Author: Em Liu

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

This is the least timely review on this blog to date, but I’m gonna go ahead and claim its relevancy via Hulu’s recent pickup of The Mindy Project, Kaling’s followup book due to be released in September, and my unhealthy obsession with all things Mindy Kaling.

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Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

So I think that part of the reason I have such a thing for superhero movies is because I can actually tell the characters apart. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m truly faceblind or to compare my issue with those who actually are. I’ve never had to worry that my family has abandoned me, or any of the terrifying experiences faceblind people must deal with. But I really do have a hard time telling some individuals apart, with embarrassing consequences in my day-to-day life. I have introduced myself to one particular colleague at work no less than three separate times. And these weren’t introductions in passing; three times I overheard him talking about our mutual alma mater and struck up a conversation, thinking he was a complete stranger each time until he corrected me. Sober. At work. This sort of thing happens with some unfortunate regularity. I know there’s a stereotype (or possibly a truism) about white people not being able to tell PoC who belong to the same ethnic group apart. But my problem is white dudes. Something about my brain is more likely …

TV Review: Fresh Off The Boat (season 1 finale)

The success of Fresh Off The Boat is personal. I’m not Asian American, but I have two primary points of investment: 1) My husband predicted that the show would be terrible and never be renewed, and I love it when he’s wrong (he’s capitulated on the first statement). 2) It represents people I love. There will probably never be a sitcom about a family that looks like mine. Mixed families are very specific, and television has only ever bothered to showcase an Asian American family twice in as many decades. Maybe my future children can watch sitcoms like The McCarthys and Fresh Off The Boat and see part of themselves represented in each. (Big Hero 6 is going to popular in this house). I love Fresh Off The Boat, not only because I think the adults are hilarious, the children are adorable, and the stories are entertaining, but also because I love watching my husband relate to a family in an American sitcom for the first time in his life. The sound of my husband’s laughter is the best sound in the world to me. It’s worth ten seasons of any show. …

Book Review: Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You, opens with the death of Lydia Lee. Her surviving family, who collectively idolized sixteen-year-old Lydia, struggle to make sense of her death in a collection of flashbacks and subsequent narratives. The story draws a sharp line in the sand – before death, and after. The divide works well as a temporal device, keeping the reader oriented, but it works thematically as well, examining the faulty structures of the Lee family as it comes crashing down around them. Despite the dark subject matter, Ng’s prose is light, engaging, encouraging the reader to read on – Ng is the type of author to bring along to the beach and effortlessly lose yourself in for a few hours. The novel is a page-turner, but not in the traditional sense. This is no whodunit mystery. Rather, Lydia’s death is contextualized in the history of the family’s complex relationships. Before marriage, James Lee was a young, Chinese American professor desperate to fit in, his wife-to-be a Caucasian woman eager to stand out as a woman in the male-dominated medical profession. Like so …

TV Review: The Mindy Project (season 3 finale)

At the end of season 3 of The Mindy Project, Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Danny Costellano (Chris Messina) are expecting their first child (who saw THAT coming in season 1?). In the season 3 finale episode, when Danny fails to make it to a going away party for Mindy’s parents, Mindy reveals that she has not, in fact, informed her parents of Danny’s existence. The finale feels like a gleeful middle finger to Kaling’s critics. The episode includes a hilarious reunion of all the white men Mindy has seriously dated (“the Manhattan meat train”), and while the episode is centered around Lahiri’s family (and even includes scenes of Lahiri in a stunning sari), it never actually depicts her Indian American parents onscreen. I don’t want to give away the ending, as it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a sitcom finale, but it certainly takes The Mindy Project farther than it’s ever been before. The criticism directed towards the show (largely based on the fact that Lahiri apparently dates only white men) has bothered me for a while, for many reasons. Mostly, however, …

CAAMFEST Film Review: Cicada

This review originally appeared on AsAmNews  In Japan, the raucous sound of the cicada is synonymous with summer, when leaves take on the dusty green of full maturity and insects molt into adults, leaving empty shells behind. Cicada, directed by Dean Yamada and written by Yu Shibuya, captures that feeling of summer, when we shed another layer of our former selves and take on a more mature form. Our transition is led by Jumpei Taneda (Yugo Saso), who discovers that he is infertile during a pre-marital medical checkup and must figure out a way to tell the woman he wants to marry. Paralleled with Jumpei’s struggles are those of his sister Nanaka (Hiroko Wada), who desperately wants to protect her son Ryota (Houten Saito) from the bully in school. However, only Jumpei has the uncanny ability to find what Ryota really wants: cicada shells.  Cicada uses the discarded insect exoskeleton to propose a metamorphosis for the adult who has forgotten he was also once a child. From the beginning, children are central to the film – …

TV Review: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

If House of Cards is boring you this season (is that just me?), don’t give up on binge watching Netflix just yet. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, follows the transition of Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), who moves to New York City after her rescue from the bunker in Indiana where she has been held captive for fifteen years in a cult by a deranged apocalyptic minister. Arriving in New York City with no job, no money, and no friends, Kimmy decides to stay and finds herself a sketchy pad with roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and a shaky job working for trophy wife Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). Oh but don’t worry – this is a comedy.