Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire to give the film its full title, is not easy to watch, but if you are looking for a cinematic experience to challenge glib optimism about the human condition, this is the movie for you. The performance by Gabourey Sidibe as the title character, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child, has already garnered intense critical acclaim, and other performances, including those by comedian Mo’Nique as Precious’ mother and, startlingly, Mariah Carey, as a social worker, seem all of a piece for a movie that is on track to becoming a definitive work about the early 21st-century American experience. Precious picked up two Oscars, a remarkable achievement for a film that skirts the edges of art house. But be warned: In Precious, hope is a distant and difficult prospect.
It is a question why George Romero would wish to preside over this inept remake of his own 1973 classic of the same name. Romero, who has an executive producer credit for this film, seems content to watch Breck Eisner, the director of such innocuous adventure fare as Sahara (2006), labor through yet another predictable take on the zombie genre. Critics have uniformly been unable to find anything new in his vision in terms of content or style. Stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, who lead a band of normal people out of the zombie infected regions.
Despite the well-worn concept of a couple from the burbs having romance injected back into a humdrum existence when they visit the Big Apple, early reviews rate Date Night highly. Steve Carell and Tina Fey get caught up in a case of mistaken identity and plenty of comic goings-on for a mix of rom-com and adventure, with Mark Wahlberg stepping in to provide the muscle. Directed by Shawn Levy, who hits his stride in this film, despite a track record that includes The Pink Panther (2006) and Night at the Museum (2006).
The most complicated thing to work out about It’s Complicated is why it is so bad. After all, you have Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in the lead roles as a divorced couple who have accidentally rediscovered their old spark, and Steve Martin as a possible suitor for Streep’s affections. There is acting talent to spare, but no chemistry. Director and writer Nancy Meyers specializes in deeply improbable romantic comedies with a veneer of sophistication. Her credits include Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and The Parent Trap (1998), which were reasonably appealing rom-coms that made good use of high-profile stars. Alec Baldwin as a laddish divorce lawyer playing against Streep’s tightly wound celebrity chef wife would seem to be a surefire hit, but the whole thing turns out to be a damp squib.
I Give My First Love to You (Boku no Hatsukoi Wo Kimi Ni Sasagu)
Japanese tearjerker based on a manga series, I Give My First Love to You pulls out all the stops to get you reaching for the tissues. Main character Takuma falls in love with Mayu, the daughter of his cardiologist. The reason Takuma is consulting with a cardiologist? He’s got a dickey heart — he might not make it past 20. As kids the two promise to marry, but after Takuma realizes that his life is likely to be cut short he begins to distance himself from Mayu, hoping that she will find a more suitable life partner.
(Le Petit Nicolas)
Having had its Taiwan premiere as part of the Taiwan International Children’s Film Festival, Little Nicholas hits movie theaters today. The title character is based on illustrations by Jean-Jacques Sempe for a French children’s book by Rene Goscinny. Sempe’s illustrations are hugely popular in Taiwan, rivaling Jimmy Liao (幾米) for the cute but bittersweet portrayal of an urban everyman. Humor and cuteness are all major selling points of this story of a little boy who suffers sudden anxiety when he faces the arrival of a little brother or sister. With the aid of school friends he concocts various ways of dealing with the competition. The film has already proved hugely successful with French audiences, and the appeal of retro European fashions and a slightly dated view of childhood innocence along with Sempe’s established reputation in Taiwan are set to make this a family favorite here as well.
Taipei Golden Horse Fantastic Film Festival
Organized by the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (台北金馬影展), Golden Horse Fantastic celebrates the wacky, bloody and sexy aspects of cinema with a program that focuses mostly on B-movies and horror flicks, along with a mini retrospective on Roman Polanski’s early works and a segment of movies selected by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) titled Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Favorite Fantasy Films. Check out www.ghfff.org.tw for more information. NT$160 tickets are available at the door or through ibon kiosks at 7-Eleven stores. Runs until April 22.
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
Since its launch in 2014, the Taiwan Season has increasingly become a “must-see” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So, when this year’s three-week Fringe became an early casualty of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Chen Pin-chuan (陳斌全) was determined that the Taiwan Season must continue in some form. Chen, director of the Cultural Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, says that he and Taiwan Season curator and producer Yeh Jih-wen (葉紀紋) had been thinking of ways of growing and adding value to the season anyway. The crisis and the cancellation of the live performances brought those ideas forward as
I didn’t expect to spend more than three minutes out of my car, yet the sun was so brutal I put on my hat before approaching the seawall. Beimen (北門) is the flattest and most sun-baked part of Tainan. It lacks trees and people. In wintertime, the weather is often delightful. It wasn’t yet mid-morning in the hot season, however, and I felt like a leaf shriveling in the desert. Atop the seawall but facing inland, I could see dozens of the rectangular ponds which account for a significant percentage of Beimen’s “land” area. Some, no doubt, were dug to produce