Author: Em Liu

Theater Review: Allegiance

Last weekend, my husband and I (and some blogger friends) headed up to New York to catch one of the first Broadway performances of Allegiance, a musical based on George Takei’s experiences during his family’s internment under Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. That’s right, a musical about the U.S. government’s internment of its Japanese American citizens. Despite the devastating subject matter, the play is…er…hilarious. And joyful. And uplifting. This is of course the genius of Takei himself who, although the only actor in the production who was himself one of the 120,000 Japanese Americans interned, simply cannot play a role that is without humor. The whole experience was a bit surreal – I was aware of the details of the Japanese American internment, but it’s emotionally challenging (to say the least) to be asked to imagine a situation in which your own government is willing to systematically round up its citizens on the sheer basis of their race. And yet the emotional entry point for the audience is so simple: a family, with typical family problems, caught up in the larger drama around them. Sammy Kimura (Telly …

Theater Review: The Wong Street Journal

I adore funny women. My list of favorites is endless: Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Jessica Williams, Margaret Cho, Tina Fey, and so forth and so on. Kristina Wong, the pioneering educator who previously informed us that Asian vaginas cure racism, is one of my favorite comedic performers (I’m interrupting a hardcore Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. marathon to write this piece, if that gives you an impression of how much I admire this woman).

Film Review: Inside Out

“Emotions can’t quit, genius” – Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Inside Out Ah, the film of the century. Or at least, so the numbers led me to believe. Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, opened to a record-breaking weekend of $91.1 million in revenues, the highest grossing for a Pixar original and the biggest debut ever for a non-sequel movie. Judging a film by its numbers is (shocker) not always the best way to gauge the quality of the film. It turns out, however, that even being the highest-grossing film of all time means diddly-squat, now that nearly every new blockbuster ends up the most successful film of all time (for a few weeks, until the next one comes along). I recently attended a lecture on the economics of the Hollywood blockbuster, which presented Mark Harris’ theory on about the exploding blockbuster trend in Hollywood. In a nutshell, Harris posits that Hollywood’s obsession with the formulaic blockbuster and its ensuing, unending parade of sequels is precipitating the gradual, choking death of the art form. My primary objection to that fatalistic theory was Pixar – a studio that produces hit after hit with nary …

Avenging the Avengers

I recently wrote a piece (“Whedon’s Binary”) critiquing the way gender expression is treated in the Joss Whedon Avengers universe for the Joss Whedon Roundtable over at Hooded Utilitarian. This entry will be a first for me – a response to my HU piece (yes, I’ve progressed to actually arguing with myself). The HU piece was fun for me, but it was written entirely from the perspective of critical distance. I actually really enjoyed both Avengers films. So, as a lighthearted counterpoint to my original article (albeit from a slightly different angle than gender expression), I present to you: Five Feminist Moments from the Joss Whedon Avengers Universe: 1) When Black Widow pretends to be a helpless victim before kicking ass in the opening scene to the 2012 Avengers. She doesn’t require the villain to conveniently “mess up”, freeing herself only once she has the information she needs, proving her command of the entire situation. 2) When Black Widow successfully tricks Loki into revealing his secret plan by pretending to be an emotional “silly girl”. Loki mocks her emotions and gives away his angle …

Comics Review: Thor: The Goddess of Thunder

I’m the sort of book-lover who assumed she would never get a Kindle. I actually end up reading quite a few books on my Kindle app. I have an hour-long commute to work, and it’s just so easy – finish one book, download another, keep reading. There are lots of reasons why the Kindle-averse simply cannot give up their addiction to hard copies: the pleasant weight of a book in the hands, the satisfaction of turning the pages, the easy demarcation of favorite passages. These are oft-cited reasons, but they neglect the best part of physical books – the smell. I have always loved the smell of books. I could probably identify favorites from my childhood library by nose alone (I might even be able to do Harry Potter by volume). And the glossy pages of comic books smell like textbooks, which were always the best smelling type of literature. A superhero nerd like myself has access these days to immediate gratification given the easy availability of downloads on Marvel.com. Alas, as a book-sniffer, I’m normally a patiently-wait-for-the-collected-volume type of comic reader. …

Book Review: Blackbird Fly

I read Blackbird Fly, the debut novel by Erin Entrada Kelly, at the recommendation of the author’s cousin (hi John!). I actually finished the book a few weeks ago, so I’m late with this review – it’s been a crazy few weeks for me! On the plus side, I have now seen Avengers: Age of Ultron twice, and I am officially DONE with grad school as of this weekend. Blackbird Fly (aimed at middle school readers) tells the story of Apple, a Filipino American girl living in Louisiana with her mother. Apple is best friends with Alyssa and Gretchen, but when Apple ends up on the “dog log”, a malicious list of the ugliest girls in school created by the meanest boys in school, relationships begin to change. Apple’s escape is an old Beatles’ cassette tape of her father’s. Her dream is to learn to play the guitar and create music like George Harrison, her favorite Beatle – if only she can convince her musically-skeptical mother to buy her a guitar. Apple’s story took me (against my will) back to middle school and …