Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Retro Review - Mulan

After being recommended this movie by a close friend for the hundredth time, i finally got a chance to watch it, and really am quite impressed.

For a Disney movie, this show is peculiar in that it does not have much of a love story. In fact, there isn't even a princess in the whole movie. With the "damsel" in distress being the male emperor who needs Mulan to save him, this is probably the most subversive of all Disney movies in terms of gender norms (Frozen had girl saving girl, so that was only a partial reversal) to date. I'm saying this as a good thing.

I am also quite impressed at how they managed to make this entire movie without anyone being killed outright on screen. While this is no surprise for a Disney children's movie, it is still a war movie, and i salute the team working on this for being so creative in getting around this challenge.

With no man to worry about, this show allotted a whole lot of time for character development, which was an area this movie did shine in. Mulan had big shoes to fill, and her growth in physical prowess and maturity is a strong image of women's empowerment.

My only gripe with this show was on the issue of race. The Chinese protagonist speaks with an American accent, and the sidekick Oriental dragon (with a Chinese name) speaks with an African American accent. Why must the lead character sound white and the supporting character sound black?

Also, some of the imagery is foreign to me (even though i'm ethnically Chinese). For example, putting a helmet on a sword to represent a fallen warrior is something i've only seen in western war movies.

I guess you can't have everything. Great at challenging gender stereotypes, but same old, same old for issues of ethnicity.

An impressive, feel-good, girl-power movie that I have less problems with than Frozen. I recommend watching the Mandarin dub of this instead of the English one however.

Bechdel Test: Failed - All the women talk about to each other about is marriage. But i have a feeling feminists are not going to complain about this movie,

No. of films seen this year with:
     White man saving the world - 1
     Non-white/male protagonist - 1 (I can't say it's not white, so this counts only once.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review - The Theory of Everything

(Spoilers are blanked out. Highlight to read.)

This movie about the life of Stephen Hawkings made me feel uncomfortable. Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Even when he was young and able to speak and function normally, the young Stephen Hawking was still such a socially awkward character. Socially awkward people make me feel uneasy in real life, and having to watch one fumble through the dating process with a wonderful girl in so much detail was a bit painful.

2. The movie was based on a book published by his wife. It is a biographical account of people who are still currently alive, and that made it particularly uncomfortable when the dirty laundry started to get aired. I don't think I can look at Stephen Hawking and his family in the same way again.

3. Stephen Hawking's theories reflect his life's philosophy - that there are no boundaries. While this was inspiring when you see how he overcame the odds with his disability, it becomes uncomfortable when the boundaries around his marriage relationship begin to bend and break. Some members of the audience in my theatre could not help laughing at how warped this supposed love story had become towards the end.

While the acting in this film was superb, the movie failed to properly explore issues like the tension between science and religion beyond a superficial level. I feel uncomfortable even writing this film critique because it's critiquing not just a movie, but also a living person's life.

Pushing the boundaries in science is inspiring, but pushing the boundaries in marriage is not.

Bechdel Test: Passed - mother spoke to daughter about joining the choir.

No. of films seen this year with:
White man saving the world - 1
Non-white/male protagonist - 0

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I'm going to make just one crazy resolution for 2015

In an attempt to be slightly more balanced in my thinking about race and gender: I will not watch more movies with white and male protagonist saving the day, than movies with non-white and non-male protagonist.

For example, if i want to watch Jurassic World with Chris Pratt saving the day, i need to balance the whiteness by watching Rurouni Kenshin. And for every Thor/Captain America/Avengers film, I need to watch a Hunger Games or Maleficent to help balance the maleness.

In the unlikely event that there is a movie whose protagonist is both non-white and female, it counts as offsetting 2 white-male movies. At present i cannot think of any such movie, unless the protagonist is like a slave or something really tragic, and not saving the day, thus the unicorn of such a movie gets to have more weight.

Note: This resolution applies to all movies watched, be they on TV, at cinemas, and even on the computer. Please feel free to recommend good movies with female and non-white leads to help me offset everything else. I had originally wanted make a resolution to abstain from any movies with white male protagonists, but then i realised there would be nothing left to watch but teenage and children's movies so...