire film, I love Coppola's movies for this reason. The Beguiled begins in this "nothing at the center" fashion, then stuff goes awry in a though-provoking way--at first, it reminded me of The Hateful Eight but that comparison doesn't really work. Here, violence is always lurking in the background.

YouTube Lecture: CSUSB Modern China Lecture Series

My lecture by invitation, “Sympathetic Views of Japan in Café Lumière & Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles,” is below. It was delivered on April 20th, 2017 at California State University, San Bernardino.

You can access the conclusion of the paper first by clicking the link here.

Via the YouTube channel: CSUSB Modern China Lecture Series

A couple stills from the lecture:



A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, 1991): Mini-Film Review


Edward Yang's epic work A Brighter Summer Day records more insightfully than any film in its class, a singular moment in Taiwan in the early 1960s. The nearly four hour film, which took three years to make, based on a script with more than 100 characters who deliver their own distinct lines of dialogue, documents a teenage boy's psychological descent in an era of transition generationally, politically, and culturally.

It is without a doubt a masterwork. So when I find myself hesitating to recommend the movie to those who are not familiar with the turmoil in Taiwan during the time period depicted, or reluctant to recommend A Brighter Summer Day because it is primarily dialogue driven, I return to Abbas Kiarostami (1940–2016), who describes how films like this are made--namely, perfectly. (See Kiarostami clip, below).

#skatethru: Skateboarding Through Various Spots

In some ways, I need both surfing/skateboarding and the academic life to keep me sane and balanced.

Here's a series of leisurely videos of riding through a handful of spots: Beijing, Seoul, places in California. Nothing fancy, just riding around. Thanks for viewing!

Qianmen Street, Beijing (2017)

SIAS Zhengzhou, China (2017)

Seocho neighborhood, Seoul (2017)

Hangang-daero Road, Seoul (2017)

San Clemente State Beach Campground, CA (2017)

Ocean Beach, CA (2016)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Café Lumière: Presentation at Cal. State University, San Bernardino

(update: 7/20/2017: the lecture can be viewed via YouTube at this here.)

I am looking forward to presenting the following paper by invitation at California State University, San Bernardino on Thursday, April 20 2017 at 2pm:

"Sympathetic Views of Japan in Hou Hsiao-hsien's Café Lumière and Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles"

In this presentation I intend to show how a close comparison of Café Lumière (Kafei shiguang, 2003) with Zhang Yimou’s Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Qian li zou dan qi, 2005) helps uncover “the ambivalent nature of Taiwanese postcoloniality” as Liao Ping-Hui has written, and additionally, how this “ambivalent nature” may shed light on current cross-strait relations.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SCMS Conference Notes, Friday March 24th, 2017

On Friday the innovative and lively "Transforming Citizens from the Margins to the Digital Mainstream" panel described new media representations of Asian American identity, interestingly noting the ways current YouTubers use, but do not necessarily directly cite, the visual narratives their work builds on (Dr. Lori Lopez & Dr. Peter Feng).


The third presentation in the panel by Dr. Brian Hu, “Asian American Film Festivals, Post-raciality, and the Narrative Feature” worked in synchronicity with Dr. Po-Chen Tsai's presentation yesterday, “A Cinema of Hopelessness: Rethinking Queerness and Globalization through Three Recent Taiwan Films.” In the former, Brian Hu discussed recent Asian American films that do not address issues of race, while Po-Chen Tsai's work described three recent films with queer characters that do not necessarily advocate for gay identity.

This reminds me of another connection among the panels this year; namely, the way intersections of ideas (cultural, representational, political) are presented without resorting to considering them exclusively within a binary relationship of power/marginalization--the best presentations seem to do so while also avoiding the general abstraction of the term "intersectionality."

I also attended the "Femininity, Disability, and Trauma" panel which covered responses to representations of violence against women on the silver screen in Israel (Dr. Raz Yosef), definitions of trauma and it's cinematic iterations (Dr. Karin Badt), the authenticity of filmic characters across the autism spectrum, and the engagement that occurs between witness/investigator and event in terms of the gaze and the stare (Dr. Kathleen McHugh).