CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Jon M. Chu, 2018)

B0C3809E-6B30-439A-B53D-9753CB2838B4

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Rich Asians:

1. I remembered watching this episode of Bonkers Closets on Facebook that featured the humongous fingerprint-protected walk-in closet (and by walk-in, I meant way bigger than our entire house) of crazy rich Singaporean socialite Jamie Chua. It stored hundreds of her Birkins and Louboutins and every kind of sparkly Chanel dress that any woman (and gay man) could ever dream of. She even called one of her purchases, an Hermès Mini Pochette worth over $11k, completely useless because it could only fit a credit card and a piece of tissue. It was this same kind of opulence (read: ridiculously excessive levels) that I expected from this movie.

As a third world citizen without a Jamba Juice card, but mooches off of my friend’s Netflix account, I wanted to see how these crazy rich Asians were living my fantasy life that I would have to pick my jaw off the sticky floors of the cinema after every scene of extreme extravagance. Aside from that overhead shot of the Young estate with what seemed to be a built-in lagoon, there really weren’t a lot of “Kalokang mayayaman ‘to!” moments here, though. I had more “Wow!” moments while skimming over the Yes! issue of Willie Revillame flaunting his mansion and luxury cars.

(If anything, this movie worked as a really effective tourism video for Singapore because every location just looked incredibly gorgeous.)

2. Wait, I’m not required to lower my standards naman just because Asians are finally getting represented in Hollywood, right? So I should be as brutal to this cliché-ridden rom-com the same way that I would to a Star Cinema langit-lupa love story? Because seriously, that plane scene reeked of Bea Alonzo flying to Cagayan de Oro with Dingdong Dantes running after her and then making that grand proposal while every passenger cheered even with their flight delayed. Why should this one get a free pass as an enjoyable, fluffy piece of entertainment just because it’s an “important” film?

3. The opening scene was my favorite because I weirdly enjoyed squirming in my seat while watching that really uncomfortable discrimination situation. I even remembered being in a slightly similar incident when my family had a vacation in (guess where?) Singapore back in the early 90’s. We were eating at KFC and the locals sneered at us like we were stray dogs that got lost in that establishment (of course back then I had no clue that they looked down on Pinoys as second-class citizens so I just thought they weren’t too happy with the crispy chicken they were eating).

When the legendary Michelle Yeoh served that fitting retribution to the hotel manager with such intense coldness, I came very close to standing up and cheering from my seat. I’d have preferred it though if she ended that scene with “Wala pang taong hindi rumespeto sa pangalang ELEANOR Young! At ang hindi marunong rumespeto sa AKING pangalan ay ASO lamang!!”. (If you got that reference, you have excellent taste in films.)

4. So many #PinoyFried in this movie, although none of them actually portrayed Pinoy characters (except for Astrid’s maids, of course!). Nico Santos’ fey turn as cousin Oliver was a delight, although it wasn’t surprising given his amazing turn as Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag in Superstore.

And speaking of Aquinos, when crazy rich Kris showed up onscreen as Princess Intan, there were some audible gasps from the audience. I guess none of them were able to watch Magic to Win 5 on the big screen. I still think it would have been the biggest casting coup if she played Imelda Marcos (the only woman that could put Jamie Chua’s shoe collection to shame).

5. I completely get the use of the very Asian mahjong game in that climactic showdown between Eleanor and Rachel (Constance Wu), although I honestly didn’t understand all of the symbolisms. The only thing I noticed was that Eleanor took the East seat which was significant in The Joy Luck Club (now there’s a brilliant Hollywood Asian film) since that was where the dealer sat and where all things began (in the novel/film, Jing Mei took that seat to replace her dead mother Suyuan who started the said group). 

Wouldn’t it have been great though if they amped up the camp factor and showed more clashes between these strong women (very much like a Pinoy cockfight)? With two brilliant actresses front and center (fyi, this should serve as your reminder to finally catch up on Fresh Off the Boat), this could have been really fun.

(Also, the Nick character was so bland that I couldn’t see why two amazing women were “fighting” over him. No amount of Henry Golding’s shirtless scenes could hide that fact.)

Side note: Given that Jon M. Chu also directed Now You See Me 2, I actually had this gnawing feeling during the mahjong scene that Rachel would perform some sort of elaborate magic trick. Like she would be able to switch her bamboo tiles without Eleanor ever noticing. Pong!!

6. I teared up a bit when I realized that the Ah Ma character was played by Lisa Lu, who was also Auntie An-Mei in Joy Luck Club (“My mother not know her worth until too late. Too late for her, but not for me.” Waaaah!).

7. I wasn’t particularly fond of Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8, but she was hilarious in the Nikki Valdez role here. As Peik Lin (aka Asian Ellen), she stole every scene that she was in whether she was criticizing Rachel’s look as Sebastian of The Little Mermaid, playing around with her car window, or simply taking a selfie around the Young mansion.

My favorite (very Asian) joke though was when Wye Mun (Ken Jeong) said something like, “Red’s a lucky color if you’re an envelope”. I also liked the bite in his line that “There’s a lot of children starving in America”.

8. Supposedly affluent young women going crazy over off-the-rack items? Shouldn’t they be turning their enhanced pointed noses up on anything that wasn’t bespoke? How un-crazy rich. (And what to make of that tacky tassel necklace? Only Kat Galang could have pulled that one off.)

9. The story about Astrid’s failing marriage felt like complete filler. It was like one long setup for the sequel. (Which probably was made more obvious when Harry Shum, Jr. showed up in one scene and yet received top billing in the end credits.) Her story only served as a distraction to what could have been more screen time for Nick and Rachel or Rachel and Eleanor. Also, Gemma Chan looked very much like Nathalie Hart, no?

10. One of the highlights here was the royal wedding of Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) where the guests held lighted butterflies (dragonflies?) as she walked down that water-filled aisle. While everyone else teared up when Kina Grannis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love played in the background, my OCD kicked in high gear imagining that lovely wedding dress turning all soggy and getting completely ruined. These crazy rich people paid $40M for that? 

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, a bride in Bulacan went viral for actually wading in murky floodwater (which she got free courtesy of the monsoon) out of necessity just to continue with her dream wedding. Now that was something that really made me cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ZOOTOPIA (Byron Howard, Rich Moore, 2016)

12742688_10153913627338544_8383499585177470224_n
My notes on Zootopia:

1. As a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things when I grow older. I had a phase that I dreamt of becoming a fireman, another as a really intelligent teacher. I finally decided on becoming a doctor after a tough internal debate if I should actually be a dinosaur (preferably a brontosaurus). That dream (my mother’s mostly) of wearing a stethoscope officially got crushed when I saw blood and immediately fainted.

2. This film opened with a school play that showed the evolution of animals from a prey vs. predator world into one where anyone can be anything, where a rabbit named Judy Hopps (voiced by Once Upon a Time’s Ginnifer Goodwin) didn’t have to be a carrot farmer like her parents (and 275 other brothers and sisters) and actually become a police officer. Although it was still a cartoon meant for kids, its themes dealing with prejudice and acceptance were uplifting and refreshing.

3. The city of Zootopia represented different species of animals thriving with each other. The diversity could be seen with familiar human traits assigned per group that sometimes bordered on stereotypes but always grounded to reality. I loved how the buildings and doors varied to accommodate each animal type (the hamster chute, the hippo pond, the high tubes for giraffes ordering Jamba Juice) and how some famous brands were incorporated for familiarity (a bitten carrot logo on a cellphone, a mouse shopping in Mousy’s, the Zuber cab service, and the lemming bankers from Lemming Brothers Bank of course). These details would definitely fly over kids’ heads but were welcome treats for adult viewers. (My favorite throwaway joke: “Let us acknowledge the elephant in the room” and then the camera focused on an actual elephant celebrating his birthday. My second favorite throwaway joke: “What do you call a three-humped camel?” “Pregnant.”)

4. Was it just me or did Nick Wilde closely resemble The Fantastic Mr. Fox?

5. Speaking of details, one scene called for Judy and Nick to dive inside a toilet bowl and before doing so, Nick placed his phone inside a plastic bag to avoid it from getting wet. In a normal cartoon, this would have been ignored with the excuse that it was a kiddie flick where animals talked, but this film was just on point in everything.

6. The biggest source of laughs had to be the Department of Motor Vehicles run by sloths. It took forever for them to finish what they were doing that the queues never ended and most of the customers were already frustrated and impatient. Anybody who recently renewed their license or lined up for a public document (SSS Card, NBI clearance) would be able to relate. At least I could picture them as sloths if I ever got bored.

7. Pig Hero 6, Wreck-It-Rhino, Floatzen, Wrangled. Even the animal world was not free from piracy.

8. My newsfeed had been filled with hate (coming from both sides) for the last few days. Maybe it’s time we listened to a talking bunny who said, “We can’t let fear divide us. The more we try to understand each other, the more exceptional we will be.” Preach!

Rating: ★★★★★