• 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.


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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  • Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

Updated: Oct 24, 2018

A coalition of disability groups called for a full boycott of the movie TROPIC THUNDER as well as an apology. Ben Still apologized for the use of the word ‘retarded’. But many defended the movie under the banner of satire and comedy.

It’s hard to find out if the offended actually watched the movie to see the jokes in context. An example is if people accidentally walked by comedy store, overheard some jokes and coalesced an outrage mob. I watched the movie to see if it was truly as offensive as people said. But it turns out that the joke isn’t at the expense of developmentally disabled people. I found myself laughing at the uncomfortable truths of Hollywood through the movie’s idiotic characters of Kirk Lazarus (played by Robert Downey Jr) and Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller). The truth revealed to the outside world is that some actors are so desperate to earn an acting Oscar that they choose roles that portray someone with disabilities that are not relatable. It’s difficult to follow someone that you can’t relate to.

As someone who is a caretaker of special needs adults, here are some thoughts on the particulars of politically correct language that we use. If someone’s offended, Ben Stiller should sincerely say something graceful. On the other hand, I do agree that we all should have a sense of humor and not leap to def con five of outrage that everyone seems to be on social media these days.

What words should we use or no longer use?

Do I ever call any of the clients retarded? Never. It’s not in my vocabulary. They are my family. Would you ever call a member of your own family retarded? Wait… Let me take that back. I’ll rephrase that: Would you ever make a disparaging remark about their disability? If your kid was special needs would you call them or ever think of them as anything less than special? A sad fact is that some parents do, but that’s a whole other story. Do adults with special needs ever use the word retarded? Yes, they do.

They also use words like idiotic, dumbass, moron, loco, crazy, coo coo, etc… It’s a rabbit hole of words we should sunset because they are offensive to someone. But are the right people offended meaning is that the adults with special needs being offended? Maybe it is someone feeling that they must be offended on their behalf. Where do we draw line to the honor the adults with special needs while still giving them breathing room to be human?

Don't Limit Us

To give some other voices, Jamie Brewer is an actress with Down Syndrome. She has a message for people who use disparaging language: “Don’t limit us.”

Jamie is a groundbreaking actress who adds so many layers to the “American Horror Story” series.

The mother of another person with Down syndrome prefers the word “disabilities” as opposed to “special needs.” Her wishes are to ‘spread the word to get rid of the r-word’.

Disabilities vs Special Needs

She prefers a discussion of someone’s disabilities. Others don’t want the word ‘handicap’ used. They prefer ‘handicapable’.

Some special needs adults are dual diagnosed. It means that they have developmental disabilities and have mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression, personality disorders, bipolar, etc… The different mental illnesses can be found in the manual called ‘DSM.’

Doctors will ask the adults with special needs diagnosis right in front of them. Out of respect, I refer to them as ‘MR’ so I avoid using the ‘R’ word.

The community of disabilities has the best of intentions. Empower and remove the shame of their disability, starting with the Special Olympics - a celebration of people’s physical prowess. A word like ‘retarded’ or ‘retard’ or any version of that was slowly replaced by the words ‘special needs’. The reasons were to prevent their feelings from being hurt, being abused and mistreated. But the word “retarded” comes from the clinical definition of ‘mental retardation’. We also use words like ‘developmentally disability’ or ‘D.D.’ for short. Those words also limits them. It says they are only capable of so much.

In California, we also used to use the terms ‘consumers’ or ‘clients’. They’re sunsetting those words and replacing them with others like ‘individuals’. This word is meant to empower the individuals. It’s language to provide support as well as teaching the care providers to provide dignity and honor their God given rights. This is an ever changing as we grow to understand them and their abilities.

There’s also advocacy for People First language. “We aren’t a disease, we have a disease. You aren’t cancer. You have cancer. You aren’t mentally retarded. You have mental retardation.” It puts the person first rather than the medical condition for it is the person that matters. I don’t believe people are advocating an angry Twitter mob after every misuse of words.

It seems there are different opinions on what words we should use or shouldn’t use. Some individuals want to have a discussion about their disability as opposed to masking it with the words, ‘special needs’.

And it is my hope in sharing that we consider the complexity of this whole situation. It really does speak to the fact that they truly are “individuals” for no one way works or all. We have that right: shouldn’t they?

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  • Apocalyptic Thanksgiving

SEARCHING is the first of its kind - a thriller movie starring the Asian American, John Cho. The movie genre, ‘Father searching for his daughter’ was popularized by Liam Neeson in TAKEN and Denzel Washington’s MAN ON FIRE. It’s a mystery where the hero must use his only skills and the few resources he has at hand like his daughter’s computer in SEARCHING. The movie was also written by the first time director, Aneesh Chaganty who happens to be Indian Asian American. SEARCHING is also co-written by Sev Ohanian.

John Cho is a Korean American actor known more for his comedy in the Harold and Kumar franchise. He was also the first to star in a short-lived ABC comedy sitcom Selfie with Karen Gillan (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, STAR TREK).

As SEARCHING is a thriller, we care more that John’s character finds his daughter than the fact that he is Asian American. He plays a recent widower that never really mourned his wife’s death. His response was to bury himself in his work thereby neglecting his daughter. He seemed more obsessed about taking out the trash than her well-being. He also behaved like the typical parent on autopilot concerned about test results and studying and she responded in kind like a google auto-response, “Fine.” As his brother suggested, “You never even listened or talked to your daughter before everything went down.”

First Time Filmmaker

The film is an outbreak in that it takes place almost entirely online with no boiler-plate shots like ‘master, single, single’. It’s strictly webcam shots, security cameras or news footage. Aneesh’s experience from his short film, ‘Seed’ shot through google glasses helped him in this cinematic challenge.

Parent's Worst Nightmare

In many ways, SEARCHING is a horror movie for it leads us through a parents’ nightmare. Did their teenager fall into the dark recesses of internet? Did she reveal too many details where someone identifies her and kidnaps her? But the daughter’s mistake of over emoting online becomes his greatest resource as John Cho’s character scans through thousands of clues. This roller coaster is precisely what Aneesh wants us to take.

Tragedy Breeds Popularity

One of the most telling moments of the films is the online phoniness of so-called ‘Facebook friends’. These ‘friends’ manipulate their followers for their own narcissism. An example is when a girl denies being the daughter’s friend in real life and later posts a teary video about being BFFS. It’s that they turn the daughter’s tragedy about them to gain empathy points and likes on their social media pages. It’s a sad commentary on today’s outrage Olympic culture.

And this movie also illustrates that those social media posturing campaigns do impact people in the form of John Cho’s character. And John’s acting was so good that we believed him to be that frantic father looking for any clue to find his daughter. Does he click angrily? Scroll frantically or inquisitively? How does the acting come across on the computer when most shots of him were in the close up range? It’s an acting challenge for John had little to nothing to act against in this limited webcam view of him. His onscreen daughter, Michelle La, also killed it with her performance that had just the perfect touch of vulnerability.

Even from the movie poster we see John Cho’s face which begs the haunting question,” What happened to his daughter?”

My overall conclusion is that this movie is gripping from start to end. Kudos to the writer and director of the movie SEARCHING! I can’t say enough about the film and how it’s as relevant it is today. Our worst nightmares lurk online as well as our darkest deepest secrets.

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