Meeting DNC Vice Chair & Congressmember Grace Meng

I’ve been following Congressmember Grace Meng since 2012 when she was first running for Congress – and when she when she won, she was the first Asian American to be elected to Congress from New York.

Meng was in San Francisco in August for the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC)August meeting and there was a fundraiser for her that I got invited to. Meng is also DNC Vice Chair. I’ve seen Meng speak at the 2016 DNC convention on the main stage, AAPI luncheon and APIAVote – Briefing & Kick-off Reception – but this was the first time I think I had an actual chance to chat with her.

In her “speech,” Meng talked about – to a heavily Asian American crowd – her interest in establishing an Asian American museum much like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and had recently introduced a bill to study the effort; as well as talked about the upcoming 2020 census. Meng also talked about coalition building across communities that helped bring voters to the polls in elections since 2016 that have brought out more voters and helped turn the House Democratic in November 2018, and how Trump in the long term, may be the best thing that happened to bring lasting Democratic majorities in the future.

It was great to hear Meng speak in a more intimate and less hectic setting. Having been born-and-raised in the Northeast (Massachusetts), it’s great to see an East Coast Asian American representative in Congress!

 

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8mm Review: ‘One Child Nation’ Documentary on China’s ‘One Child Policy’

I first heard of One Child Nation after seeing a Facebook posting by Vox about the documentary:

“Documentarian Nanfu Wang grew up in rural China under the country’s “one child” policy, which lasted from 1979 to 2015. Her own parents had two children, since the law made an exception for families living in rural areas, as long as the children were at least five years apart — but not until after her mother narrowly escaped involuntary sterilization. Many other women were not so lucky. The policy’s mental, physical, and emotional toll on the country, especially its women, was tremendous.

To enforce such an invasive policy on a population as large as China’s required more than just strict policing — it required self-policing, especially in rural areas, far away from more densely populated urban centers. So, as One Child Nation shows, the Chinese government blanketed the country with propaganda intended to convince citizens to keep their family sizes within the allowed limit, and to report on their neighbors if they suspected anyone wasn’t following the rules. Along with forced abortions and sterilizations, the propaganda effort ensured that most of the population would abide by the policy, seeing it as a necessary and good measure for the health of their families and their future.”

I had, of course, heard of China’s One Child Policy, and certainly knew academically that forced abortions were part of the Chinese Communist Party’s enforcement of the law, as well as its consequences of selective gender (girl) abortions, which has lead to the imbalance of men-to-women. But Wang’s interviews with her family members and village members were very personal and shocking. To hear the stories of abandoned babies and other practices – it made you realize how truly horrific the policy was.

It was interesting to see also all the government propaganda there was promoting the policy.

I’m amazed is that the filmmaker Wang had made her first film, Hooligan Sparrow, which showed corruption at Chinese local government level that didn’t show China in a the best light, yet she or her family in China didn’t suffer any observable consequences. One Child Nation definitely does not depict the policy in a positive light.

The Chinese government eliminated the One Child Policy in 2015 (the policy was from 1979–2015). Now China is encouraging families to have two children, because of a declining population … and supporting propaganda following – which is very ironic to see at the end of the documentary.

If you really want to see the human cost of the policy, I highly recommend you seeing the documentary – though it might be challenging to see until its available online (the documentary was only playing in San Francisco and Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area).

After reading about Wang’s background and how she was making these award winning documentaries and really made me think how I should have been a film major in college. I think if I won the lottery, one of the things I would do is make documentaries.

 

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8mm Review: ‘Abominable’

Abominable is a new animated film coming out on September 27, 2019 from Dreamworks Animation and Pearl Studio, set in China.  Dreamworks labels this the first animated film to feature a modern Chinese family.  The movie is voiced by an Asian American cast that includes Chloe BennetTenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai as the voiceover actors for the three main characters, Yi, Jin and Peng. Rounding out the Asian American cast are Michelle Wong as Yi’s mom and Tsai Chin as Yi’s grandmother.  Eddie Izzard and Sarah Paulson finish out the cast voicing Burnish and Dr. Zara, the movie’s primary antagonists.

The lead is of course “Abominable” the yeti, or “Everest” as he’s named by Yi, the Chinese teenager who discovers him.  She names him after seeing Everest look longingly at a travel billboard of Mt. Everest.  Yi discovers Everest on the rooftop of her apartment building in present day Shanghai, and the movie details their cross-China adventures with her neighbors Jin and Peng, trying to get Everest home.

Some of the best are  Yi’s interaction with her mom and her grandmother, with whom she shares the apartment in Shanghai.  With a Chinese grandmother you expect Chinese food being pushed all the time, and Yi’s nai-nai (奶奶) does not disappoint.  Yi is a moody teenager, especially after the recent death of her father.

Yi’s interaction with her family reminded me at times of my own interactions with my teenage daughter, including my daughter’s reluctance to join me at the preview showing of “Abominable.”

If the producing studio seems familiar, it’s because it’s from Dreamworks, and they last collaborated with Pearl Studio (formerly Oriental Dreamworks) on Kung Fu Panda 3.

The film is a fun ride, if a bit formulaic, and definitely worth a viewing, even more so if you’ve got a little one who would enjoy an animated film.  The film is rated PG, though, so it may not be for the smallest ones.

Note: The author and the family of the author were provided complimentary tickets to a preview showing of Abominable.
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8mm Review: 8 Reasons to Watch ‘Hustlers’

by Decerry Donato

Here are 8 reasons Hustlers is the must-see movie of the summer:

  1. Fantastic (Female) Four
    Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinheart — four of the women who make up the savvy group turning the tables on their Wall Street clients. If this list of powerhouse females doesn’t convince you, then I should also list that Lizzo, Cardi B and Julia Stiles are also part of the film. Who runs the world? GIRLS.
  2. We all need some lovin’!
    This movie goes beyond the cookie-cutter mold in portraying the harsh realities of our world. “Hustlers” doesn’t just scratch the surface, they bring you to the very core and root of it all.The movie focuses on the Wall Street crash in 2008. This affected so many lives, and this film takes you back to that time — the irrational choices these women make to get by have you rooting for them.Ramona, played by Jennifer Lopez, and Destiny, played by Constance Wu, have an unbreakable bond many of us can relate to. We all have or had a Ramona in our lives, a confident, intelligent, spontaneous friend. Maybe we are the Ramona! But others can relate to Destiny, also brilliant, but logical and strategical. While their relationship is complicated, their friendship speaks to the fact that we humans need love and support above all material things.
  3. Lorde, oh Lorde
    The emotions you feel throughout the movie are enhanced by its soundtrack. The songs are chosen with a fine-toothed comb. Every song, every lyric that made the cut was placed to cause a reaction from the audience, and it works.Toward the end of the film, there is a perfect example of the use of lyrics. “Royals” by Lorde plays, and the song fades in and out, but the two lines that stick out are

    We didn’t come from money.
    Let me live that fantasy.

    The songs and their lyrics, like this one, combined with the powerful script and acting is a piece of work worth watching.

    Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star in HUSTLERS

  4. Sisterhood
    How many movies have you seen with a full female cast? Not many.This movie isn’t just about strippers. It’s more than that. Life lessons, friendships, and pay gaps, just to name a few. The film recognizes the complexities we have as human beings, and how we are all just trying to get by. Moreso, “Hustlers” focuses on the multitude of female perspectives, one that isn’t given much time in the spotlight. The cast genuinely represents our society — women of color. It’s quite refreshing to see the spectrum of color on screen. The industry is slowly catching on, and it’s because of producers and directors acknowledging that these stories need to be told. What better way than to have females writing, directing, and acting them? That’s what “Hustlers” brings to the table.
  5. Angles, angles, angles
    The scenes are shot from all points of view. There are moments where you catch an angle from up top, from scenes inside the strip club alluding to the male gaze, for example. These shots, though subtle, are still compelling. The ladies’ feelings of helplessness in these moments transcended across the screen.
  6. Not just a backdrop!
    The lights, set, and costumes all bring the film to life. Anyone who watches will see that the production team had a vision, one that consisted of so much research.You feel like you’re at the center of it all. Production designer Jane Musky’s goal is “to help the audience experience the world of these women’s lives, their journey, and level of sophistication, through the design of the sets and color palette.”
  7. LOL
    While the movie will have you feeling a slew of emotion, one thing’s for sure: you’ll laugh. These women’s chemistry adds to the dynamic of each character. If you’ve seen their previous work, you’ll know that each actress has so much to offer.

    Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star in HUSTLERS

  8. All about the HUSTLE
    Last, but definitely not least. The theme of this movie will resonate among all ages, backgrounds, and genders because we all know some way or another what it means to hustle. Regardless of the circumstance, obstacles have tested us past our breaking points.

    This city, this whole country, is a strip club. You’ve got people tossing the money, and people doing the dance.

    This is, by far, my favorite line in the movie. One underlying theme in this whole film is that we live in a country of immigrants; those who came here to seek a better life. We see this woven through Destiny’s story, her life as the daughter of immigrants. The movie follows her journey and all its intricacies setting her back, but one lesson she learns is, “When you’re part of a broken system, you must hustle or be hustled.”

    ***

    Decerry Donato was born and raised in San Gabriel Valley where she’s often seen with a camera in one hand and a boba drink in another. She graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor’s in Literary Journalism and minor in Asian American Studies. She frequents thrift stores and is an avid traveler.  Twitter: @deardeezy  Instagram: @intodeeseyes

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8Books Review: ‘SWIM’ by Eric C. Wat

There’s a column series on 8Asians, called “How to Be a Bad Asian”.  I myself wrote one in the series, called “How to Be a Bad Asian: Turning Out Gay”.  But, if there’s one way you can be a worse Asian than turning out gay, it’s to also to be a drug addict at the same time.  The main character, Carson Chow in Eric C. Wat’s new book SWIM is a gay Chinese drug addict.  Carson has also just found his mother has died, and he needs to plan his mother’s funeral.  With that intriguing premise, how could you go wrong?  Add to that, I’m the ideal target audience for this book, I mean, I’m gay, I’m Chinese, and I dealt with planning my mother’s funeral (although that was 10 years ago), but luckily I’m not a drug addict.

In my “How to be a Bad Asian” article I talked about how I was actually a really good Asian son in every way possible, in my own subconscious effort to over come being the really bad Asian in my parent’s eyes by being gay.  Carson, in SWIM, behaves similarly, striving to be the good son, the one who brings his family together, and handles all their problems.  It’s fascinating to watch his misguided belief that he’s succeeding at this as his control over his own life comes crashing down as his meth addiction manages to subvert his daily activities and interactions with his family.

While Carson’s drug addiction provides fodder for some epic failures on Carson’s part, the really interesting parts of the book are Carson’s interactions with his relatives, including his dad, a complicated typical Chinese son-dad relationship with little outright conversation, instead conversing through mutual understanding and facial gestures.  Carson’s also taken it upon himself to be the caretaker for his mother’s mother, his Por Por, now that his mother is gone.  Por Por is almost 100 years old, and has significant memory issues.  But Carson’s drug addiction, causes him to be absent from his family’s crises, and forcing them to take over responsibilities like Por Por’s care, and the eventual planning of his mother’s funeral.

Reading about Carson’s failures due to drug addiction is cringe-worthy, but as I said earlier, the real gem of this book is watching Carson’s interaction with his family unfold, the ones previously mentioned and his interactions with his Young Aunt, his cousin Artie, and his older sister Jolie.

As expected with a drug addict, Carson has to hit rock bottom before he realizes he’s got a problem, and that he needs help.  That’s not the surprise in this book, it’s the support he continually gets from his family, even in the face of all his failures due to his drug addiction.  But that’s also a sign of a Chinese family, that family is more important than anything else, and you’re always there for your family.

There were a couple of areas in the book I thought didn’t flow quite right due to vocabulary, like when Carson includes the word “exigencies” in a normal conversation.  I mean, who uses that word in normal conversation?  There were a couple of those, like a word was plucked from a dictionary, rather than using a similar word that was more common.  That’s my nit-pick for this book.

Finally I can’t finish a review of this book without a nod to the title, SWIM, which you don’t really understand, until it’s explained later in the book.  I won’t spoil that for you, but know it’s a great title, and it’s very appropriate for this intriguing first time novel from Eric C. Wat.

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Constance Wu in ‘Hustlers’ – Opening September 13th

I last saw Constance Wu in ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had heard she was going to be in the upcoming film Hustlers but didn’t realize it was coming out September 13th:

“Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. The film is inspired by the article published by New York Magazine entitled “The Hustlers at Scores” written by Jessica Pressler.”

The film features not just Constance Wu but is filled with stars like Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Mercedes Ruehl, Cardi B, Madeline Brewer, Trace Lysette, and Mette Towley. And yes, the film is rated ‘R’ …

I’m hoping the best for the film – as I do for all films I want to see. I was already interested in the premise of Wall Street scumbags getting screwed over.  Not a huge fan of Jennifer Lopez, but I did like her in ‘Maid in Manhattan’.

It was really interesting to read Wu’s Los Angeles Times’ interview, since it sounded like she really, really wanted the role:

“But Wu, 37, wanted the role so strongly she put herself on tape for writer-director Lorene Scafaria, to the mild bewilderment of her own agents. …  There was something else she was looking for too. After zooming into the spotlight as a rising Hollywood star and the anchor of two groundbreaking Asian American hit projects, she was on the hunt for roles that were multidimensional, human, complex.

“In every project I choose, I want a character that gets to run the gamut of a full spectrum of an arc,” said Wu, whose “Hustlers” character, like the women around her, contains multitudes: The daughter of immigrants and a single mother herself, she’s a ladyboss in the making — until she’s left holding the designer bag. “Destiny has moments where she’s really funny, and moments when she’s really sad. Moments where she’s irresponsible, moments where she’s the only one who is responsible. That complexity is what I seek in any role, and this script really afforded her that journey.”

“I am grateful for my entire career,” she said. “But the fact that my career has been historic shouldn’t necessarily be a call [to say to] me, ‘You should be so lucky’ — it should be a call to pay attention to the fact that this kind of thing shouldn’t have been historic. Me getting to play a fully human experience as an Asian American, that shouldn’t be historic. But it is. Let’s talk about the system, not whether or not I deserve to be in it and how I need to feel about it.””

I really liked that last paragraph. Wu has had a historic role as an Asian American actor in both television AND film, but her goal is to be recognized like any other actor in America. I’ll be sure to watch the film and review it.

 

 

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8mm Review: ‘Ms. Purple’

Ms. Purple
Tiffany Chu, Teddy Lee, Octavio Pizano, and James Kang.  Written by Justin Chon and Chris Dinh.  Directed by Justin Chon.

photo courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

Kasie asks her brother Carey if he knows how she’s been getting by.  It’s an awkward moment; Kasie is a doumi in Koreatown, a paid karaoke hostess who clearly doesn’t enjoy her work.

Carey stumbles through an answer before finally latching on to his feelings: “I don’t judge you for doing what you had to do.”

There’s a lot of judging in Ms. Purple, but as Kasie and Carey deal with the reality of a messed-up family and a father on his deathbed, they hang on to one thing they each seem to believe — that if there’s to be any judgment, it won’t be passed by one sibling on the other.

There is so much pain in this film, so much sadness and emptiness tempting us to look away, yet in the midst of despair is the tender, heartbreaking assurance that Kasie and Carey know each other.  Cowriter-director Justin Chon (whom I really liked in the underappreciated 21 & Over) doesn’t tie things up nicely the way we might like, and his theme is stronger as a result.  We may not know A or B, but we know this.

I recently (kinda) lamented the seeming ubiquity of the Asian American generations movie, and God bless Chon for not going there.  There are things in this film I’ve never seen, sequences best left unspoiled, ‘though I will say that most of the second act is a wonderful display of creative writing and thoughtful filmmaking.  Carey, unemployed and left to care for his father, finds beautiful ways for them to spend time together, unexpected rays of warmth in a pretty bleak movie.

photo courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

Tiffany Chu and Teddy Lee are excellent as Kasie and Carey.  If they don’t break your heart in the quiet moments they spend together, you are made of pretty tough stuff.  I just wanted to hug them about a hundred times each.  Chon trusts them to sit still, and the stillness is one of my favorite things about Ms. Purple.

It’s one reason I cannot stand the film’s score, or the way it’s handled through much of the movie.  It’s too loud, for one thing, and too manipulative, in a way the script and camera mostly are not.

There’s one moment in the middle where the background music is completely different.  Sweet, gentle, subtle, and — not background music at all, it turns out, but part of the action within the movie.  If the loud parts of the movie music exist so this moment can be a contrast, our director can almost be excused because I went for it hard.  Still, there’s no reason to return to the loud musical themes, which the film does in its third act.  Darn it.

It’s quite a lovely film, and definitely worth checking out.  I’m giving it 8 out of 10, the spot between “liked it” and “loved it.”

 * * *

Ms. Purple opens today, September 6, in Los Angeles and next Friday, September 13, in New York City.

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Constance Wu: The Leading Lady of Today

by Decerry Donato

I sat patiently outside a suite in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel in one of the busiest cities–Los Angeles. I was preparing to sit down with one of the most prominent names in Hollywood today in preparation for the release of “Hustlers.” It was press day, and I was on deck for 5 minutes, which felt like forever. The door creaked open. It was time. Two women guarded the entrance from inside, one on each side, where they greeted me in.

Instantly I saw the star herself, smiling from her seat — Constance Wu. As I walked over to my chair, I noticed the curtains pushed as far as they could go, allowing the sunlight to graze her jet black hair, casting a partial shadow on the suite floor. Wearing blue denim and a black, chic blouse fitted to her petite self with bold sleeves, she sat, legs crossed on the gray, lavish chair in front of the suite’s window, which stretched the length of the room. As she waited for me to get situated, her body shifted from facing the door to facing me directly. As soon as I placed my recording device down, the size of a thumb drive, I was still shuffling to get my notes and pen out, but her eyes widened.

“Is that your recording device?”

I answer, “Yeah, its so tiny!” We both get a good chuckle out of it.

Wu is known for playing Jessica Huang on the television series “Fresh off the Boat,” and she starred as Rachel Chu in the critically acclaimed, groundbreaking film “Crazy Rich Asians.”  Months after the film’s release, Wu was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, a considerable feat, considering “Crazy Rich Asians” was her first studio film. This seasoned actress hit the ground running and was on the 2017 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star in “Hustlers”

It’s now 2019, and Wu plays Destiny, the lead role in Hustlers, which debuts September 13. Her character in the film points to the hardships we all face, as women, parents, children, friends, and employees. Everyone who watches can relate.

“I really wanted a movie that was about loneliness because I think right now, in our country with political polarization, and with social media, I think a lot of people are deeply lonely and they don’t even realize it,” says Wu.  “When you have stories that speak to that: ‘Hey, you know I’m lonely too,’ It makes people feel okay, showing they are flawed and insecure. That’s what I wanted, for a piece to explore a character’s loneliness.”

It’s rare, even in today’s world, to see an Asian American lead, let alone a female. “I think one of the things that happen to Asian American women a lot is this over-sexualization, this fetishization,” she says. “In my time in Hollywood, people have always been talking about breaking stereotypes. One of the things I’ve always said is that the problem with stereotypes is not the stereotypes themselves; it’s that they are a reduction of a person. Like this person is only their accent. They are nothing else. But what’s good for Asian American representation in this movie is that Destiny is not only that.” Similarly, her previous roles all portray the Asian American experience in a different light, all the complexities and identities we navigate.

Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu star in “Hustlers”

Wu, 37, with her background in theatre, expressed that one of the challenges she came across while filming was shooting exterior scenes, “because Jen [Lopez] was such an icon!”

There’s no hiding the fact that this film has several fierce females sharing the stage with Wu. She says, “We were all women, and we are led by a woman. It created this incredible sort of solidarity, and sisterhood, and incredible peace. Nobody was fighting over one slice of pie. We were making the pie together.”

But when asked how she relates to her character, she grins, pauses and chuckles, “Well Destiny doesn’t think she’s really good at lap dancing and neither does Constance! I can relate to that.” Chuckling aside, Wu explains that her character realizes these Wall Street guys too have problems. Yes, these men are thieves, but they are people also. The same goes for the women in the film, and they were breaking the law. You are feeling their pain. We’re always forced to believe there is a hero or a villain because everything is so polarized and partisan.

“It’s that conflict of just people being complex and holding two different feelings at the same time, which I loved about the movie,” says Wu.  “I hope it’s unifying.”

***

Decerry Donato was born and raised in San Gabriel Valley where she’s often seen with a camera in one hand and a boba drink in another. She graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor’s in Literary Journalism and minor in Asian American Studies. She frequents thrift stores and is an avid traveler.  Twitter: @deardeezy  Instagram: @intodeeseyes

 

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Jeremy Lin Joins the Beijing Ducks

I’ve been following Jeremy Lin’s basketball career ever since he was a senior at Harvard, so it was exciting to see when he was signed by his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors, as well as see him in his regular season debut, through LINSANITY, his up’s and down’s, and most recently, winning an NBA championship. I’ve been even mistaken for Jeremy Lin’s dad.

Since winning an NBA championship, Jeremy had had a hard time over the summer finding a new NBA team to sign with. So it was with some sadness to hear he’d no longer be playing in the United States, but in China with the Beijing Ducks:

“Veteran guard Jeremy Lin has signed with the Beijing Shougang Ducks to play in the Chinese Basketball Association next season, the team announced Tuesday. … In an Instagram post, Lin wrote it was a “privilege to rep Asians at the NBA level” and congratulated his brother Joe on signing an extension with the Fubon Braves of the Super Basketball League in Taiwan. …

Lin, who turned 31 last week, won his first title with the Toronto Raptors last year. During his nine-year NBA career, he is most remembered for delivering a series of high-scoring performances in early 2012 as a member of the New York Knicks, generating a wave of global sensation known as “Linsanity.”

It had been speculated that Lin, who enjoys a large fan base in Asia, would sign with a CBA team after failing to land an NBA deal as a free agent this summer. During a TV appearance in Taiwan in July, an emotional Lin described a sense of hopelessness.

I’m hoping Jeremy becomes a star in China and earns the respect of the Chinese fans and that he can return back to the U.S. in the near future back in the NBA so I can watch him on TV and in person.

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Film Review: ‘Blinded by the Light’

I’m not big Bruce Springsteen fan, but am a big fan of the film ‘Bend It Like Beckham,’ which Gurinder Chadha directed so I was definitely going to see ‘Blinded by the Light’ where Chadha is credited directing and being a writer on the film. In my opinion, the film does not disappoint.

The film is about:

“… the story of Javed (Viveik Kalra), a British teen of Pakistani descent growing up in the town of Luton, England, in 1987. Amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the times, he writes poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But when a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels to his working-class life in the powerful lyrics. As Javed discovers a cathartic outlet for his own pent-up dreams, he also begins to find the courage to express himself in his own unique voice.

Inspired by a true story, based on Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll, “Blinded by the Light” was directed by Gurinder Chadha from a screenplay written by Manzoor, Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges.”

I had first starting hearing about this film only when I started reading more about the film, ‘The Farewell,’ and that ‘Blinded by the Light’ was also a Sundance favorite and was coming out in August.

I could really relate to Javed at times, with his frustrations of his family’s circumstances and his immigrant father’s expectations. What was enlightening was seeing the depiction of an economically challenged Britain in the late 1980s and the racism of the then-popular Nationalist Front – connotations of modern Brexit sentiment of today. Of course, having grown up the Eighties, the music beyond Springsteen’s was nostalgic.

That said, not being a huge Springsteen, I really loved how the film embraced his songs to express Javed’s emotions – especially the first scene where he discovers Springsteen and the lyrics that express his frustrations of the world and his seemingly unattainable dreams. Made me think I should listen to more Springsteen.

On another note, it’s simply quite amazing to think that there are two British films released this year in the United States starring British Southeast Asians in leading roles, with ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Blinded by the Light.’

The backstory as to how Springsteen came to give his support for this film is an interesting story as well:

Like similar homage “Yesterday,” where a struggling Indian musician in London stumbles upon a world without the Beatles, “Blinded by the Light” is a paean to the power — lyrically and musically — of Springsteen, who might as well live in a parallel universe but communicates in this one with the movie’s writer hero …

“Turned out ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ was one of [Bruce’s wife] Patti Scialfa’s favorite films,” says Chadha. “I think Bruce was touched that we approached his music from a unique cultural point-of-view.”

Worried about adding Bruce’s music to the film, Chadha was encouraged by the Springsteen camp to begin writing the screenplay and ‘something would be figured out,’ given the film’s modest budget.  “They liked the idea,” she says. “We tried to make the music work for our story rather than exploit it.  Picking the songs was quite a forensic task. I only used the ones which captured the character’s journey. I set out to make a movie with integrity, that would live up to that legacy — not only Bruce’s music but what he stands for, what he represents. I had to stop seeing him as a rock star, but someone who wrote these songs for my movie.””

CBS Morning News also does a nice profile (and background on the film) about the co-writer and inspiration for the film, writer Sarfraz Manzoor:

https://youtu.be/NUliX2-wmmE

It makes me wonder if there’s something about the British film industry that is more receptive to Asian American film leads? Then again, I recently heard that John Cho’s ‘Searching’ did so well, that there’s going to be a sequel (with different characters)

Maybe the film industry only cares about one color = green, the color of [U.S.] money.

At the time of this writing, ‘Blinded by the Light’ has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% – I recommend you see the film!

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8Books Review: “Pangs of Love and Other Writings” by David Wong Louie

David Wong Louie’s short story collection Pangs of Love first came out in 1991. It’s now being re-released by the University of Washington Press with two additional pieces. Louie’s stories are captivating and deep, insightful yet puzzling.

It’s a bit intimidating to open up the foreword of a book and see that a Pulitzer Prize-winning author felt that when he read the book for the first time, he was not ready, did not fully appreciate it.

On the other hand, this also meant that I could read these stories with the understanding that I would need to come back sometime down the line, that they’d probably be worth reading again. And with a better appreciation for Louie’s place in the larger sphere of Asian American literature.

The title story, about a mother, family name Pang, and a visit with her two grown sons, is particularly moving. I often use the phrase “deeply human” to describe books and stories that I think are trying to capture some fragment of our lived experience, however messy. And that’s where Louie shines. Sometimes in impenetrable ways, but ways that are nonetheless leaving a mark.

One of the additions to this collection and the final story is also deeply affecting. Louie writes about his own experience of living with throat cancer and the experience of no longer being able to eat.

I can’t relate to the old, eater version of me. I don’t remember how it feels to be in the presence of food and crave it, want to own it, or how it feels to know its pleasure and anticipate having that pleasure again. I can’t relate to that kind of beauty anymore.”

From “Eat, Memory”

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8Books Review: Korean Homestyle Cooking by Hatsue Shingenobu

Korean Homestyle Cooking is jam packed with recipes and appetizing looking food. From galbi and japchae to quick kimchi and even a few desserts, this cookbook boasts a wide range of food.

I won’t deny that I was a little perplexed by the author being Japanese, so I decided that the best thing to do was to try something. Last week, I made the Korean Style Garlic Fried Chicken (certainly not the most complicated dish, but hey, who can say no to fried chicken). The instructions were easy to follow and the ingredients list for this and other dishes is relatively simple. Admittedly, I already have a stocked pantry for Korean / Asian cooking, so this dish was made all the simpler by the fact that I only needed to buy the chicken. But even if your kitchen isn’t like mine, the ingredients in here are relatively easy to find (er, she says as she inserts a picture of a recipe requiring shiso leaves…oh well, don’t make those if you don’t live near an H Mart.)

One thing which I will mention that it’s visually jam packed with pictures, little tips, and other recommendations. I find this personally a little overwhelming on the eyes, but they certainly are being very economic with their white space, and those who are less familiar with Korean food will likely appreciate the tips and tricks. The letters next to the ingredients lists (see above Grilled Beef Short Ribs) also helpfully indicate all the things that go in at various stages, helpful for your mise en place.

While Korean Homestyle Cooking won’t rank as my favorite Korean cookbook, it’s very friendly to beginners and the pictures will definitely make your mouth water.

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