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SDAFF 2022 presents ‘Detectives vs. Sleuths’: The sins of our parents

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Hong Kong is plagued by a series of terrible murders, of former suspects in cold cases who’ve evaded capture for years, by a vigilante gang calling themselves the Chosen Sleuths.

In order to tell a whole entire story that includes new generations of detectives and villains, the film starts off with a series of murders committed years before most of the (new) Chosen Sleuths were even teenagers, some even not born yet, just bear this in mind. It becomes relevant later, but for now lets keep this information in brain, and introduce the most relevant character of the film too, Jun Lee (Sean Lau). Detective Lee was known for his almost divine inspiration, his bull-headed insistence of always being right, and as such gained a reputation as the Chosen Sleuth of his police station. Sadly after being set up and framed up and not dealing with the fallout of a very-bad guy getting one over on Lee and his fellow cops more than once, Lee’s mental instability boils over and he finds himself tossed from the force, to live on the streets he used to patrol.

Cut to present day, the Chosen Sleuths gang have quite literally immolated their targets and left clues as to their motivations and their next planned victims. The Hong Kong police force have formed their own squad to deal directly with the Chosen Sleuths, but they’re not getting very far without the original Chosen Sleuth, who is, of course, already investigating the executions himself.

And this is where ‘Detectives vs. Sleuths’ really shines – Detective Lee may live on the streets in a dirty yellow raincoat in a beleaguered sort of existence, but he is still somehow the original Chosen Sleuth. Lee’s chance at redemption begins when a former victim shows up to lead Lee to his rain-damaged body, and while no one else can see the ghost, Lee gives it all kind of credence and follows the clues, like a good cop should. In fact, the question of whether or not Lee is actually seeing multiple for-real ghosts or visions his mental illness has drummed up, was never actually answered inside the movie, and I for one was glad of it. However the hell he did it, Lee the former Chosen Sleuth is now hot on a reopened case, the one that effectively ruined him, more then a decade later!

Honestly, saying anything else would give far too much of the plot away and Moxie already left some juicy clues in the bare-bones review setup. The multi-generational murder mystery ‘Detectives vs. Sleuths’ is worth multiple viewings, to see what clues you may have missed last time!

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America Ferrera will receive the 8th annual SeeHer Award at the 29th annual Critics Choice Awards

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The Critics Choice Association (CCA) announced today that Emmy award-winning actor, director, and producer America Ferrera will receive the 8th annual SeeHer Award at the 29th annual Critics Choice Awards. The honor will be presented to her at the star-studded gala hosted by Chelsea Handler, which will broadcast LIVE on The CW on Sunday, January 14, 2024 (7:00 – 10:00 pm ET – delayed PT, check local listings).

The SeeHer Award honors a woman who advocates for gender equality, portrays characters with authenticity, defies stereotypes, and pushes boundaries. SeeHer is the leading global movement for accurate portrayals of women and girls in media. A global collective of marketers, media organizations, and industry influencers, SeeHer is committed to creating gender-bias-free advertising and media. Previous award recipients are Viola Davis (2017), Gal Gadot (2018), Claire Foy (2019), Kristen Bell (2020), Zendaya (2021), Halle Berry (2022), and Janelle Monáe (2023).

America Ferrera is an award-winning actor, director, and producer known for her many iconic roles in TV and film including Ugly Betty, Real Women Have Curves, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Superstore, and most recently Greta Gerwig’s history-making Barbie. For her breakthrough performance in Ugly Betty, Ms. Ferrera was awarded an Emmy®, a Screen Actors Guild Award®, as well as ALMA and Imagen Awards, and more.

Ms. Ferrera also recently starred in Sony and Black Bear Pictures’ dramedy Dumb Money and the Apple TV+ series WeCrashed. Some of Ms. Ferrera’s additional television and film credits include Real Women Have Curves; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (parts 1 and 2); Diego Luna’s biopic Cesar Chavez (ALMA Award Special Achievement in Film); Ryan Piers Williams’ The Dry Land, (Best International Film Edinburgh Film Festival); Ryan Piers Williams’ drama X/Y, which she co-produced and starred in; David Ayer’s crime thriller End of Watch; Ricky Gervais’ Special Correspondents; It’s a Disaster; Lords of Dogtown; and How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer, among many others. She also lent her vocal talents to the Oscar® nominated franchise film How to Train Your Dragon as Astrid.

Ms. Ferrera also executive produced and directed episodes for Seasons 1 and 2 of Netflix’s hit Latinx Dramedy Gentefied and executive produced, directed, and starred in NBC’s beloved workplace comedy, Superstore. Ferrera will make her feature directorial debut with an adaptation of Erika Sánchez’s New York Times bestselling novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

A longtime activist, Ms. Ferrera launched Poderistas in 2020 alongside 9 other prominent activists, leaders and businesswomen, including Eva Longoria Bastón and Christy Haubegger. Poderistas is a digital lifestyle community and non-profit built to inform, affirm, and inspire Latinas to leverage their power and transform their lives, their community, and their nation. Ms. Ferrera is also a prolific speaker, having spoken at major events such as TED, the DNC, and March for Our Lives. She was also the opening speaker and chair of the Artists’ Committee for the Women’s March on Washington in 2017. Her activism has extended on screen in several television documentaries including Not Done: Women Remaking America for PBS, the EPIX TV mini-series, America Divided, Showtime’s groundbreaking documentary, The Years of Living Dangerously, and Nicholas Kristof’s series for PBS Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Ms. Ferrera also co-founded HARNESS with her husband Ryan Piers Williams and friend Wilmer Valderrama. HARNESS is a community of artists, influencers, and grassroots leaders leveraging art and storytelling to power change and create a more equitable world.

The 29th annual Critics Choice Awards will air live on The CW from 7:00 – 10:00 pm ET (delayed PT, check local listings). The Critics Choice Awards are bestowed annually to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. Historically, they are the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations.

As previously announced, “Barbie” leads this year’s film contenders, earning a record-breaking 18 nominations overall. In addition to Best Picture, Best Comedy, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, the film racked up several acting nominations including Best Actress for Margot Robbie, Best Supporting Actor for Ryan Gosling, Best Supporting Actress, and SeeHer award recipient America Ferrera, and Best Young Actor/Actress for Ariana Greenblatt. The “Barbie” soundtrack also garnered an impressive 3 Best Song nominations for “Dance the Night,” “I’m Just Ken,” and “What Was I Made For.” Also up for Best Picture are “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things,” which each garnered an outstanding 13 nominations, along with “Killers of the Flower Moon” which collected 12 nominations. Rounding out the Best Picture category are “American Fiction,” “Maestro,” “Past Lives,” “Saltburn,” “The Color Purple” and “The Holdovers”.

“The Morning Show” leads the television contenders with six nominations. In addition to Best Drama Series, the show earned five acting nominations including Best Actress in a Drama Series for both Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for both Nicole Beharie and Karen Pittman, and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Billy Crudup. “Succession” followed with an impressive five nominations overall and “A Small Light,” “Abbott Elementary,” “Beef,” “Lessons In Chemistry,” “Loki,” “Reservation Dogs,” and “The Bear” tied with 4 nominations each.

The 29th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be executive-produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. The Critics Choice Awards are represented by Dan Black at Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Sponsors of the Awards include Champagne Collet, Delta Air Lines, FIJI Water, Milagro Tequila, d’Arenberg, and Maison L’Envoyé wines.

Follow the 29th annual Critics Choice Awards on Twitter and Instagram @CriticsChoice and on Facebook/CriticsChoiceAwards. Join the conversation using #CriticsChoiceAwards.

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SDAFF 2023 presents ‘Tiger Stripes’: I’m seeing red 

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At the ripe old age of 12, Malay Muslim girl Zaffan is the first in her class to experience physical growth changes and all the stigma that comes with them.

It’s virtually impossible to watch this film, beautifully shot in the Malay jungles and surrounding communities, and not cringe at all the restrictions placed upon Zaffan (Zafreen Zairizal). And it’s everywhere, every single last place Zaffan is, there again she is shamed, shamed for something that happens to every girl in the entire world at one point or another (a few medical exceptions and our LGBTQ+ brethren noted). Her mother is a tyrant and her wrath can be biblical, Zaffan isn’t about to involve her indifferent father in her adolescence, and her school peers make everything a million times worse. 

What is it about some particular girls in school, the ones that form the cliques around whatever current popular drama there is and then begin terrorizing the weak? Zaffan being the first among them all to experience her period, in such a dramatic and a you-can’t-unsee-that fashion, and all her peers saw it too, it’s certainly terrifying for some, to realize they too will have to go through that. Then again, perhaps the former best friends of Zaffan, Farah (Deena Ezral) and Miriam (Piqa), are somehow insanely jealous that Zaffan will now blossom and begin to experience the fullness of life outside the school and the sad little community houses. 

Or not? The way Farah goes from mean-girl ousting Zaffan at the school and the cadet squad, to actually physically assaulting Zaffan while spouting religious propaganda, seems more like insanity and less like jealousy to me. The other cadets and students blindly following Farah’s orders, even sad little Miriam, is complete to be expected, and if this were real life, is pathetically still exactly what would happen. They’re drones, and Farah seems to have elected herself queen bee. 

Nobody expected Zaffan’s response to any of this. Her reactions to the horrifying changes happening to her poor body, completely beyond her control, the disgust and the embarrassment, and then the absolute fury at the manner in which she is treated, are all superbly displayed in a way any of us can sympathize with. The world’s population of women who experience periods cringed in empathy as Zaffan tried so hard to hide from the grossness of it all; they gnashed their teeth in anticipation as Zaffan grew more and more bestial in her righteous rage; and we all, every single last one of us, cheered when the severed head of that charlatan exorcist went flying from Zaffan’s claws. 

As should be entirely expected from the Malaysian censors, their conservativism made the version of the movie shown after their cutting-floor treatment something the filmmaker disowned. It’s never comfortable in any culture to take a magnified view of the stigmatization of the whole period mess, and even harder to view any such practices objectively. Filmmaker Amanda Nell Eu does so with humor, with an almost sadistic glee, because really, after watching all that Zaffan is subjected to on a daily basis, who could blame her for trying to literally claw her way to some freedom! 

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SDAFF 2023 presents ‘Sleep’: Gwishin comes for you!

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A young wife pregnant with her first child becomes terrified by her husband’s increasingly odd sleep-walking. 

This is a very relevant one y’all, for one particular reason – everyone knows what it’s like to have to go without sleep, and what it does to you. Some people go manic, some people fall apart, but every last person knows that desperate feeling of just needing to sleep. And it must be restful, REM-fueled, actual sleep zzz. None of this catching forty winks with one eye open, falling asleep drooling on the armchair because you’ve been up with a colicky baby for days on end, no honey, you need sleep-sleep. Go pass out. 

And Soo-jin (Jung Yu-Mi) is trying to sleep, she is. Heavily pregnant, Soo-Jin has common worries like every young new mother but is trying to keep good spirits about the whole affair. And then of course her dutiful, pleasant young husband Hyun-su (Lee Su-jyun) sits up in the middle of a dead sleep and eerily informs her that there’s someone in the house. 

That one instance would already be plenty enough to set off alarm bells for normal folk, but Hyun-su’s nightmarish actions are only just beginning. He gets up out of a sound sleep and plods about, scratches himself raw, gorges on random things from the fridge, and generally continues to worry his wife out of her poor hormone-riddled mind. Doctors are seen and all kinds of treatments are tried – drugs, a strict going-to-bed routine, even a cocoon-like sleeping bag that in theory won’t allow Hyun-su to rise at all. And while all this is going on, the unsettling nighttime hauntings of Hyun-su and now Soo-jin, continue with an almost spirit-like insistence. 

What to do when all the practical, real-life solutions have been tried? We try some unconventional ones, and Soo-jin’s mother thinks she has the perfect solution – to bring in a shaman friend of hers, for a spiritual reading. While we fully expect there to be as much drama as possible in spiritual reading, Soo-jin’s response to what the shaman reveals is an overreaction to the point of encroaching madness. 

Things are about to come to a head with some rather final confrontations, mostly to do with the ghost haunting Soo-jin’s idyllic little world, but also, the catastrophes that can come from exaggerating the dangers of the unknown in our loved ones. Soo-jin’s newfound distrust of her poor husband Hyun-su, especially around their newborn daughter, is easily as destructive as any poltergeist, and only adds to her list of potential enemies rather than allies. It’s actually amazing Hyun-su managed to keep up his good spirits, no pun intended, for as long as he did. Delve into the mysteries of gwishin and the debilitating fears of the human mind, with Sleep!

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