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Watch This! #2: Journey to the Center of the Self

August 2, 2010

Sandra Oh in Double Happiness

What do two sci-fi flicks and an indie coming of age film have to do with each other? Find out in this installment of Watch This!.

Double Happiness (1994)
Cast: Sandra Oh, Stephen Chang, Alannah Ong, Donald Fong
Written & Directed by: Mina Shum

Grey’s Anatomy regular Sandra Oh gave a breathtaking performance as Jade Li, a woman navigating her obligations within a traditional, but definitely not UPTIGHT, Chinese family and her own romantic stirrings for a white partner. The film focuses on Jade’s journey to self-discovery, with the romantic aspects supporting the story rather than simply being the story. The film’s exploration of race, class and gender is refreshing, poignant and never preachy – ultimately drawing its gravitas from the strength of the performances and not solely from the topics it seeks to explore.

Contact (1997)
Cast: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt, David Morse, Angela Bassett, James Woods
Director: Robert Zemeckis

“Mathematics is the only truly universal language,” says Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, played sweetly and effectively by Jodie Foster, in what I feel is one of her best grown up performances. The marketing campaign might have positioned the movie as grown up Sci-Fi fare, with an overemphasis on the sci-fi elements, but Contact does a FAR better job of exploring the themes only hinted at in Kube’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sci-fi riddles are wonderfully engrossing and I appreciate Zemeckis’ restraint in portraying them; opting to balance the sci-fi framing with Ellie’s emotional and spiritual journey. Initially, McConaughey’s hokey hipster, pancho wearing preacher seems out of place, but eventually becomes a surprising counterpoint to Foster’s emotionally conflicted scientist.

THX 1138
Cast: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Maggie McOmie
Director: George Lucas

Much has been written about Lucas’ first major theatrical release. It’s incredibly weird, creepy and visually unsettling. It’s also a pretty decent dystopian exploration of human emotion, from a dude not especially known for that sort of thing. I hesitate to say more because it should be seen rather than written about. Seriously, that’s not a copout.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 8:14 am

    THX is the only one of these I’ve ever seen, and multiple times at that… it’s definitely got that “film school” feel about it but I also find it very disturbing and effective.

    The other two will need to be watched. I love me some Sandra and Jodie.

  2. August 3, 2010 10:01 am

    I really loved Contact too, I remember seeing it in the theatre, and my date at the time got us there late, so we had to sit in the second row and crane our necks awkwardly, but by the end of the movie, I didn’t notice. I still get chills when I think about that moment when she realized the signal was prime numbers. Math IS the universal language!!

    I saw Double Happiness after Sandra Oh caught my attention in “Dancing at the Blue Iguana”. DH is a superior movie and I’m glad she has the Grey’s paycheck, but I hope she’s given another film to carry sometime soon.

  3. August 3, 2010 11:22 am

    Sandra Oh in “Double Happiness” might be considered a “Lynchpin Performance,” but of course Sandra is just a brilliant, brilliant actor… I think I’ll need to view it again to decide if it really is, in which case I’ll be writing about it down the road too! Or, it’s just a great excuse to watch it again.

    I guess I could talk for a while about Sandra, and really, maybe she was the reason I first tuned in to Grey’s (and may now return to it now that Katherine Heigl is gone).

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