Moments that Matter: Welcome To My Life (2017 Animated Short)

Sometimes you watch something that posseses so much potential that it makes you upset when it comes to an end. That’s exactly the case with Welcome To My Life, a 2017 short from Cartoon Network. The short revolves around a Kaiju-like family, primarily the high-school aged son Douglas, who goes by T-Kash. The short does a great job at nodding to the Japanese roots of monsters, but doesn’t delve beyond that preventing the direct comparison between T-Kash and his family to established franchises.

The short takes a turn into a much more “slice-of-life” story structure with T-Kash’s monster family being viewed through the lens of no different than any other family new to the neighborhood despite being the only monsters we actually ever see. The mockumentary style also goes a long way in adding to the teen drama mood.

Now this is a cartoon short primarily aimed at a younger crowd, so the main conflict centers around another student (Ian) misunderstanding an innocent statement made by T-Kash, and challenging him to a fight after school. While T-Kash is a monster and on the school’s football team, so a fight with a human child likely isn’t a problem for him, he’s still emotionally reluctant to fight.

Once the end of the day rolls around, T-Kash meets with one of his friends from the football team, Lucas, that also knows Ian plays messenger and straightens out the misunderstanding. The message boils down to “what’s wrong with being like him (T-Kash)” and there’s no real justification, other than there’s nothing wrong with being different like T-Kash and they become friends by realizing that a lot more united them than separates them.

Beyond the topically relevant moral of ,”we’re more alike than we are different despite our external appearances”, a lesson that’s seemingly lost by many in today’s world. The moments that actually tantalized me the most were the seemingly mundane introductions of T-Kash’s family and background. While they’re clearly monsters, the similar issues that they experience to common humans can’t be understated. The potential to show this message in unique and varied stories really has me wishing that this short developed into a full season run. Perhaps once Cartoon Network gets through it’s current slate of re-treads and sequel series it’ll take a more serious look at genuinely interesting concepts like Welcome To My Life.

Moments that Matter: Searching

There are plenty of moments in movies where the use of a smartphone – either to look something up, call somebody, etc. would be incredibly useful, however this is frustratingly never done. Searching, addresses this common occurrence head on, and in doing so actually shows that technology can hide as much as it exposes.

The film revolvea around how John Cho uses technology, social media in particular, to solve the mystery behind his missing daughter. The movie is a thoroughly well-done suspense movie done from the viewpoint of Cho’s computer, interjected with camera footage and news reports. Outside of the well-executed suspense film, the movie does an excellent job in demonstrating how technology both allows us to expose anyone online, but also lacks tone, perspective, and context which initself can hide the complete story from the user.

The marquee moments boil over in the final third of the movie. The first of which occurs when the investigation runs into a dead end. Cho’s character is nearing wit’s end as he notices/reads through recent messagss between his missing daughter and his brother (played by Joseph Lee). The messages have a seemingly sinful tone leading Cho to interrogate and accuse his brother of unspeakable acts. In reality, his brother didn’t do anything terrible, and the tone of the messages truly misled Cho into an incorrect conclusion. While Cho had what he thought was the full story in front of him via his daughter’s text messages, further unseen context betrays his assumptions. One could argue that he would’ve been better off never having this “lead” in the first place. This scene does go a long way in developing the relationship between Cho and his daugther, showing him that (go figure) his daughter was experiencing similar struggles dealing with the loss of her mother/Cho’s wife and simply wanted to talk about it (a longer piece possibly in the works on this trope). Other than this tidbit of character development that seemingly improves the relationship between this fictional family in this fictional universe than it would’ve been otherwise, it really wasn’t needed to solve the case.

The second of these moments exhibits technology’s ability to conceal. After the case is seemingly closed, Cho can’t accept the findings of the case, and investigates further. He uses a search to confirm that a supposed dead end was actually a cover up by the lead investigator. This false identity was so easily crafted using a false name and stock photo from a similar search. This ease of creating a false alias is actually what starts the course of the events of the entire film.

Searching has a happy ending. However, this impact of technology will only grow as we advance as a society and a species. The ease of uncovering someone’s identity has already had significant real-world impact. While in Searching, this had a positive impact, in the real world this has led to doxing and worse, swatting. Creating and using a false identity has even manifested itself into a MTV show, Catfish. Searching will have the lasting impact of foreshadowing these long-term technological impacts, and how it shapes the way we function.

Moments that Matter: BlacKkKlansman

First off, BlacKkKlansman is a very well-executed movie that manages a great deal of suspense, world building, and dark humor, all while shining a shocking light on the internal cracks within America’s often touted unity. The movie stays true to telling a story in an entertaining way, and uses this style to lower the guard of the audience, until finally delivering the knockout blow. The entire movie builds up the sense of a looming battle, a foreshadowing of repressed social/racial tensions boiling over, but these forces ultimately never comes into direct conflict on screen. Rather, a juxtaposition of the rising zeal on each sides shows a foreshadow of an impending climax. These moments precede the seemingly flat conclusion to the movie, however, I believe this conclusion to be the most meaningful moment of the entire film.

Now, the entire movie (coyly in some cases, unabashed in others) winks at present times in the most foreboding of ways. The ending is somewhat poignant as it concludes somewhat abruptly, aside from a scene of racially charged misunderstanding where John David Washington’s character is mistakenly taken for a criminal due to racially charged assumptions, the movie ends almost on a dime, and feigns a typical happy ending. The racist cop is busted, the town’s chapter of the KKK exposed, and it’s most radical voices jailed. That being said, the conclusion steadily finds an omnious mood, and without warning scenes from recent racially charged clashes and protests appear on the screen – particularly recent scenes from Charlottseville.

I can’t remember the last time a theater was so collectively enthralled and united in a viewing experience. The intent was clear, and was bubbling beneath the surface the entire time. The way that this scene attacked the audience after being so thoroughly disarmed by the “happy ending” was astonishing. I believe this moment fully encapsulates the end message of BlacKkKlansman.

The message being that, despite this – and other – true stories of justice for disenfranchised minorities, the fact of the matter is the fight is ever-present. Racism doesn’t end, it just becomes dormant, waiting to be re-catalyzed by the smallest of openings or provocation. The movie is asking the audience to reflect on itself, and asks them to evolve past the tensions of the 70’s.

The message really overtook my thoughts on the film. While BlacKkKlansman will leave you with lingering thoughts on how far we’ve really come as a society, it’ll also wildly entertain. Adam Driver and Washington’s characters “2-sides to the same-coin” interplay led to wildly entertaining suspenseful moments. The film also stayed grounded in ensuring that the police department wasn’t overly altruistic, but still maintained that a few “bad apples” can have an outsized impact in terms of how communities perceive the police overall. I would highly recommend this movie for an entertaining and thought provoking view into America’s continued internal struggle with change.

Moments that Matter: The Meg

I’ve been reflecting on The Meg for about a week now, and I’ve been unable to find any redeeming quality, and can’t recommend the film in good faith to anybody over the age of 12. Unfortunately, this movie grossed over $140 million in it’s first weekend, only encouraging similar terrible movies moving forward.

Overall, this movie takes itself much more seriously than the trailers would let on. However, as it straddles the lines between self-aware action parody, standard-Jason-Statham action movie, and cliche international blockbuster, it loses any semblance of a strong plot in favor of a series of mini-stories that are loosely related and connected by typical action movie tropes. In particular, the moments that mattered in The Meg:

  • The movie assumes a great deal from the audience in regards to relationships between characters, and quite literally narrates much of the character development to terribly unsatisfying results. In fact, this movie does so little to make you care or remember the characters that I’ll be referring to each character by the name of the actor that plays them for ease of reference:
    • At the onset of The Meg, Jason Statham, sacrifices 2 generic military friends. They have all of 5 lines of back-and-forth dialogue, but Statham is chastised for the remainder of the film for leaving behind his 2 best friends.
    • Masi Oka’s character is scapegoated at the end of the first story arc of the movie. The writers spoon-feed Oka’s love for his wife by showing him writing a letter to his wife “just in case” and he shoves the letter into Ólafur Darri Ólafsson’s pocket as he sacrifices himself. Seems touching, but not really sure why the audience would really care other than the loss of this one life.
    • Due to the PG-13 rating of this movie the film couldn’t show any character getting hurt in any visceral way. As such, all injuries are boiled down into a generic *character* gets blown back 10 feet into the air. At one point, a boat explodes and all the characters get blown back in a similar fashion, except Winston Chao’s knock back was enough to kill him. While all the other characters remained safe
      • When paying final respects to her father, Bingbing Li dramatically regales her father with her personal desires and wishes of only wanting to live up to his name. This is the first time in the entire movie that her character expresses any of these emotions. This was the clearest example of an emotion-grab in the entire film.

By this point, I was totally dejected from the film, and rather than being engrossed in the  world of The Meg. This is totally separate from the half-baked plot in which certain characters go from very integral to the story, to a forgotten afterthought. I urge any one reading this to heed my warning, and avoid this film at all costs.

Image-1-1