Movie Review: Minari (2021)

Title: Minari
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Production Company: A24 | Plan B Entertainment

It’s a familiar story: A man with a dream leads his family to a strange place to pursue his vision.  In this case, the man is Jacob Yi (Steven Yuen, who was great in tv series like The Walking Dead and Tuca & Bertie), a Korean immigrant in the early 1980s who moves his family from California to Arkansas where he buys land he can turn into a farm and raise Korean vegetables for growing immigrant communities in nearby cities.  His wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) is less than pleased about giving up the comforts and community of the city for a double-wide trailer in “hillbilly” country.  She’s especially that their younger child David (Alan Kim), who has a condition, is too far urgent medical care he may need.  In order to provide child care for David and his sister Anne (Noel Kate Cho), Monica arranges for her mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) to move from Korea to live with them.

The movie explores the dissolution of Jacob and Monica’s marriage as their individual hopes and dreams lead them in different directions.  It also does an amazing job depicting Soon-ja’s fish-out-of-water experience among fish-out-of-water and her tempestuous relationship with David with whom she shares stubbornness and mischievous behavior.  A lot of the movie is told from David’s perspective which lends it a sense of child-like wonder.  The movie offers a lot of intimacy and heart-wrenching details of  family dealing with crises and the struggles of everyday life. Every in this movie deserves an award, especially Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung, and the movie itself is definitely one of the best of recent vintage.

Rating: ****

Monthly Mixtape – March 2021

Buffalo Boy :: “This Time”

Louisahhh :: “Love is a Punk”

Adult Mom :: “Breathing”

Danielle Ponder :: “Be Gentle”

The Bamboos :: “Hard Up”

Previous Mixtapes:

2021 Major League Baseball Predictions

April 1st is Holy Thursday, and if I can be a little bit sacrilege, I think it will be all the more holy by coinciding with Major League Baseball Opening Day. I think this will be an exciting season and I look forward to watching lots of games and maybe, just maybe, being able to attend a game before the season ends. Here are my predictions for how the season will shake out:

The NL East will be one of the more competitive divisions. The Mets have had top-notch pitching for several seasons and new owner Steve Cohen has given them support with a beefed-up lineup and bullpen. They’ll face strong competition from Atlanta but both teams should easily sew up postseason spots. Washington and Philadelphia will be good but not good enough. Miami made a surprising playoff appearance in a COVID-shortened 2020 season but will revert to the mean this year.

  1. New York Mets
  2. Atlanta Braves (wild card)
  3. Washington Nationals
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Miami Markins


The NL Central remains the most mediocre division. I have a good feeling about Milwaukee winning their first division title since 2018, but St. Louis is always competitive and can’t be counted out. The rest of the division have lots of deficiencies to work through and can shake out in any order.

  1. Milwaukee Brewers
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. Cincinnati Reds
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates


San Diego was already a contender and made themselves the favorite by having arguably the best offseason in MLB. The Dodgers will see a dropoff from their World Series championship season but should have no problem securing a postseason spot. The rest of the division will be competing to see who is the least mediocre.

  1. San Diego Padres
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (wild card)
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. Colorado Rockies


Except for Baltimore, the AL East is always a strong division and this season will be no exception. Toronto is stacked after a productive offseason and should win their first division title since 2015, with strong competition from 2020 World Series runners up, Tampa Bay. The Yankees have relied on their one-dimensional approach of mashing homers in their tiny ballpark to secure postseason spots (only to suffer humiliating 16-1 losses and walkoffs off Aroldis Chapman) will find it harder to compete against strengthened opposition including a rebounding Red Sox.

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Tampa Bay Rays (wild card)
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Baltimore Orioles


The White Sox appear poised to snag their first division title since 2008 after a strong offseason. They will have to fend off a highly-competitive Minnesota squad. The rest of the division will shake out on how well their young and up-and-coming players will perform.

  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins (wild card)
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Detroit Tigers
  5. Cleveland Indians


I feel that this is the hardest division to predict but Oakland feels like a safe pick to win it. The Angels have the talent that just hasn’t clicked may find this to be their lucky year while Seattle has a chance to succeed with a young roster. Houston lost key players in the offseason and will see their postseason streak come to end.

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Texas Rangers

Past Predictions for Previous Seasons (If You Want to Check My Work):

Podcasts of the Two Weeks Ending March 27

Best of the Left :: Democracy Under Siege

Republicans are attacking the right to vote in order to retain power and maintain white supremacist fascism.

Code Switch :: Lonnie Bunch And The ‘Museum Of No’

An interview with the first Black Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution focusing on his work in bringing the National Museum of African American History and Culture to fruition.

Have You Heard? ::  What They’ve Lost

Boston Public Schools students talk about their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and not being able to attend school in person. Also includes a good discussion of why the focus on “learning loss” only adds to the trauma rather than addressing students’ real problems.

Hub History :: Disaster at Bussey Bridge

134 years ago, corporate malfeasance lead to the death and dismemberment of several railway commuters at a site not far from where I live today.

Planet Money :: The Even More Minimum Wage

The history of the tipped minimum wage and how it maintains inequality. I was particularly stunned by how tipped employment is often the first jobs for young women and that it conditions them to accept sexual harassment in order to get tips.

Seizing Freedom :: Interview: Rhiannon Giddens

For the second POTW post in a row I’ve found a fascinating podcast about the banjo in Black music, this time an interview with the contemporary folk musician Rhiannon Giddens.

This American Life :: The Campus Tour Has Been Cancelled

Many colleges and universities have suspended using the SATs and other standardized tests for admissions because of the COVID pandemic. Tests like these have a gatekeeping effect and this podcast explores how their absence can open up college opportunities for poor, BIPOC, and first-generation applicants.

Throughline :: Chaos

Stories of humanity and chaos, including the real life The Lord of the Flies.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: 20th Century Fox

The composition and history of the deceptively simple 20th Century Fox fanfare.

The War on Cars :: Jamelle Bouie Has Seen the Future of Transportation

Journalist Jamelle Bouie talks about his experience using an electric bike in Charlottesville, VA and the future of transportation and housing in the United States.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 400-391

Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

NOTE: Due to my participation in the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge, I will be moving RS 500 posts to Sundays during April, so the next post will be on April 4.

Previous Posts:

Artist: The Go-Go’s
AlbumBeauty and the Beat
Year: 1981
Label: I.R.S.
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Our Lips Are Sealed”
  • “How Much More”
  • “This Town”
  • “We Got The Beat”
  • “You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)”
  • “Skidmarks On My Heart”

Thoughts:  As a kid in the 1980s it was impressed upon me that The Go-Go’s were one of (if not the) first “all-girl” rock bands.  That may be an exageration, but according to Wikipedia “The band is the first all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts.”  All that aside this album remains a collection of one of most exuberant pop/punk/new wave songs of the 1980s and a long-time favorite of mine.

Artist: Brian Wilson
Year: 2004
Label: Nonesuch
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow”

Thoughts: Music critics admire the work of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson far more than I do.  I confess, “Good Vibrations” is a terrific song, and the possibility of an entire album done in that style is intriguing.  But after Wilson had a mental breakdown making the album it seems unfortunate that people pestered him for decades to complete it and it’s grimly ironic that the album that arises from these circumstances is called Smile.  I’m obviously not the audience for this album but it seems that Smile wasn’t worth the wait.

Artist: The Raincoats
Album: The Raincoats
Year: 1979
Label: Rough Trade
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Fairytale in the Supermarket”
  • “No Side to Fall In”
  • “Black and White”
  • “Lola”
  • “No Looking”

Thoughts: Another pleasant surprise from a band I’d not heard of before.  The Raincoats was released in the UK in 1979 and in the United States in 1993 and seemingly encapsulates the musical sound of both of those years perfectly.  The all-woman band plays dissonant punk rock that nevertheless is melodic and creative.  I especially appreciate the violin in the instrumentation, a saxophone solo on “Black and White,” and a cover of The Kink’s “Lola.”

Artist: Billie Eilish
Album: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Year: 2019
Label: Interscope
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “bad guy”
  • “you should see me in a crown”
  • “bury a friend”
  • “ilomilo”

Thoughts: I like Billie Eilish and I like this album, but I wonder if it’s a bit hasty to list a 17-year-old’s debut album on a greatest albums of all-time list one year after its release. Eilish reminds me a bit of Kate Bush who also released a remarkable debut album at a young age and then went on to a long and artistically-creative career.  There is one album by Bush on the RS 500 and it is not her debut album.  I wonder if a decade from now a new RS 500 list will have a different Eilish album (or albums) on the list.  Anyhow, if we’re including very recent albums from solo women artists on this list I would’ve listed Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer (2018) and Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You,  (2019), but neither made the list.

Artist: Todd Rundgren
Album: Something/Anything?
Year: 1972
Label: Bearsville
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: I didn’t know that I was familiar with his work
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: Todd Rundgren is one of those names I’ve heard but never before associate the name with the music he’s produced.  I just assumed he made 70s guitar-heavy klassik rawk.  I immediately recognized the lead track “I Saw the Light,” and realized that Rundgren is softer and more down-tempo than I imagined. Actually, I find it really boring.

Artist: D’Angelo and the Vanguard
AlbumBlack Messiah
Year: 2014
Label: RCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “1000 Deaths”
  • “The Charade”
  • “Back to the Future (Part 1)”
  • “Betray My Heart”

Thoughts: D’Angelo is another artist I wasn’t familiar with at all that I’m glad I came to through this project. The album is a collection of jazz-infused soul and funk that has a really great groove.  There’s a lot of variety on the album as well.  I think the a deep listen of this album would prove very rewarding.

Artist: Diana Ross
Year: 1980
Label: Motown
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Just the hits
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Upside Down”
  • “I’m Coming Out”

Thoughts: As a young child I remember “Upside Down” in constant radio rotation, and I liked it because I liked doing somersaults which I called “upside downs.”  The album also contains the great anthem “I’m Coming Out,” a song about self-actualization that was naturally adopted by LGBTQ people.  Diana Ross in 1980 sounds nothing like her work with The Supremes a decade early.  And while the music is clearly disco, it doesn’t sound like stereotypical disco (if that makes thing), which is a good thing since this album hit at the same time as the disco backlash and pointed the way to the dance music of the 1980s.

Artist: Taylor Swift
Year: 2014
Label: Big Machine
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Welcome to New York”
  • “Blank Space”
  • “Shake It Off”

Thoughts:  I remember when this album came out and many people I know declared that despite Taylor Swift not being an artist they previously liked, that this album totally ruled.  I never listened to the whole album before myself, but I did enjoy the radio hits, especially since 2014 was the peak year for my kids liking the local pop radio station (before they decided they didn’t like listening to music at all).  Taylor Swift is undeniably a terrific artist even if her music generally isn’t my thing.

Artist: Ike and Tina Turner
AlbumProud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
Year: 1991
Label: 1991
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “A Fool In Love”
  • “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”
  • “Workin’ Together”
  • “Proud Mary”
  • “Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter”
  • “Up in the Heah”
  • “River Deep, Mountain High”
  • “Baby – Get It On”

Thoughts: The RS 500 was doing so well! We’d gone 60 spaces in the chart without a greatest hits compilation album standing in for the work of artists who deserved much better.  The upside is getting to hear lots of songs from one of the greatest voices of her generation, Tina Turner.  The collections includes interpretations of songs by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, and of course Creedence Clearwater Revival as well as numerous originals written by both Ike & Tina (but never both).

Artist: Kelis
Year: 1999
Label: Virgin
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Barely
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Caught Out There”
  • “Ghetto Children”
  • “Roller Rink”

Thoughts: My previous knowledge of Kelis is the song “Milkshake,” which is not on this album. This album has more of a pure R&B feel with hints of jazz than the dance/electronica of “Milkshake.” It’s good, but not something I expect to listen to again.

Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440, Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439, James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438, Blur, Parklife
  • 437, Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435, Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431, Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430, Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429, The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428, Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427, Al Green, Call Me
  • 426, Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425, Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424, Beck, Odelay
  • 423, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422, Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421, M.I.A., Arular
  • 417, Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416, The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415, The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414, Chic, Risqué
  • 413, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409, Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408, Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406, Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405, Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403, Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402, Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401, Blondie, Blondie
  • 400, The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398, The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397, Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392, Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner

Classic Movie Review: Beau Travail

Title: Beau Travail
Release Date: September 4, 1999
Director: Claire Denis
Production Company: La Sept-Arte |Tanais | SM Films

If you’re like me you endured reading the overly-didactic Herman Melville novel Billy Budd at school. It’s the story of a handsome and popular sailor who inadvertently strikes and kills an officer, and the Captain “Starry” Vere who wrestles with his admiration of Budd and the necessity to execute him to uphold naval discipline.

Claire Denis moves the story on land for a contemporary story of a French Foreign Legion section undergoing training in Djibouti. It’s told as the memoirs of the section leader Adjudant-Chef Galoup (Denis Lavant), and much of the film has a dream-like quality.

When a handsome new Legionaire from Russia, Gilles Sentain (Grégoire Colin) joins the section and proves to be popular and heroic. Galoup grows resentful of Sentain’s threat to his own standing with the troops. The subtext is that Galoup is repressing a homosexual attraction to Sentain.

Not much “happens” for much of the movie as it is more a poetic depiction of the soldiers routine of training exercises (which
all the reviews describe as “balletic”), daily chores, swimming, and visiting a local nightclub to dance with Djiboutian civilian women. For the most part, this is a dominantly male movie with Denis’ “female gaze” providing a critique of performative masculinity and the display of colonialist power decades after Djibouti achieved independence. In addition to that, if you like hunky men in various stages of undress, this is a movie for you!

The final scene is much lauded and very impressive. I won’t spoil it here, but it feels tonally out-of-context with the rest of the film, while offering a reactionary coda to the slow-burn that had been building the whole time.

Rating: ****

Classic Movie Review: My Night at Maud’s (1969)

Title: My Night at Maud’s
Release Date: May 15, 1969
Director: Éric Rohmer
Production Company: Compagnie Française de Distribution Cinématographique (CFDC)

For years I’ve known of My Night at Maud’s as one of the all-time great films primarily based on its prominent display in the foreign movie section of the video store I frequented in the 1990s, but I’d never watched it before. I’d imagined it was a comedic romp (and perhaps a bit raunchy) based on the title and poster. It is nothing of the sort and is in fact a movie where people have in-depth philosophical conversations about morality and religion. That’s fine by me, and like there to be more movies like this, but as Roger Ebert points out, you want to prepare yourself for it.

The protagonist is Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a man in his 30s who has recently begun to work in the small French city of Clermont. A devout Catholic, he’s developed a crush on a woman he sees at church named Françoise (Marie-Christine Barrault), but has not had the confidence to approach her. On a chance meeting, Jean-Louis is reacquainted with an old friend, Vidal (Antoine Vitez), who in turn introduces Jean-Louis to his friend with benefits, Maud (Françoise Fabian).

When it starts to snow, Vidal excuses himself but since Jean-Louis lives outside the city, he stays the night at Maud’s. The next day he encounters Françoise and finally introduces himself. That night he gives her a ride home but when his car gets stuck on ice ends up spending another chaste night out at her apartment complex.

All of this plot is merely the structure to hang the deep conversations among the four primary characters, with Maud and Vidal offering atheist perspectives to the religious Jean-Louis and Françoise. Their conversations are both direct and exceptionally corteous and should be an example to us all. A coda to the film reveals a surprise twist so subtle I missed it entirely until I read a summary of the film.

My Night at Maud does not feel like a movie made over 50 years ago and it could be remade today with few changes (not that it should).

Rating: ***1/2

Classic Movie Review: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Title: Kiss Me Deadly
Release Date: May 18, 1955
Director: Robert Aldrich
Production Company: Parklane Pictures

A young woman, Christina (Cloris Leachman in her film debut), runs barefoot down a highway, wearing nothing but a trench coat. She stops a passing sportscar, driven by Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker).  The credits roll from bottom up as they drive off in the night. Thus is the stunning beginning of this film noir classic.

When Christina ends up dead and Hammer awakens in a hospital days later, Hammer realizes that Christina must’ve been into something big. He’s a private detective who specializes in divorce cases but nevertheless ignores the police when they tell him not investigate the case.  Hammer questions mobsters, kisses beautiful woman, and punches stooges.  Every trope you may have seen in a film noir homage or parody is in this film.  I guess they had to start somewhere.

The plot revolves around the MacGuffin of a mysterious box which appears to have influenced films ranging from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Pulp Fiction.  Meeker’s Hammer is brutally violent, unsentimental, and representative of the nihilism at the heart of this film.  The story doesn’t make much sense upon a little reflection, but I think this movie is more about atmosphere and capturing the truth of Los Angeles in the many location shots.

Rating: ***

Classic Movie Review: Johnny Guitar (1954)

Title: Johnny Guitar
Release Date: August 23, 1954
Director: Nicholas Ray
Production Company: Republic Pictures

One thing I enjoy about watching movies off the Cahiers du Cinéma list is that along with the expected French films, there are completely bonkers Hollywood movies that don’t seem to get the same recognition in the Anglophone world.  Sterling Hayden (who would later go on to steal scenes in Dr. Strangelove and The Godfather) plays the titular guitar-slinging cowboy who travels to the outskirts of a remote cattle town in Arizona, presumably to provide entertainment at a saloon/casino. The railroad hasn’t arrived in town yet so there are no customers in the large and elaborate establishment that looks like it would be a really awesome 20th-century Western theme park hotel.

While Johnny Guitar has his name in the title, he’s more of a supporting character to the real star of this film, Sienna (Joan Crawford).  She’s a pants-wearing, gun-totin’ saloon-keeper who is fully intent on making sure she has a profitable future by supporting the railroad against the objections of the rest of the town folk.  She also raises their ire by allowing a gang of miners who are believed to be robbers lead by The Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady) to frequent her saloon.  But really they are against Sienna because Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) has a personal animus against Sienna and will use any pretext to drive her out of town.

I won’t say that this movie is a striking blow for feminism, but it is refreshing to see a movie where the main protagonist and antagonist are both women who act well outside the confines of female stereotypes of the time.  The dialogue in this film is full of witty banter as if someone like Aaron Sorkin were behind writing it.  And there are a lot of quirky twists and full-on DRAMATICS that make it entertaining.  I found myself enjoying this movie a lot although I do feel it fizzles out with a more conventional Western conclusion.

If you don’t like Westerns, try this one, because it is not quite what you’d expect from the genre.

Rating: ***1/2

Classic Movie Review: A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

Title: A Brighter Summer Day
Release Date: July 27, 1991
Director: Edward Yang
Production Company: Yang & His Gang Filmmakers | Jane Balfour Films

Something about A Brighter Summer Day reminds me of the epic tv mini-series of the 70s and 80s.  Obviously those miniseries were often sensational and kind of cheezy, which does not apply to this movie, but there’s still that feel of something big being told in detail.

Set in Taiwan in the early 1960s, A Brighter Summer Day documents a time when the Chinese Nationalists who fled the mainland in 1949 are coming to terms with their exile being more permanent than they previously realized, while their children grow in a perpetual state of uncertainty.  The film’s protagonist is a young teenage boy, Zhang Zhen (Chang Chen), whose nickname is Si’r.  At the start of the film, he begins attending a night school (although confusingly he’s also depicted attending school during the day as well).  The main storylines are a growing relationship with a girl named Ming (Lisa Yang), and while Si’r does not join a gang he grows increasingly acquainted with members of rival gangs including one lead by Ming’s boyfriend. The movie is a slow-burn of Si’r’s gradually deteriorating mental and emotional state leading to a tragic finale.

The plot of this film does not require it’s four-hour runtime.  That time does serve the purpose of fully immersing the viewer in the world of early 60s Taiwan. We see a strictly regimented society where the students wear military-style uniforms to school and the actual military parades their tanks through the streets. Si’r’s father (Chang Kuo-chu) runs into trouble for his past associations and is interrogated by the secret police.  But there also is an influx of American culture which manifests itself most clearly in the rock and roll music the children listen to and perform.

I’ve ready a lot of glowing reviews of this film and find myself unable to muster the same enthusiasm that this is a “perfect movie.”  Nevertheless, I’m glad I watched it as it is an all-around excellent production of a fictional story that illustrates a place and a time I previously knew nothing about.

Rating: ***1/2