Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Some Recent Films
I saw several movies recently!
I LOVED Booksmart which is in conversation with Election, Legally Blonde, and (at least visually) maybe Brick. It's hilarious, moving, sweet, and precise -- a delightful confection of a film. As with Clueless there are no villains and everyone gets to be a person. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (not explicitly), a "Lean In" joke, feminists like me onscreen whose politics are core to their character, a friendship between a straight girl and a queer girl who love and want the best for each other -- so much fun. I went to see this mostly on the strength of knowing Sarah Haskins had cowritten it, because I have loved her for a decade because of her "Target: Women" segment from Infomania. Brendan was the one who informed me that she'd cowritten the earliest version of the screenplay in 2009 and that it'd been on The Black List of best-liked unproduced screenplays (Franklin Leonard's TEDx talk is pretty interesting if you haven't heard of that spreadsheet).
Always Be My Maybe is a cute, sweet romcom that will mean more to you if you are Asian-American or have ever lived in San Francisco. I'm always happy to see Randall Park in something (I've loved his silly face since his IKEA Heights videos) and the intergenerational dynamics in his character's family rang true to me.
I enjoyed Mindy Kaling's Late Night because of Kaling's and Emma Thompson's performances, because I've been the only woman or the only nonwhite person in the room so many times, because of a particular exchange between Thompson's and Kaling's characters about tokenism that took me right back to a particular meal in San Francisco many years back when I had a very similar conversation, because I'm still a softie for the fairytale fantasy of making comedy that millions of people laugh at. The movie sort of feels like a 100-minute sitcom on the level of its characters, dialogue, and plot -- people speak their subtext a lot, it brings up an issue that it doesn't then deal with satisfyingly, there are Big Gestures that solve things. But I still had fun.
Funny-but-not note about that last one: one of the trailers before Late Night was for After The Wedding. The first several seconds of the trailer show us a young white American woman working in an orphanage in India. OK, sure, yes, Late Night will attract a lot of Indian diaspora people, so it makes sense to advertise a movie set in India to us. But then that white woman talks with the older Indian woman who runs the orphanage about their financial needs and, seeking a big donation, goes back to the US and gets involved in a whole messy situation with a rich woman and her sketchy husband. And that's the rest of the trailer and probably what most of the movie is about. And I was sitting there thinking -- look, there are other donors you could talk with! Are you seriously the development director for your nonprofit, and if not, have you talked with them about how much trouble this donation is turning out to be? Also, the Indian woman who runs the orphanage -- what's up with her right now? What does she think and what other sustainability leads is she pursuing? By the end of the trailer I was much more focused on questions like "have they already looked at the grant listings at the Foundation Center?" than "will Billy Crudup's SECRET be EXPOSED?" which is a long way of saying that I am probably not going to see this movie.
Oh also the Museum of the Moving Image showed the 1997 John Woo action classic Face/Off which I have now seen for the first time and I may not need to see another action movie again for multiple years because how can you top it? I feel like there are no words for the utter infernokrusher spectacle of Face/Off; it transcends any articulation outside of its own cinematic achievement. And the escapism! As the credits rolled I asked "did I like this?" and realized that my face hurt from smiling, so, yes.