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indie filmmaker beats all odds
April 25, 2003 2:16 PM   Subscribe

better luck tomorrow goes into wide release today. an unknown filmmaker funds his project on ten maxed out credits cards. then, it is chosen out of over 1,000 films to be featured at sundance. then, without an agent, it becomes the first *acquisition* ever for mtv films in conjunction with paramount. and it has an entirely asian-american cast who weren't cast into stereotypical roles. today, it goes into wide release. i'm excited to see how this film does.
posted by notoriousbhc (31 comments total)

 
"credit cards" rather.
posted by notoriousbhc at 2:17 PM on April 25, 2003


I'm seeing it tonight. Liked the trailer on apple's trailer site.
posted by jragon at 2:23 PM on April 25, 2003



posted by luckyclone at 2:31 PM on April 25, 2003


It's meh. But it's a meh movie with Asian stars, which is at least some sort of step in the right direction. Why should all the meh teen angst sex flicks be about white kids? White teenagers don't have a monopoly on doing stupid shit in real life, why should they on celluloid?
posted by padraigin at 2:36 PM on April 25, 2003


yes, i know. sorry, i just don't like capitalizing when i blog. *shrug*
posted by notoriousbhc at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2003


meh?
posted by Vidiot at 2:49 PM on April 25, 2003


I've been wanting to see this since it came out, but the one showing a day at a downtown theater on a different train line kept me from doing so. i was amazed to see that it's now playing at the theater 6 blocks from my house, which usually NEVER gets any good movies. I'm pretty sure i'll be going this weekend.
posted by chrisege at 2:59 PM on April 25, 2003


Meh. Not great, not awful, just...meh.
posted by padraigin at 3:01 PM on April 25, 2003


just bein an ass. i'm probably seeing it this weekend. i had an asian friend once. he lived in the walls.
posted by luckyclone at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2003


I saw this over a year ago at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival (I probalby have "International" in the wrong spot).

You're right that it doesn't have Asians in stereotypically Asian roles, but it does have teenagers in stereotypically teenager roles. That is enough to keep me from recommending fully.

But it is well made and only one of the characters is truly annoying.
posted by obfusciatrist at 3:11 PM on April 25, 2003


just bein an ass

yes, especially since your homepage is amost entirely in lowercase...you've made another good case for banning images though...i will probably go see the movie, but i'm still wondering what happened to gregg araki
posted by yonderboy at 3:14 PM on April 25, 2003


You know, when I saw the title of this film for the first time, I figured it was some kind of wierd spin-off/ homage to John Woo's "A Better Tommorrow," and was sort of looking forward to a goodHong Kong action flick. oh well. i guess i'll just wallow in teen angst now...

(and oh, come on. it was funny. the shift key thing. tell me you didn't laugh, foo.)
posted by kaibutsu at 3:35 PM on April 25, 2003


I know there's a John Hughes/John Woo joke about this movie that's just crying to be told, but I can't quite put one together...
posted by padraigin at 3:37 PM on April 25, 2003


i thought araki's first few films were outstanding — the peak being DOOM GENERATION ...his last one, that threesome comedy was a severe letdown. but at his best he is very gifted.

few independant asian filmmakers beat Jon Moritsugu ..whatever happened to him?

tangent: both moritsugo and araki make me wonder if their work is the sort of thing that only worked in the late-nineties; the kind of neo-john waters campy genre-bending stuff that was all over indy cinema the last few years. i think Todd Solondz is the only one of that crop to have escaped the trap of it and still find ways to remain fresh. /tangent
posted by Peter H at 3:39 PM on April 25, 2003


From the 'Clerks' website:

"Clerks was made for $27,575. It was mainly funded by 10 credit cards that Kevin had to his name, funds garnered from store credit after he sold his comic book collection, a family donation, and paychecks from working at the Quick Stop and RST Video. (NOTE: We don't really recommend this method of funding a film as if your film does not pan out, you will be put in serious financial debt for much of your life. However - we do condone going out and making your film yourself - just make sure your script is watertight)."

Just saying. Wondering if this will get a UK distribution...
posted by feelinglistless at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2003


much like "the debut," a story about filipino- americans, many of asian descent will go to see films like "better luck tomorrow" just to support it and to contribute to its success in the mainstream.

in fact, i'm sure that notice of today's wide release and an accompanying, duty- driven plea for box office dollars is currently making the rounds in rice- powered email boxes all over the U.S.

more power to them-- it's just too bad the movie itself isn't that great.

i think "meh" is a perfect way of describing my feelings as i left the angelika.
posted by ronv at 4:10 PM on April 25, 2003


it doesn't have Asians in stereotypically Asian roles, but it does have teenagers in stereotypically teenager roles.

I don't understand what you mean by that. Is that like the stereotype that all teenagers are in high school, so "teenage high school student" is a "stereotypically teenager role"? Or does that mean jock, nerd, artsy kid, etc.?

I'm really not trying to sound like a smartass, I'm just curious as to what you would consider a stereotypically teenager "role."

[Sorry, haven't seen the film yet, but I will early next week]
posted by dogwalker at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2003


Stereotypes walk the fine line of functioning as a way to identify the gross, general idea of something versus a way to oppress and discriminate.

In this case, the stereotypes work within the the guidelines of the story, and serve to remind us of people we knew in high school. Because everyone knew a Virgil in their group, and everyone knew of a Han (obviously, I have seen the film).

The opposite use of stereotype would, for instance, be Mickey Rooney's character in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
posted by linux at 4:30 PM on April 25, 2003


I went to see this movie last week, at a small theatre in Univeristy District of Seattle. Imagine my surprise when the theatre manager came out before the start and introduced the director - he was in the audience (and no, it wasn't a prank, Varsity Theatre often hosts directors, actors, etc). The director gave a little speech, mentioning that the movie was made on 10 credit cards (have the limits gone up? This looked far more professionally shot/edited than Clerks which I also love dearly).

Anyway, I don't know if it was the placebo effect or what, but I quite enjoyed the movie. While it was built atop the overused teenage highschool model, its subject matter goes a long, long way past the typical reach of American Pie-type comedies. It was a deeply moral film, evoking strong emotions about things that one may do only once and regret for the rest of their life. I don't want to give out the story, but the ending made me think of the very last sentence of Erich Maria Remarque's brilliant 'Shadows in Paradise'. Quoting from memory (badly, I am sure):

"But there is no going back; one can never go back. All that remains is occasional evenings of sadness - sadness we all feel because everything changes, nothing is ever the same, and human is the only animal that knows it"
posted by blindcarboncopy at 5:39 PM on April 25, 2003


This movie definitely owes its success to Roger Ebert, who literally (and skillfully) yelled down a detractor of the then-obscure film at Sundance:
The Asian American director and his upcoming Better Luck Tomorrow became instant causes célèbres at this year's Sundance Film Festival when a disgruntled viewer stood up during a Q&A session to complain, "What kind of a portrait is this of Asian Americans? Don't you have a responsibility to paint a more positive and helpful portrait of your community?" To his defense came none other than Roger Ebert, who stood up in the theater to rebuke the amateur critic, saying, "You would never make a comment like that to a white filmmaker." (quote from this article)

There was a bit of a backlash here about Ebert a couple of days ago, but I really admire the man.
posted by zsazsa at 5:54 PM on April 25, 2003


"in fact, i'm sure that notice of today's wide release and an accompanying, duty- driven plea for box office dollars is currently making the rounds in rice- powered email boxes all over the U.S."

What an utterly condescending thing to say. "Ooh look, it's the movie for those funny rice eaters!"
posted by plenty at 9:37 PM on April 25, 2003


A couple of personally relevant things about this movie:

"its subject matter goes a long, long way past the typical reach of American Pie-type comedies."

A quasi-ironic comment to make, since John Cho, who played the "MILF guy" in both American Pie movies, is one of the characters in "BLT." JC happens to be a friend of mine.

Also, though I haven't seen the movie yet, hearsay and some clips from the trailer make the movie out to be at least loosely based on a true life incident at my alma mater, Sunny Hills High School, denials notwithstanding. (Read the comments.)

I knew the ringleader of that particular crime, Robert Chan, as well as all but one of the kids involved. Sat next to him in a few classes, and I remember I paid him a spot of cash to make me a dub of Def Leppard's "Hysteria." I have a feeling that the characters won't be much like the kids I knew.
posted by antoine_bugleboy at 7:26 AM on April 26, 2003


antoine - that is really, really, wierd.
posted by iamck at 2:58 PM on April 26, 2003


A quasi-ironic comment to make, since John Cho, who played the "MILF guy" in both American Pie movies, is one of the characters in "BLT." JC happens to be a friend of mine.

Wow... haha I love that guy. He was great in "Off Centre"
posted by gyc at 5:46 PM on April 26, 2003


have the limits gone up? This looked far more professionally shot/edited than Clerks which I also love dearly

Digital video has come along since Clerks -- it's a lot easier to make a cheap, good-looking movie when you don't have to use film.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:01 PM on April 26, 2003


i think i read BLT was shot in 35mm. i could be wrong though.
posted by notoriousbhc at 10:03 PM on April 26, 2003


re: antoine's link above.

If the movie itself doesn't cull that many viewers a controversy such as this certainly has the potential. Reminds me a bit like Fargo, only sort of the opposite in that the Coen's admitted the connection (flaunted it?) and apparently used a metric tonne of creative licence.
posted by ODiV at 10:29 PM on April 26, 2003


Coen's

Ahhh! Bad apostrophe! Bad!

Anyway. Now I need to see this movie. Stupid controversy making me spend my money.
posted by ODiV at 10:46 PM on April 26, 2003


From the Toronto Star:

"Better Luck Tomorrow began as a graduate project when Lin was still at UCLA.

He co-directed his first feature, Shopping For Fangs, in 1996 and had it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival the next year.

To complete his latest feature, Lin maxed out 10 credit cards and was still looking for a crucial piece of financing when he ran into M.C. Hammer at a Las Vegas electronics trade fair.

'We just clicked,' Lin says. He didn't really imagine that Hammer's offer of help could be sincere, but when Lin called him for the last $10,000 (U.S.) he lacked, the only question was, 'What do you need?'

'He wired it to me in two hours,' says Lin.

Friends and former classmates contributed a lot of free services and Kodak donated film so that Better Luck Tomorrow could get made on a budget of $250,000. Lin's breakthrough was to get Paramount and MTV interested. "

Also, from what I understand, MTV paid to have the director go back and reshoot some of the film after it was picked up for wide distribution. So what you may have seen a year ago might not be the same movie that is in theaters now.
posted by Blaze_01 at 11:42 PM on April 26, 2003


The Roger Ebert flap last year was the first I'd heard of this movie. I'm heartened to see it making it to wide release.

So what you may have seen a year ago might not be the same movie that is in theaters now.

That's exactly right. A review on the Movie Poop Shoot explains how the ambiguous ending of BLT was apparently tweaked (damn those test audiences!), but still ended up just as confusing... and perhaps not in as good a way as before).

It goes into some detail -- spoiler warning! -- and it already makes me wish I'd seen the original version.
posted by pzarquon at 1:55 AM on April 28, 2003


okay, I got a chance to see the movie. I could care less about the altered ending, I liked the new one better (when compared with what I've read about the old one).

I still don't think the characters are stereotypical teens. The only one who comes close is the girl, and that's because she's given much less screen time. Just because teens in movies are in high school doesn't mean they fall into certain stereotypes. A lot of teens actually are in high school, and the focus of their lives is school related.

I don't know about the connections with Stuart Tay. I mean it's obvious that the stories are very similar, but it seems really odd for the director to deny any connection especially when the audience that would relate the most (Orange County Asians) would also know the most about the real event. I really don't know what to make of that.
posted by dogwalker at 8:05 AM on May 1, 2003


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