Following a family from Bangkok who decide to try and freeze their daughter after she dies of Cancer in hope to resurrect her in the distant future once her illness can be treated and she can be saved Hope Frozen is a really great documentary. Obviously when the subject is a family dealing with the loss of their daughter the emotions are going to be powerful but what I didn't expect was to see the strength this also gave them. Both the father and son are scientists and this drives them to push science to hopefully find a cure as quick as possible and figure out a way to revive her, there are a lot of really interesting perspectives throughout this film of scientists working on this type of thing and to hear their predictions on where this science will eventually be and see some of the breakthroughs they are making was incredibly engaging and interesting.
The film also created an unexpected conversation surrounding if what this family was doing is right or wrong which also proved to be interesting, many people around them believe that by freezing their daughter they are trapping her soul from reincarnation and going against fate. This is something they have to deal with and think about which I really enjoyed, similar to the criticism of Evan Funke in the documentary Funke or the look at the social pushback from the community in the documentary Sea of Shadows both from earlier this year, having this open discussion that is not trying to hide the criticism but rather explore it and use it adds another level to the films narrative and makes it all the more engaging and impressive.
Overall Grade: A-
I am not someone who does a ton of research going into each movie often avoiding trailers or synopsis meaning I often don't know what I am walking into other than a very vague idea. With Straight Up I only knew this was a movie having something to do with the LGBTQ+ community, thats it. Walking into a film with no expectations can lead to some pretty interesting results and here I was shocked when the first 10 minutes of the movie played out and I learned what this movie was about. Todd (James Sweeney) is a gay man who has been struggling to find a partner and isn't the biggest fan of the sexual encounters he has had in the past so Todd decides he might be straight. He forms a relationship with a woman named Rory (Katie Findlay) and questions who he is. I understand to a point what this movie was trying to do, Todd is someone who is very flamboyant and falls into many gay cliches so people think he is gay, exploring how these sexual identity cliches can make someone confused is a decent idea for a film but this movie fails to explore it in any meaningful way. It has a plot that never works as it is so unclear for us how these characters are feeling at any particular moment.
We have no idea if Todd is gay or not, sure Todd doesn't either but giving no context on if he feels love or a connection with anyone he is meeting with makes it to where we can form no thesis on his experience. How the film tackles its themes and plot points also felt very frustrating for me as a gay man, for a film trying to combat cliches it is one filled with them projecting the LGBTQ+ community as nasty sluts who are out to ruin lives. It completely misses the mark when it comes to representation or commentary leaving me angry and disappointed at how it decides to tackles these ideas almost nearing problematic levels at some points.. The final message is also just baffling, it makes no sense and feels like a horrible end to a frustrating road I wish I just would have avoided.
The film falls completely flat having a bland relationship that never feels natural and comedic lines that try way too hard. It never finds its footing and overall was sadly one of the worst movies I have seen this year. The one frustratingly good thing about it is the cinematography, the shot composition and production design in this movie are both truly incredible making this movie easily one of my favorite looking films of the year which is all the more frustrating considering how shitty it is outside of that. This is a film that was a pain to get through and I would recommend avoiding at all costs, such a disappointment and mess of a film that really could have been something.
Overall Grade: D-
2019 is the first year where I have actively set out trying to go to local film festivals and one of the biggest film festivals every year in San Diego is the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Every year I see posters and advertisements for the festival but never ended up going until this year. Filled with over 170 films from foreign countries and from voices that I probably would never get to hear I am very excited to see these films and talk about them, though I am just too busy and behind on reviews to try and create a full review for each film I see. That is where the blog comes in, I will be posting mini reviews for every film I see here so keep checking back to stay up to date with what I am watching over the festival and my thoughts on them.!
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the San Diego Asian Film Festival the opening night film was one produced by the Pacific Arts Movement which is the same group behind the film festival itself. The Paradise We Are Looking For is a collection of 4 miniature documentaries looking at different asian stories around San Diego from a community still suffering from a tragic event from over a decade ago, a young funeral director who has to deal with planning her own fathers funeral once he passes, a look at those who come to a small karaoke restaurant, and a high school reunion for a self described "ghetto" school. Clearly the main drawing point for this documentary is that it represents a community the people at the film festival can relate to. If you are from San Diego it is going to mean something seeing places you have connections to and can identify with, this was confirmed by the speaker who introduced the film who spoke about the impact the book The Gangster We Are All Looking For had for him with the same presence. With this though I do have to say the range of this film is limited considering I doubt someone would get much out of it if they didn't have that connection to San Diego.
In the attempt to build the atmosphere of the city the film unfortunately suffered from some weaker editing. The film clearly wants to create its atmosphere and tone through lingering shots and interviews which works to a point but it always felt like thy pushed a bit too long with these scenes. Every segment seemed like it went on just a bit too long and ended up making the film feel longer than it should have only clocking in at 90 minutes. Despite this though for the beginning and body of most of these segments did work very well. From heartbreaking emotion to laugh out loud humor, this really is an effective look at the ranges of the human condition and emotion. If you are from San Diego this film will connect with you and be an overall good time, if it had cleaner editing though it could reach another level and truly be something great. As of now I would say it was "really good" again if you can relate to this location, if not I would just say to skip this one if you somehow end up getting the chance to see it.
Overall Grade: B+