I Saw Cinderella…and I Loved It.

cinderella

 

Courage and kindness
brings a girl in a blue gown
to eternal bliss.

On our drive over to the cinema yesterday afternoon, my wife and I tried to recall which movie we last saw on the big screen.  We did catch the Oscar Shorts with friends a few months back, but for regular movies, the film that came to mind was Gravity.  Which was two years ago!  We actually saw at least two movies that year, as we also caught The Great Gatsby, in 3D no less.

So the movies that get us out of the house are spectacles, and boy, did we ever choose the right one yesterday.  We saw Cinderella, and I have to tell you, I saw many little girls with their popcorns and sodas around me, but I guarantee that not one of them loved this movie as much as I did.  I laughed, I cried (really), and I was just stunned by the beauty of it all.  I figure plenty of CGI was utilized to make the backgrounds more than they actually are, but I didn’t care a whit.  To me, this is what CGI is supposed to be used for, not for having giant robots duke it out as if the fate of the planet depended on them (it doesn’t).

This is one of these movies that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, but by some miracle none did.  Mostly I attribute this to Ken Branagh, whom I’ve always admired since seeing Dead Again.  His Hamlet was a sumptuous affair, so I knew he had the aesthetic chops — and after making Thor, I guess I should’ve realized Branagh can do anything.

Some very light spoilers below, so if you want a virgin experience, stop reading and go to the movies on this very fine Sunday.

The first twenty minutes or so of the movie is the weakest, but something clicks around the half-hour mark.  It might be because this is about when Cate Blanchett enters the narrative.  She is, as always, wonderful, and this part of the stepmother requires for her to be in every kind of mode — evil, fragile, hilarious, oftentimes within the same scene.  Initially I wasn’t sold on Lily James as Cinderella, but as the movie progressed, she won me over.  Of course I knew she would imbue innocence and goodness, but it’s her lack of perfection that really got me.  Let me explain: in the ballroom dancing scene, there’s a slight sense of the amateur in her movements, and that in itself lends a sense of vulnerability.

This movie is a total throwback in every sense of the word, and it’s the reason why it’s so good.  Look at the way Branagh uses closeups the few moments the two leads touch (the prince’s hand on her back during the dance, the glass slipper coming off on the swing).  The central theme of courage and kindness might rub some critics the wrong way, but if you let the movie take you, man, will it ever take you.

KoreAm Column: Welcome to the Club

erasure

My bi-monthy column for KoreAm Journal for March/April features the music of my youth, Erasure in particular.  Enjoy!

First-World Problems: Welcome to the Club

This past New Year’s Eve, I was on the second floor of Terminal 5, a concert hall in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Leaning over the railing, I screamed, “I love to hate you!” with the rest of the frenzied crowd below me, above me, all around me. As the song reached its end, the singer segued into a countdown, and then he yelled, “Happy New Year!” Gold balloons and white confetti rained down from above, and then we all sang the next song, “I try to discover, a little something to make me sweeter …”

If you are of a certain age and Asian American, there’s a high likelihood that you know these two songs are “Love to Hate You” and “A Little Respect.” This was my first time seeing Erasure. I probably should’ve done this a quarter of a century ago, but back then, I didn’t even know who they were, and more to the point, I didn’t know who I was.

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J. Robert Lennon’s See You in Paradise

Ilogo don’t write book reviews often — in fact, I’m lucky to write one a year.  But there’s one author I’ve reviewed more than once, and that is J. Robert Lennon.  If you haven’t checked out his latest, please do.  You’ll be thoroughly entertained.

From the always wonderful Fiction Writers Review.

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See You in Paradise: Stories, by J. Robert Lennon

“Lennon not only balances the mundane with the fantastic, but makes the fantastic feel mundane in the context of this world”: Sung J. Woo on Robert J. Lennon’s new collection, See You in Paradise.

Maybe it’s strange for a reviewer of a collection of short stories to say that he is not a fan of short story collections, but I want you to know where I’m coming from. Don’t get me wrong—I love short stories. I love their intense focus, their fleeting brevity, an entire world contained and expressed in a few thousand words. What I don’t like is reading one after another by the same author, because I get tired of hearing the same voice over and over again. Also, reading another short story after having just finished one can feel like climbing a new mountain, because I have to get acquainted with another set of characters, and the setting is different, and so is the situation, and I miss those people from before…can’t they just come back and give me a break, please?

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What Is Your Favorite Font?

gates

“What Is Your Favorite Font?”

If you were to ask this question to a hundred people, my guess is that you’d get a response that actually names a font.  Times Roman, Comic Sans, Helvetica, Arial, etc.  Chris Hardwick, the host of The Nerdist, posed this question to Bill Gates on his podcast a few days ago.

His answer: TrueType.  Gates then proceeded to describe the technical concept behind TrueType, something about using all three primary components of color (red, green, blue) to produce the best looking (“anti-aliased”) letters.  The TrueType standard was developed by Apple and Microsoft, and my initial reaction was, “Way to dodge the question and pump up your old company, Bill.”

And then I realized something — Gates wasn’t dodging anything.  TrueType really is his favorite font!  After this interview, looks like The Nerdist finally lives up to its name.