3 Best Movies to Watch by Saidah Arrika Ekulona

Staff & contributors

Before the late 2010s push for more Asian American and lesbian cinema, there were movies already making strides toward better representation. One of the first to achieve this was Saving Face. Despite this film being the first feature for writer-director Alice Wu and actress Lynn Chen, and the first lead role for Michelle Krusiec, the three women lead the film with ease. Wu’s clear mastery of rom-com and family drama tropes directs us through some predictable moves, but with unpredictable twists. Krusiec and Chen’s Wil and Vivian are easy to root for with their striking chemistry, but at the heart of this film is Wil’s relationship with her mom Hwei-Lan (Joan Chen). Their dynamic—expressed through passive-aggression, bilingual bickering, and their need for the other’s honesty—turns this easygoing rom-com into a light yet cathartic family drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ato Essandoh, Brian Yang, Brittany Perrineau, David Shih, Hoon Lee, Jessica Hecht, Jin Wang, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen, Mao Zhao, Michelle Krusiec, Pamela Payton-Wright, Ruth Zhang, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Twinkle Burke

Director: Alice Wu

Rating: R

This is the most practical romantic movie I have seen though many would disagree with its ending. It's a triangular love story that trades cashable means of storytelling with a much more sensible approach. After a failed relationship, Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) returns to live with his parents only to find himself torn again between an exciting neighbor and a woman his parents set him up with. Phoenix delivers an impeccable performance as it goes without saying but Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw really steal the show as the two love interests. They both deliver honest and very interesting portrayals. All in all, Two Lovers is a complex and very well-acted film that goes as far as examining the notion of love, and what we look for in people, through seemingly a simple story.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Felix, Anne Joyce, Bianca Giancoli, Bob Ari, Brian Hopson, Carmen M. Herlihy, Craig Walker, David Cale, David Ross, Don Hewitt Jr., Elias Koteas, Elliot Villar, Franco Bulaon, Geronimo Frias, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Jeanine Serralles, Joaquin Phoenix, Joel Horwitz, John Ortiz, Julie Budd, Mari Koda, Marion McCorry, Mark Vincent, Moni Moshonov, Nick Gillie, Renee Fishman, RJ Konner, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Samantha Ivers, Shiran Nicholson, Uzimann, Vinessa Shaw

Director: James Gray

Rating: R

In this ensemble cast directed by Wes Anderson, we see a very dysfunctional family with three very unique siblings who grow apart from each other due to their father, a charismatic and ever-absent grifter. However, when he announces his immanent death, the whole family is forced to confront each other, themselves and their childhoods as they gather in their patriarchal home together for the first time in years. An absolutely gorgeously filmed movie, the usage of color, pattern and 60's rock music alone makes it worth seeing, and the beautiful story just sweetens the deal.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Al Thompson, Alec Baldwin, Amir Raissi, Andrew Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Brian Smiar, Brian Tenenbaum, Danny Glover, Dipak Pallana, Don McKinnon, Donal Lardner Ward, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Eric Chase Anderson, Frank Wood, Gary Evans, Gene Hackman, Grant Rosenmeyer, Greg Goossen, Guido Venitucci, Gwyneth Paltrow, Irina Gorovaia, Jennifer Wachtell, Jonah Meyerson, Kalani Queypo, Keith Charles, Kumar Pallana, Larry Pine, Liam Craig, Luke Wilson, Max Faugno, Mel Cannon, Nova Landaeus-Skinnar, Owen Wilson, Pawel Wdowczak, Rex Robbins, Roger Shamas, Rony Clanton, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Sam Hoffman, Seymour Cassel, Sheelagh Tellerday, Sonam Wangmo, Stephen Dignan, Stephen Lea Sheppard, Tatiana Abbey, Tom Lacy, Wes Anderson, 吉恩·哈克曼

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: R