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  • Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

Asian Female cast shines in SAVING FACE

Alice Wu’s, SAVING FACE is a wonderful romantic comedy with Asian characters in New York City. It’s a surprisingly fresh take of a romantic comedy genre as it’s about Chinese American lesbian girls. The story is set in the spiderweb of traditional Chinese immigrants and second generation Chinese Americans who begrudgingly kowtow to the social norms. Wil’s world, played by Michelle Krusiec,  is rocked when her widowed mother becomes pregnant and hides herself in Wil’s apartment disrupting her life. To complicate matters, Wil, who still hasn’t ‘come out’ yet, falls in love with a fellow Chinese second generation, who happens to also be an openly gay woman, gracefully poised by Lynn Chen, from their social circle.




The acting is nothing short of brilliant. Lynn Chen makes simple effective choices in her acting. Michelle plays thoughtful, and Joan Chen, from the unforgettable film the Last Emperor, does a marvelous job of  playing against the stereotypical mother. She plays a multi-dimensional mother who’s scared to be on her own for the first time. She can’t even pick out her own dress to go out on a date because she’s followed always followed tradition. She’s never had to make her own decision her whole life. When she finally does break tradition, the first thing she announces is how she’s moving in with her daughter and wants to repaint and decorate the apartment. It’s like Oprah awakening in the end of the movie, THE COLOR PURPLE. Oh watch out. She’s back now.


We know we’re in the hands of a seasoned director, when there’s a  throw back shot to THE GRADUATE. It’s where the couple escapes the wedding after declaring his love and end up on a bus. The camera rolls and the realization and the consequences of what they’ve done finally set it. It’s a throw back where the mother escapes the marriage and she and the daughter are on the bus and don’t realize what they’ve done. There’s also the biting shot of the measly pickings of videos addressing Asian characters and their issues at the video store. Yes, there used to be movie rental stores. So much has changed in the last 20 years or has it? The strong visuals of and getting the best performances like when Michelle tells her love interest Wil that she’s going to Paris and we see the monkey bars separate the two. Or the color shirt Red after coming out to her mother and her mother breaking tradition. It turns out, that this is her directorial debut.


What’s fresh about the movie is how the first generation would speak Chinese and their children would speak back in English. This is common in my household as well. I know Hollywood tends to shy away from subtitled films, especially American made ones. But with the cornucopia of movie selections online from all over the world and watching the best foreign movies from every country, the subtitles are an afterthought. There have been some great Asian movies and TV shows that are invading America like the zombies on a train movie, TRAIN TO BUSAN, as well as Korean drama.


The invisible shackles of shame and ‘SAVING FACE’ were woven in every plot. The characters were enmeshed within gossiping women and men at the restaurants and hair salon Wil remained in her closet. Vivian wasn’t allowed to perform modern dance. Joan Chen’s character couldn’t publicly embrace her nontraditional man or proudly live as a single mother without being ostracized from the Chinese community. Her pregnancy belly bump would be her scarlet letter. When the bonds were finally broken in the third act, you could see the ripple effect of the glass ceiling being shattered as several couples came clean with their true feelings leaving their fellow neighbors gasping in horror.


Only an Asian American could have written this line.


A throw away line that really spoke to me is the scene where the black friend where he says, I don’t understand.Why doesn’t she just do what she wants to do? It’s a clash of two different cultures. One that believes in collectivism vs one that believes in individualism. Social status means everything to the Asian immigration. I busted out laughing when the father proudly exclaimed, “Well at least my daughter’s dating a doctor.” Comedy has so much truth in it.  I would have liked to have seen more comedy than romance. I did enjoy the bits of comedy where Vivian teaches the Will to fall down and when Vivian leans in for a kiss, Will conveniently falls down. I also enjoyed the subtleties of being Asian. Did you ever tell your mother? She knows already. Did you tell her? She walked in on me and another girl and never spoke of it again. In Asian culture, subtlety speaks volumes that we hold in silence for lifetimes.

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Lynn Chen is currently writing and acting in her directorial debut of the independent film, I WILL MAKE YOU MINE




Michelle Kreuk is featured in Hawaii five O.



Looking forward to more work from the talented filmmaker Alice Wu who also holds a Master degree in computer science. She can help lead the way that there can be no limits to what we want to do in life.

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  • Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

This Me!


I confess that I’ve been struggling with writing this blog about my inspiration for MY APOCALYPTIC THANKSGIVING (MAT.) And I know some may ask why this would be the case since I’m Holly Soriano AKA “just the producer.”


Why the heck? Right?


It’s that this movie means so much to me on so many levels that all lead back to family and forgiveness.


So I decided to approach this like Enimem’s character at the end of 8 MILE:



I’m coming clean...


As you may recall from Richard’s inspiration post, he mentioned one of the guys asking after his mom was an inspiration for MAT. I’ve also faced this same question from our buddy. He may have special needs except he is cognizant enough to understand that his family doesn’t want to be a part of his life.


Other guys in our care also face this too. It’s truly heartbreaking for we can’t force their family members to be involved in their lives if that’s not what they want.


Sometimes these different guys act out in some pretty harsh ways to deal with their feelings. They do things like throw temper tantrums or others hurt people. It’s not unlike the teenage boy sex offenders, who I took care of prior to moving to Los Angeles. Some of those guys had special needs while others had mental illness and/or both. The thing that they share with many of our guys is that they had difficult family situations. They all also lack the skills to truly communicate their needs.


Why Visit There When You Can Move There?



And I can so relate to a tumultuous family situation and poor coping skills. My parents divorced when I was seven. As a result, I ended up moving between my parents and finally lived with my older sister my senior year of high school. We also had many rocky times throughout for a whole host of reasons. I also went to nine schools in different schools in a variety of states and cities within those states. In addition, I also faced a number of traumas. The result is I spent many years battling my emotional fallout for I didn’t believe people loved me based on these experiences.


Thoughts versus reality...


It was like there was this massive hole in my heart that couldn’t be filled no matter what people said or did. I’ll be honest that this tormented me for years and caused me act out in ways that make me now cringe. But the beautiful thing that came out of that all was that it helped me finally cut through my own bullshit to truly understand that I am loved so much by so many. Plus, I also came to understand that family means so much more than those with the same blood.


The thing is that these guys may never get those moments of reconciliation with their family. I hope for their sake they do for it would forever change them and allow them to soothe their heart ache. In the meantime, we will continue to take care of them and help them when their behaviors get the best out of them.


My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving the Movie...




So… How does this relate to “just yet another movie about special needs?” Our lead character Marcus screws up a lot in it while he looks for his long lost mom. Some of the ways that he behaves aren’t pretty. Many of the movies about special needs only focus on the positive aspects of people with special needs or ignoring their complexity. The media would also have you believe that we are to condemn him or medicate him to the gills in order to stop those undesirable behaviors. But that is setting a different standard for someone else than ourselves. It’s just that no one is perfect. I can only imagine how different our world would be if we choose to forgive and offer love instead. The world would be a radically different place.


I know that this seems rather ambitious for our movie. It’s okay with me for we don’t have to change the world for if we could reach even one person… That would be a delightful start.


What movies have done this for you?


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  • Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

I’ve never been to Singapore. Plus, I’ve never known royalty or attended a Royal Wedding, but I identify with the main character Rachel Chu (Constance Wu from FRESH OFF THE BOAT) because I was born in the Philippines and grew up in America. When I have returned to the Philippines, I feel like a fish out of water. She’s a fish out of water for she is a New Yorker whisked to the exotic Singapore by her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding from A SIMPLE FAVOR). To her surprise, Nick isn’t just rich, but CRAZY RICH. In fact, his family is one of the wealthiest families in Singapore.


Asian Ladies of Comedy

Nick Young assumes that his mother Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) will be proud of him because he’s marrying a Chinese girl. But in his mother only sees her as an independent American rather than an Asian with the understanding of the Asian culture. As every Asian mother knows, no girl is good enough for her son especially if the mom is crazy rich and lives in the socialite stratosphere. While this is a great concept with an original setting and cast, I was hoping for more comedic situations.


The movie could have been the conspiring mother-in-law, such as MONSTER-IN-LAW, because most of the cast have experience with comedy. It would also break with the stereotype that Asians are only serious all of the time. An example that demonstrates Asians being less than serious the video from Korean Artist PSY for his song: “Gangham Style”

Another comedy classic they could have modeled after was MEET THE PARENTS where Rachel could desperately try to impress Nick’s parents like Greg Focker. There were so many missed comedic opportunities. There could be so much more than Rachel attempting to drink the water for washing one’s hands at the front door of CRAZY RICH ASIAN movie. This truly was just the iceberg of what could have easily led Rachel’s character down a rabbit hole of disasters like Greg Focker talking about milking cats. He was then forced to make up more shit to back up this outlandish claim until he had to finally admit his fear of being rejected.


‘Male Abs’ Are Everywhere

This let me know that I was in a chick flick. It seemed that the buff male characters constantly took off their shirts to show us their abs. I wanted to go to the gym more and put down the popcorn. But the movie also appeals to guys with the outrageous bachelor party on a boat. As original as the elaborate set piece was, it fit more with the stereotype of Chinese kids having no concept of money and showing off like peacocks. Nick and his best friend see themselves as better than this and sneak off immediately when this could have easily been a variation on the HANGOVER franchise just for fun.


AWKWAFINA

The best comedic parts were from the Asian sidekicks such as her friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina from OCEAN’S 8). They really should have given Peik more scenes for she dominates her scenes. One of her funniest moments is when Peik rolls up as an uninvited guest to a cocktail party and she pops open her trunk…That always gets the best laugh. It’s just that I prefer Peik more in her natural comedic conversations with Rachel. An example is Peik talking with Rachel at the café. Another one is at the dinner where Rachel meets the rest of Peik’s outrageous family like her father Wye Muh Gun (Ken Jeong from HANGOVER). Like father and daughter, they kill it in comedy. I really was hoping to have seen more of them together.


Is it Asian Enough?


You can tell it’s authentically Asian by everything centered around food and family. I liked the tradition of handing down of making dumplings by hand. Another time is when they visit the market and eat family style with everyone sharing from the same plates rather than individual orders. The way they remain skinny eating like that is beyond me. I’m doing a variation on the low carb diet and still don’t have those abs. I don’t even eat rice much less brown rice for that matter. In fact, I chastised my now wife for ordering brown rice on one of my first dates in a Thai Food restaurant. As she is a non-Asian, I felt compelled to explain that no respectable Asian man eats brown rice. This was back before my low carb days.


CRAZY RICH ASIANS is a movie where most of the cast is made of up Asians. It’s been over 25 years since an American movie featuring this kind of cast was made by a major studio. The last movie like this was the JOY LUCK CLUB. As luck would have it, Lisa Lu is in both movies. She plays Nick’s grandmother in CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Although, one could argue that NAMESAKE by Fox Searchlight could be counted as an Asian film since India is also considered part of Asia. MOANA could even be considered Asian since it features several Pacific Islander voice actors. However, I’m half joking since I fall somewhere between Asian, Pacific Islander, American and even Spanish since I’m Filipino. In the end, every one of every race will have fun at this romantic comedy as well as get the chance to see the how the other half lives in the exotic island of the metropolitan Singapore.


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