Oliver Zheng

Reviews

I have strong opinions about movies and tv shows I watch. Who doesn’t? But I have a website and I want to spout words.

I look for only a few very specific things. There needs to be at least one of these features for me to consider it not a waste of time to watch; bonus points if it scores multiple.

  1. Character development. The telling of the believable growth of a character condensed into a short span of time takes incredible groundedness and conviction. When I see great character development, I see the recognition of personal growth from the writer and their grit in attaining it.
  2. Clever story writing. Good comedy is an example of clever story writing — it’s unpredictable and ends at a place I can’t help but find enjoyable. Clever story writing respects my time with substance and careful planning.
  3. Powerful exposition of a concept. This is pretty rare but you know it when you see it. The Matrix is the go-to example. The concept doesn’t need to be completely new either; it can take an existing idea to an extreme.
  4. Entertaining. Many movies these days aim for this and only this. It’s something you laugh at during the movie and forget about the moment the credits roll. The movie is like a funny, cool friend. Even though this is not as hard to accomplish as the others, I do enjoy participating in the laugh track of a brainless throwaway film every now and then.

Things I have taste for but are just icing on the cake: cinematography, aesthetics, budget, sound design, acting, beautiful actors (with the exception of a few).

All of the following reviews contain spoilers. I write these to distill my impressions and to remember them later; these are not meant to be recommendations.

I started this in November 2020. It’ll take some time before I rewatch my favorites and fill them in here.

Movie Reviews

Coco (2017)

First watched & reviewed: November 2020

What a wonderfully beautiful movie this was — makes me wonder if Pixar folks started the exploration of the movie by searching for the environment in which they could show off the aesthetics they wanted.

The movie had somewhat generic plot line pieces and little more than skin deep character growth; its story is also fairly predictable, though, I think, on purpose, given the film title. And these were all incredible exercises in restraint only to build up and deliver with full effect a story about fatherhood. It’s rare to see fatherhood deeply explored as a central piece of a movie — it’s more often a cheap plot device to get a man to do a thing so you don’t question his motivations. It was so heartwarming to see the breakdown and buildup of a father. Since Pixar made Coco, I knew they were going to tug at my parenthood heartstrings so I must have put up some defenses; but, alas, I’m only human.

And of course I cried. I don’t know if I would have before having kids but I’m glad I watched it now to have been able to experience it squarely as its target audience.