Pay attention: It’s Hereditary. (Non-review movie review!)

My partner-in-crime Caroline and I anticipated Hereditary for months, so you can believe that we were in that theater on the morning of opening day. I do have something to say about this film, but it constitutes even less of a “non-review movie review” than usual. This is not a review of the movie. It’s a mere commentary on my reaction to it.

 

 

First, I found the ending to be disappointing, which affected my immediate opinion of the whole movie. I don’t know what I was expecting the ending to involve. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to involve what it did. It wasn’t the ending that I wanted.

Well, that was my problem, because the movie turned out to be an overwhelming success for me as a person who loves to get scared by horror movies, and who very rarely gets scared by them. Hereditary got to me. I just didn’t realize it until later that day. And that night. And the next day. And that was the beauty of it: the delayed reaction.

[Sidenote: It made no sense that I left the theater with such a dominant feeling of dislike for the ending, because while I was complaining about the ending, I was also marveling at the excellence of the production as a whole… not to mention Toni Collette’s stunning performance.]

I didn’t think that Hereditary had any effect on me, but then the day drew to a close, the sun went down, and I started to look around the house apprehensively. Hours later, I got ready for bed feeling more than a little creeped out. I thought back to the movie and couldn’t pinpoint a single scene or instance to blame.

Hereditary wound itself into the back of my mind, and then its creep-factor unraveled forward and stayed with me for a good two days.

That night, I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the dim lamp in the dining room when departing with my glass of water. For the first time, I was so spooked by a movie that I didn’t want to turn out the light. I’m not afraid of the dark.

I went to bed with my heart thumping in my chest.

Tired as I was, I stayed awake. Then I had to pee, but I was loathe to get out of bed, so I held it. How old was I the last time that happened, if ever? Five?

A shuffling sound moved quietly across the space by the closet. I couldn’t breathe. Callaghan didn’t move. When it happened a second time, Callaghan murmured that it was the fan blowing his cup off the nightstand, which didn’t make sense because the small fan was sitting on the floor, and the cup was up above and full of water. He reached down to turn off the fan. I didn’t hear the sound again.

The next day, I went around with many questions in mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. Caroline and I discussed it in a flurry of messages. She said that when she woke up at 2:44am to get a drink of water, she was “kind of freaked out and heard noises” as she walked around in the dark.

“I felt like there was something on the ceiling… following me as I walked to the kitchen,” she said. “And I heard a bump… and the hairs on my neck stood up and I gingerly looked up… but there was nothing there. ghghhghg.”

I would say that this sums up our joint reaction in terms of scariness on a scale of 1-10: ghghhghg.

I’ll be going to see Hereditary again… with Callaghan. This time, it’s his reaction that I’m anticipating.

 

Just believe: The Florida Project. (Non-review movie review!)

Last week, we went to the cheap seats (the iconic Tempe Pollack Cinemas) to see The Florida Project, a film about a young mother and her little girl who live in a run-down budget motel, and the motel manager’s conundrum of having to be an effective manager in difficult circumstances while also being the compassionate person that he is.

Theirs is one in a cluster of colorful, Disney-themed budget motels crouched on the outskirts of Disney World. The motels create a mini-village mostly populated by human beings living in poverty the likes of which most of us couldn’t imagine, while skipping distance away, tourists visit the Magic Kingdom.

 

 

In the Magic Kingdom’s shadow, the motels strung together with fantastical storefronts of various establishments – gift shops, corner markets, eateries – contain a precarious world concerned with survival… a world of have-nots and have-nothings. Worlds exist within other worlds, though. At the center of The Florida Project, the little girl, Moonee, explores her world and finds smaller ones, each of them magical. She knows where to find them.

Left largely to her own devices by her mother, who comes across as more sisterly than motherly, Moonee is like a little old person, wise in the ways of her universe yet oblivious to danger, to the fact that her mother is unstable in perhaps every sense of the word, and to the reality of living a hairsbreadth away from homelessness. It’s both a relief and a heartbreak to note that the difficulties of Moonee’s life haven’t deprived her of her childhood innocence.

Halley, Moonee’s mother, can’t seem to set examples of right and wrong, but she can exemplify elation and the ability to turn the mundane into wonder-provoking discoveries. In terms of parenthood, there’s fit and unfit, but can you be a thoroughly bad parent when you can show your child the incalculable value of joyful play in found moments?

Writer/director Sean Baker discovered Bria Vinaite on Instagram, and he cast her as Moonee’s mother. She is a treasure. Young Brooklynn Prince’s raw and unfettered performance as Moonee could make you believe that she’s not an actor, either, but a child who wandered onto the set. All of the children in the film are wonderful. And as the motel manager, Willem Dafoe – the only “named” actor in the film – gives a superb performance that eclipses any I’ve seen from him… after all these years, we finally get him in such a role!

 

 

I would describe The Florida Project as a dramedy, and I highly recommend it. Just believe.

August Favorites!

Here we are in September. Let’s just be blunt: August was a shit show from start to finish in the U.S. and in some parts of the world. Of course the month had to go out with the tragic devastation of Houston and other cities in Texas; I swear I’ve never seen a month slam the door behind it like August just did. It was like, HERE’S THIS ONE LAST THING TO REMEMBER ME BY. Well, good riddance, August. Despite silver-lining moments and suggestions of hope and restorations of faith in the human race, I’m especially glad to be here sharing some of the little things we enjoyed.

Without further ado…

Entertainment:

1). Atomic Blonde (film)

 

 

Atomic Blonde was the one movie I saw in the theater in August. Callaghan ended up having to work the day we’d planned seeing it with a friend, so he hasn’t watched it yet. I know he’s going to like it as much as I did, because we have pretty much the same taste in movies. Atomic Blonde is the type of movie we’ll see when we’re in the mood for a thriller on the campy side of the 80’s. (Like there’s any other side of the 80’s.) Charlize kicks ass with stylized aplomb, and the soundtrack took me right back to high school, only now I can actually enjoy those songs, because I’m not in high school anymore and therefore life is much better. Anyway, if you’re into cheesy thrillers, I recommend this one.

 

2). Department Q (film trilogy: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith… in that order.)

 

 

We watched the excellent Department Q film trilogy at the recommendation of friends, and I’m passing that recommendation along to you who also enjoy getting caught up in dark and brooding crime thrillers. We’re fans of Scandinavian noir in television and movies; we’ve had a penchant for the genre since Bordertown (Sorjonen). The Department Q trilogy can be found on Netflix. It should be watched in order: The Keeper of Lost Causes, The Absent One, and A Conspiracy of Faith. The films are in Danish (I believe) with English subtitles.

 

3). Bob’s Burgers (S7) (animated T.V. series)

 

 

We like Bob’s Burgers, in general, but some seasons make us laugh more than others. Season 7 was one of those! Warning for those unaware: some of the humor in Bob’s Burgers is not for the little ones.

 

4). Parks and Recreation (T.V. series)

 

 

We started a Parks and Recreation marathon. We’re nearing the end of season 4. I don’t know why it took us so long to get into this series, but it couldn’t have come at a better time! The only other series that makes us laugh so much is Black-ish. Enough cannot be said about comedy that works for us.

 

Food:

5). Watermelon.

 

Fresh watermelon

 

Fun fact 1: Callaghan doesn’t like watermelon. Fun fact 2: In August, I learned that it only takes me three days to eat an entire mini watermelon by myself.

[Sidenote: How can you NOT like watermelon?!]

 

6). Kiwi fruit.

 

Kiwi fruit

 

We love the tart sweetness of Kiwi fruit. Slicing them makes them easier to eat without making a mess, but I like to eat them whole after peeling them… sinking my teeth into a whole Kiwi fruit is somehow exhilarating. The fruit is tender and dense and juicy, and those tiny seeds add the lightest crispy crunch that’s hardly a crunch at all. Kiwi fruit is like the Krackle or Nestle Crunch candy-bar of fruit.

 

7). Pistachios.

 

Pistachios

 

This pic is from my Instagram. We bought two of these big pistachio nut bundles from Sprout’s, but by the time I got around to gathering pics for this post, I’d long since eaten them all… by myself, too, might I add. Callaghan likes them, but he ate maybe a handful of the pistachio haul. I love how they’re salty without a coating of salt granules. I love their flavor. We’ll probably get more before the season’s up.

 

8). Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagels

 

Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Bagel: toasted, melted cheese sandwich with Daiya cheddar-style slices. That’s a pickled jalapeno pepper on the side. AZ-style.

 

Dave’s Killer Bread is our staple bread of choice, so when we saw that they now have everything bagels, we were all over it. They’re called “Epic,” which they totally are: they’re organic, vegan, delicious, and satisfying, and each bagel has 12 grams of protein. So good!

 

Products:

9). Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream.

 

Derma-e Vitamin C Intense Night Cream

 

I used up my Yes to Blueberries night cream. I love it, but I cheat on it all the time, as I often do with skincare… there’s just so much to try! This time, I decided to get a night cream from Derma-e, who makes my holy grail sunscreen. I’m impressed. This cruelty-free night cream is light and smooth, and vitamin C products are so good for the skin. I layer it over my vitamin E serum-in-oil (The Body Shop) at night, with Yes to Blueberries eye cream in between the layers. It’s like my skin is drinking a smoothie. Or something.

 

That wraps up this “monthly favorites” installment! September holds fresh promise. I’m all in.

Wonder Woman: a superhero of a female bildungsroman. (Non-review movie review!)

We went to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday night.

 

 

When I say that this is not a real movie review, I really mean it. I’m in no way equipped to say everything that needs to be said about this excellent film. I could say that its writing, direction, casting, acting, film score, cinematography, costumes, et cetera are superb, and call it a day. It’s for the real film reviewers to elaborate on all of that, as I’m sure they have.

No, I’m only here to offer my personal reaction and observations, beginning with the women’s training, sparring, and battle scenes. (Those of you who know me are shocked, I’m sure!)

Be that as it may. Starting from there, here are my three main thoughts about Wonder Woman:

1). In making Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins didn’t hold back. She directed the women to fight the way actual, trained women fight: brutally. Trained female fighters are fearless and capable of taking tons of pain and punishment, and Jenkins hands the general population this reality with no-big-deal nonchalance. How refreshing and unexpected it was to see these women training and sparring like they were actually trying to kill each other.

 

 

2). It’s with this same deftness that Jenkins merges the film’s worlds in time and dimension without skipping a beat, at the same time crossing Wonder Woman over multiple genres. With its tight, complex plot, this film has something for everyone. You want to watch a movie about ancient western mythology? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a superhero movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a Great War movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a drama with a little comedy thrown in? An action/adventure flick? How about a martial arts action flick? Wonder Woman.

(About that last: you want to watch real-life tough, highly trained, battle-scarred badass women warriors facing off in real-life action? Watch MMA.)

 

 

3). The film is really all of the above, but the way I see it, Wonder Woman is, at its core, a female bildungsroman presented in a superhero framework, a coming-of-age story ending with the protagonist fully realizing who she is. Literally. It’s maybe too easy in this regard, but it works. The result is breathtaking. First of all, the notion of a female bildungsroman disguised as a superhero movie is, in itself, brilliant.

Directed by anyone other than Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman might have turned out to be another one-dimensional superhero flick. In Jenkins’ hands, Diana did not come out to be a sword-wielding piece of ass in a short skirt, and neither did the Amazons. Diana is the hero, contingent on nothing, peripheral to no one.

What there is to drool over here is a well-crafted film that’s already a classic.

Not to mention, the battle-scene fight sequence choreography is stunning.

“La La Land” in a flash of whitening.

We went to see La La Land to catch up with the hype it’s been generating. Then, on Facebook the other day, I joked about writing “La La Land annoys me and I’m not sorry.” This was met with interest, and I do appreciate your interest! Here we go.

La La Land, a film widely beloved as a throw-back to Old Hollywood, has a core cast about as diverse as a pile of snowballs in a blizzard. We were both surprised by the extent of its whiteness.

Also, in a bizarre twist on the familiar trope, the story peaks when the knight in shining armor races up on his steed to rescue a damsel’s career in distress.

And there are no gay characters in La La Land, which I found to be an odd omission.

What is happening? At the Golden Globes, a highly acclaimed veteran actress extolls Hollywood’s diversity and then contrasts it with football and MMA. Football is indeed decidedly all-American. MMA, though, is an international sport that’s arguably more diverse than Hollywood… her example a blunder she makes due to her preconceived notions (effectively reinforcing conservatives’ view that liberals are elitist and hypocritical). Ironically, the notably nondiverse La La Land sweeps the same awards ceremony. Now the Oscar nominations have been released, and La La Land again leads the way. 14 nominations!

(This is not a commentary on those who enjoyed La La Land. If I had a penchant for romance films and musicals, I’d find it dazzling, too.)

La La Land is a boy meets girl story.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-lalaland

 

The two artists collide and collide again and then again and then finally get together in rapturous love, but the missed-connections shenanigans continue. One aspect of the plot I appreciate – and it’s a major aspect – is the sincere concern each has regarding the other’s faithfulness to their art.

They don’t end up together, but they get what they want, professionally: at the end, he’s opened his jazz club, and she’s reached stardom.

She reached stardom because she wrote a play at his encouragement, and when that led to a call for her possible big break, he heroically raced across a state line to collect her and get her there.

The one black character in the film plays a pivotal, yet behind-the-scenes role. Interestingly, the white lead character envisions a livelihood in an old-school jazz club, and the black background character convinces him that the way to go is to make money playing keys with a touring pop band.

So I have questions, beginning with: Stone and Gosling? Why? They’re excellent actors, but they’re clearly not singers and dancers. And why is Hollywood enamored with La La Land to the point of 14 Oscar nominations? With its nostalgic, retro tone, the film seems intent on recapturing the magic of a Hollywood moment that took place in the 50’s/60’s, an exceptionally racist moment in Hollywood history… and not a good moment for women in the industry, either.

From the standpoint of craft, the film is undeniably glorious. But in this time of political fervor driving Hollywood even more to give impassioned speeches for inclusiveness and equality, the favoritism toward La La Land is off-key.

Hell or High Water. (Non-review movie review! NO SPOILERS.)

You may have noticed that my non-review movie reviews are almost all positive. That would be because I prefer to “review” movies I like. Generally, if I don’t care for a film, I won’t write about it. I’ve seen fewer than 10 movies this year, and only two of them were disappointments. (I’m looking at you, Captain America: Civil War and Suicide Squad.)

This brings me to the part where I declare, for what little it’s worth, that Hell or High Water is easily the best film I’ve seen this year. It is brilliant.

The story, which takes place in Texas, though the movie was filmed entirely in New Mexico, is about relationships. Two parallel, family relationships.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-hellorhighwater

 

Complicated dynamics relationships. Love shown in funny ways relationships. Beer as an olive branch relationships.

Big talk, slick talk, real talk, risk-taking relationships. Loyalty to the bone relationships.

Stoic guy, desperate guy relationships.

Hell or High Water is a testosterone-driven story, so don’t go in looking for strong female characters. The few women in the mix are peripheral. We never get to meet the most important woman in the film, because she’s dead. Central to the plot, but dead.

Thankfully, no one saw the need to throw in a love interest, because that would water down the beautiful disaster that is the protagonists’ predicament.

With the action fueled by family hardship, the events amount to a test of emotional stamina in the context of moral limits. Pacing is critical. We’re fortunate in the hands of director David Mackenzie (Starred Up); we trust that he can calibrate the hell out of a story, and he doesn’t fall short. Hell or High Water demonstrates how restraint can heighten the tension in a film and effectively build its suspense. Here, we see it masterfully done. I was hardly aware that I was holding my breath.

Not to mention, it was fantastic to sit down in a theater and find myself before a fine piece of writing. Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) wrote an intelligent film of considerable depth. I loved the unconventionality of the plot arc barely descending after the climax. The film leaves you hanging on the other side, but near the top, right where you want to be and don’t want to be.

Again, restraint.

 

 

As a result, we walked out on a variety of cliff-hanger that demands no sequel.

I highly recommend this film, if you don’t mind a little gunfire. It’s really, as I said, about relationships.

 

Don’t Breathe. (Non-review movie review! NO SPOILERS.)

Don’t Breathe is a thriller/drama, otherwise known as a thrillama. (Adorable, right? If that term didn’t already exist, it does now.) It’s categorized as a horror film because there’s no other way to describe the shit that goes down.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-dontbreathe

 

Don’t Breathe is an anomaly of a horror film. There’s no hint of the supernatural. No monsters or creatures of lore. No deranged killer wearing a mask while hunting people. No scheming lunatic masquerading as an ordinary person in unsuspecting victims’ lives. No lethal super-virus trampling international borders. No evil aliens or UFOs. No colossal, razor-toothed fish torpedoing out of the ocean. No natural disaster threatening humankind with the apocalypse in a planetary meltdown. No serial killers. No creepy dolls. No clowns stalking children in the Carolinas. (Oh, wait… that’s not a movie. That’s really happening). (It’s not a movie yet, that is.)

There’s just a guy.

And he’s both a victim and a victimizer.

He has reason to do the things he’s doing, as he is being provoked. In his own home.

He does have an obsession, shall we say… but by the time it rears its head, the reveal is powerless to overtake the action and suspense already blurred in full throttle. We’re brought back to the central terror, albeit minus any sympathy we may have had for the guy.

Likewise, a reveal in the backstory of another character serves in the reverse: it seeks to help us feel sympathy for her, lest we’re feeling 100% like “she’s getting what she deserves”… though some of that sentiment may remain. It did for me. There can be no justification for her actions, but at least we’re given some kind of device with which to understand her emotional motives.

Don’t Breathe is smart, unlike a great percentage of its ilk. I enjoy a stupid, campy horror flick as much as the next devoted fan of the genre, but Don’t Breathe is a pleasurable breath of fresh air, as they say. Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) crafted it into an exhilarating and tight ride.

I think I’ve said all I want to say that I can say without spoiling it for you, if you haven’t seen it. This aptly-titled film is worth the price of its ticket. (An alternate title could be Why Everyone Should Know How to Hot-wire a Car.) I recommend this film highly if you enjoy horror and/or thrillamas, if you don’t mind a bit of gore… and a lot of breath-holding.

10 Cloverfield Lane (Informal non-review review.)

You go into a sci-fi horror film prepared for some gore, and eventually, you get… just a little, if it’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. You might even be taken aback when it happens. You probably also go in anticipating campy sci-fi horror film fare, and you might get a tiny morsel of that, too. The smidgen of camp may even come with a light dressing of irony, which would make 10 Cloverfield Lane a clever specimen of its genre.

10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t insult the intelligence of its viewers. Its writers reveal what’s necessary to piece together the backstory from which horror arises. As important as that backstory may be, no one spells it out for us, and this restraint helps to make up for its lack of depth.

10 Cloverfield Lane is billed with the tagline “Monsters come in many forms.” This is apt, so you could say that it’s a monster movie as well as a horror movie, a thriller, a sci-fi movie, a sci-fi horror movie, and a drama… yet 10 Cloverfield Lane is in no danger of an identity crisis. It works just fine switching its hats. Horror seeps in as the mystery unfolds, and the Great Unknown serves as a character in and of itself.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-10CloverfieldLn

 

I just wanted to share these few thoughts with you, should viewer opinions interest you. Sci-fi horror (or sci-fi anything) is readily passed over by those not endeared to such films and their ilk. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you may yet find something to enjoy in 10 Cloverfield Lane, as its appeal goes beyond the constraints of its genre.

T.V. series, food obsessions, and more: February Favorites!

Well so hey, it’s March. Want to know what I loved in February? I’m going to tell you.

 

1). Luther (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Luther2

 

Because Idris Elba is my boyfriend current favorite actor, and this series is awesome.

 

2). 11-22-63 (T.V. mini-series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-112263

 

Because Stephen King’s magic always thrills, no matter where a closet transports you when you walk deep into it. (And I’m not talking about Narnia.)

 

3). Better Call Saul (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-BetterCallSaulS2

 

Because honestly, we couldn’t be more impressed with a T.V. show. Season 2 of Better Call Saul is blowing our minds.

 

4). Walking to and from work again.

 

Waiting at the train tracks on the way home.

Waiting at the train tracks on the way home.

 

Because I’ve been immensely enjoying the walk (five days a week to work, and three days a week home). It adds up to roughly 16 miles per week with a heavy backpack on my back. I make it a personal challenge to always improve my time, but the time is hard to gauge because of the red light variable. Sometimes I spend up to 10 minutes waiting to cross streets, and sometimes I make all the lights and only have to wait at one. ETA: And sometimes, I have to wait for the train.

 

5). Super cheap yin-yang necklace.

 

Cheap necklace from Claire's.

Cheap necklace from Claire’s.

 

Because I wandered into Claire’s across from the vision place in the mall where Callaghan was trying on new glasses, and this yin-yang necklace caught my eye. It was six bucks. I love it.

 

6). Cetirizine, aka “Zyrtec” (allergy medication).

 

Ceterizine antihistamine is everything.

Ceterizine antihistamine is everything.

 

Because this antihistamine allows me to breathe in the gorgeous scent of orange blossoms in the air, which is to say, ALL the air. My daily stomping grounds are currently orange-blossom-scent-saturated, and thanks to Ceterizine, it’s all appreciation, no sneezing.

If you’re like me and you’re allergic to every species of pollen on the earth as well as on all the other planets in our solar system, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You can get cetirizine/Zyrtec over the counter at any drugstore. I happen to get mine as a prescription.

 

7). Beanitos.

 

Beanitos chips

Beanitos chips

 

Because we tried these chips on a whim, and now we’re obsessed. I don’t use that word lightly. We seriously love these chips. They’re mainly made of beans, and there’s some rice and sunflower and/or safflower oil, guar bean gum (gotta have some kind of b.s. in there to keep them crisp), and sea salt. They’re high in protein, fiber, and iron, and they’re delicious. They’re awesome with guacamole. The original black bean one is my favorite.

 

8). Cookies.

 

Cookies from Trader Joe's. Yes, they're vegan.

Cookies from Trader Joe’s. Yes, they’re vegan.

 

Because there are too many cookies, and someone’s got to eat them.

I know that eating lots of refined carbs isn’t the best thing for the body, but I’ve been eating sugar pretty much constantly since the beginning of this year, and other than the occasional zit, nothing bad has happened. When a painful eruption happens on my face, I stop eating sugar until it goes away. Then I start again. Haha.

Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite packaged vegan cookies. I’m still eating the vegan cookies, doughnuts, and chocolate-chip scones from the Whole Foods bakery (as well as dark chocolate and tsoynamis from Green), but cookies are an essential of life.

Other than sweets, though, I do avoid refined carbs. I only eat whole wheat/grain pasta and bread, sweet potatoes (except for french fries every now and again), and brown rice – not the white kinds of all of that.

 

9). 365 brand pasta sauce.

 

365 Organic tomato basil pasta sauce

365 Organic tomato basil pasta sauce

 

With pasta always and forever being my favorite food group, and rarely having time to really cook (plus always wanting to cook other things than sauce when I do have time), this sauce means a lot to me. We like to joke that Whole Foods is Whole Paycheck, but the fact of the matter is that 365, their generic brand, has a lot to offer at surprisingly reasonable prices. This pasta sauce is simple, organic, vegan, and tasty. I thicken it up with a generous amount of nutritional yeast and add dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and a little sea salt, and it’s marvelous. We also get Whole Foods’ 365 brand pasta. We eat pasta at least twice a week, on average, so this stuff is important.

 

10).  Pears.

 

Pears

Pears

 

Because I love fruit, and the pears are wonderful these days. I don’t know if these are Anjou pears or Bartlett pears – they’re next to each other in the store, and we grab pears from both without looking at the labels (they pretty much look the same) – but it doesn’t matter. It’s all good.

The season of my favorite foods that grow on bushes or trees is upon us! Hello, hefty artichokes and fresh pineapple every day.

Mad Max: Fury Road – (SPOILER ALERT!!)

(NOTE: So I started writing up my May Favorites for Tuesday. Mad Max: Fury Road was Number One on the list, and when my little blurb about it got too long, I decided to give it its own post. I’m publishing it now, off-schedule, because Tuesday will still feature my May Favorites. Carry on, if you will!)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-MadMaxFuryRoadposter

 

When we sat down in the theatre to watch Mad Max: Fury Road the day before Callaghan left for France last weekend, I had no expectations. It was Mad Max, right? I’d read nothing about the film since its release. I settled in for what I hoped would be an action flick so action-packed it’d numb my mind for a couple of hours. That was what I wanted… a mind-numbing movie, a big, loud, dumb action movie, preferably with lots of explosions and car chases.

I wasn’t planning to employ my brain. I was there to shut my brain off, not to turn it on… but something in the story tickled my neurons at the beginning. At first, I couldn’t figure out what. It started with the improbable spectacle of Max being restrained and forced into use as a “Blood-bag” to keep a sickly child alive, a development that followed the opening sequence of events in which Max is chased down, abducted, attempts to escape, and gets re-captured.

That’s right. After Max – Max – was hauled back into hell, he was put to use as a talking, breathing blood supply. “Blood-bag,” in fact, even became his name… it was what his parasite (the bratty war-child) called him. And that sort of lit something up in the back of my brain, but things were happening quickly, and I wanted to keep up with the events, you know, as you do when you’re blasted into action flick oblivion on a convoy fronted by a demonic wraith of a dude playing a fire-shooting electrical guitar.

But at some point after Max was rescued by Furiosa, the female war-truck driver on a personal mission to free the Biggest Bad Guy’s imprisoned harem of wives, the tickle in my brain started crackling like a live wire with the realization that this parasite (that’s how I think of him… does he even have a name? …the war-child) was literally connected to Max-the-Blood-bag via I.V. line.

The first image that embedded itself in my brain like a song on repeat was of Max tied to the outside of the vehicle with his blood feeding into the child inside.

The second image? Max struggling mightily to free himself from the child, and, giving up, simply slinging him over his shoulders, still connected by the I.V., as he trudged over to Furiosa.

And I realized that Max wanted, among other things, an abortion. It was like he’d been beaten, raped and forced to keep the resulting baby. When he finally got free, it was at the hands of a woman. It had been the men in power who’d forced him to nourish the war-child with his own blood against his will. The I.V. line of “Blood-bag” (no longer referred to as a human being, Max had been reduced to a thing) was an umbilical cord.

What was unfolding before my astonished eyes was a role reversal played out on a massive scale in a spectacular, mainstream action movie, and it barreled on relentlessly until the end. It did not stop to care. How much did it cost to make this movie? Let me look it up… okay, about $150 million, let’s say, if Google is correct. This movie is an estimated $150 million dollar middle finger stuck in the face of all the standard action flick conventions.

Max played Robin to Furiosa’s Batman, and it was something to behold.

Many more things happened along the way, many other things I’d never seen before in a high-octane action flick (which, by the way, was practically ALL explosions and car chases).

Like a gang of weather-beaten, much older women on motorcycles lending aid to Furiosa’s group. WHAT.

And Furiosa making the tough decisions (like leaving the pregnant girl behind because going back for her would have put them all at risk).

And Furiosa being the one with the superior shooting skills (Max wisely and respectfully hands her the weapon when they’re down to their last round, and she nails their target).

Furiosa does most of the driving, and none of the sleeping. Furiosa dispatches of the Biggest Bad Guy. Furiosa is unequivocally the toughest no-bullshit badass female hero I’ve ever seen in an action movie. She has nothing to prove. Charlize Theron hammered her home.

 

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Max joins Furiosa’s group of women and instantly has in common with them the fact that they’d all been used for their bodies. When war-child connects with that one girl (sorry, I’m terrible with names in movies, and I’m too lazy to look it up), their bond gives war-child the sense of humanity we assume he’d been lacking. We see nothing sexual happen between the two – I also find it refreshing that there’s nothing sexual in this movie at all – and the power of his emotional bond with her (love) proves to be more profound than his former physical bond to his “Blood-bag.” That old reliance disappears, and he’s able to recognize the humanity in Max and defect to the other side, even switching their roles and assisting Max.

When Furiosa lingers near death toward the end, Max finally reveals his name to her. “Max,” he says. “My name is Max.” There’s something about the way he says it, like the words are more meaningful to him than they would be to her. Max has emerged from the experience with a restored sense of himself, of his own humanity. Once again, he has a name and an identity. He’s no longer “Blood-bag.” He’s no longer an object, reduced to his body and used according to how it could benefit others.

I absolutely loved this movie, and Callaghan did, too. Everything about it impressed us. We pretty much left the theatre with our minds thoroughly blown. We just looked at each other and didn’t even know what to say except HOLY SHIT!! We have to see it again!!!

I went in wanting to zone out before a mindless spectacle, and ended up mentally stimulated while simultaneously holding my breath with the pace of the action. If I’d had expectations, they would’ve been obliterated… and I couldn’t have asked for a better soundtrack for such utter destruction, either.

What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Some levity is in order around here, right? Conveniently, it’s May now, so I can rave about some of the Little Things that helped to make April enjoyable!

For one thing, we saw a phenomenal movie…

 

1). Ex Machina (film)

 

The movie poster in the theatre lobby....

The movie poster in the theatre lobby….

 

You know I love a good, well-crafted sci-fi thriller, and it’s been a while. I was just barely coasting along on the spectacular fumes of Pacific Rim when we walked into Ex Machina. I was almost skeptical going into it, but I knew that Luc Besson had nothing to do with this one, so I had high hopes that it wasn’t going to be another disappointment like last summer’s Lucy. We used the movie pass that Callaghan had gotten as a gift (thank you, friend!) and found ourselves stunned and in awe as Ex Machina dimmed the lights on its eerie, final scene. Certainly, the combination of elements made this film superb, but overall, I think it was the restraint used in its making that made it brilliant.

 

2). Mad Men (T.V. series)

 

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We’re having the same experience as most everyone who watches this series, I think: Mad Men’s last set of final season episodes isn’t striking us as being as purposeful as those in previous seasons. Whatever. Mad Men is back, and we’re loving it. The set! The hair, makeup, wardrobe! Mad Men is still my favorite period piece in television, and they’re killing it more than ever now that they’ve taken up solid residence in the 70’s. I almost don’t even care what happens at this point; I’m just there for the eye candy.

 

3). American Crime (T.V. series)

 

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Here’s a powerful new series that got right down to business and grabbed us by our throats. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s almost too ugly and depressing to watch… but it’s smashing.

 

4). Nurse Jackie (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-NurseJackie

 

We’re late arrivals on the Nurse Jackie train, but like the critic said, “You just want to keep on watching.” Yep. We plowed through the first three seasons in such a short period of time, I’d be embarrassed to say how long if I could remember when, exactly, we started watching it. We just started season four, I can tell you that much! The hilarious short (half-hour) episodes make this dark dramedy especially easy to binge-watch. It goes well with popcorn, too.

 

5). It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.

 

This is an old favorite! Since we’ve now got ourselves on a strict budget because of Ronnie James’ medical costs, I went digging around in places where I store things I haven’t used in a while, and I happily re-discovered It’s a 10. And guess what? This brand meets my recently established criteria for beauty products! Because of expenses, I’d been procrastinating on the hair care part of my 2015 New Year’s resolution to go cruelty-free with cosmetics and such, so I was pleased to find that I’d stashed away this pricier gem of a hair care item that just so happens to have not been tested on animals.

Shopping my home supply for forgotten favorites is the best.

 

6). Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil (The Body Shop).

 

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

Madagascan Vanilla Flower perfume oil from The Body Shop.

 

My search for a gorgeous cruelty-free fragrance finally led me to The Body Shop and its array of perfume oils. Back in the 90’s, I’d used the one called “Ananya,” which was finally, recently discontinued. I still have a little bit left in my last old bottle, but it’s been a while, and it’s not what it was when I’d purchased it… its potency has faded, and the scent is slightly off. So I went back to The Body Shop and happened upon their Madagascan Vanilla Flower, and I am in love. I’m not usually drawn to vanilla scents, but this one is different… it’s a deeper, more exotic vanilla with its warm, ambery-floral heart.

 

7). Earrings from Target.

 

Current favorite earrings - sparkly cluster studs from Target.

Current favorite earrings – sparkly cluster studs from Target.

 

This was just one of those silly impulse Target purchases, you know, when you run in to get some almond milk and you come out with three bags full of random crap. I’m proud to say that I’ve stopped with all of that this last month – somehow, and I know that many of you can appreciate the self-control I’m having to employ in this effort, haha! – but not before I found these earrings on clearance (back in March, I believe). Over the last month they’ve become my favorite uniform earrings to wear to work on days I don’t go to the gym. They’re just round studs made of little sparkly clusters. I think they’re perfect.

 

8). Arizona Yellow Bells.

 

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

Fragrant Arizona Yellow Bells on my desk at home.

 

Our Arizona Yellow Bells are all in bloom, and they are splendiferous! Callaghan surprised me with a vase full of them on my desk one day, where they perfumed my entire office with their rich, sweet fragrance. Arizona Yellow Bells are native to our desert, but I never experienced them until we moved into this house. There are two robust Arizona Yellow Bells bushes in our backyard, and they attract many a hummingbird, which we also adore.

While I’m at it, what would an Arizona spring flora favorite entry be without a shot of my favorite cactus blooms?

 

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

Spring in the desert is my favorite!

 

 

9). Rositas’ salsa.

 

Salsa from Rosita's.

Salsa from Rosita’s.

 

I have several favorite restaurant salsas around here, and this is one of them. Yesterday, I decided to pick some up on my walk home from work, and we had it for dinner. I love salsas that aren’t sweet, and this one is satisfyingly tangy and bold on the cilantro and onion… just the way I like it!

 

10). April Favorite pick for Ronnie James and Nounours: Bench & Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats (at Trader Joes’).

 

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats.

 

Kitties’ Auntie M. gave them these treats for Christmas, and the little guys went nuts for them. The day we ran out was a woeful one, indeed. What’s more, we couldn’t find the treats anywhere, and Ronnie James and Nounours wouldn’t eat any other kind. Catastrophe. Finally, we asked a sales person at PetSmart. They didn’t have the treats there, but she looked up them up and told us that they could be found at Trader Joe’s. Yes! We went to get them, and happiness has been restored.

“With added vitamins and minerals,” it says. “OMEGA 6:3 Enriched” and “with Menhaden Oil,” it says. Ronnie James and Nounours just say, “MOOR PLEEEZZZ!!!!”

The thing is, while we were medicating the Wrah-Wrah to heck and back, these treats were the only consolation prize we could offer him. They got us all through and ended the sessions on a happy note.

 

That about wraps it up for this favorites list – Happy Friday, All! =)

Jeepers Creepers

I’m not big on practical jokes. I don’t usually enjoy being on the receiving end of them, and it almost never occurs to me to play one on someone else. I guess you could say that I’m an opportunist when it comes to practical jokes, because the only one I can remember playing was in Nice two summers ago, and it was totally spontaneous. An opportunity presented itself, and that opportunity was just too good to pass up.

The joke was on Callaghan, of course.

First, some background: Jeepers Creepers is one of our favorite cheesy horror movies. Not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but in order to get the joke, you should know that a psychic woman calls the two (sister/brother) main characters on a diner pay phone and issues a warning about the classic jazz song “Jeepers Creepers”:

When you hear that song you run, and I mean run! ‘Cause that song means something terrible for you, something so terrible you couldn’t dream of it… not in your worst most terrible nightmare!

Then she plays the song for them. It’s the original Louis Armstrong recording from the 1930’s, which I can imagine would be a suitably creepy thing to hear over a pay phone.

We spent the summer of 2012 helping Callaghan’s father renovate three apartments in an old building in Nice. I should say “creepy old building” because it really kind of was (creepy). (I mean that in a good way. I like creepy. I like old buildings. Creepy old buildings = Good). One apartment was downstairs, the other two were upstairs, and there was a small, dusty old radio that seemed to float around the building, usually ending up with Callaghan’s father, who always had it set to a jazz station. Maybe the radio was his. I don’t know. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Anyway.

One morning, Callaghan and our friend Jean-Mi were working together in one of the upstairs apartments while Callaghan’s father and I were in the downstairs apartment. At some point, he – Callaghan’s father – stepped out for a little while, leaving me alone in the creepy old apartment with the radio, jazz music blaring away.

Well, when Louis Armstrong came on singing “Jeepers Creepers,” I couldn’t believe my luck. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity! I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Callaghan’s number as I ran to the radio. When I got there, I held the phone up to the speakers. I was cracking up laughing, but I managed to stifle my hilarity while Callaghan answered his phone and heard:

 

 

Hahaha!! He was up on a ladder at the time, too, he later told me. Ha! Just envisioning him standing up on a ladder listening to “Jeepers Creepers” on his phone cracks me up all over again!

Ahem. Maybe this is another example of me being too easily amused, but you have to understand that thanks to the movie, that song had become one of our inside jokes. We’d say things like, Oh, well… the day could get worse… we could answer the phone and hear “Jeepers Creepers!” Because in the movie, hearing that song was the ultimate Bad Thing that could happen.

A song portending the arrival of a horrible latex monster would make everything so much worse.

And cheesier.

Happy Friday, all!

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

I remember reading about the French film Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) in The New Yorker and thinking that I really wanted to see it. This was back when it came out in 2007. Somehow, my mental note got lost in the drifts of clutter in my brain, and it wasn’t until yesterday that it fluttered up to the surface and I finally saw the movie. I’m so glad that I did, because it’s a stunning piece of cinematic art, and, as cliché as this sounds, my life is richer for having seen it.

This is the true story of French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby (former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine), who suffered a stroke, fell into a coma for three weeks and awoke to find that he couldn’t move, speak or swallow. It was determined that he had Locked-In Syndrome. Fully cognizant yet unable to communicate, his entire body paralyzed except for one eye, medical circumstances had sentenced him to a life of confinement: His body had become his jail cell.

Jean-Dominique was known as “Jean-Do” by his friends, a fact that forms a poetically interesting, rueful sort of coincidence. “Jean-Do” is pronounced like the English “John Doe,” which is the generic name American hospitals and authorities commonly assign to men of unknown identities… men with amnesia, for instance.

Jean-Do Bauby did not have amnesia. He knew exactly who he was. He could only move his left eye, but with the use of that single, flickering movement, he managed to write an entire book – his memoirs, entitled Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), in which he detailed his experience with Locked-In Syndrome and included some of his life prior to his stroke.

 

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Jean-Do literally wrote this book with his eye. Every day, an assistant sat with him for hours reciting the letters of the alphabet arranged in order of “frequency of use.” He would blink his eye when he wanted her to stop on a certain letter, and she would write the letter down. In this fashion, he was able to form words. It took the duo almost a year to complete the book.

Years later, screenwriter Ronald Harwood’s exceptional adaptation of the book led to the production of the film, and with that, director Julian Schnabel gave us a profound experience… he gave us an inkling of what it must be like to be imprisoned in your own body. Frankly, for me, watching this film was harrowing; I was completely taken in and consumed by it. It was like being immersed in visions that triggered sensations, emotions and mental states, as Jean-Do was immersed in the deep blue depths of his isolated existence. Laced with internal dialogue, the film is a strangely beautiful collage of scenes from a dream-like inner life, flights of freedom through imaginative interludes interspersed with flash-backs and reality dappled with horrifically potent drops of fear, loneliness and regret.

“Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed, my imagination and my memory,” Jean-Do said, unforgettably (those words have haunted me since). I doubt that he experienced writer’s block while working on his book. It’s humbling to realize that I, with my two fully-functioning hands and ten fully-functioning digits, am often more paralyzed than he was when writing. Where most writers at least occasionally struggle with paralysis in their minds as they stare at the blank pages before them, Jean-Do was free.

This Post Contains Sleep-Laughing, Stevie the 4-Runner, Movies and the End of an Era

I often experience insomnia and nightmares pending a big move. It happened when I was getting ready to move out to the Superstition Mountains. It happened when I was getting ready to move to France. It even happened when we were getting ready to move here!

Now, another big move is pending, but instead of having sleep issues, I’ve been sleeping very well… and last night, something totally bizarre happened. I had a dream in which Callaghan and I were laughing boisterously at something (I wish I could remember what). Suddenly, I found myself awake, and Callaghan was laughing and saying, “You were laughing! Really loudly!”

Can you believe it? I actually woke Callaghan up because I was laughing in my sleep. Unheard-of! I opened my eyes laughing and he was laughing, too, just as he was in the dream, because my sleep-laughter was infectious, he said. We snuggled close, laughing and kissing each other back to sleep. It was sweet and weird and different and awesome.

I think I can take this as a sign that moving back to Arizona is the right thing to do.

We had a busy, fun and emotional weekend.

Busy because: We got some boxes, did some packing, and reserved a trailer. We knew we’d eventually see the end of our blissfully unfettered non-vehicle-owing days… they came to a screeching halt when we bought an old (1999) Toyota 4-Runner last week in preparation for our move to Arizona. We got a truck because a) we prefer them, b) cargo space, and c) trailer hitch. We named her Stevie, after Arizona native Stevie Nicks. She rocks! She’s not the worst gas-guzzler we’ve ever seen, so that’s good. We can strap Ronnie James and Nounours safely in the back seat in their respective carriers, load up the rear cargo area and hook the trailer to the back so we can drag the material contents of our lives across the expanse of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona we need to cover to reach our destination. No airplanes, movers or shippers for us this time!

 

Stevie, dressed in black, just like her rock star namesake! Callaghan got creative with the blurring out of her plate.

Stevie, dressed in black, just like her rock star namesake! Callaghan got creative with the blurring out of her plate.

 

Fun because: We spent all Saturday afternoon right up into the evening ensconced in movie theaters. We do this thing where we wait until there are several films out that we want to see, and then we spend a whole day watching them back to back. The last time, we went for Pacific Rim, The Conjuring and The Heat. This time, it was Prisoners, Rush and Gravity… and again, it was well worth it. The films ranged from very good (Prisoners) to great (Rush) to OUT-OF-THS-WORLD stunning (Gravity), with plenty of thrills all around.

Emotional because: After we emerged from the theater, we headed to a nearby McDonald’s to get online (their free internet is the best thing on the menu!) and check our phone messages. This led to finding out that my Grandma had died earlier in the day, in Hawaii, where she’d lived all 99 years of her life. She was ready to go. She went to sleep and dreamed herself a peaceful, painless end to a life that had been rich and fulfilling. Devout Buddhists in the Japanese Jodo Shinshu tradition, she and Grandpa had derived a lot of joy from the work they did for decades at their hongwanji (Buddhist temple) in Kahului, so our family will get together there next summer to memorialize them both.

She was my last Grandparent. It’s an odd new circumstance, not having Grandparents.

Oh, THAT Apocalypse.

We saw three movies over the weekend: Pacific Rim, The Heat and The Conjuring.

Brilliant times were had.

In the existing sea of apocalypse movies, newcomer Pacific Rim does a fair job of defying all of the superlatives in the English language… and that’s okay, because it handily makes up its own as it goes along, relieving me of the burden of description for those who ask. It’s inventive like that. Pacific Rim is such a staunchly self-defining film that I can only recommend that you go watch it for yourselves so you can see what I mean. It’s visual bombast at its finest. It’s one of those movies that manages to inhabit its own cinematic space while stealing from everywhere at the same time. I might be saying this to lazily avoid thinking of the words, but I also might be doing you a huge favor. Go and enjoy yourselves a hearty 131 minutes of campy, cheesy, Godzilla-mated-with-the-Loch Ness Monster-in-the-aftermath-of-a-nuclear-event-and-spawned-meets-Iron Man goodness. Sit back in your seat in the dark and let your eyes gobble up the spectacle that spills out before them. Not since the delightfully awful Tank Girl have I been so gratified at a Good vs. Evil apocalypse fun fest (though Tank Girl is technically post-apocalyptic). Seriously, I’m not a sci-fi fan per se, but I love these movies. They are the exceptions for me. Like Tank Girl, Pacific Rim is a sci-fi action film that I’m going to want to watch over and over again.

Side note… there should be an industry awards category called “Best Use of War-Paint in an Apocalypse Film,” because Mako Mori co-storms into combat wearing red lipstick, and she would get my vote for that award. Red lipstick? It might sound frivolous and potentially reductive, but it isn’t sexy or glamorous so much as bad-ass. (Becca in Tank Girl wore it too, come to think of it.) People from cultures all over the planet have fought battles wearing paint on their faces from the beginning of time, so there’s nothing new going on when Mako shows up wearing her “Yeah I’m a Rookie SO WHAT” shade of red. She just does it with aplomb, and it’s a costume detail that stands out when you consider the character’s personal circumstances. It’s a dash of defiance. (Interestingly, I can’t find a still online showing Mako in that red lip, but I swear I saw it in at least one scene, and Callaghan remembers it, too.)

If the Kaiju monster in Pacific Rim is the new Godzilla, then Ashburn and Mullins in The Heat are the new Beverly Hills Cops (though Ashburn’s actually a Special Agent), as Callaghan aptly remarked as we exited the theater. We went in expecting raunchy fun times ahead, but we honestly didn’t think we’d laugh as much as we did. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make quite a pair!

Finally, The Conjuring pulled off the nearly-impossible and thoroughly creeped us out with its sneaky direction, pacing and use of, um, props, shall we call them. (No spoilers here!) I definitely am a fan of the horror genre, and it’s hard to make me jump. The Conjuring did it.

In summary, it was an excellent weekend at the movies, which is an intensely satisfying thing, especially since a weekend at the movies is a rare event for us. Neither a cent nor a second of our time went to waste.

Okay, so I dwelled on Pacific Rim a bit longer than I’d intended. I also wanted to point out one of the hidden hazards of public transportation.

When this is your bus stop...

When this is your bus stop…

...and this is across the street...

…and this is across the street…

This happens. hahaha!

This happens. hahaha!

Valentine’s Day Out!

Scene: It’s mid-morning, and we’re in this café in Romans. There’s a thick layer of snow piled on the roof of our truck and the temperature is cold enough to keep it from melting, but the sky is clear. After our coffee, we’ll wander purposefully through the day until we arrive at the movie theatre in Valence for an afternoon showing of Les Miserables, which we’ve been waiting to see since September. It’ll be our first time going to the movies in Valence.

We leave the café, get in the truck. When we turn right into the first round-about, the pile of snow on the roof breaks and falls dramatically onto the windshield in two loads – rumble thud, thud! – making us laugh as we catch the startle reactions in each other’s faces. Callaghan clicks on the windshield wipers, and we watch the blades push and sweep away the clumps of snow. It hadn’t snowed in Romans, but now the round-about is dusted with the snow we brought down from the mountain. You’re welcome!

It was that kind of day, low-key and full of whimsical surprises. At the end of it, I realized that I’d accidentally put on Callaghan’s jeans; all day long, I couldn’t understand why they were so huge on me. Typical! I fail at getting dressed! Callaghan made me laugh. Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables made me cry.  (Her ability to evoke emotion with the depth of her performance gifts astonishes me. Now I want to see Rachel Getting Married again.)

We had dinner at home. Callaghan put a glass vase of fresh flowers on the counter and cooked dinner for me, and it was fabulous. I am lucky.