Thursday, May 31, 2018

Jason goes to CAAMFest--Day 4

Okay, I've fallen two and a half weeks behind, but now it's time to catch up. Four more movies on Sunday, May 13th.

First up was GO FOR BROKE: AN ORIGIN STORY. Man, this movie had a lot going for it, and I really wanted to like it more than I did. It's the true story of Japanese Americans on Hawaii in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Loyal Americans, they hated the Japs as much as any of the Haoles (white people.) In fact, even more so, because their actions made them become the subject of hate and suspicion. But they fought in the Hawaiian guard, and when they were relieved of duty due to racist suspicions, they continued to serve--not with rifles, but with picks and shovels, doing whatever menial work they were allowed to do. And these were college educated ROTC members, but not allowed to fight for their country. At least, not until they proved themselves, and became the heroes of the 442nd and 100th infantries (including late Senator Daniel Inouye.) So...this movie should've been great. It's subject was great. But the execution just felt...vaguely low-energy and kind of disjointed. And I understand micro-budgets (and they did a heck of a lot with micro-budgets.) And I understand wanting every story to be told, and to be told faithfully and honestly. And really, most of the fighting scenes, with explosions and violence, are really good. It's the drudgery of politics scenes that don't have the same pizzazz, and that's entirely understandable. I go back and forth in my mind whether a hypothetical big-budget Hollywood telling of the story would be better. There are pros and cons, and I respect the movie that exists while still wanting something that has more energy.

Next up was STAND UP MAN, a Canadian-Korean story, from Windsor, Ontario (trivia answer to "what city is due south of Detroit, Michigan.") Moses Kim is a stand-up comedian. He's just had his biggest break yet, performing in Toronto. And he's about to get married to the love of his life. Things are going nice, until his parents announce that they're taking off on a Christian mission in Mali, and leaving him in charge of their Chinese restaurant in Windsor (yeah, they're Koreans, but the Canadians of Windsore don't know the difference.) This is not the life he wants. And to make it even worse, his family foists upon him his cousin, a Korean exchange student who speaks little English and has trouble fitting in. I mean, he's popular in the K-pop dancing crew at school...despite the fact that he doesn't actually know how to dance. Anyway, Moses needs to face some tough life decisions, will he get back into stand-up comedy, or will he be a stand-up man? A nice, funny story anchored by some solid acting and a good script.

Then it was time for the documentary, LATE LIFE: THE CHIEN-MING WANG STORY. Chien-Ming Wang was a star pitcher for the Yankees. Coming from Taiwan, he had a devastating sinkerball, famous for it's titular "late life" (i.e., a late break that fooled hitters.) But in 2008, he suffered a foot injury while running the bases (in an inter-league game, since batting and base-running is a rare activity for AL pitchers.) That cut his season short, and eventually led to the Yankees cutting him. But his story wasn't quite over. He made a comeback...and then another comeback...and another, and another.... This is a personal documentary of grit and perseverance, as he does whatever it takes--including many minor league and independent league stints, to make it back to the majors. And he does this well into his 30s, giving a different meaning to "late life." Ultimately, he comes across as a very pleasant, personable guy who is dedicated to his dream but also the more important things in life, like family and friends.

And I would've gotten to know that a bit better if I had stayed for the Q&A with him, but I had to run off to the next show, which was the Life, Animated Shorts. Hooray, cartoons! (or at least partially animated shorts!)
73 QUESTIONS: A repeat of a short from SFFILM, about some good, old-school San Francisco advice. Very cool.
CENTENARIAN: A 104 year-old man muses on his life, to his grandson, the director.
MARVEL PRESENTS A NEW SUPERHERO...MODEL MINORITY!: Witness Model Minority's adventures with fellow minorities and the fragile white guy. Will they ever realize that white power structure is the real villain?
PACHINKO: Bizarre animated pachinko balls and other goofiness inserted into mundane Tokyo life.
SOAP &  SHADOWS: Pillow talk of foghorns and analog animation (via overhead projectors. Does anyone even remember those?)
STRAWBERRIES WILL SAVE THE WORLD: I like strawberries. But nobody likes strawberries more than Yuko Okumura.
TO BE FIONA: A little time-travelling mindbender of an adult explaining to her child self how everything turns out fine, even things that aren't so fine in the moment. And don't be in such a hurry to grow up.
WHITE TUNNEL: A taxi driver, a funeral, a ghost, and a buried treasure. Pretty cool.
WONDER BUFFALO: A young woman is teased by her own mother for being fat. But a cosplay convention will help her find her inner power.

Total Running Time: 366 minutes
My Total Minutes: 479,075

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