Eat Drink Man Woman (1994): "Life should not be like cooking, you need to wait until all ingredients are prepared."

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Life should not be like cooking, you need to wait until all ingredients are prepared.
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Sihung Lung, Yu-Wen Wang, Chien-lien Wu, Kuei-Mei Yang
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 124 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.0

Chu: Eat drink, man woman,food and sex. Human basic desire. Can't avoid them! All my life, every day, all I do. It pisses me off. Is that all there is? Is this a good life?

A veritable smorgasbord of all the things that make life worthwhile, including good friendship, love, food and sex, can be found in Ang Lee's `Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,' the story of a widower who has raised three daughters on his own, and now that they are grown is ready to move on with his life. Chu (Sihung Lung), a celebrated chef who runs the kitchen of a huge restaurant, finds himself at an impasse however; his daughters, Jia-Jen (Kuei-Mei Yang), the eldest, a teacher, Jia-Chen (Chien-lien Wu), his second, an airline executive, and Jia-Ning (Yu-Wen Wang), the youngest, who works at a fast food restaurant, all still live with their father, and though they are adults (all in their twenties), he feels responsible for them, as they are still under his roof. They, on the other hand, feel responsible for him; he'll soon be retired, and they fear age is catching up with him. And it makes them each, in turn, think twice about career opportunities and any romantic entanglements that may appear on the horizon. it's a situation they all realize is not conducive to a happy, fulfilling and fully functional family life; the love is there, but it's seasoned with frustration, and no one seems to know what to do about it.

Chu: These past two days, I... something wrong?
Jia-Chien: No, it's fine. Nothing.
[Jia-Chien makes a face from the soup]
Chu: Say it!
Jia-Chien: The ham was oversmoked.
Jia-Ning: It's fine.
Jia-Jen: Father probably forgot to taste it.
Jia-Chien: Or his taste is getting worse.
Chu: My taste is fine!

As in all Ang Lee films the cinematography is spectacular, and the opening sequence is a wonderful demonstration of Chinese culinary excellence, and it is almost impossible not to stop the film right there, go and get some chinese takeaway to eat, and come back to enjoy the film without the cravings that this film inevitably produces. The Characters are complex and likeable, and the relationships between them is what this film is all about. The family is slightly dysfunctional and communication is often strained but as the movie develops these dialogs become more heartfelt, and the love between the characters becomes more and more apparent.

Chu: I don't understand any of them, and I don't want to know. Let them grow up and leave. It's like cooking. Your appetite's gone when the dish is done.
Old Wen: That's not the worst thing. At least people like your cooking.
Chu: Honestly, Id' have to give that up if it hadn't been for you lately. My sense of taste is getting worse and worse. My food is only as good as the expression on your face.
Old Wen: Don't be silly. You rely on your feelings when you cook, not your taste buds. Like that Western deaf composer, called Bee...
Chu: Beethoven.
Old Wen: That's right, Beethoven. Good sound is not in the ear, good taste is not in the mouth

Lee has crafted and delivered a complex, involving film, laced with poignancy and humor that deals with the kinds of problems most people face during the course of their lives. And, of course, there's the love, the many faces of which are all explored here. Food is the metaphor; Chu sets his table with a variety of tantalizing and exotic offerings, even as the table of life is set with like fare, and once set, it is up to the individual to sample what they will. Fittingly, it is at the dinner table that many of the meaningful events in the lives of the family members are revealed. Lee uses the intricate emotional weave of the story to optimum effect with his ability to illuminate the sensibilities of his characters, and that he does it so well demonstrates the depth of his own insight into human nature. And that he can so proficiently transfer the emotions of the written page to the screen demonstrates his mastery of the art of film directing. Finally the story is wrapped up in a stunningly sincere and beautiful scene between father and daughter, which invariably leaves me sitting in total silence until the end of the credits.

Chu: Men die for money, birds die for food. It's not worth dying for food for a man.
In a more mainstream film, everything would have been treated more heavily, but Ang Lee resists that temptation and uses a lot of restraint. This gives the film a great dose of realism, so much that it doesn't seem like a film, but instead an examination of the lives of some ordinary people. This also helps create the tone, which is rather light and pleasant.

Lee has also turned what might have been merely an extended Taiwanese soap opera into a wise and warm exploration of family relationships, love and friendship, against the backdrop of a traditional society adapting to the modern world. Fascinating in themselves, the food preparation sequences serve as a metaphor for the skill required to transform bare existence into a rich life. As with real life, `Eat, Drink, Man, Woman' is far from predictable, and is filled with twists and turns, including a surprise at the end. In the final analysis, this film is a delightful, entertaining reflection upon the human condition that will awaken your taste buds and prepare you for the feast of life. 


The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
We are Infinite
Directed by : Stephen Chbosky
Starring : Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Genre : Romance, Drama
Runtime : 102 minutes
WI's Rating : 8.5

Patrick: C minus, ladies and gentlemen! I am below average!
Sam: Below average!
Patrick: Below average!

Based on the popular epistolary young adult novel by Stephen Chbosky, who also directs, The Perks of Being a Wallflower centers on a young high school kid named Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is a meek, unassuming tenant of this world, a kid so shy and unremarkable that you could probably spend four years attending the same school and never notice him. That, at least, is the way his fellow students see him. We meet him at home, with his mom and dad and a sister who is dating a loser. Charlie's heart is damaged because of a tragedy long ago. His aunt died in an accident on his birthday. Years have gone by but Charlie still nurses fresh wounds. His act of self-therapy is to write in a private journal to someone he calls "My friend." We meet him as he is entering high school, a place where he is both mocked and ignored. It isn't long before – much to his amazement – he makes some friends. One is a flamboyant kid named Patrick (Ezra Miller) who has a joke or a line for each and every occasion. For a while, Patrick's overabundant personality seems one-note until late in the film when he begins to confide in Charlie some things about his own dark past that break his jolly facade. The other is Patrick's half-sister Sam, played in a brilliant performance by Emma Watson whose presence still contains echoes of Hermione Granger. Once, Sam was the "school atention", who got the attention of the boys by making herself an object of lust. Casting off that skin, she lives a cleaner life but now has to live with feelings of regret. She's not the typical Movie Girlfriend who has all the easy answers contained in a tender smile. She stirs the poetry in Charlie's soul, but she is afraid to move toward love. Sam is a particular human being, not a cliché, the rare kind of teenager who seems to be waiting for something. She doesn't live in the moment but is always looking forward. She seems to be a victim of time itself, trapped in a body and an age that won't let her press forward fast enough. That's probably why she is working so hard to get away from her past and into a good college. 

Within his new circle of friends he finds himself attending an alarming number of high school parties, one of which has him sampling the host's fresh batch of brownies – several in fact – with predictable results. Charlie is nudged into experiences that few parents would agree with, but that Charlie will certainly never forget, no matter how hard he tries. The unique circle of friends also includes a sweet but cloying girl who will briefly become Charlie's first girlfriend. She is Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) who has little interest in Charlie as a person, but more of an interest in just having a boyfriend. She quickly gets on his nerves and their relationship comes to a devastating conclusion that we don't expect.

Charlie: I don't know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might be too busy trying to participate. So if this does end up being the last letter I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn't know what I was talking about or know someone who has gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don't happen. And there are people who forget what it's like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We'll all become somebody's mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening, I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you're not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you're listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another story about a simple guy living in a cruel life of high school. The difference is he's not ought to save the day, wants to lose his virginity, seeking to be popular, or revenge on his bullies. The story is about a shy kid who wants to get along with people and can't wait to leave high school. Behind it is the genuine pain and emotion of the characters which makes it more than just another story about teenagers. Stephen Chbosky tells his own story on screen pretty well and the performances are quite excellent. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is often heartbreaking, charming, and wonderful. Charlie is palpably just another teenage protagonist, but he is not one of those who tries to prove everyone who mistreated him wrong. His goal is to get away from being anti-social and be like anyone else in high school. We may have heard a story like this before, but what makes this one extraordinary is when it mostly depicts the darkest aspects of their lives. Expressing the most heartbreaking truths about these teenagers. Knowing their problems easily makes it reasonable for us to care about them. The romance is rather credibly lovely than a mainstream claptrap. In the joyous moments, it's pretty delightful and plays a quite nostalgic soundtrack. The indie look and feel of the film is undeniable from the start. Single-point lighting is used effectively as a plot device. Charlie's face often appears split down the center, one side brightly lit, the other in soft shadow, mirroring his conflicted soul and sense of confusion, trapped between two worlds. Light falls gently on him when he's serene, more harshly in moments of crisis. The darkness hides the secrets he deftly keeps to himself as the narrative unfolds.

Sam: You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think it counts as love. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is unpredictable because it depends on the actions of the characters, both in the serious and the comic moments. They are written and acted with such specific detail that we can feel the even flow of their lives. There is drama, joy, heartbreaks, mistakes, misunderstandings, romance, laughter and revelations. It is a breath of fresh air to finally encounter a screenplay that lets the characters be human beings. It feels the joy and tragedy of the awkward passage of the teenage years. This is a film so smart about life that you find yourself nodding with recognition. It is one of the best films of the year.