Blinded by the Light: A Celebration of Dreams and What Inspires Us to Follow Them

Everyone needs a form of escapism, whether that involves music, film, art, or just about anything that gives us a break from reality. In Blinded by the Light, that relief comes from the music of Bruce Springsteen, which transforms the life of British-Pakistani teen Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra) against the background of Thatcherite Britain.

Inspired by the memoir of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film sees Javed torn between his family and his ambition to become a writer after developing a deep connection with Springsteen’s music. Although the life of a world-famous American singer may seem far removed from Javed’s quiet life in Luton, the teenager deeply relates to Springsteen’s sentiments on wanting to break free from small-town claustrophobia and insularity. Between the rise of the xenophobic National Front, ever-increasing unemployment rates, and the high expectations his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has of him, Javed feels suffocated and dreams of a better life. The lyrics of Springsteen’s songs inspire him to work towards his writing career, but this creates a rift between him and his family who are struggling financially.

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Fast Color: A Poignant Superhero-Drama That Demands to be Seen

This film analysis was written by Kaiya Shunyata for Scratch Cinema. Shunyata can be contacted at kaiyashunyata@gmail.com. The original post can be found here.

Some may argue a directors biggest feat is getting a strong performance out of their actors, and Julia Hart is no stranger to overcoming that obstacle. Hart’s directorial debut, Miss Stevens (2016) came and went without much notice, but there is no doubt that while portraying the protagonist – Lily Rabe delivered the performance of her career. You may not have seen or even heard of Julia Hart’s sophomore feature, Fast Color – as the film fell victim to faulty distribution and got swallowed up by the presence of late spring blockbusters. Co-written alongside her partner Jordan Horowitz, Hart developed a small-scale superhero origin story that nevertheless, demands to be seen.

The film takes place in the not-so-distant future, in the American Midwest, where a prolonged drought has turned society fraught. With water now being used as a kind of currency, all that seems to be left in this dystopia is dust, roadside bars, and the wide openness of the Midwest. We are first introduced to our protagonist – Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) – as she escapes an abandoned warehouse and flees into the night. Later it is revealed that Ruth is a recovering addict, who happens to have debilitating sieziures that are so powerful she can create devastating destruction. She walks along the dirt roads -alone – sometimes stopping for a meal here or there. In one of the sparsely populated diners, she meets a man who offers to drive her to her destination, and in a brilliant scene radiating with tension, it is revealed that government workers are tracking her – hoping to understand her powers and use them to put the world back together again. This sets off a series of events which leads Ruth to seek out her estranged mother – Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) – and daughter – Lila (Saniyya Sidney).

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In My Defense of Beach Party Movies

This film analysis was written for Scratch Cinema as a leisurely watch during the middle of summer. The original post can be found here.

As the end of July approaches, moviegoers are enjoying the earlier summer blockbusters from May and June while anticipating the ones that are still yet to come. While it is easy to associate the box office of these months with superhero movies, particularly those from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that wasn’t always the case.

Even before Star Wars and Jaws, people were pulling into the drive-in theaters to watch beach party movies. This genre achieved its peak during the mid-to-late 1960s, giving great fame to Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Beach party movies would fall out of mainstream popularity until Disney Channel released Teen Beach Movie in 2013.

But are they still worth watching in the modern age?

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Finding Happiness in Their “Desert Hearts”

This film analysis was written for Scratch Cinema for a movie watched towards the end of Pride Month. The original post can be found here.

Pride Month for any cinephile translates to immediately binge-watching any LGBT movies that are within reach. While it’s easy to focus solely on modern films about these relationships, their classic counterparts shouldn’t be ignored because they have their own stories to tell, especially during a time of less acceptance. As Pride Month comes to an end but if you’ve somehow managed to miss out on seeing Donna Deitch’s Desert Hearts, make the time to watch and you won’t regret it.

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‘Saving Face’ in a Heterosexual World: A Review of Alice Wu’s Film

This film analysis was written for Flip Screen as part of showcasing LGBT films during Pride Month. The original post can be found here.

If you’ve ever had the urge to watch a movie from the early 2000s about Chinese lesbians living in New York City, Alice Wu has got you covered.

Saving Face begins with Wilhelmia (Michelle Krusiac), nicknamed by her friends and family as Wil, wearing a face mask in her bathroom. Alice Wu provides a brillant visualization for the film’s namesake and is explained later through dialogue when Raymond’s mother comments that her son and Wil’s face reflects the image of a good marriage. Yet it shouldn’t be simplified as honor or reputation. 

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The “Glo-Up” Phenomenon and Its Unexpected Side Effects

This post was originally written in 2017 for LAPP’s blog under the name of Cynthia Romanova. The original post can be read here.

If you’re active on social media, chances are that you’ve encountered somebody’s “glo-up” post. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a “glo-up” refers to a drastic change in appearance like the story of Ugly Duckling.

Some of my friends decided that I experienced a “glo-up” after switching from glasses to contact lenses a few months ago. While wearing glasses in middle and high school, I felt timorous about my appearance after guys determined who was a “Hot Girl”  and who didn’t make the cut. I wanted to be Hot Girl since she seemed to have it all. Hot Girl is easygoing and effortlessly cool which were traits that I couldn’t seem to be.

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What I Learned About Mental Illness While Living in an Abusive Home

This post was originally written in 2017 for LAPP’s blog under the name of Cynthia Romanova. The original post can be read here.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old because due to my father’s passiveness towards treating his bipolar disorder. He later refused to attend therapy and stopped taking his medication, believing there was nothing wrong with him.

Living with my dad wasn’t horrible at first. I fondly remember watching science fiction movies together and jamming out to his favorite albums. But this loving facade was not sustainable. Suddenly I was blamed for every problem in my dad’s life because he wasn’t mature enough to take blame for his own actions. My father frequently told me, in angry outbursts that lasted for hours, that I was the only reason why my mother left him. If I wasn’t born, my father could leave our town and move on with his life. Apparently the stress of “taking care of a child as a single father” caused him to clash with co-workers and ultimately lose his job too.

I believed all of his hurtful words simply because he was my dad. Children are prone to make mistakes and parents are supposed to teach them how to behave correctly. I assumed that he was always right, leading to an unnecessary burden in my conscience.

Living in his household felt like walking on eggshells, where the wrong tone of voice or word would earn me a two-hour screaming incident. My daily goals revolved around not making him angry. Almost anything would trigger his yelling, from talking during a movie to earning a B on a math test.

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How Rodrigo Duterte’s Sexism Hurts Filipinos Everywhere

This post was originally written in 2017 for LAPP’s blog under the name of Cynthia Romanova. The original post can be read here.

Many people know the Philippines for its rich biodiversity and gorgeous beaches in Palawan and Cebu. Although I never lived there, I consider the Philippines to be my “ancestral home” because it’s my mother’s country of origin. Whenever the country suffers, I feel a great sorrow for it’s people. And their problems have only worsened in recent times under the presidential term of Rodrigo Duterte, who has made headlines for his sexist comments regarding his female adversaries.

In 2016, Duterte was inaugurated and began focusing his administration towards winning the “Giyera Kontra Droga” (War on Drugs). He currently faces a civil war in Mindanao: the southern part of the Philippines that wishes for independence.

During his initial campaign run, Duterte did not shy away from showing his demeaning views towards women. He was originally mayor of Davao City and was questioned about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a prison riot of the 1980s. Duterte stated that she “was so beautiful” and as the mayor, “should have been there first….”

Even after winning the election, Rodrigo Duterte hasn’t improved his views. He recently gave a speech to former rebels about how to win against female communist soldiers. In his native language of Bisaya, he orders them to “just shoot…..in the vagina” since it would render them as “useless.” The word for female genitals, “bisong”, was omitted from the official transcript.

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Caught Between Two Cultures: Developing a Positive Body Image as a Biracial Woman

This post was originally written in 2017 for NEDA’s guest blog under the name of Cynthia Romanova. The original post can be read here.

Even if you haven’t read any of her novels, you’ve probably heard of Margaret Wolfe Hungerford’s most famous quote: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It’s a very simple way of explaining aesthetic relativism after all.

We see aesthetic relativism in modern society, like when a celebrity or classmate from high school is praised for being a great beauty but you don’t find them attractive at all.

In a broader context, countries experience this idea by developing their own beauty standards instead of following the same definition.

When you’re caught between two cultures, whether it concerns ethnic background or personal upbringing, these guidelines become tricky to follow. I know this situation too well as an American raised by a Filipino mother and European father.

The Philippines’ lengthy history of Spanish imperialism affected all parts of their society — from their language to beauty standards. When I visited this summer, I noticed how every advertisement portrayed men and women with large eyes, brown hair, and small noses. 

It’s no secret that people with “native” features are considered less attractive there. Kids are even told to stay out of the sun to avoid a tan. Grocery stores sell countless items that lighten skin tone. 

While I satisfied the beauty standard of a preference towards lighter skin, I faced negative attention about my larger body from my family. Hearing their words made me feel bad about myself for the longest time. But once I returned to the United States, I actually found praise towards my figure.

There’s no debate that American pop culture values thin bodies. The modeling industry and Hollywood movies bombard us with these images every day. Yet there’s enough of an alternative preference towards “thicker” women. Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham are celebrated on social media. Drake, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz frequently rap about their love for larger body types in worldwide hits.

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