Category: Editorial

Noah Hawley’s FARGO, and the Gospel of the Coen Brothers

(Note: This piece was originally published in Film Inquiry.)

Film buffs everywhere had healthy skepticism when FX announced a Fargo television show. The classic 1996 film by Joel and Ethan Coen, that blends the genres of dark comedy and crime, is sacred ground for many. A television adaptation of sorts might cynically be considered as just a money grab, capitalizing on a well-known title. To everyone’s surprise however, the anthology show, helmed by novelist Noah Hawley, exceeded all expectations.

The series recently completed its third season, with a possible fourth cycle possible, but unconfirmed as of now. Acting as a companion to the original film rather than a retread or remake, this show tells a new story of small town Minnesota crime with each season. Fargo looks to its source material as thematic and visual inspiration, with a couple of overt plot references peppered in. Yet, Hawley uses a broader palette of inspiration, utilizing elements from Joel and Ethan Coen’s entire filmography. Whether these references in the show are nuanced or blatant, Hawley avoids simply copying the Coen brothers, and rather shares a vocabulary with their work.

By examining each season of Fargo and their main sources of inspiration, we can understand this shared vocabulary even more, and define what makes the work of the Coen brothers unique.

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What Makes Splatoon a Positive Emotional Experience


The mainstream often overlooks video games as powerful tools for positive change. Luckily, gamers have reached a point where their medium is more widely accepted as an art form. Like books, television, and film, video games serve as an effective vehicle for escapism. Storytelling in games have evolved in way that they provoke emotional responses from gamers. Most gamers would probably be lying if they told you they didn’t cry during key interactions with Clementine in Telltale’s “The Walking Dead,” or if they didn’t feel any sort of loss at the death of Aerith in “Final Fantasy VII.”

But unlike other forms of media, the interactivity of video games allows for responses that are unique to games. Emotion doesn’t have to be solely drawn from the script and voice performances alone. Instead, the world in which you control your character in can achieve the same effect. Friendships, rivalries, and entire communities can be formed from within video games. And most significantly, video games can be a powerful tool in supporting an individual’s mental health. As someone with anxiety, OCD, and depression, “Splatoon” has acted as a crutch.

“Splatoon” is Nintendo’s unique take on the multiplayer shooter genre, releasing in 2015 on the Wii U and followed up with a Nintendo Switch sequel very recently. This 4v4 frenzy substitutes gruff soldiers with squid kids, and bullets with ink. Rather than murdering every person they see, players instead cover the map with ink of their team’s color in the game’s basic mode. The team that covers the most of the map emerges victorious. If it sounds simple enough, well, that’s because it is. But while the gameplay may be simple, the experiences gained are deeper.

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When A Sequel Is Better Than The Original: The 7 Categories Of Movie Sequels

Aliens (1986) – source: 20th Century Fox

(Note: This piece was originally published in Film Inquiry.)

A good piece of art will create a following, and with that following is a desire for more – a desire for continuation. In the medium of film, these continuations usually come in the form of movie sequels. But whether due to high audience anticipation, studio interference, or simply a dry creative well, follow-ups often fall short of its predecessor’s greatness. The motto “the sequel is never as good as the original” is a common motto for moviegoers.

But an avid film buff will always be prepared with a list of films that prove the contrary. For instance, The Godfather Part II broke ground not for just being one of the first numbered sequels, but being the first sequel to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back in particular is celebrated by fans, and has been a guiding light for many blockbuster directors. The list of good sequels can go on, but for every quality sequel will come several bombs.

With each summer adding more sequels, remakes, and reboots to the pile, it’s difficult to find anything original and exceptional in the movie theater. Some of these sequels are worth the time, but the rest serve as evidence for the aforementioned motto. In an attempt to guide audiences through the sea of unoriginality, I’ve created the following categories to classify the many different types of sequels.

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Iron Fist Didn’t Have to Be Asian, But I Sure Did Want Him to Be


While I am the son of Filipino immigrants, growing up in a mostly white suburban area created a distance between myself and my racial identity. I wasn’t in touch with my roots, and for the longest time, my own perspective of identity politics was quite limited – a result of both apathy and even ignorance to the state of things.

But leaving that bubble helped to open up my mind and look at my identity from a different viewpoint. But what has driven me even more to embrace my Asian-American label is looking at the lack of representation of Asians in the media – I am motivated to not only promote this issue, but to help fill that void as an artist. With the recent release of Marvel and Netflix’s Iron Fist generating discussions on this topic, I’d like to share how my personal experiences have led me to where I am now.

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Review: Hidden Figures


This is a film that makes its mission very obvious from its title. When we think of the great accomplishments we’ve made in human history, often there are individuals – and groups – whose contributions go unnoticed. In the case of Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monaé), these women faced both sexism and racism while working at NASA, as astronaut John Glenn (Glenn Powell) prepares his historic space flight.

“Hidden Figures” is an important film for a multitude of reasons – not only are stories about women of color rare in mainstream Hollywood, but women and women of color face a number hurdles when going into STEM that men do not have to. This movie is also a reminder of what racism looks like – we often see racism as loud and overt, but implicit racism can be just as ugly and damaging. “Hidden Figures” is a real crowd-pleaser, one that doesn’t need CGI spectacle or witty one-liners, but is instead carried by strong performances and powerful truths.

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In its Switch Presentation, Nintendo sends mixed messages


I was amongst the many in the internet who endlessly speculated on what Nintendo’s mysterious NX could be. I ate up every report, every rumor, and every leak (legitimate or not) that was thrown at me, or the good people at /r/NintendoNX, now migrated to /r/NintendoSwitch. Finally, on October 20th, 2016, the loud, obnoxious, and sometimes unreasonable cries of NX theorists and fanatics were answered.

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A Look Back at “Man of Steel,” a Movie that Failed Its Premise


How do we ultimately judge movies? We generally judge them by their individual merits, from the acting, directing, cinematography, and other element. But in some cases we may find ourselves comparing a movie to other films. Neither is particularly right or wrong, and I would guess that people do some combination of both.

In regards to my method of judging movies, I look at two things:

  1. What was the filmmakers’ conceptual or artistic intention of the film? What is the premise? What is the reason this film is being made?
  2. Was the premise taken to its full potential? Was it executed correctly? Was this the best possible film it could have been?

It’s this mindset that leads me to love something like the silly “Fast & Furious” movies with their well-direction action and choreography, simple premise, and relatable theme of family, and despise something like “The Amazing Spider-Man” reboot series, with their lack of any compelling premise (some nonsense mystery about Peter Parker’s parents) and horrific writing and structure.

On the eve of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s” release and the discussion regarding its negative reviews, I thought that it may be a good idea to look back at its predecessor “Man of Steel,” a film I felt had a great premise, but a poor execution.

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Apple vs. the FBI: everything you wanted to know about the battle over encryption


“It’s not about us trying to get backdoor..It’s a term that confuses me frankly, I don’t want a door, I don’t want a window, I don’t want a sliding glass door. I would like people to comply with court orders” — FBI Director James Comey.

A defiant James Comey said these words well over a month before the general public would become aware of the behind -the-scenes war being waged for nothing less than an iPhone 5c.  The general public paid little notice them,  just like in July of last year and in October of 2014. But, as of last Tuesday, the incredibly technical debate over encryption became a household item for discussion all across America. Maybe we should have been paying closer attention.

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Did “Deadpool” Push the Envelope?


Well, it’s here. After years of anticipation and obstacles to the production of this film, “Deadpool” has arrived on the silver screen. After over a week, this film has already broken a number of box office records, particularly those for rated “R” films. Critics hail it as original, and fans praise it for being true to the character.

So why did I just like it and not love it?

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